Selkie’s New Clothes 2018

Selkie's new clothes costume design


These were two separate projects with the same theme. In September 2018 the Selkie’s New Clothes costumes were on display as a public window installation during Orkney Science Festival, comprising male and female selkies.  The third Selkie costume was created during the pandemic in 2020 and was featured in a filmed performance piece premiered on YouTube for Orkney Science Festival.

The story of shapeshifting, of the skin which enables the transition between the human and natural worlds, crossing the uncertain boundary zone of the shore, is one of transformation.

In order to shapeshift they had to cast off their sealskins. Within these magical skins lay the transformative power to return to seal form, and thus to the sea.

And there is a similar transformative power in the process of creating selkie costumes  by animating pre-loved and discarded textiles from a two-dimensional flat surface into a three-dimensional object.

3D Shibori is a technique for adding texture and shaping textiles by exploiting the thermoplastic qualities of some synthetic fabrics in order to manipulate surfaces. Items are wrapped in plastic, secured with thread and then set with heat, and the process thereby leaves a “memory on cloth” – a permanent record, whether of patterning or texture, of the particular forms of resistance to the change. For fixing the pattern and to create pieces that appear organic, dyeing techniques were used to animate fabric into intricate and delicate shades of grey.

Manipulating the surfaces with 3D Shibori technique is a labour of love, a fascination with the idea that cloth holds the memory of action performed on it, a vehicle for imagination and creativity.