Ries Niemi

Title: The Big Blue Dress

I  have been sewing since about 1970. I  have always made and modified clothes. I have also been making art from textiles since then. Crocheting, weaving, knitting, embroidery, and sewing have been part of my work for a long time, balancing out my other main interest, which is metals.

The Big Blue Dress is a part of a series of large clothing and accessories I have been working on for a while. The large scale allows me to exaggerate and play with forms of clothing, the metal frameworks allow the pieces to stand on their own and assume a physical presence. I have been working with blue tarp as a sculptural medium for some time now. It is a very democratic and universal material, available and used in almost every country on earth, cheap, sturdy, and easy to work with.

When I made this piece, I was inspired by several things-

First, how clothing, if big enough, becomes architecture, like  a tent or a yurt or a pavilion. You can wear your house.

Second, how textile techniques have often been used to make buildings. Thatched roofs, bamboo woven into walls, wattle and  daub.

Third, I thought of the part in the Gunter Grass book, The Tin Drum, where Oskar’s grandfather, running from the police, hides under the skirts of a peasant woman picking potatoes. I always thought that she must have been wearing a really big dress.

Last, the story of Shed Boys, a type of rootless but good looking men who  live in the woods around Port Townsend  and other  NW towns, often in sheds made waterproof with blue tarps. Blue tarps can be utilitarian,  or  they can be a tribal signal, a decorative object, shelter, or a garment.

Originally, the blue tarp was exhibited with a table and 4 stools inside of it, so it became a place for tea, contemplation, and conversation, a room within whatever room it was hung in.