A Glamorous Grave Gown

An article for REMADE 2014 by Stella Ferreras

When you open your closet you’re presented with your various selves. Different clothes for different occasions; hanging, folded and waiting in the shadows to be brought out into the light. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what ensemble will echo your mood, other times you just grab what’s clean, or maybe you glimpse and touch that piece you love but don’t dare to wear. Every so often, you approach your closet with a garbage bag in hand ready to give things away to friends and unknown friends who’ll smile when they discover your shirt in an op shop. You’re rarely asked to donate your clothes to sustainable wearable art shows, but this can happen too. If you’re lucky a local designer may weave their magic and your clothes will shimmer anew under spotlights.

This year REMADE 2014 paired local high profile community members with artists/designers to open their closets and explore this theme. I was asked to discuss these ideas with one pair, State Liberal MP Sarah Courtney and versatile artist Bek Farry.

Sarah Courtney was excited to be involved with this event. She happily gave her grey business suits to Bek, knowing her well-travelled and worn clothes were going to be transformed. Sarah believes REMADE is a great way to promote recycling in our community and to harness people’s creativity. She hopes her contribution will help people see there’s still value in things we usually throw away. Events like REMADE highlight how we choose to reuse different products are only limited by our imaginations.

Bek Farry was equally thrilled to be invited to design an artwork, as it combined an old love for costume making and going for walks to collect useful debris. Bek asked to meet me at Launceston’s main cemetery. We walked around the graves gathering plastic flowers that had been blown faraway from where they were once carefully placed. The flowers are going to be festooned across her gown and lit up by fairy lights. Bek liked the idea of turning something solemn like these flowers and Sarah’s suits into something extravagant, awe inspiring and beautiful.

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Bek’s design in the creation phase. Image by Bek Farry

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Bek’s design in the creation phase. Image by Bek Farry

Perhaps we only see what we’re looking for because I had never noticed these misplaced flowers. We discover some flowers hiding under bushes disappointing hungry bees. We find others filling bins along with junk food and beer bottles. Most of the lost flowers were raked up and dumped amongst piles of lawn clippings and weeds, creating odd colourful compost that will not rot, symbolising our disposable plastic society. It made me shiver with sadness, heave existential sighs and question why I felt uncomfortable. This was part of Bek’s point, as she asks us to look at what lies beneath our moral taboos, superstitions and fears. When we’re touched by death like the dirt on these faded and weathered flowers, we recognise life’s fragility and brevity. It would seem how we choose to live our lives, be it representing our community or designing dreams, tends to revolve around making our visions seen. It’s also interesting to remember we too are recycled, sharing elements of the world around us. We are sustained by and not separate from our environments and the soil we may choose to one day rest in and return to.

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Bek’s design on the REMADE 2014 catwalk. Image by Megan Casey

Bek’s eyes sparkled as she filled her bag with flowers, enthused as she mused about this year’s show. She helped me see how even the best intentions get lost, but sometimes someone will find our ideas, pick them up, use and renew them.

Stella Ferreras 2014.

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A drawing by the author Stella Ferreras inspired by her time collecting grave flowers with designer Bek Farry

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