Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman // Heather Marie Scholl on Fashion, Feminism & Domestic Violence
“A woman is not a potted plant
her roots bound
to the confines
of her house…”
“A Woman Is Not A Potted Plant” by Alice Walker
We all have stories. What does it mean to be a woman? Sometimes it’s beautiful, engaging, and wondrous. Sometimes it’s violent, traumatic, and oppressive. Hobby Lobby wants to rule out birth control. A young woman was stabbed for eschewing a prom date because she already had a boyfriend. #yestoallwomen surges through social media after a tragedy where women — and men, too — were brutally murdered because of oppressive thoughts brought down on women. Heather Marie Scholl conjures a poignant and powerful commentary on what it means to be a woman by sharing stories.
Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman is fashion art installation project with a focus on creating personal narrative threads within the scope of the body, women, feminism, identity, and sexuality. Elements that have insightful effects and experience on women. Scholl will be showcasing her art at RAW this July at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. That’s not all — the art is not just about creating a conversation, but continuing to foster the narrative. The artist planning to bridge her installation project with an apparel and accessories
Taking art and making it wearable with a social commentary is a tall order and Scholl does it splendidly. The line will feature pins, scarves and bandanas, knitted tees, and also a journal. Besides wearing an art project, I had the pleasure of talking with Scholl to gain insight to her artistic philosophy and goals for the project.
GP: What inspired you to start Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman?
Heather: Social issues often inspire me. Feminism is always woven into my work as it’s part of who I am as a woman and as an artist. This particular project, which addresses issues of domestic violence, started with my own experiences. But it has branched out much larger than myself into connecting to others experiences of domestic violence. It’s taken many forms since then from sketches to more sculptural ideas, but ultimately things always come back to clothing for me. What really brought me to this final form of the project was listening to Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man at exactly the right moment! Everything clicked together after that.
GP: I like your use of beauty and metaphor in this series — can you go into more depth on how that is incorporated?
Heather: Certainly, one of the things I love being able to do with fashion items in particular is create different ways to see things. I love beautiful exquisite things. And for a lot of people that does it for them. Personally, I always want to go deeper so by creating metaphors and messages within my work I give people the option to analyze and think about what’s in front of them, or what’s on their body. But you don’t have to understand the meaning to appreciate the beauty in the work.
Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman pulls on these ideas a lot. Domestic violence can be very stealth in how these relationships are formed. The relationship and the person can be very seducing. Even couples in total chaos at home can appear beautiful and happy to the outside world. Unintentionally during the development phase I spent a lot of time thinking about the history of embroidery. So I wound up looking at a lot of Edwardian and Victorian clothing and homes. How thick they were with elegant hand embroidered item, labored over for months. For me this history connects to the outward perfection we strive for and how much is hidden underneath.
GP: How do you translate your art into fashion? What is the process like?
Heather: It’s all the same for me. It’s about what my vision is and what the best method is to express it. My embroidered self portrait series came up because I had been sketching thoughts and needed to create something new. Most of the materials were on hand and it seemed fitting to express those ideas like paintings.
For fashion collections and larger projects it’s about really working through an idea. This means more planning and experimenting, and often a much larger end goal! Once I get really wrapped up in a concept it’s hard for me to not try and make it as big and potent as I can. With these bigger ideas I tend to build more energy and excitement around it and in turn that inspires others. I think that’s part of what makes my fashion work more like art. It’s very much about working through a concept and expressing ideas.
I am currently working on putting together a special preview showing of this work for the RAW: natural born artist showcase. It’s turning into this fascinating performance art piece. Worth that pushes me to think of new ways to translate my ideas always gets me excited! It naturally evolved from considering what would be the best method to showcase my clothing and brand in the Brooklyn Night Bazaar venue.
GP: What are your goals for the collection?
Heather: Personally this work is about my coming out as an artist and a designer. It’s the first work away from university that I am creating and presenting entirely within my own vision. Its my way to begin showing the world, this is what I am about and this is what I am capable of on a shoestring budget.
Beyond my own goals I want to encourage more voices to speak up about feminism and domestic violence in different places. Too often it’s seen as the activist, the academic, the social worker that cares about these things. But it’s part of everyone’s daily life. So why not bring it into the items we wear and use every day? This work is me publicly saying, lets talk about sexism in a way that includes everyone and doesn’t vilify our desire to have exquisite well made clothing. Let’s be glamorous as hell but also really thoughtful!
GP: What is your outlook on feminism, art, and fashion?
Heather: They are all so intimately tied together for me. I think we are ready to bring more feminism into our fashion. With the way technology is shaping culture, people want to be in charge of how they are seen. We want to make our own decisions about what is right. Much of that is tied to the fashion industry. We don’t want someone else dictating what is and isn’t ok for us to wear or how our bodies should look. “Trends” are becoming more a thing of the past as people are making their own choices about what looks good on them and what they want to wear each season.
Art has often been connected to fashion. Most of the great fashion designers in history are considered artists because of their aesthetic skill. But I also see the art influence in fashion as being about craftsmanship. Artists are encouraged to be craftspeople and perfect whatever medium they are using. For me pursuing fashion will always mean honoring the craftspeople who make luxury items and allowing that skill to shine through the design and concept of the work.