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!
listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.
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.
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.
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.