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When September Ends (33.9)

October 1, 2014

I've been experiencing low-grade depression most (all?) of the month but wasn't able to identify it as such. Which is silly, because of course I've been depressed during September. It reminds me of death and loss and fills me with dread. I will never be a fan of September. 

This year was the 12th anniversary of Melissa's death.

When the grief was fresher, I assumed it would eventually fade into the background. Filed away into the Terrible Things That Happened in Valette's Past folder and tucked into a cabinet that is only opened when needing a really good ugly cry.

But now that I have twelve years of experience with this specific grief, it has become familiar and I've stopped expecting it to completely go away like I assumed it eventually would. There are times I anticipate it (see: the end of every September), and times it comes on unexpected but I know I will get through it.

My brother-in-law has described grief as filling a container that is neatly placed on a shelf. Most of the time it sits there out in the open, present but not an active part of daily life. Once in a while, however, something happens and it gets knocked over and grief spills everywhere.

Grief is a bitch to clean up.

I've spent the month not doing a very good job cleaning up some (completely expected) grief spillage. Which is okay. It's okay to continue to experience grief for my sister, even twelve years later. It's not fun, it's pretty terrible actually, but it's not wrong to feel lost and lonely and empty.

I made it through September, and to it I say good riddance.

Kincaid Park

September 23, 2014

Making of a Ringmaster

September 5, 2014

This month's self portrait started just like almost every other self portrait I've done: with a trip to the thrift store. The ringmaster costume depended on a kickass red jacket, and I knew if I couldn't find one, then I'd have to make one. A jacket is a fairly complicated item of clothing to make from scratch - altering an existing jacket is much easier.

I tried on every single jacket in the Women's Jackets aisle of Value Village, and narrowed it down to four. I took them over to the changing area and tried them all on again in front of a mirror, which immediately disqualified two.

And because decisions are hard, I needed a second opinion. I would have asked Steve but he was home in constant pain-medicated-slumber thanks to his ear infection. I asked a random woman in the changing area, who was interested in my quest but honestly no help and instead took one of my rejected jackets home with her. And so I texted my brother in San Francisco for my lifeline and left with this cream jacket that fit really nicely.

Once home, I started on its alteraterations. First was to bring the front of the jacket up to shorten it and make it more formal looking.

Next I freehanded a tails pattern on paper, pinned the paper to the jacket to confirm the size and shape and length worked, and then sewed the tails out of uphosltry fabric. I had selected the fabric to most closely match the pattern of the jacket: I didn't care about it's color because I would be making the whole thing red anyway.

With the jacket altered, I set out to transform it red. I considered dying the jacket, but was concerned the different fabric blends of the jacket and the tails would dye differently. So instead I grabbed some fabric medium and painted the whole thing.

The dogs were very helpful during the painting process. Mitzi chewed on a stick (from the bucket in the garage labeled Mitzi Sticks), while Olive watched her chew on the stick. Every so often, Olive would pick up a piece of broken stick, chew on it, then spit it out because it's just a stick, but Mitzi is so enthralled by it, but again it's just a stick, Olive would like to go back in the house now please kthx.


Painting the jacket took longer than I expected, and then I ran out of red paint 75% through the project. Even after heat setting, and making sure I followed the fabric medium instructions, the jacket is still really stiff. Which is sad, because I think I would wear the jacket more often because this red jacket is completely badass.

With the jacket ready, all I had to do was assemble the rest of the outfit from my costume chest and closet, locate a suitable circus-y looking tent, and get up at the butt crack of dawn to shoot before the business owning the tent opened for the day.

Tophat: Steve made this for me, basically copying the hat I made (and still have!) for my Trixie costume four years ago. He used a scrap of material left over from the tails and painted it red so I would have a ribbon that matched my jacket.

Bowtie: purchased at Sears and I kind of want to wear it everywhere.

Blouse: vintage, purchased at a thrift shop in San Francisco many years ago. It's too short for general wearing, but worked perfectly here.

Waistcoat: a stretchy underbust faux corset that I've had forever.

Whip: was actually hanging behind the door of my new office at my new job when I started. No one would (could?) tell me why it was there, but it's mine now.

Pants: leggings were too see through (and also leggings are not pants), so I am wearing yoga pants, shh don't tell.

Boots: just my normal dress boots.

Lion: Olive was excited to be part of the photo shoot, less excited to be wearing this AMAZING felt mane and ears hat that Steve made for her.

Bulltub: totally my laundry basket turned upside down with printer paper taped around the middle.

Additional Content

Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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