january and february on planet “parade of spirits”

january and february can be bummer months. weeks of post-event, post-holiday, post-making blues.

sure, you can start getting ready for NEXT parade of spirits, and you might even already be full of ideas. but everybody knows it’s not as easy as just doing that. and one does need a palate-cleanser.

when we had traveled to tucson for the all souls processional weekend in november, we went to our first professional wrestling event. quite by accident. it was happening in the rialto theatre, right across from the hotel congress, where we were staying. we NEVER could have predicted we’d have that much fun.

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.



while showing off my unwearable mask online — it was january by this time, and i was itching to make new things — adam (who had, by that time, been the first person to wear a lucha mask AT parade of spirits, as our emcee for the kids’ mini flow showcase and for lux arati), and tagged a friend of his to take a look at the picture of my mask. she said it was a pretty good first try, and she made lucha gear for a living, and so if i had any questions, she’d be happy to help.

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?

we did.

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?




a few people together making masks was enough of a social event for me that i just snuck a cheesecake in there and called it my birthday.

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!)
(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.
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.

she received them the night before her birthday, though, so that tara could be there to give both kids a lesson in fire safety and be present for the first time they lit up.

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?
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.