PORT TOWNSEND — An ocean rushed onto the runway inside McCurdy Pavilion on Saturday, bringing with it a multitude of creatures — an octopus, an anemone, a jellyfish, Christmas ornaments — and that was just one wave.
As 48 works of art — displayed on dancing, vamping, spinning humans — constituted the ninth annual Port Townsend Wearable Art Show, the crowd was as loud as the colors. A fundraiser for the Jefferson Community Foundation Fund for Women and Girls, the show attracted entries from 34 communities from rural Jefferson County to Brooklyn, N.Y., along with a tumult of ideas expressed in repurposed materials.
In matinee and evening performances, Wearable Art Show designers and models proved that twine, fruit packaging, popcorn bags, bubble wrap, Dixie cups and Ikea lamp frames can be made into dresses. Scores of CDs became the jellyfish a-twirl in “Ocean Deep” by 14-year-old Caden Grant of Quilcene. Layered fruit packaging turned into “Orange You a Cutie?” by Port Townsend’s Cheri Kopp. A tsunami of glue held it all together.
And the models. They came in all body shapes and sizes. Some strutted, black-booted and platform-heeled, while several floated barefoot.
The Wearable Art Show is one of Port Townsend’s success stories — artistically and financially. It brings together designers who create far outside the conventional, and it raises a heap of cash. In recent years, ticket earnings have averaged $40,000 per year plus event sponsorships and sales from the show’s clothing boutique, said Bonnie Obremski of Storyborne, the marketing contractor.
“We broke the record for ticket sales” this time around, she added Saturday night.
“More than 1,000 people attended and helped bring in about $45,000,” and about a quarter of the audience came from out of town.
Net proceeds go to the Fund for Women and Girls, which in turn makes local grants. The beneficiaries are local organizations, such as Dove House and the Benji Project (thebenjiproject.org), seeking to further the fund’s goals. Its vision is a world where “women and girls are safe, secure, equal and empowered,” as emcee Denise Winter told the crowd at McCurdy Pavilion.
The Wearable Art Show is held there, in Fort Worden State Park’s largest hall, with a runway that angles through spectators seated on three sides. Their eyes were wide as the procession began; again and again waves of cheering washed over the models and their wigs, props and attire.
The show also is a competition with rewards for the way the artists turn their concepts — which range from the worry “monster” to a love of flowers or popcorn — into apparel.
This year’s $2,500 best in show prize went to a pair of outfits titled “Mycologistical.” Wafting down the runway, they were a tribute to an organism that lives large and often below surfaces: fungi. The ethereal black and white shapes, made of papier-maché mushrooms, folded paper, glue and fusible interfacing, came from an artist team called the Fungals of Port Townsend; in fact they are Margie McDonald, Sue Ohlson, Maggie Day and Karen Childers.
Then there was “The Agony & the Exsta-Sea,” winner of the $500 people’s choice prize. Doreen M. Reynolds of Highland, Md., assembled curtains, a nautilus shell, sea stars, an upcycled dress and long blue eyelashes on model Jaymi Shull. That was the first view. Then Shull turned to reveal the train behind her: a wretched mass of grocery bags and other debris.
Among the student artists — 14 of them, more than ever — the top prize of $500 went to Ava and Elvira Erickson of Quilcene’s “Popcorn Madness.” Ava the model, wearing a hoopskirt festooned with hundreds of popcorn bags, took the runway popping up and down on her feet.
Winter, speaking atop a perch above the runway, reminded the audience that next year is the Wearable Art Show’s 10th, so prospective artists, supporters and art lovers are encouraged to plan for another lavish event. She touted the many businesses backing the show including Olympic Art & Office, whose window at 220 Taylor St. displays Wearable Art Show pieces year-round.
Meantime, the show program invites volunteers and artists to email [email protected] or call the Jefferson Community Foundation at 360-385-1729. More about the show’s beneficiary is found at FundforWomenandGirls.com.