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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Her art’s fashionable

Artist Laurie Schafer creates wearable art, like the outfit she is wearing. Schafer sells to boutiques nationwide and to private clients. 
 (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)
Artist Laurie Schafer creates wearable art, like the outfit she is wearing. Schafer sells to boutiques nationwide and to private clients. (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)

Wearable art is unique because it allows the artist’s creation to be used as a basic necessity, yet the person wearing the art is adorned in beauty and inspiration.

It is a collision of art and fashion, and in the case of Laurie Schafer, high fashion. Schafer, a recent transplant to Coeur d’Alene, is a creator of “artwear.” Her own label, “Body Geometry,” has been in business for 15 years. She and her husband of three and a half years, Dwight Hill, discovered Coeur d’Alene while on a motorcycle trip a few years ago and made the move when his children were finished with college.

Her most visible artwork this summer is the “Precious Metals Moose,” now on exhibit in front of Mountain West Bank at Ironwood Drive and Government Way. Her moose, part of the “No Moose Left Behind” program, is inspired by the natural resources Idaho is known for – gold, silver and gems. The fiberglass moose was painted with swirling veins of gold along the muscles of the moose and abstract streams of silver, and it was imbedded with faux gems. This was Shafer’s first foray into that large of a work space.

Shafer draws inspiration from Austrian painter Gustav Klimt – best known for his 1908 painting “The Kiss” – the Beatles’ psychedelic era and a touch of Asian influence. Her stunning jackets, kimonos, gowns, pants, capes, vests and bustiers reflect hours of painstaking hand crafting by the artist.

Her canvas is primarily silk dupionni, silk organza or crushed velvet. Her signature appliqué is generally outlined in black to create a stained-glass effect. She is currently collaborating with a California artist who dyes fabric with the Shibori technique, which looks like a very sophisticated tie-dye. Using a product called Wonder-under, she is able to adhere silk dupionni appliqués to a Shibori-dyed, sheer organza jacket. She then sews them on to each one-of-a-kind garment using her industrial sewing machine and the appliqué stitch. The time-consuming part is drawing and cutting the appliqués, according to Schafer. She also does some hand-beading and sequin work.

These jackets, called Wasaby jackets, are a best seller at one boutique she supplies on Madison Avenue. Shafer not only creates the designs to be appliquéd to each piece, she designs the garment itself. She uses French seams and fabric-covered buttons, and lines all the garments.

A native of Minnesota, Shafer was interested in wearable art at an early age, using paper dolls as her first models. As a fifth-grader, she met Twiggy, the rail-thin British supermodel of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who was in Minneapolis on a modeling assignment. Shafer and her father camped out at the airport hoping to catch a glimpse of the model, when a sympathetic maintenance worker ushered them in to where Twiggy was. Shafer got to show Twiggy her drawings of the model wearing her designs.

“I’ve been painting and drawing all my life,” Shafer said. She started out getting a studio arts degree, and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in clothing design from the University of Minnesota.

The music, art and fashion of the ‘60s and ‘70s opened the door for Shafer’s vision of artwear. Music is still a huge influence in her work, as is evidenced by the ensemble called “Hike Up Your Skirt and Show Your World To Me,” which is a lyric from the Dave Matthews Band song “Crash.”

“He meant it in a completely different way, but I kept it clean,” Shafer said, laughing.

The straight, heavily appliquéd silk dupionni underskirt depicts the world, including a lake, tree and the sky. The tree grows up into a bustier, with “vines” hanging from it. Two nylon tulle skirts cover the world skirt and are split down the middle so the wearer can show the “world.” The accompanying overcoat is made from fiberglass window screen, which is actually very soft to the touch. This entire outfit retails at about $5,000.

She won the Circle Award at the Palos Verdes Art Center’s Wearable Expressions 2002/2003 for her Sept. 11-inspired coat of silk organza, heavily appliquéd in silk dupionni.

She was supposed to do a show in New York City that was scheduled for the week after Sept. 11, for which she had designed several outfits based on the television show “Sex in the City.” When the fashion show was canceled due to the tragedy, she set to work on a Sept. 11 commemorative coat. Made of gray silk to represent the smoke and dust, the back panel depicts the last girders of the twin towers in red. From there, an abstract American flag beginning at the back runs over the shoulder. Flames emerge from the girders. An attached shawl of torn organza represents all of the papers that were flying around after the towers were struck. On one shawl Pablo Picasso is quoted: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Most of her jackets sell in the $400 range, with pants, vests and skirts around $200. Her wearable art is sold to private clients nationwide including former vice-presidential wife Joan Mondale. Upscale boutiques scattered across the United States, from Cicada in San Francisco to Bellagio in Asheville, N.C., also carry her designs. Her work also has been shown at Los Angeles Fashion Week, the American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, Artwear 2003 in Fort Collins, Colo., California Fibers Exhibit, Fashion Collection in New York City and Artwear in Motion at the textile center of Minnesota. She plans to exhibit at the Inland Craft Warnings in November at the Spokane Convention Center.

For shipment to boutiques, the clothing is sized from small to extra-large, but everything is custom-fitted for private clients.

Shafer will have a chance to showcase some of her work at an upcoming event at the Hayden Lake Country Club. Each of the artists who participated in “No Moose Left Behind” will have a chance to exhibit some of their work.

Shafer continues to expand her line, with rain capes made from Gore-Tex, and home accessories such as wall hangings, duvet covers, pillows and shams. She also has made wedding dresses, including her own. A wedding gown she is featuring for sale now retails for $800 without beading, a very competitive price.Shafer was recently featured in “The Fiberarts Book of Wearable Art,” published in 2002 by Lark Books. Five of her pieces are pictured, including her captivating “Midnight Kimono.”

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