Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Paris Photography Workshop

This love affair with photography started gradually, crept up on me, then escalated into a full scale passion.  My dad planted the seed, he had a dark room in our basement in Minot, North Dakota and St. Paul and took family photos and home movies.  When I started the marcytilton.com online fabric store back in 2004 with a few bolts of fabric and a handful of silk screens, my camera was a tiny Pentax Optio point and shoot which I loved, and I've been upgrading equipment and skills ever since.  Now I am obsessed!

All the photographs on the marcytilton.com website are done by me and I want to get better at it.  I spend almost as much time in my small photo studio as I do sewing and designing, loving and getting lost in it all.  Last summer I was in LA buying fabric for the website, stopped by the Leica store to check out a new camera, and my world opened up.  (My sewing machine is a Bernina, and I have the same kind of love for Leica cameras).  While deciding on the camera, I wandered upstairs to the gallery, where there was an exhibition of work called French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris by Peter Turnley, an American photojournalist and photographer, who has lived in Paris for 30 years.  At the time I did not really know about street photography, but something inside clicked and cracked open.  Bought a camera, went home, googled in Peter Turnley, discovered that he offers workshops in Paris, and that the May '15 workshop started the day after our Paris tour ended.  Seemed like perfect synchronicity, so I enrolled.

From June through October I used the new camera  and loved it.  Then I dropped it and it went off for repair.  Heartsick, I went back to a smaller point & shoot, but kept photographing and started haunting photography websites, forums and blogs.

On a plane headed to Minnesota at Christmas, I watched the movie Finding Vivian Maier and something else clicked.  I felt a strong visceral reaction to the story and to her work.  Later last winter I went to dinner with a photographer friend who teased me, 'Marcy, why don't you just get the one you really want?'......referring to the camera of my dreams. I started thinking 'why not? which lead to more research.  First the workshop, then another camera upgrade....eeek!  Katherine and close friends got tired of my nattering about it.  In March I went back to LA on another fabric buying trip, visited the Leica store and got the camera.  Photography is mostly a man's world, and I am grateful to the advice and feedback I got on forums and blogs while making this decision.  I lucked out in meeting Sussan at the Leica store who coached me with infinite patience, going back and forth about which model and lenses.  The camera is digital, but all the settings are manual....a steep learning curve.

When the camera arrived, I was afraid to touch it.  More good online advice: carry the camera everywhere, turned on and ready to go.  I started doing just that.  Read the manual, spent hours online searching for information.  Found local coaches who could give me feedback and the technical info I needed.  Thanks to David Winston and David Vanderlip for their help.  A good thing nobody told me that it is not a great idea to go into a workshop with a new camera and new editing system.  Beginner mind helps.

Being a 'stuff' person, I had to figure out my gear. walking around Paris  A small across the body bag, (the GROOM La Petite),  worn under my jacket with $$ and credit cards and a GROOM backpack kept hands free for the camera which is always around my neck and never leaves my sight. We dubbed it 'the baby', I'd only leave it in good hands when necessary.

The Workshop
I loved this Peter Turnley workshop! It was a pleasure to be in front of the desk in stead of behind it and I learned so much. Some simple things (lose the lens cap), some more complex (the mix of a challenge and a pleasure).  A pleasure to be in good company with others who share this passion.  Exhilarating to be out in the streets of Paris seeing and experiencing in a new way.  Sometimes challenging (the new camera is a fixed lens, so must get close to people), talking to people (my French got better), watching the light, learning about framing (don't cut off the feet!)....most of all, the discovery of how much fun this is.

While Peter has worked as a photojournalist all over the world in dozens of wars and struggles, he shares his love of Paris, and, that in spite of the challenges and difficulties of the world, the life and beauty of this city is a daily reminder of how beautiful life can be.  A cut-loose instructor, Peter shared his expertise and philosophy, and cut us loose in the city with a list of possible places to explore and shoot.
The workshop took place in Peter Turnley's apartment in the Marais.

The class ran for a week, starting Sunday afternoon, finishing mid-day on Saturday.  We met at Peter's Marais apartment in the mornings for class discussion, viewing our work from the previous day, seeing work by Peter and other photographers and filmmakers, then would go out on our own in the afternoon and evening to shoot.  Back at the hotel, I'd download the day's shoot, edit and put the best shots on a jump drive to take to show the next day.  Evenings included group dinners and times when we'd go out and about together or solo.  The final meeting included a showing of each person's portfolio of prior work.  A bit apprehensive about this, I showed photos of my garments, was surprised in a good way at the support and feedback from a group whose opinions I value.

Guest speakers  
A privilege to have a presentation by Voya Mitrovic, master printer, 'greatest of the great' according to Peter, click on the link to learn more.  Voya printed for Henri Cartier Bresson and Josef Koudelka brought prints from his personal collection. The photo he shows here is by Peter Turnley, on the right, and is the very one that brought me to this workshop....I recognized the street even though the shot was taken 20 years ago.  
We visited another friend of Peter, John Morris, vibrant in his '90's, an esteemed photo editor and important figure in photography.  Over a lifetime that spanned 7 US presidents, he worked for LIFE magazine, Paris Magnum, was responsible for the photo coverage of D-Day and was the photo editor at the New York Times responsible for the contemporary use and look of photographs in the NYT. today He presented a visual retrospective that included work by some of the world's great photographers.  
Random Paris Shots
Each photo becomes a moment of connection, a pause, a memory.  Street photography uses a fixed lens, no zoom, so you have to get up close to people and be quick.  Framing and timing are crucial.  Different than a snapshot, the best shots evoke a mood, tell a story, reveal a person's inner self.  I used a 35mm lens throughout, fiddled and fumbled with the settings, lost many shots to the learning curve.  Behind the lens in a place I love brings a special joy, a quiet calm, a way to see.  

Paris Dogs
A good way to talk to the owners

With special thanks to Katherine who tolerates being photographed, waiting while I lag behind and holds 'the baby' for me. While I was in the photography workshop, she took drawing and painting classes. My best friend and travel companion extraordinaire!

Up Next

This experience stretched my creative limits and left me wanting more.  In love with this creative process, I return to Paris in the fall and am thrilled to be enrolled in Peter Turnley's workshop in Cuba over New Year's.  Meanwhile I continue to shoot every day, fabrics for the website, friends, garments, work in process, dogs, daily life and where I live.

Click to see the student gallery from the May Paris workshop.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Seamed Tunics

Seamed Tunics

Two of my new patterns were released in the new Fall Collection from Vogue patterns this week. This blog focuses on the two seamed tunics in Vogue 9120.

Vogue 9140, which includes slim lined pants and a cozy coat will be featured in an upcoming blog. 

All the pieces in both patterns are designed to work together as a mini wardrobe and an ideal travel wardrobe.  The color way on the tops shown below is planned so they could be worn with the coat and pants as shown on the pattern envelope.  Bear in mind that the models on the pattern envelope are over 6 feet tall, so do check the finished length and adjust if needed.  Both tunics are semi fitted in the bust, (not tight, not baggy), then skim the body in the waist and flare out at the hips. Fit as you sew, adjusting the neck, shoulder width/sleeve placement and fit at the side seams.

View A/B

View C/D

Line drawings show the seaming and neck details.  Both tops use the same sleeve.  
Both versions in the pattern are designed for knits, and would work in different weights ranging from jerseys (rayon/lycra, cotton/lycra, wool jersey), ITY and poly/lycra knits, French terry, ponte, sweatshirt fleece or light weight sweater knits.  Use almost any of the offerings in the KNIT FABRICS section on the website.  Use lighter knits now for warm weather and get a head start on your fall sewing using ponte or a heavier cozy knit.
The fabric shown here is our Plum Blossom Courage Knit, a rayon/nylon/lycra blend; the floral areas are a semi sheer burnout.  
The single layer collar stands slightly away from the neck, is easy to sew and very flattering.

Shown here, a purple French terry from last season.  Sold out, but more is coming for fall, including a batch of organic French terry.
The new French terry knits are soft and supple, but have a bit more body than the gray version shown above, so the collar sits a bit closer to the neck.  

Teal ponte is used for this version.  Just posted in NEW FABRICS, an array of pontes that are perfect for either tunic style.  
The neckband starts out 4-5" wide and uses a double fold wraparound construction so the band has soft depth and dimension.  I saw this old school technique in upscale ready to wear in Paris.

This fabric is a light weight double sided sweater knit, so I reversed the color way on one sleeve and the neck band.  For a similar gray/black dot in a lighter weight fabric consider Alchemy Dot.
This neckband uses the double fold wraparound technique too.  By sweet coincidence, the dots lined up perfectly on the neck band.  I cut the binding width generously so I can sew, wrap and trim after stitching in the ditch on the right side of the top.  Make a test and sample different finished widths to see how you want to construct it.  The rule here is that experimentation is the rule - every fabric and garment is different.  Remember, it is all in the hands...your most important tool.  Keep training your hands.

Construction Notes
For both versions, assemble the back and front. Place all the front pieces together top to bottom on a table and do the same with the back.  This helps tracking the pieces and how they go together.  Sew the pieces together bottom to top. 

I used a walking foot to stitch and top stitch the cross grain seams, making it very easy with no stretching or puckering.  Strongly recommended!
Tips for version C/D

For the 'flap' detail, reinforce at the dot and mark the seam line with a fine line chalker.

Stitch ½" from raw edge through single thickness along the flap edge to the dot.  The stitching line helps stabilize the edge and provides a guide for pressing.  Press under the seam allowance, favoring the stitching to the underside.  Using a spray adhesive, spray the seam allowance and finger press in place.
Line up the marked seam on the flap piece with the seam allowance on the under piece.

Optional:  you can mask off the seam allowance on the under piece and apply spray adhesive.  It helps to hold things in place and stabilizes the seam. You could also use a strip of lightweight fusible web to hold things in place here as well.

A line of pins marks the stitching line, allowing you to check on the underside to be sure things are lined up.

Use a curved ruler to mark the topstitching line with Clo-Chalk, which disappears when pressed.  
Remove the pins after marking and topstitch.  All this IS a bit fussy, but the results are worth it.

View A
In the testing phase I used black French terry for a version I wore and wore last winter.  I cut it bigger and longer so I could layer t-shirts underneath it.  I am crazy for the new uber soft French terry fabrics coming on the market now, and notice that they have become the darlings in athletic wear.

View B
This version is a cotton/rayon/lycra from my stash made to wear in Paris this spring, a pale change from the usual black.  The muted off-tone celadon gray/green seemed a bit flat, so I added pale gray dots using Tee Juice pens, available through Diane Ericson, super simple to use and very handy to have in your stash. I was glad to have these on hand.
20/20 Hindsight
During the process of designing and sewing the pattern prototypes, and writing the instructions, I work closely with Gwen Spencer, a dear friend and valued colleague.  Gwen gets an advance copy of the patterns so she can make a version for herself, and her insights are invaluable.  Gwen makes the 4+ hour drive from Corvallis and we spend days sewing and talking about sewing (and cooking and talking about food among many other topics).  We obsess over the best fabric choices and colors, go back and forth to the ArtBarn playing with the fabrics and spend time making samples before the final choices are nailed down. No sooner than the samples for photography go off to Vogue, new ideas begin to percolate.  

The three tiers on each style lend themselves to using different fabrics and color blocking.  If you love combining fabrics, there is the possibility of using as many as 9 different fabrics in one garment (3 in the front and back, 2 sleeves and 1 neckband or collar).  I can even imagine the bottom panel in View A/B in a light weight woven.  The ArtBarn team sees these tunics as a blank canvas for using Alabama Chanin hand sewing techniques.  Gwen imagines lengthening either style to dress or a longer tunic length.  I'm seeing cozy versions in wool jersey and dreaming of cashmere knit for fall.  Eliminate the sleeve and bind the armhole for a warm weather floaty tunic in a light weight fabric.  

Do send photos of your renditions, we love to see what you create with my patterns!  
Send to:  marcytilton@me.com