Xavier Magazine

Wearable, Not Washable

For Julie Scalise Stumpf, making art is a hybrid of imagination and the nostalgia of childhood dress-up. Such a mixture, brought to life with Stumpf’s unconventional material of pre-spun silk, makes for a wearable—albeit fragile—masterpiece.

“I want to make wearable pieces rather than just making a painting or a sculpture,” she says. “Making something that is sculptural but can be worn on the body is a lot more dynamic.”

From the 2002 graduate’s Pink Dress—a tautly spun gown that is the first and most pivotal piece of her wearable art—to her extravagantly long Pink Fur Collar or flowing Pleated Cape, Stumpf’s creations certainly deviate from the practical. With the involvement of preparing pre-spun silk through molds, setting with nylon and expedient construction while the material is wet and paper-like, Stumpf’s work requires much time and effort that complements her nostalgic imagination.

“As I was making these pieces, it reminded me of when I would dress up in my mom’s high heels and dresses and feather boas—moms don’t let you out of the house like that,” she says. “My art is like something you can wear, but you can’t really do anything in, so it’s impractical.”

Stumpf’s work caught the eye of the Wearable Expressions exhibition in Palos Verdes, Calif., which displayed her Pink Dress in early 2008. She has also seized local showings in Cary, N.C., where she now lives.

In addition to creating wearable art, Stumpf teaches an art appreciation class at Campbell University and just started an art-teaching job for kindergarten through eighth grades at Cathedral School in Raleigh, a long-time goal she is happy to achieve. While she struggles to find ever-decreasing free time for making art, her passion for it hasn’t changed.

“Nothing is too big, nothing is too much work. You just have to try it and see what happens,” says Stumpf. “This is the ‘meat’ of my art, and it’s the direction I want to keep going in. I don’t see myself moving away from it at this point.”

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