During the fall semester of Art Ready, every Wednesday afternoon, students visit the studio of a different professional artist. At the end of January they submit their top choices of mentors from among these artists. With these studio visits, the goal is not only to acquaint participants with each possible artist mentor, but to expose them to a wide range of disciplines in the visual arts. To this end, we visit both artists who exhibit their work in traditional museums or galleries; and artists who design buildings and apartment interiors, oversee commercial magazine layouts and photo shoots, or make custom jewelry, reaching a broad popular audience.
It was this desire to reach the widest audience possible, and to make a viable living as an artist, that had first propelled CHANDI to start her own clothing line at age 19. “How many of you have ever bought a drawing from a friend of yours?” she asked the Art Ready students, after they had piled into her converted factory building studio on the industrial Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront. A few hands shot up. “How many of you have ever bought a T-shirt?” Many more hands raised. “I chose to turn my drawings into T-shirts because they would reach more people that way, and be more lucrative for me,” CHANDI explained.
She then described how she aimed to “set her clothes apart” from those of other fashion designers by decorating them with unique silk screen prints of unusual or imaginary creatures she is fond of drawing–from fictional “jackelopes” to hairless cats. In addition to the T-shirts she prints using a burnout technique (with a special dye that eats away at cotton poly-blend fiber to produce a translucent effect on the printed area), CHANDI also sews dresses, tops, and pants, often from altered found vintage items. She believes in fair trade practices, insisting on using local manufacturers instead of shipping labor to sweatshops overseas, and ordering locally-produced bulk shirts.
After introducing her work, CHANDI gave the students the opportunity to see for themselves how silk screens are made. Since the burn-out ink only works on special types of materials, we were unable to experience this particular method, but students got to choose three of CHANDI’s existing animal screens to print on differently-colored and patterned pillowcases. CHANDI demonstrated how she places a customized newspaper template under each screen to make sure the fabric is aligned properly. She also modeled the correct way to pour ink and spread it evenly across the screen onto the fabric with a squeegee. Students selected their favorite color ink to use for each animal and took turns printing the animals of their choice on their pillowcases.
While they worked, the group continued to discuss such questions faced by emerging fashion designers as where to sell and promote a clothing line; CHANDI recommended etsy.com, a site that “connects buyers with independent creators and shop owners to find the very best in handmade, vintage and supplies.” Many of today’s young artists and craftspeople are finding success using etsy.
At the end of the visit, each Art Ready participant left with maybe not an entire line of handmade goods to sell online, but with perhaps their first pillowcase towards it, and hopefully also a seed of inspiration.
View more of CHANDI’s work at: http://www.chandinyc.com/