Ritual Union

The bride and groom in avian form

Over the past few months my buddy Rebekah and I have been working on a wedding dress for our friend Brooke. (Andytoad bridal…?!)

I designed the dress I hoped to make and together with Rebekah, and her amazing tailoring skills, we set out to build it. (Also cap, veil and masks.) Not wanting to reveal anything before the special day I’ve been kind of mum. However the wedding was this past weekend so I’m spilling the beans…

Brooke waiting to walk the aisle

Years ago Brooke, knowing what kind of work I do, asked if I’d make her wedding dress. Thinking she was joking or just being nice I said yes. Flash forward five-ish years.  I get a call from Brooke. “I’m getting married! Remember you’re going to make my wedding dress.” She was serious. So excited and nervous we began.

The bodice with it’s many pieces

Brooke found a nutty bride’s dress from the 70’s that was mostly tulle and beaded applique, a friend of mine donated a white satin dress he had around the house, I fell in love with a WWII silk parachute – we had our materials.

Where we began:  the puffy 70’s dress, the satin dress, silk parachutes

Rebekah models the parachute

Parachute preparation

We stripped apart, reworked, and reconfigured these materials and fashioned a dress (loosely inspired by the white peacock.) The wedding had a myth/ storybook theme to it  with a masked ball reception afterwards. Guests were given masks to wear when they arrived and the bride and groom entered the hall after the ceremony wearing peacock masks.

A lot of the work I make is used for art and performance purposes (costumes, masks, set pieces…) And honestly you don’t have to stretch the imagination much to see a wedding as performance art. It’s been exciting making the centerpiece costume for an ancient ritual. And Brooke was awesome and open to me making the dress in a way that was interesting to me.

Brooke and Jeff

The silk train / The wedding party

Using these material harvesting techniques is appealing to me. They give one a set of limitations to work within that often leads to unexpected results. Sometimes those results can be quite wild but I don’t think that’s the case here. I think Brooke’s dress is unique, flashy, and lovely in a subdued way (for me.) Knowing where it came from I think we streamlined and reworked well.

Brooke looked beautiful and she was happy. And I’m very pleased with what Rebekah and I made together. Mission accomplished.

Bride and bridesmaids

All photos by Andytoad except for aerial parachute image by Bettmann/CORBIS

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

One of my favorite pieces in the Brooklyn Museum is the Likishi Dance Costume. I make time to see her whenever I visit.

The Museum’s Likishi dance costume in performance, Zambia, 1935 (Photo: Margaret Carson Hubbard)

Museum Text:

Likishi Dance Costume and Accessories (Mwana Pwevo)

Unidentified Luvale artist, late 19th or early 2oth century
Northwest province, Zambia
Fiber, wood, hide, metal, seedpods, bark, rope, hair, organic materials

This complete dance costume shows how masks are normally one part of a larger ensemble. The mask is sewn directly onto the costume of looped bark and fiber, which fits tightly over the body of the dancer. Seedpod rattles and metal bells added a musical aspect to the performance.

Although they are danced by Luvale men, mwana pwevo masks depict women. In order to own and perform with a mask, a man had to symbolically marry it by paying the carver a copper ring as a bride price. In doing so, the dancer made a commitment to honor and care for the spirit represented in the mask. In return, the dancer was able to earn his livelihood performing at local festivals.