The “Heavenly Bodies” gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured a dazzling array of celebrities wearing outfits of various levels of audacity, usually leaning heavily on the Christian iconography that was the theme of the show. But another feature that was highly visible was that of multiple people wearing crowns and tiaras. Pieces on this trend have been written, from the New York Times to more specialized fashion blogs.
Meanwhile on the west coast, we started to explore this particular challenge about a year and a half ago. Danaca Design first proposed a tiara show in summer of 2017. The idea was met with equal parts enthusiasm, trepidation, and skepticism. Many artists loved the idea of the spectacle implied in such a show. Others saw crowns and tiaras as either frivolous or not relevant in today’s modern era. And still others (probably the most sensible ones of all) were intimidated by the engineering challenges, the scale, and the sheer weight of materials that they would have to coax together into a finished piece.
In late January of 2018 Dana Cassara called a meeting for the artists who had committed to contributing to the show, to talk about strategies and challenges in the design and construction process. Some final pieces were already present to try on and inspect as attendants pondered proper fit and balance of their own works. Others brought out components that were waiting to be mounted onto frames or to be formed into crowns. Metal flowers, brass filigree sprigs of grass, strands of pearls and stings of delicate wire loops filmed with iridescent paper were all admired and passed around.
With a few exceptions, most of these artists had never attempted a piece of this particular scale. It was interesting to hear how people were wrestling with the challenge of interpreting their personal skills, manufacturing preferences, and design aesthetics into these pieces.
As the submission deadline loomed, sketches were made and prototypes were rendered. Some pieces were caught in polishers, others were melted before they could be fixed onto frames. Fingernails were worn down to the nub, blood was shed, metallic spray paint was wielded, drill bits were broken inside tiara frames, and every possible fixative known to jeweler was used to rivet or solder or tie or glue or pray the pieces into being.
In the end, 24 artists took on that challenge, and created a broad array of headpieces that sparkled, shone, and sometimes moved and dangled, balancing precariously on the head, or digging into the wearer’s scalp or cradling it like a hat.
On the night of the opening show models strode back and forth through the studio to a cheering audience. A photo booth allowed attendants to try on various crowns, as the creators further discussed the challenges and influences they worked with while putting their pieces together, and determining how they were meant to balance on the wearer’s head. The show generated an inspiring energy that is only evoked when a daunting challenge is met an interpreted in so many ways that the possibilities continue to seem almost boundless. Short video clips can be viewed on our Danaca Design Facebook page.
In the wake of that energy, Danaca Design, its members and surrounding friends and artists have been looking to the next challenge—and are meeting it with a Feast of Brooches in honor of Mother’s Day. On Saturday, May 12, the studio is hosting a “brooch brunch,” show opening, and the wildly diverse contributions of its 29 artists will be featured in the studio gallery throughout the month of May.