Mark Ballard

Decorated bras have purpose

Over the years, I have painted on all kinds of things — canvas, fabric, paper, sheetrock, wood, ceramics, glass, china and metal, to name a few. But until recently, I have never actually painted on a bra. Yes, you read it right. I said bra.

While traveling last summer, my wife and I read about an exhibit that included decorated bras. It occurred to me that it would be a great way to raise money for breast cancer. So I went back to the Bunko for Breast Cancer committee and suggested we give it a try here and that is exactly what we did!

Of course, since I had suggested it, I felt compelled to participate. White bras were purchased and given out to the chosen bra decorators. Our only instructions were to decorate a bra to be auctioned off at last Friday night’s Bunko for Breast Cancer event.

As I stared at the white bra given to me, as an artist, I forced myself to think about it in a whole new way. While I pondered, I had already peeked to see what size it was. It was a 36-C. Not that it made any difference. I just wanted to know. It was a plain and ordinary bra with no bells and whistles. As I studied it, I thought to myself, maybe that is what it needs — some bells and whistles. With more contemplation I thought, maybe not.

This whole bra decorating project reminded me of something that would have been assigned in art school. As I carefully studied the bra turning it over and over, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been. We were assigned some pretty unusual things to do in art school, but I never dealt with a bra — until now.

Creative people are taught to think outside of the box, to draw outside of the lines and to keep our concepts and ideas close at hand. After all, originality counts for a lot of points in an artistic arena. I wanted my bra to be unique and beautiful. It was for a special cause.

Forcing my mind to go through a kaleidoscope of ideas in a matter of seconds, I saw all sorts of interesting and unusual bras pass by. This is an important part of the creating process. Let everything spill out but only keep the good stuff. The problem always is what to keep and what to leave.

My phone rang abruptly, causing me to quickly come back to reality. As I carried on my conversation, I looked down and realized I was almost caressing the bra like you would a magic bottle in hopes that a genie would appear with the right answer. I smiled but opted not to explain what was happening to the person on the other end of the phone line.

After hanging up, I wondered why I couldn’t just paint it. You know, use the bra as an unusually shaped canvas. Then, I wondered what I would paint. What does one paint on a bra? I thought again about the event and the breast cancer survivors that would be bidding on my creation. What would they want? What could offer them comfort?

I knew I couldn’t paint “hope,” It’s hard to get that to stay on a paint brush. Or “courage” because it simply doesn’t translate. But what I knew I could paint was “beauty.” So that’s exactly what I did. I chose bright colors and beautiful things such as bees, butterflies, flowers and leaves. However, one thing I had not taken into consideration with my new-found canvas was the extra bra padding.

The first brush full of paint absorbed like a paper towel. What was designed to give women a little more fullness and shape was actually working against me. “Wow,” I muttered to myself, “Maybe this was not such a good idea after all.”

Coat after coat of paint was applied to the bra. Hour after hour ticked by. Even when I finished the painting process, I stood back and thought it needed more. So, more is what I gave it. I decided to outline every detail in gold and add gold trim because that is what I feel every woman who has gone through the battle of breast cancer so clearly deserves.

Last Friday night, as I stood on stage at Bunko for Breast Cancer 2010 next to a mannequin wearing the bra I had painted to be auctioned, I gazed upon all the ladies in front of me who have had cancer knock at their doors. They were all smiling, laughing and having a good time. I was thrilled when someone purchased the bra I had painted. She was so happy and that made me smile. I had accomplished my goal.

In my book, each of these women in front of me whose lives have been affected by cancer deserve gold medals just like the ones that have been presented to the deserving athletes during the Winter Olympics. Their effort, courage and battles are very similar. Except, these women did not choose to have them.

More with Mark

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930 or call (478) 757-6877.