When I finished my pillbox hat earlier this month I was immediately struck by the urge to make another hat. I really enjoyed making the pillbox hat and thought it would be easy enough to do a teardrop style fascinator. After doing a draft version that failed spectacularly, I realized ‘easy’ wasn’t in the cards. It took me a few days of struggle to get a version of the base hat that I was satisfied with. It still has a few problems – working with vintage velvet, like the purple velvet I used on this piece, means accepting there will be some minor flaws and discolorations in the fabric. While it’s not a flexible or easy fabric to work with, but I can’t say I am disappointed with the end result.

My original plan was to create a branch of cherry blossoms to add to the top of this hat. They are a sign of the start of spring, and reemergence from the long winter, and the idea made me feel hopeful.

But, after ruminating on it a bit more, I thought it might be time to work on a dream piece – a ho-ou, or many tailed phoenix. I had always wanted to work on a phoenix after watching an incredible NHK interview with a tsumami master craftsman in which he was working on a very complex ho-oupiece.

Phoenixes in western mythology are well known for their immortality – that when they die, they rise up from their own ashes and start again. In Japanese mythology, the ho-ou is one of the four celestial guardians and marks the beginning of a new era. I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I don’t think that when the pandemic is over we will be returning to normal. I’m not sure that the normal we had before was really working. So, I am hopeful that this situation is the start of something new – that from everything terrible that is happening that we can rise up and become something greater.

For me, that’s what this piece is about – bringing some hope into my life, and sharing that piece of beauty and hope with you. Tsumami craft is a meditative practice for me, and although I had some struggles with this piece – mostly revolving around crafting the base hat and getting the many wire sections for the tail to set properly – I am pretty thrilled with how it came together in the end.

As I mentioned earlier, the velvet is vintage – but it’s not the only vintage or recycled part of this piece. The pink lining comes from an old dress, and the pearls are freshwater pearls that came from my grandfather, who was a jeweller and watchmaker. Whenever I use materials that come from family members who have passed I feel like I am giving a small part of them new life, and it brings me joy to know that these materials have found a new ‘home’.

Every time I finish a major piece like this one, I try to give myself some time to recover from it. I used to think it was really odd when artists would refer to piece as their children; even when I was in college and a professor told us that completing a long script was like giving birth it sounded outlandish. I had created many illustrations and works that I was proud of, but nothing that I wouldn’t hesitate to sell at a convention if someone inquired. It wasn’t until I started completing pieces like this one that I really felt like it might be hard to let a piece go.

In University when we were having a golden moment – a moment where everything was clicking together perfectly with the creative process – it was rare and magical. Now that I am more experienced, it seems to happen more often and come more easily. I imagine this must be what runner’s high feels like. I’ll come down from this soon, but for now I’m enjoying the feeling of having created something that truly satisfies my soul. I think most of my recent projects have felt this way, actually, and it surprises me every time I finish something and it turns out really well.

Now that this piece is done I’ll be cooling down with some repeat projects – another dragonfly or two, a spider lily and cherry blossom bridal set in purple, and maybe some cranes¬† – before working on another major project. My new order of resin came in the mail yesterday and I’m super hyped to start working with it. I have a few options sketched out, but I’m thinking it’s a toss up between a crown of waves with a tsumami koi fish, and a black and purple pillbox hat with batwing-esque bow.

If that sounds interesting to you, I hope you’ll join me later today, and most days from here out, on Twitch where I’ll be hanging out with Hissabelle and making art! Come for the chill crafty times and drop a follow to find out when I’m live.