At The Barracks studio complex, a heritage building beside the train tracks in Bomaderry, Maiki-Jane Blakeney and Katie Coogan-Mason create exquisite works of wearable art.
Katie and Maiki launched their label Kittybonbiddy in August 2010. After much discussion, the quirky name emerged from their nicknames as well as a popular clapping game from childhood. They recently won the Sustainability Award at the Red Point Gallery Wearable Art Showcase in the Wollongong area with their creation of a costume inspired by Yemanja, the Brazilian ocean goddess – a ‘character’ rather than an ‘outfit’. Arising from their affection for goddesses, the sisters worked together to come up with a story of how Yemanja would look and how to create her. She features the colours of the ocean trimmed with starfish, coral, seaweed, shells and flowers all handcrafted using many creative processes, including beautiful fine beading, hand-dyed felting, lace, sequins, braid, ribbons and tulle.
Interestingly, this innovate pair has brought back the bustle as part of their ‘Noveau Vintage’ approach to physical adornment, giving costume elements of yesteryear a contemporary edge and wearability. Other bustles in the range include Bustle Divine and the Boo Yeah Bustle, and then there’s the elegant outfit inspired by traditional Japanese geisha costumes.
As well as their specialised outfits, Katie and Maiki design and manufacture a clothing range that’s a cut above the average, with names like Amelie or Kitty Haha skirts, Dita von Beach chemise and the Biddy Haha lap-lap. Of special note are the jaunty Flygirl plumed hats, crafted from handmade felt “perfect for strutting at the races”. Clothing comes in goddess sizes, “We want to adorn women of different ages, sizes, shapes and walks of life. We see beauty in all forms and that should be appreciated and celebrated,” said Maiki. Other original and imaginative items are talisman belts that feature decorations and symbols including iconic images of muses Frida Kahlo, Our Lady of Guadalupe and others.
At their studio is an array of beautifully crafted items of jewellery from rings to earrings, bracelets to neck pendants, rosaries, necklaces and handmade felt flower rings. Kate began creating the beaded adornments for herself and soon people were wanting her pieces to wear. “Everything we make has a deeper meaning,” said Katie. “Right down to the clasp.” Self-confessed bowerbirds, they source their beads and Mexican milegros (miracle) charms from all over – antique and second-hand stores, bead shops, markets and other people who wish to pass on something for upcycling.
Katie and Maiki radiate an atmosphere of mutual appreciation and encouragement, openly and unabashedly admiring and supporting each other. To offer others the opportunity to create art in such a supportive environment, Kittybonbiddy presents self enrichment workshops at The Barracks on the fourth Saturday of each month.
For further information, visit www.kittybonbiddy.com