Friday 3 April 2009

Introducing... Teresa Dowd

With the weekend at hand, it's always good to settle down and unwind with something juicy to read. This week, CLOG features Teresa Dowd of Cut-it, a clothing label that reuses, recycles and refashions secondhand jumpers into fantastic creations. It's not just about changing buttons or sewing a dart here and there, Teresa painstakingly deconstructs these pre-loved garments and puts them together again. Amazing!

Teresa places a strong emphasis on sustainable design, something that we strongly support here at CVHQ. We have a selection of her jumpers available in store at the moment and with winter almost upon us, you'd best be quick. It is, afterall, first in best dressed.

In addition to your Cut-it label, your artistic practice also extends to other mediums like painting, drawing and sculpture. Do you try to balance each practice equally, or do you have a particular preference?
I work seasonally. I crank up the garment making towards the end of summer as I need to get my knits to the stockists prior to winter, then about midway through winter I get more into the painting, drawing and other 3D works. It’s a good balance as the different activities feed different parts of my creative drive.

Each jumper is such a unique labour of love. How do you overcome creative obstacles?
To me, in many ways making art is about problem solving, so it is just part of the process. I’m usually inspired by the colour of the original knit and I move it around the studio past various pieces of fabric, buttons, trims etc. until the combination of colours and ‘bits’ becomes clear. If I start something and it doesn’t come together, it’s becoming a struggle, I put it aside, start something else and come back to it later, often finding a different combination of fabrics. One of the wonderful things about this process is that it is a bit like creating a painting; the key is to know when to stop, when it is just right. Usually the moment is pretty clear, but I’m often unsure until I hit it. That’s what I love.

A pile of jumpers waiting to be transformed.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?
When I first took my jumpers to Craft Victoria, the two gorgeous young girls behind the counter bought one each. That was a buzz as they were my first sales. Before that I had been making them for my daughters and their friends.

When was the last time you struck op shop gold?
One of my favourite skirts is made from exquisite silk and it cost me a dollar. I have had it now for about 15 years and I don’t think it will ever date. I also have a beautiful beaded cardigan, it is tangerine with turquoise beads and buttons. It’s a gem and was only a couple of dollars.

Could you please describe the first Cut-it jumper you made for Alice, your daughter?
Alice was pretty much into black with a little bit of white or red somewhere, so I choose several black jumpers with different textures and just started cutting and sewing. I added some small pieces of red Japanese fabric, some bold hand stitching and a few buttons. It just came together. Then her friends were keen for me to make one for each of them. That’s how it all started.

One thing you can't live without...
A sewing machine. I went overseas for a while a few years ago and I put everything into storage. When I came back I did a bit of house sitting but I really wanted to sew and my machine was somewhere deep in amongst my furniture and other stuff in this self storage unit and I couldn’t get at it. A friend asked me how I was managing without my stuff and I comment that all was ok but I need my machine. After I left her I was driving along Melbourne Road in Williamstown and there on the footpath was an old machine with a ‘free, please take’ sign. I took it home, gave it a tweak and made about twenty knits with it. When I finally got my machine back I gave the found one to a young punk I know who had been patching his jeans by hand for three years. I also made him a punk style jumper that he would bring back to me for washing, as he didn’t want to wreck it in the wash.

I also can’t live without my jigsaw, but that’s another story!

And last but not least, do you live by a personal motto?
I think it would have to be something to do with waste. I was one of eight so my childhood was fairly frugal and everything was reused where possible. I remember my mother making pants for my younger brother from dad’s old suit, carefully cutting areas that were less worn, making good use of the life left in the fabric.

I am really conscious of just how much the world is producing and then often discarding objects/clothes for something new. I was recently in China, and there, with such a dense population, you become really aware of the impact of so many people on the planet and the amount of waste we are all constantly generating. It is actually quite difficult to reduce our consumption and waste, but we need to try wherever possible.

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