Cellist Lori Goldston

We are so thrilled to announce that world-renowned cellist Lori Goldston will be honoring us by accompanying the live presentation of the Burial Collection on September 20th at the Frye Art Museum.  F or a brief introduction to her work, see this video.  Extra bonus? I get to make a dress that is specifically engineered for playing the cello!  Life is good!

With Lori Goldston

Lori Goldston, photo Kelly O, 2012

KMPS-CBS Radio Interview

Bo Hudson at KMPS FM CBS Radio was kind enough to ask me a few questions about the Burial Collection.  It ran at about 6:45 AM last Sunday morning, and she was generous enough to send an mp3 so I could embed it here.   I think it went well, and I hope you enjoy it!  It's kind of long, so get a beverage.

Gorgeous pigeon.   Why not?   Photo Richard Bailey. 2013. 

"Why not dress you for death?..."

A short documentary by Marcy Stone-Francois.  This won an award for Best Interview at the Hot Docs International short film competition in Toronto 2013.  This is me.  I hope you like it.  (Strong language warning).  Marcy will be filming the initial presentation of the collection September 20th, at the Frye Art Museum.

(Since we've clearly crossed into the personal, I just want to note that you can see my good dog Chaka having one of her best days in years toward the end of the film.  We lost her a week ago, and she is so sorely missed.   She was 17+ years old.)

We're still at it!

Can't believe how close we are to showing the collection, and work goes on daily to get where we need to be in a few short weeks.  We are so looking forward to announcing our location, and keep the third Friday in September free if you're going to be in Seattle.   I'll be back to blogging soon, and give you an idea of what we've been up to.  For now, thanks for your continued interest.

Portrait of Jean Charles Deburau (1829-73) as Pierrot, c.1850 Felix Nadar photographer

Grateful Thanks

So many wonderful things happening around this project that it's hard to believe it's all real.  Exciting news forthcoming as regards our premiere location and date, and am also feeling deeply grateful to my apprentices for their hard work during a stressful couple of weeks.   I look forward to sharing thrilling news very soon, but want to thank everyone who has encouraged and supported us thus far.  You have helped craft the foundation of the Burial Project in myriad ways. 

We spent our week quilting and pattern-making, tailoring and ruffling, worrying (me), and getting great work done (everyone else).  I feel back on my feet today, and ready to make some beautiful things.  Thanks again to one and all for making life so surprising and interesting.

Ribbon embroidered chiffon, all silk.  Photo markmitchellburial.com 2013

A Tribute

I think about the garments we make as final tributes to the person for whom they are created.  The intricate work, lush fabrics, and thoughtful design is in honor of the life lived, and a fantastic send-off into whatever might come next.  The presence of mind that fine sewing requires focuses our energy into each piece, so each stitch becomes another reminder of the importance of honesty, clarity, and respect for the individual who will wear the garment into eternity.  The garments are designed so that the deceased can be dressed with dignity and grace, rather than in a wrestling match as with regular clothing not created specifically for this purpose.  We believe we are working on something very special, and hope you will continue to follow our journey.  Thanks as always for your interest.

Sarah Bernhardt as Pierrot by Fe´lix Nadar.  1883

Off the sketch, onto the table.

Erin and I have been working on a new two-piece ensemble that has been perplexing me in sketch form for weeks.  We finally did enough R&D to decide how to proceed, and made great headway in the last two days.  The sample below gives you a taste of what's to come, and we are so excited to get into it.  The stitching you see below is machine made, but the actual garments will be hand-quilted.

Quilting sample.  Silk taffeta with wool batting.  Photo markmitchellburial.com 2013

Completeness

Most examples of vintage and contemporary burial clothing I have had the opportunity to examine have been in some cases carelessly made throughout of shoddy goods, while others were made of good fabric and nicely detailed for the "presentation" area of the piece, but the back, hems, and anything not visible in a half-open casket were unfinished and even raggedly cut in some cases.  At Mark Mitchell Burial, our designs are completely realized, inside and out.  It's about integrity.    An unfinished hem, and inelegant fabric feels untrue, a trick.  We take the time to do things the right way, and make it our goal to create garments that are constructed at an elevated level of craft, with thoughtful design, and generous detail. Our painstaking and time-consuming practices result in garments that convey a sense of occasion, of something greater than the day to day, and made throughout with a thoughtful integrity of craft, materials, and finish.

Child's burial garment, 20th century, National Museum of Funeral History.  photo markmitchellburial.com

Child's burial garment, inside view, 20th cent., National Museum of Funeral History.  photo markmitchellburial.com 2013

The Crew

See if you can guess who is who!  Photographer unknown.

A fantastic week is drawing to a close, and I'm feeling especially grateful for the people who are helping me create the collection.  One has to be very present in this work, and I appreciate their investment of attention and focus in our quest to make extraordinary, uncommon things.

Tristan Uhl has been with me since January of 2012, and we have steadily evolved into a strong team.  He has a wonderful touch with fine fabric, and has a great variety of skills and knowledge that have helped elevate our work in countless ways.  He studied at NYFA of Seattle.   A lifelong follower of fashion, Tristan knows about clothing and how it is made.  He is my right hand on this project, and I value both his precise work and his opinion very much.*

Gretchen Grimm started with us last Autumn, and her skill, patience, and steadiness have resulted in work that is frankly amazing.  She didn't balk in the least when I asked her to completely re-make a large embellished panel that had taken weeks of preparation and sewing to finish, but through no fault of her own wasn't technically up to the standard we work for.  We took a break, we worked out the technical issues, and she finished the second version yesterday.  It is breathtaking.  She's also the drummer in a band called Chastity Belt. 

We do a lot of hand-sewing, and much of it falls to the limber and capable hands of Monica Leigh, a graduate of The Evergreen State College who joined us around the time Gretchen did.  She enthusiastically does very fine handwork, silk flowers, as well as garment construction that has stunning accuracy.  She's a keeper.

The most recent addition is Erin Ellinthorpe, a student at Seattle Central's excellent apparel design program.  She's only been with a us few weeks, but she's got the right stuff, and proved it this week by cheerfully learning new and difficult techniques at record speed.  We are looking forward to having her around.

*I am left-handed.

Camellias

The next door neighbor's hundred-year-old camellia trees are in full bloom and look magnificent.  I'm about to sneak over and clip a spray for the table.  While I'm committing neighborly depradations, here are a few of our finished camellias that will help embellish the collection.  The petals are made from a variety of silk fabrics (chiffon, habotai, organza, and crepe) and goat leather.  For each petal, two layers of fabric are stitched, trimmed, turned, and carefully pressed and steamed into shape.  They are then individually hand-stitched into place to create the finished flower.  The center knots are made from our own silk and wool cording.

Camellias of silk, goat leather, and wool.  Photo markmitchellburial.com 2013

A Glass Casket

There are two glass caskets on display at the National Museum of Funeral History, one rather ponderous and heavy-looking, and this charming piece, made to imitate Snow White's glass casket.

Glass casket at the National Museum of Funeral History.

The peach satin blanket and pillow are beautifully hand-quilted.

Detail, glass casket with hand-quilted blanket and pillow.  Photo markmitchellburial.com 2013

Beachy's Perma Flo

Boiled front shirts were bib-front (often pleated) dress shirts worn by men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries so heavily starched that they had to be boiled when laundered.  That was probably the last great era of heavy starch.  To give a very stiff hand to fabric today, we are doing it the way they did then, with powdered cornstarch boiled on the stove, the fabric dipped and dried.  Amish-made Beachy's Perma Flo, sent to us from Arthur, Illinois, is a great product – simple, clean,  and in keeping with our commitment to using 100% natural materials.

Two-pound bag of Beachy's Perma Flo.  Photo markmitchellburial.com 2013.

Patternmaking

I first learned to draft patterns for clothing when I worked in the theater as a designer and costumer.  That education has stood me in good stead over the years as I developed my ability to make fine custom-designed garments for any body type.  I've been drafting patterns for the collection this week, and really enjoy this stage of the process, translating my sketches and ideas into actual pieces, making sure the DNA of the sketch makes its way into the clothing, that the gesture of the idea is apparent in the cut of the cloth.

Louis_Rouffe_as_Pierrot,_c._1880.jpg

Delivering the Goods

Nearly sixty yards of silk and silk/wool fabric have arrived in the last two days.  They will soon be joined by another six yards of wide silk taffeta, and ten off-white goatskins that are currently traveling across the country toward Seattle.  Now that the goods are being delivered, it's time for me to deliver the goods -- I'll spend this week making patterns, next week cutting, and soon we'll be fully underway, putting together the main pieces of the collection.  It is exciting to be at this point, a full bolt of silk crepe at my disposal, and energizing to think that the garments I've been sketching and mentally engineering are soon to exist in the world and not just my imagination. If you love to create from whole cloth, you know what I mean.

Rolls of dressed spun silk, photo Keystone View Company