Fanciful fashions -- Hillsboro clothing designer creates stunning works of wearable art
"This story has been updated from its original version."
It takes more than two broken wrists — at the same time — to slow down Paula Smith-Danell.
The Hillsboro resident and clothing designer hit some black ice while on a bicycle ride back in December, falling hard to the pavement. Suddenly, she couldn't do what she loves the most: sewing.
One can tell from her bright smile and the cheerful way she talks about the one-of-a-kind clothing she creates — it's her calling, her hobby, her trade, her craft and her art.
In fact, Smith-Danell insists, the clothing and fabric "speak" to her. "I'm really not responsible for the design process. The fabric, the clothing talk to me" as they hang on a mannequin in her home studio, she explains. "They're really auditioning" to see whether they work together, she says.
Smith-Danell, 53, attended Bassist College (now the Art Institute of Portland) and earned her bachelor's degree in apparel design from The American College for Applied Arts in London.
Since that time she's worked for Pacific Northwest clothing companies such as Pendleton, Columbia Sportswear and Sahalie, and nine years as a design assistant for Norm Thompson.
That work is very different from the work she does in her home studio, which she describes as "retro-historic-steampunk."
Both her professional jobs and her at-home creations give her joy. "My life is sweet," she says. "How many folks get a chance to play at their jobs?"
So while recuperating from the broken bones, Smith-Danell decided it was time to get her business website, FletcherArtworks.com, and her etsy.com shop in order.
She's trying something new. She had a photograph of Santorini, Greece she'd taken enhanced and printed onto fabric. The fabric is cut into small pieces and epoxyed in small circles (see photo, Page B1). Smith-Danell hopes to attach the circles together using jump rings and turn it into a tank top — truly a piece of art that happens to be wearable.
And just to make sure she kept herself busy, she wrote a how-to article for "Threads," a bi-monthly go-to magazine for the serious couturier.
The article, a six-page spread on "Sewing with Saris," teaches techniques on working with recycled saris, the colorful wraps worn by women on the Indian subcontinent.
Smith-Danell is especially fond of saris — the vibrant colors and bold patterns make for myriad creative possibilities, she says. Besides, Smith-Danell adds, saris really are "a whole bunch of silk" waiting to be repurposed into something grand and beautiful.
As she awaits the green light from her to orthopedic doctor to get sewing again, her article has been published in the April/May edition of "Threads."
So Smith-Danell decided to throw a party — to celebrate her article in a national publication and to benefit Sequoia Gallery+Studios, of which she is a charter member.
The public is invited to attend the March 24 party and fundraiser and to meet Smith-Danell.
Sequoia Gallery+ Studios fundraiser
WHO: Paula Smith-Danell will be selling signed copies of the April/May "Threads" magazine with her article, "Sewing with Saris" in it.
WHEN: Friday, March 24, 5 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Sequoia Gallery+Studios, 136 S.E. Third Ave., Hillsboro
August Cellars will be pouring wine and Swirl Cheesecake will be served, with musical entertainment by guitarist Scott Mueller. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Sequoia.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Paula Smith-Danell's title when she worked at Norm Thompson. She was a design assistant.