Artist and educator Charlotte Kruk has been a student in the Cañada fashion department for only a short time, but her enthusiasm and creativity are already being noticed. Charlotte’s background is as a fine artist. She studied sculpture, metalsmithing and jewelry-making at San Jose State University. No fashion or textiles classes were offered, as she recalls—only weaving, which didn’t interest her at the time. After graduation she continued making jewelry and doing her sculpture work. She also began teaching art to high school students, which she continues to do today.
“I kind of came to fashion through the back door,” Charlotte observes. She comes from a long line of seamstresses, including her mother and grandmother. “I always wore homemade things,” she remembers, “and I avoided [sewing] like the plague.” In junior high, she chose wood shop over sewing as her elective.
This all changed in 1994 with a package of Now and Later candies. Charlotte remembers that she and her sister were at a camp ground. There were no trash cans nearby, so she collected the wrappers in her hands. After a while she began to imagine sewing them into a sort of textile. “I realized I could make clothes that had social commentary and that it was a kind of recycling,” she recalls. In doing so, Charlotte would be taking sewing out of its usual domestic context and placing it squarely in the realm of art.
Charlotte imagined that her pieces would be shown in museums and galleries. However, people kept asking if she would present her work in fashion shows. At first she resisted but, she explains, “Eventually I realized I needed to go with the opportunities that came my way.”
One of these opportunities came when Charlotte was offered a spot in a photography class in Paris. She decided to bring one of her own sculptures on the trip and photograph it there. Prior to the trip, she researched French history and became very interested in Marie Antoinette. She built a period-appropriate gown out of the packaging for products you need when baking a cake. Besides the more obvious sugar and flour packages, Charlotte even nestled (faux) eggs into her wig!
Charlotte recalls that she wore the special undergarments she had constructed for the ensemble on the Paris subway. Dressed in a pink corset, paniers and bloomers, she gave out Life Savers to fellow riders.
Another interesting event along Charlotte’s timeline occurred in 2001. That year she received a “cease and desist” order from Mars, Inc. about her use of M&Ms packaging. Charlotte recalls that the intimidating communication “had 120 lawyers listed on the letterhead.” As a result, she stopped using the branding … for a while. After talking to other artists and a few attorneys, she began to feel more comfortable using the packaging again. However, the exposure prompted Charlotte to up her game. “I started to feel like if I were to show up in a court of law, [my pieces] had to be so much above and beyond as works of art,” she explains.
As Charlotte’s designs became more involved, she realized she needed to acquire more skills. Charlotte explains: “I came to Cañada because when I try to do something complex and can’t find a pattern that comes close to what I want to do, I think ‘Jeez, there’s got to be some tricks to what I’m trying to do.’” Charlotte teaches during the day, so Cañada’s evening classes work well for her.
“I decided to take Beginning and Advanced Flat Pattern simultaneously. It’s a lot of work,” she notes, “but I’m learning a ton. It’s been really great.”
As to what’s next, Charlotte wants to take more classes in the fashion department. She reflects “It seems like a fun and safe place to explore,” and “It’s nice to be in a community of [sewists].”
“I have collections that I continue adding to. I create at least one new piece per year to show,” she explains.
We can’t wait to see them!
For more information about Charlotte and her work go to http://www.kruktart.com/.