at the bottom of an ocean of air

Water WIP draping cape

Draping, work in progress, cape

“…We live not, in reality, on the summit of a solid earth but at the bottom of an ocean of air.” – The Invention of Clouds, by Richard Hamblyn (2002).

This is the text that began my project for Water, a group exhibition opening in May at Geoff Wilson Gallery, NorthTec. The text is from a book about Richard Hamblyn, who developed the system to name and classify clouds. It is a fascinating story, and a beautiful metaphor. I have always loved the ocean, and the idea of inhabiting this ‘ocean of air’ started me wondering what is life like in this other ocean? How do we live? What do we do? What do we…wear?

Water WIP sharp shirt collar and cuffs

Expressive details, collar and cuffs, work in progress

Garments are signifiers, powerful tools of communication, and I have been wanting to explore this notion, of garments, of fashion, as a semiotic language of culture, further (Neumann, 2011). I would like to invite people to consider more fully how placing objects/garments on them/selves may change their behaviour, and influence their relationships.

So I decided to create a collection of garments, that relate as whole, that are connected to each other, and invite gallery visitors to try them on while in the space. While doing so, to consider themselves, and others, hopefully, to play, and engage with the work, and engage with other viewers. This engagement is through the act of Dressing Up, playing with the objects, touching the objects.

Water WIP manta stage of making capes

Work in progress, cut capes

The objects as they have been coming together are included in this post, I am working towards finalising my installation strategy, and completing the final details on the pieces.

Water WIP Feb 2018

Draping cape detail

The fabric was de-stashed to me by a friend, it is not a dress fabric, more suitable for curtains or homewares, the colour was entrancing and suggestive of water and movement. I started with considering where personality is typically expressed, in colour and in detail, and I also seriously considered what people would be prepared to do. I settled on developing items such as sets of collar and cuffs, and drafting capes, as outerwear is more accessible, generally speaking, than, say, a pair of pants, a shirt or overalls.

Water WIP cape hemming

Work in progress, cape

Water WIP nearly complete cape

Work in progress, shaping

Water WIP sharp shirt collar piece

Collar shaping detail

Water WIP collar piece

Collar variation, work in progress

Water WIP grey sharp collar

Sharp grey collar piece, work in progress

This has started to feed into my research around fashion and communication, dress and uniforms, formally constructed by institutions, and those informal ‘uniforms’ that indicate class and grow within social groups.


Hamblyn, Richard. The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies. New York: Picador, 2002

Neumann, Jessica, “Fashioning the Self: Performance, Identity and Difference”. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 475. January 1, 2011. Accessed 2 April, 2018.


Karaminas, Vicki, Dr. “Vicky Karaminas: Fashion and Uniforms.” Interview by Kim Hill. Radio New Zealand. August 6, 2016. Accessed April 3, 2018.


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