Wendy Eberhardt-Petrick is a fabulous local Las Vegas costume designer. Here she answers my top questions for designers & sewists so we can can all get to know her better and so you can stay inspired. Enjoy!
When did you start sewing?
I guess I would say, my first sewing project was in middle school, home economics class. It was in High School that I decided I wanted to be a Costume Designer as my career choice. So my ‘sewing education’ was still to come.
Did you receive any training and/or did you go to school for sewing?
Yes, I was accepted into the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University right after high school and received my B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Art) in Costume Design. In my coarse studies, there were plenty of construction classes. I then went on to receive my M.F.A. (Master of Fine Art) in both Costume and Scenic design at Carnegie Mellon University. In those three years of graduate school, I had even more classes in clothing construction and pattern making.
How often do you sew each week?
How much I sew in any given week is dependent on the project I am working on at the time and the deadline.
Do you prefer hand or machine sewing?
Machine sewing! Hand sewing is definitely not my favorite thing. I do not know how those ladies who sew for Valentino make such exquisite gowns entirely by hand….. It is really beyond comprehension for me the patience and precision, and the fact that they do NO machine stitching. I like my machines and try to do as much as I can with my sewing machine and my serger.
Do you sketch ideas before you create them?
Absolutely. When I am designing for a private client, or theatrical company I always need to provide a rendering and swatches of what the finished product will be before the idea can be ‘signed off’ on. When designing for the theatre, you are collaborating with a team of people, and through drawings and images, you are able to share your vision and fine tune the characters with your co-designers and director. With a private client, it is very similar. All the details need to be worked out and the final product agreed upon before a deposit is given and construction can begin.
Do you prefer store bought patterns, making your own patterns or no patterns?
I use patterns, and I use both store bought and make my own. I like the convenience of store bought patterns as a jumping off tool in many instances. I modify them as I need to when using them in place of draping/patterning out something from scratch. Sometimes there is no way around draping something because it is so stylized or ‘over-the-top’ that there simply isn’t a pattern in a catalogue like it. But I feel there is no reason to reinvent the wheel if you are making something contemporary and you can find a pattern that has all the details already worked out for you.
What is your favorite local fabric/sewing supply store?
Heddy’s is the best in town, hands down. When I first moved to town in the mid 90’s, Heddy’s was kind of a nightmare to find things. The store was smaller and there was so much to comb through – it was crazy. But since the store has been moved and there is space and you can stroll around and look at things easier it is a treat to go. The prices are higher than JoAnne’s, but the quality and selection is worth it.
What sewing tool would you recommend to others (include brand/where they could find it)?
A good machine. I think picking out a machine is a personal thing. There are many brands and levels of difficulty to choose from. It all depends on what you want to do with it, and what your budget is. I would suggest trying out different machines before purchasing one. I like Bernina, Singer, and Brother as brands that I have used and/or own and like.
What is your sewing specialty/what is your favorite thing to create?
I personally enjoy designing fantasy or sci-fi inspired costumes and theatrical attire. If I had to pick a genre that is my favorite, it would be fantasy. I like to create things that are inspired from many different things and different time periods, and marry them all together in interesting ways. I enjoy designing a wide range of styles, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be that. I also have created a series of 3′ tall soft-sculpture Jester dolls that are available for sale and also do ‘commissioned’ Jesters. I have a section on my website that has all that information.
Do you sell any of your creations? If so where can people shop your line?
The things I design are usually done for a client or production, and so those aren’t for sale. The dolls I mentioned before would be the only things I have designed that are ‘for sale’. They can be seen on my website, and I am looking into an Etsy store, but that isn’t up just yet.
Do you showcase your creations at any local shows? If so where?
Some of the earliest designs I did here in Las Vegas were the costumes for the original principle strolling opera singers at the Venetian Hotel and Casino. Some of them are still strolling out there. Currently I am in the middle of constructing a design that will be featured as one of the fifteen to walk the runway at this year’s Circus Couture charity event on June 26th at the Joint in the Hard Rock Casino. I have also just recently learned about and have been following the Community Couture Challenges. I am hoping to be able to participate and put some creations in future shows.
What designers/sewers inspire you? Why?
I can list a few that are my favorites. They are my favorites because they are a little ‘out there’, ‘over-the-top’ you could say -and I have a soft spot for projects that allow me to tap into that part of my design aesthetic. Eiko Ishioka, Colleen Atwood, Julie Taymor, Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner to name a few.
Do you read any sewing books/blogs/magazines? If so what are your favorites?
I occasionally read things in Thread (magazine), Soft Dolls (magazine) things like that. I have recently discovered this one on the icedjamb.com site and am happy to be included in it. I have stumbled upon a costume design blog here and there, but not one that I can say I check often enough to list here.
What would be your top 3 tips to those who are new to sewing?
1. Be patient.
2. Give yourself enough time for trial and error, as well as research and development when you are trying something for the first time.
3. Don’t design just what you know or what you are comfortable with – challenge yourself and think outside the box.
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