Categories: Arts & Culture

Workshop dresses up history

Colorado artist Susan Wechsler travelled to St. Albert over the weekend to give a workshop on mosaic dress making. The dress molds are her own patent creation, made out of the same plastic as a car dashboard. She uses a special putty to cement beads and additions into place.

Local artists sat around the long table, leaning over their masterpieces in deep concentration. Pearls, lace and heirlooms were scattered across the table as artists expertly pushed each piece into its perfect place.

Susan Wechsler, mosaic dress instructor, travelled from Colorado to teach the workshop.

“My goal is to empower people with their own creative voice,” she says. “Art is about choices and they get to make the decision on what they want the dress to look like, I’m just there to guide them.”

Darlene Madden, who hosts workshops in her basement studio, says she wanted to bring the international artist to St. Albert after hearing a local artist boast about her work.

“One of my students was just in love with her, so I emailed Susan and asked,” Madden says. “I admired her work online and wanted to bring her in.”

The mini dress substrates are almost a foot long and are crafted out of the same plastic that a car dashboard is made from. Special putty acts as a cement to hold beads, glass and other materials in place.

Wechsler is the mind behind the mould. She patented the product and started teaching the workshops 10 years ago.

“When I first started doing this I brought all my own materials, but then all the dresses started looking like me,” she says. “Everybody has their own taste and their own personality and their own collection, so I get them to gather and bring their own treasures.”

The artist has a bachelor in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a masters of fine arts in Theater Design from New York University.

Prior to teaching the workshops she worked in New York theatre and on movies in Los Angeles as a costume designer.

She says she switched her focus towards her family and decided to try out mosaics. Selling some of her fine art at art shows for more than $20,000, Wechsler decided she wanted to make a career out of it.

“Having my studio at home, I get to spend time with my family. With the workshops, I love to travel and this is an authentic way to see the world,” she says.

Everywhere she goes, she has one request: to stay at the host’s home for the duration of the workshop.

Andrea Hurley says she jumped at the opportunity to learn from Wechsler. She says she sent a message to Wechsler to see if she wanted to come to Canada.

Little did she know, Madden had already sent a request and the workshop was in the making.

Her dress was Celtic-themed, based on her heritage. Other artists, like Madden, decided to decorate their dresses out of antique family heirlooms.

“It was a lot of fun, and Susan’s input into them was really helpful. I loved getting together with other mosaic artists and everything people were creating was so different and unique.”

Even though Wechsler has made her way back home to the states, people still have an opportunity to take the class. Moulds and workshops can be purchased on her website.

The smaller dresses typically take two days, but the larger 20-inch dresses take up to four days.

For more information visit her website at https://www.mosaicsbysusan.com/

Dayla Lahring: Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.