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Cleveland's Fashion Craft Pushes Boundaries

by Amelia Gray
FashionCareerCenter Columnist

You may not have seen felt since kindergarten craft-time, but one Ohio artist is crafting the material into unique couture garments.

T.J. Horst has a life as varied as his art. Horst was born in Akron, Ohio, and spent much of his education experimenting with various mediums of art. Switching from photography, to painting, to sculpture, Horst eventually settled on fashion. As he grew as an artist, Horst was gaining education and changing jobs; he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, then Kent State University, obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees. Horst used his education to get a job teaching in the Cleveland Municipal School System. Meanwhile, he honed his craft, finding an unlikely material with unlimited possibilities.

Walking Works of Art
Horst's fine-art background allows him to look at fashion from a unique perspective. In his clothing, he manipulates soft Falkland wool, stretching and pulling it into a sheet of fabric to create a seamless texture and flow of color. "I knew the problems," he said in an artist's statement. "Wool shrinks considerably when felted. Wool is hot and heavy. I experimented. I labored. I tried to understand this material."

Students in Ohio's fashion design schools can take inspiration from Horst and other fashion designers in Cleveland. Though Ohio is far away from fashion capitals New York and Los Angeles, Cleveland's fashionable residents demand unique, local pieces that artists in the area are happy to deliver. The result of the city's vibrant local arts scene are the interesting and beautiful homegrown styles that come out of the local boutiques and malls.

Fashion Fitting the Climate
In chilly Northeast Ohio, fashion often has to adapt to the weather. Horst's felt creations are shaped into shrugs, scarves, and short coats, offering a wearable warmth that works alone or under a heavy coat. Adapting to local climates is an important lesson for fashion design school students who wish to keep their future business local.

Horst, like many local designers, pair the challenge of their location with challenging material. Of the difficulties in working with felt, he says: "I enjoy this complexity. It compels me to move forward."

Sources:
Artist Profile: Thomas Horst

About the Author
Amelia Gray is a teacher and freelance writer in San Marcos, TX. Amelia earned a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from Arizona State University.