About this project
THE VISON OF CUSTER'S LAST WAISTBAND & THE COWBOY PRINCE...
I want to invite the Kickstarter community to help me fund a year-long performance piece in which I will adopt the full-time lifestyle of a 19th century peddler. I will be pulling a 200-pound Amish cart around the city streets of Richmond, Virginia, selling and sewing sustainably stitched shirts with the intent to re-inspire our generation to embrace their creative potential to actively make this world the beautiful, wild place it can be. My goal is to create a new body of work, a specific series of shirts for men and women, created with the intention of developing wearable art that will allow people to take that initial step towards living the life they've always imagined.
My plan is to draft all the patterns by hand and construct each garment individually with an If You Love It, It Will Survive mentality of using ecologically made cloth in combination with recycled fabric scraps patch-work-quilted together as decorative elements. But I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.....
Inspired by a dream I had one night, I built a huge nine-foot-long, 19th-century Amish-style peddler's cart with which I am striving to fully embody the ideals of the great folk heroes of the past. Thus I will be pulling this 200-pound nomadic tailor shop on wooden wheels-- which I've named Custer's Last Waistband- initially in my city of Richmond, Virginia then eventually I'll be walking 110 miles north to Washington, D.C.
Throughout this year-long performance piece, my desire is to share my vision, knowledge, and skills as an artist and tailor with the larger community through the physical act of pulling the cart, sewing, and selling the shirts. In addition I will be offering my skills doing alterations and selling patchwork American flags and neckties made from all the fabric scraps used in production. As a peddler I will strive to recreate intimate dialogue through customer relationships, through artist/audience relations and accessibility of sewing repairs and handmade wares. This will be an earnest combination of part traveling art show, nomadic tailor shop, and a folk art, living history revival with the vision of reawakening an active engagement with our world.
THE "MOTION & GLORY!" PEDDLER’S CART...
The idea for becoming a peddler and building a wagon literally came to me in a dreamy vision and when I awoke from it, it resonated with me so profoundly, I knew I could not ignore it.
Since that morning I have been working on making it a reality. I found an Amish wheelwright in Ohio to supply the wheels and design kit to build the traditional pull cart. After improvising and enlarging the original design -with no previous woodworking knowledge- it took me two sweaty weeks to figure it out and build the whole cart by myself. I am ridiculously proud if it.
This old-timey style cart, which has two wheels and is operated by human pulling power, is historically the same model with which the Mormon Pioneers, Gold Rush Miners and adventurers alike traversed the country in the early 19th century. Carts like these are still in use by Amish communities today.
I will initially be traveling around Richmond, Virginia selling my wares and wearables out of the back of my cart. All the shirts made in this project will be available for sale out of the back of the cart, in addition to smaller items such as patch-work American flags, scrap-work neckties, and other art. Then in the winter when I walk 110 miles north to Washington, D.C. I will be living out of the back of the cart, sleeping underneath it at night, sewing alterations with an old hand crank non-electric sewing machine and sharing my art with people along the way. It’s a re-envisioned folklore experience like Johnny Appleseed, the King of the Wild Frontier, John Henry's hammer and the Cowboy Prince (that’s me!) wildly brandishing his scissors rollin' along on two wheels at two miles an hour!
I am in the process of painting a huge mural across the entire surface of the cart depicting quixotic, nostalgic emblems and homages to American mythology. Backers will have the opportunity to have their names painted on the inside of the cart, and thus become a crucial element of this moving artwork.
I have been physically training for this, lifting cinder blocks every day for the last year. I gave up smoking as soon as I had the cart dream and have been running every single day to meet the physical challenges of the project.
The Cowboy Prince is gonna be a lean, mean sewing machine!
THE PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF COSTUME...
A few years back I had a crazy realization that every day I woke up and put on a pair of pants and a shirt but I had absolutely no idea how they were made! Inspired by this question and a deep yearning for a more intimate engagement with everyday necessities, I taught myself how to sew and have spent the last two years dedicated to further cultivating my ability to make my own clothes.
Originally my sewing machine was a great compensation for a lack of a desired time machine in my life, but then one day something clicked and I realized I could make wearable art for myself that could literally fuse together all the quixotic, romantic, idyllic and inspirational aspects of my historical interests. A whole new wild world unfurled before me in which I was able to artistically channel my interest in the "golden" styles and intentions of the past. By buttoning on a shirt that had personally inspired, combined elements of Bastille stormers, hand-sewn battle shirts worn by Southern boys marching in the summer heat of 1861, dust-covered Vaqueros and cowpunchers, the sophisticated grin of Cab Calloway and the hand-embroidered, flowered shirts of the 1960s....and....and...well, I get really excited about this! But yes, for me, putting on a shirt that draws inspiration from all these elements has allowed me artistically, and on a more personally spiritual, emotional level, to interact with the world with a wildly engaged sense of purpose.
This is why I absolutely love being a Folk Art Tailor. I truly believe that eventually we can each become all that we pretend to be. Clothing can be that initial step - as the great Henry David Thoreau encourages us - to "go confidently in the direction of our dreams…to live the life we have always imagined." By dressing the part, we can become the part. We should see our clothing as beautiful functional objects, and thus glorious opportunities to mentally prepare ourselves towards our greatest potential. Our clothing can exist for us as space suits to blast us off to the full heights of our dreams! Our clothing can function for us as battle armor to prepare us to do anything we want in this world! By dressing up, we can make our dreams a little bit more tangible, accessible, and applicable to our everyday life. You put on your own "suit of armor” and walk down the street, and your interactions with others, the world and, most importantly, your interaction with yourself will change; you will feel like you can do anything.
While there are "dress codes" and "standards" in "fashion" that might intimidate you, I am always reminded by the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez that "if they give you ruled paper, write the other way." Anything that feels right for you, that helps you better find your voice, that better prepares you to interact with the world in the way that you best want to… there is truth in it. No one can take that away from you.
In the same sense that you wouldn't leave the house in the morning without pants- unless that’s your thing, then go for it!- why would you go out into the world in such a way that you would be unable to express your best self? Style has a purpose and a power, and if we work to cultivate it, it will eventually spill out of our closets and further implement its inspiration into larger parts of our lives. And then there will be no stopping you, as you will be ride-boldly-riding over the mountains of the moon towards the realistic and, yes, do-able actualization of your wildest dreams!
This is the specific vision, intention and mindset with which I design, draft and construct all my wearable art shirts. I am so excited to spread this love to y'all one wheel and one shirt at a time!
WHO IS THE COWBOY PRINCE?
The Cowboy Prince is the dedicated embodiment of the inherent truth in our childhood aspirations for greatness when we're older!
The Cowboy Prince strives to remind all humanity that y'all can still interact with the world with a wild sense of wonder!
The Cowboy Prince creatively combats the darkness in the world by encouraging others to go out and don their own crowns, to let their light shine!
Based in Richmond, Virginia, my real name is Charlie C. Umhau, and I am a Folk Art Tailor, Artist & Costume Designer, creating and living what I call “atmospheric, time travel art”... a folk art, living history revival in which I strive to put into daily action the words of Henry David Thoreau when he beautifully proclaimed:
“…We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
Taking this to heart, I see Art as a living entity that, while existing in physical forms of paintings, music, wood burnings, shirts and costumes, first and foremost exists in a deep sense of intentionality. This intentionality-which I like to refer to as "Motion and Glory!"- is an inherently divine characteristic that dwells deep within the true essence of all people. To me this means that art is not something that can be turned off and on; it exists in the world all around us everyday. Once we grasp this awareness, we have the beautiful opportunity and responsibility to actively live each day with that creative purpose in mind of making this world the amazing place it can be.
While personally placing a larger emphasis on my experiential, empirical education and self-taught outsider art ideals, I have also been formally educated at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, studying Outdoor Education and a combination of American & French Revolution History. More recently I have studied Patternmaking, Draping and Costume History at Virginia Commonwealth University here in Richmond, Virginia.
HOW I'LL SPEND YOUR MONEY...
* The Majority of the funding will be directly used for the purchase of the fabric used in the production of the shirts. While I have not yet officially chosen a supplier, I have been researching, brainstorming and negotiating with fiber artist Rebecca Burgess and her bioregional textile Fibershed project in California, in addition to a variety of organic cotton growers and an eco-denim manufacturer in Greensboro, North Carolina. Although the quantity needed of these types of quality fabrics are expensive I truly believe that they’re paramount to the ecologically altruistic intentions of this project. Imagine how amazing it will be to sew my wearable folk art shirt with material that’s created with the same level of intentionality and love that I use to make them.... Imagine how rad it will be to create a new American wearable folk art made in and from the very land in which it will be enjoyed.
* Funds will be used for the purchase of six professional dress forms (three male, three female) to better allow me as an artist to draft patterns for men and women of all different shapes and sizes.
* Funds will be used for the purchase of a street vendor's license which will allow me to legally sell my wares and wearables around the city of Richmond.
* Funds will also be used to purchase additional construction materials including thread, buttons, interfacing (to give more structure to collars and cuffs) and paper for pattern drafting.
* Any additional funds received...which would be insanely amazing of y'all (I swear I'll cry!) will be used for additional costs involved in the construction of the peddler’s cart. I would love to be able to build a brake system to use when going down hills and a hinged roof-top for the cart to serve as a waterproof covering/drafting table during my journey. Any leftover money will be used for a portable camp stove to allow me to cook hot meals on the road and maybe a bag of rice or two.
Thank you so much for helping me make this happen! I am so eager to share this project with y'all and am super excited to bring my cart to your street!
Yours Now and Forever, Charlie C. Umhau, The Cowboy Prince, an eccentric with a sewing machine and bold purveyor of romantic American notions
This film would not have been possible without the dedicated help of my friend Richard Walters who professionally mixed all the audio and made my banjo playing actually sound good. He's a wild drummer, production sound mixer and sound editor living in Richmond, Virginia, working throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
I also must give a huge shout out to my filmmaking and bike riding friend Mark Aloysious Strandquist for beautifully filming the video and for literally opening up is home to me in preparation for this project. If you thought this film looked good, you ain't seen nothing yet! Check out his documentaries at...
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