‘Ink the big day’
With wedding season in full swing, Ciara Leahy of The Farmer’s Journal talks to Audrey Vance whose wedding dress illustrations are the perfect gift after a bride says ‘I do’.
After the last glass of champagne has been clinked, when the final guest has gone home and the thank you cards have been sent, there is a moment when the bride who is now a wife has to put away her wedding dress. This is the dress she might have been fantasising about for years, dreaming about for months, the dress that made her feel the best version of herself. It could be put in the attic, hung in the wardrobe or even sold but no matter where it is, there is a good chance it won’t be worn again.
This is where Audrey Vance comes in with her beautiful wedding dress illustrations. When this lady hung up her knee-length wedding dress after her honeymoon, she said she couldn’t help but feel disappointed. “I loved my gown and was putting it into a dress bag thinking I don’t get to wear this again, I don’t even get it see it. I thought it was such a shame so I drew a fashion illustration of it, framed it and put it up in my house so I could see it every day.”
However, this was no ordinary illustration. Audrey worked as an interior designer and was certainly handy with pencil and paper. ” I had the illustration in my downstairs bathroom. Friends would call and come out of the loo commenting on my dress design and asking me if I would do one for them.”
That’s where the idea of Wedding Dress Ink started and Audrey hasn’t stopped drawing since. “I’m from Dundalk so when I was doing interiors all my suppliers were there. But when I got married, I moved to Bray where my husband is from. We were right in the recession and people weren’t spending as much on their houses so starting a new business made sense.”
Doing this always comes with challenges and hard work but now that Wedding Dress Ink is established Audrey says it was worth it. “I love it. I love fashion, drawing, working for myself and most of all seeing the photos of the brides and their dresses. Some are really elegant, others are glam. There are girls that are relaxed and others that simply look like they are having a ball.”
Then it is up to Audrey to get drawing and high quality photos of the dress are key. “Capturing the detail is crucial. It doesn’t just enhance the drawing, those details make my customers feel like the time and effort was put specifically into their dress and the unique way they accessorised it. So I really focus on the way the dress is falling, the seams, the boning, the lines and the intricacies of the lace.” And then Audrey puts the designer slant on it. “I will really highlight the striking point of the dress and make it a fashion illustration by nipping in the waist or enhancing the curves.”
In fact, mothers, husbands and bridesmaids are Audrey’s most important customers. “Mothers are very sweet, they will give you the whole back story on the dress, where it was bought and how the wedding day was. Husbands like to keep it a secret. It’s like I’m having an affair with husband around the country. Sometimes they will be on the phone and next thing, there will be a hushed whisper ‘the wife is back’ and they will just hang up.”
Some husbands go to serious effort. “I’ve had requests from husbands who want it as a gift for their 20th or 30th wedding anniversary. They can be tricky because the photo quality isn’t as good. The older the wedding the more chance they are in black and white and it can be difficult to work out the details. Sometimes, I end up having to get the wedding album which makes me nervous as they are so precious but I’ve husbands go into the attic to find it. I even had one man who encouraged his wife to get back into her wedding dress because the photos weren’t good enough.”
While these stories make Audrey realise how much the gift means to people, the one part of her job that she doesn’t get to see is the big reveal, but the reaction of one bride on Twitter really helped business. ” I did an illustration for Pippa O’Connor when the business was in its early stages; her husband Brian ordered it. She had a beautiful Monique Lhuillier wedding gown and he gave it to her for her birthday. The reaction on Twitter was fantastic. Since then I have done illustrations for Rosanna Davison and a few ladies married to rugby players, such as Laura Sexton and Debbie Stringer.
The big reveal at her mother’s 70th birthday was the real icing on the cake for Jill Millar.
“For my Mam Veronica’s 70th birthday party, I wanted to get something really memorable. she loved her wedding dress (pictured). It was a timeless piece but she loaned it to someone after she got married and never got it back. She wasn’t impressed, so I thought it would be a nice idea to give her back a little bit of the dress. The photos were old and in black and white, so I had to sneak the wedding album out of the house.”
“Coming up to the birthday Audrey emailed me a sneak preview of the illustration and I burst into tears, it was so beautiful. On the night of my Mam’s birthday, we had a surprise party. When everyone arrived, Dad gave her a glass of champagne and the gift. She was gobsmacked.”
Veronica says: ” It was just beautiful. I couldn’t believe how she captured it. My dress had guipure lace which was on the bodice and the sleeves and it was all detailed. My bouquet was included and even a heart-shaped gift that I gave the pageboy. i don’t know how she did it. Now, I have it hanging in my hallway. It’s a feature piece and everybody comments on it. It’s timeless, really treasured and sentimental.”
Then you to Ciara Leahy for the interview, Ramona Farrelly for the photography and Cara of Brown Sugar for the makeup!
Wedding Dress Ink
@ciaraokelly1, @brownsugardub, @weddingdressink @anomarstar