by Bruce W. Miller
In Palermo, Italy Maria Adele Cipolla has been busy creating designs for theatre and other clients for several years.
"I live and work in Palermo, Italy. I've mainly lived here except when I attended a four year Design University in Florence. After my period of study in design, I came back to Palermo starting to work in theatre as a set sculptor, costume designer and costume maker."
After some experience, Maria decided to start her own costume-making workshop. "At that time, I used to sketch models and choose fabrics and accessories, directing the production, but I was not able to cut. I had to trust my seamstresses, who were not even very good at it. I occasionally called on a skilled (and expensive) tailor to cut tailcoats."
Maria explains "The seamstresses claimed to know how to cut, but in fact they were only able to adapt Burda (the European version of Butterick) patterns. The result was unsatisfactory, with too many mistakes to fix after several fitting sections, increasing costs. I realized I had to learn to cut, but I did not want to end up spending my days leaning over a cutting table." This was in the late nineties, according to Maria, and in the meantime she was teaching at a vocational school where they had recently purchased the Investronica cutting platform (now called Lectra).
"I understood that it [Investronica] would be good for ready-to-wear fashion but not for the costume workshop where you need make a made-to-measure custom fit. I did not know much about computers but thought it would be appropriate if someone would invent a system to design patterns digitally the same way that tailors design manually, following the same rules. It also seemed ridiculous that such an expensive system like Investronica required a manually-drawn paper and pencil pattern as the first step."
Thus began searches on the Internet for software and came across the PatternMaker website. "For me it was love at first sight. Someone had already invented what I wanted! I was especially attracted to Macrogen."
Maria says "Macrogen offered me a significant change in my area of work. In fact, from theatrical costume maker I became a costume pattern maker, proposing to fill the pattern design gap in the production of theatrical costumes. In my experience as a costume designer, in fact, pattern making is the most expensive and risky part of the process. Tailors skilled in the traditional approach to pattern making are disappearing, and are not replaced by the new generation."
Based on those observations, Maria opened the Arteinscena/Stagewear website to sell made-to-measure patterns for theatre. She wanted to offer "what I would have needed when I was working in this area: the possibility to have an accurate made-to-measure theatrical pattern in a short time.
The new system with Macrogen and PatternMaker worked so well that Maria reports "I have provided patterns in half an hour: emergencies happen in theatres."
To build up her digital assets, Maria carefully studied old tailor manuals and magazines. "Then I created a collection of about 200 Macros [with Macrogen] of mens and womens theatrical patterns, from medieval times to the present day. Unfortunately, with the passage of time my clients are running out, because there are not many people capable of sewing patterns as elaborate as those that were used once in the theatre. This is why I decided to add a contemporary classical line and also introduce sewing tutorials. In practice, I work to help my clientele grow professionally."
Maria's business as a freelance designer is largely dedicated to designing (with Macrogen) and selling patterns (theatre costumes, fashion designs, and normal clothing) that she sells as PDF files via an e-commerce platform. Maria recently moved from her own e-commerce web site (Arteinscena / Stagewear) to the Etsy platform, which she found more practical to use.
Not being content, Maria explains further that "Recently, in response to a personal passion, I also started to produce Zisa composition dolls (porcelain head and padded felt body)." The body patterns are generated by Macrogen, which proved helpful in maintaining child proportions. They are available on her site www.zisadolls.com
Additionally, Maria is a consultant in a European research and innovation project called TCBL: Textile & Clothing Business Labs, which aims to develop new business models in clothing production. Says Maria: "In TCBL I'm proposing Macrogen as a practical and frugal tool for small businesses that adopt the made-to-measure approach, in a more humane and sustainable production scenario."
Learn more about Maria's work through her websites: