In my last post, Ricky commented that there is an etsy shop selling vegan ostrich feather.  I was skeptical at first thinking this would be another seller saying “well, these came off my pet ostrich, so totes vegan, right?” but looking at the site, I can see that they are crafty renditions!

check out all the colors and sizes available!

See more at Montabahn’s shop here!

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Happy 4th of July!

July 4, 2011

HAPPY (AMERICAN) INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Heat up the grill and break out the veggie dogs and vegan grillers!

This photo was taken courtesy of Hazel Honeysuckle backstage at the Rhinestone Follies’ Patriot Dames show. My vegan spin was a glittery tulle bustle (instead of feathers) and a faux feather hat ornament created using a stolen floral decoration from a party.

gallery gazing

February 24, 2011

One of the unfortunate aspects of my last job was that I couldn’t do much on the weekdays because of ever changing work hours. Now that I am no longer employed there I have the ability to go to shows and such on weeknights, which included an activity I’ve been wanting to do for months now: Thursday night open galleries with Diana Mattos.

I met Diana, a super snazzy lady with a fantastic flair for fashion, at a Rhinestone Follies show awhile ago and she had invited me to the gallery openings, but I never had the time to make it.  Let me explain a bit more; minaly on Thursday nights, assorted art galleries in Chelsea open their doors, and offer drinks, to entice people to come in and see their works.  On these days, Diana gets dressed to the nines and hits the galleries in vintage glory, often attracting photographers to snap pictures.

Last Thursday I was finally able to join her, and in honor I took an old vintage hat I had bought from Unwired Vintage and spruced it up with my own rendition of pheasant feathers by using a red sparkly decorations I snatched off a floral bouquet awhile ago. Although it doesn’t really look like pheasant feathers, I was very pleased with the overall effect, and judging by the amount of photos, I think many gallery guests were as well!

Catt playing with the 'feathers' later that night.

Most of the galleries close around 8pm, so Diana and I decided to get some dinner and then she’s be my escort to Calamity Chang‘s show Spanking the Lower East Side at Nurse Bettie, another thing I never got to attend due to my work schedule. We headed down to the Pita Pan Cafe, a small little counter service restaurant that served up a delicious variety of veg friendly dishes.  I ended up getting falafel, grape leaves, couscous and then the owner brought over some complimentary hummus and pita chips for us!

 

 

I was lucky enough to meet Miss Ivy League backstage at a New York School of Burlesque Student Showcase. I was instantly enamored by her fans and asked if I could get her to talk about them on my blog.  She was a sweetie, and after my initial forgetfulness, sent over this great  write up.  Who needs feathers when you have this level of creativity?!

Whenever I go see burlesque, I leave with a million ideas for my own acts. Not re-workings of performers acts, but maybe they’ll do a little move, and in my head it will spin off into it’s own direction. I think I probably came up with the idea after watching a beautiful fan dance at the Slipper Room in 2008 or 2009. As in, “It sure would be neat to see or do this idea!”
I’m trained as a sculptor and as a landscape architect, and in a lot of my artwork and models I’ve used fake plants in non-traditional ways. In some ways, leaf-fans were the most obvious expression of that. In February of 2010 I took the Essential Burlesque series at the New York School of Burlesque and I already had the idea for the fans
then. I was excited to learn fan dancing there so that I could apply it to the as-yet-nonexistent leaf fans –but I didn’t know to what music, or when, or if I’d even like fan dancing at all!

So, that 3 hour class with Jo Weldon was my first time fan dancing and I loved it even though I was sort of appalled by the cost of feather fans. And the thought they’d have to match a number of costumes! How could I afford them anyway? Good thing I wanted to make leaf ones!

Photo by The House of Indulgence

Photo by House of Indulgence

Around that time, Michael’s Craft store opened in my neighborhood and I leapt for joy – they always have a great selection of fake plants, and decent sales. I waited and got four “boughs” of Ficus. Still didn’t have music, still didn’t know if I was actually brave enough to get on stage. But I had the boughs.

In May of 2010, Lena Horne passed away.  My father had been a big fan of hers, and when I was little (like 2 years old) I met her and apparently she picked me up and called me charming and such. She was always so elegant, and lovely. I was watching videos of her on youtube, when I found her singing with Kermit the Frog a duet of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and I knew I had found my music and my act. It spoke to everything: my own childhood watching Kermit & Lena, it talked about being different – and when Lena sings it she is talking about being a person of color not just a frog, it talks about pride in being who you are. Best of all, it’s just a little funny too. Jim Henson (another hero of mine) has such a unique and funny voice. And everybody loves Kermit!

CONSTRUCTION OF THE FANS
I still had not made the fans though! Then Jo Weldon sent out a request for performers for the January 2011 new student showcase, and I said I’d do it…. And crap! I NEEDED THE FANS! It was a good thing I’d bought the boughs as Michael’s was out when I went to buy dowels and spray paint.

Photo by House of Indulgence

The fans are not constructed like traditional fans. Basically, I justtook a ½” dowel, cut it down to two 6″ long pieces, and drilled four holes into each piece for the bough stems. I cut down the stems with a good wirecutter, and glued them in with Gorilla Glue, which is super strong. When I hold them, I either hold the dowel against my four fingers and pressing down with my thumb, or I actually will loop my fingers over the dowel. Before going on stage I usually “fan out” the boughs a touch more and arrange the leaves.

To make the leaves pop on stage, they are lightly sprayed with metallic green spray paint in a blotchy layer, and on top of that a layer of gold glitter spray. They probably cost me a total of $50-$60 to make. The boughs were the most expensive part at $8 a pop or so if I remember correctly, and I used two cans of glitter paint, but only one can of the green metallic.

They work pretty much like “real” fans but they don’t collapse. Occasionally the leaves bind up together and you have to give a bit of a tug to separate them.
I adore them.

Photo by Anna Fischer

Photo by Anna Fischer

FUTURE ACTS?
I have lots of other non-traditional fan dance acts I’d like to do! I have at least 2 I think are pretty feasible, and another 2 that will take a lot of technical engineering. …
I tend to collect the bits I need as I go along rather than trying to do it all at once, right before a show.  The leaf fans in that way took a year to make – but really it was only a day of construction. Not even a day. A few hours, maybe 4 but they were spread out over a couple of days! So, these other fans may take a while. Right now maybe I’m missing the music or it’s not the right time for the event – I’d love to do a Christmas fan dance, an Easter fandance, a Channaukah fan dance! The possibilities are endless.

OK, I guess that’s more than four – off the top of my head I have 7 alternative fan-dances I’d like to do! Making stuff is a big part of why I do burlesque. I think it’s half the fun! The rest of the fun is split up between making people smile, and the liberty and freedom and confidence that comes from not being afraid to get naked on stage!”

To find out more about Miss Ivy League, friend her on facebook

burlesque blowout!

November 23, 2010

 

 

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be asked to perform at a reading party forCaper Literary Jounral and fiction circus where the burlesque performers did their acts in between poetry and short story readings.  It was a great time and was at this strange little place called Happy Ending Lounge which used to be an illegal prostitution house posing as a massage parlor!

Here are two pictures shot of my act from the ever-so-wonderful Lucille ti Amore who was also a performer that night!

 

Notice the garland boa from my recent post!

 

Last week I went to a massive vintage and antique show down at the piers in Manhattan. While there I stumbled across a pretty amazing find:

plastic feathers!

According to the seller, these date back to the late 1920’s, though I’m not sure of this.  The plastic is very durable and the little shiny rhinestones are pretty sweet.  So, victory in the search for finding non-feather hair decorations that give the effects of real feathers!

modeling my new fake feathers!

Quick addition to yesterdays post.  This is a blog about being vegan in the burlesque world so I feel it is only fair to give a quick critique of the burlesque handbook. Now, Jo is not vegan.  She never says she is and even run a burlesque show that is a tribute to cheese.  I won’t therefore pass judgement on her non-vegan behaviors, but will just discuss parts of her book that vegan readers might want to know about.

There are three sections of the book that deal with pretty un-vegan topics: Chapter 4 – Fans: Your Fine Feathered Friends (pages 87-112), a section on choreography with feather boas on pages 40-42  and then the section on feathers as part of costumes (pages 136 and 137) in Chapter 6 – Costumes – Constructing Outfits for Deconstruction.

Now, I should point out that the chapter on fans does mention to variety of different kinds of fans one can use and even create, something I have mentioned on this blog before (for example Lefty Lucy’s flannel fans), so there is ways for vegans to find the chapter applicable.  The chapter does mainly focus on feather fans though, how they move, how to take care of them and how to create your own feather fan.

The boa choreography could easily be done with boas that are not fathers or made of fake fur, so this part isn’t really anything to be concerned about.

As for the information on feathers as part of a burlesque costume, the chapter does say that they aren’t necessary and are just aids to a costume that exaggerate movement, much like fringe would.  Jo goes into how best to adhere and sew feathers onto outfits or headdresses, which does make me sad because although I will not wear them, I must confess adding a feather to a hair ornament  can give authenticity to vintage look or make an outfit suddenly more glam and showgirl.

I often feel sad about how it seems some burlesque performers will just through a feather on an outfit for no other reason that the idea “feathers=showgirl=burlesque.”  This is why there is one section of the book I want to talk about which falls in Chapter 1: Inspiration: Your Internal Theater (one of my favorite chapters in the book). I give you now Jo’s take on why she uses feathers:

“Although I don’t identify myself as living as a Native American, still more bits of information I got from my family inform me of some of my identity and affect some of my passion for burlesque.  I was always inspired by the idea that each feather in a chief’s bonnet represented an act of courage, and I wanted one of those long ceremonial headdresses. When I was told these were reserved for male figures of authority, I wanted one even more! Without yet fully understanding all the meanings of those ceremonial bonnets, I decided I decided I wanted a feather for every time I walked down the street in a tank top, trying only to beat the heat but knowing I would get unwanted attention and catcalls as well.  Part of my interest in cross-dressing came from the idea that I would earn one of those headdresses whether I was a man or not…I sometimes think about this when I am handling my boas.  Feathers represent bravery, power, and charisma to me, and I love wearing them.”

Although I will not wear feathers, I grew to have a deeper respect for Jo when she wrote about what feathers meant to her, that there is a reason and purpose behind her use.  There are many argument against it, but it does give me some good feelings to know that they a reflection of her heritage and upbringing rather than just an add-on to an outfit.

boas!

October 3, 2010

I found them for sale! I found non-feather boas.  Now, they aren’t fake feathers, but they are what I would imagine is the best, most professional alternative.

Tonight at the 3rd night of the NY Burlesque Fest (I’ll do a whole post about that later) I eyed something from one of the vendors and I knew I had to investigate.  The Drag Addict table had a lot of wonderful stuff but the most important in my mind were their polyester boas.

photo off Drag Addicts facebook page

These boas are large and extravagant, and they give quite an effect. Now, they are pretty costly, but I’ve held one and they are worth it. Le on their website here.

Awhile ago when I did the interview with Red Devotchkin I got a comment from Tiara the Merch Girl pointing me towards an article by Zahra Stardust, another aussie vegan burlesque performer.  At the time I was busy getting ready for a show, so I filed it away and found it today.

wow.

Zahra really lays it out in this opinion piece and I am really glad someone so well spoken sat down and wrote this.

For those non-vegans who read this blog because you do burlesque or you know me and are supporting me, it may not be a comfortable thing to read but I encourage you to give it a look through.  If you have questions or want to argue a point back, please do! I try to be a very non-preachy vegan but I would love to discuss this topic with anyone.  I can also say it is great as a strong pro-feminist look at the sex industry and burlesque that every body should read to be enlightened.

Here is part of her opening to get a taste for it:

In burlesque, performers would deconstruct ideas about what constitutes a ‘woman’, using artifice, caricature, pastiche and comedy. Sex workers around me were educating their clients about safer sex, female pleasure and unquestionably subverting ideas bout heteronormativity and monogamy.

In so many senses, the erotic stage had become for me a place about ending oppression – about challenging attitudes towards beauty, the grotesque, nudity, gender, stereotype and inequality.

But at the same time, I had started to notice other oppressions around me which appeared undeniably intertwined the gender oppression I was fighting to eliminate. In the adult industry, stereotypes about race, class, sexual orientation and species were all completely bound up with stereotypes about gender.

Being vegan, I noticed signs advertising ‘$5 steak and Live Nude Girls’ or Nandos ads for fried chicken that read ‘Aussie chicks taste better’ (compounding ideas about the edibility, consumability and sub-human status of certain nationalities, genders and species).

Often performers would appear to celebrate animals onstage, but used means that continued to oppress animals offstage.

For example, I would see Catwoman shows on the stripping circuit that celebrated animal, feline mystery and power but often had performers dressed in leather, parading the skins of dead animals which had been treated and tanned with toxic and polluting chemicals.

Performers would often dress as beautiful winged creatures like peacocks or flamingos with giant feather fans, but these gorgeous plumes were often plucked from farmed ostriches and chemically dyed.”

You can read the whole article here.

Being in the New York neo-burlesque scene, sometimes it is hard to remember that there are so many other performers all over the world.  You may remember the interview I did aussie performer Red Devotchkin, well here is another one from a lady with an accent, Tina Warren from Glasgow, Scotland! I found her early on in my vegan burlesque internet searches, but completely forgot to contact her until recently.

Along with running her own animal charity (One World Scotland), Tina Warren is a performer and impresario of the world’s biggest burlesque club – Club Noir. Based in Scotland they regularly get up to 2,000 people at each of their events!

Vegan Burlesque:How long have you been doing burlesque?
Tina Warren: 7 years, since 2003

Tina Warren as Phantom of the Burlesque Club

VB: What first got you interested in burlesque?
TW: My sister ran a burlesque club in London with her boyfriend.
VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?
TW:Dita Von Teese is impeccably groomed and has beautiful costumes. She also seems very disciplined.

VB:Do you have a favorite venue you perform at? Is it vegan-friendly?
TW: I run my own burlesque club at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. We love performing on the same stage as huge stars such as Blondie and James Brown. I ask for cocktails to be served at my events and I like them to be vegan.
VB: Do you have a favorite routine you’ve done?
TW:We do about 5 shows a year so I create 4 new acts a year at least for me to perform to. My favourite one is Tina Beans – it’s a grotesque burlesque homage to Dita’s champagne act. But I bathe in a giant tin of baked beans.  It’s really funny and fun to do.

VB:How longhave you been vegan?
TW: 18 years.

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?
TW:Animal welfare. Didn’t want the animals to suffer or be killed.  But now I enjoy a vegan diet for the health benefits too.

VB: Favorite vegan drink/food?
TW:That’s like trying to choose a favourite child. I love everything: Thai, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Scottish. I’m getting hungry now.

Tina as Tina Tsarina

VB: How do you deal with the non-vegan aspects of burlesque (such as boas/feather fans)?
TW:I love the challenge of making my costumes better than much of what’s out there in the burlesque world. I think I achieve it most of the time.  I use Swarovski crystals, quality faux fur, huge jewels, headdresses, 18 inch corsets, massive ballgowns, tailored tuxedoes, I’ve even had my face printed onto fabric for a costume. My acts and costumes are a lot more imaginative than a boring old ostrich feather fan dance. I think chicken feathers on anything is tacky. Sorry if this sounds catty but I’m fed up with people with no imagination resorting to animal cruelty to make themselves look pretty.  It’s an ugly trait in burlesque.

VB: If you could change one thing about burlesque, what would it be?
TW:The ubiquitous feathers. They are undeniably beautiful but they are hideously cruel.  I think feathers one day will be considered in the same way as fur is nowadays. Lay off the birds girls!  Here is some more information about ostrich feathers for example. I want to cry now just thinking about these beautiful animals and unimaginable torture they have to endure so some silly female can wear its plumage.  Why I don’t use ostrich feathers.

Tina doing her Egomaniac act

VB: Where can we see more of you?
TW: I perform at various private gigs; and also at my own Club Noir shows – all upcoming dates are here. Club Noir