Thursday, November 13, 2008

Behind The Garter Belt

Today's guest post is brought to you by Tanya Cheex.

Amber Ray hooked me when I first caught her dazzling Goldfish act back in 2005 at the last Mojave Desert Miss Exotic World pageant. She is also well-known for her original and glamorous custom-made costumes. She won The Golden Pastie Award for "Best Dressed" at the New York Burlesque and those who have had the privilege of seeing her light up a stage know it was well deserved. I took some time to ask New York's high priestess of costuming a few questions:

What is the importance of costuming to the burlesque performance? Do you come up with the act or the costume first?

Costuming in any stage performance is the visual key. It's very important, in my opinion, to create an immediately dazzling relationship with the audience. There is so much power in what we wear. The colors and shapes, when layered properly, can really affect someone's first impression of your performance and set the tone for their excitement. It can hypnotize.

My inspiration comes from all places. It could be a color, a song, a piece of an outfit, a picture. Mostly the idea for the act or character comes first but sometimes I get a piece of a costume or a vision of a costume and start creating an outfit. If the costume inspiration is coming first, it's going to be a classic strip with no real theme.

When did you realize that your costumes had to be custom made and not off the rack?

Immediately. I made my Peacock costume first. I wanted to have a major hand in the creation of the whole number.

Where inspirations do you draw from?

It could be anything. A color, a character, a prop. I try not to limit myself and just let my imagination run wild.

Do you get inspired by vintage burlesque photography or performers?

Most definitely. My first idea of a strip club was from retro pictures of women in fishnets, rhinestones, furs, gowns, and fiercely feminine poses.

What are your favorite costumes that you've made? What was the most challenging?

I love my Peacock, my White fluffy outfit. Nothing was terribly challenging. I find some of the things I have to do for others the most challenging. For example taking a beaded and sequined dress and having to revamp it into a new dress or several pieces of a costume can break many sewing machine needles. In general I do love a challenge. It's rewarding to figure out how to make something complicated and succeed.

What materials do you get the most excited about working with?

Trims! Making the structure is never as fun as decorating it! Swarovski crystals especially.

Explain the importance of closures and fastenings on costumes for the burlesque artist?

I think having those details in order is really important because you don't want to struggle on stage. It will hurt your performance. There is a wide variety of them. Hook and eye, snaps, velcro ect. Use them and use them in abundance.

You do custom work for others. What was your most bizarre request?

Nothing too bizarre yet but I did just finish a couple pair of Swarovski encrusted deer antler helmets for a theater show. It was really interesting to figure out how to make them. Sometimes I really surprise myself.

What tips can you offer those who aren't crafty? What one Amber Ray secret can you divulge?

I would say find a group of people or friends to get together for a stitch and bitch. There is nothing more rewarding than getting together with your friends and getting creative. Everyone can share their tricks and it makes for a super fun social and artistic adventure. Everyone has something to share and learn. Also pooling your resources is fun. Everyone should bring extra stuff, or leftovers from previous projects to share. Ask each other's advice and don't be afraid to offer constructive criticism.

I wouldn't say I have too many secrets. Some of my structuring ideas I prefer to share only with people I want to hand my knowledge to as a friend or mentor.

If you had an unlimited budget what would you make?

I'm afraid to say! I have some big ideas but I don't want them taken by other people. It's hard enough to be original with such a huge community of creative people. If I had the money I think I might be interested in opening my own cabaret club and decorating the place. It would be so awesome to have a safe haven for all my creative little honeys.

Where can we contact you for custom work and accessories?

I have an etsy store that I try to keep updated but unfortunately I'm too busy to keep it current. I need an intern!!!

You can always email me -- if you have special ideas for a custom order you want to have made.

If you would like to review my personal or custom work please visit my Myspace photo albums.

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