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A Conversation with Daniella Miller

Beaver Falls native Daniella Miller, who founded More Than Mammal in 1999, traveled throughout the country recently selling re-constructed clothing, facilitating informational performances with her wardrobe of costumes, and collecting raw materials...

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What is More Than Mammal?

Using recycled and reconstructed materials, I make clothing and costumes that have a theme -- usually about something that's being destroyed, whether it's an idea or endangered animal or natural resource.

 

Have you always designed and sewn clothes?

I've sewn since I was a little girl; my mom taught me how to sew. I started off making placemats but I was always doing weird stuff. I worked from patterns for a little bit but it didn't take long before I was just doing whatever I wanted, because I can't cut a straight line very well.

 

Where do you get your materials?

From thrift stores and people's closets; mostly people just give me stuff. When I was traveling out west, I got a bunch of stuff because it seems like every little town has a big place with tons of clothes to give away. I'll also get scraps from leather shops: Nobody that makes anything likes to throw stuff out because they know the value of it.

 

Do you have favorite fabrics or certain articles of clothing you like to work with?

Curtains are really cool -- that's lots of fabric. Often they're really thin and I can dye them easily. I love old stage curtains; old bathrobes, lingerie, nightgowns -- in Beaver Falls there's tons of them -- and they make good ghost costumes.

 

Do you sew by hand, or are you partial to a certain sort of sewing machine?

I use the machine and by hand. I love my mom's machine: It's a Viking, it's bad ass. But, I've got my junky ones for when I travel.

 

How do the More Than Mammal parties work?

A lot of what I do is to raise awareness of endangered species, so I throw More Than Mammal parties where the focus is on informing and entertaining people. I get people to dress up in the costumes, and I tell a story about the costumes. It's a performance thing -- and I dance with fire, and have other friends who perform with me.

 

How do those costumes address endangered species?

They all have different names and stories. There's Unconditional Love, that's an endangered thing; there's the Mother Earth costume. There's the Water Nymph, which is about pollution and I tell people about the dead spot in the Gulf of Mexico that's the size of Vermont because of all the nitrates running from the good old Ohio and the Mississippi and how there's no fish or algae or life. The Tree Moth is about deforestation and animals that don't have anywhere to go because of it.

 

Do you have other themed costumes?

There's the Princess of Coins -- that's about the selling of your daughters, it's a belly-dancing harem dress about the whole marry-a-rich-man thing. Meat-Flesh is about Americans not getting off their ass, about flesh turning to fat. The Strawberry is about motherhood, and the promotion of formula instead of breast milk. The Concrete Clown addresses the issue of having to pay to perform on the street, which makes no sense to me, and about the loss of culture due to that.

 

Do the clothes you design to sell have themes as well?

Some of them are just clothes that I re-dye or re-cut, but a lot of them do. I put little prayers on them. I've got clothes that are tributes to nutmeg, or to purple cabbage -- like "cabbage, it's a peasant food and nobody eats it anymore, and it's just so good for you" -- things like that. I also make T-shirts with messages like "Don't draft me because I'm beautiful" or "Be kind."

 

As a society, we really throw a lot of clothes away.

My mission is to be able to create with destroying.

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