Chic and multitalented fashion designer and photographer Esther Boller has won Scholastic Awards the past four years in a row, including a Gold Medal for her gorgeous Masking Tape Dress earlier this year (shown above). Her dress caught the attention of BurdaStyle, which did a wonderful feature on her. Check out the interview below.
We are so excited to chat with designer, artist, and long-time BurdaStyle member Esther Boller (aka: Melonhead), who has recently won a National Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her Masking Tape Dress – an amazing creation made entirely out of masking tape!
First of all, congratulations on winning the award. Thank you!
What gave you the idea for the dress? About a month before I started working on the dress my mom and I took a train into downtown Chicago for a visit. I was blown away by all the beautiful architecture everywhere I looked. When I got home, I went online and researched different architectural buildings. I loved the way some architects played with circular movement in the creation of their buildings. I wanted to transfer that same style of circular motion into my dress. Another source of inspiration for the dress came from the chrysalis of a butterfly. I thought that all of the overlapping layers created a really beautiful effect, and I wanted to carry that idea into my design along with the idea of playing with circular motion.
How did you decide to use masking tape? Every year for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, I try to come up with a new medium of material to work with, and right from the start I knew that I wanted to work with masking tape. I thought about using toilet paper, but it didn’t really work for what I wanted to do with volume. I figured masking tape would work the best for creating the layers in the dress.
Beyond being a work of art, the dress looks wearable? Yes, the dress is completely wearable. It has a zipper sewn into the back so you can take it on and off. I finished the dress literally the night before the regional deadline, so I didn’t have time to try it on. I was thinking of wearing it to prom, but those plans have changed. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to try it on though.
You must be thrilled at winning the Gold Medal and that the dress will be on display. But how on earth is it going to get to New York City? Haha! The first words that came out of my mouth when I found out that it won were, “How in the world am I going to ship it there?!” The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has been really helpful. They came up with an idea of replacing the mannequin with a foam bodice and then running a pole through that bodice. The pole is then screwed to a wooden shipping crate. That way the dress would be suspended in the crate and it wouldn’t bounce around as much. Then they figured that as long as we stuffed the skirt full of newspaper or something it would help with keeping its shape during the transportation. But the dress was still sticky in-between each layer of masking tape running up the skirt and bodice. So last week I was at the museum brushing each individual layer of masking tape down with baby powder, hoping to lessen the stickiness. It got everywhere, but it worked really well! As far as I know, all has worked out and it should arrive in New York in one piece… And smelling like baby powder. Haha.
You are only 17 and already so talented. When did you start sewing? I started sewing in the 7th grade. My mom learned to sew when she was younger, so she taught me how to sew from a pattern. The first project that I ever made was the most hideous pair of yellow, plaid pants that one would ever see (I still wore them everywhere though). But after I made them, there was something about sewing that I just clicked and I started sewing more and more. I would go to the library and basically check out their entire section on sewing. I read every book that I could on the subject. I watched a ton of YouTube tutorials on sewing (that’s where I found a link to BurdaStyle). Pretty soon I was sewing something new every day. After a while I was absolutely in love with it and I knew that I wanted to pursue it as a career.
Where do you get your inspiration? I’m inspired by anything and everything, but some of my biggest sources for inspirations are movies and books. I’ll fall in love with a certain character and I’ll think about what they would wear next. Sometimes I’ll think about what they would wear if they were living in a different place or era in time. Some of my favorite characters to think up designs for at the moment are Chuck from Pushing Daises and Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (which were my favorite books when I was younger).
What is next for you? Do you see yourself pursuing a career in fashion design? Well, I have one more year of high school left, but after that I hope to be accepted into a design school. There’s so much more that I want to learn when it comes to sewing. I want to earn my degree in fashion design and also get a minor in business. I hope to one day start up my own line of women’s clothing and keep doing what I love for the rest of my life, which is designing and making clothes.