Marloes Dadswell, Delft, The Netherlands (Bespoke Corsetry)
My fascination with curiosities and so-called Wunderkammers started from a young age. Enchanted by the shell and fossil collections of my grandfather, our visits to Teylers Museum in Haarlem made me want to live in my very own museum. Over the past few years, I have noticed a significant rise in the popularity of collecting rarities. Shops specialising in these items are sprouting up like mushrooms everywhere, and the urge to own, for instance, a glass-domed butterfly display or nautilus shell grew and grew. And although you can get your hands on ethically sourced specimens, it made me feel a little uneasy. How much I would love to have all these items of beauty in my home, to see up-close their complex shell structures and fragile butterfly wings. But, if we would all fill our homes with these incredible creatures, they start losing some of their magic, gather a little dust and we move onto our next item on the wish-list. Are we not placing ourselves above nature, when, in fact, we are in nature? So I started working on a Wunderkammer filled with embroidered artworks based on natural history.
The embroidery on this corset is inspired by a print of Ernst Haeckel and depicts a member of the siphonophore family, a type of jellyfish. Although its full length can be longer than that of a blue whale, it’s a colonial organism composed of many physically connected, interdependent individuals.
Although Ernst Haeckel took some artistic liberties, it was the trumpet-type shapes of the siphonophore that took my interest in embroidering this specific design. The bulbous shape with translucent bead-like structures made me visualise this creature as an embroidery design from the start.
I aimed to use as many materials already in my stash and not get carried away buying fancy new materials. I used antique lace gifted to me by my mother, silk paint gifted to me by a friend, a damaged silk scarf, beads from the stash and some beads gifted by others. The entire embroidery has been stitched by hand with single threads. It has some three-dimensional shapes which I have padded out. All the beading is also added by hand. The pattern for the corset is drafted by me and took a couple of toiles to get right.
Using the antique lace which had a lot of damage to it, I cut out all the useable parts and dyed the pieces a soft yellow to complement the embroidery. After appliquéing the lace parts to the corset in a symmetrical shape, I was ready to apply the embroidered piece on top. Because I didn’t embroider onto the corset itself this time around, I was able to change the position of the embroidery from the midsection of the corset to the upper part of the corset. The new position made it much more fitting to the curvature of the body.
Silk, cotton coutil, cotton embroidery floss, glass beads, antique lace.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
In the light of slow fashion, I really took my time with this one, working on a tiny bit at a time to not get bored or overwhelmed by the task ahead. As a master procrastinator, this was new territory but highly recommended.