Jamie Grace-Duff traveled all the way from Pittsburg, PA to have lunch with yours truly! (amongst other things, visit her husband who still lives here, etc)
We meet at Saad's Halal, a cosy, delicious middle eastern restaurant in West Philly at 45th and Walnut. Plus this place has the nicest cashier ever. Oh and huge portions. Win win!
Jamie, a fabric artist, is currently an Emerging Artist in Theatrical Design at Penn State Altoona and an alumni from Temple’s Technical Theater program, where she earned a Costume Design Master's and completed her undergrad in Drexel’s Fashion Design program.
Jamie’s philosophy on theatrical clothing design: Her current work during her residency is exploring how costumes can create their own story and inspire a script rather than the more traditional mode where a designer starts with script analysis. Costumes have to live on the people they were made for. The “magic” is in how the garment is carried and how it moves. And none of these mass-produced, consumerist clothes. Jamie takes a very strong stance on making pieces for the person, based on their personality and one-of-a-kind shape. Filtering every body shape into the select few that are sold in stores world-wide was not Jamie’s vision of her dream job. Jamie: “Fashion should be a dialogue between the designer and the person wearing the clothes.”
Jamie’s inspiration for her most recent work comes from many sources.
- Issey Miyake’s bold patterns, colors and shapes have been inspiring fashion since 1971
- Robert Edmond Jones was a scenic and costume designer credited with incorporating the new stagecraft into the American drama.
- Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way
How does Jamie maintain her student/artist/wife/mother balance?
It’s ALL about schedules and boundaries. When she was in grad school, she’d attend classes all day, but the second she got home until the second her daughter went to bed, it was mom and daughter time. Even if some of that time involved artwork, whether it be kinetic paintings or quilting, Jamie found that time to be very productive, actually. “When you’re spending time with a child, you get to slow down a bit, pay more attention to things an adult might overlook or take for granted," says Jamie.
Jamie’s most challenging work to date was a production of Richard III at Temple University, where Jamie went for graduate school. It was an entire graduate student production – a grad director, grad designer team, etc, all on the same level of knowledge more or less. There were definite ups and downs…since the entire team was still learning, there were a lot of mistakes, unforeseen vision/ambition vs. budget/reality issues. There was even a point when the team splintered because communication over these issues somewhat ceased and each part of the production team took to doing things themselves, without much collaboration or discussion from the whole. In the end, a very watered down version of the team’s ideal “Richard III” was presented but for everyone involved, it was still unique and awesome.
Lastly, Jamie’s advice for aspiring textile designers is to do your best to find out what you REALLY love. For Jamie, she LOVES fabric and stories. When you know that, you can determine what you would REALLY love TO DO and make a plan to do THAT for a living. Ask yourself and others the steps you need to take to get there.
Interesting fact: Jamie participated in the creation of “Mocha Dick” by Tristin Lowe at the Fabric Workshop in 2009. A 52 foot long inflatable whale that was covered in ½” thick industrial felt, stitched and zippered together. It took 4 months. Jamie’s hands are still recovering.