Gail Long earned her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Arts in 2004. After graduation, she studied dressmaking in Dubai. For the last two decades she has been working as a dressmaker and artist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her work sells in stores around the United States.
Gail’s current body of work draws inspiration from the natural world and the history of fashion. Using a combination of historical dressmaking techniques, surface design, textile manipulation, and contemporary embroidery, she creates pieces that reflect on transience and the passage of time.
The best hours of my childhood were spent in the beautiful and verdant forests of Michigan, where the soft moss became velvet, dry leaves crunched like crisp silk, and ferns clothed the ground in a fragrant green garment. The forest seemed to envelop me, wild but sheltering. As a girl, I would walk through the woods and daydream that I was a daughter of the forest and a queen of my own private realm, clothed in the woods and the flora that surrounded me. The natural world seemed to me rich with the most luxuriant materials, equal to anything a queen would wear.
As an adult I have realized how my love of the woods intertwines with my love of textiles: a close intersection between the textures of fabrics and the textures of the natural world. Moss is velvet, leaves are raw silk, stones, berries, and acorn caps are little treasures, beads, buttons and gems.
In my work I observe the connection between the ephemeral nature of these forest treasures and the transience of fashion-- both a maple leaf and a medieval gown, once removed from their time and place of origin, become dry, faded, fragile things that have lost their original beauty and significance. My work strives to recreate the importance and beauty of lost things in a way that grants them a new life, or a bit of permanence.
What is one thing you’d like our readers to know about you?
I earned a degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art almost 20 years ago. Since then, I have been a dressmaker, a small-business owner, and a stay-at-home mom, but it’s only in the past year that I’ve felt able to call myself an artist, and to pursue art as a full-time career.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
I find inspiration in historical fashions and textiles, and in the natural world. Michigan’s deciduous forests are in particular a constant source of inspiration: to me, the variations in texture and color of the flora are so reminiscent of textiles and fabric. I love the way that both fashion and nature are ephemeral. Here in Michigan, there’s so much seasonal variation in the landscape that I find myself endlessly inspired by the way things sprout and bloom, fade and die. Fashions do the same thing, and I love the idea of capturing these fleeting or lost moments in time.
Why do you create and how has your art practice affected your life?
For me, creating feels imperative and indispensable. Even when my kids were toddlers and I felt that there was no time for art, I found ways to create. I baked, I decorated my home, I made clothes for the kids. At the time, I didn’t recognize these things as art, or even as important--but I knew that I needed these activities for my own mental health.
These days, I make a more conscious effort to recognize my creativity as art, and to allow myself the time and space to create. My art focuses and centers me, stilling anxiety and fear. It also expands me, so that I become more aware of the world around me. When I get into a good work flow, a huge well of ideas and inspiration will sometimes pour out of me. Letting go of those voices of inferiority and self-doubt has given me an immense amount of confidence and strength.