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By Design

August 04, 1994|ROSE APODACA JONES

For some designers, fashion is all about creating art. These three are among local artists exhibiting their wares (photographs at left) at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach through Aug. 28.

Culture Club

Fine artist Ragumbah Connolly considers making clothes from antique Japanese kimonos and African mud cloth just working in another artistic medium. "It's how I paint now--with fabric," she says. "I'm still working with colors in composition and balance." Balance is a rule Ragumbah (as she's known) lives by. When she's not assembling pieces of old fabric into gorgeous tunics or cutting raw silk or ethnic weaves into palazzos, she teaches yoga to Laguna Beach residents. She finds vitality in the "cross-cultural" mix of materials she sews into easy silhouettes ($40 to $375) or molds into tip details for hair chopsticks ($10 per stick). "I love that feeling of something that's done out of love and is handcrafted," she says.

Bronze Age

There's a sculptural quality to Irene Suess' jewelry. Except instead of clay or wax, she creates with molten metal. Suess works directly with raw materials such as bronze, copper and silver, using a welding torch to form her organic designs. Bronze dominates the collection, on its own or mixed with another metal. It's a jeweler's bronze that tarnishes less than conventional bronze and is a more yellow-gold in color. Suess' craft, which she learned through an apprenticeship in 1968, differs from the more widely used application of building a model and making reproductions. "There's nothing wrong with that; it's just a little less spontaneous," she says. Spontaneity is integral to her rings ($10-$65), cuffs ($35-$250), bangles ($9) and chokers ($55-$255). "I always start with one idea, and it leads to something else."

Edith's Head

Edith Otto dislikes mass production. "I don't have the mentality for it. I like to do one of a kind items. No repeats." Her tops, shawls, pouches and hats are eclectic. She applies vintage fabrics, Chinese embroidery and antique laces, buttons and beads to her pieces, which she reworks by sculpting, stitching, pleating and dying. After 25 years of clothes-making, Edith (who goes by her first name only), ventured into millinery in 1992. It was her first year at the Sawdust Festival, and she was voted best new artist. Her hats, like the rest of her collection, nod to the '20s, '30s and '40s. There are floppies fashioned out of retro materials and straws that Edith molds by hand. At $20 to $120 a hat (pictured, $45), it's art that's truly accessible--both to wear and on the pocketbook.

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