For immediate release
Chichi Rose One-of-a-kind, One-at-a-time
October 22, 2010 – Atlanta, GA | I grew up in rural northern Alabama around people who made things with their hands. My great grandmother and my grandmother came through the Depression. Saturday morning would find us in a large cinderblock building surrounded by mounds and mounds of clothing. Recycling was still to be coined and they didn’t call it a thrift store, but there we would sit in handmade gingham dresses, all day, no air conditioning, cutting the zippers and buttons of garments so that they would have a new life. We would take the best parts of things.
High School Fashion “Hipster”
I grew up in a small town and I was tall. My mom made all my clothes. Poring over the Sears and Roebuck catalog, following Cosmo and Glamour magazines at the Woolworth store and of course, watching television, honed my sense of style.
My mom had a sewing room. I stole my father’s ties. I remember my mom cutting up curtains to make handbags and shawls. To this day I haven’t seen “Gone With the Wind”, but I will never forget Carol Burnett doing a sketch from the movie with the comedic twist of leaving a drapery rod in her clothes.
Thrift Stores/Yard Sales and Auctions
I am a fabric person. I love the way they look and feel. I love the variety. The idea of giving an object a second life – repurposing – up cycling – gives me such a thrill. Thrift stores are my fabric stores. I love to forage (I think you would call me a picker). I can tell you what the label on a piece of clothing is before I pick it up. Thrift stores usually have items grouped in departments, so my creative process can begin anywhere from the housewares section to jewelry to children’s clothing. I see an item and something happens. I zone in on it. I build a story with complementary colors, textures and themes. For example, an elaborate earring set in an Altoids Box made a great springboard for adding accenting buttons, notions and ribbon. My father was a tradesman and he taught me how to use a lot of tools that come in handy repurposing things like drawer pulls, miniature dolls and silverware.
Large bags can take a couple days to create. For me, it is like putting a puzzle together. I start with something special that speaks to me, things that I can’t wait to work with. I create a non-verbal, tactile story. I might start with a piece of fabric or a string of pearls and pull together things that speak to me. Sometimes the choices aren’t obvious. Most times I am surprised where the feelings take me. Sewing the work together is often the quick and easy part of the process.
Friends bring me things. One friend had a stockpile of what she called “pope-ilia”, aka discarded vestments from Catholic churches. Japanese collectors gobbled up the series of large handbags that I was able to make from it.
Although I am able to sell my work at niche boutiques and online, I often travel the east coast selling at festivals. When traveling, I make it a point to visit thrift stores and interesting fabric outlets finding items particular to a region or area. One trip took me to Boca Raton, Florida where I met the owner of a high-end clothing re-sale boutique. I happened to be carrying a handbag whose inspiration was a vintage Pucci panty set that I had purchased for less than $10. In his shop I saw a one-piece slip with the same pattern retailing for $120. He told me he would never sell me anything for fear that I would cut it up! I laughed to myself on leaving, thinking the bag was going to give more people a lot more pleasure than a pair of underwear.
Art Festivals and Fans
Celebrities often have little trouble picking out the perfect bag. Margaret Cho was in Atlanta filming a television series and happened to dart into my booth. She picked out the most glorious bag I had at the time and then ordered several more on line. Caroline Rhea also is a fan of my work. I am not sure why female comedians are attracted to the work, but it seems they are.
My favorite coffee is Café Bustello. I get it in vacuum-packed containers and often save the wrappers. When I am feeling playful, I will integrate the coffee packaging into my designs. I was at a festival on the Outer Banks, North Carolina and a woman came into my booth and was almost brought to tears. You see on the Café Bustello bag there is a picture of a woman, and it was on one of my bags. It turns out she was an heiress of the company’s founder and the picture on the bag was her mother.
Handbag lines expanded to include necklaces and belt buckles.
Selling work directly to customers at festivals has been very insightful. Each Chichi Rose handbag is a piece of wearable art create with my own point of view. Prospective clients see each slightly differently. I won awards at the GumTree Arts and the Gulf Breeze Arts Festivals and have a growing list of avid collectors. They are the ones who encouraged me to expand my work into other “wearable” items so I have added a belt buckle and necklace series to my fiber collection.
I love everything fabric. I collect wonderful things everywhere from antique shops to thrift stores to garage sales. I am giving these things a new life by turning them into something else. Nothing is safe. I use everything around me - my curtains, shoes and bedspreads. If you can get a needle through it, I use it. Each creation has a story woven into it because of the item’s history. Often my work evokes nostalgia. Sometimes it is a doll woven into the work that a customer might have had as a child thirty years ago; sometimes it is a pair of gloves that grandma might have worn. I think of my work as stitching together the past, something like a coffee table book.
About Deborah Flack and Chichi Rose
Growing up in a small family, in a small town in the rural South, it was natural to feel isolated. It was difficult, to say the least, to stand out. I graduated as Pisgah High School’s Valedictorian in the class of 1977 and spent a couple years at Northeast Alabama Jr. College. I got married and went to work for 22 years in a small insurance office in Atlanta.
A self-taught designer, I now live with my husband (also an artist) in Smyrna, Georgia. My studio is smack dab in the middle of my house in between the kitchen and the family room. Light is everywhere and music fills the room. When I’m not sewing or collecting, I’m reading.
Chichi Rose is my fantasy at being something larger than life. In Texas they say, “Too much is just about right.” That is my approach to creating wearable fiber art. “The quality of being affectedly pretty or stylish” is how one dictionary defines chichi. Folks who wear my art are out to make a statement. More information is available on my web site at http://www.chichirose.com.
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2201 East Lee Rd. SE | Smyrna, GA 30080 | 678.525.4375 | www.chichirose.com | email@example.com