Friday, January 31, 2014

Project 32: Skirting the Issue

One of my dearest friends is a woman about my age whom I met when she joined our Gaelic choir in 1997. After being close friends for several years, she was diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome, which is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain. She had probably had it since her late teens, and since the net effect of the syndrome is to flood the body with cortisol, it explained her slow but steady weight increase over time and her difficulties managing severe anxiety. It's hard to be calm and relaxed when you have enough adrenaline pumping through you to alarm a small village.

It has been an honor and privilege to be her friend and walk beside her during her long struggle against Cushings. I can say without hesitation that she is the bravest, strongest, and smartest person I know.

Last year her doctors made an alarming new discovery and she needed urgent surgery. There were complications. There are almost always complications for Cushings patients, and very few people have ever lived as long with the disease as my friend has, so there is little science to help her care team along. At this point, she has been in the hospital for almost three months trying to recover from surgery and has reached nearly 500 pounds. As she continued to work toward going home, one thing became clear. She was going to need new, comfortable clothes that work with her medical appliances, and when you're a certain size, shopping becomes a challenge.

I knew it was time to take on the challenge.

I decided to design a small collection of skirts for her to get her started post-hospital. Early in the process, I had the inspiration to use a different part of my vision of her and her life as the guiding idea for each design. I have completed three of them, and have a vision of another two, so this is a collection still in process. I call it Skirting the Issue:
Frida's Garden is the name of the print


The first skirt was inspired by my friend's passion for the visual arts and her love of Frida Kahlo. I found this awesome print paying tribute to Frida's art and used it as the center panel framed in black.
Some kilt references, but hopefully not too literal


Part of my friend's heritage is Scottish, and that was the context in which we met, so I naturally wanted a design that was inspired by that. I found some Nova Scotia provincial tartan and used it for this design. The navy blue linen around in the third panel has pleats for ease of motion.


In this design I combined three prints. The bottom panel is leaves, both evergreen and deciduous. The middle panel is sea creatures, and the top is clouds.
Peasanty, yes, but I like it too.
Closer view of the prints.
I wish that it was a different and happier circumstance that moved me to work on these garments, but it wasn't. In the face of a situation about which I can do almost nothing, the only things that remain are love, friendship, and art.
And there they are.