Sunday, August 23, 2009


recent work by paula dunlop
photographs by damian dunlop
curated by nadia buick
august 19 - september 13
tom heath gallery
QUT art museum

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Top for Nadia

Nadia Buick, a fellow fashion PhD kid, is curating my upcoming solo show wearer/maker/wearer at the QUT Art Museum (19th August-13th September). She recently picked up a Dries Van Noten skirt from a local Vinnies for $12 (best $12 she ever spent!) and suggested I rework it for the show.

I didn't mess with it too much; I was careful not to destroy the drape, nor the beautiful construction (it was flared with a large number of asymetrically shaped panels). In the end I simply turned it upside down and released one of the panel seams part-way to make the v-shaped neckline, then joined the 'hem' across the arms and shoulders to make the batwing sleeves. I put in a few darts at the back neckline to fit it close to the upper back, though this needs re-working, as parts of the fabric have stretched here and it looks a little clumsy...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Dress for Tilds

This dress is made from a vintage silk skirt (bought second-hand about 10 years ago!) and a cotton sari blouse picked up during a trip to India. The fabrics are surprisingly complimentary; the printed motifs are of similar size, and the tonal quality of the colours seem to work well side-by-side.

I've been watching HBO's Rome lately - I think this accounts for the sudden bare-shouldered tasselled madness that overtook me while making this for Matilda! The skirt was originally a box-pleated number - I changed the shape to something closer to an A-line. The sari blouse was pulled apart completely and the panels re-arranged upside down to form the straight shapes across the neck and back. The blouse already had tassel-ties, but I made a few more to match from the excess skirt fabric.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Jacket for Big Ol' C

A few months back I found a gorgeous vintage cotton kimono on etsy. I love unpicking kimonos; I admire the hand-stitched construction, and enjoy taking my time when undoing the folds and seams.

This particular kimono became a jacket for Carla. The original sleeves were re-attached upside-down, with gathering at the sleeve head (technically, there probably isn't such thing as a sleeve head in a kimono sleeve, on account of its rectangular shape... but you get my meaning).

The bodice is fitted, with a flat collar detail on the back. The centre front fastens with hooks and eyes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Belt for Sven

This belt is for my pal Svenja. It is crocheted cotton yarn. Word.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Waistcoat for Ma

Another organic cotton waistcoat, this time for my Ma.

The pattern shapes are the same as those used in Mox's waistcoat, but assembled in a different way. I am a very lazy patternmaker - I often work with the same patterns over and over again, playing with the pieces in different configurations.

I don't sketch before I start - I like not knowing exactly where i'm going!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Waistcoat for Mox

I have been making wing-shaped garments for a while now. I love to drape fabric from the shoulder blades, and play with side-to-side silhouettes. The latest manifestation of this approach takes the form of a waistcoat for my pal Michelle.

I took the wing theme one step further this time - I added feathers. The size and shape of these 'feathers' were carried over from some ovoid/lozenge shapes that I have been stenciling as part of recent works on paper.

The main fabric is a lightweight organic cotton. The colourful 'feathers' are a tartan polyester taffeta. I cut the polyester into the small shapes, fraying some of the ends. I then placed a dab of fray-stopper on each - dabs through which I later handstitch the feathers to the body of the garment (resting assured that the feathers would not fray to the point of pulling off). I love fiddly, slow work!

I also made her a hat inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli's 'Mad Caps' of the 1930's. Here you can see what the tartan looked like, before I chopped it into little pieces!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Difficulties of Ethical Life

My most recent book review is up on M/C.

Difficulties of Ethical Life gathers twelve essays with an aim to investigate the place of philosophical ethics in contemporary living. A recent addition to the Perspectives in Continental Philosophy series (Fordham University Press), the book collects the thinking of scholars with diverse lines of inquiry from a broad range of subject areas—with race, truth, deception, terror, responsibility and intersubjectivity being just some of the issues discussed. Ethics, in its chase of ‘the good’, has always concerned questions pertaining to proper conduct, or ‘how one should live’ (28). For these scholars, however, this chase is nuanced in modern times by an increasingly globalised and technologically-equipped world—making questions on connectedness and responsibility particularly pertinent.

With my PhD moving toward the unravelling of an ethics of design (through an investigation of designers, dressmakers and domestic production), this book was a timely introduction to contemporary debates on ethical subjectivity, responsibility and the construction and comprehension of ethical standards. Most interesting for me, however, was the positioning of human social interaction at the heart of discussions on ethical living.

Interpersonal relations are, of course, a fundamental aspect of our lives - but to contain our reflections to this alone leaves out contemplating our interactions and relationships with self, environment, non-humans and material objects. Perhaps I am mistaken in thinking that ethical living extends to a consideration of all the things that we live with and through?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Collar for Maddy

Another garment - this time it's a collar I completed recently for my pal Maddy. It is made from some scraps leftover from my recent re-working of a vintage dress.

I picked up the dress on ebay - it was originally a floor-length, Grecian-style frock. It was square across the neck and back, the fabric falling from narrow panels which fastened with buttons at each shoulder. My re-working of the dress saw my shortening it into something more Summer-friendly. I removed the neck and back panels, and made shoulder straps from fabric taken from the hem.

For this collar I took the removed panels and remaining fabric, played with it it on the dummy for a bit, then hand-stitched the pieces together. Easy-peasy (just the way I like it!). It fastens with a couple of hooks and eyes.

I haven't yet photographed any of my project garments on live bodies. That is something I hope to do over the coming weeks, and will blog about shortly.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fashion Design and an Ethics of Making

A call for contributions was recently sent out for an upcoming publication on design and ethics. The aim of the project is to produce a book of essays from different disciplinary perspectives on the themes of creation, production and consumption. The project is supported by ici (the Institute for Creative Innovation), a collaborative and interdisciplinary research institute at QUT.

This publication is timely for me, as my own research is veering toward questions of ethics in terms of how we apprehend our relationships with the material and immaterial conditions through which we work.

With the help of my supervisors Kath Horton and Andrew McNamara, I put together the following abstract for a 5000 word paper. Writing it helped me formally 'try on' some of the ideas that had been pestering me for awhile, regarding how to best articulate my PhD project's orientation:

Traditional approaches to fashion design are largely dependent on an ontology of design as a pre-conceived system determined by its end product. The same tradition presupposes that designers are individuals who transcend the everyday in the quest to create ‘the new’. These two presumptions result in a separation, but also an opposition between plan (or pre-determined outcome) and process, in which process is relegated to a subsidiary role to the plan as well as to the designer’s intention. This paper proposes an alternative ontology of design based on an ethics of making. Through an investigation of non-professional sites of clothing production, it explores design as grounded in an experiential engagement with the world. By looking at activities where conception and creation are heavily negotiated around constraints, I consider design as an activity where plans sit within both the material and immaterial conditions of the making process. This positions plan and control as approaches embedded in pre-existing and mutable conditions. By connecting the designer with the materiality of the planned design process, this paper challenges conceptions of design that privilege both the pre-determined plan and the autonomous creativity of the designer. It elucidates an ethics of making that underpins the recent concern for environmental and social responsibility in the fashion industry—connecting the designer to the ‘everyday’ conditions through which they conceive of and undertake their practice, to reposition designers as part of larger systems of making.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pollyanna the Horrible Trollop

This is Pollyanna. She is my conjoined twin, made for a 1930's circus-themed party. An incorrigible little strumpet, she spent most of the night reaching for men's groins and telling loud (and lusty) stories of lechery under the big top.

Like Senor Dave, she is entirely hand stitched; pieced together from acrylic felt and filled with polyester stuffing. She fastened to my side with velcro. Note her beautiful shingled hair (and horrible little breasts)!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Belt for Kath

Here is a belt I completed recently. I crocheted it for Kath (my supervisor) from lengths of embroidery cotton.

The belt took a few weeks to complete. I had trouble, in the beginning, remembering the single stitch technique! But after a shaky start (and some help from online tutorials) it all came back to me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Two of my pals have their PhD confirmation seminars this week. I've made a couple of badges to wear to the presentations.

Go get 'em, fellas!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

More Images

I was flicking through my FIVE images the other day, and liked them so much I thought i'd post a few more...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

M/C Reviews

Here is my latest contribution to M/C, a site for the analysis, discussion and critique of media and culture. It is my third review for M/C, with my first and second (on David Meagher's Fashion Speak and George Stiny's Shape) published last year.

Although long interested in her work, it was my first time reading Elizabeth Grosz (or indeed any Deleuzian theory) and I am pleased to have finally taken the plunge. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth collects a series of lectures presented by Grosz at the University of California’s Critical Theory Institute. The papers investigate the cosmological and corporeal energies that motivate artistic, scientific and philosophical inquiry - with a particular focus on the conditions that allow for creative production.

Grosz's work presents an ontology of creative making. It centres on art as the production of territories and the organisation of chaos - activities undertaken to extract order from the otherwise uncontrollable excess of nature. Grosz explores art-making as a response to our immersion in the excess of the world; the mode of creating sensations (and territories) in an effort to apprehend chaos, nature and materiality. Her goal then, is to develop a non-aesthetic philosophy of art, one that explores art and philosophy’s common interest: the scrutiny of the very forces through which cultural production is stimulated, enacted and transformed.

I have long had a facination with habitus (modes of living) and the frameworks, rules and constraints through which we understand and occupy our place in the world. We live through a multitude of frameworks - they are the standards, strictures, codes, and patterns of living that constitute our reasoning. I often explore this through chance-play; the setting up and playing out of processes through which pattern shapes can be generated and made into objects or garments. Conceptualising chance continues to confound and facinate me.

These inclinations also carry through to my current research - extended to an investigation of design process as the negotiation of systems and constraints. More and more I am interested in situations, environments and biography, and the bearing these have on the making of objects. Design depends on a tension between product and process, fixation and fluidity. I love the idea of the designer as a collaborator - one who works with, and embedded within, larger systems and stories. Whenever I work with chance, or re-make second-hand clothing, I am reminded of the touch of pre-existing situations and circumstances. We collaborate with time and place whenever we make.