It’s been a while since my last blog post!
I’ve been insanely busy since my last post and I figured I would post up a summary of what I’ve been up to:
- Moved back to inner west in Sydney (woo hoo!).
- Adopted a kitten called Sir Hair Bear (follow me on Instagram for urgent and exclusive kitty updates).
- I read a big heavy stack of excellent books (OK…It was really only three books, BUT one of them was really heavy and had heaps of really long words in it).
- I started my final semester in my Graduate Classic Literature course and have been studying Classic American Fiction.
- I started my Masters in Arts in writing (THIS IS SO EXCITING).
- And finally, I started a new business!
My latest enterprise is called Higher Order and I’ll be developing design and art based workshops for kids in Sydney and in Melbourne. At this stage we’re only offering school holiday workshops, but next year we will be rolling out workshops for teens, teachers and anyone interested in spending a day with a designer developing a range of design related skills.
Anyway, check out the website here!
(OR follow Higher Order on Twitter or Instagram)
Aside from all of that, I’ll be interviewing a bunch of very creative people in the next couple of months, so stick around because I can’t wait to share those profiles with you!
Thanks for visiting my blog! You are excellent!
Artwork by the dazzling and disgustingly talented Georgia Perry for Higher Order.
This entry was written by lorena, posted on March 18, 2013 at 5:48 am, filed under Art, Design, Kids. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.
I first came across the work of Maricor Maricar a couple of years ago when I attended their exhibition for “Turns of Speech & Figures of Phrase” where they exhibited embroidered pieces that featured misheard lyrics. I immediately fell in love with a Pixies inspired piece which I brought home with me. The lyrics from “Where Is My Mind” (‘Your head will collapse but there’s nothing in it’) somehow sounded better in my head through Maricor Maricar’s embroidered version and I have the framed piece sitting on my dresser where I see it as soon as I wake up every day.
My favourite thing about this piece is that the original meaning of the lyrics have been changed by simply replacing one word. Where the original lyrics refer to a sense of despair and hopelessness, the new meaning is infused with hope; by changing the ‘but’ to ‘when’, the onus of responsibility is placed squarely with the reader and the reader now has a choice about choosing to keep their head full – which is a reminder to me that being knowledgeable is an active and conscious decision.
The other thing that I love is that this is exactly what good design is – creating new meanings by making subtle adjustments and it points to the unique ability that Maricor Maricar have in creating work that is infused with a sense of optimism.
Maricor Maricar describe themselves as illustrators, graphic designers, motion designers and embroiderers. Indeed, their work encompasses a broad range of trades and they have utilised a broad range of technologies in their work. However, at the core of their professional identity, is the fact that Maricor and Maricar Manalo are experienced and talented designers – who happen to also be twin sisters.
I met with Maricor and Maricar recently, after seeing them present at Field Trip and the two things that struck me the most was that Maricor and Maricor are professional designers through and through and that they have the kind of relationship that simply can’t be reproduced.
In my experience as a design teacher and also by way of being married to a designer (this dude) – I’ve come to learn that being a designer means more than being able to whip up a nifty logo or a snazzy website. Being a designer means understanding the process of design and knowing that going from a design brief to a finished product frequently means having to go back and forth several times and then sometimes having to swallow one’s pride and throwing everything out and starting again, before the client is happy.
Being a good designer means understanding how to talk to clients and having to elicit an idea that sometimes clients haven’t clarified, because they aren’t exactly sure about what they want. A great designer has to have the ability to tap into their creative talent (and extensive technical expertise) at will, but an excellent designer has experience in being able to manage their work and is able to deliver a product within a limited time frame that makes their client happy and has been infused with their unique visual flavour.
Being able to manage multiple (sometimes difficult) clients and multiple projects isn’t something that is taught in most design courses and neither is being able to manage the business of being a designer.
Maricor Maricar have that unique ability that gives their work a distinctive look, but it is their breadth of experience that makes their work stand out.
I spent a couple of hours with Maricor and Maricar chatting about their work and here is what I discovered about their relationship with:
Craft and Embroidery
I was intrigued to hear Maricor and Maricar refer to their use of embroidery as “painting with thread”. Although it seems like a rather apt description of creating images with thread, Maricor is deliberate in her choice of words to distinguish between the use of embroidery for the “sake of it” and the use of needlework as a means to achieve a specific design goal. In fact, Maricar and Maricor both admit that they are not highly skilled embroiderers and that they are self taught (through youtube videos and books ) and have only been doing needlework for a couple of years.
I’m reminded of an interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, soon after Kid A had been released. I can’t remember the exact words that he used, but he spoke about how the band used instruments and technology that they didn’t know how to use for Kid A and that the process of using technology that was unfamiliar, somehow ‘freed’ them up conceptually to develop ideas and new techniques that they perhaps would not have come up with, had they used the same instruments that they had been using for years.
Likewise for Maricor and Maricar, the use of embroidery is a tool that they have utilised to achieve a specific goal and because of their experience as designers, the way that they use needlework perhaps sets them apart from people who are experienced embroiderers.
Maricor explains that their choice of thread colour for each project is defined by the colour template that the client approves. However, occasionally there is some digital colour adjustment after photographing each design to make the thread match exactly to the template colour because lighting can affect the colour of the thread.
At Field Trip the girls explained that there are several contributing factors to the choice of fabric that is used, which reinforces the fact that every decision is carefully considered in relation to the effect that it will have on the final design product. Maricor explained that they like to use the analogy of a grid and pixel resolution to talk about fabric, mainly in relation to how visible the weave is. They like to sew on a finer weave fabric (that has a high resolution when you think about the analogy of more dots per inch) and sew a small detailed design and photograph it at a very high resolution so that effectively they are able to ‘scale it’ by shooting a close up of the embroidery to fit the print dimensions of the job. The advantages of sewing small and scaling up is two-fold. Faster production time to sew something small but with a lot of fine detail and also by scaling up, the final reproduction of the design shows up the texture of the embroidery really well, with all the stitches are clearly visible. They also clarify that they don’t lose image quality when they “scale up” because they photograph at a very high resolution (for example a design that has to fit a magazine cover that is A4 might be sewn at A5 size but shot in full HD so that there is a lot of pixel information which means that they can re-size the photograph and maintain image quality).
The way that Maricor and Maricar explain their use of embroidery within their work, further emphasises their strengths as impeccably organised visual artists. The use of embroidery isn’t about capitalising on the trend of crafting for Maricor and Maricar, but it is about adding an additional element that provides texture, depth and intrigue to their work.
At Field Trip, Maricar mentions that she frequently finds herself tongue tied and often mixes up idioms, which contributed to the concept behind “Turns of Speech & Figures of Phrase” . I was intrigued to find out more about this, because as someone who only learnt how to speak English when I started school, I often verbalise jumbled up phrases that make sense to the small part of me that spent my infancy speaking a language other than English – but make little sense to anyone else; “what’s that got to do with the price of cheese?“and “close… but no banana” are two of my husband’s favourites.
When I tell the girls that I related to their experience of mixing up phrases and idioms, I ask them if they think that being the child of immigrants who were themselves learning the language and trying to communicate with their children in a mix of their native tongue and English is behind this experience of misplaced meanings. Maricor agrees that their parents were constantly mixing things up and perhaps that this contributed to a unique relationship with English that has now manifested in occasional verbal accidents.
I can’t help thinking that graphic design is about communicating sometimes complex ideas effectively in a way that looks simple, using a range of visual mediums. Perhaps being forced to re-interpret concepts through the filter of two languages contributes to a unique sensibility about communicating ideas. Having said that, not every immigrant has the potential to create the kind of work that Maricor and Maricar have created. But perhaps, this aspect of their cultural heritage adds to the unique appeal of their work – especially when combined with their painstaking attention to detail, their wealth of technical experience and their ability to manage the demands of client work whilst also working on their own personal creatives projects.
At Field Trip the girls shared a painful interview experience that had the audience visibly wincing. Maricar recounted how they attended an interview after graduating from their design course, but that there may have been some miscommunication before the interview was even organised about the kind of work that the girls produced. After presenting their work to a panel, the entire room went quiet, before one member of the panel broke the silence by exclaiming (about the music that accompanied their presentation) “that song made me want to slit my wrists”.
Since that excruciating interview, the girls have spent time working for a studio before making the leap to working for themselves. After spending a couple of years working at a Sydney based studio, the girls now work from home out of Maricar’s house (pictured below). The past year has meant a few adjustments, especially considering that Maricar gave birth to the most adorable baby girl I have ever seen (aside from mine obviously) in early 2012. When I ask about what it has been like working around a baby, Maricar tells me that she has had to work a little bit smarter and that she has had to modify her priorities to fit around Ava’s schedule. Having a baby at home myself, I struggle to find the time to complete basic tasks, so I’m impressed with anyone who can manage to fit in creative personal projects around client work that have restrictive time constraints on top of caring after a baby.
Although working from home provides a certain degree of flexibility, it must be tremendously hard to be able to work with an infant in the room, but Maricor tells me that they enjoy working for themselves from (Maricar’s) home and that it allows them to focus on the hand generated and illustrative design that they like to do.
The Twin Thing
I’ll admit that the first few times I met Maricor and Maricar, I kept forgetting who was who. I felt awful because the girls actually do look different (they are fraternal twins) – but I understand how annoying it must be to have people constantly confusing you with your twin. I have seven year old twins and I still hear teachers and other parents referring to them as “The Twins”.
I’m fascinated to hear about the dynamics of a business relationship with the person that one has shared a womb with, but I realise that it must be hard to explain a relationship to an outsider if you have never lived outside of it. Additionally I imagine that the girls get asked if they can read each others mind all the time – so I don’t ask them about the intricacies of their relationship, but I ask them if they both always wanted to work in design. Maricor tells me that they were both good at art but she made the decision early on to explore design while Maricar initially decided to pursue pharmacy and do something different to her sister – that is until she realised how much she hated pharmacy and decided to pursue design.
When I ask the girls who is better at what, Maricar tells me that Maricor is better at handwriting, the “manpower” for getting jobs done, lettering and script writing while Maricor says that Maricar is better at handling administration, writing, creating patterns and type. Maricor explains that usually they don’t have a plan as to who will be the lead on a job because after they commence going through the design process, any particular idea might be stronger and be a better fit for the brief; so whoever starts of liaising with the client at the start, might not end up finishing the job.
However, to keep the communication less confusing, the girls try to continue the email thread so that all correspondence is kept together, so sometimes clients might not know that there has been a switch between the person responding to the email. Having said that , Maricor explains that they both receive all emails to their business account and they both read all incoming emails (although only one of them might respond).
So do they have some kind of special “twin power”? (I frequently get asked if my boys have their own special language).
Well, when it comes down to creating inimitable craft based work that is underpinned with a sense of warmth and joy – then yes I guess the girls do have a unique ability to communicate. Aside from the twin thing, Maricor and Maricar are highly skilled and knowledgeable designers whose work I highly recommend checking out.
Images from Maricor & Maricar’s workspace
Thanks for visiting my blog! I highly recommend checking out exploring Maricor Maricar’s excellent work:
It’s almost Christmas! Hooray!
Only a few more weeks until the end of the year! Yippee!
It’s Summer! Wahoo!
If you hadn’t noticed, I really really love Christmas. Really!
However, I feel that I should mention that I’m not religious in any way shape or form. I don’t want to get into an in-depth theological discussion, but I believe that life and the very fact that we exist is incredible and amazing. I can understand the desire to try to understand and explain our existence, but using mythology to explain our world and to define our moral behaviour doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Having said that, I was raised in a Christian household and I developed a love for the ritual and ceremony that surrounds Christian celebrations. I give my kids chocolate Easter eggs at Easter and at Christmas we listen to Christmas music, we watch all of the cheesy Christmas movies and then we spend a bomb buying each other presents to give each other on Christmas day before spending the rest of the day in a food coma.
Is that allowed? Is it okay to re-appropriate a religious holiday as your own but to do it in a way that removes the religion from the celebration?
Every year I hear people discussing “the real meaning of Christmas” and even though I’ve watched all of the movies and Christmas specials and hell, I even went and studied religious education for a semester to get my head around The Bible (it’s an excellent read! I highly recommend it! Although some parts are a little predictable) – I still don’t think I understand what exchanging presents and eating a shit-load of food and getting drunk has to do with the birth of a spiritual messiah.
I can understand that this idea of celebrating Christmas without the spiritual aspect of it might be offensive to some. But you know what? I found it offensive when my six year old sons came home from the secular state school that I send them to last December and were upset that a fellow classmate had told them that they weren’t allowed to receive any presents from Santa because they didn’t believe in Jesus and consequently because they didn’t believe in Jesus, that they were both going to burn in hell for eternity.
My boys didn’t understand why they should be punished for not believing in something and why they didn’t deserve to receive any presents, after all – are six year old’s really capable of understanding the reason behind gift-giving at Christmas? All six year old’s care about is receiving toys (and farts. My kids think that farting is the greatest thing ever).
After another helpful Christian classmate had informed my kids that anyone who didn’t believe in God was a bad person, I had to sit down with my kids and explain to them that they weren’t bad people and that some people believe in God and that some people don’t.
I had to explain to my kids that some people who believe in certain things say some crazy weird things. I told them that we’re pretty lucky to live in a country where we are allowed to believe in whatever we want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else (look I know there are some flaws in this logic – but remember this was an explanation for two kindergarten kids).
I also told my kids that we can celebrate Christmas however we want to celebrate Christmas and for us it means exactly what we want it to mean.
For my family the lead up to Christmas is exciting. It means that it’s December and that there are only a few more weeks of school left.
It means that it’s summer and that there are only a few weeks left in the year and we can reflect on all of the great (and shitty) things that have happened and look forward to the idea of a fresh new start in the form of a new year.
It means eating cheap supermarket fruit mince pies, mangoes and cherries or beers at four o’clock in the afternoon. It means a sparkly Christmas tree for a month, wearing flashing Christmas earrings or a ridiculous reindeer antler headpiece .
It means one day where I know I’ll see my kids more excited than any other day of the year and where we can spend an entire day eating and playing with kids toys, lazing about eating excellent food and generally just enjoying the crap out of each other.
It’s an entire month of expectation and anticipation of good things that I hope that in twenty years time, my kids will remember with fondness. There are a lot of really shitty things happening in the world but I know that I’m pretty damn lucky to have what I have and I hope that even though I may be a heathen, that this time of year is loaded with meaning for my family. It may be a period devoid of spiritual meaning for my family, but still tremendously valuable in a myriad of ways.
Look whatever this period of year means to you. I hope you have a tremendous one. I hope it is valuable and meaningful to you and that you spend it in the company of the people that you love. May you remember this time fondly and may the next year be filled with plenty of good times.
Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m grateful that even one other person might be interested in reading my writing and I’m extremely excited about some of the people I’ll be writing about in the next few months. But for now, here’s a picture of my beautiful daughter Indigo and my ridiculous and hilarious dog Booga in matching Christmas outfits.
Have an excellent Christmas and New Year!
This entry was written by lorena, posted on December 21, 2012 at 2:59 am, filed under Uncategorized. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.
For my final gift guide, I’ve put together a group of things that I know my husband would like to receive. He’s a graphic designer who never grew out of skating and has a love of Common Projects sneakers (these ones are on sale!).
Hopefully you can pick up a couple of ideas for the man in your life!
This is the first in what I hope will become a series of profiles about women who I admire. This week, the focus of my attention is Kate Banazi. Kate is an illustrator and an artist who is currently exhibiting and working from a studio at Koskela.
Kate is a former fashion graduate of Central St Martins who briefly spent time in London working on her own fashion label. Today, Kate is Sydney based and her preferred medium is screen printing.
The first thing that you need to know about Kate Banazi is that her eyes almost roll into the back of her head when I respond to her suggestion that I watch her screen-print by jokingly exclaiming “Yes! Let’s make some magic!”
As she walks away shaking her head I ask her if this is the first time that anyone has ever said that to her. “No” she cringes “I get it ALL the time”.
This small exchange sums up Kate pretty nicely to me. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with designers and people working in the design and fashion industry and in that time I’ve developed a reasonably competent “bullshit-radar”. The thing about Kate is that my bullshit detector doesn’t even get the opportunity to get switched on. Kate is one of the most warm and authentic people that I’ve ever met and this comes across in the way she engages with people and is carried through in the striking work that she creates.
This is a sentiment shared by Jeremy Wortsman, (head of the Jacky Winter agency who represents Kate) who gushes:
“To engage with Kate’s work is to know her – The sheer energy and vibrancy of her work is such an honest reflection of her character, and I feel lucky to know her as a person and represent her as an artist”
Screen-printing is about creating layers, but Kate’s work as a whole, engages you immediately with precise geometric shapes, sharp lines and vivid colours. There aren’t any superfluous details that don’t add information to her work and similarly, Kate is a woman who avoids unnecessary superlatives (my husband has told me earlier to avoid using the word “awesome” around her because apparently she hates the word so much) and visibly cringes at the use of clichés.
At this point, I should probably mention that I’m a huge fan of Kate’s work (if you hadn’t figured that out already). Occasionally I meet people whose work I admire tremendously, only to be disappointed because of an out of control ego or some other form of social dysfunction (I’ve got stories man!). With Kate, it was the complete opposite of this. The more I find out about her, the more I love her. Not only is she incredibly talented and smart and funny and beautiful, but spending time with her makes me want to rush home and make something.
I spent a few hours with Kate this week and wanted to avoid the usual questions I’m so tired of hearing designers and artists being asked (Where do you draw inspiration from? What is your design philosophy? Describe a typical day?).
We hung out in her studio for a couple of hours. She screen-printed, I watched and took a bunch of photos. We talked about kids and fashion and instagram. Rather than quote verbatim, I’ve summarised a few of the things that Kate had to say about a few topics.
Why Screen Printing?
After graduating with a fashion degree and having her own label I was keen to find out why Kate decided to focus on screen-printing. After wrapping up her label, she was offered a job by her friend, prolific and well respected artist Kate Gibb who taught her how to screen print. Kate explains that she fell in love with everything about screen printing from the smell, to the paper to “everything about it” and describes herself as “greedy” when it comes to working with paint because of the unlimited opportunities that it provides her.
When watching Kate create a print in front of me I’m impressed at the speed at which she works and her deft ability to create a print with an intriguing mix of colours within minutes. When opening a bucket of paint she looks at me visibly excited and insists that I smell it “isn’t that great?! It smells so good!” she sighs.
It’s clearly obvious that Kate loves what she does and her enthusiasm for her tools and her materials are infectious, and I’m tempted to plunge my hands into the bucket of paint and start smearing it on paper and all over myself (I didn’t).
This is how much neon paint Kate used this week!
Process or End Product?
After discussing how indulgent Kate finds screen-printing, I ask Kate if the experimentation process is more important than the end product and she immediately responds with “only if it’s for myself”.
She points out that working for clients demands working within certain parameters and obviously having an end goal in sight. However, when experimenting with an end to creating work for herself she explains that she finds the process of experimentation both very personal and cathartic and that she feels incredibly lucky to be doing a job that she loves as much as she does. “It’s a rare person who can wake up every day and feel genuinely excited about their work and about what they can make that day. I have that”.
I was completely mesmerised by Dion Lee’s 2013 resort collection. After finding out that Kate was behind the prints for the collection, my initial reation was that it seemed like such a perfect creative relationship. I tell Kate that I feel that Dion Lee’s work seems to focus primarily on lines and cut, and that her work for the past year seems to have had a very strong emphasis on lines and cutting, in addition to lashings of neon colour. Kate tells me that it was this painting that actually started it all.
Kate explains “Dion saw that painting and contacted me and from there that’s where it all took off”. When I tell her that it seemed like such a perfect symbiotic relationship, she gushes that Dion and his team were incredible. “They were such a great group of people to work with and he has a profound confidence and respect for the skill and experience of his staff and that’s a wonderful and rare thing to find and be able to work with”. She starts explaining the process involved behind this particular dress and my brain starts to feel like it’s about to short circuit. She describes creating a 2D print and taking it to Dion and Dion coming back with a DD version of the dress by having the dress laser cut and folding back in on itself. The degree of skill, ingenuity and craftsmanship from both Kate and Dion (have another look at the dress from the side and now from the back) is mind boggling.
We get on to the topic of Instagram when I ask Kate if she ever destroys her work, “sometimes… I try not to.. but occasionally I do enjoy cutting it up and posting it to Instagram” she says smiling.
We briefly discuss the importance of making mistakes in work but as a self confessed junkie I need to get back to talking about Instagram. I tell her how hooked I am on Instagram, but that I find the concept of #selfies weird and… well kind of stupid. She nods emphatically and tells me that her 16 year old son (a very talented illustrator himself) has shared images that appear in his feed which include many images of young girls posing in sultry and sometimes compromising positions.
I tell Kate that seeing young girls posting pictures of themselves for the purpose of receiving praise for their looks – which is something that we don’t have any control of over, seems well… incredibly pointless to me. Then Kate and I spend a while talking about the compulsiveness of Instagram and comparing the use of social media with a physical addiction.
We both agree that we’re glad that we’re not in high school and having to face the challenges of adolescence with the added responsibility of having to deal with the consequences of using social media in five or ten years time.
I’m a little stunned when Kate tells me that she’s sick of colour. A glance at Kate’s portfolio is evidence of how big a role colour plays in her work. She tells me that “colour has become obscene” and I marinate that thought in my head and recall what a recent shopping expedition did to my eyeballs. Neon is everywhere at the moment, but rather than playing a supporting role – neon is all over everything and everyone. In the past week I’ve spotted neon denim jackets at Kmart, neon skinny baby jeans at Target and middle aged men carrying neon iphone cases.
I love colour but I can understand feeling fatigued by the amount of retina-searing neon we’re all being exposed to at the moment (incidentally, I rarely wear black but on this day, I’m wearing black tailored pants and a black silk short sleeved button up shirt… with silver hologram oxfords).
Kate tells me that colour feels really “clunky” to her at the moment and she is trying to move away from using it in her own work. She tells me that working in black and white forces one to pay closer attention to form and appreciate details that colour can overwhelm. Kate tells me that she’s taking a small break from colour in her own work to “try to clear the decks for a while, before going back to it”.
Hearing Kate discuss her desire to move away from a feature of her work that people identify with her, reaffirms my impressions of Kate. Most people I know want to stick with what works for them – and why shouldn’t they?
People expect to see Lady Gaga wearing stupid outfits and Damien Hirst acting like a massive dickhead (I don’t mean that Damien – I LOVE Your work! Can I have a million dollars?). It takes a certain amount of fearlessness to try to move away from the style that you have become known for. But that’s seems to be an apt description of how Kate approaches her life and her work. I guess if we can make any sort of future prediction about Kate’s work is that she is going to continue making art because she loves it and creating engaging work that makes me want to smear all over my face.
Thank you to Kate for giving me so much of your time! You are the BEST!
Also a medium sized thank you to Jeremy: You’re alright hey!
Check out the pictures of Kate in her studio working away below:
She had a puffy pout that seemed four sizes too big for her tightly pulled back face, rockmelon sized breasts that were bursting out of the designer corset she had squeezed herself into and the body and designer skinny jeans of a girl thirty years her junior.
I didn’t know her name but she was leaning over the table aiming her tits at the group of men I was sitting next to, but was inadvertently squishing one of her saline filled sacks into the side of my face.
“Come on love wouldn’t you like to buy me a drink?” she purred at the group of men, who were all anxiously trying to avoid making eye contact. “Umm.. yeah okay whatever” the man next to me jumped up, obviously eager to get away from this tipsy temptress. I had never met this woman before but I was suddenly embarrassed for her.
It wasn’t the fact that everyone at the bar aside from this woman seemed aware of the fact that she had had far too much champagne that was undignified. Neither was the fact that she was trying to hit on anything attached to a pair of testicles. The thing that was making me sad was that this woman had at one point obviously been quite beautiful and she was clearly still a, (synthetically) attractive woman. However, everything about her screamed:
“LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME PLEASE GOD PLEASE LOOK AT ME PLEASE LOOK AT ME DO YOU SEE MY TITS LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT MY LIPS NOW LOOK AT MY ASS PLEASE GOD OH PLEASE LOOK AT ME”.
This poor woman seemed to be desperate for the attention that she seemed to have taken for granted all her life. Now at around fifty-something she actually had to work for the attention and she wasn’t pleased about it one little bit. Her desperation was almost palpable and there was a part of me that wanted to give her a hug, while there was another part of me that wanted to give her a cup of tea and throw a sheet over her (seriously – who wears a corset? TO A BAR?).
The whole situation reminded me of this interview that Andrew Denton did with Deborah Harry a few years back. The interview becomes awkward towards the end when Denton gets on to the topic of the public perception of Harry and her looks. Deborah Harry recognises the fact that her looks helped her career and that there is an inherent danger in valuing the currency of being beautiful, however she suddenly responds to the suggestion that she no longer looks as good as she once did by trying to manipulate Denton into making a comment about her current appearance.
Here’s a snippet of the interview transcript:
When I saw the interview on television years ago, I remember thinking how hard it must be for someone who was as physically stunning as Deborah Harry was when she was younger, to have to go through a process of realising that people, and more specifically men, don’t respond to you in the way that they once used to. It must be hard to be treated a certain way because of the way you look only to find yourself ignored once you reach a certain age.
Paulina Porizkova discussed that exact idea in an interview with the New York Post a few years back when she said:
“When you have used your beauty to get around, it’s like having extra cash in your back pocket. I was so used to walking down the street and having the young guys passing by at least give me a flicker of a look. But once you’re over 40, you become invisible. You’re a brick in the building and it’s sad. It just feels like the sun went down a little bit. It got a little cloudy outside.”
Well “boo hoo hoo” I suspect you thinking. These women were fortunate enough to be born extraordinarily beautiful and then they get older and they can’t rely on their looks anymore. Everyone gets old! It’s called growing old gracefully! Society is unfair and we place a ridiculous amount of value on youth and beauty.
Well I guess that is true to an extent. Except that I don’t think that it’s an experience that is relegated to famous and exceptionally beautiful women getting older. Our relationship with external perceptions of our appearance are both complicated and mundanely common.
When I was around nine years old, my six year old sister brushed a strand of hair away from my face, looked into my eyes, smiled knowingly and said, “people say that if you’re pretty when you’re younger then when you’re older you’re not going to be very pretty. But if you’re not pretty when you’re little then when you get older you’re going to be pretty” she sighed and continued “this means that YOU’RE going to be REALLY REALLY beautiful when you grow up”.
At nine I had never been sucker punched before – but it was this moment that made me realise exactly what it must feel like.
It would take me a couple of decades to realise that my sister was just a kid, with an exceptional knack for delivering a passive aggressive blow to the psyche . However at nine this one comment reinforced every other comment that had ever been made about the way that I looked. I was a chubby and short-sighted kid who was fortunate to also be born with hypodontia (I was missing 2 upper teeth).
My self consciousness was unwittingly exacerbated when my mother would proudly introduce her daughters to people by saying: “this is my beautiful daughter (younger sister) who ALL of the boys are going to want to marry and who will be a model or a movie star one day! AND this is my other daughter Lorena….She’s smart. She likes books”.
In hindsight, although I would have done anything to be the pretty girl back then, thirty-five year old me is grateful for the fact that I didn’t grow up believing that being pretty was “enough”. By the time I was in grade six, my confidence in the fact that I was a hideous adolescent-she-monster translated itself into burying myself into books and sports. I wholeheartedly accepted the fact I would never be able to rely on my looks whilst I watched my sister and my girlfriends preen themselves with a rabid obsession.
Fast forward twenty years later, and I recall recently flicking through photos of my sister and the prettiest of my school friends on Facebook. Some of these women (now in their thirties) have started getting botox. A few of them have had breast implants. Many of them reminded me of the woman in that bar.
I don’t know what it must be like to walk into a room and command the attention of every man. I remember being envious of girlfriends who were able to do that. But now those same girls who had boys falling over themselves, are going through the process of having to face the fact that they don’t look as beautiful as they did twenty years ago and are struggling to develop a new identity that isn’t based on having people constantly reminding them how successful they are because they were born with “totes amazing cheekbones”.
Our perception of our own physical beauty is shaped to a large extent by external messages, much in the same way that my ideas about my appearance were affected by comments made by my family. However, social media and the internet didn’t exist as it does now back when I was a teenager. I can’t imagine being a young woman unhappy with my appearance and being confronted with sites like this one, or this one.
I don’t particularly understand the need for constant external gratification and the way in which young women post pictures of themselves purely for the purpose of trying to elicit a compliment on their physical appearance (RARRGH #SELFIES SERIOUSLY? STOP IT). However, I accept that the desire to have other people find us attractive is possibly a primal and biological human need.
I look at my infant daughter who I think is the most perfect and beautiful baby girl that has ever existed and I’m conflicted with superficial hopes for her physical appearance. I hope she doesn’t have to experience people telling her that she is ugly or ever cries herself to sleep at night wishing that she could look like any other person- other than herself.
However, I feel guilty thinking that I hope that she doesn’t become too pretty because I don’t want her to become one of those girls who is surrounded by boys clamouring to be the one standing next to her so that it says something about them. I don’t want her posting pictures of herself on the internet with the purpose of wanting people to tell her that she is “like totally amazing” because she has a great pair of legs and I definitely don’t want to see her in a bar in fifty years filled with botox and whatever synthetic fillers are yet to be invented (or ever wearing a corset in public).
I guess I can’t change the fact that our society values young and pretty. What I can change is how I filter this through to my daughter by showing her that I value myself beyond the shape of my broad nose and my saggy tits. I can show her that I don’t need to modify my body or my face to feel better about the way that I look and that I value who I am by wearing clothes that communicate all of these ideas. But I say this with the confidence of a woman who at 35 is fairly happy with the way that I look. Who knows how I’m going to feel in twenty years?
Ultimately, the best I can do is to swear that I will never ever ever, post a stupid #selfie or ever wear a damn corset to a bar.
Thanks for visiting my blog! You are beautiful!
This entry was written by lorena, posted on at 8:55 am, filed under Ideas, Women. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.