OCOC BLOG


Designs on your time

At OCOC'17 we had an icebreaker design class for the second time. This is always good fun and has multiple purposes. Not only does it get everyone going back to basics looking around them and loosening up their design eye, but it also gets everyone familar with the college surroundings and looking that little bit closer. 

  In 2014 the goal was to make mini moodboard and design for the paper doll.

In 2014 the goal was to make mini moodboard and design for the paper doll.

  In 2017 we had sketchbooks featuring croquis designed by Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique who was also running a fashion illustration class. And, coloured pencils in the welcome bag courtesy of Foundations Revealed.

In 2017 we had sketchbooks featuring croquis designed by Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique who was also running a fashion illustration class. And, coloured pencils in the welcome bag courtesy of Foundations Revealed.

Jesus College is a truly lovely place. From the 15th century onwards architecture to the stunning gardens. There is plenty of structure, colour and texture to look at. Oodles of inspiration. We are lucky enough to have access to the Chapel as well as Hall and the lovely quads, but this time I think the lovely weather mean the gardens won. Especially good, as we were concentrating on colour this time.

  Colour was a focus this year and the glorious flower borders around the quads gave lots of wonderful inspiration.

Colour was a focus this year and the glorious flower borders around the quads gave lots of wonderful inspiration.

  The twisted vines and branches was a popular focus. Several attendees spotted these.

The twisted vines and branches was a popular focus. Several attendees spotted these.

The reason I came up with the class initially (before the 2014 conference) was because I feel social media means we spend a lot of time looking at each other's work and that corset design was getting very inward looking. New corsetmakers (and not so new) were starting to fall into the trap of unintentionally creating pieces that looked like the current favourite makers. I was beginning to find it hard to tell whose work I was looking at. Yet it was clear there was huge talent there. Personally I love the design process, gathering source material and refining it. I wanted our attendees to remember how much fun that is.

  Some very cool designs took form.

Some very cool designs took form.

I find it totally fascinating going round the room and seeing what our attendees have focused on. They see things sometimes I've never even noticed despite being in the college a fair number of times now! Now if we could only get to see some of the ideas made up! But there's always more ideas than time!

My Conference - Alison

I've been meaning to write this since September! But time runs away. I thought a little behind the scenes article might be interesting. Perhaps I'll jog Julia and Gerry into their versions. This is also when I realise that I never take enough pictures!

Now obviously 'my conference' runs most of the year. I'm responsible for the graphics etc so a lot of time goes on creating those as well as promotion, hunting for sponsors and advertisers. Julia runs the admin side, but as lowly assistant I luck out by escaping that side of things ;) However things get very hectic the week before, especially so this year as I was completing a huge bridal order for a wedding happening a week after I returned! Lots of running back and forth to the printers (Love you Print Box in Finnieston!) picking up supplies and printing off reams of paper. But once all that's done and the case and bags are packed and the many lists double and treble checked, it's time for the off.

The conference proper starts for me on Wednesday morning. For the last two years I've driven down due to the quantity of stuff I need to carry. It's a fair old run from Glasgow to Oxford - this year got through with audio books (Dresden Files) and Blondie. There is nothing like balling Sunday Girl at the top of your voice to distract from the tedium of the M6. I had the added stress of a dodgy speedo on the way down, not something you want when there's average speed cameras on long stretches. Thank goodness for my phone's sat nav! So due to that there were fewer coffee stops than normal, and even then I found myself still on the road at 9pm in the pouring rain. But got to Julia's house tired and ready for the waiting gin and delicious dinner.  It's always a pleasure to stay at Julia and her husband's house, it's quite a home away from home for me these days. Pre conference of course, Gerry is already there too. So it's hugs (from the dog, Marley, too) and catch ups then it's a night camping on the comfy sofa.

 Image Julia Bremble 2014

Image Julia Bremble 2014

Thursday takes us to the Sew Curvy cottage for prepping and packing. As we never feel we manage to fit in any pre conference socialising, frustratingly so, this year we knocked about some ideas and came up with a tea party at the cottage for the early arrivers. We thought it would be a nice way to start things off and let people see Julia's pretty cottage studio, somewhere a bit more personal than a public venue and especially lovely on a sunny day. Of course it rained! The morning saw the welcome bags packed with Julias' assistant Camille's help (including some annoyed calling of a supplier about errors on their part), Gerry taking care of some last minute stitching, Julia tearing about in a blur of email checking and a hundred other things, and me working out the badge system and colour split on the final numbers and doing some necessary last minute chopping and changing on the shoot schedule. After that we were ready to set out the china and pick up the guests (oh and pick some brambles which I was getting laughed at for! but they were very tasty!).  It was a lovely little party, so nice to see people in a quieter setting to get a chat and a relaxed start to the weekend. A photographer turned up from the Oxford paper so we had a scramble to organise and thankfullyLowana O'Shea and Karolina Zarzycka were on hand to do some impromptu modelling in Julia's 'Clessidra' corsets which luckily fit the girls very well indeed! The resulting pics made the next day's paper... front page no less!

After we'd said cheerio to everyone who'd managed to come along, we packed up to decamp to Jesus College. There's always a ton of stuff to move and lots of 'have we forgottens', but we squeezed into Julia's car and headed along. We did have a bit of a slump on arrival as we'd been so used to being welcomed by our conference gem Luke's smiling face and willing help. However he'd moved on to a new job and It just didn't feel the same without him. We soon discovered his replacement Ruth to be a worthy successor, but initially we were three little sad faces once we'd unloaded into our usual room, feeling a little bereft. However, no time for that, we had a reccy to do with Ruth to check everything was going to plan, what was going where, oh and a couple of fights to win over some bureaucracy gone mad!  Finally some food in a nearby restaurant (disappointing with some xenophobic 'humour' thrown in.. something that always seems to happen to me at some point!) and back to make up badges, do a bit of sewing on unfinished showpiece corsets and gather the last minute bits and bobs.

 Image Julia Bremble 2015

Image Julia Bremble 2015

Friday morning is countdown day! Early up and breakfast in Hall, and a lovely sunny and very warm day! Today will be punctuated with waves and welcomes to long missed faces and spotting arrivals across the quad with 'wonder if that's xxxx?'. Liase with Ruth, check all the rooms are arranged as requested, make last minute changes. Then Julia's husband and son arrive with the rest of the stuff. Machines for the sewing room, mannequins and more mannequins. Poster boards to go up, the starters for the swap table, corsets, signage and so on. A quick nip out to get some bits and bobs and a takeaway sandwich eaten on a bench on the quad. We spot Autumn Adamme and Stephanie Selmayr arrive and go to say hello and help them with bags. I managed to volunteer for the heaviest case which I bravely hoist up the stairs much to Steph's protestations! LOL! I soon understood why and I didn't realise they were the top floor either.. ouch! We nip back to the JCR to put up the posters, set up machines etc and with the set up 90% done we wash hands, smooth out the creases and go off to meet Mr Pearl from the train. One of the joys (haha) of Oxford is the lack of parking, it's not car friendly. So it's shank's pony to the train station, all three of us, because we're nervous and need the mutual moral support!

So yes.. what do you say when you're picking up an idol, a veritable mythical figure in the world of corsetry! We didn't know what to expect, and personally I'm nervous of meeting strangers although I don't get very phased by 'who' they are. I'm an equal opportunities wuss! But, we needn't have worried, Mr Pearl is a true gentleman and very nice indeed. We walked back chatting and then gave him the grand tour and explained the conference to him as he was rather unsure of what would be happening. As his talk hadn't been planned really due to his attendance being quite last minute, the next stop was a meeting with Autumn who would help put his presentation together (she did wonders with not a lot of time to prepare) and Steph too of course. By this time the rest of the presenters and guests were arriving, Ian Frazer Wallace then Immodesty Blaize and finally Barbara Pesendorfer. We were going out for dinner to all get to know each other and go over final plans for presentations. The only chance to do this as a group as this was the first time we'd all met.  I'm sure you can imagine, it all felt slightly unreal! However it was invaluable time to break the ice and calm nerves. I wonder if the delegates realise how nervous we all are, even the most established and respected of people are quite daunted by standing up in front of a roomful of people. Our chosen profession tends to attract rather solitary and introverted people so we're well out of our comfort zones! Gin helps! Well fed and introduced we went back to the room for a couple of late drinks, some last planning and unbelievably some more sewing! 

 Doesn't take long for the swap table to be demolished.

Doesn't take long for the swap table to be demolished.

Saturday first thing and game on! Up early, and make ourselves presentable for breakfast and hellos. Find Ruth and get going! There was a bit of a mix up and the doors were opened too early and so our last minute set up (delayed due to meetings and arrangements the day before) was a bit of a shambles. However, we got there.. got badges and welcome bags dished out and got started. A few notes taken for next year, but these things happen. It's always a blur of a day for us, even if we're not taking classes ourselves. We try to get into some of the classes and I did better on that than Julia, who spent much of the day arranging last minute rehearsal time for Immodesty who'd had some delays preventing her from doing so prior to that. I did have my personal most glamorous moment of the day though in later afternoon.. down on my hands and knees in the Hall covering up floorboard gaps with multiple layers of masking tape so Immodesty's heels wouldn't get stuck in a gap :)

The evening is always a joy. My masking tape duties delayed me a little so the getting ready was a bit rushed. But got down for Pimms among a bevy of glamorous revellers! People make more and more of an effort every year and the combined number of personally made corsets on show was seriously impressive. After the Pimms and mingling it's into the hall for dinner. It's all very Harry Potter, as we're seated down three long refectory tables... on benches which causes some amusement for those with straight skirts! We don't use the high/top table (we did one year and hated it) but as most of the guests haven't yet met everyone as some arrive during Saturday and some have been doing their own thing during the days presentations and some - most are quite nervous of the number of people there we feel it's a nicety to break everyone in gently so we placecard a table for them. It also means we can keep the after dinner speaker accessible and the team on hand if needed. Chris was placed to get shots of Immodesty's performance. .

 The incomparable Immodesty Blaize (and some of my masking tape LOL!)

The incomparable Immodesty Blaize (and some of my masking tape LOL!)

This year we were launched by a spectacular performance by Immodesty Blaize. An amazing outfit by The Whitechapel Workhouse and a rare chance to enjoy an up close show by one of the world's top Burlesque performers! We were all left rather gobsmacked and I'll wager if the paintings could talk.. they'd be pretty stunned too! She then followed our tasty dinner with a moving, eloquent and fascinating after dinner talk. I know I went from laughter to welling up and back again in moments.

After dinner we all retired to the bar where things relaxed and everyone mixed. The pictures show just what a good night it was! (not all of which will make the blog!) There were boob autographs, corset trying ons, piggybacks and much laughter. I tried to speak to as many people as I could, but still didn't get anywhere near round everyone. After kicking out time people wandered off...Gerry and I were holding each other up from tiredness but Julia had an duracell bunny type second wind. Mr Pearl, Immodesty and Ruth came back to our room for a few more drinks.. I don't even remember much, I had matchsticks holding my eyes open by that point but I wasn't about to give in. It was a fine night.

 Pic Chris Murray 2015

Pic Chris Murray 2015

Sunday and up with the larks again after a few hours sleep. No matter how late the night before, breakfast must be made and we were down for our cooked brekkie and coffee injection. There were a few bleary eyes around the Hall. I bet the coffee consumption rises dramatically on a Sunday. After that it was straight to the dressing room for our shoot. The last two years we've had a mini shoot in the morning to shoot the showpieces we've made for the conference and also give Luke, and now Ruth a photo with the models as a conference Thank You. We only had a slight wait on one model but the others were dressed in jig time and out for pics. I didn't get a shot with Tigz sadly as I had to go off on a dash to find Ruth and make sure one of the delegates was ok who'd had a bit of a panic. But all fine, hug dispensed I ran back as things were winding up. We've decided to ditch this as part of the weekend for ourselves as the corset finishing and the squeezing the shoot in is just too stressful on top of everything else. A shame in a way, especially as I'm a bit far away to get much chance to work with those models and photographers...and Gerry obviously even more so! But we'll work something else out for another, calmer time. I ran up to the JCR to update the what's on whiteboard, then had an errand to run out into the wide world outside the college, which feels really odd after being cloistered inside. Then in to see Steph's wonderful antiques and then a catch of the end of Fiona's SEO second talk. I didn't see Barbara's sunday workshop sadly. But it's always a juggle of a day. After that I had a quick shoot with Liv as we'd filled some cancelled slots so the models didn't lose out. Then I had to dash to the lodge to collect flowers for Julia and back to the JCR just in the nick of time. I missed the treasure hunt and raffle sadly but I was just relieved I made it! It was nice to then get a little bit of chilled time with people as they wound down and said their goodbyes.

As soon as the JCR cleared it was clean up time for us, as we put everything away and packed up the machines, mannequins and bags of corsets, posters and swap table leftovers up and loaded the bulk of it up into the car. It has to be done then so the JCR can revert to normal opening asap. A quick change of clothes and brief freshen and time for the pub! A little later than planned but packing up takes time and we can only do it once everyone has gone. We bumped into a few others on their way there and after a cash machine stop off for some, we headed round the corner. We were a bit disappointed when we got to the pub to find they'd forgotten the arranged space booking leaving us without room for everyone. Our exhaustion had hit and we just wanted a beer, pizza and a gab. But credit to the pub they resolved it well and we thanked them for it later on. Recovered by some drinks and the amazingly great pizza and all was well with the world. It was an evening of hugs and goodbyes. So many lovely people that we hope to see in future years.

11949324_10153712648699739_4344573020874584680_n.jpg

Monday morning was our first sleep in.. and it was needed. On Monday the comedown hits us so we stay in the college for another day to decompress. The first year we went back to Julia's and it was far too much for Julia having guests after the weekend, so staying there lets us properly recover. There's still a bit of packing up and checking back with Ruth etc to do. But we generally take our time. As has been traditional over the last two years, the weather was rubbish! We had a lovely late breakfast at the Grand Cafe then had a wander round Oxford. This was the first time I've ever managed to so some touristy stuff in Oxford, for all the times I've been there now. We went to the Eagle and Child for drinks (we've since renamed ourselves 'the busklings' after the famous 'Inklings') then for a lovely dinner of Tapas before returning to the room to talk over the weekend, make plans and deal with the slight slump that's inevitable once it's all over. But we're always cheered by the lovely posts that start popping up on Facebook as people get home.

 In the very corner of the Eagle & Child where the Inkings met. Interesting that this year we'll be at Merton College where Tolkien was professor.

In the very corner of the Eagle & Child where the Inkings met. Interesting that this year we'll be at Merton College where Tolkien was professor.

Gerry left at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning to head back so we'd said our goodbyes the night before. Julia and I wandered depressed to the Hall for our last breakfast. Where we found our last remaining delegate, Bec, whom we had a nice chat with. Cases packed we then said our goodbyes to Jesus and headed back to the Sew Curvy Cottage for a bit of a tidy and a last cuppa before I headed home. 

 Goodbye Jesus

Goodbye Jesus

After another 8 hours or so on the road,  I got home to boyfriend and cats.. tired but happy and looking forward to another year.

 Meet my duck friend from a service station stop on the way north! He was after my flapjack!

Meet my duck friend from a service station stop on the way north! He was after my flapjack!


An OCOC Journey - by Caroline Woollin

In 2013 I had made two corsets, one of which had been at a weekend ‘learn to make a corset’ course at my local college in Hackney. I have always made things and was looking for a new hobby and this course ticked all my boxes given that I had always admired corsets and wanted one of my own. I then bought Julia’s e book tutorial (thanks Julia!), worked my way through that, bought supplies, poured over YouTube tutorials (thanks Lucy!) and made my first corset on my own from a Truly Victorian pattern. Soon thereafter I saw the advert for the first OCOC and pondered it a while thinking that I was far too inexperienced to attend. After chatting to Julia via e mail she convinced me that it was not just for experienced professionals, that it was for anybody, and that all was required was a passion and propensity to learn about the subject.

 Victoria Dagger modelling Caroline's work at OCOC 2013

Victoria Dagger modelling Caroline's work at OCOC 2013

I booked to attend and went along full of trepidation but with a determination to learn from the experience. I learned a few things that weekend;

  • That I loved the art of corsetry;
  • That I was not the only beginner;
  • That I could learn from the people I met;
  • That new friends (giving an excellent support network) could be made;
  • And that there was a world of possibility ahead of me.
 Threnody in Velvet wearing Corsets by Caroline at OCOC 2014

Threnody in Velvet wearing Corsets by Caroline at OCOC 2014

The experience made me think, it spurred me on, it created openings and possibilities. In just over two years since this first conference I have started my own business selling on-line patterns, and started taking commissions. Most exciting of all I am coming back to OCOC16 as a presenter where I will be making use of my 15+ years’ experience using  AutoCAD to show how I create digital patterns. I’m also looking forward to having a sabbatical from work where I can push my aesthetic and try and drum up business. And if it doesn’t work out and I have to return to full-time paid employment at the end of 2016? Well at least I can say I tried, I did something very different, and I had a really good time doing it.

 And, bang up to date... Corset by Caroline, modelled by Gingerface at the most recent OCOC, in August 2015. Photographed by Tigz Rice Studios

And, bang up to date... Corset by Caroline, modelled by Gingerface at the most recent OCOC, in August 2015. Photographed by Tigz Rice Studios

You can see more of Caroline's work at corsetsbycaroline.co.uk

 

Note from OCOC: We're really looking forward to Caroline's session, as CAD is a bit of a mystery to us, as I suspect it is for many of you. And, seeing corsetry move ahead with new(ish) technology is something we're all interested in. There will be more class info to come so look out for that.

Saturday night at OCOC14

 Autumn Adamme and Ian Frazer Wallace at high table.  picture copyright Julia Bremble

Autumn Adamme and Ian Frazer Wallace at high table.  picture copyright Julia Bremble

Written by Julia Bremble

Saturday night at the Conference is a special affair.  After the workshops of the day, there is a little social time before drinks, dinner and more socialising in the bar.  The evening starts with Pimms on the quad Oxford style and  this is served up with a healthy dose of glamour.  Anybody who has watched Inspector Morse on TV may be familiar with the scene!

The drinks reception is where all in attendance gather before dinner to have a chat and catch up with those who they may not have had a chance to meet yet.

 Glasses ready to receive the Pimms - a gin based cocktail which is particularly popular in Oxford.  picture copyright Julia Bremlbe

Glasses ready to receive the Pimms - a gin based cocktail which is particularly popular in Oxford.  picture copyright Julia Bremlbe

 Here am I with the Godmother of Modern Corsetry, Autumn Adamme.  It was Autumn who back in the 80's and early 90's decided that corsets should be worn on the outside!  Us modern corsetieres have alot to thank her for.  Autumn was particularly enamoured with the picture of Elizabeth I hanging in the Peter North room where the College silver is stored.  picture copyright Steph Selmayr

Here am I with the Godmother of Modern Corsetry, Autumn Adamme.  It was Autumn who back in the 80's and early 90's decided that corsets should be worn on the outside!  Us modern corsetieres have alot to thank her for.  Autumn was particularly enamoured with the picture of Elizabeth I hanging in the Peter North room where the College silver is stored.  picture copyright Steph Selmayr

Our special guest last year was Ian Frazer Wallace of the Whitechapel Workhouse and he was with us again this year.  It has become a tradition for him to make a showpiece for Saturday night.  This year I was very priveledged to be part of this as Ian asked me to make the corset pattern for his Chanel inspired suit.  More on that in a separate post.

 Ian Frazer Wallace with his Chanel inspired corsetted suit made from wool boucle and using traditional corsetry, tailoring and milinery techniques.  Modelled by beautiful and effervesent April.  picture copyright Chris Murray

Ian Frazer Wallace with his Chanel inspired corsetted suit made from wool boucle and using traditional corsetry, tailoring and milinery techniques.  Modelled by beautiful and effervesent April.  picture copyright Chris Murray

After drinks we have dinner in Hall.  Not 'the great hall' or 'the hall' or 'the dining hall'.  In Oxford, the place you eat is simply 'Hall' and all colleges have a very grand Hall where all students eat all meals.   When you become part of an Oxford College, whether as a student, member of staff or conference delegate, you really begin to understand where stories like "Alice in Wonderland" and other fantastical tales from this city come from.  It is literally another world.

Dinner is a three course grand affair followed by a talk by our special guest.   The food is served by attentive waiters and waitresses and wine flows freely along with the conversation.  At night, Hall is a magical place to be.

 Jesus Hall is a grand room presided over by Elizabeth I and accompanied by portraits of other luminaries of Jesus including Lawrence of Arabia who was once a student here.  picture copyright  Tavan Photography

Jesus Hall is a grand room presided over by Elizabeth I and accompanied by portraits of other luminaries of Jesus including Lawrence of Arabia who was once a student here.  picture copyright  Tavan Photography

After dinner our very special guest takes the stand.  This year it was Autumn Adamme, Founder and Proprietress of Dark Garden Corsetry and Couture in San Francisco.  Autumn who has been making corsets since she was 10 years old,  spoke about her life in corsetry, her influences, inspirations and mentors,  and then went on to describe her business philosophies which covered the joys and pitfalls of running a corsetry business.  I  found myself nodding vigorously at almost everything she said as I know many others did too.    Autumn gave an interesting and inspiring speech which I am sure will serve to guide many corset makers - beginners and experienced alike, through the rest of their careers in corsetry.   It is always affirming to know that the things we think and believe and are passionate about in our own ideas and practices, are all things that have been felt and experienced before  by others who share those passions, and who have blazed the trails before us.

 Autumn also spoke of her time in Paris this summer, studying with Mr Pearl, the acknowledged leader of our field.  picture copyright Chris Murray

Autumn also spoke of her time in Paris this summer, studying with Mr Pearl, the acknowledged leader of our field.  picture copyright Chris Murray

After dinner it's time to assemble in the Fourth Quad - that's the student bar! It's in a cellar and is the perfect place for cosy chatting about corsets!  In naming the pictures below, I see they are a bit of a 'who's who' in Modern Corsetry

 Socialising in the Fourth Quad - the student bar - here's Jenni of Sparklewren, Rosie of Rosie Red, Lowana of Vanyanis, Hannah of Neon Duchess, Liz of Elizabeth Armstrong, Steph of Past Pleasures, Caroline of Corsets by Caroline. picture copyright Chris Murray

Socialising in the Fourth Quad - the student bar - here's Jenni of Sparklewren, Rosie of Rosie Red, Lowana of Vanyanis, Hannah of Neon Duchess, Liz of Elizabeth Armstrong, Steph of Past Pleasures, Caroline of Corsets by Caroline. picture copyright Chris Murray

 I feel like i'm in Fame!  Here we have Lucy of Lucy's Corsetry, Karolina of Karolina Laskowska Lingerie, Ian of Whitechapel Workhouse, Roxann of Stitched Up, Gerry of Morua Designs, and that little flash of blue hair belongs to Alice of Videnoir.   picture copyright Chris Murray

I feel like i'm in Fame!  Here we have Lucy of Lucy's Corsetry, Karolina of Karolina Laskowska Lingerie, Ian of Whitechapel Workhouse, Roxann of Stitched Up, Gerry of Morua Designs, and that little flash of blue hair belongs to Alice of Videnoir.   picture copyright Chris Murray

 Caption competition?   picture copyright Chris Murray

Caption competition?   picture copyright Chris Murray

So that's Saturday night at OCOC.  I am so happy and so proud that so many friendships and bonds have been made at OCOC.   The next post about the conference proceedings will be all about Sunday, where the photographers and models come out to play!  
 

For more pictures, click here.

 

OCOC14 - Saturday Workshops

So the morning of OCOC14 finally came and the day started early, as usual with coffee and welcome in the JCR where the programme was outlined, guests were announced, and goodybags and houserules were given out.  We had decided to run the programme along the theme 'making a corset from start to finish' which may seem basic to some, but this conference is all about learning from others and sharing information, so it seemed apt to have one year where we would literally start from the beginning of how to make a corset,  and work our way through to the finish.  And so, with such a packed programme for the day, there was no time to tarry and the first workshop with Alison Campbell commenced at 9.15 sharp.  Alison devised a fun, interactive class with paper dolls, colouring pencils, scissors and in the age of the smart phone, cameras.  Everyone was sent out for 20 mintues to find inspiration from the College itself and for the duration of the workshop, our teacher was "Miss Campbell" !

Seeking inspiration at Jesus - photo by Jenni Hampshire

paper dolls,  colouring pencils and beautiful surroundings bring out everyone's creativity!

Some fabulous ideas came out and people were surprised at how being made to do something they may not normally do,  re-invigorated their own practice.

All of the presenters bought their own interpretation of Jesus College inspirations and tied these in with the subject of their presentation.  Here is Alison's "Jesus Corset" which is ofcourse inspired by Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scotts.

My own workshop followed with an overview of the corset patterning process.  Having studied for years, the theory of having a 'forumula' for corset patterning - and succeeding in finding said formula - I realised that infact, you don't really need to know how to do it from scratch every single time, you just need to either find a good corset block or make a good block, and adapt each design from that one block.  The key is knowing how that block works and imposing your forumla onto it.  I illustrated this theory by encouraging those present to go forth and study something called "Anthropometrics" which is the study of the relationship between human size and the products we use.  It's fascinating and is the whole reason we can use 'standard' sizing to acheive a near perfect fit, depending upon the demographic we are working with and combining that knowledge with our own personal research.

My own "Jesus Corset" mid production before the Conference.  Made using techniques discussed during my presentation.

Jenni Hampshire took the corset block theory further in the next session, by talking about her modern Birdswing Corset patterns which were inspired by a trip to see antique corsets in the Symington Collection a few years ago with Foundations Revealed.  The original antique birdswing corset which we saw on display that day, comprised of as many as 22 panels per side and was boned on every seam - the name birdswing was given because when laid flat, the corset with all it's panels, looked just like a birdswing.  So Jenni has been working on a modern version ever since and during her interactive talk, she not only showed us her beautiful patterns, but gave away many of her trade secrets.  I must say, even I was a bit surprised at how generous she was on that front!

Just one of the multi panneled Modern Birdswing Patterns that Jenni put on show for the delegates to ponder.  This one is 16 panels each side.

The 'original' Birdswing corset on display at Snibston Museum Fashion Gallery, which inspired the modern Sparkelwren versions.

No day dedicated to corset making and theory would be complete without a lesson in grading.  Marianne Faulkner took the stage after Jenni's Birdswing session, to talk about grading standard corset patterns with a view to creating a line of a certain design.  This was quite a complex talk and covered many aspects of sizing and grading in great detail including how to deal with the different demographic groups which I mentioned in my own talk.

Marianne Faulkner talking about corset pattern grading with her Jesus Corset to the side.  Photo by Jenni Hampshire.

The day of workshops finished on a very fun note with Gerry Quinton's class on advanced surface embellishment.  For this class, Gerry wanted people to really think outside of the box as far as embelleshing a corset is concerned and to illustrate this point, brought with her the most beatufully embellished sheer corset with a smocked and draped overlay covered in metallic flowers and crystals.  In her class she taught those present how to create 'American smocking' and how to make various other embellishments using different methods and materials, including ribbon flowers, and different ways to attach crystals.

 Gerry demonstrating advanced surface embellishment techniques

Gerry demonstrating advanced surface embellishment techniques

 Gerry's 'Jesus Corset' incorporating some of the techniques she discussed in class.

Gerry's 'Jesus Corset' incorporating some of the techniques she discussed in class.

And so we reached the end of day one at OCOC14.  It disappeared at lightning speed but left us all fully inspired, bursting with new ideas and theories, some of which were perfectly mirrored in our 'wall of Mini Morgana's' displayed in the JCR for all to see.

All the ideas at OCOC14

 Full sized, real life Morgana arrived on Saturday afternoon to find that she was omni-present!

Full sized, real life Morgana arrived on Saturday afternoon to find that she was omni-present!

The next installment covers what happened on Saturday night at Jesus!

Julia Bremble, September 2014

 

 

 

Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2014 - the run up

It's been 4 weeks since the end of the second Oxford Conference of Corsetry, which is quite an unreal feeling, because it still only feels like the first one took place last week instead of a whole year ago in 2013!  However, we're so advanced at this point that most everything is in place for 2015, and we're busily gathering materials for 2016!

As has now become habit, the 2014 Conference was over and done with in a matter of nano-seconds, at least that's how it felt!  Many people turned up at Jesus on the Thursday evening preceeding the Conference, and more still arrived on Friday.  In fact, by Friday lunchtime, most of the delegates had arrived and were happily meeting up, catching up and going on the various excursions they had planned together via our own private Facebook group for conference attendees.  There were ghost tours, morse tours, science tours, history tours and a fabric discount to be had at the local haberdashery.

 About 75% of delegates this year were returners from 2013 which left a good 25% who were 'new'.  Those new people were comprised heavily of my own Sew Curvy students plus some others who are well known 'online', so between class, online and the Facebook group, many of them knew eachother already and even if they hadn't met before, the atmosphere during the conference is so friendly and inviting that I think I am right in saying that nobody really felt 'new' at all!  More than a few people have likened our Conference community of corsetieres to a big happy family, and this sentiment does leave me feeling extremely warm and fuzzy inside because it is exactly, and I mean exactly,  how I envisioned things should, would and could be.

Corset Makers from around the world gather at Jesus College Oxford over August Bank Holiday.

My own Conference experience obviously starts somewhere in October of the preceeding year when tickets go on sale (the first of many new traditions).  There is of course a constant trickle of Conference administration to do throughtout the year,  but things really hot up about a month or so before.  It really doesn't matter how well prepared one is, there are always last minute jobs to do, things which can't be done until soon before the event and ofcourse there is the press interest which has to first be generated and then worked through to our best advantage. 

Pre-press photography and reporting at the Sew Curvy Studio before the conference.  This appeared in the Oxford Mail

At the beginning of August, the first member of my team, Gerry Quinton arrived at Sew Curvy HQ.  She planned to help me with the workload and complete her own Conference projects during the two weeks leading up to the event.  We soon settled into the routine of Sew Curvy work in the mornings - she would pick and I would pack, and then  conference work in the afternoons and copious amounts of hand stitching in the evenings.   We each made our "Jesus corsets" during this time but more on those in separate posts.

Actually Gerry never really stopped making her Jesus Corset, until the moment she needed it!  Here she is in the packed car on the way to Jesus, needle in hand.

Next to arrive on the Wednesday prior to Conference, was Alison Campbell who has proved herself invaluable to me over the year and has literally been my right hand - responsible for all of the branding and print design for the Conference including this very website which I'm sure you'll agree is pretty snazzy.  Alison bought with her a whole car full of 'stuff' and there was much catching up while gin drinking that evening. 

Gin and catch up, but we're still working! Happy days!

On Thursday the three of us de-camped to Jesus where  the last minute hard work frenzy started - making up badges, packing mannequins, putting the finishing touches to our presentations and class materials, buying party dresses, last minute print and sundry shopping,  and most importantly, sorting out the 70 lace samples which had been loaned to us by Solstiss who had given us a very special deal for conference delegates. 

The lace sorting took a while ... a long while.  No gin this time, couldn't risk getting in a muddle! Note virtuous bottle of water on table.

By Friday evening, the rest of the team, Jenni Hampshire and Marianne Faulkner had arrived from Birmingham and we set about setting up our Conference rooms for the event!   There was much more to set up than last year.  We had pictures to display, more mannequins than ever - in fact some of them were quite naked even after set up - and much more class material to prepare. 

Alison setting up the display in the main plenary room.  Here we have one of her own designs, a silk Sparklewren, the now famous Cage dress made by Rosie Red and last seen being worn by Helena Bonham Carter in Vanity Fair Magazine, and an exquiste leather corset kindly loaned to us by Bizarre Design.

There was also more to go in the goody bags than there was last year.  Our lovely sponsors Janome provided pads, pens and tape measures along with handy sewing machine guides, there was the Morgana Doll, some corset cut outs to clothe her with -both made and designed by Alison, and ofcourse Foundations Revealed provided the beautiful canvas goody bags (again designed by Alison).  While 'team 1' unpacked and dressed the mannequins, 'team 2' stuffed the goody bags and sorted out the fabric swap table which was once again over flowing.

The goody bag this year was packed full of fun and pretty things but would have been wonderful just on it's own!

By midnight, we were as ready as we could be, and far too tired for gin drinking.  Read the rest of the report over the next few days.  There's simply too much to tell for one blog post!!

'Twas the night before Christmas ... Oh no sorry .. .. T'was the night before OCOC ....


Behind the scenes at OCOC

(Taken from the OCOC Facebook page)

Today I thought I’d talk a wee bit about the behind the scenes of the conference and big up our boss lady, as she won’t do it herself 

The planning for this year started immediately after last years. We were so full of enthusiasm that the ideas were flowing fast, and in fact now there are already ideas on the go for next year, and plans being put in place. One of the wonderful things about OCOC is that we have such a tight little team. Julia is the boss it’s Julia’s conference and it’s her many, many, many years (a many too many? I’ll get my backside kicked for that haha) experience in the hospitality and conference industries linked of course with her experience as a corsetiere and as an unsurpassable teacher of corsetry that makes her uniquely able to work her way through the logistics and details to create an amazing conference. Having been party to some of the planning I know I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t know where to start with some of the less obvious elements. It’s utterly daunting, believe me. But our Julia has done it while making it outwardly look like there’s nothing to it, which is most definitely not the case. And after all any grey hairs gained in the process are easily hidden.

Behind Julia is our little core team of friends and co-horts. Gerry, Jenni, Marianne and me (Alison).. Between us we have a fair whack of experience we can throw in to the mix. Not just in corsetry, and in our own corsetry businesses but in teaching and training, modelling, art, graphics and publishing. We also have different but complimentary interests in corsetry, from Jenni’s highly embellished art pieces to Marianne’s passion for quality ready to wear. But perhaps even more importantly we’re all friends and are all invested in building a supportive team that works together to produce this fab event. Having this tight team enables us to come up with a programme that exploits our own strengths, and very importantly, that we’ll enjoy sharing with you. Enthusiasm, our enthusiasm is vital.

What has been really exciting is seeing new people come into the fold and increase their involvement. Ian Frazer Wallace, our wonderful speaker from last year, (who along with the whirlwind of charisma that is Polly Fey made last year’s Saturday night a joy) will continue being part of OCOC Our wonderful models, headed up by boss model Morgana are a vital and glamorous part of the weekend, and our photographers of course. This year we’ll have the amazing Autumn Adame with us as speaker which is a treat we’re all looking forward to!

I can’t fail to mention the staff at Jesus College, especially the indispensable Luke. I think everyone who was there last year can testify to him being an absolute gem among men, as well as an outnumbered man among corset makers! The gorgeous, historic, idyllic venue is such a core part of the conference and the super-helpful team there help to make it that way. Then there are our fab and generous sponsors of course! And I think Julia’s husband Paul deserves a wee mention too for his support, as well as a fair bit of fetching and carrying!

So as you can see, it takes quite a few committed people, a shedload of skill and experience and a lot of love, passion and enthusiasm to bring you OCOC, and it’s what goes a long way to making it, not only the first of it’s kind, but truly inimitable.And you know what goes the rest of the way to doing that? You guys! Our wonderful attendees, whose skills, talents, warmth and again, enthusiasm were wonderful to behold last year. Here’s to 2014 and and beyond.(oops, didn’t mention the gin makers, they deserve some credit too!)

Alison (Crikey Aphrodite)