Waltzing with wire

Gown of glass, wire and twine | Saskatchewan glass jewelry designer 
awarded best in show and $1,000 at Wearable Art Gala

Is a dress made out of chicken wire scratchy?


Artist Jolene Dusyk said the answer is no, as long as it’s lined with window screen.


“Window screen turns out to be really soft if you roll the edges,” she said of her wearable art dress.


The chicken wire creation flew out of Dusyk’s imagination while she was reading a Saskatchewan Craft Council bulletin calling for entries to the province’s first Wearable Art Gala. The longtime Saskatchewan glass jewelry designer saw the Saskatoon fundraising gala as an opportunity to spread her wings.


“I happened to be driving by the Co-op Agro Centre and I thought, ‘I’ll give myself a $100 budget and I’ll see what I can come up with using only things that I can buy at the Co-op,’ ” she said.


The Montmartre artist began experimenting with chicken wire. She twisted it, sewed it and painted it white, eventually coming up with a dress shape she liked. With the addition of ruched and pleated window screen as a lining, the dress took shape.


“At one point, I was concerned that it was beginning to look like a kindergarten craft project, but once I started adding the glass, I started to see the real potential,” said Dusyk.


The glass included 195 individual pieces handmade by Dusyk. She uses a flame to heat coloured glass rods and turn them into flowers, leaves and nests. With about $2,000 worth of glass embellishments, half of which glowed in the dark, Dusyk gained confidence that her creation was worthy of the contest.


The piece de resistance was an old piece of baler twine that Dusyk got from an area farmer.


“It was greasy and smelly and dirty and awesome,” she said. 


It resulted in a strapless ball gown called Mabel’s Equity that went from the Co-op rack to the runway at Sask-atoon’s Mercedes Benz dealership, a best in show title and a $1,000 grand prize. 


The dress was added to a recent exhibition at the Saskatchewan Craft Council’s Affinity Gallery in Sask-atoon.


Exhibition curator Les Potter called it an astounding piece.


“Because of the use of materials, found materials, that you wouldn’t associate at all with apparel. I mean, chicken wire?” he said.


With one win under her chicken-wire belt, Dusyk is now working on a whole line of wearable art that will be made from Montmartre Co-op Agro Centre goods. 


She has a glue-gun sheath dress in the works and a PVC tube dress coming down the pipe.


“I’m trying to inspire creativity from everything and anything. You don’t have to limit yourself to what you think can be used as art and fashion,” she said.