alternative wedding

A Wedding Cake: Inspired By Pure Geometry

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With our wedding fast approaching and a list the size of my arm of jobs to be done, I decided to add to the chaos by embarking on a creative project for decorating our wedding cake.  

 

I’m pretty particular as far as weddings go, and didn’t want anything white and frilly in sight.  The wedding was to be more of a loft-style party, loosely themed around an eclectic New York 70s disco scene. So there would be disco balls, ethnic throws, foil curtains, a jazzy band, African masks, tropical palms and lots of rich fauna.  Random I know, but I had a vision and rolled with it!

 

I knew that there would have been no way of finding a wedding cake to fit into this strange theme, so my options were to either spend loads of money commissioning someone to make one, or to get stuck in and make it myself.  Being on a bit of a budget, I chose the later, and grafted in the help of my talented older sister, Suzanne Clark, who has lots of experience in cake making.  

 
Simple geometry in a minimal composition

Simple geometry in a minimal composition

 

 

Keen to produce something creative with artistic value, I begin to take inspiration from some of my favourite artists, one in particular being the Russian suprematist Malevich.  Malevich’s work explores pure geometric forms and their relationship to one another, usually set against minimal backgrounds.  The affect is simplistic geometric composition at its finest, and without the connection to objectivity as many artists before him had theorised.  It was about geometry for its own sake, based on the feeling of constructing and combining the shapes, and no longer about shapes abstracting from objects.  I was excited that this could be a direction for the cake... 3D geometric shapes on a simple white background, and the focus would be on how the shapes were put together.

Arty geometric sugar glass wedding cake, by Studio Mali

 

I had heard about sugar art beforehand, a process used to make a glass-like material for cake decorating.  I did a bit of research online and figured out how to make the stuff from some very simple ingredients; water, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, food colouring, and America’s favourite… corn syrup.  You just have to heat these ingredients up to a certain temperature and stir very slowly for a few hours.  How hard could it be?!  Actually the process is really easy, but it takes a hell of a long time.  I spent evening upon evening making these sugary pieces, in different shapes using silicon moulds, and then freezing them to prolong their lifeline.  If you leave them out at room temperature then they get really sticky.

 

Each piece of sugar glass has its own identity.  Some pieces have little air bubbles that have tried to escape from the surface, and others have a wonderful transparency when held to the light.  The colours have a richness to them, a fiery quality in fact, that contrasts beautifully on a white background.  Sometimes the pieces even look like little universes in your hand (not that I’ve spent hours admiring them or anything!).  They are beautiful works of art and have a natural quality to them, similar to that of rock.

 
The tiny universe in a piece of amber sugar glass.

The tiny universe in a piece of amber sugar glass.

 

 

A few weeks later my freezer was filled with 3D geometric sugar glass shapes, ready to be arranged on the cake.  It wasn’t going to be one of those cakes that you could decorate days before because the sugar glass would have melted and gone sticky.  My only hope was to arrange them the night before and hope that they lasted until the next day.  

 

My sister worked for days on making the actual cake, which was big enough to feed 120 people.  After 32 eggs, icing rolled out to the size of a dining room table, and some very sore hands, the cake was delivered in its full glory to the venue the night before.  It was seriously heavy too, it was a bit like a wooden plinth ready for its artwork.  

Those 3D sugar shapes arranged on the plinth, well cake plinth

Those 3D sugar shapes arranged on the plinth, well cake plinth

 

It was time to start composing the form.  For the next hour I was in the zone, carefully picking up pieces of the frozen sugar glass and assembling them onto the cake.  It was important to get the right positioning first time round, otherwise the sugar glass would have marked the delicate white icing.  It was a very therapeutic process, choosing from the little 3D shapes and building up an organic composition.  I was careful not to overcrowd the cake, frequently stepping back to ensure that the white space was being used for optimum effect.  Finally, I get to a point where enough is enough.  Less is more, so I stop right there.

 

This is the final masterpiece…. weeks of hard work from both myself and my very talented and patient sister.  Let us know what you think of our geometric wedding cake!

Arty geometric sugar glass wedding cake, by Studio Mali
 
Arty geometric sugar glass wedding cake, by Studio Mali
 
Arty geometric sugar glass wedding cake, by Studio Mali
The big moment!  The cake gets cut and there's a fun surprise inside.....

The big moment!  The cake gets cut and there's a fun surprise inside.....

Rainbow cake!!! Oh boy.  It makes me feel about 6 years old again.

Rainbow cake!!! Oh boy.  It makes me feel about 6 years old again.

I hope that our arty wedding cake inspires you to get creative and make something, and if it's not something you can do by yourself then why not ask a friend to help.  If anything else, it's the perfect opportunity to spend some time with someone you care about, and you produce something unique in the process!

A huge thank you to my wonderful sister Suzanne for making it all possible, I couldn't have done it without you!

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A Wedding Cake- Inspired by Pure Geometry, by Studio Mali
 

 

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Design: A Bespoke Wedding Dress With A Unique Story

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It’s July 2016, and Mark and I are gearing up for one of the biggest moments in our lives…. a marriage celebrating 10 years of being together.  No better reason for a big old chins up with friends and family. 

 

The wedding is set for only 4 months away, and me being me (and a fashion designer by trade), I decide to take on the slightly scary project of making my own wedding dress with the help of a best friend and talented designer, Fiona Ginnett.  Fiona began her career in the fashion industry, working relentlessly for several years as Holly Fulton’s right-hand man before embarking on her own creative venture with husband and now business partner Tom Ginnett.  Together they set up Witlof, a bespoke kitchen company specialising in contemporary design-led kitchens (you should check out their website because it’s amazing!), and more recently Holte.  I managed to borrow Fiona’s creative talents over the next few months, and together we worked hard to produce a wedding dress that I fell in love with.

 

The beginnings of the print.... inspired by a camping trip Mark and I went on and ended up dancing on a golf course at 4 in the morning!

The beginnings of the print.... inspired by a camping trip Mark and I went on and ended up dancing on a golf course at 4 in the morning!

 

Wearing a white wedding dress was never an option for me, I don’t wear white on a day to day basis so why wear it on one of the most important days of my life?  I felt as though a wedding dress should reflect someones personality, be an extension of them in a sense, and so surely a well designed dress would be a display of them as a person.  In an ideal world, if I had all the money and didn’t think it was silly to spend £10,000 on a dress, I would probably choose to wear something from Valentino.  Each of their dresses is hand crafted from the lightest of silk with intricately designed prints and embroidery floating on top, you can’t get workmanship much finer than that!  But that was never going to happen for a number of reasons, so back to the real world and back to the project. 

 

We set to work out how we could design the ultimate dress, being as true as possible to my tastes whilst designing something that was appropriate as a wedding dress.  I had a shape in mind that suited my figure: long sleeved, high necked, nipped in at the waist, and a full maxi skirt.  Fairly traditional all in all, not showing much skin and something I would feel comfortable in.  We thought this would be a good foundation for the shape as it was fairly classic, wasn't fussy in any way, and would be a good canvas to work from.  I’m an avid fan of a print, I love ethnic textiles and bright colours put together and so this becomes the starting point of the inspiration for the dress.

Funny foxes.... we have a painting of some growling foxes in our bedroom that make us chuckle, and sometimes we just pull this face at each other.  This becomes part of the print, telling a story about our sense of humour.

Funny foxes.... we have a painting of some growling foxes in our bedroom that make us chuckle, and sometimes we just pull this face at each other.  This becomes part of the print, telling a story about our sense of humour.

 

How cool would it be to design an aztec print that fits neatly onto the form of the dress? Working around the neckline with geometric shapes, and contouring the bodice (torso part) in some way.  We start sketching up some options, scribble down some print ideas and it all begins to take shape.  Why don’t we create an aztec print with a story?  The story of mine and Mark’s relationship!  Sounds a bit funny but surely funny it's a good concept, not too serious and definitely not traditional.  Mark’s one of those people who likes to have purpose behind something, especially design.  He’s always telling me I shouldn’t be designing things just to look nice, so he’s going to be pretty happy with this one.  I can work some illustrations of us into the aztec pattern, maybe a scene of our engagement, or a sketch of an animal that we both find funny.  If I do enough of them, the dress will begin to tell a story.

The magical moment.... Mark proposed to me in front of the mountains whilst we were trekking the Torres Del Paine in Chile.

The magical moment.... Mark proposed to me in front of the mountains whilst we were trekking the Torres Del Paine in Chile.

 

Whilst Fi starts working on the form of the dress, I begin on the print and go straight into designing on Photoshop using a drawing tablet.  To get a good sharp finish on the print, it’s best to use a digital print onto the fabric, and also that way you aren’t restricted by the number of colours.  So we order fabric swatches from the Silk Bureau so we can choose our cloth, and opt for a double georgette silk for the dress.  We choose that particular one because it is lightweight, fluid, and has a very slight sheerness to it. 

It gets a bit sillier..... inspired by a Hot Chip music video.  Isn't it fun to dance in someones hand?!  On this dress anything is possible.  Check out Hot Chip's 'One Pure Thought' for the quirky animated dance.

It gets a bit sillier..... inspired by a Hot Chip music video.  Isn't it fun to dance in someones hand?!  On this dress anything is possible.  Check out Hot Chip's 'One Pure Thought' for the quirky animated dance.

Just look how happy I am!

Just look how happy I am!

 

Fi is such a talented pattern cutter that it only takes her 3 toiles (practice samples) before she has nailed the final shape.  We make mock ups of the dress using similar fabric to the silk georgette, and once the pattern is complete I then scan it in and continue designing the print directly onto the pattern pieces in Photoshop.  That way, the print will work neatly around the shape of the dress and will become a placement-style print.  

 

I work on the print for 2 months solid... CAD CAD CAD, cadding like a crazy cadding monkey. Putting in all the hours possible so that we can send it off to the digital printers asap.  There’s not much time for anything to go wrong, and when we get the fabric back from the printers, we only have a month until the wedding.  Now I’m fairly good on a sewing machine (if I’m blowing my own trumpet that is), but there’s no way I want to be sewing a lightweight slippery silk georgette, and especially not when it’s my own wedding dress!  That’s just too much pressure for anyone to handle.  So we take the project to a highly skilled machinist that we know, and accept that there’s some things that are worth paying for.  She’s an absolute whizz, and asks for only 3 weeks to make it at a leisurely pace, and we still have time for a couple of fittings. 

Sharing a story..... all of these illustrations put together start telling a story of our 10 year relationship.  I think we can firmly say that no-one else is going to have this dress!

Sharing a story..... all of these illustrations put together start telling a story of our 10 year relationship.  I think we can firmly say that no-one else is going to have this dress!

 

Before she can sew it, we have the very scary job of cutting out the fabric.  Fingers crossed the print actually lines up with the pattern pieces!  We lay it out, and with the help of one of Fiona’s old colleagues, the dress gets cut into the shape of the 14 pieces that makes up the pattern, from a lengthy 6m of cloth.  Every bit of fabric has to be pinned to paper first so that it can’t slip when we cut it, and then it gets cut into the shape of the pattern pieces.  It’s a lengthy job, but worth doing properly.  Any slight miss-pinning will mean a wonky print on a wedding dress!  Once it’s cut, it’s such a relief for all of us and the pressure then gets handed over to the machinist.

 

The machinist sews the cloth together beautifully and french seams (double sews to hide the edges) every seam, even on the curves around the bodice, which in my head isn’t even possible!  The inside neckline gets bound, an invisible zip slips down the spine, and self covered buttons and rouleaux loops decorate the cuffs.  The skirt has an excessive 5m of cloth in it, and none the less, every seam is still french seamed to an impeccable standard. She does a sterling job of sewing it, and needs to make only a couple of slight tweaks to the fit when I try it on.  Fiona and I make a lightweight petticoat and lining to go underneath the skirt, with 10m of very fine tulle fixed inside to help hold out the form.  

The placement print.... contouring around the pattern pieces of the bodice.

The placement print.... contouring around the pattern pieces of the bodice.

The central focus which is close to the heart.... us getting married in a shrine, and the engagement ring symbolising the circle of life.

The central focus which is close to the heart.... us getting married in a shrine, and the engagement ring symbolising the circle of life.

 

Literally a week before the wedding day, the dress is finished and hangs up in Fiona's house ready for the big day.  We acknowledge all of our hard work and efforts over the last 4 months, we can’t believe we have actually pulled it off.  When I try it on, the dress is everything I could have hoped for and so much more.  I feel as though it captures my personality, my taste in design, my sometimes silly sense of humour, and it fits like a glove all thanks to Fiona.  We have somehow made a wedding dress with a story, a story that tells a tale of mine and Marks relationship, a real one off.

 

The dress demonstrates to me that if you have the skills to make things, the time and the patience, then there is no reason why we shouldn't do this more in our lives.  Whether it be a wedding dress, a piece of furniture or something as small as a birthday card, why don’t we give it a go, let our creative juices flow and see what happens.

 

And here it is..... my wedding dress.  Featuring: pop tarts, people in African masks, my engagement ring, yard sale pizzas, us getting married in a shrine, a woodland scene complete with trees and woodland animals, Alexander Calder sculpture mobiles, a camping scene of us getting drunk, Victor Passmore artworks, me dancing in Mark's hand, our engagement in the mountains, and some big growling foxes.  I am officially a walking doodle on my wedding day!

 
A bespoke wedding dress with an aztec conversational placement print, by Alison Fowler and Fiona Ginnett
 
Some woodland animals have even snuck into the print.... and there's Fiona helping me get dressed.

Some woodland animals have even snuck into the print.... and there's Fiona helping me get dressed.

 
Me on the happiest day of my life!

Me on the happiest day of my life!

 
 
Do you think it's too much?!

Do you think it's too much?!

 
How very East London.

How very East London.

Complimented by my wonderful bridesmaids in their spice-coloured dresses.

Complimented by my wonderful bridesmaids in their spice-coloured dresses.

The moment we've all been waiting for.... Mark seeing the dress for the first time.  His reaction is priceless!

The moment we've all been waiting for.... Mark seeing the dress for the first time.  His reaction is priceless!

 

Want to know an added bonus?  This dress only cost me £650 to make!  For 6m of digitally printed fabric at £250 and the labour cost of machining at approx £400.

 

I hope this inspires you to get creative, and to have the confidence to think that anything is possible.  I would love to hear from anyone that's made their own wedding dress too!  Just hit me up in the comments box below.....

 

With thanks to my wonderful friend Fiona who made my dreams come true.  You are the most talented designer I know and I thank you for all of your hard work.

 

 

Friends...

All of the articles on our website are free but if you can support us by viewing, sharing or even purchasing from our travel-inspired shop, you'd make our day! Every share, like or sale gets us closer to our dream.....you guys rock.

Pin It!

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Wedding - A Bespoke Dress With A Unique Story, by Studio Mali
 

 

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