NHT's Studio

a designer's

 BRAGGING RIGHTS


Pre-children i'd found myself with a spontaneous design career
in beautiful Andover, MA, home of art patrons
and Phillips Academy, educator to US presidents ..


I put my career on hold to homeschool my children -
this when parents risked jail/losing their children for doing so -- 
we travelled the country alot to stay ahead of local truant officers...

So the artist inside who'd squelched her dreams to teach her children
instead would enter various competitions 'until the kids've grown'

The above photo shows the fruits of those labours

While most ribbons were easy wins, a few mean alot to me --
  the red ribbon in the upper right hand corner -
i took second place in a juried art show, my first art show ever ...

The others i treasure most are the four ribbons arranged
in a quasi-diamond on the right side .. 
a second prize, two third prizes, and an honourable mention --
these were won my first time competing at Topsfield Fair,
the nation's oldest continuous fair (first held in 1818).- 

When i competed in the mid-1980's, old time New England traditions still ruled,
and machine sewing still actually violated the rules of competition  ...

 ...then i showed up, rabble-rouser that i am - not!
(it just never occurred to me that it was still hand-sewing only)

and i'd brought a few of my designs to compete,
among them, 
a lovely, heirloom quality christening ensemble - 
long coat, dress, underslip, bonnet, shoes -
ever the one to taunt limits, i'd done something that was not practiced then - 
in fact, purists frowned on it -
i'd mixed media and used a machine sewn outfit as a canvas for adornments 
of hand embroidery, beading, and quilting -

The lady registering the outfit began writing, her attention on the handiwork,
when all of a sudden, she stopped and,
 apparently having just noticed, asked, "This is machine sewn?"

Never sure of myself in public, i shrugged and said, "both?"
whereupon her demeanour suddenly turned respectfully apologetic ...
"I am so sorry," she said laying down her pen.   "Machine sewing is not allowed."
She fingered the coat's beadwork.  
"It's so beautiful," she said to nobody in particular.
She looked at me again and began tentatively at first. 
"I wonder...would you be willing to leave it here?  for display only, of course, 
it can't compete, but it's so beautiful."  
She smiled at me.

Stunned, my face stung in a heated blush crawling onto my cheeks - 
i could only stammer, "oh my ... of course... thank you ... oh my"
all the while desperately wishing the floor to open up and just swallow me... 
how the limelight singes!!

Later that week at the fairgrounds with the family, 
taking ribbon inventory with what i had competed,
i turned a corner and there it was! my christening outfit -
all by itself inside 
a large glass display case!
An index card tucked in a corner addressed the
(apparently) hot issue of machine vs. hand sewing -
handwritten was the message: look what beauty we miss by limiting ourselves ... 
or something like that...i don't remember exactly because
this time i was silently pleading for the floorboards to open and take me in one gulp!!
i didn't even hang around the display long enough 
to see that it had been awarded the pink 'honourable mention' ribbon
shown in the above image, left...

That was my first and sadly last competition at Topsfield ...
shortly after we began living the gypsy, hippie life (VW bus and all)
driving and living all around the country
(we clocked 27,000 miles driving around the USA 
usually with everything we owned, at first with pets,
who were later joined by babies...but i digress)

...fast forward 5 years

Back in New England, trying to get into the swing of things, 
i put myself on the address list for the Fair's premium book -
i wouldn't actually compete again because just months later i would give birth ...  
But on that pregnant day, not aware how motherhood changes everything,
 i studied the premium book considering my options, when -- 
imagine my utter surprise! -- i read categories like "tuxedos and wedding gowns" -
i called the fairgrounds and posed my quick question -
by hand? i asked ...

Contained excitement carried the response.  
"Oh no, not necessarily," said a female voice on the other end,
"We now accept machine sewing as well for competition -- "
"Really?" i asked to be sure i'd understood correctly ...
"Oh yes," she said proudly and then explained.
"A few years back the most exquisite christening outfit came in, 
but couldn't compete, so we kept looking at the issue
until it was finally decided to allow machine sewing."

Even in the privacy of my own kitchen, i felt the heat of shyness descend upon me -
it was enough that the rules had been changed,
but to mention the christening outfit as cause ... wow

...fast forward one more time, another 5-10 years,
this time the place is on the west coast  ...

I'd entered an original fashion design, a black and pink callico bodice and skirt set ..
 on fair day as i beheld the gym transformed into a projection of the fair's summer theme -
there it was, my outfit, meticulously arranged on one 
of the many free-standing trellises displaying the winners - 

I didn't notice the stranger who stood admiring until it was too late to back away gracefully.

Never taking her eyes from my design, she asked me, 
"Don't you just love this outfit?" 

Why is there never a hole opening up in the floor when you need one?



-NHT
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