Material Girls: Ten Sarasota Talents Whose Art Adorns Our Bodies and Our Homes.

not all art is of the "don't-touch" variety. For

artists in the field of wearable art, the human body is a canvas and a

room of one's home is a frame to fill with custom color and design.

Seeking objects of desire for your body or your home to wear? Meet 10

designing women who have the basics covered, from dresses and jewelry to

throw pillows and soft sculpture. All of them work in studios in the

Sarasota area, and although they show and sell internationally, their

work can be acquired right here in boutiques, galleries and sometimes

right from the artist herself.

Marilyn gross

A painter for more than 30 years, Marilyn Gross began creating

jewelry just for fun as a teen in Missouri, using colored cardboard and

found objects. For the past decade it's been more than a lark.

Working with layered and multi-fired art glass and metal, Gross

fabricates contemporary lightweight earrings and pins with architectural

authority. Her abstract constructions are worn as jewelry but collected

as art, and some pieces actually come framed and held in place by

magnets. When not hanging on one's body they hang on the wall.

"I love the glass because it is reflective, and has almost a

spiritual quality to it," says Gross, who says she wears her pieces

often. "I have people stopping me all the time on the street asking

me, 'Where did you get that from? It's so neat!"'

Her work is sold at L'Attitude Gallery in Sarasota (and

Boston) and Venice Art Center. $30-$250.

Sheryl haler

At Ringling School of Art and Design, Sheryl Haler teaches about

"cloth as a medium of expression," speaking with inspiring

eloquence about how old buttons and fragments of vintage fabric can

bundle us in family memories and lead to an understanding of cultural


"It creates a layering that, to me, is much more dimensional

than a mark on the surface; it penetrates the surface," Haler says.

An old apron, a quilt, an old dress or her mother's jar of old

buttons are inspiration and raw materials rich in evocative qualities

for Haler, who has loved fabric since childhood. Her great-grandmother

quilted and sewed, her grandmother sewed and ratted, and her mother

taught Haler and her sisters to sew. Haler's work is nor only a way

for the artist to connect with her personal history and bring into her

work a level of richness and depth. It's also a process that is

meditative and appealing.

Haler uses old cloth as a canvas for layers of stitching,

embroidery, printing and familiar objects. Her work is exhibited at the

Mira Mar Gallery on Palm Avenue in Sarasota and sells in the $350 to

$3,000 range.

jackie cully

Trained in Paris and at the Art Institute in Chicago. Jackie Cully

owned a business in New York with her husband, where she provided fabric

designs to fashion icons Liz Claiborne, Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin and

Oscar de La Renta. When they retired to Sarasota three years ago, Gully

imprinted her designs onto silk, creating vivid scarves, jackets and

tunics. The dazzling designs she comes up with are heavily inspired by

Cully's African-American heritage, and her motifs and symbols

reflect hours of research and trips to West Africa.

"These are my roots and I want to express that," Gully

says. "I want it to be known." Many of her printed and batik patterns celebrate the artist's pleasure at a mind-body-spirit

totality; in what she calls "the wholeness of life."

Cully teaches at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts and sells her

wearable art at private gatherings. $185 and up.

dolores parker

A self-taught artist who markets under the company name of Hula Lula, Dolores Parker designs and stitches handbags of bamboo and

designer fabrics. With bamboo root handles, luxury trim and Swarovski

crystals, Parker's chic, sassy bags are transformed into an art

show on the move. Best known for her capricious tropical bags of monkeys

and palms, her newest collection celebrates festive images taken from

New Orleans Mardi Gras ball invitations and South Pacific images from

cruise liners in the 1940s.

"They're fun and vibrant," says Parker, an avid

handbag collecter and trendspotter who notes that box bags are back in

vogue. "You definitely get a lot of comments when you carry one of


Hula Lula bags are at The Met and Ritz-Carlton for about $180.


A graduate of Ringling School of Art and Design, Vicki Rollo is a

successful self-employed graphics designer who discovered jewelry making

10 years ago when a friend took her to a gem show and she bought enough

beads to craft a bracelet. She was entranced with the process and now

uses carved bone, smooth horn, Bali silver, and stones such as silver

leaf jasper and serpentine jade in her jewelry.

"I think people buy what's in fashion, and they all start

looking the same," says Rollo. "That's not going to

happen with my designs. They'll get a statement that's


Rollo has little patience with symmetry--mismatched dangle earrings

are her signature--and she says discerning Sarasotans can recognize a

Rollo piece dangling from friends' ears because of their bold

style. She creates spontaneously, letting the gemstones tell their own

story, and selects semi-precious stones for their look and

affordability. Rollo sells her jewelry (in the $100 range) at craft

fairs, private parties and trunk shows.

Pamela marwede

It's nothing for Pamela Marwede to be surrounded by 40 yards

of plain fabric that she will soon elevate to art with paint. The result

is window treatments, table and bed linens, throw pillows, chair pads,

even lampshades and floor cloths. Trained in England and known as a

superior colorist, Marwede is equally at ease in a serene modern idiom,

zany contemporary or Old World sophistication.

"I grew up in Spain, and when I was a little girl, I would

hand paint unpainted ceramics for fun," says Marwede. "I like

having color around me. I think it's interesting to paint and

decorate something in an artistic way and then use it. It enriches the


Marwede usually works on custom projects for area interior

designers. But examples of her work are available to a wider public at

Garden Argosy on St. Armands Circle, Imagery Fine Crafts Gallery on

Fifth Street and at the showroom of Sally Trout Interiors on Palm

Avenue. Prices from about $60.

Joan McGee

Joan McGee imports silk from Italy and France, and silk yarn from

Switzerland, hand dyes it, fabricates clothes, and markets her line of

clothing--from outerwear to day ensembles to evening wear--in stores

throughout Europe and America. McGee was a painter, high school art

teacher and weaver before she turned to the art-business of weaving and

silk dying to create lightweight wardrobes for international women. But

her passion for her work goes back to her grade-school days, when she

began to make her own clothes and dreamed about becoming a fashion

designer. She began her clothing line 25 years ago, and her comfortable

clothing is inspired by the fabric she uses and marked by simple lines.

"Silk is wearable, long lasting and a very beautiful fabric,"

says McGee.

McGee teaches at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, and her

wearable art separates are available at Dream Weaver on St. Armands

Circle in prices ranging from $100 for a scarf up to $3,000 and more,

depending on complexity and fabric. She's also in the process of

renovating her new studio/store on North Tamiami Trail, Serendipity Gallery.

Linda Salomon

A painter and printmaker educated in New York, Paris, and London,

Linda Salomon began experimenting with clay and cloth 10 years ago at

the behest of a gallery owner who challenged her artists to create with

a medium they were unused to. Salomon turned to clay and loved it. So

did clients, who bought all her creations, and Salomon's widely

collected line of Librus Animals was born. She fabricates character

animals--bears, frogs, dogs, monkeys and lions-- which she outfits with

luxurious vintage silk, leather and velvet, jewels and trim that

reinforce the expression and bearing of her charismatic creatures.

"It's like making costumes," says Salomon. "A

sense of illustration has always been a part of what I had to say."

The artist, who loves animals and sells many pet portraits, admits

that she sometimes gets a little too attached to her Librus animal

creations. "My friends tease me because I hate parting with

them," she says.

Librus Animals are exhibited and sold at art fairs and at

Provenance Gallery on Palm Avenue in Sarasota, starting at about $300.


Spending less time on art and more on administration lately,

Barbara Frey is the president of the Nature Printing Society, an

international group of artisans who use botanical and natural materials

(including deceased birds and fish) to print on silk and cotton fabric.

The result is art to wear or to enjoy as home decor objects. From Oct.

19-24 the Society convenes at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for public

work-shops and to share techniques. Frey specializes in silk scarves,

which she hand dyes and imprints with leaves and flowers ($25-$75). The

artist discovered her talent 11 years ago in classes with Renara Sawyer

and Joan McGee, and now enjoys strolling in her garden in search of

interesting leaves, vines and flowers to incorporate into her designs.

"Sometimes I use the same colors as nature, and sometimes I

improve on nature," Frey says.


A native Floridian who discovered weaving in Arizona after

experimenting with watercolor, clay, beading and silversmithing, Jan

Driefer has kept a standing loom in her home for nearly 30 years and at

one time owned a weaving supply shop in Sebring. Last year she took a

top prize for puppets she crafted entirely on her loom, and this year

she added a soft sculpture mermaid to her collection. ("I have a

very patient husband," Driefer notes.)

But weaving cotton and silk clothing is her specialty, from shawls

and jackets to ruanas (a kind of sophisticated poncho) that start at

about $100. "It's creative; I'm not a production

weaver," says Driefer. "The excitement to me is in designing

and dressing the loom and having it all come out the way I planned


Driefer's work is available at Imagery Fine Crafts Gallery,

juried art shows, and through public events at Venice Art Center, Selby

Gardens and the Fiber Arts Boutique (Nov. 21 and 22) at Sr. Armands

Lutheran Church.

Material Girls: Ten Sarasota Talents Whose Art Adorns Our Bodies and Our Homes. 1

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