EFWA 2018 Upcycling Challenge Interview With Jane Ziemons of Melaleuca Rise

Please share a bit about about the journey that led you to embrace fashion design as a career?

I have always designed my own career path based upon the life I want to live. After having had a successful career in primary teaching in Scotland and Africa, I began to specialise in teaching art to children which I continue to do now. 

When we relocated to Australia and I began studying at Edith Cowan University I was struck by the unique and supportive nature of the Contemporary Fashion and Textiles course and I could see the exciting possibilities for combining my investigative visual arts approach with a growing appreciation and understanding of materiality of cloth and garment making.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you, or do you plan to, offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

The pieces I produce are unique garments that hold an inherently deep meaning for individual clients. I love to work on collaborative projects with other artists, performers and creative individuals. People who buy a piece of Melaleuca Rise clothing are already emotionally engaged with my work, seeking a connection to the cloth and the narrative of each piece rather than buying a piece of clothing that can be seasonably replaced. 

All my work comes with a ‘mend to extend’ gift that helps clients to find ways to deepen their connection to their garment. I want to empower people with the skills to mend, tend and repair their own clothes. I believe that once we understand the amount of work that goes into creating clothing we in turn can begin to understand the unfairness and inequality that lies within fast fashion. 

Image #1 (right) and Image #2 (left) by Jane Ziemons. See descriptions below. 
I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson and Dalija Vlahov. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I was upcycling before it had a name! I have always loved to find preloved garments and create a new life for them. I find waste utterly abhorrent and it if weren’t for our nomadic lifestyle I think for certain I would fit the category of obsessional hoarder. Thankfully this tendency has been kept in check by our constant packing and unpacking but still I will always find a use for something that has landed in the ‘too small’ or ‘unused’ pile. 

I have created many memory quilts for my own family along with commissioned work to create heirloom quilts. Recently I have been working a lot with the fabric from men’s suit jackets. Often the pieces I find are in pristine condition and I can utilise every inch of fabric within my corset creations. 

Left Image #3 by Jane Ziemons, Centre Image #4 by Zev Weinstein, Right Image #5 by Photographer Jane Ziemons
See descriptions below.
Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

My upcycle, re-appreciated garment forms part of my larger Fragmented Memories collection. I am exploring the way in which we are remembered from the position of the other. Our faded pieces of a once connected story. Fragments of the collected shirts are hand screen printed with a mycelium structure to allow the viewer to consider our interconnection with others and our environment. Using men’s shirts, primarily those belonging to my husband, I am interested in the emotional message that is carried within our garments. Particularly the way certain garments contain existing meaning such as the office shirt and I have played with this idea by constructing a corset and blossoming textile flowers appearing in the lower flowing layers.

Artist’s books from the Fragmented Memories series. Photos by Jane Ziemons.
What's next for you? What are your long term dreams?

My day to day life is a dream for me and so I just hope that I can continue doing what I love for as long as it brings joy to myself and others. I would like to continue to collaborate on creative projects that raise awareness of the impact that individuals can have in our world and look for ways to bring a sense of belonging to people who are experiencing loneliness. I think that through the act of making we can create meaningful connections within our community.

Links - 
Nomadic Nostalgia Collection, Photography by Jane Ziemons
Photo Descriptions - 

#1 - The Loom Dress. This was featured in my grad show exhibition and the yarn from the 3 metre hand weaving that contains the colours from my Scottish clan was woven into the piece. For Urban Couture I cut these connections as an expression of releasing my ties to Scotland. The weight of the dress suggests a feeling of being grounded in any land.

#2 - Each decision in my work has been carefully contemplated and each stitch has been sewn with deliberate intention. My Nomadic Nostalgia collection included slow hand sashiko stitched details, tracing the flow of the River Tay.

#3 - Nomadic Nostalgia. This piece is created using a rich deep green heavy weight cotton screen printed with a hand torn stencil. The waist coat has been remade from an original vintage jacket and hand stitched throughout.

#4 - New Mode Fashion Show. This corset was created using a cross stitch that I had been working on for over 15 years. Every time we reached a new country it would be the first thing that I would stitch long before all our other belongings arrived.

#5- Detail of hand woven piece from Nomadic Nostalgia collection. This woven piece was created by collecting pieces of hair from fellow students which was woven into the piece. Symbolizing our connection to community through conversation and what we give of ourselves when we open to new friendships.