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.


Laura G. said...

So much love in these garments ... you're a very sweet and thoughtful man, Seumas, and your friend is certainly inspirational.

Adam said...

Lovely, Seumas. Simply lovely.

Orion Lumiere said...

You are a prince among friends! Those are so pretty Seaumas. Yesterday we were at the science museum and sitting across from us in front of the big glass marble machine was a very heavy young woman having lunch with some children and friends. She was wearing an outstandingly fabulous rainbow-hued jungle print dress. My four-year old Paolo looked up at me with his sweet eyes and said, "Look at that beautiful lady, mama." I loved him so much at that moment. "Yes she is, darling." Let us never forget that hate is learned; children are born knowing only how to love.

Meredith said...

I've tried to post twice now & it keeps eating my response. Third time's a charm. I just wanted to say that you are an amazing person & reading this post was so touching for me. I know it's not easy when you don't fit into conventional terms of beauty. I know what it's like to be a large person, & I have several friends & loved ones over 400 lbs. It is nearly impossible to find beautiful clothes in those sizes, and clothes can go so far in helping someone feel their beauty. Not only are your skirts beautiful, but thoughtful & meaningful. It's hard on a person's morale to deal with just that on a daily basis, but to add the struggle of a chronic illness must be so hard for your friend. My heart goes out to her and to you for being such a loving, supportive friend. I've known you were someone special since I first met you, but thank you for sharing this as another example. xo

Hippy Goodwife said...

The best part about this is that you saw a need and used your inimitable talent to meet it. She is a lucky, lucky woman to have you as a friend.

Jenn said...

So Awesome!!!! That was so kind and considerate as well as creative. Thanks for taking care of my friend in the ways that you are able!