more costume extravaganza

There has been a request for close up photos of the costumes. Those are hard to come by... But here are some attempts and more photos anyway! If you click on the photos you can see them larger.
Spring and a few cold birds

Spring and birds dancing

Snow Maiden

Mardi Gras

the doomed love triangle

the poor fiddler is shy

the wise Tzar

a few ladies of the court

annual costume extravaganza

Yup it happened. The annual Russian school play. I didn't blog about the costume-making this year since it sort of happened on the fly and I didn't have time to take photos of the process. I also didn't make as many costumes this year as I usually do, my job was a bit more organizational.

None the less I wanted to share the costumes with you. No animal or fish heads this year, but still plenty of fanciful characters.

The play was Snegurochka/Snow Maiden. It's an old story that takes place in pre-christian Russia. It's been made into a movie, a cartoon, an opera and a ballet. Snegurochka is the daughter of Ded Moroz/Grandpa Frost and Vesna/Spring. She wants to live with the people and feel love. It all turns into an unfortunate love story with her melting in the end after she feels love....
Spring dancing with the swans

Grandpa Frost arrives with his snow minions

Snow Maiden with her father

Snow Maiden with her mother

Maslenitza or MardiGras 

Snow Maiden falls in love

The Tzar and his advisor

the village people

Spring dances with the flowers

the little hump backed horse

Hello! long time.... Happy New Year!

As you might imagine life has been busy. The projects in the pictures below have consumed my life for the past two months. It was fun, challenging and hard work. And now it's done. Here's proof (in order of appearance on stage):
Ivan and the magical horses
Magical horses again
Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse find the Firebirds feather
the bazaar scene
The Tzar arrives
the Tzar and his Attendant
the Firebirds dance
and dance some more
I love this blurry image of the Firebird being captured
The Tzarina Maiden
the Moon and the Sun
the Fishes
Fish begging forgiveness from the King Whale 
more Fishes
The Tzarina Maiden with her Prince Ivan magically transformed 
my favorite colorful players
how adorable are they?
and for good measure the Moon and the Sun again...
That was a lot of pictures I know, hope you enjoyed them, I could have posted many many more! Here's the English version of the story if you would like to read it.
Now off to clean up my studio and make some art!

Oh and I must confess... I stole all these pictures from my friend Ekaterina who painted the fish heads and horse heads for me. I have an excuse! I was back stage helping with costume changes! And she did give me permission. Really.

so much to do!

Autumn is such a busy season in so many ways. School activities are in full swing, holiday prep is in full swing. This year I had the opportunity to be in many exhibitions, so that means packing and printing labels and gallery sitting. I've been hard at work on my latest home portrait, it's almost done and I'll be sharing it in my newsletter very soon.

And now another annual tradition has crept up on me... Costumes for my daughters annual Russian School Christmas play! So among the finishing stitches on the home portrait, I have been sketching costumes, making lists of children and dreaming of how to bring my ideas to life. And I do mean dreaming. I been having costume construction dreams quite literally.... now I have to start stitching in real life though.

This years play is "The Little Hump Backed Horse". I gleefully ran to my kids home library and dug up the book from my childhood, I have always loved the illustrations in it. We watched the cartoon version just get up to speed! We have yet to watch the ballet, but that I'd want to see in real life...

So I thought I'd share a few of my sketches here. They are of the more fantastical costumes that will be a challenge to construct...
the Little Humpbacked Horse and the three beautiful horses

the Moon and the Sun and the Firebird

the Fishes

the Tzar and the Tzar Princess
I'll be back with in-progress pictures of this motley crew in a week or so... You can also follow my progress on Instagram.

The Tale of Tzar Saltan,

...of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan.

How's that for a mouthful? That's the full title of Alexander Pushkin's poem that our Russian school put on for our Christmas play this year. Yes Christmas. Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, and with all the holiday festivities and the coordination of other Russian schools plays, we got the last possible time slot... But that's ok! Gave us all more time to procrastinate (ahem) and put on a great show!

I am once again honored to work with such dedicated parents, super creative individuals, and professionals who all volunteer their precious time and donate resources, so that our children can learn about their heritage in such a hands on way!

Here are a few pictures...yes only 15... Too many for a blog post? Perhaps. I couldn't take any as I was backstage, so these are all taken by the artist who painted many of the backdrops and stage props. She shared 445 pictures with me (which means she edited out at least 100!) I managed to get down to 15 to share with you, my readers... edited down to show the costumes as best as possible.. enjoy!!!
three sisters singing by the window
The Tsar chose his Tsaritza
the wedding dancing entertainment
more wedding dancers
evil sister plotting
mother in law plotting
the three comic relief characters plotting
the people reading the order
the best shot we could get of the very fast moving bee!
black hawk fighting with the white swan
swan wings in action
swan princess revealed to the prince
the magical squirrel
the bogatyr of the sea and his army
people taking a bow after all is well again...

Phew... and now I'm off to clean my studio....

playing dress up

Things have been crazy around these parts...No time to blog, just sewing sewing, sewing... and some gluing, cutting and painting too. The final push before Sunday's performance.

Here are a few Instagram shots that I have shared over the last several weeks as I have been working on the costumes for our Russian School play "Tsar Saltan". You can read about the design stage here.

I'll share photos of everything in full glory next week and then it's back to artwork! Wish me luck!

kings and queens...

Yup. It's that time again. Time to design and make costumes for the annual Russian school play in January. I took the last year off, but this year I'm back for another round...

This years story is The Tale of Tzar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan. What do you say that we'll call it Tzar Saltan for short? If you click on that link you'll read the wikipedia entry about the poem by Alexander Pushkin. The whole poem is here, translated to English of course. And the famed composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov wrote the opera for the tale, here's the most famous bit of music from it. Of course if you'd like to see the cartoon version, that's here....

As one can see the tale is pretty famous, been done very famous people. We, the Russian school volunteers humbly accept the challenge....

Here are the sketches that I drew of the costumes. They are really more of an idea, an inspiration for the kids to see while they are rehearsing. The actual costumes will depend greatly on the fabrics and clothing available to us and may not closely resemble the sketches. But I'll try...
The Swan Princess and Prince Gvidon
The kite bird and Chernomor the leader of the sea bogatyrs
The three trouble makers

Prince Gvidon as a bumblebee and the magical squirrel
Tzar Saltan and his Queen
Wish us luck! The sewing marathon is about to begin!

radio silence?

That's what it feels like on this blog doesn't it? I know the wordless wednesdays are not enough to keep you interested. But really, I promise, there is art happening in my studio. Just that it gets overwhelmed and interrupted by family and other life obligations..
3D dottiness
Even though this year I took a sabbatical from the Russian school play, somehow I wound up stenciling letters and numbers onto capes for the Middle School play and sewing hooks onto tutus for the ballet school. How do these things happen to me??
I've been working on a myriad of art projects in the studio. There are two that I can share right now, both are not finished. If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen my Olympic French knotting? (tongue firmly in cheek) I have finished all the knots, the next stage is more felting, I think I'd like to felt some of those knots to get the effect that I am after. It's about experimenting here!
the not French knotted area
French knotted wall
The next piece is also all about experimenting. An opportunity came up to do a 3D piece for an exhibit and who am I to say no? I am very excited by a chance to try something new and the theme is right up my alley too: Architectural Elements! I wanted to see if I could combine nature (twigs and wood) with a feel of the city. I manipulated my photographs in Photoshop and printed them on silk organza. Then I hand stitched the glass in the windows with a few fine threads to give an illusion of shimmer.
sheer and shimmer
And now I find myself wrapping the twigs in thread and unraveling the organza.
I might be going slightly mad as I am also weaving spider like webs... Not sure where this will take me. Perhaps Arachne is guiding me? Stay tuned!
weaving webs

sadko part 3, the details

In this post I thought I would share a few close up details of the costumes, sort of eye candy if you will...

feathers rock! whether they are fake or real
chain-mail must glitter
the right lighting can make everything romantic
sumptuous fabrics make everything better
duct tape and hot glue rule!
the right color combination can make any swirl Russian
sometimes it's worth a trip to get the right fabric (Forest Hills = Little India)
This concludes my costume overview. Hope you enjoyed it!
And again I must thank my dedicated all volunteer team of mothers who are always willing to share their skills or learn new ones just so that all the kids can look awesome!

sadko costumes part 2

This is the second post about our schools latest costuming endeavor.  

The town of Novgorod is visited by far away guests who all sing and dance to entice our hero to travel to their lands in search of riches.
the Varangian guests in sketch
and on stage
the Venetian guests in sketch

and on stage
Indian guests in sketch
in dance

and in song
Of course Sadko's adventures take him to even more fantastical depths, such as the kingdom of the King of the Sea!
The King of the Sea with his daughter the Princess Volkhova and her sisters
Volkhova and the Sea King talk to Sadko
father and daughter
the beautiful princess
Volkhova's sisters aka the waves
singing with all the little sea creatures
More details tomorrow!


Costumes, costumes, costumes galore!! Yup, this is the long awaited annual costume post. Usually I post about the costumes I am working on as I am working on them, but this year time just got away from me. So to make up for the delay I bring you so many photos that they'll take up three blog posts. This is part 1.

For our Russian school play this year we chose Sadko. Sadko is actually a very ancient story, sort of a Russian mythology, an epic poem. Our play was based on the story and music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Sadko.

Our story contains many fantastical characters, but I will start this by showing you the people of Novgorod where the story starts and ends.

Sadko the Rich Guest - our title character in my sketch
and here he is on stage
Sadko's crew
on their ship
and taking a bow
the town leaders in concept
and reality
the town folk
merchants and buyers
helping catch fish
checking out the action
listening to Sadko speak
laughing at his boasts
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I need to tell you that I did not make all these costumes! I had the most fabulous team of dedicated volunteers. The traditional Russian costumes are most reused from our older plays, just need to be reconfigured and only the new specialized costumes need to be made. Still plenty of making though! 

In the next post I'll get to the fancier characters of the story.

in progress

Everything is state of progress around here. I suppose it's better than a stalemate, right? 
pom poms to be
pom poms almost done
I've got pom poms being made for Russian dance costumes, they'll go on the headdresses. 
start of a new piece!
putting the pedal to the metal
keeping things in check
I've got three new 12"x12" pieces started, all based on cathedrals of St. Petersburg, Russia. I laid out the bits and pieces of fabrics, trapped them with netting and got them ready for some "pedal to the metal" free-hand machine stitching. What I am really looking forward to is hand stitching on all three of them. Not all at once......really. And if by some miracle I get one of them done before the end of the month, I'll have a donation for the annual SAQA auction. 

Meanwhile I have updated my website AND decided it was time for a re-design. The re-design will take a looong time, I am giving myself permission to take my time and not rush through any decision making and take the time to re-learn the software too. I just got an update, so things should be humming along. I'll let ya know how that goes....

I have also started prepping for my workshops at the Create Retreat in New Jersey in July. Looking forward to teaching new stuff and meeting new people!

BUT! This weekend, if you are in the NY tri-state area, please stop by the little town of Katonah in Westchester County and see the Northern Star Quilt Guild exhibit. My totem will be part of a special display by Fiber Arts North East. I cannot wait to see a room full of 18" by 8 foot! totems. Picture opportunity indeed!

scenes from the studio

Things are humming along on the studio lately. These are just teaser photos, can't quite share anything yet. 
Working on large piece for an invitational exhibit, and that's taking up most of my time. I am almost done with all the machine stitching, and soon there will be a needle in my fingers and a hand stitching marathon will commence. 
There is a bit of costume design happening for our Russian Folk Dance group. And some frivolous doodling for an iPhone cover (that one is Kristin's fault...)
sketchy stitching
gathering bits and pieces for layers

theater arts

This year our Russian school play has gone by in a blur... but I promised pictures, so here they are. Very few full costumes actually came to life in my studio. I mostly made parts of costumes.
a hat here
some painted tights there
the evolution of a party dress here
A few scenes from the play... several of the months with the heroine of the story; step mother and step sister; the bratty queen; snowflakes; and winter, scaring everyone..


My studio is slowly turning into an atelier... It's Russian school Christmas play costume time once again! I don't have anything to show for my labors yet, except the mess in my studio....

The story this year is "12 months" based on a story by Samuil Marshak, it's very difficult to find the English version of this online. Here's one version and here's another. Piece them together and you'll have one resembling ours.
Three of the 12 months (December, January and February)

The young bratty queen.

The good soldier.

The good stepdaughter.


Can you stand another costume post? I sure hope so! One more of my favorites from the costumes I personally made is the koryagi/tree costumes (the other two are skomorokhi and Baba Yaga's house on chicken legs)

The pattern making part on this was way too simple to bother photographing, mainly strips of fabric. The complicated part was figuring out how to make kids resemble trees, have them be able to move in these costumes, how to have them fairy comfortable in them and look like they are part of the scenery... Basically after all is said and done these are sort of like Gumby costumes in tree form..

My first task was finding fabric that could potentially resemble trees. That required a much loved trip to the NYC garment district (any excuse will do to get me there, but a real reason is so much better!) I happened upon some fabulous wide wale corduroy that almost looked as though it was painted. Perfect! But not enough. Had to go shopping for more corduroy in different colors in different stores. But how many trees in the forest look exactly alike? Right?
Here's my kid trying on one of the first costumes, luckily one of the tree kids was almost the same size as one of mine and I could perfect the sample on her. That's a plastic bucket on her head beneath the fabric. The part with the branches will fit over that and there are branches to hold in their hands.Here are two tree actors in one of the first fittings with their tree heads on. They seemed pretty happy and comfy! On the stage blending in with the scenery. And helping out the bad guy. Scary don't you think? LOL Relaxing before the show... That's gaffers tape on their heads. At the last moment I had a panic attack and thought with horror about them falling apart on the stage!!! So a handy roll of gaffers tape made me feel so much better...lucky I had it left over from my previous life. Happy taking a bow!
PS If you would like to see more pictures from our play, you can take a peek here.

fun with costumes

One of my favorite costumes to create for the Russian school play was the three Skomorokhi/Jokers costumes. Why? Because they were pure fun. Because I got to doodle with paint on a blank canvas aka shiny poly satin. Because the pattern making was easy and the construction even more so with my trusty Bernina serger (zip zip)! And as an added bonus - bells! on all parts that could jingle!

So I thought I would share the evolution of the costumes here...
I started with my sketch. The sketch is mostly from my head, influenced by researching Russian costumes from fairy tales. Purposefully I kept the sketch black and white. As for any production budget is a huge issue and I was not sure whether we'd be able to use fabric from the school stash, score a donation or have to buy fabric. I gave up on the fleeting idea of piecing the garments according to my designs, it would have just been too time consuming and of course time is of the essence.... I was leafing through my costume books for an idea of how to realize my idea.. and found this! Photographs from the 1912 production of Snegurochka/Snow Maiden (Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov) at the Zimin Opera theater in Moscow. Brilliant! I just loved the painted or printed costumes and I knew that I could accomplish that quickly.Measurements were taken. My rusty pattern making skills were brushed off. The blank costumes were constructed.(and modeled happily...LOL) I ran into a bit of a problem at this stage as most paints I had were either bleeding too much or making the fabric too stiff. By stroke of luck I stumbled upon this blog post by Judy Coates Perez, thanks Judy! A quick trip to the local art store for a selection of bright colors and I was off and running. The painting has begun! I kept my original sketch around for inspiration, but wandered from it freely as my muse took me or for ease and speediness. I stuffed the garments with plastic sheeting that has seen many uses and the pool noodles made good stuffing for sleeves. Hooks in the ceiling are a good tool, sometimes it's easier to draw on something hanging instead of lying down flat. Certainly helps with drying! A bit more progress here. By the third costume I was really doodling! and wondering how my doodles would be by the 4th or 5th costume. I was kind off bummed there where only three... Then I got some fluorescent puff paint for details and stopped being so bummed, because this paint required drying with hairdryer and I was running out of time. Even my parents, who were visiting, helped out with the drying... Then I got my mom to sew on all the bells!Here are the three rascals all dressed up. And on the stage.

tzarevna lyagushka or the princess frog

A Russian fairy tale in pictures... The beautiful Vasilisa frolics in the woods with the forest animals and trees....Koschei Bessmertnii confronts her and reminds her that he wants to marry her... She refuses and the dove (that my dove's Oscar winning performance!) flies around him and infuriates him so he turns her (Vasilisa) into a frog....
(Vasilisa relaxes back stage with her girlfriends...)The Tzar's three sons shoot their arrows into the sky. They follow the arrows to find their brides.... The two older sons... The oldest son's bride (cute despite the painted on uni-brow and really really tall)... The court is astonished....The youngest son - Ivan Tzarevich - brings back a frog (his arrow landed in a swamp)...The Tzar says - let's test these brides: bake me a bread and sew me a shirt... The skomorokhi/jokers (mine is the stripy one) relax back stage before making fun of the Tzar and his sons... Don't despair Ivan Tzarevich, I'm not really a frog, I'm a princess, I'll make the best shirt and bake the best bread... The older son's wives make an awful bread and horrible shirts... and their dance to impress just makes them into fools....Vasilisa/Frog makes the most beautiful shirt and tastiest and most wonderful bread that her girlfriends bring to the court..... Everyone is amazed.... Her girlfriends are cheering... The Tzar is stunned... Ivan is in awe when she shows up in her true form.... He makes a huge mistake after-wards though.... He burns her frog skin and she vanishes in Koschei's clutches... Ivan prepares for battle to win back his bride...He consults (back stage in this case) with the old man of the woods about what to do... First he fights the tree monsters.. The forest animals help him out... Baba Yaga waits for him...(backstage)... She tries to eat him first and then decides to help as Koschei is her mortal enemy too... She tell Ivan how to kill Koschei.... ...and now please indulge me in a few extra pictures of my favorite creation - Baba Yaga's house on chicken legs.... ...ain't it cute? First Ivan must battle Koschei's sidekick Zmei Gorynich... Then a match of wits with Koschei himself. Can Ivan guess which princess is his bride? a battle takes place with the help from eager Baba Yaga.... the birds bring Ivan the egg that contains... the needle that is Koschei's lifeline. He breaks the needle and Koschei dies groveling at his feet... Vasilisa returns in her true form.... The Tzar blesses their marriage... Let's have a feast! Dove, bird and skoromokh mug for the camera... Zmei relaxes in the green room with the girlfriends....

What a production it was....can't begin to count the costumes... the scenery was magical.... and I had most amazing helpers! We had fun despite lack of time and sleep....the creative energy kept us going and going and going.....

shoemaker, hatmaker, bird maker

Just a few of my job titles for this week..... a more thorough explanation is coming next week when I can breathe again...

PS despite proper electrical wiring in my studio, today I found out that I can blow a fuse (twice) if a hairdryer, a heat gun, a sewing machine and an iron are all working at once...LOL