Making La Mariposa’s Cocoon

My usual way of working, is to get a great idea, think about the project for a while, make a start, slowly work and refine, let it sit at various stages, think some more, have a serious period of doubt, rethink, rework and over time, usually a few months, the original great idea in my head becomes a finished work – often not as I had possibly imagined it.

La Mariposa’s Cocoon was a very different experience. A waiting game…
Although I could see the development of the Wearable Art Whispers Project and form some ideas, as the final artist I needed to respond to the work of each of the other artists and add to the overall piece. Until I received the box and had the opportunity to unwrap each artists contribution, see the details up close and set up the whole garment, I had no idea if my thoughts would be possible.

A very short time frame. Each artist in the Wearable Art Whispers project had a month to complete their section. Half way through my month, I had an absolute deadline for the launch, then made even shorter by garment fitting and reveal rehearsals.

A completely different starting point. La Mariposa’s cocoon is the first work I have ever made with performance in mind as the initial idea for the work. I had an image of La Mariposa emerging from a cocoon, surrounded by curious young children and them unwrapping her. M. C. Escher’s Bond of Union came to mind.

Untested materials. I used materials I had never worked with before, I had never made a piece so large.

The process and the practicalities. “How is she going to get out?” was the question my immediate family continued to ask as I planned and then made the cocoon. “I’m not really sure yet” was my usual answer.

I started the process of making La Mariposa by researching images of cocoons (technically Chrysalis) for shape, colour, texture and how butterflies emerge. At this point I could have become VERY sidetracked as they are beautiful, a huge variety of colours, shapes, designs…then I started looking at the amazing variety of caterpillars and…

I chose a simple style with a distinct cap and ridge. The ridge defined the widest point of the cocoon to allow for La Mariposa’s wing span. It also determined the overall height. I chose to use cane for the armature for its lightness, flexibility and natural curve. Thank you Liz Arnold for a wonderful supply of cane 🙂Layers of cane masking taped together. The cane itself created this lovely curve.

Happy with the ridge, I continued to make large circles to define the width of the cocoon and create the cap.Each circle was then strung together to get the shape and height correct and then secured with crochet chain.

Testing the height on my daughter’s very tall friend.Of course this had to be hung as I worked on it. You can see above, I used a pole suspended between two cupboard doors initially and then a broom handle between two clothes airers so I could work at a reasonable height on the cap section.Above is a family affair – my daughter testing there is enough space for the wings, my Dad to the right, he had just brought over a free standing hanging frame he made and Ruby the Dachshund supervising.

Happy with the shape, next was to what to cover with. From the red and black in the  images I had seen of La Mariposa I planned to use a gorgeous piece of shot red/black/silver Ruth Tarvidas fabric I picked up at Para Quad op shop, however next to the garment it looked awful.

Back to google. I found images of microscopic details of cocoon patterns distinctive to particular species of butterflies. This started the inspiration for the use of recycled doilies.A quick Facebook request to our local Buy Nothing Group, a quick email to family and friends…crickets. A mad run around all the local op shops, and then slowly a few donations came in. I realised that people have either long ago cleaned out their linen cupboard, or they collect and cherish them. And I agree, I couldn’t donate those precious doilies made by my Nanna either. The lovely Rachel from our Buy Nothing group gave me over 50 from her collection and others gave generously too. Below are some of the beautiful designs donated.
Eventually I thought I had enough to cover the 2.8m height and 3m circumference. Initially I hand stitched individual pieces to the cocoon top…Then to speed things up for the main body of the cocoon, doilies were cut into strips and machine stitched back together. Before I attached this covering I needed to make a final decision about the opening. La Mariposa was to emerge herself, however very delicately to protect the wings and hand pieces. A few sleepless nights considering ideas:- unraveling – it needed to easily be reconnected to unravel again…  the front dropping down – it would become dirty very fast… and finally parting – lose press studs with gaps in between gave the model enough room to wiggle her hand through and then be able to expand the opening with her wrists, arms and leg.Cutting the cane armature for the opening, so close to completion was one of the most difficult things to do. Luckily it pretty much held its shape.

Other things to consider A free standing hanging frame to allow the cocoon to be used in a variety of locations. My Dad made the hanging frame from an old base for a table on wheels, a tent pole and a piece of chrome rod. The over cautious counter weight was made from a 20kg bag of sand covered in black fabric.

At this stage it functioned as a static piece…However the vision for La Mariposa to successfully emerge by herself was the dream goal and Tash from DTX Studios took my vision and ran with it. She made La Mariposa come alive and performed such an elegant reveal.

5 thoughts on “Making La Mariposa’s Cocoon

  1. So lovely, so well thought out and constructed. I wonder whether La Mariposa will find it so beautiful that she won’t want to leave this exquisite space.

  2. Oh Louise if I had only known you needed cane and doilies I had loads of cane which I could not get to work for something I was working on and I have hundreds of doilies I would have gladly donated them to the cause!

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