Laticrete’s Spectralock Pro Grout was transported from the floor to fashion at the 47th Annual Glass Art Society Conference held recently on the Venetian island of Murano, Italy. During the conference’s Glass Fashion Show, which took place alongside the island’s picturesque canals, models riding on gondolas showcased clothing uniquely adorned in glass.

Among those modeling a one-of-a-kind piece in the show was Lincoln, Neb.,-based designer, Carrie Strope. Strope’s involvement in the conference’s fashion show can be traced back to a chance encounter on the dance floor when the conference was held in San Jose, Calif., in 2015. It was there that Strope met the Glass Fashion Show Queen, Laura Donefer, and was asked to model a fellow designer’s piece in the 2016 show. Strope walked in the 2016 show and was inspired to return in 2018, this time modeling her own creation.

“I’ve been wanting to create a [Gustav] Klimt-inspired piece using gold glass for a few years, but simply hadn’t had time or the proper inspiration for it,” said Strope. “Knowing that I wanted to make a mosaic dress and use gold smalti, I figured this project would be perfect for it. And, as it turned out, Klimt was inspired in part by Ravenna and Venetian mosaics, which tied right back into the location of the fashion show in Murano.”

Strope’s knack for creating fashion was realized in college, but her love for working with glass began after college graduation when she took a hot glass paperweight class at a local community college. That, paired with a pattern design class she took at the college, led to a curiosity to explore various techniques and ways to assemble materials that continues to drive her today.

“I enrolled in both [classes], and was immediately addicted to glass,” she said. “The pattern design class was challenging but gave me a concept for how to design for the body, and I’ve been able to create some patterns for favorite clothing items.”

Much like the pieces she’s created throughout her career, the concept of Strope’s dress for the 2018 Glass Fashion Show began with exploration. “I wanted to explore with new techniques using the torch and soft glass to create glass dangles,” Strope said. “To learn a technique, repetition is key. I don’t remember the exact progression of ideas; but my design process tends to evolve as I begin to construct and play with pieces...I need to touch and have concrete pieces to test ideas.”

Working with materials native to the island of Murano, Strope used smalti, filati and millefiori, glasswork techniques and materials, to create a dress that paid homage to the island’s rich glassmaking history and Austrian symbolist painter Klimt.

On the surface, Strope’s garment wowed show-goers with features of sparkling shades of gold, deep hues that added depth and mysterious eyes placed throughout the bodice. But Strope’s creation could not have been made possible without the help of a sturdy foundation, which was in part created using Laticrete’s Spectralock Pro Preimum Grout.

“The main benefits of Spectralock are the extra structure it gave to my piece,” explained Strope. “The extended working time and relative ease of use are great, too! As a mosaic artist using the product, mixing is a little different. There are guidelines (A:B ratio by volume), but the proper mix is more of getting the right consistency by feel, so not as runny as for tiling a floor.”

Having used Spectralock for previous projects, Strope was also familiar with the product’s ability to protect against moisture, which was especially important in preserving the plaster used to create the bodice.

“Once the plaster was cut out, I was faced with the dilemma that it was fairly fragile and realized my glue would have to have some structural holding abilities or the dress would crumble,” said Strope. “I was also concerned about moisture affecting the plaster. That’s when I decided upon Spectralock epoxy resin mortar as the glue that would pull the dress together.”

After 10 months of brainstorming, sketching, plastering, gluing, cutting, sizing, shaping and sewing, Strope’s dress was ready to hit the runway. And thanks to its sturdy structure provided mainly by plaster and Laticrete’s Spectralock, the garment made the trip to and from Nebraska and Italy without incident.

Strope plans to continue work on the dress, and looks forward to featuring it in more shows. “I want to continue working on the dress and adding more decoration to the skirt and make a mosaic crown to go with it. I’m hoping that the dress will be juried into the [Society of American Mosaic Artists] 2019 Nashville conference Mosaic Arts International show. I also want to exhibit it locally and in the 2019 Glass Craft & Bead Expo Gallery of Excellence.”