PORT TOWNSEND — You have your young supermodel with rocket boosters on her boots. There’s the blonde dressed in delicate mesh fruit bags, plus another pièce de résistance: the Coat of Arms, a heavy cloak bristling with “guns.”
Not to worry. These arms are made of recycled, rolled sweaters, and they come in peace.
The coat, rockets and mesh are the creations of Judith Bird, Macy Little and Cheri Kopp, just three of the entrants in this Saturday’s Port Townsend Wearable Art Show.
The event, a giant fundraiser for the Jefferson Community Foundation Fund for Women and Girls, has burst open like a firework. It began in the 125-seat ballroom at Madrona MindBody Institute, then went to to the Port Townsend Elks Lodge. For four years now it’s been at the McCurdy Pavilion, a former hangar at Fort Worden State Park.
Oh, and there are two shows: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. General admission tickets are $35, premium $55 and front row $75 via https://www.brown papertickets.com/ or 800-868 3006. The matinee is expected to sell out while the evening show will have tickets at the door.
Saturday’s pageant — part otherworldly fashion show, part animated art cavalcade — brings together a biodiversity of materials, ideas and people. For the Coat of Arms, Bird uses her hand-spun golden yarn, hand-dyed silk and a hand-built crown. Undergirded with a stiff frame, it is one warm, heavy thing.
“I’m an immigrant from Canada. Immigrants bring their own culture. This is part of what I bring,” said Bird, 75, and a Port Townsend resident for more than 20 years now.
The gun barrels on the Coat of Arms will be unmistakable on the runway. And Bird hopes people will take a closer look after the show, to see what’s not so loud. She’s stitched words onto the scarlet fabric: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; the March for Our Lives; the Hunger Nine; the Mayor of Pittsburgh. These are people and events against gun violence; “positive things,” as Bird simply puts it.
To turn her idea into reality, she conducted copious research into recent American history.
She gathered 15 helper-stitchers at her home studio during the month of March.
And as she’s done in previous Wearable Art Shows, Bird followed her vision.
“It kept going and going,” she said.
“It will be interesting to see how this piece is received.”
While Bird is a co-founder of the show, Kopp is a debutante this year.
“I’ve sat in the audience for years, imagining myself being part of the phenomenon,” she said. At last she proposed a piece using her favorite art medium: cast-off stuff.
Kopp’s work, titled “Orange You a Cutie?,” integrates mesh fruit packaging, a hula hoop, berry boxes and repurposed ribbon — trimmed, shaped and even quilted. She finished he skirt, bustier, fascinator hat, sandals and jewelry she envisioned — but they weren’t enough.
Wearable Art Show entries have a performative aspect, Kopp noted. She fashioned a capelet so her model, Julie Christine, can reveal the layers of the look as she sashays down the runway.
Meanwhile Macy, she of the rocket-adorned boots, will be her own model. Titled “We Have Feelings Too,” hers is an alien-robot-superhero outfit, melding Pringles chip cans, a dryer vent and a long, black, satiny cape with a violet heart on the back. The artist, a 9-year-old Salish Coast Elementary student, worked for two months with professional designer Margie McDonald, who has mentored many youngsters.
“She’s always been drawing characters and dresses,” said Macy’s mother, Shelly Little. “This was her next level, to push the boundaries.”
Wearable Art Show proceeds give the Fund for Women and Girls a significant infusion every spring. The fund has built an endowment of nearly $350,000, said founder Debbi Steele.
“We started with what we called ‘soirees,’” evenings when local people gathered to figure out how they could support a fund to sustain hometown organizations with programs for women and girls.
At two soirees before the debut of the Wearable Art Show, some $40,000 was raised, Steele said.
The fund began making grants to nonprofit groups whose activities further its mission: To create a world where girls and women are safe, equal and powerful.
Beneficiaries have since included the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Girls in Real Life Science program and the Port Townsend Friends of the Library’s Women in Transition project.
Then came the first Wearable Art Show in 2011. There was a line to get in; it sold out quickly.
“We realized we needed to do two shows,” Steele recalled, “and again both shows sold out.”
The rest is wearable-art history.
The clothes keep changing, though. This year’s event spotlights 14 student designers — the most ever.
“The students are often everyone’s favorites in the show,” noted Steele, adding that six of the youths are from Quilcene.
Of 48 works of art, 12 come from outside Washington state, which “has put an entirely different spin on the show,” she said.
“People from New York and Pennsylvania view wearable art differently than in Colorado and British Columbia.”
For Kopp, 59, wearable art for the Fund for Women and Girls is a natural thing. She grew up in 4-H, making her own clothes on her maternal grandmother’s Singer sewing machine.
“Family legend has it that Mom bought it for Mamma with one of her earliest paychecks. My grandmother, a single mother, also sewed and made most of my mother’s clothing,” she said.
“So I come by my mad sewing skills naturally.”
As soon as the teenage Kopp earned her own money, she bought herself a Kenmore sewing machine. She’s still operating it in her Port Townsend studio.
“I come from a line of independent, frugal and self-sufficient women,” she said, “and I’m happy to support the Fund For Women and Girls.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.