Retired North Dakota State University Gold Star Marching Band uniforms march on this homecoming as upcycled pillows, thanks to a collaboration between NDSU’s Athletics Band Director Sigrud Johnson and local artist Emily Brooks.
In 2007, Johnson was hired as the new director and also ordered new uniforms. Small efforts were made early on by NDSU’s band sorority chapter, Tau Beta Sigma, to make throw pillows out of the old, unused uniforms, but the students abandoned the project when learning how time consuming it would be.
Over the years, Johnson never forgot about the uniforms and this summer decided to finally find a way to honor them.
“I got to thinking that I should look around and find someone local who would be interested in a business venture with the band, where that person would create and sew the pillows and handle the business end of it, and we would supply the old uniform parts. We would split the proceeds,” Johnson says.
Johnson was introduced to Brooks of Taea Made who focuses on combining vintage ideas with modern content through fiber art, paintings and photography. Brooks is known for her unique throw pillows and was excited for the opportunity.
“I love to sew, so I get to do what I love, but I love to collaborate with other people,” Brooks says. “It gives me a chance to do something I wouldn’t normally do and stretch my creative muscles.”
The uniforms range from 10 to 25 years old and have some wear and tear, but Brooks insists that this gives each of them their own unique story, though the process has proven to be quite the challenge.
“They take quite a while to deconstruct. They are so well made, with layers and layers of fabric,” Brooks says. “I’ve had to use kitchen shears, pliers and rotary cutters. I even had to call my mom, a retired home ec teacher, over for moral support.”
The pillows will be for sale at the NDSU bookstore for homecoming and in Brooks’ online etsy shop, but they are already marching off the shelves.
Married couple Krista and Matthew Salzer, who met and fell in love while marching together in the band, already received a pillow as a gift from a family member. Brooks was told their exact uniforms and made pillows out of the ones they wore.
“Gold Star has always been a part of us and our story, and now it’s so fun having it be a part of our home, too,” Krista Salzer says.
Through people like the Salzers, Johnson’s vision for the 100-plus uniforms are coming to life.
“I love the fact that alumni, current band students and their parents and other fans of the band can have a bit of Gold Star Marching Band history in their den or dorm room or wherever,” Johnson says. “Instead of the uniforms rotting away, they’re becoming a memory you can hold on to.”
Part of the profits from the band pillows will go towards funding activities and the overall costs of operating the marching band.
How to buy
The NDSU Gold Star Marching Band uniform pillows will be sold during homecoming week at the NDSU Bookstore, 1401 Administration Ave., Fargo. Large pillows are available at www.taeamade.etsy.com for $75. Smaller accent pillows will sell for $40.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, September 26, 2016, issue of the paper.