Thursday, June 28, 2018

STRONG GIRLS, GREAT DADS: HAZEL AND PETER PLAY BASKETBALL


I see a lot of dads playing sports with their sons in our neighborhood park, so when I saw a dad playing basketball with his young daughter, I was inspired and wanted to meet them.

Peter Banks plays on a team with friends.  When Hazel started to ask him about the game, he bought a small ball and started taking her to Carroll park to do catching, passing, and shooting hoops. They are currently looking for a hoop that is a better (shorter) size for Hazel.

Peter shared "I've always played sports and I would like her to have the option to enjoy sports, too."

What does Hazel like about playing basketball? "It's fun!" And here's what she likes about being a girl: "You get to do a lot of things.  It's cool. It's very nice!"


Friday, April 13, 2018

ELEVEN ARE HONORED FOR SERVICE AT BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH CEREMONY





It was standing room-only at the Fifth Annual Women's History Month Celebration at Borough Hall.  The March 29 event, organized by The Office of The Brooklyn Borough President, honored women "[...] who are committed to public service and giving back to their communities."

The event featured guest speaker Warrant Officer One Mary Maysonnet, as well as Borough Hall staff members Lori H. Luis, Ama Dwimoh Esq., and Ingrid P. Lewis-Martin.

During the opening remarks, Mr. Ronald Law, Head of Government Relations for MetroPlus Health Plan, spoke about the power of a dream not deferred in reference to Bessie Coleman.  Ms. Coleman, he explained,  was the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license.  The USPS dedicated a stamp to her memory, and when she died in a plane crash, 15,000 people attended her funeral.

Before announcing each award recipient, Borough President Eric L. Adams spoke about the universal oppression and exploitation of women throughout history, challenging the tenets of global sexism and male domination.

Here is a list of the honorees:

Jacqueline Dowd, School Safety Agent for Brooklyn Brooklyn North Command 84th Precinct

Lisa Molnar Juliano, Teacher for the New York City Department of Education

Martha Kamber, Chief executive officer and president of the YWCA Brooklyn 

Jacqueline Gist Tillman, Nurse for the New York City Department of Education

Caroline Gates Anderson, Founder, Bloom Again Brooklyn

Local 372 Volunteers, Brooklyn team organizers going door to door talking to members about union issues:
o   Robin Chisolm
o   Denise McClain
o   La’Nette Murphy
o   Melissa Serve
o   Imogene Thomas
o   Barbara Richardson 

To learn more about activities and programs at The Office of the Brooklyn Borough President:
http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/
https://www.facebook.com/BPEricAdams/
To sign up for the Borough President's Mailing List:  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Q AND A WITH CYNTHIA LEONOR GARZA, AUTHOR OF LUCIA THE LUCHADORA


I mainly knew about luchadores, Mexican professional wrestlers who often wear masks, through the movie Nacho Libre and through images of luchadores depicted on mugs, t-shirts, posters, and candle holders. In the film, as well as in the other product-based imagery, the luchadores are all male.

I had never seen a reference to a female luchador befored discovering the children's book, Lucia the Luchadora, at PowerHouse Books in Brooklyn.  Written by Cynthia Leonor Garza and illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez, Lucia features a girl luchadora who wears a mask to the park, stands upfor herself, and fights for what is right.  Lucia is Cynthia's first book.

Q: What were some personal highlights for you during the process of creating Lucia the Luchadora?  What did you learn about yourself during the creation process?

A: I wanted to write a story about lucha libre for a long time and could never quite figure out how to make it work. It had to be fun and high energy to match the feel of a real-life lucha libre match. When I got the idea to write a story about a little girl who wants to be a superhero, it just cliqued that she would become a luchadora. Lucía gives this book all its energy. She is quite a fierce little girl.

Q: What might surprise people to learn about what it was like for you to put this book together?
Many times, there is a wall of sorts between the author and illustrator with the publisher in between while a picture book is being illustrated, but with this book, we had good collaboration. It was a great experience as an author to be let in on the entire process.

A: What kinds of feedback, and from whom, have you received in response to the book?  What were some of the themes from the feedback?  Do you have a sense of the kinds of ways the book has impacted people?
The book has had a terrific response from both childrenand grown-ups. We all read books through our own unique lens, so it’s been interesting hearing the different take-aways folks have after reading this story. A lot of children are captivated by the superhero aspect of the story and the masks and high-flying moves. I’ve heard from parents who liked the strong girl power message in it. Others have said it’s a good lesson on fending off bullies, or standing up for what is right. It’s even been equated with the #MeToo movement, at the point in the book when Lucía unmasks herself and all the other girls follow her lead in solidarity. 
Q: What suggestions do you have for parents, coaches, teachers, and other people who directly impact the lives of young females in terms of how we can best be allies to them, best help them stay true to themselves, their minds, and their true power in the face of sexism, racism, etc.?
A: We have to work to smash the self-doubt that girls often carry, and remind them at every opportunity that they are capable and worthy of their biggest dreams. Luchadora literally means a fighter – a female fighter. Girls are often told to not fight, and one of the lessons of this book is that fighting is not always a bad thing. It is sometimes necessary. Also, girls don’t have to be nice all the time. It is okay to get angry when something is unjust. The part of the book that everyone seems to like is when Lucía gets mad, spicy mad, Ka-Pow kind of mad. It’s a feeling I think we can all relate to.

Q: What are you working on now?
 
A: Lucía the Luchadora and the Million Masks is in the works and is set to be released in October of this year. Lucía’s trouble-making little sister Gemma makes her debut in this story, which is also filled with lots of fun and adventure.

Q: What do you like to do for fun, to blow off steam?

A: I take a lot of long walks to help clear my mind. I live in Nairobi, Kenya and near my home is a forest with trails that has become my most recent obsession. The sights and sounds and feel of the forest is such a welcome change from working on my laptop.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

STRONG IS THE NEW PRETTY: Q AND A WITH AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER KATE T. PARKER


When I first saw Kate T. Parker's book on the store shelf, I nearly leapt out of my skin.  First,  there was the title:  Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves.  Then, there was the cover: a non-smiling, athletic girl in swim gear.  Next, there were all the inspiring images inside the book: photos of girls playing football, wrestling, skateboarding, fencing, using a bow and arrow, rolling in the grass, navigating wheelchairs.  And the pages were filled with quotations taken directly from the girls. One of my favorite quotations was this one by 6-year-old Sabrina, who is shown playing water polo: 
"I love water polo and I can lift just one eyebrow and I speak Farsi and play tennis and I can make people laugh by making funny faces.  And I taught my little sister, Penny, to read when she was 3." 

And take note of this: Strong is the New Pretty led Kate to start a philanthropic offshoot, partnering with organizations such as Girls Inc., Glam4Good and Girls on the Run.

I was delighted when Kate agreed to let Creative Times readers know more about the woman and the process behind the book.

Q: What were some personal  highlights for you during the process of creating Strong is the New Pretty? What did you learn about yourself and your relationship to the subject matter during the process?

A: It was a huge learning experience for me.  I had zero knowledge about how the publishing world worked or how to put a book together.  I learned as I went and it was really amazing and eye-opening.  I loved the experience of starting something new and having the opportunity to create something from scratch.

Q: What might surprise people to learn about what it was like for you to put this book together?

A: When I traveled around the country, I found so many different kinds of strength.  
It presented itself in a million different ways, ways that were  specific to each person. 
I met and shot musicians, athletes, pilots, and valedictorians.  They were all so so different from one another, but strength was the thread that ran through all of them. 

I also noticed this truth: that talent is such a small part of success.  Anyone succeeding and excelling at anything is digging in.  Working.  Learning.  Putting the time in.   Not taking a no as a sign for them to quit.  Believing in themselves and going forward with the hard work of whatever their passion is. You know what that is?  GRIT. Those girls had grit.

Q: What kinds of feedback, and from whom, have you received in response to the book?  What were some of the themes from the feedback?  Do you have a sense of the kinds of ways the book has influenced people?


A: By and large, the feedback has been really positive.  I’ve gotten emails and messages saying that the girls who are reading this book really love it, relate to it, see themselves in it, and would like to be part of the next book.  

Q: What suggestions do you have for parents, coaches, teachers, and other people who directly impact the lives of young females in terms of how we can best be allies to them, best help them stay true to themselves, their minds, and their true power in the face of sexism, racism, etc.?


A: The idea and concept behind Strong is the New Pretty isn’t new.  Strong has always been beautiful.  However, as a mother with two young girls, I see them growing up in an age of filters, Snapchat, Instagram, and lots of photoshopping. The pressure that young women feel these days is new.  The internet brings it to an entirely new level. In this world, the message that strong is beautiful  needs to be heard more than ever. I wanted to provide a place, a message and images that celebrated girls for who they really are.  I wanted girls to know that who they are was enough. That their real, authentic, true selves were enough.  

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on three books in this same vein.  I am so excited about these follow ups! The first book is a Strong is the New Pretty: A Guided Journal for Girls.  It really takes the concepts and ideas behind the original book and puts them into action for girls with daily prompts to get out and be active and confident.  The next book is called Boy Strong and it is about celebrating boyhood, however that looks and feels.  And the last book is about courage in girls and women.  

Q: What do you like to do for fun, to blow off steam?

A: I love spending time with my family.  is hands-down my favorite thing to do.  Joking around and hanging with them is hands-down my favorite thing to do.  I also like to run, play soccer, and take pictures.  I love taking and creating images!

Q: What's next for you as an artist?

A: I’d love to continue to spread this message of acceptance and confidence to the next generation, in different mediums, however that might look.  

For more information about Kate and this book: https://katetparker.com/

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Q AND A WITH THE UNSTOPPABLE MISSY FARRUGGIA


Missy and her husband, Mike.

I met Missy Farruggia via social media after joining a Facebook group of 3,000-plus women who run, cycle, swim, lift weights, do yoga, and gather together on this platform to post photos of themselves in  action and cheer each other on through thick and through thin.  The group was started by Kelly Roberts, founder of  She Can and She Did . Kelly's motto? "No matter how hard something seems, we really are stronger together.  The future isn't just female, it's strong, smart, emboldened, united, driven, funny, and ambitious as hell."

One of the first things I noticed about this FB group was the very strong presence of Missy.  One of the first posts I read was her hilarious and hard-hitting story of how she dealt with someone who targeted her with racism during one of her daily runs.  How Missy handled the incident became legendary and oft-referred to in subsequent posts of other group members. 

Through Missy's posts, I learned that she is Native American, her young daughters run too, and she was a surrogate mom for a friend who could not bear children.  Missy triumphed over physical adversity in order to complete four half-marathons, which inspired the Facebook group to create a Miles for Missy Solidarity Run.

Over and over, Missy shows up in her posts - and in life, no doubt -  full of humor, courage, and support of others.  I was so pleased that she agreed to do this Q and A. 

*****************

Q: How did you get involved in running? What is your current running  routine? 

A:  I have been running ever since I was a little girl.  My mom would take me running and I fell in love with it. I always felt so free and happy; I almost felt like I could fly!  It was a way to connect with Mother Earth.  I try to run every day, and my favorite time is first thing in the morning. I love finishing in time to greet the sun as it rises!

Q: What are some of your proudest moments as a runner?

A:  I have two proudest moments in running. I decided to sign up for my first race, a 5k. I was so scared because I had just come from an injury and was getting my running legs back. I had lost 110 pounds and when I got to the start line, I felt like I did not belong. I didn’t look like the other runners, who were so confident and happy.  I felt like I was gonna throw up. I wanted to go home, but my family was there and when I started running, it felt amazing! When I crossed that finish line, I was crying happy tears.I did it! It was amazing!!

My second proudest moment was the first time I ran with my daughters. Watching them discover their love for running made me fall in love with it all over again, but in a different way. After my injury, I appreciated it more and love that I can share that with my them.

Q: What kinds of physical activities did you enjoy as a child? As a teen? As a young adult?

A:  Running was really my only love; I didn’t do any other activity. 

Q: What keeps you going when the going gets tough? Are there particular people, places, experiences, or sayings that motivate and inspire you?

A:  Everyone has a tough run, everyone struggles. I think of my family and their love and it always helps me get through. My husband is the most amazing person I have ever met; he is my rock and best friend whose support and love keeps me going. My favorite saying is she believed she could, so she did! 

There is also an Apache saying: May the sun bring you new energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk gently though the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.

Q: Do you have an overarching life philosophy?

A:  I believe in  being kind to one another and treating everyone equally. If we could just lift each other up and stop shaming others for the way they look or for their differences or beliefs, imagine what we could accomplish! 

Q:You have shared that you are Native American. What was it like growing up as a Native American female? What is it like for you now? How have those two identities shaped your life?

A: I didn’t really noticed a difference until I moved away from my family. The culture and traditions are so different and I found a lot of people were not so kind to those who are different. I did, however, find amazing, and loving people who made me proud to celebrate our differences and together we became stronger! I fell in love with my husband who is Italian, and we pass on our traditions to our two strong, beautiful daughters, Our differences are was make us great!

Q: You are a mom to two girls. What do you do to help your daughters stay confident in their minds and their bodies?

A: I encourage my girls to be strong.  My oldest is hearing impaired and her strength inspires me! I never want them to think that they can’t do something because of who they are. I always tell them they are smart, strong, and can do anything! I am so proud of them and look forward to see what they are going to accomplish in life. They are smart and funny and even if I wasn’t their mother, I would want to know them.

Q: What are a few of your personal goals and dreams?

A:  My goal is to run all the Disney half marathons. I’m a huge Disney fan and there is nothing more magical than crossing that Disney finish line! I have run three of their races and they are amazing! My first half was the Disney Avengers Half; it was an absolute dream come true! I have also run the Tinkerbell Challenge and the Disneyworld Half.

Q: What would you like to see happen on this planet in your lifetime?

A:  More female equality.  Women are smart and strong and not less than! We need to teach our young girls and boys that women are just as good as men and and that together we are stronger.



TWO GORGEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS ABOUT MICHELLE OBAMA



It's Women's History Month, and what better way to celebrate than by picking up some books about your favorite women from the past or present who have made history. 

Chasing Light: Michelle Obama through the Lens of a White House Photographer is the creation of Amanda Lucidon.  Ms. Lucidon, an on-staff photographer during President Obama's second term, traveled to about 20 countrieIs with the former first family. "I felt like every day was memorable and inspirational," she told CNBC Make It. "I got to travel to so many places in the world that I never thought I would see and being there with the president or Mrs. Obama was an incredible experience."

Amanda, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Washington, D.C.,  
and her work has been honored by White House News Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism and Associated Press.


The text of Michelle Obama: A Photographic Journey comes from Antonia Felix, an author, playwright, educator and musician. 


With 140 photographs, inspiring quotes, and excerpts from five historic speeches, this gorgeous volume pays tribute to Michelle Obama. Although it primarily focuses on 2007 to 2016, the book covers the pre-White House years, as well: her childhood, her time in college and law school, her work as a young professional, her marriage to Barack, and her experiences during his first campaign. It also explores her family life; celebrates her “First Lady Firsts”; looks at her TV appearances and official trips; details her main health, social, and education projects; and presents her as the glamorous, fashionable First Hostess at State Dinners and other events. Fans of Michelle will treasure this keepsake of a trendsetting, socially conscious, and powerful First Lady.  
(Description taken from Amazon.)

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY ON MARCH 27 FOR "NEW SHOES" BY SARA VARON


I'm so excited to share that my friend, author and illustrator Sara Varon will be releasing her new book New Shoes on Tuesday, March 27, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Stories Bookshop located at 458 Bergen Street in Brooklyn.  Sara is going to be giving away some of her special monkey pins!
Come join in the fun!

Monday, February 26, 2018

THE BEAUTIFUL STORY OF OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST CHLOE KIM AND HER AWESOME DAD



I was so in awe of snowboarder Chloe Kim's gold medal-winning runs in the recent winter Olympics.  And then I learned that her dad, an immigrant to this country,  devoted his life to both coaching and taking care of Chloe.

It is moving to see a father so whole-heartedly back his daughter to become an all-out athlete!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Sunday, November 26, 2017

HOW OLYMPIC WOMEN ATHLETES ARE GIVING BACK

Female Athletes Honored at
38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports
On October 18, I walked into the swankiness that is Cipriani Wall Street with a list of Olympic women athletes to interview as they walked down the red carpet of the 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports.  I ended up interviewing almost none of them, but what happened that night was even better than I expected.

Let me back up for a minute.  About a month prior to the event, a woman from an online female bike forum had tipped me off to The Women's Sports Foundation (WSF).  Their mission?  To create leaders by ensuring all girls access to sports.  When I found out that WSF would be dedicating  a whole night to honoring the top women athletes, I knew that I had to be there to cover the event for Creative Times.

When I learned that my request for a press pass to the event had been granted, I was excited beyond belief.  As someone who started watching the Olympics at the age of 6, and who champions female athletes throughout the year on my blog, on Facebook, and in live conversations with strangers and friends, I could not believe that I now had a chance to meet some of the most accomplished women athletes in person.  

After arriving at Cipriani, I was ushered to my spot where I would be interviewing the athletes who came down the carpet.  I came prepared with two questions:  "What advice do you have for girls or teens who want to get into sports but feel intimidated?" and "Who or what inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?"

I first spoke with Charmaine Reid, a Canadian badminton player who is an Olympian, two-time World Champion, and three-time Pan American Games medalist.   As well, she is a  television commentator, ambassador, and motivational speaker.  Through her self-created program, S'Cool, Charmaine and sister Olympian Nicole Grethere conduct in-school badminton demonstrations and workshops to "inspire children to be active, to set goals, and to live their dreams and pursue a healthy lifestyle."  She estimates that she has reached 100,000 children through her work.

When I asked Charmaine about who inspires her, she spoke at length about WSF Founder Billie Jean King.  In her own work with children, it is Charmaine's intent to pass along Billie's message to get back up after you fail and continue to believe in yourself.

Next, I spoke with Suad Galow, a heroine who has coached the Somali Women's basketball team of young women, helped them to face threats of violence, and reclaim their spot on the international sports scene.  Her work is the subject of the upcoming documentary Rajada Dalka/Nation's Hope.

Suad's advice to girls or teens who want to get involved with sports: "Don't be intimidated.  Sports give you experience in teamwork and the opportunity to get to know other females.  Sports help you go get stronger, be creative, and help others." 


I then spoke with Laurie Hernandez, who was one of the Final Five on the gold medal-winning women's gymnastics team of the 2016 Olympics.  Her words of wisdom to young females wanting to get involved in athletics: "Block out what other people say and do what makes you happy."  When not training, Laurie leads gymnastics clinics for children. 

Next, I chatted with Alana Nichols, a Paralympic basketball player and Alpine skier, who had this to say to young females wanting to get involved in sports: "Take the first step. Go to the gym, take the class. The first steps will lead to the next steps." And Alana's thoughts about perservering when the going gets tough? "Make it about something bigger than yourself."  Alana does just that by giving motivational talks to young people and adults, including this TED talk, and by sharing images of her athleticism through her blog.

I felt incredibly inspired by each of the women I talked to - Charmaine, Suad, Laurie, and Alana, and also by some of the women I saw but did not get to interview, including Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American fencer who is the first Muslim American woman ito wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.


Laurie Hernandez
What I admired by each of the women I talked to was not only her incredible accomplishments as an athlete, but how she had found a way to give back by inspiring, educating, and supporting children to stay active and go for their big dreams as well. 

Alana Nichols
Suad Galow
Charmaine Reid



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

HOW A MOM SUPPORTS HER DAUGHTERS TO BE ACTIVE



Lucy, at 17 Months, on the Monkey Bars

My friend Aynsley sent me this photo of her 17-month-old daughter, Lucy, on the monkey bars.  I asked Aynsley to share a bit about her philosophy on supporting her girls to stay physically active. Here's what she said

"My girls are 5 1/2 and 17 months. I feel very strongly about exposing them to a variety of sports and dance in the hopes of instilling a lifelong love of movement. Whatever it is, I want them to know there is some way to move their body that brings them joy.  

My older daughter is obsessed with the monkey bars, which has been a wonderful learning tool. Any time she says something is hard - a puzzle, for example -  we can remind her how she began on the monkey bars: not being able to even hold on for a long time, let alone move across them. And how her persistence and hard work have gotten her farther.

The back story on the photo of Lucy is that my little one always wanted to do what her older sister is doing! So as Eliza does the monkey bars, Lucy wants to hang, too. Lucy is adventurous with her body and already finds joy in physical activities like climbing, dancing and swimming."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

THINGS ARE WHAT YOU MAKE OF THEM: LIFE ADVICE FOR CREATIVES



I'm digging Adam J. Kurtz' new book, and here's three reasons why:  

First of all, it's extremely lightweight and  portable portable at about 6" x 4".  I love being able to throw a book into my purse of tote bag and whisk it out for some quick inspiration.

Second, it's divided into color-coded segments with titles like How to Stay Sane When You Work from Home; What to do When you Fail; How to Keep Going; and How to Get Over Comparing Yourself to Other Creatives.

Third, Adam speaks as one creative person to another in a compassionate but never condescending voice.  His advice -  simple, direct, and humorous - allows room for your own mind to work and apply his ideas to your life.

For more information about Adam's books and other products, check out his website.http://www.adamjkurtz.com/

Friday, October 13, 2017

STAY TUNED FOR COVERAGE OF THE 38TH ANNUAL TRIBUTE TO WOMEN IN SPORTS!


Simone Biles won Sportswoman of the Year in 2014

Each year, Olympic, Paralympic, champion and elite athletes gather for the Annual Salute to Women in Sports in New York City. Hundreds of people come to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women in sport.  

This year, the ceremony will be on Wednesday, October the 18th, at Cipriani Wall Street.  You can register HERE to register watch the livestream version of the event.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

WHEN DREAMS TAKE FLIGHT: Q AND A WITH PRINCE'S COSTUME DESIGNER, STACIA LANG

Stacia in her Studio.  Photo Credit: Vern Evans 

Sketch of Prince by Stacia Lang 

When Stacia Lang was a young girl, she loved all things having to do with wild animals - magazines, television shows, you name it. In fact, she dreamed of becoming an ornithologist - an expert on birds. She also loved costumes and wished to study fashion and costume design.  That wish came true in a path which included study at FIT, a job at the NYC Ballet transforming ballerinas into swans, and eventually the honor of becoming Prince's costume designer at Paisley Park.  From there, she moved on to building costumes for film and theater, and designing outfits for performers ranging from Billy Idol to Dolly Parton.

Stacia's early love of exotic birds eventually came full circle when she began to take on jobs which allowed her to incorporate feathers in her designs - projects such as couture commissions and bird sculptures. She even bought her own bird - Chester, a chestnut-eared arcari.

What's notable about Stacia's journey is how she has taken her two main loves - design and birds - and woven them together to create a life in which she is doing work that inspires both herself and others.


Q and A with Stacia

Q:  Can you describe the work that you do in your studio? And what are some of the steps or stages of a typical project from inception to completion?

A: My private studio and what I do there is much different from the movie studios I work at, and what I do there. Sometimes I feel I have two creative lives. When I am hired to build specialty costumes on a film at Sony, Paramount or Warner Brothers, I actually work on the studio lot and become immersed in the world and the story line of the film. In contrast, when I work in my own studio, doing my own projects, I look to my personal vision as an artist, designer, and maker. Each scenario has its challenges and rewards. I sincerely love working in both capacities, but when a person has the ability to express herself and her vision on her own terms, there really is no better feeling in the world. 

The projects I do in my studio range from doll making to avian sculpture, and feather work has dominated the main studio now for 2 years. Using both real feathers and textile feathers, I create cloaks, capes, jackets, and headdresses. I've created an avian theme in honor of my admiration for birds and their colorful plumage! 

Q:  What is a project you are working on right now?  Is there an overarching theme or focus to your work right now?

A:  Right now, I'm working on building spacesuits for a new film. My role on this film and others has been that of Key Specialty Costumer. That usually means that I am the first to be hired by the costume designer and supervisor, and I help to develop the department, finding the crew and equipment that it will take to build the specialty costumes. In the case of spacesuits, I usually pattern and develop the base suit in our workroom, and work in conjunction with  special effects companies who machine the hardware and mechanical parts of the suits, including the helmets.  Those parts come into our department needing integration into our suits. To make sculpted and molded parts work on the human body is one aspect of the specialty costume builder's job. Spacesuits that I have been heavily involved with are the 2009 Star Trek, Interstellar, and the upcoming Passengers starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. All of these suits had their own unique challenges, and all, I feel, hit the mark and achieved their aesthetic and technical goals. [Ed. note: Passengers has since come out in theatres.]

Q: What does a day in the studio look like for you?  How do you start your day, and is what does the flow, rhythm or routine look like?

A:  A day in my own studio starts with me feeding my birds. What a pleasure it is to interact with my sweet studio companions. They are really the heart of the studio. I have a pair of red-legged honey creepers, a pair of blue dacnis, and my personal snuggle bunny,Chester, who is a chestnut-eared aracari. He is in the Toucan family, and he's my companion pet. Not really that different from a puppy dog in that he loves to play, interact, cuddle, and eat treats. He loves going on expeditions throughout the studio, foraging in cabinets, drawers, and in the fridge! I also draw him a bath every day. 

After getting the birds situated for the day, I begin in the studio. Depending on the project, I either have had several people helping me in the studio, or I'm just working by myself. Either way, I love it. Actually, I love variety. I don't like the same thing day and night. I think that's why I've been able to cross over from costuming to my own art continually. The variety fuels my interest and creativity. I have been trying to find what hours work best for me in the studio. I feel that naturally I like to start in the afternoon and work around the clock deep into the wee hours of the morning. It just works out that way. But I have been trying to train myself to start early in the morning. When I have others with me, of course I have to have more regular, regimented hours to keep things regulated. but when I'm by myself, all bets are off. 

Q: What do you do to blow off steam, to have fun?

A: To relax and unwind from a tough project, my go-to activity is scouring antiquarian bookshops. I LOVE old books. I have collected a great library of books with subjects ranging from puppetry to dolls, fashion to Burlesque, and art to craft techniques and masks. My books on feathers and birds are in a cabinet all their own. In this area, I keep all of my tear sheets catalogued and in binders with titles like "Bird Species," "Plumassiers and Suppliers," or "Feathered Garments."  My sketches are in flat glass-topped insect boxes, at the ready. 

Q:  Who do you enjoy spending time with?  Are your friendships mostly with other creatives, or are they with folks across different industries?

A: Most of my friends are creative in their own way. I thrive on the interaction between myself and other artists; that's where magical things happen! It's lovely to be alone in my studio. But certainly, with interaction comes the dynamism of unexpected alchemy. I really even consider my books to be my collaborators. A lot happens for me when I open one of my beloved books. 

Q: Looking back, where do you see the roots of what you do now in your childhood years?  If there were people back there who encouraged or nurtured your creativity, how did they go about doing that?

A:  I consider my childhood to be idyllic. My parents were and are still musicians and I remember crawling around among amplifiers, instruments and microphone stands. I listened to their rehearsals while drawing and dreaming. Very early on, I started to draw my own fashion designs, practicing my signature and collecting fashion magazines and books on Hollywood costume design. My parents encouraged this in me and helped me along. I don't quite know why I didn't become a musician. Believe me, I took piano and flute lessons, and Dad tried to teach me the guitar. These things just didn't stick; I was more attracted to the visual arts, and I later left for NYC and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Something very important about my childhood was my love of animals and nature, but especially birds. I remember plucking a duck egg out of a hollow in a tree as a child and bringing it home. My Dad was so mad. But he made an incubator and we eventually raised even more ducks (albeit these eggs came from a hatchery).

Other people who encouraged me besides my parents were my school teachers.  There were two in particular - my 9th grade French teacher, and my high school art teacher. Encouragement is so vital for a young person. To this day, I'm so grateful to have had marvelous mentors to guide me early on.

Q: When did you decide to make a living from your craft, and what factored into that decision?

A: It never occurred to me that I couldn't make a living from my art. Certainly, you could categorize what I do as "applied art". Many of the facets of my creativity land squarely in the commercial realm. So this lifts the burden of having to make money from "fine art". But honestly, I don't like categories. I try to see life as some indigenous peoples do, who integrate art into the simplest of everyday objects and activities. 

Q: What is your advice to other people who want to make a living from their craft? 

A: My advice to young people would be to fine tune your skills through classes, workshops and lectures. Go out to museums and absorb everything you can. Talk to the masters who you look up to. Identify your mentors and emulate their actions. And finally, recognize in yourself the unique vision you offer the world. 

Q:  What is your advice to anyone who wants to give expression to their creative ideas, regardless of whether or not it is a source of income for them?

A: Another bit of advice to those who want to give expression to their creative ideas is this: Don't wait until "the perfect time" because really, there is no "perfect time".  You're just psyching yourself out. When you see an opportunity, act on that opportunity. With the skills and know-how you have acquired through your classes and experience, you'll be ready for what opportunities come your way.

Q: What was something interesting or unexpected about your work as a costume designer for Prince?  What is something you learned about yourself while you were working for him?

A: With the passing of Prince, I have done so much thinking about my creative time spent with him at Paisley Park. I designed his stage costumes and everyday clothing in the early 90's. This was the first time I truly recognized myself as an artist, collaborating, in essence, with a partner. I learned that collaborating with a genius is exhilarating, challenging, and life-changing.

I learned that art is hard work and that sometimes you don't see the impact and imprint of your work for decades. So many people have come to me and told me their stories of being inspired through the work I did for him. How wonderful it's been to learn this. I'm so grateful, mostly grateful to Prince for giving me the opportunity to work along side him and observe his work ethic, his genius, and his magic.  Also, I can look back and see that a certain magic was created in our collaboration. I feel a deep gratitude for this. 

Q: What was it like to design costumes for Dolly Parton?

A: Dolly Parton is the sweetest, most gracious icon I have ever worked with. Just the nicest person, period. Such a pro. For her to be able to maintain that level of kindness and goodness of heart in the glaring light of fame truly astounds me. And what a business woman she is. Really, I learned a lot just through osmosis, through listening to, and watching her do business. She was my childhood idol, so to be able to design for her was a dream come true. This is another thing I would tell a young person starting out. Aim high in your pursuits. Dream big and go for your ultimate goals. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again".  This is how it worked with Dolly. When I was very young, fresh out of college, I had sent sketches to her, and she sent me the nicest "rejection" letter, saying that she was working with a designer, but that she was sure one day our paths would cross. And they did, years later. I pursued a design collaboration again, and this time she was interested in working together. It was such a rewarding adventure! A true example of tenacity, of not being afraid of failure.

Q: What would you like to see happen for yourself in the next few years?

A: In the coming years, I would like to create new avenues for my work. I'd like to take more chances and be bolder than ever. This is the only way to break through complacency. You can get pretty comfortable with your work and situation, and shaking things up is the only way to catapult yourself into a new orbit, a new realm. I'm excited about new challenges to come!

For more information about Stacia and her work, visit her website and facebook page