We were invited to Nextfest to do a workshop based on our mask designs. There wasn't a budget to do leather so it was an opportunity to use one of my other favourite materials: paper to come up with something new. Also, part of the night which was, fittingly called; "Masks for Monster," featured a performance with our masks included.
Tanner had a market, so I had Ashley (whom many of you have met at the booth or another event) help me set up the workshop at the Paintspot in Edmonton. For this workshop I cut out well over a thousand pieces of paper which was over 1 and a half hours of laser time... Well over the budget, just in laser costs, but I really wanted everyone to make a mask they would be happy with. Plus I figured I could use any left over components for upcoming photoshoots. Much of the supplies we used for the decorations came from my personal stock of crafting supplies and it was nice to see it being put into creative use.
This is one of the original mask designs I did for the workshop and I also chose this mask for the promotional photoshoot I did for the event. The feathers are the same feathers featured on my "Seraphim's Belt."
We set up a small display table with some of the items we created in leather and metal, as well as, some pictures from the shoots we do with our wearable items. The large wooden mask in the back was created by Borys Tarasenko.
Our pre cut out masks and the stencils I created for the workshop.
Some of the supplies I separated out into containers. I noticed the paper I used to cut out the attachments created interesting stencils so I brought a few along.
Table and chairs... We ran out of workspace very quickly and apologize to those that had to stand, sit on the floor and were unable to stay.
Some of the display paper masks I created for the event.
Event photo of part of the class room.
Some of the awesome masks created by the workshop attendees!
Boris Tarasenko and his giant wooden mask behind him.
One of my favourite painted masks from the night.
I love the colours and complexity of this one!
This one ended up having a historic feel.
Some close ups of paper masks I created for the event
After the workshop we headed over to the Roxy Theatre where we set up a smaller version of our mask working station for anyone who could not make the workshop. The masked dance was scheduled for 11 and even though I'm not an event photographer I still wanted to capture a couple of shots of the choreographed dance. I have an older full frame camera so I went with the highest ISO available on my camera, shutter speed 1/200 s and I used a very low aperture since there was minimal ambient and performance lights being used. I had only brought one lens with me and that was my 50 mm f 1.4 Sigma Art lens. There was some noise which I cleaned up in Camera Raw and photoshop and removed all the distractions that surrounded the dancers.
Cheorgraphed by Aimee Rushton
Male Dancer: Jason Romero
Female Dancer: Anastasia Maywood
Close up of the masks used for the dance
Some of the dance photos with one creative edit of Jason Romero
Last year at Western Canada Fashion week we had a model walk for us in our show with Lewis Mayhem. I had Breanne Marie (with Breanne Marie Photography) helping me backstage at the show! We had talked several weeks before that about doing a gothic wedding dream shoot. Right after the fashion show I began to plan out tons of wedding accessories to create something truly unique. We had Donna Lynn from Donna Lynn Photography join us for the day and we ended up getting published in one magazine and one one wedding blog based out of the U.K called "Plans and Presents." The article can be found here from "Plans and Presents."
Wedding cake topper I designed and made for this shoot. They are available by custom order. They feature two ravens and heart shaped leaves on branches.
I also made the paper dollie underneath the cake :)
Bouquet I made out of flowers from my flower hoard :D The cathedral style waist belt on the bride is also available by custom order.
Matching belt, choker and cuff. Accessorized with our earrings and necklace.
Guest book (our golden skull) and a nice view of our paper dollie.
Our gold skull book which can be view here.
Our top hat, neck piece and cane I made for the shoot :D
One of the barrettes I made for this shoot is also visible.
I found the cane head at a local hardware store, The actual cane part I sanded down a thick dowel and then hand stitched on a piece of studded black leather.
Models were Michael Beniot and Lynnsy Michelle
Breanne is a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and you can find her website here.
Thank you to everyone that came out to our gallery reception. I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk to everyone but it was greatly appreciated :) I hope you all enjoyed yourselves and had an opportunity to chat with some of the amazing people that came.
A very special thanks to all those that had their photographic works of art on display!! We answered so many questions and told the amazing stories behind many of the photos. The photographers that were on display were Amanda Diaz Photography, Michael Legge, Donna Lynn Photography and Breanne Marie Photography. I also had several photos on display as well. :) The photographers showed how they each saw the pieces so differently than how we see them.
We had event and portrait photographer Rick Halbert in attendance who took the below fantastic photographs for us. The link to his Facebook group can be found here. In addition to the event photographer we had model Listah Mutsaro in one of our creations from 2016! Despite the blizzard in the morning and the ice cold day we had a good turnout and managed to sneak in a couple shots outside the Craft Council of Listah which I will add to my page shortly :)
Below are some photos by Rick Halbert, please feel free to share them with a Facebook tag to his page on social media. :)
For those that want to see the exhibit we will be on display until until the beginning of April, with our featured spot light running the same time!! We did a nature meets mythology themed group of items including this Greenman mask journal with matching Greenman hair barrettes and a bur oak leaf hair clip. There are also tons of other new things we made just for this spotlight!!!
I am going to slowly update this as there are lots of great photos to go through !
Here is a back stage photo taken of everyone who appeared in the show including Tanner as the demon knight and me! This show was by far the toughest to prepare for and even out beat the first time we did a 20 foot booth at the Calgary Comic Expo! We want to thank all the people that helped pull this together starting with Ashley Skrocki MakeUp Artistry (makeup, scheduler, so many other things) & Studio E Photography (fog machine, inspiration, personal cheerleader etc!). Our fantastic back stage dressers and organizers Breanne Marie & Emily and our beautiful models (Lt to Rt): Carra Dawn, Pauline Yee, Listah Mutsaro, Randy Cusack, Samantha Njálsdóttir, Poppy Del, Samantha Adele & Jessica Wright. Our hair dressers from Eveline Charlies Stephanie Herwynen & Karly Shelain Vedan, all the amazing photographers for taking our photos, all our customers who came to the event and supported us, all the volunteers of the show and of course Sandra Fernandes Western Canada Fashion Week for putting on an event that allows us to display our unusual pieces.
I will include the full story line and character descriptions at a later date :) For now here is a little bit about the show and some of our favourite pictures gathered together!
When the lights can be seen, dancing against then evening skyline, the time has come for the quest to begin. When the isle appears from the mists the watery passage way is revealed. When the waters are silent and the day bleeds to dusk her beckoning call can be heard. All those courageous enough to take the voyage will face temptations and dangers both beautiful and horrifying as they seek the Queen of Life. It is said that anyone who unites with this mystical Queen is granted dominion over all living things. Many have travelled these silent waters, climbed the overgrown slopes of the isle and wandered deep in the sprawling forest but none have ever returned. Those who travel without purest intention will surely be lost to temptation and will never see the again the welcoming shores of home. So long as the Queen remains sequestered within the aegis of the grand tree at the forests heart pestilence, plague and death shall encircle humanity. Only through the union of humanity and the pure life force will the darkness lift.
Greg Mottle Photography
Studio E Photography
Part of the backstory we wrote for this shoot
At the forests heart she dwells. In feathers shrouded she spends her days among the trees. The ravens call is the music she craves but it has been years since their wings have burned black against the mid days sun. At last she has found the secret of their entrapment and today they will return to her. Buried deep in the forests winding corridors a prison sits. Shaped as a crystal ball it holds those from whom she has been forcefully estranged.
As she invokes the spell that will break the chains of imprisonment she herself begins to take on another form. And when she has liberated the ravens from their confines her transformation is complete...and she joins them not as a keeper but their sister. As daylight streams between the branches halo the somber winds carry the whispers of battle. High above the bones and flesh of torn grace they circle the sisters three. The time has come to count the living and choose the dead. –Lord Tanner Skrocki
For this shoot we worked with the delightful Breanne Marie Photography who captured our visions and pieces with her beautiful photography. The model was the wonderful tattoo artist/model Poppy Del. Makeup was done by Ashley Skrocki Makeup Artistry.
With the creation of the raven mask for last year’s collection we wanted to do a series of raven inspired items. The concept behind the new pieces was to create three different raven characters similar to The Morrigan from Celtic mythology. The Morrigan, who are considered to be a triple goddess composed of 3 sisters, fly around the battlefield prophesizing death on the battleground. We wanted to make three complete looks that were similar but different enough to be individual characters.
Photo by Studio E. Raven mask created in July 2015.
With the first mask already created I styled it with the cuffs and belt / waist-cincher from our 2015 look book. Next I created a feather bib/necklace, made a blue shirt, from some special fabric I had been saving, to bring a bit of colour to the silver and black. The look was finished off with the completion of a velvet cape I had been making for a while.
For the next look I wanted to make a more elaborate version of the leather mask with black feathers, featured in our 2015 look book, which had sold last fall. I redesigned parts of the mask adding lots of Swarovski crystals, beads and carving to really make it pop! The shoulder amour was a piece I created in 2015 and I used it because I wanted to hint at the battlefield that the ravens fly around. The armour corset was created for the upcoming 2016 Western Canada Fashion Week and is inlaid with blue/black tigers eye which only further shows the “war goddess” interpretation. I added a number of different pierced layers and lots of hand carving to the front panel of the corset to give it dimension and focal points additional to the beautiful stones. The armour style cuffs were created this year as well featuring Swarovski crystal, hand carving and hand painted leather. A blue accent skirt was added under the black skirts from the 2015 WCFW to continue the hint of blue featured in the other photos. The sterling silver pendant was created shortly before this shoot and has a different look with a bit of classy edginess I felt suited this shoot. It was made start to finish in our workshop. First it was patterned and shaped, then oxidized and pierced, and finally I bezel set the large blue druzy to create a captivating focal point.
For the final look I wanted to show the models face. The headpiece is based on one of my mask designs made into a fantasy kokoshnik style headdress (note: this headdress can be created as a mask and most of our masks can be created as a headpieces/crowns/French style hoods – please email me if interested). These historical headdresses first appeared around the 10 century and originated in Russia. The style become the most popular around the 16-19th centuries and variations can be seen throughout the Slavic areas. It apparently was a huge fashion statement during those times, in Russia, and is similar to the French hood worn in Tudor England. Nearing the end of their popularity they were inspired just as much by the traditional Kokoshnik styles as they were by Italian Renaissance fashion. I figured the Morrigan sisters were probably unmarried and created an open back Povyazka (a style of head dress worn by unmarried girls). The shaping for the piece I created is made in a half-moon shape but some of the historic pieces were also created in a crescent shape. Since I was only inspired by the kokoshnik I decided to have it resemble a crown and add black rooster feathers to symbolize the ravens, which was fitting for what The Morrigan actually stands for “the phantom queen” or “great queen.” Interestingly enough the Kokoshnik style of headdress was brought back into popularity in recent times when it was featured as costume wear in Star Wars and other numerous fantasy/sci-fi tv shows and movies (Queen of the Damned). The leather cape was another new piece which took an incredible amount of time to make and design. With movement the cape looks like wings and it has a very couture feel to the piece which can be worn for any number of “non-costume” events. For this piece I used supple garment leather to create the body and most of the additional layers of adornments. I created custom trim which is stitched and riveted along the front. Next I made dozens of feathers, which were each strategically stitched into place. And finally I hand sculpted, carved and dyed some thin vegi-tan leather to create some more structured, yet flexible, panels for the back shoulder area. This raven cape is actually one of my, and my husbands, favorite pieces! To complete the look I added for this “character” I created a beak mask I had designed in early January (featured with no straps, but straps can be added), blue earring inserts and one of my blue druzy wire wraps. For the beak mask I created a bunch of differently shaped individual feathers, from vegi-tan, hand sculpted, dyed and carved them. On the bottom of the beak there is an ornate pierced pattern and the silver areas are hand painted while the bottom is dyed black. The wire wrap is hand sculpted from sterling silver and gold-filled wire and features a large blue druzy stone.
To see more of Breanne's photography visit her website here.
To see more of Ashley's makeup visit here.
To see more of Poppy Del's work visit here.
Published in the Edmonton Journal Blog on April 4th 2016. Published in the Edmonton Journal print paper April 5th 2016. Written by Julia Lipscombe.
Image by Breanne Marie Photography. Model Poppy Del. Makeup Ashley Skrocki.
When Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki put on a fashion show for their leather and metal wearable art, it’s doesn’t just consist of a few models traipsing down a catwalk.
The latest show for their brand, Paragon of Design by Skrocki, during Western Canada Fashion Week in March, was a fantasy drama, complete with an imagined world, stunning visuals, a synopsis for the audience, a whole cast of characters and a smoke machine.
“We write stories together and character sketches, and we try to develop pieces that we feel embody those characters,” says Tanner. “We gave everyone on the runway a little bit of an idea and insight into their character.”
But even with all of the fanfare, the show’s standout element was the clothes: the nine individual looks lovingly — and rather painstakingly — brought to life.
Paragon of Design’s immaculate and towering headpieces, elaborate painted masks, precisely laser-cut tops and cuffs in-laid with gems and crystals, and lavishly adorned corsets stand out for the quality of design, materials and craftsmanship.
“We actually calculated it out — the nine outfits took close to 1,300 hours to make,” says Amy.
The couple have been together for 16 years, and making the line for nine. Tanner used to have a day job as a film liaison at the City of Edmonton, but after he went on paternity leave for their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Seraphim, he never went back. Now, they both work full-time (sometimes around the clock) on their costumes, filling orders for their popular 3-D sculpted and leather-bound books, or making metal accessories.
Both quote history and travel as major inspirations. Tanner adds fantasy and sci-fi flicks like Lord of the Rings and Alien to his list; while Amy cites religious iconography, Gothic cathedrals and Byzantine artwork.
Amy does the bulk of the design work. Tanner apprenticed under her to learn the 35 of 40 steps necessary to make a necklace, a pair of cufflinks or earrings — items that make up a large chunk of their business.
The pair’s home garage workspace already looks like a behind-the-scenes studio of a movie set, but Amy’s dream for the future is a larger studio and more employees as they shift their business model.
The couple used to sell their designs at craft shows, sometimes at the exhausting pace of one show per week, but that didn’t leave much room to display their larger-scale, statement wearable-art items — nor was it really the market for that type of work.
So how to show off those fantastic belts, corsets and masks? They’d been aware of WCFW’s Costume Design Competition for a few years, but Amy always put off entering. That changed when she had her daughter, which reminded her that life is precious and anything can happen.
“After that, I thought: if something ever happened to me, I’d have all these designs, and nobody would ever have seen them. So I said, ‘I’m going to enter that competition.’ And I did.”
They won. That was in 2015, which makes this past fashion week a year since their first fashion show.
In the past couple of years, they’ve been approached by theatre productions and publications that want to borrow or buy their big-ticket items. Those worlds — as well as film and television — are where Paragon of Design would, ideally, like to head.
“We had never considered it before, which is crazy,” says Amy. “It’s like a whole new world opened up. It was like an epiphany: this is where we should have started.”
Now, the pair does most of their sales online. They also fill lots of custom orders and sell their items wholesale. Their only “storefront” is the St. Albert Farmers’ Market — which they love.
“We really have an inventory of about 400 items, but anything can be customized,” says Amy. “So, if you see a dragon on a pair of cufflinks, we can do that dragon on anything — a purse, an iPad case or a pendant. Each store can have their own customized line of items exclusive to them.”
Paragon of Design has also been commissioned to make art for the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and to create custom leather books and iPad cases (complete with the Alberta crest) for the Government of Alberta to give away to foreign dignitaries and delegates visiting the province.
One of Paragon of Design’s corsets won an international wearable art competition, and their work is on display in places like the Saskatchewan Craft Council and the Alberta Craft Council. They’ve also been a presence at two Golden Globes gifting suites in Los Angeles — no small feat.
Extra exposure comes with some risk, but they don’t mind. “We’ve had our designs stolen and made in Bali or China, but you know what? Was it better to just keep it in the garage and never show anyone? I don’t think so,” says Amy.
Amy and Tanner are keen to keep building their profile, but not just for the benefit of their own brand.
“To have Edmonton named as one of these places that makes cool handmade things that are sent all over the world? I would love that,” says Amy. “That would be just awesome.”
Paragon of Design by Skrocki is available online atskrocki.ca. Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki will be at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market, in front of St. Albert Place at 5 St. Anne Street, every Saturday from June to October.
To view the article click here.
This photo essay appeared in the February 2016 copy of St. Alberta/Edmonton's T8N magazine written by Carmen Hrynchuk with all photography done by Brenda Lakeman.
|Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long, life is short). It’s a sentiment that many have read and contemplated but that few have taken to heart. Artists Amy and -Tanner Skrocki are among those few. And heart is exactly what they pour into their partnership. Much like their work, their history is a story of transformation.|
When they met 16 years ago, Amy was a high-school student and Tanner was a writer working in a music store. Amy, appreciating Tanner’s CD recommendations (and his music magazine), sent him an email telling him so. Tanner, flattered and intrigued, sent his “fan” a few more samples of his writing but admits that he hadn’t a clue who he was emailing. Today, Tanner’s far more sure, and Amy’s not only the most talented person he knows but also his mentor in the studio and his partner in work and life. Together they are the multi-talented team behind Paragon of Design—a design house featuring wearable art inspired by artifacts, fantasy and passion.
On the day we visited, we had the pleasure of witnessing just how talented they are. Holding the titles of metal smith, leather smith, sculptor, bookbinder, etching specialist, writer, composer and historian—this dynamic duo gave us a glimpse into the fine art of hard work and the hard work of fine art. Take a look.
“When we travel, we go to all the museums and historic sites we can to get inspiration. And we’ll just take our journals and start writing and drawing and adding photographs or postcards we find along the way so that we can ‘document’ what we’ve seen and imagined while we were there. When we get back, we use it to come up with characters we think would have lived through that time period and then write little stories about each of them—who they are, what they’d do and wear. Amy does most of the dreaming and comes up with the ideas, and then we go away and bring them to life.”
To view this pendant click here.
“Tanner is the one who always keeps me going. I run all my ideas past him. Sometimes he’ll think I should change something, and I’ll be all, ‘No!’ (laughing), but mostly he says, ‘I think you should just do it.’ Everyday, he just keeps saying it. I wouldn’t be able to do the stuff we’re designing now without that support—without him. He also puts all our ideas into words, which is amazing and something I could never do. We really work together as a perfect team.”
“I never get tired of watching Amy design. It’s not that she just sketches or designs—she draws with wire, and I can actually see the ideas coming from her. It’s rare and my privilege to work with her.”
“The career is a lot about saying yes and then figuring it out later. A fashion show is something I’d been wanting to do for years but was too afraid because there’s no book on how to do this. Eventually I was just like, ‘life is too short. I’m just going to do it.’ Then all of a sudden, we’re there at the fashion show costume competition, and our first piece wins, and we’re given our own show and it hits you—‘Oh my God, I have to make 12 pieces, and how am I going to do this?’ And I don’t know how it happened, but it did (laughing).” –Amy
Model Carra Pischke
“I think art should make you feel something, and that’s the biggest compliment we get from our customers. We hear it all the time at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market. Someone will buy a ring or a journal and come back years later and say ‘This is still my favourite piece of jewellery because I bought it at a key point in my life, and it just spoke to me.’ That means so much to us.”
“The future? We’d love to have a great big studio some day with all sorts of artists working there with us. A place where we could further cultivate the community and even apprentices people who want to learn the things that we’ve struggled to learn.”
To check out any other photos follow the link here
To check out Brenda Lakeman's other work click here.