Kittles Family Artworks is all ‘evented’ out! We made it to a Mardi Gras ball in January. And, most recently, we attended the Irving Awards, our local theater’s annual awards ceremony. It was nice to have the theme set for Mardi Gras, since we were already prepared for that. I love to make pretty things and shiny things and decorative things. But the most awesome feeling of all is when you find out that people are actively looking for you to tell you your work is fantastic…or awesome…or that you should make lots of stuff like that and sell it! I have to kind of chuckle at that last one. I like to sew for my family and there are a few friends I’d sew for. However, if I sold my costume creations to the public, I’d charge quite a lot more than I’d be willing to spend for the items I’ve sewn over the last five years. It takes quite a lot of effort to make those. It’s even more difficult than creating chainmail jewelry. Why? It’s because there’s usually a set pattern for the chainmail, whereas I usually have to build a costume from the ground up. When I build a costume, I build a costume! I still have to be as careful as possible since I have to work with a tight budget and the resources available to me but I put my all into making the costume as accurate as possible. I’ll give you an example…
If you’ve never seen the movie ‘Princess Mononoke’, then I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, then you’ll know who San is and you’ll probably even have an idea what might go into making that costume. Here’s a photo link for you. (I’d share an actual photo but I don’t want to steal anyone’s hard work just for our little blog post!) As you’ll see in that photo, she wears wolf furs, huge teeth strung on a cord, arm bands, (in some pictures, she also wears a headband), huge shell earrings, a purple crystal dagger on a cord (not visible in this photo), facepaint, a white shirt and a blue dress with side slits (though you can’t see those in this photo), and a pair of moccasins (also not visible in this photo). It took me several weeks to gather the materials and I had to attempt many different art forms to put it all together. The shirt and dress were made out of cotton fabric, using a simple t-tunic pattern which I modified at the neckline and armholes. They were the easiest to do, apart from purchasing a pair of completed moccasins. Next, I tackled the fur cape. I used a faux fur fleece fabric and cut out 2 wolf skin shapes. I edge-stitched them using a zig-zag stitch, since I don’t own a serger. I added some twill tape loops on the top corners of the larger ‘skin’ which became the cape. I made the necklace of teeth using some awesome shells I purchased from a local bead shop and some hemp cord. I knotted the tooth necklace onto the cape at the twill tape loops. The cape, though time consuming, was also fairly easy. I made the crystal dagger necklace using an amethyst crystal pendant, purchased at the same store as the shell “teeth”, and some more of the hemp cord. I wound the cord around the crystal pendant and then glued the cord in place so it wouldn’t come apart. I used a simple knotted loop and bead to close the back of the necklace. For the arm bands, I used black and white ribbon, accented with bone beads I sewed on by hand. I used a piece of 1″ black elastic to make the headband and used a larger bone bead to accent it so that it matched the arm bands. (I thought the bone beads added a nice touch.) The toughest part by far was the mask. I don’t work with clay. Even if I did, it’s simply not practical for a kid’s mask, no matter how much I tossed the idea around in my head. Instead, I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a full face mask blank, one that can be decorated completely. I used acrylic paints to cover it with the appropriate designs. I even had to get creative to get the right colors because we didn’t have the correct ones on hand! I painted the full face orange, then finger-painted the cream stripes and yellow eye circles to finish it off. I also had to figure out how to attach a fabric hood to a plastic mask without breaking anything or cutting myself. After pondering the matter for a little while and considering the tools I had on hand, I opted for the hole punch, a needle and thread, and some twill tape. I punched holes around the outer edge of the mask, being careful to space them well so they didn’t compromise the integrity of the piece. I wanted it to be sturdy, not flimsy. I used the twill tape on the inside of the mask as a surface to attach the fur and as a protectant for our daughter’s skin. I tacked on the fur hood through the holes. It’s still attached after two years. In place of the overly large shell earrings, I purchased two open center oval-shaped shell beads. (They look like zeroes, now that I think about it.) I fixed them up as pendants and added them to surgical steel gold-tone post earrings. She has sensitive skin and can’t wear large, heavy earrings. I altered them from the original for her comfort. For the work involved in the San costume and considering the cost of the materials, I’d probably charge about $300-$400, and that would depend on how much the material costs have gone up in the last couple of years. Here’s a photo of the completed San costume.
Any costume sticklers will immediately be pointing out the discrepancies but I’m quite satisfied and proud of this particular achievement. I wasn’t sure how much of the fur I’d need and I’d already spent my budget. Otherwise, there would’ve been more fur around the mask, which would’ve covered her shoulders. Her dress also does not have the slits in the sides. The teeth are still smaller than they should be…but I don’t know where to shop for giant god-wolf teeth. Do you? 🙂
I like to build stuff that lasts, even though my kids are still growing. I see no purpose in making something that has only one use. I also like a challenge from time to time, though I wouldn’t like to do it on a regular basis. Every day seems to present a challenge of its own, anyway. Some days I can add another one and some days, I just can’t. Also, my skills seem many but they are limited. I can modify a pattern to a certain extent but I can’t build a whole new pattern from scratch. I’m hoping to eventually learn how, though, at my part time job. I’m not sure anyone can truly know what goes into such a massive project unless they’ve done it already. I chose to explain with this particular costume because it doesn’t look like ‘so much’ work. So when you make a trip to visit your local seamstress or tailor, please consider the time and effort they put into your project and the others like yours. When you wonder why it costs so much more to purchase a handmade item rather than a factory produced one, perhaps you will think back to what went into this ‘simple’ costume. Perhaps it will also inspire you to purchase more from your local artisans when you are able. Just because we love what we do as artisans, doesn’t mean it’s easy or that we always get it right every time.
From Princess Mononoke ~Lady Eboshi: What exactly are you here for?
Prince Ashitaka: To see with eyes unclouded by hate.
I apologize for the sound quality on this video post. It was the only trailer video I could find that shows the above quote. You’ll also be able to see more of the components in the San costume.