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!

rapturous moment

I've been hearing about this exhibit for a while from friends, I've followed the artist on Instagram and yet I barely made it to the Hudson River Museum to see it before it closed. The odds were against me the whole way, calendar too full... and yet I'm am so glad that at the last moment I was able to put something aside and make it there.

"Much of what I am after in my work is to capture a rapturous moment, when a river of our inner life spills out of us like blood or milk."~ Mandy Greer

Needless to say I was captivated, enthralled, amazed and inspired. Here are a few shots that don't do this fantastical installation justice:
gorgeous cream colored birds flowing out of an upside-down crochet volcano
from the top looking into the volcano
Looking through the blue crocheted waterfall that draped over a staircase
more fantastical birds (wonderfully made!) floating above a volcano representing blood
which spills out in a quilted compass...
there were many many birds throughout this exhibit, all breathtaking. this one looking into a fractured mirror
and this bird on a gilded branch...
From the museum press release: "The sewing machine and the crochet hook are her tools. Fabric and objects from the natural world her medium." This artist speaks my language...I may have to learn to crochet.....and perhaps we could collaborate, I'll contribute the recycled plastic artwork. Can you tell that I am inspired?

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.

something to blog about

Finally! Life has been a crazy whirl wind of activity (end of school year activity, birthday party activity, packing for camp activity, finishing touches activity), so it feels good to have a completed artwork to share. If you have the latest copy of In Stitches emag, you know how this piece started. I shared some early/mid stages of stitching in progress.

There is quite a bit of personal "stuff" attached to this work. The linen cloth belonged to my grandmother, I painted it with neo-color crayons while in Russia last summer and ripped it to pieces. This spring I put it back together with the help of painted dryer sheets, silk organza, some free-hand machine embroidery and a lot of hand-stitching, a lot. Old linen is such a joy to hand stitch...
Crimson Little Flower 8 / Аленький Цветочек 8