“My name is Ms. Marine! I am the Art Room Queen!” Nancy Marine awes the crowd with her fashion creations. A competitor in the Columbia Design League’s annual fashion contest, Runaway Runway, Marine is a featured guest at this year’s “Meet the Designers: Runaway Runway” event, held at the Columbia Museum of Art. Tapping her boot on the stage, Marine demands that the technical assistant click to the next slide.
“Hit it,” says Marine, flicking her fuchsia-dyed bob with the back of her hand. In the photographs, Marine is dressed as an art room warrior, pacing on a runway and roaring battle cries. Her warrior’s helmet sports a paintbrush Mohawk, and her mace is spiked with Elmer’s Glue-All caps.
Marine, 48, is an art teacher at Killian Elementary School in Richland County. Marine is single, and her only children are her art students. When she isn’t teaching, Marine enjoys urban line dancing, painting murals in her house and constructing outfits recycled from art supplies.
This will be Marine’s third consecutive year entering Columbia’s fashion competition Runaway Runway, sponsored by Palmetto Clean Energy and held April 6.
Participants in Runaway Runway create and model outfits made from recycled materials to win prizes. The Columbia Design League’s official website states that Runaway Runway is intended to broaden the local community’s understanding of design and prove that environmentally-conscious clothing “can be fun, fabulous, fashionable and funky, too!”
Since 1992, Runaway Runway has grown, and in 2011, the show moved from 701 Whaley St. to a bigger venue at Columbia’s Township Auditorium. The Columbia Star reported that last year’s Runaway Runway, its 10th anniversary, attracted a crowd of over one thousand people.
This year’s lavish Runaway Runway after-party is funded by high-dollar sponsors, which range from Companion Global Healthcare, Inc. and Skirt! Magazine to organic alcohol companies American Harvest Distilling and Fetzer Vineyards.
The First Catwalk
Marine, a semifinalist in the last two Runaway Runways, lets loose her creativity at home. Her house is every bit as eccentric as she. A wooden zebra nests between the azalea bushes in her front yard, and the main hallway of her home features a collection of costume hats and dresses hung from nails.
Harry Potter trading cards line the baseboards of the walls. Marine points to a full-length mirror painted as the Mirror of Erised. The mirror, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, shows a person his or her deepest desire.
She pushes the coats on her coat rack aside and points at the mirror’s reflection of the Sorcerer’s Stone, which she painted on the opposite wall.
“You can see it, but you can’t get to it,” says Marine.
Runaway Runway 2011 was not spared from Marine’s artistic frenzy. Marine made a flapper’s outfit, complete with matching hat and purse, entirely out of Juicy Fruit wrappers. She decorated her shoes with chewed bubble gum that she retrieved from students.
“I heard about Runaway Runway, and I went to the last one at 701,” says Marine. “I was like, ‘this is cool—I can do this.’”
Marine hadn’t expected such a high level of craftsmanship from the other entries, such as first-place winner Miles Purvis’ Mad Hatter outfit, made from re-purposed cans, curtains and peacock feathers.
“I was blown away by how good they were,” says Marine. “I wasn’t even top three in my dressing room.”
Marine went on to wear her Juicy Fruit outfit to several Columbia Museum of Art events later that year.
“She was wearing the foil wrapper necklace and carrying the Juicy Fruit box purse for a members-only reception,” says Shirley McGuinness, a friend of Marine. “That's what I love about Nancy. She puts full passion in creating her work. That kind of passion is really rare, and it's great to see it on the runway and beyond.”
Two for Two
Marine entered two outfits for Runaway Runway 2012: the art room warrior, which Marine christened AMortinka, and a woven paper dress called “Crayola64.”
AMortinka’s outfit, which Marine modeled herself, was made from leftover art supplies from Marine’s classes. An Amazon-inspired chest piece featured a cone bra made from crayons.
“I’m very trial and error so I made, like, three sets of just the tits,” says Marine. “One was too small, one was too big, and being a schoolteacher in the summer, I would work for two or three hours in the morning, and then I could just put it away.”
Marine set the outfit aside for three months to refresh her creativity, then picked the project up again in fall 2011. She constructed an alter ego and back-story for her outfit. Her alter ego, AMortinka, was a warrior princess cursed for stealing a red Crayola crayon.
AMortinka, according to Marine, was her most time-consuming piece.
“It just grew and grew," says Marine. “When she has a name, now she has to have a font and has to have a logo, and she has to have a story, and it just grew and grew and became so in-depth that she’s really a real-life character, very real to me.”
Taking Project AMortinka to the next level wasn’t Marine’s decision.
“It took me,” says Marine. “It just took me there. I’m surprised I didn’t get a tattoo, to be honest.”
Marine’s alter ego graces the posters for Runaway Runway 2013. Pictures of the snarling AMortinka are taped inside store windows throughout downtown Columbia’s Five Points and the Vista.
“Crayola64,” Marine’s second entry, was modeled by friend Karen Corbett. The two-piece outfit was made from student art projects, which Marine cut into strips and wove together. She melted crayons to create a neck piece and glued together empty crayon boxes and Crayola Classic marker caps to form a belt.
All three of Marine’s past entries have been featured at “Runaway Runway: Meet the Designers” events.
Marine will display her new alter-ego, PrismaGleana, on the Runaway Runway stage. A rainbow fairy, PrismaGleana, late in choosing her own fairy color, was left with white, says Marine. Being resourceful and environmentally conscious, PrismaGleana decided to collect and use the wasted bits of color left behind by other fairies.
PrismaGleana’s outfit features a bell skirt made from a patio umbrella, a handmade paper bodice studded with brass fasteners and a tiara of umbrella spokes and crayons. Marine is just as dedicated to this year’s design, and has made business cards, gifts of crayon jewelry, and a reliquary to advertise PrismaGleana.
Marine also made a reliquary for AMortinka. Inside the reliquary is a false bottom, holding the red crayon AMortinka was cursed for stealing and a folded piece of paper.
“Only the keeper of it knows the secret of it,” says Marine. She leans forward, her voice lowering to a whisper.
“AMortinka is not real. She is a legend. I created her.”
~ Giesela Lubecke, Jasper Intern