Archive for September, 2009

Dreams and visions

“Rise and shine Designers, you have a big day ahead of you.”


Today’s challenge involves the publication of Carl Jung’s mysterious Red book, which has long been secreted away and only recently been made public by his heirs. The September 20th New York Times Magazine cover looks positively pentecostal, yet Jung’s images inside, of dreams and madness, have a magnificent mystical quality.



All my life I’ve dreamed in pattern. When I was six-years-old my parents taught me the design technique of carving shapes into erasers to use for stamping designs. I used to sit duck-legged on the floor making the house shake with my purposeful stamping. I became fascinated by the ranges of different patterns that could be generated using the same block in multiple ways (the way I still design things today, one idea building on another), and thus began my nineteen-year career as a textile designer. At twelve I got my first of five NY textile agents and in college I studied the math behind what I was doing. I’ve been papering my world in patterns ever since.




“Where did you get the idea of making a dress after Klimpt?”

“Honestly, I have no idea….. I think maybe I saw it in a dream.”

“Was it a big dream?”

“Not any bigger than usual.”

“But do you feel refreshed and renewed now that you’ve acted on it?”

“Yes, actually. I’m quite pleased with my dress.”

“Ah, I see you value your inner life.”

“Huh?…. Well, maybe I do.”

“Sleep well.”

“Yeah, you too.”

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Mother love

Lucky 13th, I get two covers to play with this week!

The September 13th New York Times Magazine cover is pretty wild, a bit Keith Haring, a bit spritzer cookie dough letters, melting nicely in a blazing sunset.


I guess even though Keith was an icon of the 80’s (and even though he had a studio in our building in NY), I’ve got to go mod 60’s with this one. I’m trying to remember how old I was when I drew the paper doll who lived in my desk at school. To the best of my recollection, I was in the third grade. I was very into this go-go dancer look at the time. I wanted white go-go boots more than anything but my mom settled on teaching me how to dance. She had me stay on one spot on the border of a beautifully knotted carpet, perfecting my go-go moves until I managed to coordinate my discombobulated body to the rhythm of a very early (and totally enthralling) Beatles’ song. As you can imagine, my paper doll had go-go boots. White ones. She also had the flippy scooter skirts I’d always coveted, a trim little skort, bellbottoms, fishnet stockings and large print mini dresses with centrally placed, oversized ring-pull zippers. This doll was quite a departure from the commercial baby dolls I’d cut out from a drugstore booklet when I was five, though clearly the printed dolls provided good practice.



Did you see Rhona Janzen’s Lives conversation with her mom? That was hysterical! A client stopped in with her mother today, and it got me thinking about how much of what we are, has been shaped in a myriad of ways, by the gifts of our mothers. Thoughts of mothers seem to be everywhere, very sad recent losses for some, squiggly new puppies for others…. This week’s bonus Mens’ Style Magazine cover, a tasteful study in black white and red, is reminding me of a much earlier such study of my own.



Flipping through I’m inspired by a model sporting a dashing Armani look, and by a slender faced, gentle looking dog… who you’ll notice upon checking the amusingly sneaky footwork, turns out to have the upper hand!


“Designer, when you’re done with this fitting send your model down to hair and make-up.”


“Tim, this duo is dedicated to my the memory of my mom.”

“Ok, Designer, let’s start the show.”



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Pointy shoes

Sara Perry of The Sunday Oregonian came to our new shop last week wearing some glorious, bright yellow, pointy shoes, and amazingly, I’d seen a similar pair the day before in pearly pink, happily clickity clacking down a Portland street. These shoes are quite remarkable, and comfortable apparently, transforming only the space in front of the wearer’s toes, leaving plenty of wiggle room.

I’ve had pointy shoes in my life but not ones I could wear. Here’s a pair on a doll I had as a little girl, as drawn by my father, Sheldon Helfman. You should check out his amazingly beautiful watercolors, even though they’re not paintings of pointy shoes: http://www.sheldonhelfman.com


Here are a few others I have in my collection. The elfin boots are made by my friend Sylvia Rountree, The Doll’s Cobbler, and the little “skates” are old Italian mosaic pins.


I’ve been watching the new season of Project Runway and it seems that next week’s challenge will involve magazines as “fabric” for the designers to work with. It’s a good thing I started this project several weeks ago, or there’d be nothing new and unique about it!

Here’s the cover from September 6th.


“Designers, this week you will work in pairs.”


“You will create three looks. One will be for morning exercise, and another for evening that can convert into an ensemble for day. Ok Designers, You have a lot to do. You’d better get to work! I’ll see you on the runway. Tataa.”

“Bye Heidi.”



“Designers, you’ve worked very hard on this challenge. I’m very excited about what I’ve seen in this room.”

“Thanks Tim.”

“It’s time for the runway!”



sept6day“Ok Designers, let’s bring your model back out on the runway so you can tell us about your designs.”


“Well,  we thought we did really well making three different looks with this week’s New York Times Magazine cover. We were especially pleased with our evening coat which drew on multiple influences. We gave it Philipino butterfly sleeves, a Japanese Obi sash and thought of designers like Paul Poirot and Sonia Delauney as we worked.”

“What did you do, and what did you do, and who do you think should go home?”


“We each worked equally on each garment and we think we should both stay.”


“We’ve judged your designs. You both have the highest and the lowest scores. We liked your exercise and evening looks but think your day ensemble was ill-proportioned, overworked and messy looking. However, it was saved by the pointy shoes….”

“Designers,” (dum dum DA, dum dum DA, dum dum DA, dum dum DA…..)….

“You’re IN…. You can leave the runway.”

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This cover from August 13th is for a very sobering story, one of pain and sorrow and desperation. I knew as soon as I saw footage of Katrina and the people we weren’t rushing to save, that this was a racial issue. Like the OJ trial, Katrina divided our country in surprisingly unexpected and woeful ways. The seed saver story, by contrast, offered a glimmering of hope. I look forward to the day we can appreciate diversity in each other the way we’re starting to appreciate it in our food.


“Models, this is a competition for you too. As you know in fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day…. you’re OUT!”

“Designer, you will only have a short while for a fitting with your model. Chop, chop Designer, the week is coming to a close. I’ll see you on the runway.”

fitting30_August“Today’s winning designer’s model will be featured on an international web blog!”


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