Project Larkway winner Joleen Button

larkway winners 2.JPG

Joleen Button (in the white dress) designed the winning collection for Project Larkway.

You get the feeling Joleen Button doesn't watch much TV.

A few weeks ago at Art on Lark, Button's collection of retro inspired summer dresses (plus one vintage style red bikini) won her the Project Larkway competition. But she's still playing with the collection, trying to make the dresses look a little better.

When she's not altering clothes to create new outfits, she's painting, doing graphic design, even making music. Constantly creating.

Button sat still just long enough to talk to AOA about the arts scene in the Capital Region, her passion for all things vintage and her great love affair with art (small "a") .

Are you more of an artist or a designer?

This is only the second fashion show I've participated in. As a designer I've done "Trashion" this past April. I made a strapless balloon style party dress-- a little black dress -- but it was made out of contractor garbage bags. Afterward some of the women were like "oh my gosh is that plastic? What is that made out of?" Which was my point. They looked beyond the materials and saw this competed piece-- the dress.

Joleen trashion dress.jpg

I developed a passion for fashion when I was in college. I went to Sage and won a scholarship to study at Parsons in Paris in 2003. Parsons is fine art and fashion so I worked at fashion shows and ready to wear collections as a dresser and I also visited them because classes would get backstage access.

I would describe myself as an artist because I think an artist is someone who creates with whatever they're given. I go through phases. I'll paint for a while and then I'll move into fashion -- sometimes even music. It's hard to describe but I've just always got this burning desire to create things. It's like a flutter. It's like falling in love --like having a love affair. I'm so in love with whatever means of creation I'm using at the time. But it's OK to have a love affair with art because I'm married.

Joleen with cat 2.JPG

Your fashion has a retro look about it. What is it about retro that you like so much?

I love dresses and jewelery and architecture from the early 1900s to the '60s or early 70s. I love tapping into what was once and experiencing it again. I love art deco. Famous designers came up with a style, people loved it, people lived it and now I'm tapping into what was once and experiencing again. I teach art at Mildred Elley and that's one of the things I try and instill in my students. Everything's been done before, sure, but it's never been done by you. And when you do it's completely different.

Joleen's orange dress.JPG

Is that why you work on a vintage sewing machine?

I'd rather work on that than a new machine . My neighbors left it on the curb when I was a kid and I asked if I could take it. I brought it to a sewing center and had it restored. I've had it for 15 years -- which is a small part of its life, but I do all of my work on it.

Joleen's Sewing Machine.JPG

It's different when you work on a machine like that. You become a part of he whole process --from the smell of it, the vibrations of it the sound of it --the whole experience is different. And there's always a sense of the people that used it before me. You have a moment when you're creating on it that you're with yourself and you think about those people. Sometimes I think this machine is so lucky-- its gotten so much love.

Is there a "fashion scene" here in Albany? It seems like we're seeing more and more shows like "Trashion" and Project Larkway. What do you think is behind all that?

It seems like it all expanded at once. The people who organize Trashion and Discard Avant Garb put everything into it. They have a love, a drive, a desire to keep things moving and keep things happening.

Also I think to some degree the reality shows like Project Runway have inspired people to say "I can do it too. Why not?" Why does it have to be just Paris, London,Milan, Rome? There's different levels and to get to the top you have to start at the bottom, so why not just enjoy the journey and create? Maybe you'll never get there, maybe you will. It doesn't really matter, but just doing what you love and having the venues to do it is fantastic.

The whole arts culture of Albany is growing . I've seen that over the years. Right now you have all these highly motivated people who may not be artists themselves but appreciate the arts and they give what they have to offer -- which may not always be the arts themselves but the business end or the ability to make things happen. And it creates an environment for the artists to share their stuff and adds to the culture of the Capital Region.

That's why I do a lot of pro-bono work for UAG because I want to enhance the culture of the reason. I'm doing all I can and others are doing all they can so we can have this environment. That's why we have these wonderful shows. I think we have a wonderful culture here in the Capital Region.

What inspires you?

Everything -- the fruit I'm eating, the way a tree falls. Just driving the highway in the Capital Region can be inspirational-- the landscapes, passing trees and the small farms, beautiful architecture. I love architecture. Going to Art Night, Troy Night out and First Fridays inspires me --just being with and talking to other artists other people who understand that buring pasion to create .
Joleen fruit painting.jpg

Joleen dinner guests painting.jpg

What do you think the capital region missing?

That's easy --interest. It needs interest. The entertainers are interested --the artists, the performers. But there are so many people working in the city and living in the suburbs and for entertainment they watch tv at home. And the whole point of having all of this culture in Albany-- these fashion shows and art shows and music shows -- is to bring the people out of their homes and into the community to be entertained.

We want to entertain you . It's not a performance you can tape on DVR and watch it over and over again-- it's a one time experience -- we want to share with you what that is like and we want you to be a part of this experience. We want you to enjoy yourself.


...but the real question is: who is the woman in the red bikini, and does she date law students?

@cato: see previous AOA story; Sarah von Ouhl, and yes. And by yes I mean no. And by no I mean what?

Kudos for the second to last paragraph "... but there are so many people working in the city and living in the suburbs and for entertainment they watch tv at home. And the whole point of having all of this culture in Albany-- these fashion shows and art shows and music shows -- is to bring the people out of their homes and into the community to be entertained...."

Well said!!!


You're welcome

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