Grace DuVal was the 2017 Supreme WOW Award Runner-up with her garment Refuse Refuge (pictured below, left), made exclusively from bicycle inner tubes rescued from bike shop trash around her city of Chicago. The following year she entered the Awards again and created another award-winning garment using the same unusual materials. Mind the Synaptic Gap (pictured below, right) was created using over 350 recycled bicycle tubes that were cut by hand into long, narrow strips of fringe, and in 2018 was awarded the Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award.
Mind the Synaptic Gap is a joy monster, a personification of depression who, like the Serotonin that dictates our moods, is both fickle and enticing. This creature has a multi-faceted head inspired by the microscopic, crystalline structures of Serotonin. Iridescent vinyl covers carved, sharp facets, with dangling threads reaching out into the void. The wriggling body mimics the winding structures of dendrites, the pathways along which neural synapses travel in the brain. Both ridiculous and intimidating, the synaptic monster unpredictably swaps between happiness and sadness without warning.
Grace first heard about World of WearableArt in 2009. She was a student at university and had just realised that wearable art was the direction in which she wanted to turn her own practice, after feeling uncomfortably pulled between “normal” fashion and traditional art practice.
With WOW, she felt she could combine both, and when she attended a WOW Awards Show, she was stunned by what she had found. “The quality was just beyond anything else I’ve ever seen. We don’t have anything comparable in the US; everything feels lackluster compared to WOW. I felt like I was home.”
WOW designers all speak the same language even though we’re from all over the world.
She also found a family in the designer community, which has a vibrant connection online. Designers often share their work and ideas, receiving useful critiques. “Being an artist is difficult and we all understand that. We’re all trying to make each other better.”
Getting to know Grace DuVal:
What is your day job?
I work as a Costume + Fashion Designer and Photographer. Every day is a different adventure in my studio!
How long did it take to create Refuse Refuge (2017 Supreme WOW Award Runner-up)?
It took about five years from conception to completion! I first conceived of Refuse Refuge in 2012 while I was sitting on a tram in Antwerp, Belgium, where I was living at the time. I always knew I was building it for WOW, I just didn’t have the resources (or probably skills) to execute it properly when I first thought of it. I built it in a ton of different sections over the years, and it slowly evolved from a basic dress into the mammoth creature you see now!
Who (or what) is your biggest creative inspiration?
Materiality is really what drives me. I truly love nothing more than taking everyday objects and transforming them into garments that are beyond our imagination. I love making people do double-takes when they suddenly realize what the garment is actually made of. I also think it’s really important to reuse our waste instead of simply throwing it away. Every small action adds up, and if I can make something incredible while simultaneously keeping a few things from ending up in the landfill, then I call that a success.
What is your most favourite creative tool? Or your favourite design technique?
My sewing machine! First and foremost, I’m a seamstress by trade, and my industrial sewing machine has gotten me through everything. For Refuse Refuge I started working with an industrial walking foot, which changed my life. Sewing bike tubes is very difficult since they stretch and wiggle, and the walking foot made it seem like the easiest thing in the world to sew.
What is your top tip for entering WOW?
Don’t stop. Keep trying, keep doing, keep making. Fail a lot. If you want to enter WOW, DO IT! You might get in, you might not. Either way, make more and do it again. Being an artist is difficult. There’s nothing simple about it, from the amount of effort it takes to make something, to figuring out how to pay your rent and eat while making cool things, to trying to explain what the hell it is that you actually “do” to your friends, family, boss. It’s all very tough, and the worst thing you can do is stop or give up. Tenacity pays off.