Creating Custom Rocknroll Capes for The DRAMASTICS

Last month marked the third installment of my creative collaboration with multimedia artist Nathan Carter.

This time Nathan brought his multimedia exhibition of The DRAMASTICS: A Punk Rock Victory Twister in Texas to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. If you've been following along, you'll remember we first collaborated on a T-shirt and tote bag for his exhibition at the MOCA in Denver, then we made more tees & totes for the Casey Kaplan Gallery in NYC. 

For the tees & totes, Nathan sent me scans and cutouts of his individual motifs and figures, and I laid them out into designs and oversaw the production and printing.  It was a true design collaboration, a lot of fun, and they resulted in successful sales for the museum shops! 

For the exhibition at the Nasher, we printed up more tees & totes like before, but Nathan had a more ambitious idea for The DRAMASTICS' live performance.  Since the band would be playing live at the opening, he had a vision for making custom rocknroll capes for each member. And he wanted them in pink satin.


I started brainstorming what kind of pink satin cape silhouette could look cool and still function while people were singing and playing instruments. I wanted the capes to be lined, so that they looked punk but polished. I have a giant full length wool cape from the 1960s that has a front panel and two long slits for arms to come through. I sketched a shortened version of that and Nathan approved it. I traced off a pattern based on the wool cape and quickly stitched up a sample out of cheap satin that I could take on a trip to New York with me. I also created a little sampler to show how the applique and paint would look.  

Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Since Nathan's studio is in Brooklyn, we set aside a few hours to hash out the final cape design together in person.  Again, he had a collection of shapes, words & motifs that we could choose from, so I guided him through what was possible via paint and applique with satin, and together we chose what should go where. We worked quickly and decisively, and he had the resized and recut stencils ready for me before I left town. Easy & fun!

Figuring out yardage & yield

Figuring out yardage & yield

Once I got back to my studio, I needed to make 3 smaller capes and 3 larger capes. I revised the original cape pattern into a larger version based on measurements I took from Nathan's shoulders. I don't have any formal patternmaking education, so I was really winging it. Then I had to figure out how much yardage of pink and black satin I needed. You have to place pattern pieces in order to get the best yield, which basically means you're wasting the least amount of fabric. I gave it a good guess and when it was all done I only had a little left over.

After buying the fabrics, my next step was to determine which shapes got painted, and which got cut out and sewn down. Here are all the pieces I had to cut out:

  • 24 cape pieces out of pink satin
  • 24 cape pieces out of black satin
  • 36 silver glitter lightning bolts
  • 24 hearts
  • 6 guitars
  • 6 giant lips
  • 12 glitter eyeballs

Each cape was a little different (with custom names & guitar shapes on each "sleeve") so keeping track of all the pattern pieces was a huge challenge. I embellished each individual pattern piece first, whether it was appliqueing the motifs with my sewing machine, or painting letters or designs using the stencils Nathan gave me. I used an assembly line technique, and had to time everything correctly so that the paint could dry before I started constructing the capes. It was about 5 straight days of being immersed in capes. But it all came together!  For the cape closure, I decided buttons or snaps wouldn't hold up to a punk rock performance, so I used giant silver safety pins. Appropriate for the overall look and function.

I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see our capes in action, so we took a road trip from Austin to Dallas for the opening event. This was the most fun I've had on a design collaboration yet. I'm still high from the experience and I can't wait for an excuse to make some more capes.

Here's a great video montage of the capes and the opening event by Native Process Films:

Hand-Painted Guitar Straps - Collab with Jaykco

I've teamed up with Jaykco to hand-paint some of their beautiful guitar straps that they make individually here in the USA.

I have two options available in the Featherweight shop: black fabric + black suede;  blue pinstripe + toast suede.

As with all my arrows, these represent focus, intention, how you direct the energy that flows through you.

You can also buy one of these straps at any of John Doe's live shows this summer.

It's been a real treat to see people share photos of the straps on their own guitars. Here's Harris' guitar on the left, Daniel's on the right:

It's a treat to work on such high quality, handmade straps, and to support another small business that believes in making goods in America.

If you'd like a hand-painted strap in a different color, contact me.


Making a Stage Banner from Scratch

As I was designing & producing merch for John Doe's June/July tour, during one of our conversations we somehow came up with the idea of me making a stage banner for him. 

I've never made a stage banner before, but I love making new stuff.

I purchased some black canvas, thread, grommets & paint.  We decided the dimensions of the final banner and I set out to sew it up.  I just made the pattern up as I went along.  This was the only sketch I made, the rest was made up in my head or on the fly.

It took a lot of measuring and ironing but it's really just a bunch of straight stitching.  Two features that I added in that I'm proud of are a channel along the top where he can add in a dowel to stabilize it (if he needs to) and four pockets along the bottom where he can add in weights/washers to weigh it down. He probably won't need to do that for indoor gigs, but it might come in handy for outdoor gigs, and if I'm going to make a banner I might as well make it deluxe.

I mitred the corners and gave each border a double stitch for durability. This banner is going to be transported back and forth in and out of dark rock clubs, in and out of the tour van, and it'll spend a lot of time rolled, folded or wadded up, so durability is key.

Then it was time to paint the thing. I knew the design I wanted to paint on it, arrows, but I needed to make them straight and large enough to fit the scale of the banner.  A projector would have helped at this point, but since I don't have one I just had to hack it out.  I laid the banner on the floor and used several different types of rulers, pins and painters tape to block out the design. This was time-consuming and I did have to walk away from it for a little bit before I finally got the right dimensions.

By the time I got the design right, laying in the metallic gold paint was almost easy. Mind you, this is all done on the floor on my hands & knees, trying not to mess anything up.  Fun!  

I'm really happy with how it turned out.  

Featherweight Studio custom banner for John Doe

Featherweight Studio custom banner for John Doe

I can't wait to see it onstage! I hope the metallic gold shimmers in the stage lights. The design is flexible to be hung vertically or horizontally. This banner will be showing up in a lot of photos this summer, and when the tour is over I'll be using it at Featherweight events & in photo shoots.

New T-shirt for the John Doe Tour

Continuing on the arrow theme, I designed a new T-shirt for John Doe's June & July 2016 tour.

It's the same design I created for the exclusive baseball tee he sold as part Pledge music campaign for his new album The Westerner.

I like my designs to be flexible enough to work in different color ways.  I love the navy & gray color combination.

This tee is 100% cotton, made in the USA and super soft.  Both the men's and the women's cuts are a classic tee that's actually true-to-size (which is rare; usually women's tees run at least a size small).

I'm really happy with the way this turned out.  Get yours at a John Doe show near you.