Mantis vs Alien
‘Out of the darkness, she crawls, to find a mate, to make passionate love and.…
Swallow him whole…’ –
The female praying manis is known to practice sexual cannibalism, which makes her one of the most terrifying insects on this planet, in my opinion. As dragonflies had already inspired me last year, I knew it would be tough to top my own design with this insect theme. Moreover, I felt the pressure on me from everyone, expecting me to do great, with this theme that was obviously right up my alley. For this year’s Foundations Revealed entry I wanted to challenge myself, to make something darker and scarier than my usual fairy style. I tried to strike a balance between beauty and darkness in this design. Inadvertently, by basing my design on insects, scaling up some of their elements that are distinctly insectoid, the corset came out looking rather alien and would not look misplaced in a sci-fi setting. Imagine, if you scaled a praying mantis up to the size of a human would that not look downright alien and terrifying to us? This is the story of how this showstopper couture piece came to be.
16 August 2017
Ever since the announcement of the 2018 Foundations Revealed competition theme back in March 2017; I knew I had to enter. Since 'Insects' have inspired many of my designs in the past and they are an endless source of inspiration for me. However ideas were not forthcoming straight away. It wasn't until this day in August when I decided to head back to bed with a headache to find myself waking with this design in my head. >
11 October 2017
Straight away this design gave me an excuse to try out lots of new things. Among which was designing my own fabric print. I played around digitally with butterfly wings, arranging them on my computer until it matched the vision I had in mind. The print is meant to disillusion the eye, dancing between the beauty of butterflies and some scary nightmarish psychedelic trip. I could not help (with this theme) being influenced slightly by Alexander Mcqueen’s 2010’s collection. He is one of my all time favorite designers and the butterfly print I made is somewhat reminiscent of his work. Mind you I found the picture of this piece above later on. When I was happy with the digital, I sent it off to PrintUnlimited.nl to receive the printed fabric four weeks later.
As I wrote on social media that day:
'I love the idea of not being limited by what the fabric shops offer and designing my own prints. I am sooo happy with how this cotton sateen turned out. The colours are amazing! I can finally start working on my Foundations Revealed competition entry now! '
25 November 2017
That is not exactly what happened though.... It was a good month and a half later when I wrote the following:
'All right, confession time. I have been so so stuck with the Foundations competition this year. All this procrastinating is very unlike me and I am starting to annoy myself. I think the issue I have been having this year, is although I love the theme I feel like I already kinda did it already, and I am finding it hard to top myself. This is why it took me so long to come up with an idea and make a start. However I have finally started. I drafted a new pattern and have just cut everything out last week. I am pattern matching it even-though the front of the corset will not be visible in the final design. '
26 November 2017
I tried on the corset. I used the inside coutil strength layer as a mockup and I was delighted with the silhouette and fit. Any wrinkling in the photo would be gone once boned. I did not do up a separate mockup, figuring I would just alter as I went along. (Also, I did not have enough coutil for both mockup and final piece 😉 ) I drafted the 7 panel pattern on paper and then went straight in. I know my own body quite well so I figured it would be all right and it was. Just some minor tweaks around the breast area were required.
29 November 2017
I managed to put the panels of the fashion layer together this week. However I made a mistake... I had stitched the fashion fabric together separately to be able to get a precise as possible pattern match on the butterfly design, mirroring itself on both halves of the corset. However the cotton satin fashion layer turned out to be much stretchier than I thought. So the top was not lining up with the coutil at all. I could not redo it either, because I used up all the fabric in pattern matching. The fashion layers were almost a panel wider! To mitigate the damage, all I could do is smooth the top layer over the coutil as well as I could and chop off the excess fabric at the back panel to make it fit. I was very happy I had taken extreme care to match the pattern all around the corset, otherwise the back would not have matched as well as it still does. Next time I know to stabilize this fabric with a fusible interfacing first. I had intended to only put boning channels on the coutil layer but ended up adding boning tape and stitching through the fashion fabric in a few places just to prevent it from shifting. To keep it all in place I used plenty of basting stitches before machine sewing the boning channels.
And there my entry sat in this state for about another month, partly because I was waiting for materials and partly because the beginning of December was madness.
19 December 2017
I sat down at the computer today to design the hipfins for lasercutting. I have learned a lot since last year. I have now started using an Ipad Pro and Apple pencil and the Procreate app for sketching so the initial outline and mirroring was done in this app. Saving it as a file to be opened in Illustrator and auto-converted to a vector file. I know better now how thin I can push the lines but still make it possible to sew and how to make sure all my lines connect so nothing of the design falls out of the middle when I cut it with the laser-engraver. Practice helps, who knew.
20 December 2017
My desire to build outwards from the body gave me an opportunity to try out some new materials. 'Crazy stuff is happening today I am trying my hand at Worbla for the first time!' And of course, as usual I had to decide to make a breastplate out of Worbla as my first project. Always making it hard on myself. For the praying mantis breastplate, I used black Worbla. I watched quite a few youtube videos and read some blogs to determine that the black Worbla would probably work best for me as I wanted the final piece to have a very smooth surface for the paint I planned to apply. To create a breastplate that would fit over the corset chest area, I needed a pattern. I ended up lacing my corset to a mannequin, applying aluminum foil onto it, and sticking masking tape over that, then sketching the outline and using my front 3 corset pattern pieces as the base for the breastplate. I created the underlayer out of brown Worbla as I did not have enough black and it would be covered anyway. I used a double layer of Worbla overlapping the edges, heating them with a heatgun to stick them together. The foiled corset was used to shape the breastplate into the right curve. In hindsight it was probably not necessary for a breastplate on top of a corset to be made of a double layer as it made the piece quite heavy. That would have been more important when the breastplate is worn on its own.
To create the details of the praying mantis face I again covered the corset in the same manner. Now drawing on the shapes that make up the face cutting them out and using them as a pattern. I cut out pieces of black Worbla, heating and shaping them. At this point I crossed all my fingers and toes that it would turn out the way I wanted it to look. Experimenting like this is super fun but also kinda scary. I had been putting this bit off forever but I needed to know the colour of the paint in order to match the rest of the fabrics. So I could no longer procrastinate on it.
I collected a few household objects to shape the Worbla over as the material is quite floppy when heated and does tent to flatten itself unless it is held in shape till cooled. For the big bulbous eyes of the bug I used a bedside lamp that had approximately the right shape. I first shaped the eyes and then reheated the edges to stick it down on to the brown Worbla breastplate. So there is some air under the bulbous eyes. The rest of the face-elements are individually shaped pieces of Worbla.
For the 'spine' down the front. I first pinched the center together and pushed my fingers behind the round side edges. Then I used that mortar and pestle to give it the overall rounded shape. Reheating the Worbla as needed. I smeared some vaseline on the stone of my bowl beforehand to prevent sticking. I did the same for the 'nose ridge' of the praying mantis breastplate.
I tried sculpting with Worbla scraps too, but found it cooled down too fast for small details so for more detailing I used some epoxy sculpt (the white bits in the photo below) From wire and hot melt glue I crafted two feelers as well. Finally, I covered the Worbla with multiple layers of PVA glue, wet sanding and using a nail buffer in between layers. It was very important that the base be as smooth as possible as the car paint I chose needed a very smooth base to show its iridescent multichrome effect.