Revisiting Cylindrical Shadows @ PNB

Adding to an already existing color palette for "Cylindrical Shadows" we have a very broad range of colors. Strong, saturated, they punctuate the dreamlike mood of the piece... adding another layer, another point of view.

The new larger cast at PNB.

A Costume Designers Loose Narrative Monologue, featuring “Associative Leaps” and such.

Preserving Lemons

All lemons work in this recipe, as well as oranges and tangerines. I have used Meyer lemons. Wash them well and if you want to soften the peel, soak the citrus in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water frequently.

In a bowl mix together the preserving spices: natural sea salt, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Cut a cross into the flesh of the lemons, but not all the way down. Pack each cut lemon with the spiced salt.




















Place a couple tablespoons of the salt mixture in the bottom of your clean sterilized jars.

In your clean, sterilized jars, place a couple of tablespoons of the preserving salt mixture. You will pack your prepared lemons, or oranges, on top of each other in the jars.

Make sure you pack the fruit in as tightly as possible and leave some air space before sealing the jars. I have inserted bay leaves and cinnamon sticks along with the fruit. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for a month.

To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water to remove some of the salt and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year. The peel is edible. This also works very well with limes. Preserved lemons can be used for seasoning rice and couscous -- it works like salt and makes the rice and couscous lemon scented. Put chicken/fish into a foil bag and bake with the lemon salt. Use to season lamb shanks, stews and soups.


Celebrating Poet Wislawa Szymborska

Photography by Ann Marie,

Building Renderings

Most renderings start with an idea sketched multiple times, the image pose is refined then inked.

Color development and choice goes hand in hand with the sketching. For me, it is an intrinsic part of the design process. There is nothing random about the choice, it is always based on mood, movement, and one must visualize the palette as it moves on the stage and as it is completed with the work of the lighting designer.

Once colors are defined for each dancer, I literally build them in photoshop using scans of my dyed material samples (more often than not I will be dyeing these, so this is my opportunity to figure out the dyeing process). I layer the fabric samples with vector images of weaves I have made previously, then save each image as a fabric sample to be used in a rendering.

I digitize all the different components. This is similar to the collage process, in that each part of the illustration has a built shape that can be "cut" out and layered. Each shape is turned into a vector path, one literally redraws everything that has been hand-drawn and/or painted. It is laborious, but the beauty of this is that it affords one the option to go back into a rendering and change one small part or color of it.

Here are some of the painted backgrounds and textiles I have made, which have been scanned and brought into the rendering.

The finished illustration. I can go back into this and change the color if necessary.

A colorway for one of the women. I always try to bring to life the particular fabric I will be using. In this case it is an ultra light, embarrassingly expensive Italian wool challis, that I will be hand dyeing.

Another colorway for the men. Building transparency in some fabrics, where they actually occur is also a plus as it helps to give a realistic idea of how the fabric will behave on the dancer.

There are many steps to this process, it is time well spent though as it helps to focus my attentions and hopefully prevent any costly construction or color mistakes. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

An Early Holiday Check List!

Because there is NOTHING quite as bracing as a self-evaluation, I've cleaned up Harry Bertoia's self rating chart just for you (and me), because that's how much I care.






Color work

Today I am refining the Inspiration board for Ma Cong's new work for the Tulsa Ballet. A beautiful piece set in part to the very evocative Fado music of Portugal. My inspiration comes from the palette of the ocean, sand, rusted and oxidized metals as well as the natural murex purple dye produced from shellfish.

Colored shawls on the left with my dyed samples on the right. This kind of work is very important to me as a designer. Color sets the stage, not just literally but also psychologically. Faber Birren, a color theoreticist, noted that "the sound of the oboe is violet, bass notes are brown, percussion notes are orange.” This brings to mind what John Ruskin said in his “Elements of Drawing” 1857: “The whole value of what you are about depends on color. If the color is wrong, everything is wrong: just as, if you are singing, and sing false notes, it does not matter how true your words are."

Artist + Choreographer

Today I met up with the artist Steve Jensen ( and choreographer Olivier Wevers (, to work on the stage and costume designs for Wevers new work for his company Whim W’him. We had the pleasure of working in Steve’s Seattle studio on Capitol Hill. I brought along my dyed fabric swatches plus a quick costume rendering and we spread out the color groups to see where we were in terms of contrasts and harmonies.

The objective was for Steve to work up scale paintings for the floorcloth, backdrop and wings. Paints had been mixed based upon our previous conversation, canvas cloth was stretched ready to be painted on with an assortment of large sponges and brushes.

An organic process, Olivier’s inspiration stems both from his vision and expression of nature and his admiration for Steve Jensen’s work. So, ideas begin in conversations, then the painting begins…

These painted drops are all about gestures in shapes and colors, so to get it right the artist has to ask what gesture does it have? What is it doing? Curving diagonally from top to bottom, right to left? What is its energy level? What is the spirit of its movement, its light, its color? Then, one begins to see the actual composition of the painting in gestural terms.

Gesture is, whether conscious or unconscious, a “significant” movement of a body. The act of putting the paint onto canvas, the gesture, begins by distilling the canvases movements into the principle forms that make up the image.

To do this Steve uses his paints boldly. Like a dancer, the body and mind are prepared mentally to deliver the energy needed for the brushstrokes movement.

Not as easy a process as it seems, as the conversation can complicate the understanding and prose often lies more fluidly than images. Nevertheless, quite a few painted samples down the line, and… success! A perfect collaboration between choreographer and artist.


The template in black and the substrate in white. Two layers with a wire center will be stitched together to form the shape of the base.

Another Black Swan Tiara on the workbench.

Hammered copper base wired to crown, gessoed then filed and sanded. Size and silver leaf applied.

The finished Tiara.

Black Swan


Another {BLACK SWAN} in the workshop! The green/black iridescent hackle feathers are particularly beautiful, set against the variety of blacks in the tulle and bodice, but be warned, they are not easy to sew into a project!

All the ornamentation is applied by hand. The feather “wing” extensions are individually graded, controlled onto a ribbon length, than bound and sewn down. Bloody fingers ensue!

The larger jewels are hand-wrapped in tulles which are dyed to “colored” black shades. The settings for the jewels are enameled in black.

These tutu's always take an extraordinary amount of time, which translates into labour... and quite a bit of that is hand-sewing and finishing work, around 80 hours of labour for that alone. Swarovsky crystals, vintage iridescent sequins, black glass jet beads and wrapped jewels are hand sewn onto the venice lace motifs, which are hand sewn onto the bodice and basque before the embellishing begins.

The ballet costume includes a 3 layer Silk-dupioni boned bodice, with lace-up back closure, a classical hooped net and tulle tutu skirt with silk basque and “hip- wings”. Since it is custom made, it is sized to specific proportions. For those who want to wear this as a costume, I would advise them that it is a real ballet tutu. The skirt is standardly short and stiff, shows off all the leg and thighs and presents some difficulty when sitting or getting through some doorways. No slouching in this and you cannot relax your hands down by your side!