Way back at Juneau's first Wearable Arts Show, in 2000, Thea Howard had the idea to construct a snowsuit out of marshmallows. Five years later, she met the perfect model, Skyler Lee, an 11-year-old student at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
"I was sort of waiting until the time was right," Howard said. "I asked him if he was interested. I think he thought I was joking at first."
Far from it. Lee will parade down the 120-foot Centennial Hall runway Saturday in "Jet Puffed Snowsuit," a suit of long underwear with dental-floss strings of marshmallows sewn on to the cotton. As of Sunday, Howard was up to 300 marshmallows. She expects the final outfit to include twice as many.
"You can sew through the middle of the marshmallow, but if you go through the edge, the thread will just rip through them," said Howard, a para-educator in DZ's special-education department. "It's a very messy endeavor, but we've developed some methods to quicken the process. It mostly takes patience, and you have to like marshmallows."
This year's sold-out Wearable Art Extravaganza, "Carnaval of the North," starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Centennial Hall. There is only one show, but the venue seats 844, much more than the ANB Hall.
Twenty-seven entrants are expected to be in the show. The crowd will vote on its favorite entries at the end of the evening, and the top three winners will be announced.
The competition includes master carpenter David Walker, who returns with another wood creation, "Looking Good in Wood," for model Dawn Pisel-Davis.
Last year, Walker and Pisel-Davis won first place with a Southern belle dress made out of wood and hand-steamed cedar shavings.
Angoon's Leonard R. Johnson, the infamous "Tlingit King" who wooed the ANB crowd and swept third-place honors in 2004, is not entered this year. But he will be at Centennial Hall to sign autographs, in costume, the arts council said.
Juneau-Douglas freshman Sofia Tenney and Montessori eighth-grader Charli Childers, last year's second-place finishers, are back with "Talk About Love," outfits made out of candy valentine conversation hearts. In 2004, they created "Sweeter Than Candy," matching dresses out of Skittles.
"We were thinking about Valentine's Day, and how it would be good to make something out of Valentine's candy," Childers said.
"It's similar to the one last year, but the pattern is going to be in different-colored hearts," Tenney said.
"Carnaval of the North," The Fifth Annual Wearable Art Extravaganza, begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Centennial Hall. The show is sold out.
Spectators are asked to enter at the north entrance, in the parking lot, near Third Street. The doors to Centennial Hall will open at 6:30 p.m. The doors to the actual seating area will open at 7 p.m.
A silent auction starts at 7 p.m. in the Centennial Hall lobby to raise money to support the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council's student scholarships and program grants.
This year's items include: Alaska Airline tickets for two; original art (paintings, necklaces, scarves and a stained glass piece from Nell's Spiral Studio); ceramic and porcelain pieces from Paul Voelcker's Blue Clay Studio, Mark Janes' Tongass Pottery Works and Deja Vu antiques; furniture from The Friendly Planet; dinners at The Hangar, Twisted Fish and Di Sopra; Peruvian dinner with Antonio Diaz; Pan Asian dinner with Tina Kobyashi and Dick Monkman; Oscar dinner with Ben Brown; music lessons with Rick Trostel; reflexology with Mary Pat Schilly; gardening with Amy Skilbred; a one-hour family contra/barn dance with Chuessday Chunes; and more.
There are 27 entries in this year's show.
The runway is a straight shot, unlike last year's T-shape, and measures 120 feet long by 4 feet wide.
All entrants will pose behind a lit scrim before walking down the runway.
A camera on the Willoughby Avenue side of the hall will capture the action on-stage and project it on to a large video screen in the back of the room.
The configuration of Centennial Hall seats 844.
This year's emcees are Ben Brown and Collette Costa.
There will be a brief intermission after the parade of entries, as the votes are tabulated and the winners are determined. During this time, a Thai dancer will perform, Eve Fieldhouse will entertain the audience with tribal dancing, a hip-hop couple will dance and Grace Elliott will introduce a video montage of Patsy Cline, the protagonist in the upcoming, "Always ... Patsy Cline" production at Marlintini's.
Last year, Tenney and Childers planned to make dresses out of M&Ms, until they realized the chocolate would melt. Instead, they spent $80 to $100 on individual bags of Skittles. It took them two months to glue on the candies, three months overall. And though they choreographed a lively techno routine for the ANB routine, each dress weighed an unwieldly 20 pounds.
This time, they ordered hoop skirts to provide each dress more support. Their design also includes halter tops. Tenney and Childers spent $70 on a 30-pound box of conversation hearts and have been working four hours a day after school for the last two months.
Paula Recchia, a state worker with the Department of Health and Human Services, came up with the idea for "Push Me Pull Me Capitol" on the way home from New Year's Eve 2004.
"It's basically the design that didn't make the (state capitol design competition) cut, but one that should have," Recchia said.
It's also timely. The designs from the four capitol design finalists are being revealed today, Thursday, Feb. 17.
Recchia and Gretchen Barnes are collaborating on the outfit, which includes some combination of boxes and a bowl borrowed from Chuck and Katharine Cohen. Recchia revealed no further details.
"If I could figure out how to keep a dome on my head, I'd probably be tap dancing, but we still have to work that part out," said Recchia, whose stage experience is limited to a role in last year's "Grumpsicle."
"Basically it's boxes and some contact paper. We're not too trick," she said. "We were lamenting that we had all these different things we wanted to get, but you can't find this stuff in Juneau. It's a work in progress, whatever I can find at Fred Meyer."
Recchia almost didn't enter. She was at 1st Impressions Salon on the day entries were due, when she heard two hairdressers talking about their own wearable art plan. They encouraged her to enter.
The two hairdressers, Vanessa Deitrick and Candace Kluberton, are entering this year's show with "Tools of the Trade," a dress made out of items found in the salon.
Deitrick was dying the dress on Sunday evening and didn't want to reveal any more details.
"I've always been into the arts, and I'd never even heard of this until the day of the show last year," she said. "By then it was too late to get tickets. I just decided I was going to be in it."
Those who attended last year's show may remember "Ticketless Travel," a sleek dress made out of silk, paper, faux fur and airline tickets, as one of the field's most elegant entries. Designer Laura Gregovich and model Beth Geiger are back with "Uncharted," an outfit comprised of silk, paper and nautical charts.
The dress is styled as a period piece from the late 1700s and inspired by a biography of Capt. Cook that Gregovich read last summer.
"This (entry) is a little bit more introspective," she said. "His explorations were admirable, but his personal life, which was just a footnote in this biography, really stayed with me."
"Uncharted" is far more technically demanding than "Ticketless Travel."
Gregovich had to build a hoop skirt underneath the dress and hand-trim the charts, a process that had taken 50 hours as of Sunday. The charts are of the Queen Charlotte Straits, an area Cook actually explored. She gathered them from a fisherman who was moving out of Alaska.
Gregovich, a registered nurse, is a self-taught dressmaker. Geiger is the daughter of one of her close friends from high school.
"I've always loved art, and I think fashion can be a form of that," Gregovich said. "Last year was a lot of fun and got me through the dark winter."