Interview with Designer Nicole Moan of “Ceramic Corsets”

“…there will always be people who tell you what you can’t do. Don’t listen.”

Nicole, to begin, can you please briefly introduce yourself as who you are and how did you come up with an idea to create corsets out of ceramic? I am a tile/ceramic artist based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Both of my parents are artists and I grew up playing with many different mediums. I still use many styles but found myself more naturally drawn to ceramics. I didn’t want to be lost in the world of bowls and cups though. I wanted to create something different. I made my first ceramic corset to wear to a fetish show in Oklahoma City so that I could have something completely unique to wear.

 If you could explain your art works to the world, how would you describe it? Varied. Most but not all of my art is made from clay, and I am mostly known for my ceramic corsets, but I also make custom ceramic tile for homes and businesses as well as art that hangs from walls and free standing. The corsets are usually multi-paneled then connected together with ribbon, making them adjustable to fit a wider size range. Each piece is one of a kind. They can range from floral to super hero and so many things in between.

 Have you discovered a need for this type of product in the marketplace? I believe there is always a need for more beauty in the world. Most of my works are bought for photo shoots, but have also been featured in a few movies and music videos. Being both fashion and art, many of the private buyers also buy display stands from me so they can put the corsets on display in their homes.

In your opinion, what is something that most people just don’t understand about your field? I think without images showing a person wearing them, people do not understand what they are.

 Which item of all your creations is your favorite and most significant for you? In your own view, what is your masterpiece? I feel like at the moment my bathroom is my masterpiece. It is tiled from top to bottom, and reminiscent of being in a crystal blue pool of water. In one corner a mermaid is diving into the depths, through out the room are lily pads, shells, and on 2 of the walls I have recreated some of my father’s paintings in tile, the countertop is a liquid plastic wave carrying shells throughout it.

Could you briefly describe the magic of your design process, from idea to a finished product? How long does it usually take you to design one ceramic corset? A lot of my inspiration comes from the shows that I am invited to be a part of. I use the theme or feel of the show to create new items to showcase within those. Once I have the feel of the show I begin with shaping the clay on forms and building the design ideas. Once they are designed and fired, I then choose the type and color of glaze(s) that would best accentuate the piece. To pull it all together, I then must find the perfect ribbon. For a complete look, I also create most of the skirts and headpieces that I use to showcase the corsets on the runway and in photo shoots. When no theme is present in a show I use the energies of what is going on around me at the time to find inspiration.

Talking about your wearable art creations, is there a specific look you are going for, beyond functionality? What is your philosophy about the art of fashion and style? There is no specific look, per se. My philosophy is that the people wearing my creations should feel like a work of art and that my creations should enhance what the wearer already has. I work hard to try to make enough styles to fit many sizes and body shapes. We do not all fit into the same mold. I want to show that there is beauty in all of us and not be so conformist to what is considered “normal”. I love to push boundaries.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? 1940s style. I recently went down the google rabbit hole and bought a ton of dress designs that I could use to create my own amalgamation of creation within that spectrum. I am still diving into ideas of how to attack this particular fascination.

What do you usually do to recharge your artistic side? When it comes to your fashion designs, what inspires your creativity the most? When I’m feeling artistically blocked I look for something new to create for a while. My headpieces and wall hangings are all a result of creative blocks where my corsets were concerned.

What do you enjoy the most about working on your designs? What is most rewarding? This might sound strange but one of my favorite parts of working in clay for my designs is the volatility. Some of my most extravagant ideas have literally blown up in the kiln. These mishaps push me to revisit, refine and rethink my approach to the piece. As far as most rewarding, I would have to say that seeing the look of happiness on a clients face when they receive a custom order. Custom orders are often the most challenging to make because the idea is specific to that persons ideas but with enough creative flare to bring a certain life to it as well.

Looking back, what was the most exciting experience for you as a fashion designer? To be the first American invited to be part of London’s Swatch Alternative Fashion Week. The whole process of getting to the show was amazing, as well. The community here in Oklahoma City really pulled together, helping to hold fundraisers as well as showing up and supporting. We raised enough money to take most of the local models and hairstylist we wanted to bring as well as pay for accommodations. Oklahoma hairstylist Estrella Evans and (at the time) London Based Nina B. Budden teamed up to really bring the bigger vision together. It was pretty fantastic to be a part of and witness.

Could you tell us about something completely extravagant you have had to do for your job? I have a client, Onyx Love, who loves recreating costumes of dolls for photo shoots. Onyx works with many stylists to pull together a certain look. One of the doll recreations I worked on was Aspen Matthews based on a comic by Michael Turner. This character has these beautifully unique wings. These were easily one of the most difficult custom jobs I’ve ever done. Working out materials and the architecture for them was a true struggle. The first set I made were so heavy that they were unwearable without being choked. The second set I had to find something durable and lightweight that would hold up and thankfully after months of trial and error, was able to pull off this mammoth project.

Nicole, is there a person that is a fashion inspiration to you and you would like to collaborate with? Alexander McQueen. I love that he doesn’t pigeonhole himself. His designs are edgy and he often uses unconventional materials as well.

What tasks turned out to be most unexpected or interesting during your business establishment? What would you like to say to people starting in the creative business, do you have any tips? The most interesting part of getting this business started was watching people’s reaction to the concept of ceramic corsets as an idea. So many people told me that they didn’t think that would work. When I finally figured out my form and how to make them an elaborate piece of wearable art, I was surprised by the outpouring of support from the same people. To anyone starting in the creative business I would say, there will always be people who tell you what you can’t do. Don’t listen. If one thing doesn’t work, try it a different way. Keep pushing. Innovation comes from failure and failure to quit. Think unique. Learn what you can from others but take everything you learn to make something new and different.

Emily Cochran in ceramic corset by Nicole Moan. Hair by Tom Sollock, casting by Denna Armstrong

What are your views on social media as a tool in developing your business? Is it important in your business? Being a visual artist, social media has really helped get my work in front of many eyes. People don’t always understand that my creations are clay when they see them but they have an outlet to ask questions and communicate to better understand what it is that I do. With the help of social media I have had the good fortune of working with artists of all sorts throughout the country.

Where can readers get connected with you and stay up to date with your designs? Facebook page Nicole Moan – Ceramic Corset or are both good ways to keep up with me but I do most of my promotion through Facebook. I also post on Instagram as @Nicolemoan.

When you create something, what usually goes through your mind? As far as creating corsets, I start with thinking about what the design as a whole is, then the technicalities of making it conform to the human body. Do I want this to be for a male or female. If it is something I am making for a specific person, I also have to take into account torso length and bust size so that it is as comfortable as possible for the person commissioning the piece.

What are your feelings about eco-fashion? A lot of the materials I use for headpieces are often things that were going to be thrown out by the previous owner or found objects. A few include bones of animals I’ve found, as well. Most of my friends now ask me if I could use something before recycling or throwing away things. I think we all have our part to play in keeping the world a vibrant place in as many ways as we can.

What is your vision of your perfect working day? A day uninterrupted. Having 3 kids this a luxury I don’t get. However, I also enjoy showing and teaching them things as I go along. So maybe a balanced day with time to be productive in a grand way and still get quality time with my family.

What superpower do you wish you had? Why? If I could have any superpower I would want to be able to stop time. I never feel like there is enough time in a day to do all the things I need and want to do.

Tell us one thing about yourself people might find surprising. I think that people would be surprised that in person, I am actually a really shy person. I have had to push myself to be as outgoing as I am but some days it is still very much a struggle. I also went to school to be an auto mechanic. While I obviously didn’t go that direction, learning mechanics has helped me learn to think about design in a unique way.

Thank you, Nicole.

Published 2017 April Vol II: BUY NOW