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I have been focusing so much on aerial and flexibility training over the past couple of years that I have had very little time to work on projects. I knew this would be the case when I closed the Poison Candy shop, however I expected that I would have managed to crank out at least a few masterpieces by now. I have declined pretty much every freelance offer in favor of swinging from the rafters, however I recently signed on for a fun costuming gig.
My friend Christopher Brown is a brilliant actor and an equally talented director. Chris introduced me to the play “HIR” by Taylor Mac over the summer and I instantly fell in love with the script. When Christopher mentioned that he would be directing the play for Cockroach Theatre, I was thrilled to come aboard as the costume designer.
Valerie Carpenter Bernstein and Tim Cummins photographed by Richard Brusky.
Good art is subjective and “HIR” is no exception. I imagine that most people who see the play walk away with a very unique perspective. Mac embraces the concept of “absurd realism”, and “HIR” is no exception. The story is an American comedic tragedy featuring a middle class family trying to navigate the ever changing culture and attempting to establish their place within it. Each character has embarked on a person journey, causing various types of clashes and sometimes disturbing revelations. “HIR” is one of those stories that tricks you into laughing only to leave you feeling like you have been emotionally dropkicked by the time it has concluded. I could theorize about the complex artistry of the production all day, however I will leave you with this great review which does a stellar job of describing the overall narrative.
The script did mention a “massive beauty pageant wig”. This is the result of two combined wigs, 14 ounces of hairspray, and approximately 3 hours of styling.
Most of the smaller shows that I have worked on have centered around glamorous performers flaunting their various attributes. It was a wonderful challenge to take on a production where my characters were more typical in some ways and completely over the top in others. I was also tasked with providing wigs which gave me an opportunity to shake the dust off of my teasing brush and drown myself in hairspray. I had a blast reacquainting myself with glamour makeup and learning how to create a believable, simple false beard. My new friend Stephanie knows every makeup trick in the book and was quick to share her extensive knowledge.
I finally had a chance to watch the show a few nights ago and I am very pleased overall. It was wonderful to sit in the audience and witness their honest reactions. The performers brought their best and I thoroughly enjoyed how Taylor Mac’s characters came alive. Much like my beloved “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, I plan to see “HIR” performed by as many theatre companies as possible.
“I believe whole-heartedly in craft. I believe craft is essentially a commitment to learning the past, living in the present, and dreaming the culture forward.” ~Taylor Mac
Brenna Folger and Levi Fackrell photographed by Richard Brusky.
I recently had a birthday. It was the birthday that many people dread. It was the birthday that solidifies being a certified adult, and dare I say, the birthday that many view as signifying the beginning of decline into old age. I turned forty years old on April 2nd.
Bendy birthday Barbie modified by my awesome partner in crime.
I hadn’t thought much about being “over the hill” until early March. One day I was in flexibility class when it hit me. I looked at my coach and said, “Wow. I’m turning forty in a few weeks.” It was a strange realization and I wasn’t sure what it really meant for me. So many people make a big deal about this one particular birthday and I wondered if I should care more about it. I’m at a point in my life where I truly love myself and am proud of my accomplishments. It’s difficult to stress about such a milestone when you’re in a good place and feel like a badass most of the time. Then something really annoying happened. I ended up injured.
I had made a really bad decision months before. Instead of taking a rest day from training to let some major soreness subside, I chose to pretend that my body was super human. While doing an inversion on the pole, I felt a pain akin to an icepick on my shoulder blade and chalked it up to something that only needed a few days recovery time. Fast forward to two months later when I’m in urgent care getting an x-ray on my ribs because the pain is so intense that I’m on the verge of tears. I was unable to take a full breathe and could barely drive my car there, let alone work or train.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my “minor” injury was actually micro tearing of the muscles on my scapula. I sometimes have a difficult time differentiating between discomfort and pain, so training normally for two months just made it worse. My body reached a point where it would no longer cooperate and I ended up laid up for five days in bed. After sitting around for almost a week, I was able to return to work, but not to training as usual. I have spent the past month and a half going to physical therapy three times a week and trying not to lose my mind. My coaches have been very understanding and have tailored my workouts to accommodate me. It’s incredibly frustrating to cut out 80% of your physical activity and there’s always a fear of losing ability. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson and don’t ever want to wind up in that situation again.
My birthday landed right in the middle of recovery and all of a sudden I didn’t feel so fabulous. Turning forty was great when I was swinging from the rafters, but not when I was struggling to get my arm over my head or carry anything over five pounds. I was really angry at myself and felt like a complete failure. I began to wonder if the people who have told me that I am too old for aerial were right and I became shrouded in a cloud of negativity and self-doubt.
Joven Desde rules and the video below proves it.
Luckily, I’m surrounded by friends and family who care about me and don’t allow me to wallow in self pity. It was difficult, but I managed to silence the negative thoughts and waited patiently for my body to heal. I began gradually going back to normal activity last week with no pain. I saw my orthopedic specialist today and he is very satisfied with my progress. I had the opportunity to train side by side with my amazing flexibility/aerial coach today and I left the gym this evening feeling like a million bucks.
Now, let me get to the point of this blog. This whole birthday ordeal, topped off with injury drama, has inspired me to address something that I try not to talk too much about. I don’t keep my age a secret, however I don’t broadcast it either. There are so many people who are age obsessed that it becomes the focal point of how they look at others, and eventually, themselves. Older people are often disregarded as being irrelevant and out of touch while young people desperately fear growing old. There is a pervasive thought that certain things must fall by the wayside as one advances in years and I thought I was past that type of thinking until I ended up in a tough spot on my “big birthday”. I hate to admit it, but I became my own worst enemy for a short time.
I was thirty-seven when my dear friend Katherine convinced me to try aerial silks. I felt great when we were together, but was extremely intimidated to go to class on my own. It was very clear to me that I was not taken seriously by others in the various studios where I was training and a few people I knew discouraged me from trying because I was “so old”. Not one to shy away from something I want, I went for it anyway. For six months I struggled, barely showing up to class and feeling like an epic failure when I did. I pretty much stopped going altogether and hated myself for it. Two weeks after turning thirty-eight I began training flexibility and aerial silks with Kristi Toguchi at Aerial Fitness and I haven’t looked back since.
Kristi always has my back! Behind the scenes during a recent photo shoot with Shane O’ Neill.
I warned Kristi of my age when we spoke on the phone before my first class. I expected to be turned away, but instead, she told me that she would train me like a performer even if I had no plans to ever become one. I was skeptical, but dragged myself to her class anyway. Imagine my surprise when I found myself part of a community that supports and encourages each other. It has been my commitment to this group of people that keeps me going on the days where I feel like giving up. I would be lying if I said it was easy. Some days I wonder what the hell I am doing when my body reminds me that I’m not a kid anymore. These are the days that I push myself the hardest. These are also the days where I reap the greatest reward.
Most people I train with are considerably younger than me. The person I train with the most is thirteen years old and an adorable force to be reckoned with. It’s not easy keeping up with her, but I have an abundance of determination and enjoy the challenge. She inspires me to be the best version of myself. I consider it my duty to show this young lady what is possible for her when she reaches my age. I want her to remember our time together when people someday tell her to stop being an aerial star and act like a proper, boring grown-up.
Ernestine Shepherd trains like a boss. Watch the video. Trust me.
So there you have it. Here’s the take-away:
1. Don’t be stupid and train when your body needs to rest. Your ego will survive a day off and you aren’t falling off of the motivation wagon by resting when necessary. Being stubborn will only make matters worse when you trade that one rest day for six weeks of it. Plus, it really sucks admitting to an urgent care nurse that you are an obstinate asshole.
2. Don’t sabotage your success. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt. One of the reasons I share so many photos and videos of my progress on social media is to document my work and hold myself accountable. When you start to feel like your accomplishments amount to peanuts, remember how far you have come. Even better, remember the people who told you that you would never make it. You can spot them easily, sitting on the sidelines of life, silently scolding themselves for shooting down your dream because they are too scared to chase theirs.
3. What’s the truth about turning forty? It’s awesome! I have had an incredible life so far. There have been many ups and downs, but it has been one hell of an adventure! I believed at thirty-three that since I had accomplished my goal of being a fashion designer, all that was left on my bucket list was to travel more. I am happy to say that I was terribly wrong. I am excited to see where I can go with my training as well as my other pursuits. There is so much out there to experience and I am grateful for each day that I’m on this Earth. Is it more difficult to train at forty? You bet your ass it is. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Don’t forget where you started! Progress is gradual. Give yourself credit for your hard work and accomplishments.
I recently had the pleasure of working with the insanely talented Tristan Risk. As you may already know, she is one of my favorite debaucherous darlings and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to outfit her in something special. I have been wanting to pattern a burlesque bustle skirt for some time, so creating a custom creation for Little Miss Risk made perfect sense.
I also threw in an exclusive Swarovski bat necklace and the Vegas inspired “Showgirl Flower” hair clip. Tristan added a couple of her own pieces to the ensemble and the result is nothing short of exquisite. I am eternally grateful to Shimona Henry of Pin-Up Perfection Photography for documenting this delightful collaboration. Swing by her site to witness some truly awe inspiring imagery.
The aerial school I attend recently had a performance at Lorna Jane. It was so much fun to see the girls I train with show off their skills! My flexibility/aerial coach Kristi Toguchi choreographed some wonderful acts and it was awesome learning new tricks.
I tried adagio a couple of times last year when my flexibility and balance were pretty much nonexistent. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could comfortably grab my feet in this pose while Danielle picked me up. The hard work really fell on her, however, as she had to parade me around. It’s a good thing she’s so damn strong 😉
Being carried around by Danielle
My flexibility is coming along nicely. I feel like the next couple of months will produce some amazing progress! It was great to be paired up with Emily as she is an incredible contortionist and inspiration.
Getting bendy with Emily
Kristi has been teaching monthly free stretch classes for “Workout Wednesday” at Lorna Jane. If you have ever been interested in getting more bendy I highly suggest you swing by the store or check out her Aerial Fitness school. I can’t recommend Kristi enough! I just had my one year anniversary training with her and it’s crazy to look at how far I’ve come. I am so excited to see what I accomplish next 🙂
So much has happened since my last blog in September! I have been really focusing on training over the past few months and am incredibly happy with the results. I spend most of my free time in the gym bending into a pretzel, hanging from the rafters, and cross-training with Roni Taylor. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Aerial training with Erica Vanlee at Aerial Fitness
I’ve become much stronger and everything is really starting to click in the air. I’ve added an additional day of aerial training each week, which has really helped build my strength and endurance. My main focus right now is perfecting my act which requires lots and lots of repetition. My coach, Kristi Toguchi, has taught me so much and I am constantly amazed at her skill and patience.
Everything is progressing nicely on the ground. My flexibility is constantly improving and I can now tap dance on my head 🙂 I’ve been having lots of fun training with the other girls as I am quickly learning that getting bendy is better with friends.
Flexibility training with Erica Vanlee and Heather Hyde de Landín at Aerial Fitness
I had my first aerial photo shoot with Beckett Studios at the end of October and got some really great images. I’m also working on a few cool aerial costumes and I can’t wait to take photos wearing them!
I’ve been documenting my progress quite a bit. You can check out more photos and videos over at my Instagram account.
I’ve been receiving quite a few messages inquiring as to why the shop is closed and would like to apologize for not writing this blog entry sooner.
I’ve been a freelance designer since 2001 and hit all of my entrepreneurial goals shortly after launching my website back in 2006. The next logical step would have been to open a brick and mortar shop and I just couldn’t convince myself that I wanted to go that route. I’ve been an on-call wardrobe technician for a show on the strip for many years and accepted full-time status last year. It’s a great gig and I have a ton of other interests that have been taking me in various directions.
I’ve been studying economics for several years and began training as an aerialist last fall. My aerial coach is also a contortionist, so I have been adding flexibility training to my circus arts repertoire. I’m also in the process of learning to code and plan on accepting a few more academic challenges as the opportunities arise. Needless to say, I’m extremely busy and excited for the future!
My website will remain live and I will continue adding photos to the gallery as I work on new projects and such. Once I tackle a few more goals you can be sure that I’ll be back behind the sewing machine. I still dream up all sorts of fun concepts and can’t bear to leave my ideas unrealized for too long. I originally planned to have the shop open in a small capacity, but keeping up with licensing and taxes is an incredible drain. The state and federal governments require such an insane amount of compliance that it isn’t worth keeping my shop officially open unless I’m going to spend time cultivating it as a viable business. So basically, Poison Candy has shrugged.
For quite some time one aspect of my personality has defined me. I love learning and have so much more to accomplish. Thanks to all of you who have supported Poison Candy over the years! I invite you to follow me on my new adventures 🙂
“There is no beauty without some strangeness.”
~Edgar Allan Poe
Ever since I can remember, I have been slightly obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe. Somewhere between the morose romanticism and engaging storytelling, I fell down the rabbit hole that is the magical world of one of the 19th century’s most prolific writers.
Although recognized more for his literary criticism during his lifetime, Poe’s writing spins gothic tales of tragedy, insanity, and magnificient macabre. No stranger to misfortune himself, perhaps Poe used his work to deal with many of the complex issues surrounding his own life. In addition to brilliant prose, Poe was also known for developing intuitive “scientific” theories and had a love for cryptography. I believe that Poe possessed a unique combination of attributes which add a delicious spin to his works, making them detective stories as well as spine tingling tales of terror.
I’ve wanted to create an Edgar Allan Poe inspired group for some time. Last winter I spent many hours searching for the ideal fabrics, drafting bustle patterns, and collecting a myriad of vintage findings in order to put together a trio of beautifully melancholy couture looks. I was so happy to find that The Velveteen Rabbit was the perfect backdrop for my concept. I recruited the insanely talented team at Radiant Inc. to capture some incredible images of spooky beauties Moxie Macabre and Annalee Belle.
If you are a fan of Poe, I highly recommend you check out “Tales of the Macabre” illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe. This book has some ghoulishly gorgeous artwork accompanying favorite works by the grim genius. We’re currently redesigning the gallery on our site, so if you’d like to see more photos from this shoot, take a peek here.
Hello, darling! I hope your spring season is off to a fabulous start 🙂
We’re excited to have the opportunity to set up shop at the Las Vegas Mini Maker Faire again this year. Swing by our booth for lots of new fashion treats! We have a ton of exclusives and limited edition items making their debut. I had a blast at last year’s event and look forward to befriending more incredible artists and sarcastic robots 😉
We’ve recently set up our website to accept Bitcoin payments! Customers paying via Bitcoin will receive free domestic shipping and a discounted rate of $20 for international shipping!
Most people know me to be a bit of a coffee addict, however I managed to become quite the connaisseur of tea while living in New Orleans many years ago. Instead of engaging in our usual afternoon cocktail hour, my friends and I would occasionally organize fabulous tea parties. Inspired by the fine English tradition of afternoon tea, these little get-togethers were a way to relax with the simple pleasures of a fine beverage and good conversation.
The “Tea Time” style group is dedicated to the diverse personalities that made up my little tea parties. The top and skirt embrace the tradition of English plaid contrasted with London 1970’s punk style. The matching pillbox hat has classic vintage allure with the spooky twist of a Kustom Voodoo skull flower. The “Tea Time” necklace is a captivating piece comprised of a skeleton key pendant accentuated by a ruby red rosary style chain.
From my tea party to yours, wishing you all the best in 2014!
Unlike much of today’s fashion, vintage wardrobe maintained a delightful balance between sex appeal and class. I fell in love with retro fashion many years ago upon realizing that the perfect dress resembles a magic potion. The right outfit can instill confidence in the lucky lady who wears it as well as mesmerize those who lay their eyes upon her. The appeal of retro style for me has always been the flirtatious, feminine nature. Fashion has gone through some treacherous phases, but mid-century chic still holds true as the era of celebrating classic curves and seductive silhouettes.
Our new “Tease” dress was designed to put the wiggle in your walk and ensure that you will be the belle of the ball. This sassy little number is a triple threat complete with a sweetheart neckline, bold contrast belt, and stretch twill pencil skirt. You can’t go wrong with the winning combination of vibrant colors, polka-dots, and spooky prints! Our “Vegas Vixen Flower” hair clip is a delightful accessory and looks smashing when paired with the “Movie Monsters” colorway.
While on the subject of being a tease, be sure to check out our awesome interview with burlesque bad girl, Little Miss Risk. We had a blast discussing her role in the horror hit “American Mary”, antique erotica, and why she should be on a hidden camera show.
In closing, just remember what someone wise once said, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it”!