safe costumes for fire performers

bellydancer

The Making Crowns

For me there is NOTHING! worse then being hired to do a show and hearing “are those flaming marshmallow?”. This usually happens when at the end of the burn with props like fire fans or palm torches. The clients is not wrong, sometimes, a fire prop looks like your spinning marshmallow fresh from the Boy Scouts fire pit. For this reason, and the fact it looks bad, I try hard not let my prop burn out durning a show. But there is one prop that if not executed well with its manufacturing, really does look a lot like flaming marshmallow, and that prop is the fire crown. Because of this reason I have dedicated a lot of my artistic energy to create crowns that the client will not say looks like flaming marshmallows.

19693415_1589997227699950_3427591316269759437_o.jpg

I love fire crowns! For me they set the theme and visual vibe of my shows. If I have a Game of Thrones fire show I need a dragon glass fire crown. If I have a Maria Antoinette fire show I need a Rococo fire crown. For a belly dance show I use two, that’s how much I love crowns! I have the Cleopatra fire crown and a jeweled fire crown that I do my drum solo with.

Before I started to make fire crowns I didn’t like any that were on the market. For me they looked like they were made of wire hangers, sometimes I really believe they were made from hangers. Once in action it didn’t get much better. To me, like many clients verbalize, they look like marshmallows on fire hovering over the head. A Girl Scout could literally have the same crown within an hour! She could gathering sticks from the woods, start her fire and prop the sticks in her hair. To sum things up, there was nothing crown like about most fire crowns.


A crown to me should be spectacular in one way or another. Ideally it should be equally glorious on fire as it is not on fire. Crowns should convey something, either royalty, a theme, a statement. I started my crown making with these values. My first crown was made in Egypt when I was working as a fire belly dancer there on a six month contract. Although I weld or braise my crowns I didn’t have any access to machines so I hired someone to do the frame. I hated how bare it looked and from the first day of receiving my crown I ran to the market for beads. I used thing wire to weave glass beads within the decorative metal peddles of the crown.

Not satisfied with my first crown because the beads were cheap, I wanted a retry. I became obsessed with the idea of collecting found objects, from the flee market) and braising them or weaving them into my head piece. This obsession was started once I read a book on the history of belly dance and learned that back in the day belly dancers slowly collected coins for their costumes. The better the dancer, the more coins were hanging from her gyrating hips. I was lucky when I stumbled on a vender who recently had a collection of Oscar Delrenta’s vintage jewelry that was being sold insanely cheap!

First crown is from vintage jewelry, next picture was crown made while on contract in Egypt.

Much of my inspirations comes from my travels! While traveling Greece I was fascinated by an image carved into stone. The sculpted pieces depicting a woman with a city as a crown on her head. My tour guid didn’t know who she was even though she was used frequently throughout the Italy, Greece and Turkey. Later I found out that she was the goddess Anatolia, my stage name was born! So was a fixation I had towards this goddess.

She is my muse, I painted her frequently and the desire to make a crown in her owner soon followed. Although clients never liked this crown, artistically it is one of my favorites. Although I didn’t have the proper thickness of metal to create the building to look exactly like building its weeping look makes one think of a ancient city burning. I liked the idea of how the flame goes in and out of the building. From here on out the idea of finding a stained glass, that wouldn’t break form the heat of the fire, became an obsession. Finding something that could illuminate with the fire carried into to my next crown.

The idea of using mica, as a material for a fire crown satisfied was intriguing. I stumbled upon mica (literally) in a weird twist of fate. I was jogging near my house and saw a glimmer, like fairy dusk, shinning on my path. I followed the glimmer into the woods, where there was an old abandoned trail not yet covered completely in brush. The shimmy specks slowly turned into bigger pieces of mica. I collect some of the mica and brought it home. At home my step father told me that mica was used to make windows for wood burning stoves. And that what I stumbled upon was an old mine. This light weight mineral wasn’t stained glass but had an appeal in its own. I had to make something out of this!!!

I started making a crown and a fire belt with the pieces I found and after I received permission by a neighbor who knew the owner of the property I collected more material. I didn’t have a welder or braise at the time so I used wire. I didn’t drill into the mica, a tenique I developed later with my last mica crown. Instead I wrapped the wire around each piece. This wasn’t the best visual evacuation and it sometimes came loos and it wasn’t exactly secure.

I was on a goddess theme artist inspiration and decided to make this crown inspired but the goddess/priestess/queen found in the the ancient Assyrian site of the temple of Ur in Iraq. When done the crown was odd looking, and not in a good way in my option. It wasn’t popular with clients and the belt was kinda insane an not really insane in a goo way either.

The major problem with the crown wasn’t a superficial one. When dunking into the fuel everything unraveled. The process of fueling would cause fuel transfer and burn within the folds of the mica. This would burn damage the mica, causing it to break from the folds and turn black, ruining the idea of it being transparent. It was also dangerous because fuel could potential drip, although that never happened, onto the head.

When I was lent a brasier I decided to fix the problem by making wicks able to screw on and off. In theory this should’ve worked. I used the same technique with the Anatolia fire goddess crown. But there was a major problem. the metal I used as a structure was shit and wasn’t working with the other metal used with the brasier. The crown turned into a hot mess so I scrapped it. It now remains on a mannequin head waiting for the day I have inspiration to use and modify it again.

Still inspired by goddesses. The next crown needed to be a Cleopatra crown. The funny thing about Cleopatra was that she prancesd around as a goddess herself. Therfor when doing a Cleopatra crown your are actually doing the goddess Isis crown as well. I made the crown to embody the goddess Isis. Her crown was a representation of the sun, and bull horns. The wig, that frames my head and turns my golden locks into something resembling Cleopatra, is made of wool that has been treated with fire retardant spray. Its braided and each braid is finished with a golden bead.

Side note that is amusing: Durning the sketches of the crown and wings I even was suspected for being a teriorist. Although the goddess Isis is way before the terrioirst group, in our society people don’t know of the goddess and tend to have a one track mind when hearing ISIS. This all started when I was inspired at the coffee shop. I sketched out my ideas on a recite that unfortunately had my name on it. When I left this scrap drawing at the coffee shop the words '“Isis wings” and “fire” alarmed someone. Although the drawings were of goddesses prancing around with Cleopatra crowns and fairy wings I was still suspected.

A team of police came to my studio with a warrant that afternoon. When they came at me with serious suspicion I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I explained that I’m an artist and educated them on the goddess Isis. At first they were very serious until they came to my studio. The pink Isis wings hanging up that I was using as a model for the wings made them second guess everything. They couldn’t get out of my studio sooner, leaving red faced and embarrassed.

Next crown wasn’t a crown, but rather a mask that I magantised front and back to a crystal crown. The was to make it duel purpose and it could either be a crown or a mask. The Theme was flapper and crystal. The crown is very hard to wear on the head and the balance is strange when the mask goes on. The front doesn’t work well, so I usually hold it by hand. This saddens me because my dream was to snap it on the back then snap it on the front. My end goal with this creation was to make a crazy weird act onto itself, where the mask snaps front and back creating a visual intrigue. Next crown might have to be a flapper themed fire crown, but then again I have many more ideas for fire crowns so who knows.

The next crown was my goddess Athena Crown. In reality I didn’t start it out as the goddess Athena. I found an old hat made of metal at the local flee market and saw that making it into a roman stye mohawk fire crown was too irresistible. Once it was made it reminded me of the Greek/Roman Goddess of wisdom. Sadly, I don’t wear it as a goddess, and only wear it for my Halloween shows when I start doing the dragon staff.

After a while I ran out of steam. I was a little over whelmed with crown making and for a few years I took a break with any new creations. Anyways the clients were not appreciating half the crowns. As long as it was golden, huge and on fire was all that mattered. It wasn’t until I took a vacation and started missing my art studio back home that I decided that now was the time to get back into crown making. Not for clients but for myself. Dreams of a Mica Crown design flooded into my head, so much so I drew a nice diagram in my travel journal.

There were a few problems with the first Mica crown. Because the Mica goes right up against the fire with the dunking it wasn’t working! The fuel transfer made it too dangerous. Plus, it smoked up the mica and ruined the look. It took some years of making magnetic fire masks and now I knew the direction to go in. I made the wicks maganitised, so one would only have to take them off and put them back on without dangerous fuel transfer. This straggly made life a lot easier!

When done I was satisfied with my crown, but is didn’t have a story. What was this crown! Fortunately Game of Thrones season seven or six, was on and dragon glass was an interesting fiction material. Mica reminded me of dragon glass. The shape, looked like scales, meanwhile it can take tones of heat without effecting it. It doesn’t even get that hot the way metal does. Mica is the real life dragon glass! So this became my Game of Thrones Fire Crown. What will I do when the show ends and everyone doesn’t care???

I was so into the idea of mica that I made a few fire accessories. I made dragon glass palm torches to match the crown. Then slaved away on manufacturing a matching mica costume. Everything was able to be done because over time I perfected the art of drilling into the mica without causing it to flack, not so easy. Because of this I was able to make clothing out of Mica and attach the Mica to the metal frame without wrapping each piece. No I can say with total confidence that Mica is the most amazing mineral one can use with fire. I'm in love! If I actually found a way to get paid to do all mica clothing and costumes and crowns I would make that my living, that is how much I love Mica.

Although my Mica Crown was an artistic climax for my crown making I wasn’t done with the creative process. I just had to make a rococo show. And with what I learned from the mica crown. Using magnetics to hold wicks to avoid fuel transfer. I was able to use fire on fragile crowns, without causing burning or damaging the crown in the dunking process. This made it possible to use fire retardant wool and get that fu.. fu… look one aims for with Rocco.

Each Rocococ crown started with a frame that went up the head, kinda like a metal cone head. I then weaved metal in a sort of basket weave, only with a much lighter gauge then what was used with the frame. From here I was able to weave the wool, creating layers of braides and jewels. Then added some magnets under the crown along with padding. The Wick section was different then the mica crown or any other crowns. Before I used the mica to hide the wicks. These crowns I took the opposite approach. I used the wicks to tell a different story. Each crown was to represent a part of that world, that history, mostly centered around Maria Antoinette who was bad ass in her flamboyant life style.

The first crown was inspired by Maria Antweness puff she paraded for Americas independence. France helped America earn their independence when they lent out their naval fleet. Therefore Maria Antoinette sported her victory in her huge hair. The original crown was made from a Boat, (not on fire) tipping over her hair like waves in an ocean. The fire crown I made did the same only making I added wicks on the boat making it set aflame.

My second Rococo fire crown was centered around a metal bird cage. I wanted attach a flaming heart to the cage and have it represent love imprisoned to its own desires. Unfortunately, butter flies were readaly available at the flee market and I work with what I got. The brass butterflies hold wicks and flutter above the cage.

My third crown was made with the concept of the tea party. This was a bit more Alice in Wonderland, but in my head its kind of the same theme. The crown sports tea kettle and tea cups woven between hair on a silver platter. All the tea cups hold wicks in them. Two of the tea cups can be taken off and used as palm torches. They are able to be used from the head to the palm with the help of magnets that are imbedded in the crown.

For the last crown I wanted to make would have been a flaming cake but this concept seemed to much. I also didn’t know how to execute the flaming cake with out it not looking like a block of color on the head. If I make another crown it will be a cake but maybe would have to go with Macouns on a platter instead of a English Victorian style cake. Petite cakes would be more Rocco anyways!

Burn Bright, Burn Safe