•October 12, 2016 • Comments Off on volunteering with Processional Arts Workshop for Astor Alive — a dream come true!
The weekend before we had our very first Krampuslauf Philadelphia in 2011, Ben and I took the kids to Rhinebeck, New York for the Sinterklaas Festival and Parade. (Tucker house sat for us. The day he came over to learn to work the locks and coffee maker and stuff was the first time he ever came to our house. It’s funny to think back on that.)
The entire Sinterklaas Festival Day was amazing; literally like something out of a fantasy. Everywhere you turned were puppet shows, jugglers, stilt walkers, goats wearing Christmas dresses… old-fashioned diners and spaghetti dinners in church halls… we went nonstop for literally eleven or twelve hours. We watched the parade appear at the top of the hill — those glowing stars with their human faces — and we were just astounded. And cold.
The next year, we volunteered in the Parade itself. And we did so again in 2015. The people who make the puppets and help organize the “parade” portion of the Sinterklaas festival are called Processional Arts Workshop. They do a lot more work than just the Sinterklaas Festival. When I saw a few weeks ago via Facebook that they were asking for volunteers to come in September to help prepare puppets and other dynamic sculptures for the “Astor Alive” festival, I signed up immediately. (As in, “See you later guys.”)
As it turned out, it was in the week between co-op and classes starting for Tuck, so I had a companion, and we were pretty excited.
We took a bus to New York, had time to get lunch, and went to our first making session.
We “met” Alex and Sophia in the space where all the making was being done (the site of the old St.Mark’s Book Store), but recognized Alex right away from lining up outside the library on top of the big hill in Rhinebeck, getting ready to be part of the parade.
And we made legs. It wasn’t glamorous; but we were soaking up a lot of knowledge, about puppet movement, and joints, and manifolds… we said later that we felt like Boris and Natasha.
When we left, we were hungry, so Tucker had some cereal clumps soaked in liquid nitrogen…
And we had dinner at Bareburger, which was great.(We had no idea there was one right here in Philly, but we are glad to know that now.)
Then we went to check in at the hotel, which was… insane. We had a free night from Ben’s business traveling, but how could we have expected to have been put in a room that overlooked not just Times Square, but THE NEW YEARS’ BALL? I presume on other nights, this is a five thousand dollar hotel room!
(tuck reads a room service menu on the floor, by the light of times square)
The next day we tromped to the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), which was a blast, and then back for more making. That day we worked primarily on reproductions of the famous Astor Place cube. This was very puzzle-like… and cube-like… and you can imagine who liked that a lot.
And then we raced for the bus home. With new knowledge. (Like the Secret Power of Bearer Belts.) And we had met people who liked to just sit around and make big puppets and smell hot glue. I wish we had been there every day.
Check out our entire whirlwind 36 hours in manhattan in the Flickr set. We would have loved to have gone back for Astor Alive, and got to see videos from it, but that was Béla’s birthday weekend and although it would have undoubtedly been fun, “helping in parades” is just something he would consider “going to work with Mom” and not a real birthday. We know now how fast spots fill up to help make things for the East Village Halloween Parade, and that we should start thinking about that for 2017.
I would love Sophia and Alex to come to Parade of Spirits some year!
by the way — kinda late to be reporting on it, i know, but we got a little bit of a start on a dream in the last week of august.
we believe that it will be possible to offer some summer programming in philly, featuring parade of spirits’ skills and crafts. this year, we did not want to get in over our heads, so we kept it as simple as possible — ben and i traded homes, projects and kids, back and forth with the mundie family (a longtime krampuslauf philadelphia/POS family).
in the post-analysis, some things were not surprising:
— the kids spent as much if not more time doing the projects we had planned for them doing things on their own, disappearing entirely, and watching gamarjobat videos on youtube
— when i told ben “get very easy, not-weird-food snacks for the mundie boys, they are not primal and they do not eat a lot of the foods we eat,” he came home with SWEET POTATO SMOOTHIE BOXES, and the kids gave him heck for it (he switched to smartfood)
— most of the projects that we planned did get completed and can be used in some way for this year’s parade of spirits. ben’s big dynamic spooky hands are still a bit under construction, but the hessian (our new word for “burlap” thanks to our scottish pals) faces came out really well (and a weird guy exposed himself to us!), and the beautiful large sheet the kids shibori dyed with kate will be the “body” of our ‘obby ‘oss/Rook costume this year.
and for me, the utter highlight of the week (because it is nice to be trusted, and it is empowering to teach another kid how to safely handle fire) was aidan using a palm torch. i wouldn’t say he was in “performance mode”, but he was working it.
they also pitched a tent together, all on their own.
i think next year new projects, even just a few more kids, could make this a super-fun week that makes our december event even better. (wait until you see all of the hessian tree spirit faces this year!) i was really glad we did this and am very grateful to kate mundie for all that she did with the kids… the shibori is amazing.
anyone who is interested in participating next summer, feel free to drop ideas anytime!!
this fantastic photo of rob with his boombah at krampuslauf philadelphia in 2014 was taken by garth herrick. i just love the details of the instrument and the juxtaposition of the local band stickers on the pole behind rob.
•June 3, 2016 • Comments Off on PARADE OF SPIRITS, LIBERTY LANDS, VOICES: NEIL KOHL (talking to béla levin-dorko)
from the very first krampuslauf philadelphia in 2011, neil kohl has been there — with cameras. that first year, one of my favorite pictures taken from the whole event was of neil, who, at that point, was just “that nice, smiley guy.”
photo of neil taken by amber at krampuslauf philadelphia year one, 2011.
in subsequent years, neil has taken some of the best photos of our event, and even had a solo show at the beginning of 2015 at the random tea room!
when krampuslauf/parade of spirits 2015 came around, neil surprised us all by bringing not only a helper, but a large format polaroid camera — and taking some of the most AMAZING portraits ever. there are very, VERY few occasions in which i could say that an image made krampuslauf/parade of spirits look even more magical than it is in real life, but, well, a lot of neil’s did.
i’m not sure we ever found out who this was. polaroid negative print by neil kohl, from krampuslauf philadelphia: parade of spirits, 2015
are we waiting for the exhibit? heck yes, we are waiting for the exhibit. in the meantime, my son, who likes to know how things work, had a great time talking to neil about his cameras. there are some noisy, windy sound artifacts on this interview, as some of it was conducted out in the yard, which my son has told me a number of times “is bigger than ours”.
BLD: Hi! My name’s Béla and I am interviewing Neil.
How did you first get started with Krampuslauf?
NK: Well, a few years ago, our neighbor Janet, told us about this parade, where people would make things and then go and march around, and she told us about the Krampus, and it sounded really cool! So our family went! And I took some pictures the first year, and that’s when Janet had her amazing coat of bones… it was there from the beginning.
BLD: Before you got started with Krampuslauf, were you still taking pictures a lot at different festivals?
NK: Not so much at different festivals, no, but just taking pictures of things around the neighborhood, mostly.
BLD: And… if you’re using a big camera, and you needed the light, do you mostly use that light – the light that you can adjust?
NK: Different cameras need different amounts of light. So the smaller cameras that I can carry around, those can practically see in the dark. So I can follow the parade, I can take pictures, and I don’t have to use a flash. But the big camera that I used last year (to create the Polaroids –ed.) – the film is very very slow, so it’s not very sensitive to light, and you need a LOT of light to get a good picture. And, it’s nighttime! By the time I was finished taking pictures, it was dark. So I have that flash, which can pump out a lot of light, and I actually had that turned all the way up. That’s probably the only time that I’ve had that flash turned all the way up, because it’s such a bright flash.
BLD: When you took a picture of me and… whoever else was in it (his sister – ed.), I was kind of also squinting because it was really, really light.
NK: Right. So there’s the light that’s on all the time, and I need that to focus the camera. I need some light so I can look through the camera and see if everything’s sharp, and then the flash is what is actually used to take the picture.
BLD: So the flash is used for like… these small cameras, does the flash come —
NK: Yup. That one has a flash built in. So that’s a tiny little flash. But then, so this is not very powerful, because it’s very tiny. So the one I plug into the wall, is huge, and it’s very powerful, very bright.
BLD: Does this one have — (who knows how many cameras Neil has given him access to at this point – ed.)
NK: This one doesn’t have a flash. So this is an older camera, and that one doesn’t have a flash, so that’s just, that piece there is just part of the viewfinder.
BLD: I can see the gear, but…. In this camera… when you look at it.. the film sees like, very far away.
NK: So this is a wide-angle lens. This lens will get a LOT of stuff into the picture — and then if you look at this one, this is slightly less wide-angle, and it – you get less stuff in there. And we can keep going. I can put a telephoto lens on there, and you get… my nose.
BLD: These cameras… was I taking it with the flash?
NK: The flash was up, so it was using the flash. That’s where you plug in… like you can get a flash that sits on top of the camera? That’s where you put it.
BLD: So what are these arrows for?
NK: Oh my goodness. So, there’s so many different controls, especially on a camera like this, this is almost like a computer that takes pictures.
BLD: Yeah, but with this, it’s different.
NK: So this one is a lot simpler – and again, this is a film camera, so you can’t see the pictures – this button, on both of these camera, this button tells the camera where you want to focus, and it’s the same thing with this but this doesn’t have as many places to focus. It only has five.
BLD: Do you know where it’s focusing on? (looking through camera)
NK: What? My ear?
BLD: Your mouth!
NK: Oh, my mouth! … And it’s in focus. Look at that. So that’s the difference between film and digital. With film, I take the pictures and the pictures end up on the film… this one’s older, so it’s harder to see where you’re focusing.
BLD: Oh, now… see, on the little arrow, you see it, but with this one, you don’t.
BLD: When you first went to Krampuslauf, did you take lots of pictures of, like… what kind of Krampuses?
NK: Hmm. Well, the first couple parades, I took pictures by using these cameras, the ones I could hold in my hands, and walking through the parade with everybody. So, it was kind of… action photos of people walking in their costumes, and walking past restaurants, and things like that. So it was more, kind of like, taking pictures of it as it was happening. And the past year, I kind of wanted to take better pictures of people’s costumes, because people put so much work into their costumes, and I don’t always get really good photos of the costumes. So that’s why I figured I’d bring out the really big camera, and set up like a little portrait studio, so I could get really nice detailed pictures of people’s costumes. And it was very different than what I’ve done in past years.
BLD: In past years, was the route different than last year?
NK: Nah, I think the route’s been pretty much the same… except for the first year. I think the first year it was much shorter. I think the first year we just walked through Liberties Walk and then walked back to Liberty Lands, instead of walking all the way through the neighborhood, down Second Street and up Third Street.
BLD: It always seems longer each year.
NK: It seems longer each year? So you’ve done it since the beginning. How do you think it’s changed?
BLD: Not much. I usually forget a lot about the past years.
NK: Well, that’s why I take pictures. What do you think’s gonna happen next year?
BLD: Well, I dunno… (back to camera) THIS year, why did you have it so bright UP, and make it so, like, huge light, like the tallest it could be. Why did you do that?
NK: Because, my idea this year (Dec. 2015 – ed) like I said, was to take really nice pictures of people’s costumes. So that’s why I set up the backdrop, I set up the black curtain in the back, and that was so you wouldn’t see anything except people in their costumes. And the light, I needed the big light because of the camera I used. The really big camera needs a lot of light.
BLD: The big camera… needs so much light. So that’s why you couldn’t take it on the walk?
NK: Actually part of it is, with that camera anyway – and again, we’d have to look at it – but: you have to focus, and then there’s like ten steps you have to do before you can take a picture. So that’s why it’s kind of much slower than using a camera like this (digital). And it’s also relaxed. You can kind of tell people to find a place where you know they’re comfortable, where they can sit for a minute, and you get different pictures than you do with smaller cameras. It’s not a camera that you can really use on the run. It’s something where you really have to think about every picture you take, and because the film I used was so expensive, you couldn’t really mess up. You had, like, one shot to get each picture.
BLD: But couldn’t you just retake it?
NK: Well, the film I used – there’s not a lot of it. Actually there’s a company that’s making it by hand, and I could only get a little bit – they kept selling out of it. And so each picture was precious. And so if I messed up, that was one less picture I could take. With the digital camera, you can mess up as much as you want and you can delete all your mistakes. With this one, (another smaller film camera) I have thirty-six pictures, and film for this camera is not that expensive, you can mess up a little bit, but it’s more expensive than a digital camera. And with the biggest camera, you really can’t mess up.
BLD: Did you bring extra film during it?
NK: I used every sheet of film I brought. And when I ran out of film I just pulled out my digital camera and I was taking pictures of people in front of the backdrop, just with the digital camera. And they came out great too, but they were much different than the ones with the big camera.
BLD: So the ones that you took of us… we wheatpasted them onto our —
NK: I saw that. I wanna see it in person! I can show you the print – that film that I use, when you develop it, it’s kind of a sandwich. And when you peel it apart, you get the negative, which is what I use to make the really detailed prints for wheatpasting. And then you get a print, and the print looks very different, and I can show you what the print looks like.
BLD: How is it different?
NK: You would have to look, and tell me, how you think it’s different. It looks almost like a painting, more than a photograph. It’s not sharp and detailed, it’s kind of very… mushy? And it looks very different from the print from the negative.
BLD: When you – what do you mean by “mushy”?
NK: Even in the wheatpastes, I think you can see – like, you can practically count your eyelashes in the wheatpaste.
BLD: They are huge.
NK: But in the print, it’s almost like there’s no detail at all. So there’s not a firm line around your eyes, and your mouth… I’ll show you the print, and you can see what it looks like. They’re beautiful, but it’s very different than the negative.
… So this is the camera that I used at Krampuslauf. This is the case —
BLD: It’s huge! So what do you stand it on?
NK: So there’s a tripod right here, and I put it on the tripod.
BLD: How do you connect it?
NK: There’s a plate on the bottom – do you see that? – and it’s got a ridge, and it goes right in there.
BLD: So many knobs. What are all the knobs for?
NK: Well, one of the reasons people use cameras like this is they’re very adjustable.
BLD: And they give you a little, like um… ruler.
NK: Yup. And…
BLD: You need to unpack the lens… so what are this for, the extra.
NK: You can kinda see there are some blobs on there? … So if you look through the lens, the lens is open. You come up to the front. See, the lens is open – come right up to the front, you can see through the lens.
BLD: When you took them, did you see to look through the lens?
NK: Yeah! You’re gonna do that right now. You’re gonna look through the lens and see —
BLD: Is that the light you used at Krampuslauf?
NK: Yup! There you go! Then you have some light… now, if you can look through here – alright, it’s going to be blurry, so we have to focus – that’s what this rail is for, you have to learn to focus it, put this over your head, and you can kinda see a little bit better what’s going on. And, if you turn this back and forth, you might be able to get it to focus —
BLD: But when you’re doing that. How do you make it, like – how do you make the angle go up? So you can move it side to side, but… how can you make the angle go up?
NK: So that one, you have to be careful, because this is really heavy. So, you loosen this, and it’s on a ball; and you can just kind of move it: up, down… and what do you notice about the picture on the glass there? Is it right side up?
BLD: I think so…
NK: You think so? It’s actually upside down. Maybe if I get in here. (moves into viewfinder) Can you see me?
BLD: (Laughing) Upside down!
NK: Yeah, see? It’s upside down. So the other thing is that when I’m using this camera a lot of times I’m working with everything upside down. The picture somes through the lens, and it kind of crosses, and it’s projected onto the glass upside down.
BLD: That’s why I see the floor and I see all the tubes … facing downwards… when I got under here…
NK: And the other thing you can do – see, now it’s right side up – so if you look inside, that has a mirror in it, that reverses the picture, to make it right side up again. Well, so these are kinda complicated cameras, but these are the wheels that you use to change the settings for the camera, which on this camera are on the front, so, this is the opening of the lens, how long the lens stays open when you take a picture… what… don’t touch the glass. So if you look through the camera – and if I change this one white knob, and I’m gonna turn it and watch what happens.
NK: Yup! It’s getting dimmer and lighter as I open it. And if you look in the front of the camera?
BLD: It’s closing up!
NK: And then the other thing you can do with this, is there’s the shutter speed, which is how long the lens stays open when you take a picture.
BLD: Oh my g— that comes off?
NK: Yeah. It all comes apart. Everything comes apart. So when you take a picture, you set how big you want the lens to be open, and then – so this dial is how long the lens stays open – and then you take a picture. See, it opens up just for a fraction of a second.
BLD: How do you take a picture, is that the thing —
NK: That’s the button, that’s the picture-taking button. So push that. And you see it just blinked for a second.
BLD: Yeah. Just for a second.
NK: So that would be taking a picture. But we don’t have film in here. So that’s the other thing, is that before you take a picture, you have to put film in the camera.
NK: The film that I used at Krampuslauf comes in paper envelopes. This is one piece of film. This is one picture.
BLD: Oh my God, that’s huge for one picture.
NK: Yup. And then we put it in – this is what holds the film inside the camera.
BLD: ….So that’s only one?
NK: This is one picture. (Laughing.) So to take a picture you put your one piece of film in the camera, and now you can’t see anything because the film is there. So that’s what I’m saying; you have to focus the camera, and then you have like ten steps before you can take a picture. And then you would do that – (snaps shutter) – and there you go. And you can’t see anything when you take a picture. And then you would take this out, and, with this film, you would pull this, and then you get the sandwich of the negative and the print.
BLD: Are some of these just practice?
NK: Some of these were practice —
BLD: Oh! There’s my mom! And my dad.
NK: And some of them didn’t come out as well as others.
BLD: Aw, man.
NK: There you are. That’s the print. And then, the negative… look at that. Look at your face in there, and look at it on the print. See what I was saying about – like you can count your eyelashes, you’re practically – and here, your eyes are very mushy. And the same thing with like, the feathers and everything like that. It’s very detailed in the negative, and very mushy in the print.
BLD: So if you look at… you can count… the little… um… things.
NK: (Laughing) When I scan things and print them here, if there’s dust spots or anything, I can correct them on the computer. When I print things out on the enlarger, and I have prints like this, the dust spots are white spots and I need to use a teeny, tiny, little brush to paint out the white spots on the prints, and I need the magnifying glass because my eyes aren’t that good.
BLD: Especially ‘cause it’s really tiny.
NK: Yes. They’re really tiny little white spots.
NK: You’ll be my assistant next year? If I bring this camera out, now that you know how to use it?
and we were looking at the lucha masks in the lobby during intermission, thinking, SURELY we could figure out how to make these? and also getting really excited by the possibilities. you could make ANYTHING. they seemed to fit so nicely. why wouldn’t they be useful at parade of spirits?
i think it was prior to krampuslauf 2015 even taking place that we had decided to figure out how to do it. we found some templates online and played with those — i used antron fleece (an expensive and ultimately useless way to make a lucha mask), and saw how poorly a fit the templates we had found made. but i also discovered that you can felt wool onto antron fleece, and so continued playing, resulting in my leigh bowery lucha mask that fits no one, but which i still like.
some quick FB friending and messaging — suddenly, there was another woman in my neighborhood who thought about digitigrade stilts a LOT — taught me that there was also a woman in my neighborhood who, literally, MADE LUCHA MASKS AND GEAR FOR A LIVING.
who had a lot of scrap vinyl and spandex lying around. did we want it?
quite a lot of spandex play and a thousand questions later — a few of us had decided on a date to get together and try the mask-making ourselves — kate (our newly-discovered lucha mask benefactress and owner of closet champion) suggested that maybe she just come and teach us?
my sewing machine died, at our little workshop. it was due to anyway.
kate had one to loan me.
we learned a lot and were very motivated.
(ruby worked on a chicken mask!)
we did not learn ALL there was to learn, but we still forged ahead… because by that time, (the night before, in fact,) we had found family-friendly pro wrestling in philly, in the form of chikara pro. it was love at first sight.
and we needed masks for the next chikara event, on claudia’s birthday!!
meanwhile, on MY actual birthday on feb. 2, it seemed like time to try to get the withies harvested at liberty lands, from the zander bruce puppet and lantern garden. (all one surviving plant of it.) (but quite a lot of plant it was.)
liberty lands is a community park and concerned neighbors stopped more than once to ask what ben and i were “doing to that plant”. but they also seemed to accept easily my insistence that i was not a vandal.
not a vandal.
we got a lot of material. i do not know if i can say that it is “withies”. i know that the withies we bought online were to some degree processed — made easier to wet and shape. nothing has been done with these, some of which are very thick and woody. they had to be removed no matter what — now we just see what we can do with them. since one of our goals for the season is to make an ‘obby ‘oss — with a frame that should be fairly sturdy and does not need all that much finessed bending — maybe we have some material here that will at least suffice for that. and we can say we grew it ourselves!
throughout february, we worked on our masks, and ideas for masks. i had (and still have) a desire to make a lucha mask that represents eleanor of aquitaine. the kids and tuck picked some colors, and i made the basic mask shapes, plus a few sets of gauntlets for claudia and a pal (kate had whipped out a pattern for us the day she taught us the first tricks at indy hall) but we knew our masks would be perhaps kinda incomplete for their debut — more glue than stitches. we were ok with that — that is pretty much the krampuslauf philadelphia/parade of spirits way, we are no perfectionists, and the rallying cry of WHATEVER (as well as “why not?”) was indeed in force.
MEANWHILE. since before christmas as well, we’d had something up our sleeves. after the amazing kids mini flow showcase in 2015, we had talked to both claudia and béla, who thought they might be ready to try a prop with real fire on it. we consulted with the ladies of lux arati and chose a pair of palm torches from dark monk as a gift for claudia’s birthday.
mind you, claudia has long wanted — ever since first seeing lux arati at krampuslauf in 2012 — to dance with fire props. but claudia has also never successfully held a sparkler on the fourth of july. but she did AMAZINGLY well with tara and the torches, and for claudia, amazingly well looked like this.
for béla, however, who took a turn before… AND after claudia… a first experience with palm torches looked like this.
so claudia got palm torches for her birthday, but she also got a little upstaged. not a bad thing.
trying to “finish” — that is, get more or less together with as little of troubling kate as possible, and make wearable — three lucha masks for the 28th began to seem a little out of reach. claudia’s design was the hardest (of course) and she had noticed that i was working more on tucker’s and béla’s more than hers (i was working up to the hard one!) and had asked, “am i even going to HAVE a mask to wear?”
my thought was, she might not. but had bought her a really incredible wig for her birthday. i knew that she would choose wig over mask any day, and that as soon as she had the wig she’d forget that her mask wasn’t ready. i was right.
as for the boys’ masks, earlier in the week, we had come to some breakthrough ideas, born of necessity, for béla’s. tucker had had a kilt made for claudia’s birthday, matching his own, and had not wanted béla to feel left out, so ordered some extra fabric along with it. we knew that this would come into play for béla’s mask.
and we learned — once you have a name in place for a mask, it really comes to life.
tucker was futzing around with a variety of ideas that were getting only more complex has he didn’t execute any of them fully (this is a leitmotif), and i had a vision — an edict from the mask gods — to look at images from the bauhaus school. we did, and they made a few masks back in their time. i was particularly taken by one that had big white eyes (we had white vinyl!) and had a mouth that looked a lot to me like tucker’s real mouth. he had some other sensory issues to address with the mask, and what we ended up with, we both thought was pretty cool — and, somehow looked… like a sloth.
how does he do that?
“bauhaus sloth” was just not pun-y enough for tucker, so he is working on a name for this character. but both the highlandroid and the-character-not-really-known-as-bauhaus-sloth debuted in chikara’s audience on february 28th.
as of this writing, claudia has designed the mouth for her mask, and we will have it together — and hopefully all three masks really stitched up and completed — by the next chikara pro event. lucha-style masks, when lined, can be warm, and are so versatile… we see SO many ways to incorporate the form in december, and hope that kate will be willing to do more classes with us — this type of mask seems like a two or three class workshop — so we can get even better!
we are moving ahead with lots of ideas for costumes, the kids mini flow showcase, and even some summer programming to give us a jump on what we need to prepare for december. i had a strong feeling about 2016 being a very creative year and so far i was quite right!! i hope it keeps up at this pace. i like it.
so this was our FIFTH procession. and the second in a row where we were pitted directly against the “running of the santas” event, at least in terms of time and space. while last year was a nightmare of traffic and parking for many people 2015 was not. not sure how we managed to dodge that bullet but we did and i am grateful. we had UNSEASONABLY warm weather this year, and many people were hotter in their costumes than they expected to be — i think that manning das mädchen was particularly hard for chris, who, the most tireless and uncomplaining person i know, literally said, “i’m tired and i want to be done.”
i have never, and i think i’ve always been emphatic in my postings here, wanted KP:POS to be the biggest and the best of ANYTHING. that’s certainly not how janet plays, either. so i have to set my own goals for each year’s festivities, outside of just the obvious ones that everyone who attends has fun, and that everyone is safe.
this year, i had four goals:
— to have a new costume that reflected some personal experience/transformation
— the night BEFORE lauf, my friend juls, whom i had not seen since before claudia was born, suddenly declared she was driving to philly — from ATHENS, GEORGIA. i refused to believe she meant it, but she then kept updating her location from rest stops further and further north on facebook… which was thrilling and unbelievable. like being stalked, but in a cool and loving way.
(juls did get my favorite picture of tuck though — which is funny, because he’s right outside standard tap, holding hands with béla, which is exactly where and how my favorite picture of him was last year.)
photo courtesy of juls knapp photography
so anyway — back to it —
— one of the FIRST people we saw upon entering the park that evening was… ODERUS URUNGUS, back from the dead, and i WISH YOU COULD HAVE SEEN BELA’S FACE
but oderus looked like this.
so those were just some of the many extras. just some of them!
let me SPECIFICALLY elucidate the ways in which my SPECIFIC dreams were fulfilled:
i DID have an entirely different costume this year. i was still frau perchta, but i was NOT perchta the crone.
i believed — initially, that i was going to be perchta the white. did i believe that i had become, or was going to become, beautiful and good in 2015? that i had had enough of embracing my inner crone? — no. i knew i was going to go back to the crone. but i needed to be different. sometimes, we just need something different.
i needed to not wear a mask. i felt — at least earlier in the year! — the VERY strong need to be unmasked. and so, while keeping my devotion to frau perchta — even to perchta the belly-splitter — i embarked upon a journey for discovering my inner perchta the white.
(it was decided early in the year that claudia, too — in her first year as something other than an angel — would accompany me as a smaller perchta the white.)
the idea for tall, illuminated frustums came very early in the process. (as a matter of fact, giant frustums — although much heavier then — were in play, at least on my head, in 2011.)
trying out headgear for frau perchta in 2011. there was nothing practical about this, although i do still have it.
things stalled out, hard, when i studied — and lost my nerve at — working with makeup. i discovered that, when it comes to the body of a costume, a really cheap convocation or graduation gown is a great start. i found that couch throws from ikea are also really good tools to fill out a costume. but makeup — i am just not good at it, or not interested enough to GET good at it.
and in august, we’d had our workshop with larry hunt… and lo and behold, i came away from it with a giant crone face. made by tucker, yes, but there it was — i asked for it, and while it wasn’t going to be ON my face, i quite obviously had no intention of separating myself from the crone at all. i just didn’t know it then.
when i started to know it, i knew that the crone face would be used more as a shield — it seemed made for just that purpose.
okay, so maybe i was going to be perchta the white with a nod to perchta the belly-slitter emanating directly FROM my belly. i had an amazing illuminated frustum for my head, and claudia had a matching one (thanks, tucker, as always.) but i was still terrified to use makeup. and still very uncomfortable putting myself out there as perchta the white.
using a curtain liner from ikea, i attached several layers of net veil to the front of my crown.
this way, i had no face at all, other than the one on my body. i realized i had instinctually done what i needed to do to represent my own changes; i was NOT, this year, perchta the belly-slitter… nor was i perchta the white. i was some crysalis version in-between, not ready to show itself, not matured.
no face at all. great image of ben’s knitted mask though; after five krampuslaufs, he is hanging it up for good, and will have something new in 2016. photo by neil kohl.
(note that this year ben set aside his black fur costume for a snow ghilie suit we got in kingston — the big morning-after-sinterklaas-rhinebeck shopping spree in kingston. happens every time.)
i will not, in 2016, be moving closer to perchta the white. i will be moving back to the belly-slitter, and possibly further, and deeper, into her than my expressionless green mohair mask had ever allowed. we shall see.
but in 2015, i was very different. i also found out before making it halfway across the park that i could not see through my veils. i stuffed them inside my crown, so i was as bare-faced as i had not wanted to be — i powder-pale and literally, unprepared to be viewed. it was fine. and claudia, of course, was gorgeous.
we had little baby krampus konstantin with us, in a sumptuously decorated infant carrier; as expected, claudia abandoned him almost immediately. “too heavy”.
there were very few photos of konstantin at lauf but here he is with his maker, asia eriksen — and with marian, who was “creeped out” by him. he is just a baby krampus!!
i carried konstantin, and the felted wool head on a staff — covered with claudia’s cut-off dreadlocks from earlier this year — i don’t know how many photos that staff made it into, but it certainly didn’t go on procession with us. i had a lot of stuff to keep track of.
DID I MENTION THAT I MADE JANET A FOUR-FOOT TALL KNITTED GOLEM?
to be honest i started knitting this right after lauf in 2013. and then i set it aside for a long time. my m.o. was “i will knit the parts i can figure out myself and then have tucker figure out the parts i can’t.” and i have to say — i did more of it on my own than i thought i would. not to say that i COULD have done it without tuck at all. particularly the feet and the hair. and, the idea for what should go on the scroll in the mouth of the golem (tuck stained paper with coffee grounds to make a proper scroll):
the afternoon of lauf, we were at the community center. jeffrey magut (who always comes with his son michael, from connecticut!) had stopped by the community center on his way to the park from the rec center before lauf, with the message for janet that i had something i needed to give her.
she texted me back, reasonably irritated that i wanted her to come to me to do anything. i rationalized that if she would not let me give her “something” in the privacy of the rec center, i would have to give her “something” in front of hundreds of people.
she came to the community center.
we ALL come away from parade of spirits with some pretty funky photos of ourselves — and you can find the ones of janet actually realizing she’s getting a giant knitted golem in the 2015 set on flickr. (which still, as of this writing, grows.) i think she is perhaps ok with me reposting this one though, which came from jeffrey magut’s camera:
ruby seems so mournful. but janet really likes her golem.
i am glad janet got a big golem because she did LOSE a very nice bear skin this year — are we REALLY going to have to be more careful with the share box, people? — but, continuing on with positive things…
another personal goal! accomplished with affection and gratitude. i was having the best krampuslauf ever and we had not even left the park!
we did eventually leave the park. after rob did his yearly invocation. it is time to buy a megaphone for rob’s invocation. i did not hear a word of it. again, all photos are not in at this time but my favorite photo from procession itself so far is also from steve schultz. it shows no costumes at all, and in fact shows some people who seem to have wondered off the set of whit stillman’s “metropolitain” and are trying to politely tell us we can’t come in.
such a refreshing break from delighting people. i swear, none of us were trying to get in at all. photo courtesy of steve schultz, http://www.earthtosteve.com
so how many other things did i need to experience to meet all my goals? ah! THE KIDS’ MINI FLOW SHOWCASE, which had no mutiny and no injury, and therefore was… PERFECT!!
i am so grateful to lux arati for giving the kids all the special attention to make this happen, and i want to particularly thank izzy dickstein, who memorized all the kids’ choreography and was there to cue them on the side when they needed her.
izzy and claudia post-performance. photo “courtesy” of garth herrick, in that i lifted it from his facebook. it was during this discussion that izzy suggested that claudia learn to sing “hong kong garden” by siouxie and the banshees, a comment that would change our family forever.
(plans for 2016, at least in our household — moving up to actual fire! yes, it can be done and is done! with kids! safely!)
after talking to those i would not consider making such a decision without, i came home from this krampuslauf philadelphia knowing there would not be another.
there was a reason that we added rob’s beautiful phrase “parade of spirits” to our name in 2013. we entered that park as krampuslauf philadelphia, but thanks to rob’s invocation, we left as krampuslauf philadelphia: parade of spirits. and as much as we love krampusse — and expect to continue to have many of them — there are krampus events everywhere now, and for heaven’s sake, trademarking…
(that movie… i did not hear a good thing about that movie, nor did i see it, our family’s theatergoing budget timewise only allowed for “creed” and for the 60% of us who cared to go see the new star wars movie, of which i do not even know the title, so you know where that puts me in the percentages)
with gryla and the yule lads and the yule cat and the WORLD of winter folklore — some of it, frankly, becoming entirely new in and of itself — we needed a name that held us ALL in its arms. it is funny to me that as we now plan our 2016 costumes at our house, MORE of us will be krampusse than ever have before at one time. we love krampus. but there is so much more room to grow this way. and so much more to learn. and to invent.
grylla and her yule lads. costume by linda, yule lads by tucker collins, photo courtesy of kyle chelius.
we did, however, just renew the URL, so i would not expect the name-change to take place here — or on the soundcloud account where we store our VOICES pieces — anytime soon. it is not a big deal. it is getting to be too much of a job for one person to archive everything there is to archive about our event — so many photos…. we really don’t pay that much attention to press or articles, and we only made clip videos in 2012 and 2013, i think… but i do need to do some updating on our FAQ and bibliography/videography pages. we are also adding a glossary.
i will try to stay on top of all of this, but this thing has enough of a life of its own that i can’t worry too much about documenting its every step. looking forward is more fun (even though i DO love the yearbooks and will keep making those… 2015’s should include some of the best of the VOICES pieces.)
another change we are implementing is using the platform slack to communicate about specific costume builds, plans, et cetera. slack is much better for team building and sharing information than facebook, and people can sign up to get notifications only from the “channels” they are interested in. (for example, there is currently a channel for ben and bela’s reticulated foam builds.) so maybe you want to learn about a new material — OR maybe you want to be surprised by certain costumes and DON’T want to follow — with slack, this is possible. there can also be private channels where you can have private conversations for SUPER secret surprise projects! and we do enjoy surprising each other. that is something i have noted about us.
we are trying to keep slack more community-minded and keep communication flowing — and are asking anyone who wish to join the parade of spirits slack, let us know, and when you are sent an invite, please post a hello to the community. feel free to e mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more information. we DO have some “big builds” in mind this coming year, as well as plans for more workshops as well.
so, that was our fifth go at it, and now we are reborn with a new name… and as we often do, the next morning we got up and headed out to cut down our christmas tree, first having breakfast at the oregon diner, but this year, having our pittsburgh friends with us, which was super fun. (they are our fun diner friends in EITHER home city… remember dios de los muertos in pittsburgh in 2013?)
the VOICES series will re-appear here shortly (the kids need to re-record the intro and outro segments!) and again, i want to thank everyone, everyone, everyone — there are so many faces flashing through my mind right now — for continuing to be part of our tribe.
i will have to poach one more photo from garth herrick. no mask, and not perchta the white by any stretch, but i do love this!
•November 30, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: LINDA SOFFER (talking to ilse stone smith)
i have been thinking, ever since this interview was planned, how exactly i would word what linda means to me. it is still not working as deftly as i would like.
i think that linda understands, and takes KP:POS, as personally as i do. and gets as much out of it. i think that is the best i can say. i think she would do it in the rain, if there were only five of us. and i think that it would be a great time.
in part, i think that we understand each other because linda takes on her own event — spooky garden — every year, and has been doing so for much longer than we’ve been doing krampuslauf philadelphia. she knows the “seasons” one goes through internally with such an event. if she had never shared with me those similar ups and downs, i am pretty certain i would have given up on KP:POS by year two. i simply would not have known how to hold on through the fallow parts.
it has always been very funny to me that i knew from the first moment i “met” linda — at the first KP, with her mask and drum, never saying a word to me — that she was my ally. she has helped me believe in the power of making things, and what it can do for you emotionally, and she can get as possessed over the idea of how to use a stem or an LED as i can, even more so, i think.
linda — like many of the core krampuslauf mamas — know that making beautiful things to create beautiful moments is not all fun and games, and is at times dreary and repetitive and unsuccessful and lonely. and she does it anyway, because she is hardcore.
also, she is so willing to open her house to our visiting artists that i now think it is half of the draw in getting them to come at all.
it seemed only right that linda would like being interviewed by a young person, and someone she had known a long time, so i am happy that ilse was so interested, and did such a great job!
ISS: Hi. My name is Ilse Stone Smith. And I am talking to Linda Soffer: artist, teacher, and mom to my best friend, Ruby. We’re talking about Krampuslauf.
How did you get involved with Krampuslauf? And why?
LS: Well, I got a phone call from Janet Finegar – who I know from the neighborhood, and Liberty Lands – and she said “Hey, this woman Amber contacted me, and wants to do this festival for Krampus, in Liberty Lands.” And because I do this thing called Spooky Garden, she thought I might be interested in doing the Krampuslauf too. And it just so happened that I had recently learned about the Krampus from my neighbor Dutch Barb. She had told me about the Krampus. So I had a new curiousity about the Krampus. And it was like some universe synchronicity, when Janet contacted me about being involved in it.
ISS: How long have you and Ruby been in Krampuslauf?
LS: Since the beginning, since the first one.
ISS: What is your favorite part of Krampuslauf?
LS: Well, I love the costumes, and I love the lanterns. But I think my favorite thing about it is the way that it connects people together.
ISS: What is your favorite costume? Is it yours or someone else’s?
LS: Well the costumes are really fantastic. And I usually do put some time and energy into my costume, but I really do love seeing other people’s.
ISS: Has Spooky Garden – your garden – been involved in Krampuslauf?
LS: Well, they’re definitely crossover events, ‘cause I’m involved in both of them. Spooky Garden benefits from some Krampuslauf props, like lanterns, and giant illuminated Krampus heads, we use those in Spooky Garden events – so in that regard, I guess in my involvement, it’s involved.
our family does love to help with linda’s spooky garden in any way we can. ben is an expert at carving turnips now! and this year béla drilled a pumpkin. photo by neil kohl.
ISS: Advice for anyone who wants to come to Krampuslauf?
LS: I guess I would say, to make something, or bring something, or wear something, or be something. That you wouldn’t normally do. And be open to meeting new people. And having fun.
ISS: Have you ever thought of retiring for Krampuslauf?
LS: No, but if I could think in the future, would there be a time when I wouldn’t do it, maybe if I didn’t live in Philadelphia, or close enough to Philadelphia to do it. But of course, a piece of my heart will always be with the Krampuslauf. (laughing) What about for you? Can I ask you a question?
LS: What about for you, what’s your favorite part of the Krampuslauf?
ISS: I like how you get to be dressed up, and everything, and watch – and look at everybody else’s costumes, and how much they put effort into it just by looking at it sometimes, and I like watching the fire dancers, and that kind of stuff.
LS: It is really great to see people’s costumes, and the creativity they put into it. I love that part too. I also like the workshops. We get together and do things at other times. And we did this really cool (EverNever) Night Market, this past summer. And we’ve had some great workshops and met some great people – like Larry Hunt, and Jen, his wife.
ISS: When was your first Krampuslauf meeting?
LS: (laughing)… You know, I don’t know if we’ve ever really had a Krampuslauf meeting. There was a meeting in a coffee shop, with Amber and Chris Carson and I. That was pretty early on, that was talking about the Habergeiß (Das Mädchen), and the idea of building the Habergeiß. So this was pretty early on, and that was really the first kind of like Krampuslauf meeting we had, and to think about it now is really funny, and it definitely tickles my memory (laughs) to think about it. But, a lot of our communication is by social media, and then at these workshops, and like, random texts from Amber, to me.
the most superhero image of linda ever, putting up signs she has made in our maskmaking truck at the evernever night market, august 2015.
ISS: What was your favorite costume that you made in your long time in Krampus?
LS: Wow. That’s a good question. Well, my favorite’s kind of always the one I’m working on right now. (Laughs) So, I would say the one I’m working on right now for this year. Which is Gryla, who is an ogress, from Iceland, who loves to eat children. And she has thirteen sons known as the Yule Lads, and they are interesting characters, like the Spoon-Licker and the Candle-Swiper.
ISS: Where did you make your first costume?
LS: Sitting in my living room, I did the foil and tape mask method. I think I read or saw a tutorial, like from Arun (founder of the Portland Lauf) that Amber probably posted; and I was like, “Yeah, I can do a foil and tape mask,” and I made my first mask. And I wanted to use these antlers, these real little antlers that I had…
ISS: What was your first costume?
LS: I made a mask, that’s the Krampus… he’s kinda, he has little antlers, which are these real antlers, his big tongue sticking out, and I love his teeth, and he’s got some fur on the back of his head. And I wore it, actually, the first two years. One of the funny stories about Krampuslauf, about the first Krampuslauf, is that I actually came and went to the first Krampuslauf keeping my mask on the whole time, and never actually speaking to Amber. And I came, and I played the drum, and I had my mask on the whole time, and she didn’t know who I was. And I didn’t realize that I wasn’t consciously doing that, it just happened that way, and we talked about it later. It was funny, and we laughed about it.
ISS: Have you ever made a costume with Amber?
LS: No! No. I’ve collaborated with her, like for this Night Market truck, we collaborated on that. And Tucker is making the Yule Lads. So that’s kind of a collaboration. But not with Amber, personally. But I’d love to do that.
ISS: What was your first costume that you’ve done with Ruby?
LS: I guess it was the year where we were the deerfolk? We were inspired by these photographs of people wearing costumes of other characters from Nordic and Alpine folklore. And we were intrigued by these deer characters, and she and I were these deerfolk. I had antlers; she was more of a fawn.
What are you going to be this year? This year Ruby is gonna be on her stilts for part of it, and she’s gonna be wearing her pelt, and be ferocious. She’s gonna be a demon.
ISS: Do you have any good stories about the parade?
LS: (Laughing) I tend to miss a lot of things along the parade. Things happen, I find out later, and I’m like “Wow, where was I when that happened along the parade?” I always miss the toast at Standard Tap. I’ve never been able to quite get in on that. I do remember meeting Bryan Demory on the parade a few years ago, when he was wearing his yak fur suit, and that was when I first became acquainted with his tremendous rump bell. Which I have a great admiration for. This huge rump bell that he wears on the back of his suit.
ISS: I think I remember that! … Have you ever had a costume that you didn’t like?
LS: I guess, sometimes, if I have a costume where I can’t really see very well? I don’t really like that. If I need to have a “handler” (someone to help you navigate in your costume due to poor mobility/visibility), I haven’t really liked that. Or if I’ve been cold. I’ve learned to make my costumes really warm. I line them with polar fleece, and I plan to wear lots of layers… it’s kind of turned masks into, like, entire helmets. Because I end up building up the back. So actually I’ve enhanced my costumes knowing that I’m covering and warming myself with them.
ISS: Have you ever had thoughts that the costume you are going to make isn’t the best costume?
LS: (Laughing) (A lot) Are you asking if I’ve been plagued by artistic doubt? Of course. All the time. But I’ve gotten to a place in my creative life where I just kind of go with the flow, and I just try to connect with whatever costume is ready to emerge from my madness of the time, and I just try to follow it. And do it. And I don’t try to judge it anymore. I’ve let go of that. But I did used to, yeah. And now I’m just like – it is what it is. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. It’s not really about even being good or bad, it’s just about being. You know? And creating it. And then being there and wearing it and being there and seeing everybody else’s… that’s the great part.
ISS: Have you ever had a costume that you think to yourself, “Wow, I wish I made that costume!”
LS: Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah yeah! … pretty much like almost everybody’s costume that I see there – which is one of the great things about the event, there’s so much fantastic stuff. And I love when even somebody like your mom (Sue White) who is a good friend of mine but sometimes I have no idea what she’s working on… and she comes out with some fantastic, amazing headpiece or creation… I love seeing that. I often admire many of the costumes very much.
ISS: Have you ever had a costume where you say “I’m gonna do something like that next year”?
LS: Yeah, I am inspired by what people do from year to year. Amber was inspired – she sought out the woman who wore this amazing burlap mask (Deb Glassburg) and connected, and that’s how we connected with Larry Hunt, and had the workshop with him, about the burlap mask technique which – my mask and Amber’s mask and probably many other people’s masks this year will be created in that technique. And so that was a direct line of inspiration. Yeah, the energy and enthusiasm that people bring to the event definitely inspires me. Every year. It just kind of gives me the freedom to do even more.
ISS: Thank you for having me over and doing this interview with you.
LS: You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure.
while i might have met her at the maker workshop previous to our first lauf, to the best of my memory, this was “meeting” linda in 2011. i thought, wow. you are into this. and yeah, we didn’t actually talk at all.