Sunday, January 27, 2008

Want Wings? 1.0

I have a thing about wings. As an animal not graced with the ability of flight, I am incredulous at the vast variety of flight apparatus so many other animals use with agility and ease. Everything from soaring eagles to house flys! I want 'em too. So, I've been on an odessy to aquire and fashion wings of all variety and uses.

As I say this now, I'm thinking back to my earliest yearnings and realize this is no short term whim. I even adorned my first dorm room with wire form cicada wings (still a favorite) that I spent too much time on considering I should have re-typed an essay or two. A friend gave me a little box with some real cicada wings like they were precious jewels. I have it still. That I used an actual typewritter tells that I've had it quite a while, decades in fact.

My first real experience as a costume designer was at a small ballet school in my neighborhood. All the little girls of our neighborhood became bugs and birds. I got to make several hundred pairs of wings, everything from bumble bees, butterflies, lady bugs, blue birds, cukoos and swans.

Since then I've apprenticed with several of artisans whose work appear in everything from broadway shows, ballet, opera, and Disney productions and am still making wings. I'm lucky that for my work I get to play with my wings and lots of little girls who want them.

But I noticed a clear rejection of wings at about five years old. At first I thought it was because they'd out grown them. Then I wondered about myself. If they'd moved on at five, what did this say about me? I considered whether something a bit odd about my fascination and set in for some serious study of the phenomenon.

I discovered that it was not that they'd out grown wings but they didn't want, well, childish wings. Their flights of fancy required something more than pantyhose streached on a coat hanger. I'd made butterfly wings of shimmering silver and gold shot pink and blue, but these too, didn't provide sufficient loft.

I began to look at what the kids just a bit older were reading and found a real wealth of material from picturebooks to young adult featuring faeries and re-worked fairytales, all featuring flight. I took home artwork popular with older girls and started to mess around with what I had at hand. I ended with a set of wings with feet in the natural world in form, but with their head decidedly in the clouds. And of course, they sparkled, shimmered, glimmered with promise of yet unthought adventures.

They were in the store for not even an hour before someone just had to try them on, someone older than five. Eurika! They had the wind for flight along, they just needed the right wings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I wanted to be Glinda

When I was small, I had a fabulous pirate's chest that my father had built for the four of us children. It was filled with all sorts of to me, then weird, old fabulous clothes like parts of my father's wedding tuxedo. The best of all were my mother's prom dresses. One was my special favorite. It was huge and fluffy and pink with sequins sprinkled all over. I would put it on and pretend to be Glinda. I'd turn my brothers into flying monkeys.

Our clothes just don't let you be Glinda! In playing with kids and talking to their moms about this "Princess Obsession" that they frequently found so unsettling, I'd mention my escapades as Glinda and ask them if their wardrobes, at least the portions of them they'd be willing to turn over to their kids were much fun. Almost unanimously, they'd regretfully say no, they weren't.
I think this is a large part behind the princess phenomenon. Children have not really changed as much as we may think, but we have.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Tiara: Dress Up and Imagination

The first tiara I made was for a friend and fellow grad student in a theater design program. Everyday she'd come in to the shop where we were making all the costumes for a show that was a bunch of fairytales for grown ups. (No, not that kind of grown up!) She'd be bombarded with questions as soon as she arrived . . . every day. She was a really nice and collaborative person and was just floored at having to tell so many people what to do.

Thinking about all the princesses we were making for the show and that they didn't have any trouble with this at all, I asked her if she had a tiara. Of course, she said no. So I made one out of sparkly junk lying around, broken and mismatched earrings, sequins and other shiny trash. And I told her to put it on any time she was having a hard time making a decision. She later told me she was amazed at how much easier it is to make a decision and tell some one what to do with a crown on your head. It says you're the one in charge, in power and it does not matter if you disagree with me or think I'm dumb, mean, or not pretty.

Since that time, I have made many tiaras. Their owners don't actually have to put them on for them to work. Several of my friends have them handy in their bottom desk drawer. Just knowing that it's there helps immensely when a decision is called for or when standing firm to someone accustomed to intimidating their way to the top.

So, if you're feeling a bit under the weather, authority wise, get your self the jewelery to prove with out question that you mean what you say and you mean business.