Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summertime...and the living is easy!

Come we to the summer, 
to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the 
hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of 
her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover’s breast;  She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,  And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;  I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,  And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.
From Summer by John Clare 1865

….Summer, to me, is a time when we least think of fashion.  We are content to be casual with ourselves, and this can even filter over to our attitude about our dolls.  We languish in a state of ennui; playing with our kids, running with our pets, or even barbequing with the hubster.  We just don’t have the energy or the time to “play” ‘round the clock – we have to have a reprise even from the wonderful joy our doll and doll fashion collecting brings - and summer is it!

But soon the lazy days of summer will be over, and cool crisp air will return leaving us scurrying for a new fashion and a new coat for ourselves, perhaps – but for sure for our dollies!  At that time we will be especially happy that everyone didn’t approach summer as we did.  We’ll be happy for those who worked diligently to bring us their new Fall lines. 

It will be then that I’ll look to CDS for some new doll fashions, and I hope you will, too.  And one shop you won’t want to overlook is Sweet Creations.  Its shop owner, Connie Casteel, makes wonderful offerings for all kinds of dolls.  Residing on Main Street, her shop is one of the first that opened there – and I’m so glad it did.  Check out my recent interview for more information about this very nice and interesting lady.

Blogmeister: Who are you? In other words - tell us a little bit about the real person behind your business name?

Connie:  I have been the wife for almost 41 years to a most wonderful man.  I am also the mother of two beautiful daughters, and a grandmother to four darling grandchildren!  But I still feel very young at heart, anyway!

I worked 25 years at a single company after my husband left military service and we finally settled in one place.  I left that employment at the end of 2004, and am quite content to stay at home and sew!

Sewing and reading have been at the top of my ‘hobbies list’ as long as I can remember.  Little did I know that one day my sewing skills could turn into a ‘tiny’ business!

Blogmeister: How and when did you discover your love for creating fashion art in the doll world?

Connie:  In 2000 my oldest daughter suggested I sew a few Barbie clothes and sell them on eBay.  eBay was something I had never heard of, but she assured me I would have no trouble selling my work.  I began with Barbie fashions, and was pleasantly surprised to find my work so well received!  I mean, sure I knew I put my heart into it, but how could they tell from a picture?? I was also surprised to find that the majority of people were not buying the fashions for children, but for themselves!  Who knew there were so many doll collectors in the world!

Blogmeister: Did you begin creating for yourself then transition to creating fashion art offered for sale?

Connie:  Yes, I did.  The desire to learn had always been there below the surface as I watched my mom and both grandmas sew as I was growing up. I had a very strict (thank you Mrs. Harden!) Home Ec teacher when I was in Junior High who helped further pique my interest in sewing because she insisted on doing things correctly and without shortcuts. I also had a great Home Ec teacher in High School.   Between the five of them – relatives and teachers - I learned to make clothing for myself, and sometimes my little sister was treated to an outfit….if she wasn’t annoying me ;o)

When my girls were younger I sewed for them and their dolls, as well as sewing for myself and my husband.  When they outgrew dolls, I sewed mainly for the girls, including their wedding dresses and all of their female attendant’s ensembles..

Blogmeister: Was anything or anyone a significant influence on your work initially?

Connie:  I would credit my daughter, Jenny, for giving me direction in styles and fabrics in the beginning and for several years until her own motherly duties took up more of her time.  My husband also contributed with his knack at selecting and/or critiquing fabric selections.  Jenny was also very insistent about my photos being just so, and my skills improved quickly!  

Then along came Gene Marshall, a gift from my daugher, and my attention was immediately focused on sewing for grown-up dolls!  The rest is history.

Blogmeister: Today where do you find inspiration for your projects?

Connie:  Everywhere!  I unconsciously keep an eye out, and realize that when I am looking at someone or something, I find myself saying (to myself or anyone in the area), ‘Oh! That would be cute as….’ or  ‘Oh! Wouldn’t that make a nice…...’.  It may be a style, a color, the way a fabric feels or drapes, or just my imagination running away with me. ;o)  I tend to see the outfit before I actually see who is wearing it, and have little sketches and notes of fashions I would like to create everywhere.  Now if I could just find enough time to do them all!

The internet is also a fantastic resource for information, not only for current styles and artists, but for researching past years and specific eras.

Blogmeister: For people who would like to create their own fashion art, would you have any words of inspiration or advice?

Connie:  Find what you do best, then do it!  I know, easier said than done, but it can be very frustrating to pull yourself in too many directions at once.  You have to be willing to put yourself into your work, stick with it and master what you do best.  Be vigilante in the details.  After that, branching out is easier and will be less frustrating.  It will show in your work and you will create little masterpieces that will make you proud!

I also think we are harder on ourselves than any other critic, so don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn.  Remain open to hearing the opinion of others.  Their opinion doesn’t have to become your opinion, but someone may make a very interesting point that will help you in another endeavor along the way.

Blogmeister: Lastly, what's up for you right now?

Connie:  My main focus has been on ball jointed dolls (BJDs) for the past couple of years, but I get commission requests for many of the other dolls who model for me and sew for them regularly as well.  As long as I can sew, I am happy!

Last year I got my first Kaye Wiggs doll, an 18” BJD portraying an age of about 9-12 years old.  Shortly after I saw a Fairyland Little Fee Leah, and fell in love with her, so she moved to my house.  She is a 10.5” BJD, who was soon followed by another tiny 11” BJD named Millie, also by Kaye Wiggs.  I have really enjoyed creating young fashions for these girls, which is quite a change from those grown-up fashions.  I believe it reminds me of when my girls were young! :o)

See, she has something for just about everyone! 

But if you’re not quite ready to give up on summer, a good way to rev up your inner fashion diva, is to laze around the pool with a good book.  If your heart belongs to fictition, perhaps you’ll enjoy:

Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards Jones =  Follow a fictional London-based designer over a six month period. It opens the day after their runway show, and closes the day of their next show, six months later. The enticing thing about this book is that the author claims that everything is true eve though the designer is fictionalized, stating that "only the names have been changed to protect the guilty". This book explains every little detail that goes into producing a collection, and it's a fun and fascinating read. You'll learn about the mark-ups at stores, the process of hiring models for the show, what it takes to get a good review, and a lot more!

And for the history buff, may I suggest:

The End of Fashion by Teri Agins- Take a look at fashion from a business perspective, exploring all aspects of the industry including manufacturing, retailing, licensing, and image making, through this well-researched book.  It explains the beginning and the "end" of Paris couture houses, as well as the rivalry behind the runway, Giorgio Armani's success with Hollywood, and much more. Agins examines the fundamental changes in the fashion industry, and "how marketing changed the clothing business forever". If you’re interested in learning more about how fashion came to be what it is today NEEDS to pick up a copy of this book pronto!

And now I return you to your summer ponderings, but I’ll be back in September with some awesome fashions!  I “hear” some of the artists are working on something called Beautiful Villains………..ah, now doesn’t that seem intriguing!?!  See you soon!

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