The werewolf, the gowns and the greyhounds

Wearable art show features creations from elegant to gothic

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2001

An elegant, hand-painted silk gown stands just a few feet from a snarling werewolf with toothy, pop-eyed creatures bursting from its abdomen.

The werewolf is the creation of Juneau artist Jacob Higgins, and it's more sculpture than costume. But the claws, mask and chestpiece are wearable, and it qualifies as wearable art.

More than 20 pieces will be displayed at the wearable art show opening Friday at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery. A reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. will allow gallery-goers to see wearable art ranging from practical, locally designed winter coats to luxurious evening wear for dogs.

Gaile Haynes' two Italian greyhounds will model formal wear Haynes designed for them. Local seamstress Vera Ballew executed the designs.

"My female, Lily Marlene, she will be in green velvet with peacock feathers and a diamond bracelet," Haynes said. "Her escort is my male, Romeo, and he will be in the conventional male attire, white tie and tails."

Haynes said she has designed clothes for herself, and at one time considered pursuing fashion design.

"It was something I looked at seriously, then I learned you had to be able to sew," she said. "And I barely know which end of the needle to thread. But I have designed clothes and had others make them."

Higgins designs and builds his wearable art, and will have four masks in the show in addition to the werewolf outfit. He made the wolf mask last October but the rest are new.

"I just made the chest piece a week or so ago. I wanted to have little demons jumping out, you know, to keep it a little more active," Higgins said.

Higgins was featured last fall in a solo show at the arts council gallery, and he said he's developed some new ideas for this show.

"I wanted to show off some new techniques. I'm making teeth with clay. I'm doing cloth mache now," he said. "I have four new masks in this show. They're supposed to be worn with a black suit and tie. They're supposed to look like creatures that walked out of another dimension, or the '50s."

Higgins will likely get his chance to model the masks himself. The arts council is planning a runway-style fashion show in two weeks to complement the more static gallery show opening Friday. The live wearable art show will be held Saturday, March 24 at the Elk's Club Ballroom.

The upcoming gallery show also includes a prom gown made by Leah Sturgis from an old shower curtain, a "Northern Lights" kimono woven from multicolored cotton with a pattern suggesting the aurora borealis, by Joanie Waller of Gustavus, an American flag camisole and a leather vest made by John Lager.

Lager, a cobbler who owns Family Shoe, made the vest about 35 years ago. He also made pants that incorporate leather patches and panels, and will have a pair or two in the show. Lager said he'd split the leg seam up about 12 inches from the cuff and sew a triangular panel in.

"That's how I got started sewing," he said.

Lager's daughter will model the clothing at the upcoming runway show. The artwork at the gallery show at the arts council will be on display through Feb. 24. The arts council is located at 206 North Franklin, and is open weekday afternoons.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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