LAB ART SHOW ARTIST Q&A FEATURE
Sponsored by Steam Whistle Brewing
By: Grace Yoon
Wendy Ohlendorf is a self-made and self-taught fashion designer based in Oregon, WA, where she has a store front called Boulevard de Magenta. She participated in Lab Art Show V at Studio East in 2014 and presented her creations in the fashion show that evening. Her pieces created a stir and captured the eye of all the art lovers present as the models walked across the studio and onto the stage in her unique designs, ranging from dresses, jewelry and head pieces, all of which told a beautiful vintage yet minimalistic narrative. Wendy's love of re-purposing vintage materials into modern pieces of art has brought her growing recognition and respect in the fashion/art community across the Pacific North West and beyond. Lab Art Show is happy to present Wendy as our Featured Artist Q&A for June 2015, sponsored by Steam Whistle Brewery.
Lab Art Show: Would you be able to sum up your journey as a designer in one sentence?
My journey has been long and winding with many experiences and lessons that have brought me to where I am now.
Lab Art Show: So, where is “now”? Tell us how your boutique's journey began.
I began with a small studio space just down the street from my current location and then as my art began to get more recognition, I needed a bigger space. A local photographer and I found the space I am in now and shared it. A little over a year later, he went forward in his own career and so for the last four months I have occupied the space in its entirety using it as my design studio and show room and it is flourishing.
Lab Art Show: Where do you find inspiration from when creating each of your pieces?
Each of my pieces, or girls as I call them, are inspired from the world around me and my experiences in it.
Lab Art Show: What kinds of fabric/material do you prefer to work with and why? How do they help construct your designs?
Having a pleasurably tactile experience is important to me so, I choose to use soft and flowing fabrics such as silk and rayon, just to name a couple. I also re-purpose vintage fabrics to keep them alive and beautiful in new designs.
Lab Art Show: How do you see your line impacting the fashion/art community of Oregon/Pacific North West?
I am excited by the amount of support there is in the Pacific North West fashion/art community. That support helps me to be able to create my designs from my heart and I believe that when an artist is able to do so, it always impacts the community in a unique and positive way.
Lab Art Show: Has your line been able to reach an international presence?
I have participated in Lab Art Show as well as with Vancouver Fashion Week. I also have a performer in Italy who purchases my designs.
Lab Art Show: Do you have any future plans/goals for your brand? What are they?
The universe presents new opportunities to me everyday and so, I continue to be open and flexible and practice saying yes to as much as I can.
Lab Art Show: That is great advice – be open and practice saying yes! Sounds like that is a reflection of your attitude on life. What is your mission as an artist?
To be true to myself and present my visions to the world. I consider it a gift to create joy for others doing what I love.
Lab Art Show: Were you always an artist? How did you become an artist?
I was born this way. I've always been an artist and when I reached high school, the art instructor really encouraged me to keep on an artistic path. I have done so and loved every step.
Lab Art Show: We all have influences in our lives that direct our path, whether they're people, places or things, in this case it was your high school art instructor. What role do you feel an artist has on society?
We are each such unique individuals and an artist supports the single expression of that being. No two people can put into the world the same art and so I think it incredibly important for those expressions to be created and seen.
Lab Art Show: Expanding on that, how do you feel you and your talent and artistic contribution impacts your society and community?
Well, if we are all unique individuals who produce our own unique point of view, then I am as well so only I can produce exactly the art that I do. The community I live in is very supportive of individual expression and I am grateful that I can achieve this success from following my heart. It is also, such a joyful experience to make a design for someone and have my art match them perfectly, and they leave with tears in their eyes.
Lab Art Show: That's so beautiful. It must be incredibly rewarding to be able to engage with your community and touch people through your work. What do you feel makes your pieces different and uniquely your own?
They are a combination of old vintage fabrics combined with modern techniques and each era influences me to combine those styles into modern designs. I think people are drawn to unique styles that are new yet still remind them of something from the past.
Lab Art Show: Could you please explain the world of fashion design in a nutshell? ie., the preparation and process, the time it takes to create one piece, etc...
Well, I think that my nutshell would be different than other nutshells so I can only describe my processes. My designs, or girls, come to me as a vision first complete with fabrics, body ,face, and attitude. Then, they stay there imprinted in my mind until I am able to create them as I see them in my minds eye. Seriously, they follow me around until I bring them into being. It's funny. If I don't already have the fabrics that I need I then need to find them. Each one is an adventure. As far as the time it takes to make a design, that depends on how intricate the girl needs to be. Some girls I've spent 60 hours alone just on shoulder fringe applications and others I've been able to create in 2 days with ease.
Lab Art Show: How often are you able to produce a piece of clothing?
That depends on the size and intricacies of the piece. There is not a day that goes by where I am not working on something. It can be anywhere from a few days to several months.
Lab Art Show: What do you appreciate about fashion design the most?
It's my medium and I appreciate the fact that I get to do this every day. To me, it seems more like sculpture than design.
Lab Art Show: How has this appreciation affected your life?
I get to live in my passion and I am continually full of gratitude that this is my life.
Lab Art Show: What is your work ethic?
I have a high work ethic. I work at this every waking moment in one form or another. These are my art pieces and at this level of dedication both to myself and to the people who buy my designs, I feel like I don't have another choice than to produce the highest quality I possibly can.
Lab Art Show: What do you dislike or find challenging about clothing/your profession?
I find it challenging when I come across an idea that I don't really know how to create yet. I then need to go through the steps to teach and instruct myself. It does always become rewarding in the end.
Lab Art Show: The fact that you are a self-taught designer reflects your dedication and hard work ethic. What are three of your all-time favorite pieces? Is there a story behind them?
I have a chain fringe dress. Her name is Rachelle. I designed her to wear when I accepted the 2014 best emerging fashion designer award. Next is, Priscilla. She represents all of the energy of how and why this is happening in my life. When I was in France I found this fabric with an embroidered skull on it and fell in love with it. Lastly, I think my third favorite hasn't been made yet. I look forward to her arrival.
Lab Art Show: What is your goal professionally?
To keep on creating beautiful dresses that come from my heart. To keep on making people smile and creating joy in others lives through my art. I'm eternally grateful for this.
Lab Art Show: Describe who you are in one word.
Lab Art Show: Name one thing you couldn’t live without as an artist.
Lab Art Show: How did you learn your trade as a fashion designer?
I am self-taught.
Lab Art Show: What is a motto that you live by?
Be true to myself.
Lab Art Show: If you were able to give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
I would encourage her to be truthful with herself because when you are truthful with yourself you are honest with the world around you.