Joy Teiken is a Peace Corps volunteer-turned high school teacher-turned bridal gown designer. Now she’s opening up her studio for workshops.
Teiken designs about 40 gowns per year from her storefront at 42nd & Grand, making each by hand, specializing in dresses for the “alternative bride.” She created a dress made entirely of condoms for a recent Planned Parenthood fashion show, which generated a call the next day from a woman who said: “If you can make that out of condoms you can make me one hell of a wedding dress.”
Teiken is teaching the basics of taking measurements, making patterns and fitting clothes to the body. She provides the materials — as well as coffee and scones on Saturdays — and she has a basement full of silks, lace, wool, zippers and tapestries.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I have a really hard time throwing away fabric,” she said.
The teaching comes naturally to Teiken, who previously taught sculpture and pottery at a creative arts high school in St. Paul. A group of students who made their own clothes asked her to start a fashion class. As the class grew in popularity, Teiken brought home the school sewing machine to properly learn to sew.
She first created a beret out of a vintage dress for her mother, who had breast cancer and was losing her hair. She continued selling hats at shops like LaRue’s on Lyndale until a customer approached her at the Uptown Art Fair and asked her to design a wedding dress.
The new workshops are dedicated to tasks like designing skirts, or making duster jackets, or redesigning wedding dresses by taking them apart and adding sleeves or color. The small classes are best suited for people with some sewing experience looking for support on a creative project. One patron, for example, purchased fabric from Thailand two years ago but was always afraid to use it until Teiken offered to help. At the close of one of the weeklong workshops, Teiken will hold a fashion show for friends and family, and a photographer will capture the new looks.
She said it’s important for people to feel confident and comfortable as they work. If a stitch isn’t right, they can always take it out and try again, she said.
“The idea is tapping into the creative process,” she said. “They get to walk away with something they’ve made.”