Categories: Arts & Culture

Dresses hot off the presses

Big news happened at St. Albert Catholic High School just before the Christmas break. Some of it was frilly, some was a bit frumpy, but all was very stylish.

Art teacher Teresa Wallsten’s Art 20 class had their latest creations – dresses made out of newspaper and duct tape – on display in the school’s common room. The materials seemed to have been literally ripped right out of the headlines and made for a lesson that crossed over into other subjects.

“That’s part of the curriculum, creating something that’s three-dimensional and using mixed media is really important,” Wallsten said. “Sometimes it’s so easy to grab a pencil or some paint and draw on a piece of paper.”

“I think it’s good to think outside the box when it comes to art. For (students), they have to see what’s going on in the world. They have to open their eyes.”

The assignment required the students to use newspaper and whatever binding agent they wanted, like glue, paint or string. Some students, intent on staying close to actual dressmaking, sewed their creations. One even put Velcro on the back to fasten the two sides together, even though none of the dresses are wearable.

“My main keys were form and function, making sure that they were esthetically pleasing and appealing to the crowd,” Wallsten said.

She said it was a wonder to watch the students working on their dresses, saying that the classroom was “buzzing.” Some dresses came in full length with Basque waists while most of the others are short and cute, A-line dresses with large flowers attached on the bodices. The flowers, naturally, were made of newspaper also.

“They’re very delicate,” Wallsten said.

Students Nathalie Hajek and Anna Smith worked together to create one short number with lace on top and a kind of seascape of ocean blue and surf spray decorating the bottom.

They loved the project.

“We basically incorporated both of our ideas on a piece of paper and then just threw things onto drawings and then we tested it by playing around with the paper to see what looked right,” Hajek explained.

Breanne Dagenais, on the other hand, worked solo on a ball gown fit for a princess.

She also let it unfold section by section.

“I didn’t really plan it that much,” she said. “I just went with it.”

She said she loves designing things and was pleased with the results, as was Wallsten, who also appreciated how much her students developed their problem-solving abilities, working in groups and taking risks.

“They created what they see in their minds,” Wallsten said. “They got out of their comfort zone and created these massive pieces. I heard some of the students say, ‘I cannot believe we did this!’ This was out of nothing, just bags of newspaper.”

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.