Fantasy Fashion .....Re-Evolution
The development of the Fantasy on a Shoestring series continues looking at a strong narrative together with using either recycled or low cost materials to convey the story. With every concept come new possibilities with their own challenges and this concept certainly had an over abundance of those.
Fantasy Fashion .......Deliverance of Life
The seed of an idea began to germinate during a conversation with a close friend who offered me a large roll of bubble wrap he said to do with whatever I wished. My mind was immediately stimulated by the possibilities however because of the material in question I knew the concept had to explore the position in which we all now find ourselves in the war against single use plastic.
Fantasy Fashion......Saviour of Tomorrow
Not wanting to jump on any band wagon but would have been remiss not to address this hideous situation. The obvious correlation with the bubble wrap was something to do with water hence the narrative, the plight of our oceans literally choking with plastic.
Fantasy Fashion ......Sentinel of the Sea
And so Re-Evolution was created.....the narrative
If all Life originally evolved from the oceans we must now Re-Evolve to save the life of our seas from human interference and the threat of potential extinction of species. Our oceans are so sick they spew plastic in an effort to survive so we must cleanse our oceans and re-imagine or replace the use of single use plastic in our world.
A metaphor for Mankind she detoxifies our poisoned oceans and facilitates the metamorphosis of the plastic pollutants, her gown and crown transformed from the sea's toxic waste. She signifies the acceptance of man to once again live in harmony and not discord with our fragile environment.
Fantasy Fashion.....Emissary of change
A friend articulated this so eloquently. Like an indulgent parent the ocean has sent her to show us the way. No more can we endure this self-poisoning for that which we do to the sea that we do to ourselves. (Peter Lennox 2019)
Fantasy fashion....Moral reflection
My inspiration for all aspects of the concept came from the sea, the dress made from scales reminiscent of fish fins and the headdress made from recycled bottles inspired by but looked nothing like The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. Together with small wavelets again from recycled bottles signifying plastic water and the plastic sea also created from recycled plastic bottles.
Fantasy Fashion ......Burdon of Hope
The whole outfit involved months and months of work not only because of the complexities of the design but painting and heat welding over two thousand bubble wrap scales not including the original bubble wrap frame but also collecting coloured plastic bottles which I had not envisaged being quite so problematic. However the whole process was such a learning curve and also incredibly rewarding.
Fantasy Fashion.....Tide of no Return
The outfit complete the next hurdle was to scout the ideal location. This took several attempts; we scoured the North East coast line of England where we found the most beautiful locations but either the access was prohibitive or would have been unsafe.
However I did eventually find a location on the beautiful Northumberland coast which was perfect so lots of recces at different tide times to see when the tide would be visually right and safe for the shoot. However despite all the weather and tide watching with tidal charts, what I did not know about were Spring tides which caught us out big style to say the least. It is only now I know Spring tides occur twice in a lunar month after a full or new moon without regard to season it causes higher and stronger tides than normal; I wish I had known that then.
Fantasy Fashion.....Oceans of Sorrow
Thank you once again to Northumberland Council for kindly giving permission to shoot in this beautiful small bay.
The Day the Sea fought back .....Take 1
On shoot day everything fell into place the weather was a bright but cloudy sky which was just want we wanted no harsh sunshine just dramatic clouds but not cold or too windy. We set up thinking we had at least four hours of shoot time till high tide so I could test all the compositions, exposure and kit before our model was ready. We had placed the plastic sea on the rocks in the first composition, once shot we would retreat back to the rocky locations as the tide came in for the other compositions....that was the plan.
However remember the Spring tides ...as I said we thought we had at least four hours of shoot time until Morgan Stephenson who was at the water’s edge testing the smoke machine noticed the tide was coming in extremely fast and very strongly, he shouted his concerns so we had no choice but to shoot immediately. We managed to get our Model Lauren to the first composition but by the time we reached the location which was only a matter of metres away the guys had to run into the ocean to save the plastic sea as it had been swept out and the low lying rocks for the first composition were completely covered with water. The North Sea is so cold at any time of year so they ended up extremely cold and very wet.
Behind the Scenes Take one
Some eagle-eyed people will recognise Lauren our MUA from previous shoots however I persuaded her to Model for this shoot as I knew she would be perfect. Only touching up on make-up was necessary as she arrived, hair done and fully made up, what a pro. Ashleigh her lovely Sister came to assist Lauren but also was a great help throughout the duration of the shoot. David was brilliant videoing on behalf of Arjun who was unable to make this shoot but did edit the final video.
We had to rush any shots we did get however hardly any in the compositions I had planned as we were chased back by the sea. Morgan and Gareth worked tirelessly setting up and constantly moving all kit including lighting, generator and smoke machine every time we were chased back . Sarah was such a work-horse assisting with every aspect of the shoot.
Together with the rapidly incoming tide bright sun decided to come in and out so we were then also battling harsh sunshine too (even though I was using an ND grad ) or in an instant it changed to dark cloud. We did not have high speed sync so as I always under expose when using strobes unfortunately I fired too quickly in my haste so the battery pack was unable to recycle quick enough. Of course any of these obstacles could be over come it was just the speed at which I had to shoot which was problematic. Lovely Lesley always there taking the brilliant behind the scenes images, she is such a positive presence on any shoot.
Morgan gallantly chased the plastic sea every time the freezing tide took it out so was constantly soaked. Eventually we had no choice but to rapidly move Lauren into the shadows from the overhanging cliffs where it was even colder as the sea chased us back, she was so cold and shivering just trying to get a shot; she was a true professional and just took it all in her stride ..just amazing.
A big wave too far, the sea had beaten us so a dramatic and speedy retreat to get all the kit and poor Lauren out of the water she was soaked, freezing cold and a scratched leg but still smiling and didn’t complain once...... what a star......she certainly went above and beyond. Ashleigh covered her in blankets and hugged her to try to warm her up. Gareth exhausted after it was all over.
Re-Evolution shoot video Take One
David Cottrell was shooting the video but unfortunately we do not see all the drama at the end as he had to stop filming to help get Lauren and all the kit to safety. Thank you so much to David Cottrell & Arjun Nambiar for this funny video of our first attempt.
All the stars that persevered despite the Sea fighting back, Sarah Stephenson, Gareth Mirley, Morgan Stephenson, Lauren Storey, Ashleigh Storey , Lesley Huges and David Cottrell ( David's Blip Portfolio) thank you all so much you all went above and beyond, however everyone said what a laugh.
Behind the Scenes Take two
Once I had the opportunity to review the images back on the computer I knew I did not have some of the most important compositions I had planned so the team kindly offered to assist once again as they knew we had not completed the shoot. However the only date that would be suitable three of my lovely team Morgan, Sarah and Gareth would be away travelling so Marie, Mary and Arjun kindly said they would be happy to assist on take two, who were also brilliant.
I spent hours and hours at the location at different tide times so I would have a better understanding of the sea apart from high and low tides.
The dress and plastic sea took about two weeks to repair then we were good to go.
Lauren and Ashleigh all set up ready to go once again. Arjun and David reviewing the merits of the generator and smoke machine.
The day of the take two shoot was overcast with hardly any detail in the sky but we hoped it may improve. This time I decided to shoot in reverse at high tide so we wouldn’t be caught out as the sea would be retreating.
The brilliant smoke team consisted of Marie and David both of whom worked tirelessly recycling one machine then using the other all day long. Arjun who filmed none stop with his Gopro located high above us, used his drone for aerial shots then also videoed us from ground level. Mary did a great job assisting with the lighting kit and every other aspect on the shoot and Lovely Lesley as always capturing all the action when she wasn’t helping set up.
As soon as it was safe we set up and did the test shots on the rocks, Arjun kindly stepped up and agreed to be the stand in model..... we teasingly named him the Sea god. There was a bit more detail in the sky and the light looked great however what I did not know was the reverse of Spring tides are Neep tides. These tides are just after half moon which are very low and weak and retreat quickly.
The tricky headdress in place once again, it took a team of us just to position it correctly and make sure Lauren was comfortable whilst Arjun tried to manoeuvre between us to film.
In complete contrast to the first shoot where we were deluged with water on this occasion within minutes of starting the shoot the water between the rocks disappeared in front of our eyes, the sea retreated so far from where we were shooting and the main pivotal composition... plus any detail in the sky was replaced by sea fret which came rolling in. I hoped it would look more atmospheric but even with strobes it looked rather flat.
My amazing team soldiered on but we knew no matter how hard we persevered with different composition positions we would once again not obtain a full set of images because of the disappearing water.
There lay my dillema, both shoots were in complete contrast one flat and moody the other brighter and a more detailed sky but neither of which had a full set of images. My only option was to try to combine both shoots to complete the series, it was tricky to try to merge them as one cohesive series but hopefully with some colour toning I have managed to combine both shoots to achieve a harmonious series of images.
Re-Evolution shoot video Take Two
Huge thanks to Arjun Nambiar ( Nambiarts) once again for producing this amazing video.
Arjun Nambiar,( Arjun's Website) Lesley Huges , Marie Kitching , Lauren Storey, David Cottrell,( David's Blip Portfolio) Mary Naughton (Mary's Portfolio) and Ashleigh Storey just a fantastic team and wonderful people.
I am so grateful to everyone on both shoots but a big shout out to Lauren who was absolutely amazing and Ashleigh, Lesley and David for persevering twice. Everyone did everything to assist me trying to fulfil my vision for which I am truly grateful...so huge hugs all round. There were plenty of challenges on both shoots but a whole lot of laughs too.
Making of the costume
The whole process of making the total concept took months and months of work but was actually a labour of love.
All the materials used on the Re-Evolution concept were gifted ie the bubble wrap or recycled as was all other plastic used. The acquisition of the coloured plastic bottles was far more problematic than first anticipated as many companies now have moved from coloured to clear plastic as it is much easier to recycle.
Because of this it took far longer than planned to collect the blue & green plastic bottles I required however with help from friends and the Brunswich Recyling Centre over a period of months managed to collect enough bottles to create the concept.
Thank you to the staff at Brunswich Recyling Centre especially David Vardy who very generously saved blue & green plastic bottles over a period of months and was very willing to do so to facilitate my concept, so thank you so much David. Of course the plastic was returned to be recycled.
The Making of the Dress
My inspiration for the dress shape was determine by the shape of fish fins and scales however making this dress would be incredibly tricky and time consuming.
First a wire armature was constructed to facilitate a bubble pack base which would be fitted and heat sealed, on which to attach over 2,000 scales.
The first step was to key the sections of bubble wrap so several coats of paint could be sponged, sprayed and painted on before they could be cut and heat sealed around the edges.The sizes graduated from large to small from the bottom to the top of the dress
All the painted and sealed scales were painstakingly heat sealed to the clear bubble wrap base of the dress
The finished bubble wrap dress complete with gold covered cardboard finials and rhinestone edges
As stated earlier I was inspried by a peice of art work which I am very familiar with as it my close friend’s favourite image the Japanese The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. I wanted the headdress to represent the sea but not with sea shells or creatures etc so if at all possible a wave would be distinct.
After collecting the masses of plastic bottles needed they were washed and thoroughly disinfected before use. A wire headdress structure was constructed, which to be honest changed during the creation of the piece to facilitate the weight and balance of the wavelets. The base wavelets were not transparent in order to cover the wire armature so were first sanded back to give an opaque appearance before painting with translucent acrylic paint then wired or glued together.
The creation of the little wavelets as I call them took so much time & effort to finally find a technique which would give them the watery appearance required. Obviously heat would be the main feature so an array of devices were used including lighters, candles, cooker lighters etc until a final tool gave the desired effect which was a pencil blowtorch.
I did think a glue gun would be the tool of choice to effectively adhere all the wavelets to the headdress which I used on my first attempt. I cannot say how many times it fell apart either because of the heat or cold or because I dropped it. Eventually after many attempts I finally used very thin wire, firstly individually making tiny holes with a heated pin then wired each wavelet in to place.
Once finished I also wanted a base on which to coil the model’s hair to form a conch shell shape. Very cheap hair pieces were boiled then wound on to bendy curlers and left to dry for weeks, then wound around an old wig and shaped then attached to the headdress.
The final Recycled Bottle Headdress
The Plastic Water
After the cleaning and disinfecting process the bottles for the plastic water were crushed flat, I found the most effective technique was to flatten them under the car tires. Then the job of attaching them to one another and creating the desired shape ensued. There were 5mtrs of bottles but looked quite insignificant once in situ on the rocks and beach.