KID ART: art with kids

KID ART: inspiration from art

Hi KCW sewers and blog readers. Shelley (aka Lightning McStitch) from Bartacks and Singletrack here to talk a bit about art as inspiration for making kid’s clothes. This is exciting for me as there’s nothing I like better than taking an idea, possibly unrecognisable to anyone else, and then getting completely carried away with it.

Often you’ll see art on clothing and the clothes themselves may be more familiar than the original artwork. A Magritte T-Shirt for example (René Magritte 1898-1967) or a Mondrian shift dress (Piet Mondrian 1872-1944). These examples may be familiar to us grown ups, but not at all to our kids. So how do we define the theme KID ART? (did you notice we haven’t?!). I think our kids can be very astute viewers of art in all it’s forms and their reaction to a piece of art is usually immediate and brutally honest. Kind of like how they can react to something we have lovingly sewn for them to wear, right?!

I want to show you how your local gallery can be a source of inspiration for your sewing, as well as a fun outing, so I collared a couple of kids (my own as it happens!) and we set off for the state gallery (NGV link) NB: All images from the gallery were taken myself and links reference the gallery or the artist directly. Other links for images or general information go to Google, Wikipedia or other external websites and blogs

You started it... I finish it 2013

 Paola PIVI
You started it… I finish it

These larger than life bears filled the foyer and instantly my daughter was in love. Brightly coloured, oversized, feather bears, what’s not to like? Feathers will never go out of style if you ask a little girl! (Or a big girl for that matter, I’ll take that Oscar de la Renta dress please)

feather composite

 1: Miss Selfridge 2: Oscar de la Renta 3:

 I was fascinated by what the kids found interesting and why. Visiting the gallery with small children gives you the licence to not try and “understand” the art but just allow yourself to react to it.

Bul LEE untitled 2003


 The scale and space-bug-ness of this room-filling sculpture had my son enchanted. For me, my fingers were itching to make a sketch in order to cut a freezer paper stencil. Perhaps silvery white paint on a plain black T-Shirt. A bit more esoteric than a Star Wars stencil but every bit as cool, no?

Alternately, the art inspiration can be in the fabric itself.  This fabric, covering a whole wall of the gallery, is typical of the 1960s style and has been reimagined many times over.

Vernor PANTON Geometry I 1960

Geometry I

I couldn’t help snapping a picture of my daughter who happened to be wearing that very “mod” dress silhouette, the School Photo dress by Oliver + S.

What if your little girl is more into the princess style?

Issey MIYAKE Bustier 1980-1981


Honestly, when my daughter saw this she loudly requested that I make her one! Then my son pointed out how the shadows look like angel wings and suddenly all three of us were imagining a fairy angel costume that involved wings and a red, patent leather bustier with peplum. An Issey Miyake knock-off is just the kind of princess dress up sewing I could get excited about.

Olarfur ELIASSON Limbo Lamp 2005

Limbo Lamp

A less literal idea came from this wonderful light sculpture. As the kids chased and played in the moving light from the central spinning reflective disc, I was reminded of Shisha (mirror) embroidery. That’s a technique I’ve wanted to learn and play with for a while now and I think it would make a lovely detail on a skirt hem, or even within a quilt. (Shisha tutorial link)

But when techniques fail and it seems the sewing gods are conspiring against you there’s still the chance to say you were inspired by art. The kids love this video installation:

Charlie SOFO 33 Objects that fit through the hole in my pocket 2013

Charlie SOFO
33 Objects that fit through the hole in my pocket

watch video here

…and all you need is a pair of beige, rolled up trousers with a hole in the pocket!

Robert MORRIS untitled c1970


This felt sculpture could inspire a boys T-shirt. Perhaps a reverse effect using Alabama Chanin technique cutaways. It also reminds me a bit of this t-shirt from Zoolander which inspired this remake by A Little Gray. Film Petit is a hilarious sewing series and a fantastic example of art (film) inspiring kid’s clothes.

Luke RUDOLPH Portrait no.24 2010

Portrait no. 24

A modern painting (a mix of geometric abstractionism and abstract expressionism if you like your art with definitions) can be great inspiration for fabric painting. I can imagine painting the background geometric shapes onto silk then letting the kids loose with a large brush. The fabric would then make a lovely shirt or shirt-dress. In fact, I’d want one myself I think.

Finally, another sculpture that had us all enthralled,

Kohei NAWA PixCell-Red Deer 2012

 Kohei NAWA
PixCell-Red Deer

…and another idea that I really want to run with. Could I sew tiny clear and amber glass beads onto a black knit sweater to make a mini PixCell red deer pullover for my daughter? I’m really thinking I might just do it, I’ve gone as far as tracking down the beads I would use…

I did mention I was prone to getting carried away with ideas, didn’t I? I hope I’ve inspired you to take a trip to your local gallery, look at the art, perhaps try to understand it, but don’t be ashamed if all you can think is “how could I recreate that?” or “what pattern would I use to achieve something like that?”.

You’re not alone.

Just try not to think out loud.

XX Shelley

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  • Reply Renee //nearestthepin June 26, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Wow, I love the track you’ve taken with this post. A lot of food for thought. I’m now ashamed to say that I haven’t thought of taking my kids to the NGV – assuming its not super kids friendly, but I can see that I was wrong. Thanks for the inspiration Shelley!

    • Reply Lightning McStitch June 26, 2014 at 7:18 am

      Thanks Renee. We love the NGV, apart from the obvious escape the heat, rain etc it’s great for kids. Until they go nuts, then there’s the sculpture garden!
      This really is how I get my sewing ideas so this season’s theme was perfect for me!

  • Reply Brienne June 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Shelley, way cool post! How unexpected! I think that I’m definitely going to have to incorporate some feathers this summer…

    • Reply Lightning McStitch June 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks Brienne. I imagine they’ll be tricky to sew but kids would flip (and flap!) for them.

  • Reply marisa June 27, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Thanks for the inspiration Shelley – think I might need to get down and see those feathery bears…

    • Reply Lightning McStitch June 28, 2014 at 2:46 am

      Thanks Marisa. You should, they are lovely! (I’ve flushed out the Melbourne audience with this post!)

  • Reply Kristi June 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

    So many great ideas to work with. I love the bust with the shadow wings, 

    • Reply Lightning McStitch June 28, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Me too Kristi. It seems a happy accident of lighting at this gallery as I’ve seen other images of the Issey Miyake bustier and it never seems to have angel wings!

  • Reply Wagyu Burger June 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Oodles of of inspiration here! I think lots of art are suitable for little ones, not just the big people, and you have shown some great examples here. Also helpful as I am trying to decide whether to take bubba to Melbourne next year and I know she will love those bears 🙂 

  • Reply Fiona June 30, 2014 at 2:13 am

    What great ideas! You’ve inspired me to take a trip to our local art gallery with the kids to get our own inspiration. I look forward to seeing what you create this kcw!

  • Reply Sarah R July 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    This is such a cool way to interpret the theme! I hadn’t thought of this angle, and it totally opens up so many amazing options!  Thanks for the inspiration! 

  • Reply Deb Cameron July 18, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Fabulous post! Most inspiring, thank you for sharing.  I didn’t even notice the wing shadows on the bustier, it was such an aha moment for me when I read what your little boy said and went back to study the photo, I love seeing the world through their eyes 🙂

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