Away with the Fairies

Often when I am creating I go into another imaginative place. I feel that I am in a world of my own creation, the place of daydreams.  It is a great space to be in when you are writing or doing some visual art.  But at times this ability to put myself into a story or travel with my mind has not been appreciated by others.

As a child I became easily lost in the world of make-believe.  I remember going to a scary play when I was about 5 and became very distressed because one of the characters terrified me.  I thought it was real.  I had to be taken out of the theatre.  It was on a school excursion and the head teacher was not impressed. She obviously had no imagination and could not understand why a little child might be frightened.  I also found the MGM lion very terrifying because it was so big and loud. I thought he was going to eat me and hid behind my hands.

In kindergarten another girl and I were totally involved in a game we were playing and decided not to go inside when the bell rang.  We went to an area where there was an empty water feature with rock formations and continued our game.  Then the drama started.  The teacher started calling our names and we knew we were in trouble and hid behind the rocks and did not come out.  Things started to escalate and more people were looking for us.  Eventually we reluctantly decided to face the music and got into a whole lot of trouble.  Our mothers had been called and as punishment we had to spend the rest of the afternoon in the principle’s office nervously giggling.  We were only little kids acting out our fantasies but the reaction of the adults was totally out of proportion because of their fears.

As I became older I spent a lot of time in school daydreaming through classes or dreary assemblies.  I think that I missed lots of vital information by drifting off into my own little world.  Luckily there was always art class.  I could always concentrate on my artwork or a good book or anything that engaged me.  My early school reports often had remarks like needs to make more of an effort or would do better if she paid attention and concentrated on the work.  Any tendency to let your mind wander was to be discouraged.

All my day dreaming never did me any harm.  In fact without it I never would have persisted at any art form.  Ideas don’t just fall into your lap without time spent musing.  You can’t change reality without first imagining something different.  The world probably would not have many inventions or great works of art and literature without lots of daydreaming on the part of their creators.   Questions like “What if I do this? What would happen if? How can I do that?” are often answered by daydreaming.

Nowadays I tend to daydream in the garden, watching TV or gazing out the window when I’m in the studio.  For this reason it is good to have some kind of view, especially if there is a bit of nature.  It is also easy to daydream under the shower or in the bath because the hot water is very relaxing.  The only problem is that you can’t write anything down and have to quickly dry yourself and find a notebook before forgetting the idea.  Often when you are in this state your mind flits around from one topic to another so it can be difficult to keep track of your thoughts. If I am in that frame of mind I take a notebook into the bathroom just in case.

For those of us who have chosen to follow the creative path, daydreaming is an essential part of the creative process and losing oneself in some imaginative place is not something to discourage.  Being able to transport yourself somewhere else mentally or transform yourself into another character is really helpful.  A moment flight of fancy can develop into a story or a series of paintings.  Never stop your mind from wandering or as my parents used to say, being away with the fairies.

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Away with the Fairies

One midsummer night I dreamed

I’m in a tree far away

Visible in full moon light

I lie on branches with the fey

Faces glimpsed amongst the leaves

Figures hide behind the limbs

Bright beings with fragile wings

Stir the air and fan my skin

Some drift around me as I gaze

A whispered spell upon me cast

I finally slip out of the haze

To find my bliss at last

© theartistschild.com 2017

Daydreams can become reality so let yourself fly.

Kat

Here is one of my favorite day dreaming songs from the 70s.

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Costume Parties: One Person’s Heaven, Another Person’s Hell

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It’s nearly New Year’s Eve Party time.  Some people spend weeks making costumes for such an event,  while others won’t even wear a silly hat.  It seems that while many party guests love to dress up and pretend to be someone or something else, there are those who refuse to make any effort at all.

I have noticed that those who do not attend in costume often end up feeling left out and don’t have as much fun as the party goers who have embraced the theme.  Maybe some people have a costume phobia because of some tortuous experience in childhood or early adulthood.  If you are going to a party this weekend, for the reluctant participant I have made the following list of recommendations that should help anyone survive an event that requires a costume.  Some of these things are from personal experience and I still like to dress up.

  1. Never wear anything that you cannot sit down in. Eg. A Christmas Bon Bon outfit made of cardboard and crepe paper is a bad idea.
  2. Following on from point 1, never wear anything made in one piece that requires removal to go to the bathroom.
  3. It is best to avoid costumes made from crepe paper altogether because, firstly, they are a fire hazard and secondly, if it is humid or wet this will become droopy and colors may run down your face.  Eg. when your mother made you a crepe paper flower costume and it wilted like a real flower in a heat wave.
  4. Never wear anything that you do not want to be caught in if your car breaks down or if you are locked out of your house. Any realistic characters with a fake gun are probably not a good idea.
  5. Never wear anything that blocks your vision, prevents you from eating and drinking, or is so hot that you can only have your underwear underneath and cannot take it off when you go into a melt down. Even if they look cute, full furry animal costumes are a big mistake and should be left well alone.
  6. Never substitute indelible felt pen for make-up or use red or black grease paint. These will require industrial strength cold cream to remove.
  7. Never wear anything that is a hazardous to others.  Eg. Pipi Longstockings style plaits with a wire core can be dangerous for anyone sitting next to you.  Unless it’s someone in a Captain Hook costume.  They’re already wearing an eye patch. But the damage you could do on the dance floor does not bear thinking about.
  8. If you travel to a summertime party and it is still daylight, never drive through the city centre wearing an 18th century style wig and dress. You will cause a spectacle when stopped at traffic lights and it is impossible to hide.  Maximum embarrassment will result.
  9. Clown costumes were never a good idea, even before the creepy clown epidemic.
  10. If you disregard the above points, you are probably a masochist or an extreme exhibitionist.  So no sympathy when it all goes pear-shaped.

Now that you are aware of the pitfalls, it is possible to come up with some reliable costume ideas.  What follows are some costume suggestions for both those who love to dress up and for those who are more hesitant.

If you cannot sew like me, collect clothes that can be turned into a character just by using a bit of imagination (Op shops and weekend markets are good sources).  You can then reuse or reinterpret favourite costumes and keep them stored away in a wardrobe or vac-packed, so that it is never difficult to find something at short notice.  For example, my several long velvet dresses have been used to create Queens, Medieval ladies and witches, depending on the occasion.  One of my favorite characters from both film and TV versions, is the evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  She is just so nasty, has all the best lines and is a perfect character for a party costume.  Much more fun than dressing up as Miss goody two shoes Snow White.   I have a blue velvet kaftan dress that looks quite medieval and very “Evil Queen”.  All I have to do is put a glittery black knit top underneath, add some gold chains and a fake jewel, a black veil and a (cardboard) jewel encrusted crown and I have a great costume for colder weather. “An Apple, my pretty?”

The Crown was created by cutting out the shape from a cardboard base.  This was covered with fabric and was then covered with gold paper that had cutouts left to reveal the underlying material.   Stick on Velcro was used to fasten the ends of the crown together, and it was decorated with glass gems. Took a bit of work but I think that it looks very regal and can be used more than once.

You could make a King costume using the same principles.  A turtle neck top worn with slim black pants (tights if you dare) under some kind of robe or cape, with a similar crown, some chains around the neck and a prop sword and you could be King Arthur, Aragorn or if you like the dark side, the horrible King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, who has some great lines and an over the top death scene as inspiration.

For a warm weather costume the versatile standby is a fairy outfit, which has endless permutations.  All you need is a light party top, a skirt made from transparent or flowing material and some wings, which can easily be found at a $2 shop.  I have some glittery white ones.  I put these over a red, white and black chiffon style top that has long flowing sleeves.  For a skirt I use a couple of white half-slips, the top one being made of transparent net.  In my hair I put some cerise artificial flowers that I sewed to a large hair clip.  Attached to the flowers is a copper-colored butterfly for a bit of whimsy (for the purpose of the photos I have used a particularly itchy wig mistakenly bought from a party shop. This type of thing should have been on my warning list, along with feathered masks that make you sneeze).

With such a costume, you can be the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, the Good Fairy from Sleeping Beauty or if you like, the Bad Fairy.  Just do everything in black.  And as for you men out there, I have seen many a brave male in a fairy costume.  But if this is not your thing, there are always wizards or elves, the main requirements being a pointed hat and staff for the former and pointy ear attachments for the latter (and a loud voice and predilection for poetry).

If you can, it is also fun to create your own costume character.  Ellie and I are sci-fi fans and for a local art group’s New Year’s Party we designed and made Space Alien costumes.  Ellie, who can sew, used metallic gold fabric to make tabards (medieval term for open sided tunic) with art deco inspired padded shoulder extensions, requiring a lot of polyester stuffing material.  We made black satin belts that fasten with Velcro and attached a gold painted cassette tape to each to simulate some kind of power pack.  The tabard was worn over black cotton camisoles and black leggings (I had to use a long skirt in the photos as the dummy does not have legs).  We carried plastic ray guns that made a whirring noise.  On our heads we wore sparkly gold wigs from a $2 shop.  These don’t itch.  We both won a prize for our costumes and had a lot of fun being silly and quoting clichéd lines from sci-fi movies, Star Trek and Dr Who.

These types of sci-fi costumes work well for both men and women. They can also be adapted for colder weather with a long-sleeved top underneath and warmer pants and boots.  Also good outfits for a group.  You can pretend it is an Alien invasion.

There are plenty of costume ideas that are imaginative and comfortable to wear, so you should be able to find or make something that will ensure that you have lots of fun, without any major costume malfunctions.

If you are going to a New Year’s Eve party I hope that you have a wonderful time.  I think that we all want to say goodbye to 2016.

Happy 2017

Kat

When We Believed in Fairies

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Fairy Design

Watching colourful butterflies in our garden the other day reminded me of our childhood obsession with fairies.  Ellie and I listened with fascination when our parents read stories from illustrated fairy tale books and we played make-believe fairy games in the garden.  In December we had the lovely, paradoxical combination of both the summer fairy world and the winter wonderland of Santa.  The belief in an enchanted world of fairies, elves and a magical being who brought gifts on Christmas night, helped to develop my love of imaginative imagery and fantasy.

Fairies bring magic to the world of children and no wonder they are as popular as ever.  I remember visiting the Ola Cohn Fairy Tree in Melbourne’s Fitzroy gardens as a child and being fascinated by the carved fairies, elves and animals that I thought would move when no one was watching.  Our grandfather would take Ellie and I to the fern gully at the Royal Botanic Gardens.  We called it the Fairy Dell and grandfather would point out the fairies floating under the fronds.  We would see them because our belief was so strong.  Another time he gave us a rock that had a mushroom growing out of the moss on top and told us that this was a fairy house.  The mushroom and moss are long gone but I still have that rock. It was special.

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The Ola Cohn Fairy Tree

In my room hung a print of fairies trooping in a forest (The Fairy Way by Margaret Winifred Tarrant).  I loved that picture and I have it stored away as a memory of childhood.  One summer holiday Mum made us some wings out of wire coat hangers and pantyhose and we would dance around in our ballet leotards or swimsuits pretending we could fly.  I don’t know what happened to those wings.  They probably fell apart from repeated flapping.  If it were too hot outside we would create a fairy house by covering a table with a sheet and play underneath.  We found inspiration for our make-believe games in books.  My favorite Australian fairy books were about the gumnut babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs and The Little Green Road To Fairyland, beautifully illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.  I loved the fact that the fairies were depicted in the Australian landscape with native animals and gum trees so it was easy to imagine them in our own environment.  The fantastic fairy tale illustrations by Arthur Rackham were other favorites.  We still have these books because they are timeless.

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It was fun being allowed to stay up late to watch the old 1930s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Mickey Rooney as Puck on TV.  Although it was in black & white, the film captured the dreamlike world of the fairies and brought Shakespeare alive.  I saw it again recently and it is both an ethereal and humorous version of Shakespeare’s play, despite the basic special effects.  We also enjoyed the 1951 British movie version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol staring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, which usually screens around this time of the year.  The jovial “Ghost of Christmas Present” was a version of Santa Claus.

Like many children, we would visit Santa’s Grotto at a city department store, make our gift wishes and have our photo taken with a perspiring Santa, who always looked like they were about to collapse from heat exhaustion.  It can’t have been an easy summer job even with air-conditioning.  On Christmas night we would leave out a drink and a snack near the fireplace despite the fact it was unlit.  Because it was summer, dad said that Santa would prefer a beer, not milk, as delivering presents was thirsty work.  We were innocent children and it never occurred to us that if everyone did this Santa would have become inebriated.  He always drank his beer.  Waking up at 4 am to the presents hanging on the end post of the bed was always exciting.  We could never wait till daylight.  Ellie would come into my room and we’d unwrap everything together as this was much more fun.

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Santa Xmas Cards

I think I was in the fourth grade at school and mentioned what I wanted from Father Christmas and another girl said, “you don’t still believe in Santa, it’s your parents”.  I was shocked and devastated.   She was not one of my friends and probably said it to be superior.  Because I did not want Ellie to have the same bad experience, I decided to let her down gently and told her that our parents handed out the presents on Santa’s behalf, because he could not get all the way to Australia in one night.  I wish that our parents had told us the truth rather than leaving it to chance.  It is always sad when childhood beliefs are destroyed by some unkind, thoughtless person.  I bet that girl is still a sourpuss.  But the world did not end and it was just a part of growing up.

I don’t remember when my belief in fairies ceased.  I think that it just gradually faded away.  Probably the Santa incident was the beginning of the end.  The tooth fairy vanished after I gained my second set of teeth.  Without that cash incentive she became redundant.  Maybe fairies start to disappear as we learn to cope with the realities of life, but it is hard to forget their magic.

As an adult Myths and Folklore are still important.  I find modern fantasy artists who depict the fairy realm very inspiring.  One of my favorite painters is the British artist Josephine Wall, who produces beautiful, incredibly detailed paintings of the world of fairies and other mythical creatures.  I also love to read fantasy novels and watch films that are based on old fairy tales.  Probably the first book that I read on this subject and still one of my favorites is Faerie Tale by Raymond E Feist, with its references to Celtic mythology.  Quite scary and definitely not a bedtime story for little children.  A masterpiece of the fairy tale genre is the 1940s French film La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast) directed by Jean Cocteau.  With its living statues, the Beast’s palace is deliciously creepy and surreal.

Fairy tales still capture my imagination and have been an inspiration for my songs and art.  I have made cards with fairy and Santa images to accompany gifts for friends and relatives and will continue to be influenced by these mythical beings and will try to bring them alive.

And hey, if the Irish and the Icelanders will not harm a fairy tree or move an elven rock because this will affect the fairies and elves who dwell there, who’s to say they are wrong. The natural world needs all the help it can get.

So if anyone asks, “do you still believe in fairies?” I will answer’ “Yes, I believe in the idea of Fairies” and that will be the truth.   And as for Santa, he is everywhere whether you believe in him or not.

Happy Holidays.

Kat

(There is a lot more to read and view if you click on the text links in this post, including the full version of the movie, A Christmas Carol).