Opening Night

Former Ashburton girl, Loretta Sloan has been a finalist on stage at the World of WearableArt (WOW) Show six times out of her nine entries since 2010, She spoke with Spirit Magazine about her addiction to WOW and to being creative.

“My life kind of revolves around WOW” the bubbly Leeston Mum says. “My designs take over the house. It’s too much work to dismantle and set up again, so my husband and kids have learned to live with the chaos,” she grins. She’s looking forward to having a purpose-built studio in the home they will be soon building. “I’ll be able to close the door on it, but there’ll be no excuse for a messy house. Damn!”

Since she was a small child, Loretta has been creative. In her early teens she was lucky to begin a career at Ashford Handicrafts, starting afterschool, then full-time – where she worked until her mid-twenties. She learned to spin, weave, felt, dye, and everything to do with textiles. “I was exposed to crafts on a daily basis, and that really was where my journey began.”

In 2010 she was a first-time entrant in WOW, and to her delight, her entry, The Storyteller was accepted as a finalist. “It was an amazing opportunity to unleash my creativity and to design and create a piece of wearable art for the whole world to see. It’s a huge honour to be selected, and when the show comes to life, seeing your garment on stage is indescribable. So emotional. They always do really well, making the garment look better than you ever thought possible.”

In 2011, Loretta entered two designs; All Sorted in the Children’s section (which won third place), and Pure NZ Lamb – Miss Sheepalicious (Kiwi Icons Section).  Since then, she also made it through in 2012 with Futuristic Retro Girls (Creative Excellence Section – Visual Symphony), 2013  with Fleur ( Gen-I Creative Excellence Section – Art Forms in Nature) and in 2017  with Card-Ashian Queen (Open Section).

Loretta creates her designs into her chosen section, which gives her complete freedom in concept, construction and materials. “I like to push the boundaries, take on the unknown. It’s a challenge to create something that hasn’t been done before.”

Behind the scenes, she says an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears, trial and error, goes into each piece. With two young children, a lot of her work is done late at night, often working around the clock. Once complete, the garment, accessories, name, design instructions and inspiration are sent to WOW for judging. “That four weeks from mid-June until mid-July my heart is in my mouth, waiting to hear if I’ve made it through.”

Each design begins with a hand sketch and evolves as she works. This year’s finalist, Card-Ashian Queen, is made of hundreds of cardboard circles threaded with beads and elastic. The original design had a large skirt and puffed sleeves and hat, but the skirt started to buckle with movement, and it was far heavier than expected, so back to the drawing board it went! Loretta began by hand-cutting the cardboard, but cuts and blisters forced her to re-think and she had them machine cut by Graham Barr at Southern Dies – “the man was a godsend.”

Designs come to life more than 20 times throughout the show’s season, and there’s also judging and rehearsals, so they also have to be durable and move easily. “The last thing you want is your design falling apart before the final curtain.”

She begins working on her ideas for each show as soon as the previous one ends. Her 2018 entry is already in its early concept stages. “Anything that is wearable can make it through, as long as it is original, innovative and well-made. I look at everything I see as potential WOW material.”

“When I first entered the WOW Awards I wanted to dazzle the audience and win, like any first-time designer.  Now, I’m more about expressing myself, having fun and getting through to the finals. Anything else is a bonus.

Loretta says she hopes to inspire others to enter WOW, and other wearable art competitions. “I love the fact that a Mum from Leeston can make it onto the stage alongside big international designers. I’m not a professional but my garments can still get on stage. It’s not at all elitist. If I can do it, anyone can.”

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.