Once seen, never forgotten - that is a phrase that perfectly encapsulates the work of Diane Goldie and her company, c.Art. This is one highly talented, passionate woman entrepreneur who is creating unique, bespoke pieces of wearable art with stories woven into the very fabric, to appeal to the confident, unapologetic and strong women who inspire her.
LoA had a fascinating conversation with the inspirational Diana Goldie recently to talk art, clothes, Frida Kahlo and feminism - here is her wonderful story.
Tell us a little about your company and what it does.
My company is called c.Art and it is a wearable art business. I create one-off pieces of clothing that tell a story, in pictures and sometimes text, using bright colours and bold imagery, using mainly bold, bright Dutchwax fabric. The name of the company encapsulates my ethos - I aim to bring the small status craft (lowercase c) which is rooted in the domestic and female, and elevate it in importance and gravitas to the status of big Art, which has always been a bastion of the Patriarchy. In my printed label, the A of the Art part of the name is encircled, creating an anarchy symbol, subverting the high art and bringing it down to real street level. I’m a feminist, and my politics are suffused in my work. Women were not allowed in the life drawing studios of yesteryear, (only prostituted women were allowed to be the models). Women were sent home to sew and embroider, as that was seen fit for ladies. I’m now sewing and embroidering but elevating it to art - keeping it on the street level.
"Necessity inspired me to set up my own business. I simply couldn’t find a suitable job that would allow me to be a mum and to be able to see my children."
What first inspired you to become an entrepreneur and to start your business venture - tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
Necessity inspired me to set up my own business. I simply couldn’t find a suitable job that would allow me to be a mum and to be able to see my children. My first business was that of a puppeteer/children’s entertainer. I became quite successful at it, so much so that I still get the odd begging email from former clients wanting me to return. 25 years was enough time to dedicate to that. It was when I met the outsider artist and Fabulous Fashionista, Sue Kreitzman, and she asked me to perform some puppets for one of her 70th birthdays, that my life completely changed. She asked me to paint a Caravaggio’s Medusa on an old black raincoat for her (I had previously sold her a shopping bag with that image on it through social media) and my life completely changed thereafter. I gave up a successful business and leapt into the unknown, making wearable art. I followed my heart. I have a habit of doing that.
Have you always been entrepreneurial and do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Have I always been entrepreneurial? I suppose in a way my creativity has led me into situations where I seem to do my own thing rather than working for other people. My family is very working class, I come from a family where everyone has a job and works for other people. I was the first to branch out and start my own business. I think I realised I was different after working in various jobs and finding that I was working out in my head that I had a very different idea of how to do things better. Even at art school I managed to make a ‘National Hat Day’ happen just because I declared it and raised quite a lot of money for local charity. Goodness me, I just remembered that I raised money for flowers for a teacher who was leaving my primary school by offering piggy back rides in the playground for 2 pence a go. I must have been all of 7 years old. So yes, I suppose I have always been entrepreneurial!
"I gave up a successful business and leapt into the unknown, making wearable art. I followed my heart. I have a habit of doing that."
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration for my work comes from various places. From strong women first and foremost, be they my friends and muses or women artists ( Sue Kreitzman, Marnie Scarlet, Frida Kahlo) to Old Masters and religious painting and iconography (I have a serious heaven and hell fixation, even though I’m not religious at all). Death inspires me constantly. This may sound morbid, but for me it isn’t. It’s a constant reminder to live life intensely, I suppose in the Mexican Day of the Dead spirit. Ever since I experienced sitting with my father’s body, I’ve been filled with a fervour to DO IT NOW. I often use the symbol of a butterfly on many of my garments to represent death, rebirth and metamorphosis. Nature inspires me constantly, flora and fauna, insects and the magical colours of the earth and heavens. Colour inspires me: the reason I use Dutch Wax printsin much of my work is because the bold and punchy use of colour and motif. The vibrancy of drag performance, the exaggerated use of colour and sparkle inspire me. More is more in my world. I don’t do subtle or elegant. Confident and unapologetic women inspire me, this is why my inspiration wall is full of large, loud women .
What makes your pieces so unique and what type of customer is attracted to your creations?
What makes my pieces so unique is that each one tells it’s own story. They are not always my story. If I’m working in collaboration with a client, (because the process of ordering from c.Art is a collaborative one) then the story is about the client. I ask the client first for their garment type, to work out the shape and style, take measurements (this can sometimes be tricky as we women are so conditioned to hate ourselves) then I ask colour preferences, favourite images, themes, dreams/ hopes /desires/ influences/ sheros / heros / personal folklore/ any text or mottos, personal politics. Basically I have a chat with the client. It’s no surprise that my clients end up as friends mostly. It is quite an intimate process, I get to know my clients well. I like this aspect of the job. There are too few instances that people get to speak about these sort of things in everyday modern life. Once all these details are gathered, we choose fabric together from my large stash (yes I am addicted to fabric) and I make a start. I create a visual story of the client, mapping their inner dreams and visions on to their clothes. I allow people to express themselves fully through their wearing of the art. I have no typical client, although I’d say that the more confident person tends to approach this style of dressing. I would like to see a few more men express themselves. It would be good to bring back the dandy.
"More is more in my world. I don’t do subtle or elegant. Confident and unapologetic women inspire me, this is why my inspiration wall is full of large, loud women."
Are you a solopreneur or do you work with a small team?
I am a one woman band. I am an obsessive. I work all the time. I’ve been known to be in my studio at my sewing machine stark naked because I hadn’t made time to get dressed. There is a painting that has been done inspired by my mentioning this once called the Naked Dressmaker! I am a fast worker, I’m a designer/ maker aka artist. I’m an outsider, I’m self taught so I didn’t know that’s not the way it’s usually done. I may have to change at some point...
The lines between art and design seem to merge in your work - particularly through incorporating iconic images of artists such as Frida Kahlo. Tell us a little more about that as a source of inspiration.
Frida Kahlo is a huge source of inspiration for me. As a feminist, for me she embodies the yin/yang of strength and vulnerability. Her image, where she emphasises her facial hair , embellishes her unibrow in her paintings, (sometimes turning it into a hummingbird) is a powerful rejection of the Western beauty standard. She challenges this again in her adoption of masculine clothing in some paintings (and in her real life she often cross-dressed) and the embracing of her Mexican traditional clothing. This way of dressing also served to hide her injuries and vulnerability, as well as giving her a very strong individual look. Her passion, her brutal honesty in the depiction of pain and real life suffering all speak to me and to many other women. It sounds a little affected to say that I sometimes feel that the spirit of Frida inhabits me when I work. But she influences me so much that that is the only way of explaining it. My own style of dressing is heavily influenced by Frida. I wear layers of skirts, it makes me feel safe and swishy. I can be stern but have flowers in my hair...
"I want to help bring about a change of how we dress ourselves. I would like to help inspire people to stop being slavish to the fashion industry and it’s constantly changing trends, designed to get us to throw good money after bad. I want to help inspire people to think about personal style and expressing themselves rather than feeling insecure and buying clothes to hide behind."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your business?
My future plans and aspirations? I want to help bring about a change of how we dress ourselves. I would like to help inspire people to stop being slavish to the fashion industry and it’s constantly changing trends, designed to get us to throw good money after bad. I want to help inspire people to think about personal style and expressing themselves rather than feeling insecure and buying clothes to hide behind. I’d like to change the system , Smash Patriarchy? That may be a bit grand, but I’d probably settle for bringing a bit more colour and confidence to the general public through my wearable art. Oh and I’d rather like to make something for Bjork one day.
What gives you the most satisfaction as an entrepreneur?
What gives me the most satisfaction as an entrepreneur? It has to be the moment of handover when the client comes to pick up their finished piece. They put on the garment and all I can say is they glow. What more could I wish for than that? Clients tell me it’s not so much how they look in the wearable art, (even though they always look fantastic) , it’s how wearing the garments make them feel. To be enveloped by your passions, heros, sheros and inspirations is a very empowering thing.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women entrepreneurs?
The biggest piece of advice I’d give to other women entrepreneurs would be to find your passion. There will come a time when you’ll need that passion to drive you through. If you start a business you’re not completely passionate about, the temptation to throw in the towel is all too easy when the going gets tough. The going will get tough, but the passion will steer you through.
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Why LoA loves it….
In a world which can often seem gloomy, where we spend too much time focusing on everything that is wrong or challenging, rather than the things that are positive, the work and approach to life by entrepreneur and artist, Diane Goldie, is a breath of fresh creative air. She has a real life-force and a passion for what she does in the field of creating astonishgly beautiful wearable art, and it shows in every piece she produces. She manages to achieve the butterfly effect for her clients, transforming the women she dresses in these unique and highly personal wearable art pieces, into the personification of the dreams they hold. Simply inspirational! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa