Genesis of the Ruffle

It was a Tuesday morning.  I was in the middle of brushing my dog.  I’ve been collecting dog hair recently for a dog wool project.  There’s a dog breeder down the street from me, Karelian Bear dogs, really big strong dogs, and anyway, the BALCONY gallery contacted us, well me, and asked if Eloise and I would be interested in putting together a project for the first installation date.  Eloise and I have been tripping around Victoria together for a couple of years now and I guess the people at the BALCONY thought we might be a good team to get things started.

So, I called Eloise and you know, Eloise is really into her paintings.  Some people really don’t understand it, but Eloise is very serious about painting.  She thinks she’s discovered what painting is and she’s into it.  Of course she’s got issues around work space and all that.  She has a hard time taking control of her space and using it the way she wants to use it.  She’s either out or else she’s compulsively rearranging everything.  It’s a hangover from her youth, I guess. But it makes it hard for her to settle down and paint sometimes.

Anyway, I was very gung-ho about putting together a project, but it was apparent right from the start that Eloise was a bit hesitant.  She had some painting commitments she intended to follow through on, but with some urging from me, she finally agreed.  We spent an evening together out at my place.  My partner and I were having a bonfire and pizza thing and Eloise and I spent all night slinking around in the dark talking about how to make art for a balcony like the BALCONY.

Finally, Eloise says, what about a ruffle?  And immediately we knew.

Material Ruffle

Unfortunately neither Eloise or myself are seamstresses.  Eloise grew up how she grew up, but my childhood was a little different.  I came from a working/middle class family.  I mean all classes work, right?  Anyway, my mother, a wonderful woman, really sweet, she worked non stop.  40 hours a week at an office doing the books and the cheques and then god knows how much time she’d spend cleaning and cooking and doing the laundry, never mind making sure us kids, there were three of us, were clean and at school and in bed or wherever we were supposed to be.  So, my mother really didn’t have time to spend teaching me a lot of the domestic arts.  As a teenager she spent a lot of time sewing and she was talented.  She made her own clothes, but as a young mother she just didn’t have time to sew or to teach me how to sew.

And it’s funny, that in spite of the differences between Eloise and me, we both had really bad experiences at high school.  You know, maybe they still do it, but back when I was at high school, and when Eloise was at high school, they taught you how to sew.  Of course, during sewing class I spent most of my time teaching the Filipino girl how to put make-up on, Canadian style with a Fort St. John twist.  I was terrified of the sewing machines.  For the life of me I couldn’t even thread them.  It turns out that Eloise had the same problem.  Her sewing teacher actually thought she was learning disabled, although that’s not what they called it back then.  When she tells that story Eloise always throws in the fact that she got the best grades in the whole school regardless of how stupid she was with a sewing machine.  I just figure that it goes without saying.

So, because of all that we were both really nervous about how to make the Ruffle.  And let me tell you it wasn’t easy.  First Eloise cut the material all up in weird little scraps because of some misguided measuring and cutting system she’d worked out.  From what she told me about it, it was just too complicated and besides, she has a cat who has to be into everything.  And then she left me with this big bag of scraps and took off for a house sitting holiday in the Gulf Islands.  I mean!  So I sat down and I sewed and I sewed and I sewed for probably 2 weeks, by hand, making all those little scraps into something that we could call a ruffle.  To give her credit Eloise kept in pretty close contact by phone and I could tell by her voice that she was sorry.  She even came back a couple of times to help me make and sew on those little flowers and the sequins.

When our installation date rolled around and we discovered that we were 25 feet of ruffle short, well, then Eloise really stepped up.  Thank God!  We spent the night at my house and in the morning we went and bought this astronomical length of pink netting.  The lady, Irma was her name, at the Capital Iron sewing department was so sweet.  She  didn’t even blink when we told her what we were doing.  We bought crap loads of food, pizza buns and chicken wings and then we buckled down and started making more ruffles.  This time though, I decided that enough was enough and I pulled out my sewing machine.  A 1972  Sears & Roebuck special, Industrial green metal ( I always think of it as Czech green, it’s the same colour as their old commie era factory buildings).   I bought it for 50 bucks, the guy wanted 100, like, jesus, 2 years ago.  I usually avoid using it, but after all that sewing, by hand let me repeat, I decided to use it.  And it was great.  It was easy.  25 feet of ruffle in 2 hours.  Unbelievable.

Yeah, you know, you might not realize it, because a ruffle’s just a ruffle, no matter what nonsense people want to write about it, but that ruffle is heroic.  Seriously, making that ruffle was heroic.

for more information on the ruffle please see the BALCONY gallery 

for more information on Gwendolyn, stay tuned

* disclaimer: Eloise and Gwendolyn are entirely fictional characters created for the purposes of art.  Eloise and Gwendolyn are not based on any known person, alive or dead.  Any similarities are unfortunate but unintended.