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Wearable Art 9 showcases fashion made from mops, balloons and metal

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Published:   |   Updated: August 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Julian Hartzog began his professional career as an electrical engineer. But his calling took a more creative turn.

Hartzog has spent the past four months molding yards of aluminum, by hand, into several dresses he will debut at Saturday's “Wearable Art 9” fashion show.

“I've never done anything like this before,” said the 76-year-old Tarpon Springs resident. “I built my own house, my own furniture, but I never imagined I would be doing this.”

That's what sets the Dunedin Fine Art Center's wearable art show apart from other fashion shows, said Ken Hannon, associate executive director of the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

You won't find any of these creations at your local department store. The fashion show gives designers, such as Hartzog, the chance to push the envelope with unique, one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories made from materials typically not considered fashionable.

Past years have included frocks made of food, flowers, balloons, live grass, twigs, even raw meat and condoms.

“These artists really stretch traditional media in ways they don't normally,” said Hannon. “The (fashion show) is an opportunity for them to try anything and everything, and bring new ideas to our runway. And they really step up and bring it every year.”

After eight years of sold-out shows, the “Wearable Art 9” will be held Saturday at the center.

The show has become the center's second most popular fundraiser — behind its Garden Party.

Hartzog is one of 10 designers selected to participate in this year's event with each exhibiting five to six designs made of any material they can dream up.

“We look for edgy, fun, not everyday items,” said Dawn M. Scott, assistant events coordinator. “Creativeness is definitely at the top of the list.”

Hartzog said he always had a love of art and design.

For 14 years he worked as an engineer, then in commercial investment. In the early 1990s, he studied architecture so he could design and build his own home. He also studied sketching and portrait painting.

He's wanted to participate for years in the Wearable Art Show, but couldn't decide what to create. This year, he settled on a spiral ribbon and began sketching. He first made a ribbon out of cardboard and then ordered several sheets of aluminum.

He found a model, and began painstakingly molding the aluminum into different styles of dress, using only nuts and bolts to hold them together. Each dress is custom-made for the model who wears it.

“You have to use your hands to shape (the aluminum),” adds Hartzog, who also is a pilot. “The problem is my hands are giving me some problems. I didn't know how difficult it was going to be. We almost had to break (the models) arm to get her into the dress. But darn if it didn't look good.”

Lina Teixeira's designs are much more flexible.

Her wedding collection, “Something Borrowed,” is constructed of refurbished clothing and items such as mops, paper doilies, cotton balls, medical gauze, surgical gloves and SOS pads.

“I went to the show last year and was so in awe. I had to be in it this year,” said Teixeira, who owns a clinical research company with her husband. “I was so inspired by the artists and their creations.”

Teixeira took six weeks to create her line.

One dress she constructed using nine dismantled mops; another is fabricated from 3,000 surgical gloves. One outfit is made entirely of doilies.

“It's really hard for the model to walk in that dress,” added Teixeira, whose pieces were featured last year at the Museum of Fine Arts In St. Petersburg. “These are art pieces; they're not made to walk in, so it's a constant work in progress. I make sure to have extra doilies on hand when she takes it off.”

For the 43 year old mother of two, being a part of this year's fashion show is a dream come true.

“This is what I love,” said the Dunedin resident who is participating for the first time. “My parents used to tell me (fashion design) is only a hobby, not something you do as a career. But being part of this fashion show makes it very real for me. It made me realize fashion could be entertaining and valued. And it's a wonderful ego booster.”

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