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UW’s Brown Wins Best of Show in Wearable Art Competition

March 13, 2017
front of elaborately decorated woman's coat
Donna Brown, a UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences professor, won Best of Show in the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival’s Wearable Art Competition. Her winning entry, “Aboriginal Lights,” is a coat inspired by her native Australia and the Australian Aboriginal dot matrix painting style. (Frank Galey Photo)

A University of Wyoming professor who teaches textile science and apparel design courses recently received top honors at a national competition.

Donna Brown, a UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences professor, won Best of Show in the Wearable Art Competition of the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Va. Her winning entry, “Aboriginal Lights,” is a coat inspired by her native Australia and the Australian Aboriginal dot matrix painting style.

Brown designed and worked on her piece -- alongside her students in the fiber arts class -- to include in the 2015 “Coat Couture” exhibition at the American Heritage Center. Brown coordinates the annual summer exhibition that features student-created wearable art, either in coat or jacket form. The 2015 exhibition theme was “Australia.”

“This piece was not specifically designed as a competition entry, but more as a teaching tool for my students,” Brown says. “I believe designing and working alongside them as they create are important parts of their learning. So, to be able to then take this piece, enter it and succeed in competition was gratifying.”

The outer layer of the coat is 100 percent wool fabric. Brown embellished it by decorative stitching Australian images that she converted into the dot matrix painting style through manipulation and the stitching itself. She used metallic and rayon decorative threads for the stitching. She enhanced the stitched designs by adding both hand-attached Swarovski crystal beads, as well as hot fix Swarovski crystals.

“The sparkling lights created by all the crystals and beads remind me of the city lights of my Sydney home at night,” Brown says. “In some cases, they also are indicative of the shine and sparkle created by the glaring Australian sun.”

The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival’s Wearable Art Competition consists of two categories: full ensemble and vest, jacket and coat. Festival promoters believe it is a first for a coat to take the top prize.

“I’ve worked here over 25 years and never remember this happening before,” says Mary Claire Moyer, a meeting planner with Mancuso Show Management Inc. “A full ensemble entry always takes Best of Show -- until now.”

close up of design on coat
Inspired by the Australian Aboriginal dot matrix painting style, UW Professor Donna Brown used decorative stitching and added Swarovski crystals to her coat, “Aboriginal Lights.” (Frank Galey Photo)

Last fall, Brown entered “Aboriginal Lights” into the 2016 Wearable Art Competition of the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, Calif., where she received honorable mention.

She has received national and international recognition and awards for other wearable art designs at numerous juried shows and competitions.

Her UW honors include the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award, the College of Agriculture Outstanding Adviser Award and the Mortar Board Top Prof Award. Since 2015, Brown has been the executive director of the UW Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning.


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Chad Baldwin

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