From AI to Reality

The Seed:

My friend Elizabeth introduced me to Midjourney, after seeing the beautiful art she created with it, she inspired me to give it a try. I blew through the trial and immediately bought unlimited access to the bot. I started with prompts trying to get it to look like the photos I take of the gowns we create photographed on mannequins. With seeds like “Gown on mannequin w/o head with arms slightly facing away from the body” and mixing it with details that I often include in my work like “raw crystal, opal colors, iridescent flowers, fairy wings, very detailed, ombre, filigree, silk, floral details” After hours of playing with the bot & tweaking the prompt it generated a design I fell in love with! With the same seed, I created a matching necklace and crown! I called it “Opal Crystalis”. I posted the design on my social media and it went viral.

I got so many comments from people thinking it was a real photo of a gown we created. It felt similar to what we have created before and I wanted to give it a try to replicate it to the best of our abilities. It was also a great chance to try out new methods outside of the usual techniques that we have been wanting to try out.

The Process:

For the overall design, I really wanted to convey that “not fully rendered” look. Midjournery has this whimsical style where some parts of the image look more actualized than the rest. All the details feel like dreamy impressions of something familiar.

 I started by breaking down the components of the gown and strategizing how we were going to approach each element. 

The silhouette of the corset and bolero is very similar to the design we created for Simplicity Patterns #8363. The base was easy but the bark texture was where we needed to get crafty. I really wanted an organic look to it.  We patterned individual layers that stacked like bark shingles on a tree. For the texture, we used a method from Organic Armor Their method is kind of like paper mache but with latex! It worked perfectly with what we wanted from the texture.

For the floral elements, I deconstructed faux flowers and created my own airy petals by burning petals I cut from mesh. Even for the small details, I kept it as impressionistic as possible. 

For the skirt, I pulled the image into photoshop multiplied the texture and divided it into petals. I also printed other designs that were similar to the rendering in case I wanted to fill in additional elements to the back of the gown. I then had it printed on chiffon from Spoonflower. For the smokey underskirt, I created layers of distressed tulle over ombre teal mesh. 

For the fairy wings, I asked fellow fantasy artist Lauren of Hello Faerie to create the wings! We have collaborated on several projects in the past and I knew I could count on her to make these a reality too! We video chatted to go over what colors would work best for the fairy wing frames and the colored film would best match.

For the necklace, faerie jewelry artist Under the Ivy created the perfect replica! You can find it here in her store - Under the Ivy

If you’d like to see the video, we documented it on our IG stories HERE


@fireflypathofficial Making AI into Reality #midjourney #sew #craft #fantasygown ♬ Ethereal Synth-oriented Ambient (940409) - Kenji Ueda


The Mannequin Photoshoot:

We did our best to replicate the image in every detail. Luckily Elizabeth was just gifted a photo backdrop paper in the same warm brown color! We shot some images with the backdrop and some in nature with fog. I already had a clear mannequin that we lovingly call “ghosty” in the studio. In order to create that opal effect on the back inside of the mannequin I created a fabric pearl “bib” so that you wouldn’t see all the way through and it gave it the same pearly shine as the AI art.

The Model Photoshoot:

Model Summer was the perfect model for the gown! We were so happy that she was down for what photographer Elizabeth Elder we had in mind for the photoshoot. Summer Dean is a climate communicator, storyteller, policy advocate, and the founder of Climate For All. She works to de-mystify politics by creating digestible, actionable content about the climate crisis and the fight for justice on all fronts. Our backdrop was at the beautiful LA arboretum.

Final Thoughts:

At first, I felt like I was cheating, and that I was playing with technology from a future beyond my time. It’s overwhelming and intimidating as an artist to know that entering a few adjectives into AI can create something so beautiful in seconds. It takes me hours, days, or weeks to work out concept designs. 

Making this gown has pushed us artistically. We’ve been excited coming into the studio each day we are working on it, and seeing it evolve. 

In the case of Opal Crystalis, we are 99% inspired, trying to make it as accurate as possible to the rendering. Taking inspiration from AI is a sliding scale.

There are some things that the AI can’t generate, no matter how exact my prompts are. It’s not going to replace my original concepts. I see it as a tool, a tool like the way Pinterest or google image search is. I’m really happy to have it in my tool kit, I don’t see myself using it for every project but I’m glad it's there.

Thank you guys for following along on our journey!