Tag Archives: Inspiration

On Working with Women

I want to talk a bit about gender. It’s going to be binary, because I’m going to be talking about my life, and I’ve rarely interacted (in person) with people who do not identify as male or female. And really, I’m not really talking about gender fully. I’m talking about women. I’ve been thinking a lot about women, lately. Specifically their influences on me. Specifically how blessed I am to have so many strong, opinionated, ambitious women throughout my working life.

I work in a costume shop. For 95% of my adult life, I have worked in costume shops. At least ten different shops. Some of them (including my current shop!), have been staffed with only women. Most of them with women, gay men (who are definitely not women, but also bring different power-dynamics to a shop), and the occasional straight man. But we’re not going to talk about him. The whole world talks about him.

I’m going to say something that I don’t think gets said a lot: it’s really nice. It is really nice to work in a room of all women, day-in-and-day out. I’m serious. (And I think it’s sad that I have to say that I’m serious.)

I also love working with female designers, and assistant designers, directors, and actresses.

They all inspire me.

From the directors, I hear how to make my opinions known. How to believe they are valuable. How to be forceful.

From the designers, I learn collaboration. How to have a vision, and to bend other (very opinionated) people’s visions to my own. Or how to adjust. When to compromise, when to step back or forward.

From the actresses, I understand bodies. Our relationships to our bodies. I see how I can both hate and love how I look, simultaneously. I see how to flirt with a look–the tilt of the head, a smile–and I know how valuable flirtation is. How powerful and how harmless and how it really (usually) has nothing to do with sexual interest at all.

But it is from the other women in the shop that I learn the most, that I glean the most from. Tricks of the trade, of course. Little hints about working with leather or cutting chiffon. But it’s so much more than that. I learn about life, about navigating it as a woman. About how straightforward that is, and how tricksy too.

From the women who are older than me, I find courage and hope. Even though life will be rough (and it will, at times, be really rough), I can make it through. They did. And the scars they bear make them stronger, fiercer, more beautiful.

The ones who are younger than me (and there are more of those every year!), remind me what it was like to have a whole world in front of me and what it was like to have to make huge, giant decisions for the first time. They remind how scary that was, and how glad I am to be past my 20s. They also remind me that the huge, giant decisions that I’m making now aren’t irrevocable. Life isn’t a long line with only two divergences: good or bad. It’s twisty. And the right decision now may not be the right decision for always, but that’s the beauty of it. As long as you’re living, there are many more choices (and giant decisions) ahead.

I suppose that is true for all people, but it feels different somehow when I look at a young woman trying to decide between career paths, and family, and love, and the myriad of other things that go into decision-making.

I’m not naive. It’s not all daisies and tea parties and heart-to-hearts whilst hemming petticoats or boning corsets. I’ve disliked some of the individual women I’ve worked with. And some of them, have hated me. Some of them have been cruel to me, have worked to make my worklife harder. These thoughts are generalizations. Obviously, not all women fit into the categories I’ve described. Not all of my experiences with female directors, designers, actresses, or shop staff have been pleasant.

Sometimes, working with a room full of women–it can be annoying. When my department is overlooked or ignored or paid less than the other production departments, it’s annoying. When I’m told I would be prettier if I only did X, it’s annoying. When my menstrual cycle is pulled (yet again) to someone else’s schedule, it’s super annoying.

But mostly? Working with women is amazing. And I don’t think that gets talked about very much.

I didn’t connect the fact that choosing costumes would mean working with women most of the time. If I’d known when I was 22, I might have made a different decision. I wasn’t particularly fond of women then. I liked to bash my gender right along with the next girl who thought she was above it all. But now, at (just about) 32, I’m grateful and I wouldn’t change that aspect of this career for the world.

Afterall, there is a reason I chose a grad school situated on a women’s college, staffed primarily by female academics and writers, attended mostly by female students.

When I need inspiration? When I need help? I turn to the women.

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Sculpting Inspiration

As a follow up to my last post on inspiration, I wanted to set up for everyone just how I’m inspired.

One of the other little trips Kyle set up in the last couple weeks was a trip to a local Sculpture Garden. Calling it a garden, really, is misleading. We should call it a Sculpture Farm. It’s huge.

I took pictures of many of the sculptures that really spoke to me and I’d like to walk you through a couple story ideas that came to me.

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If there’s not a love triangle here, then I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. But maybe to twist the story and give it a little more depth, one of the love interests could be the forgotten maid in the background? Or perhaps the lack of interest in the nude woman is what’s interesting — after all, neither man seems to be paying her the slightest bit of attention.

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This has to be the setting for an ancient fantasty– a springtime witch ritual, yeah? Or perhaps a fable about some wanton young women turned to stone by their Deity after committing some sort of crime (like dancing naked in the moonlight?).

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This was called the 9 muses (or something like that). All of the muses were half-formed, misshapen. The poetry you could write about how beauty, like creativity, so easily slips through your fingers (especially when you try to hard to shape it to what you want it to be). It cracks. Misforms. Elludes you entirely. 

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This guy has to be the star of some comic science fiction space journey. He’s a brilliant alien, capable of going in all sorts of directions. I rather think that the place he came from had significantly less gravity than we do– otherwise, how would you move all those limbs with any sort of grace?

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And we’re back to the maid of the first image. She really struck me for some reason. Not because she’s particularly beautiful. I think because I love how stagnant and still and picturesque the scene around her is. I love the algae growing on her hem, the leaves sitting in the water. I think this could make a really lovely literary story about beauty and how it doesn’t necessarily always mean perfection, but sometimes just means…rightness.

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Oaks as Inspiration

The last couple of weeks have been busy. My mind’s been full of work and I’ve been cranky. My free time has been at a minimum, but the time I did have (especially the daylight hours), I wanted to use. So Kyle scheduled two tiny trips for me, to places I hadn’t really been.

One was to a little park about 20 minutes away. And by little park, I mean, little. It’s just a corner lot with a pavilion, a small water feature and a pathway lined in trees. The park is dedicated to a local, long-term park service officer, a lover of oak trees. All the trees along the park’s small pathway are oaks of varying sorts, and at each new tree on the path is a little plaque which tells you what type of oak it is and shows you what the acorn and a leaf looks like, to scale.

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Isn’t it great?

The thing I’ve really loved about focusing on my writing this last year is how it’s helped me focus on the world around me so much more. I see things more. Once I started looking for inspiration, I found story ideas everywhere. Everywhere.

And more than just story ideas. Beauty. Perfect beauty. Pristine beauty. Decaying beauty. And I am so glad I started looking.

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