Written by Art Bra® Austin Writing Committee member, Claire Spera
You know what they say — friends who “art bra” together, stay together. Or at least that’s what the women who created the art bras featured here would say. Behind each of these wearable works of art is a story of friendship, artistic collaboration and compassion, whether between the art bra artist and the model who will wear it, or between the artists themselves.
For the second year, Randee Ketzel has created an art bra for her close friend and breast cancer survivor Darla Brazeale, who will model “Cancer, Stop Bugging Me!” on the Art Bra® Runway as part of the Botanicals collection. Randee’s garden-esque art bra, adorned with bright flowers, greenery and even artistic insects, is made of polymer clay with bits of glass and natural stone, and reflects her passions as an artist.
“I’ve been a working artist all my life as an enamellist, bench jeweler, goldsmith and art jeweler,” said Randee, adding, “My passion is polymer clay, the most versatile medium I’ve ever worked with.”
For “Cancer, Stop Bugging Me!” Randee made the polymer flowers through a process known as caning, wherein the clay is custom mixed to create specific colors, then layered and manipulated to create intricate patterns; the colors and designs in each of the flowers are not paint or any other type of surface decoration, but rather the colors of the material itself, even in the smallest instances. Caning is the highest art form of polymer clay, and takes anywhere from hours to days to achieve. The “bugs” were created through a different process, employing metallic finishes that are burnished onto the surface of the raw polymer and then cured into the surface. In all, the art bra took Randee about 100 hours to complete.
Though highly inspired by the materials she works with, Randee said her ultimate inspiration for this art bra was her friend, Darla: “She is always my inspiration. I attended a master class in polymer clay techniques last summer with the specific purpose of creating the elements I used for the bra. This, combined with some bizarre insects I created for a large installation being unveiled in Pittsburgh this August, cemented the concept.”
Randee publishes tutorials, teaches workshops and has even authored a book on faux techniques, titled “Polymer Clay Gemstones: The Art of Deception.” Her work is available for purchase on Etsy.
Native Texan and recent Austin transplant Terri Davis, a quilter whose art bra “Grant My Three Wishes” will be modeled by her friend and co-worker Lorraine Saunders, is a first-time Art Bra® Artist. She has worked in the insurance industry for many years and is currently an underwriter at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Her free time is spent creating, whether that be with quilting or crafting in general. She offered to make an art bra for breast cancer survivor Lorraine, both to support her friend and in remembrance of her own maternal grandparents, both of whom battled breast cancer.
Said Terri, “Breast cancer is not discerning — it impacts people of all walks of life. I have seen it in many of my friends and co-workers ,and while I didn’t know my grandmother, I saw how the cancer rapidly degenerated my grandfather’s life. It doesn’t discriminate, but certainly can devastate.”
Terri whipped up her creation using her sewing know-hows with fabric, thread, foam, beads, beaded trim and fabric dye. She chose to call her art bra “Grant My Three Wishes” because she was inspired by the concept of a genie in a bottle. Her three wishes, she said, would be for hope, strength and a cure for breast cancer.
Artist Carolyn Jackson knows all too well the desire for a cure. A 13-year breast cancer survivor herself, Carolyn was a teacher for 26 years before retiring in 2007 to open the Lee County Area Cancer Resource Center in Giddings, TX, which serves cancer survivors in the rural areas east of Austin. Her art bra, “Sparkling Seaside Sunset,” was created for her friend, Judy Inman, who will model it in the Floor Show.
Carolyn and Judy were actually brought together via last year’s Art Bra® Austin. Judy modeled one of Carolyn’s designs, and wrote her a thank-you note for the creating the art bra. It turned out they both live in small towns east of Austin, and they quickly became friends.
Carolyn herself received support from BCRC after her own diagnosis, as well as mentoring when she was developing her own cancer resource center: “I like sewing and crafting. “Creating art bras is a way for me to give back to the BCRC for helping me in many ways,” she said.
“Sparkling Seaside Sunset” is one of two art bras Carolyn created for Art Bra® Austin (the other, “Lady in Red,” will be modeled on the runway), and one of many she has created over the years. For this art bra, the colors of the fabric, combined with the swirls of sequins, reminded her of the rays of the sun glimmering on the ocean waves at sunset. Carolyn hand-stitched the fabric to cover the entire bra, then painted the elastic straps to match the fabric. Next, she stitched the sequins to the edge of the teal fabric and gathered it to form a ruffle above the cups, then sewed the gold metallic fringe to the bottom edge of the bra. She finished the design by adding a contrasting strand of teal sequins above the fringe.
Ingrid McLain, Sarah Demel and Liz Hinton are best friends and sorority sisters from college, and have since reunited in Austin where they live and work. Liz works as a bridal consultant at Unbridaled, while Sarah and Ingrid work in the technology industry. They all love hiking, eating all the delicious food Austin has to offer, and working on craft projects together — in fact, Liz and Ingrid already created an art bra together in 2015. Liz is also a graduate of the Art Institute of Austin, where she got her degree in fashion merchandising. This year, the three longtime friends have teamed up to create “Girl, You a Fine Apple!” for this year’s Art Bra® Austin.
The three women feel very passionate about women-led community organizations: “BCRC’s mission perfectly aligns with that,” they noted. They found out about BCRC when one of their mutual friends was diagnosed with breast cancer, adding that their friend “found such comfort in all that BCRC provided. We have loved the opportunity to be involved in this organization and all that it has to offer!”
Ingrid, Sarah and Liz used sequins, silk, glass beads, metals, laser-cut wood and gold foil for their art bra, featuring an anthropomorphic pineapple, complete with sunglasses and red lips. They first created a quilted fabric to cover the cups, and then enhanced the pineapple design by hand-stitching hundreds of glass beads to the fabric. They also made quilted leaves and continued with the theme by adding more beads and sequins. From there, the lips were created with a hand-stitched obre “lip stick.” You’ll be able to see their fruitalicious creation during the Floor Show.
Friends and Art Bra Artists Fiona Mason and Marisa Garcia are both connected to breast cancer via their aunts. Fiona’s aunt, who lived in Ireland, raised money for the Irish Cancer Society to support cancer research before she passed away from breast cancer, while Marisa’s aunt went through breast cancer treatment and was able to make a full recovery. They created their art bra, “Blooming from the Darkness,” in memory of Helen Casey and in honor of Sylvia Aguirre.
Said Fiona, “A couple of years ago, my dad had a pink rally car that he raced. When he went to the races, he would sell hot dogs and snacks and donate all the proceeds to BCRC. I remember working at the tent with my dad and sisters thinking about my Aunt Helen and how proud of us she would be. “
Marisa, a graduate of the textiles and apparel design program at UT Austin, explained, “I decided to participate in Art Bra® Austin because my Aunt Sylvia was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago. If she would have had this diagnosis five years earlier, it would have been a death sentence. Thankfully, my aunt was able to make a full recovery after chemotherapy and has been in remission since. She inspires me not only because she is one of my biggest supporters in life, but because she remained so strong through all the ups and downs. She never felt sorry for herself and let the dark side of cancer blind her positive light.”
This gets at the inspiration for “Blooming from the Darkness,” which features handmade paper flowers designed by Fiona and a “fabric monster” by Marisa, which will hang out on the art bra model’s shoulder. This art bra recognizes the dark side of a breast cancer diagnosis, something that will be carried by the patient for the rest of her life. However, Fiona and Marisa also wanted to highlight the importance of finding hope in the face of darkness; thus, the beautiful flowers that cover the bra’s cups.
Said the artists, “The monster wrapping around the model’s shoulders represents that darkness or burden, while the flowers on the breast represent the beautiful life ahead of overcoming the darkness.”
Art Bra® Austin, now in its sixth year, is BCRC’s signature fundraiser. Every year, Austin’s talented community of artists, designers, and jewelers submit their original works of wearable art to be showcased by a dynamic group of Art Bra Austin models, creating an enchanting evening where everyone involved from the artists to the models and stylists donates their time and services. Approximately 60 to 70 pieces are selected from over 100 submissions to be offered for auction the night of the event. Top submissions are auctioned live during the runway show with winning bids as high as $8,500. For more information about this event and how to get involved, please visit www.artbraaustin.org.
ABOUT BREAST CANCER RESOURCE CENTER
Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) is a nonprofit organization providing guidance, education, and assistance to thousands of local women whose lives have been disrupted by breast cancer. Staffed by breast cancer survivors, BCRC helps each woman find her footing and determine the solutions that are right for her.
BCRC was founded in 1995 as a volunteer-staffed helpline and a single support group. Today, in addition to being survivors, BCRC staff are trained support professionals and experts in where to go, what to do next, and how to keep a woman moving forward through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. They serve more than 2,200 women annually, offering personalized guidance, robust educational opportunities, and several financial and personal assistance programs. All of it – free of charge – to the client. For more detailed information about BCRC services and programs, please visit www.bcrc.org.