in San Francisco
In the first half of 2015 the sewing world has seen a couple of deaths in the family. The Sewing Workshop - the sewing school in San Francisco’s Richmond District is one of them. To so many of us sewistas in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, The Sewing Workshop was a place of inspiration, education, fun and friendship.
Karine Langen, the most recent owner, graciously announced: “After thirty-five years of serving the San Francisco arts community, The Sewing Workshop has closed our classroom on Balboa Street. The 2016 Asilomar Retreat will be held, as will other special events, but the on-site classroom and shop is no more. Thank you everyone for the marvelous experience it has been to provide the services of TSW for the twenty years I have been doing so and for the recognition The Sewing Workshop has had for 35 years. It has been an unforgettable and rewarding experience.”
Like many of you, I attended classes when Marcy Tilton owned The Sewing Workshop, now over 20 years ago. You did not want to miss the open houses that she held about 3-4 times per year. They were alive with creativity and sharing. I once heard my brother tell someone “Susan is off at some sewing jamboree” and jamboree was an apt word for it. A festive gathering of sewistas indeed.
The Sewing Workshop was a gathering place in general for sewistas and fiber artists of all sorts. Of course - Sandra Betzina who is still going strong in San Francisco, Fred Bloebum, may she rest in peace, Shermaine Fouche (whatever happened to her?), Kenneth King who was truly propelled by Marcy and The Sewing Workshop, Jean Cacicedo - an incredible artist with work in a number of museums.
Does that sound a bit intimidating? Never - When Marcy owned The Sewing Workshop, it was simply filled with love, generosity and the creative spirit. I’m sad to see it go, but grateful that, in a small way, I once got to be part of it.
I don’t know if I ever said it, but thank you Marcy, for that special place and those good times in that unassuming little space on Balboa Street, across from the laundromat and the Russian Deli. Once in a while I still find it valuable to remind myself not to let the scarce street parking stop me, to just persist a bit more, that creative place may not seem fancy or impressive at first, but I can still find it and once inside, the experience can be incredible.
Passing of Koos van den Akker in February
I believe that death is not a topic to be avoided or disdained. On the contrary, it is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate life. And what a life Koos van den Akker lived. Though he came from modest origins in Holland, he became a sensational success with his wonderfully original designs and of course, his sweaters for Bill Cosby.
Koos van den Akker came to New York with less than $200, and sewed dresses on his hotel-room bed and hawked them on the sidewalk at Columbus Circle before he opened his Upper West Side boutique. This was a man who truly wanted to create beautiful clothing, no matter what the circumstances.
He has been hailed as “the master of couture collage,” adding, “A rich panoply of color and pattern painstakingly pieced together. Those of us who have sewn any of the Koos Couture patterns from Vogue know this painstaking process all too well.
Mr. van den Akker considered himself a craftsman. He was most content working behind a sewing machine, which was where he had remained, at his studio in the garment district, until he fell and was taken to Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital three weeks before he died.
Sewing, right up until the end, just as he wished. Perhaps that is the most than any of us can hope for.
Safe passage Mr. van den Akker. Your designs are thoroughly admired and enjoyed by sewistas all over the world and we thank you.