Published in the Edmonton Journal Blog on April 4th 2016. Published in the Edmonton Journal print paper April 5th 2016. Written by Julia Lipscombe.
Image by Breanne Marie Photography. Model Poppy Del. Makeup Ashley Skrocki.
When Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki put on a fashion show for their leather and metal wearable art, it’s doesn’t just consist of a few models traipsing down a catwalk.
The latest show for their brand, Paragon of Design by Skrocki, during Western Canada Fashion Week in March, was a fantasy drama, complete with an imagined world, stunning visuals, a synopsis for the audience, a whole cast of characters and a smoke machine.
“We write stories together and character sketches, and we try to develop pieces that we feel embody those characters,” says Tanner. “We gave everyone on the runway a little bit of an idea and insight into their character.”
But even with all of the fanfare, the show’s standout element was the clothes: the nine individual looks lovingly — and rather painstakingly — brought to life.
Paragon of Design’s immaculate and towering headpieces, elaborate painted masks, precisely laser-cut tops and cuffs in-laid with gems and crystals, and lavishly adorned corsets stand out for the quality of design, materials and craftsmanship.
“We actually calculated it out — the nine outfits took close to 1,300 hours to make,” says Amy.
The couple have been together for 16 years, and making the line for nine. Tanner used to have a day job as a film liaison at the City of Edmonton, but after he went on paternity leave for their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Seraphim, he never went back. Now, they both work full-time (sometimes around the clock) on their costumes, filling orders for their popular 3-D sculpted and leather-bound books, or making metal accessories.
Both quote history and travel as major inspirations. Tanner adds fantasy and sci-fi flicks like Lord of the Rings and Alien to his list; while Amy cites religious iconography, Gothic cathedrals and Byzantine artwork.
Amy does the bulk of the design work. Tanner apprenticed under her to learn the 35 of 40 steps necessary to make a necklace, a pair of cufflinks or earrings — items that make up a large chunk of their business.
The pair’s home garage workspace already looks like a behind-the-scenes studio of a movie set, but Amy’s dream for the future is a larger studio and more employees as they shift their business model.
The couple used to sell their designs at craft shows, sometimes at the exhausting pace of one show per week, but that didn’t leave much room to display their larger-scale, statement wearable-art items — nor was it really the market for that type of work.
So how to show off those fantastic belts, corsets and masks? They’d been aware of WCFW’s Costume Design Competition for a few years, but Amy always put off entering. That changed when she had her daughter, which reminded her that life is precious and anything can happen.
“After that, I thought: if something ever happened to me, I’d have all these designs, and nobody would ever have seen them. So I said, ‘I’m going to enter that competition.’ And I did.”
They won. That was in 2015, which makes this past fashion week a year since their first fashion show.
In the past couple of years, they’ve been approached by theatre productions and publications that want to borrow or buy their big-ticket items. Those worlds — as well as film and television — are where Paragon of Design would, ideally, like to head.
“We had never considered it before, which is crazy,” says Amy. “It’s like a whole new world opened up. It was like an epiphany: this is where we should have started.”
Now, the pair does most of their sales online. They also fill lots of custom orders and sell their items wholesale. Their only “storefront” is the St. Albert Farmers’ Market — which they love.
“We really have an inventory of about 400 items, but anything can be customized,” says Amy. “So, if you see a dragon on a pair of cufflinks, we can do that dragon on anything — a purse, an iPad case or a pendant. Each store can have their own customized line of items exclusive to them.”
Paragon of Design has also been commissioned to make art for the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and to create custom leather books and iPad cases (complete with the Alberta crest) for the Government of Alberta to give away to foreign dignitaries and delegates visiting the province.
One of Paragon of Design’s corsets won an international wearable art competition, and their work is on display in places like the Saskatchewan Craft Council and the Alberta Craft Council. They’ve also been a presence at two Golden Globes gifting suites in Los Angeles — no small feat.
Extra exposure comes with some risk, but they don’t mind. “We’ve had our designs stolen and made in Bali or China, but you know what? Was it better to just keep it in the garage and never show anyone? I don’t think so,” says Amy.
Amy and Tanner are keen to keep building their profile, but not just for the benefit of their own brand.
“To have Edmonton named as one of these places that makes cool handmade things that are sent all over the world? I would love that,” says Amy. “That would be just awesome.”
Paragon of Design by Skrocki is available online atskrocki.ca. Amy Skrocki and Tanner Wilson-Skrocki will be at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market, in front of St. Albert Place at 5 St. Anne Street, every Saturday from June to October.
To view the article click here.
This photo essay appeared in the February 2016 copy of St. Alberta/Edmonton's T8N magazine written by Carmen Hrynchuk with all photography done by Brenda Lakeman.
|Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long, life is short). It’s a sentiment that many have read and contemplated but that few have taken to heart. Artists Amy and -Tanner Skrocki are among those few. And heart is exactly what they pour into their partnership. Much like their work, their history is a story of transformation.|
When they met 16 years ago, Amy was a high-school student and Tanner was a writer working in a music store. Amy, appreciating Tanner’s CD recommendations (and his music magazine), sent him an email telling him so. Tanner, flattered and intrigued, sent his “fan” a few more samples of his writing but admits that he hadn’t a clue who he was emailing. Today, Tanner’s far more sure, and Amy’s not only the most talented person he knows but also his mentor in the studio and his partner in work and life. Together they are the multi-talented team behind Paragon of Design—a design house featuring wearable art inspired by artifacts, fantasy and passion.
On the day we visited, we had the pleasure of witnessing just how talented they are. Holding the titles of metal smith, leather smith, sculptor, bookbinder, etching specialist, writer, composer and historian—this dynamic duo gave us a glimpse into the fine art of hard work and the hard work of fine art. Take a look.
“When we travel, we go to all the museums and historic sites we can to get inspiration. And we’ll just take our journals and start writing and drawing and adding photographs or postcards we find along the way so that we can ‘document’ what we’ve seen and imagined while we were there. When we get back, we use it to come up with characters we think would have lived through that time period and then write little stories about each of them—who they are, what they’d do and wear. Amy does most of the dreaming and comes up with the ideas, and then we go away and bring them to life.”
To view this pendant click here.
“Tanner is the one who always keeps me going. I run all my ideas past him. Sometimes he’ll think I should change something, and I’ll be all, ‘No!’ (laughing), but mostly he says, ‘I think you should just do it.’ Everyday, he just keeps saying it. I wouldn’t be able to do the stuff we’re designing now without that support—without him. He also puts all our ideas into words, which is amazing and something I could never do. We really work together as a perfect team.”
“I never get tired of watching Amy design. It’s not that she just sketches or designs—she draws with wire, and I can actually see the ideas coming from her. It’s rare and my privilege to work with her.”
“The career is a lot about saying yes and then figuring it out later. A fashion show is something I’d been wanting to do for years but was too afraid because there’s no book on how to do this. Eventually I was just like, ‘life is too short. I’m just going to do it.’ Then all of a sudden, we’re there at the fashion show costume competition, and our first piece wins, and we’re given our own show and it hits you—‘Oh my God, I have to make 12 pieces, and how am I going to do this?’ And I don’t know how it happened, but it did (laughing).” –Amy
Model Carra Pischke
“I think art should make you feel something, and that’s the biggest compliment we get from our customers. We hear it all the time at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market. Someone will buy a ring or a journal and come back years later and say ‘This is still my favourite piece of jewellery because I bought it at a key point in my life, and it just spoke to me.’ That means so much to us.”
“The future? We’d love to have a great big studio some day with all sorts of artists working there with us. A place where we could further cultivate the community and even apprentices people who want to learn the things that we’ve struggled to learn.”
To check out any other photos follow the link here
To check out Brenda Lakeman's other work click here.
We are signed up for Western Canada Fashion Week on March 28th!! Doors open at 7 pm with the show to follow at 8 pm at the Transalta Arts Barn in Edmonton!
For this show we are writing a short story inspired by several Celtic myths we love. Shortly before the show we will share the summery of the story and later this year the full story to go along with all the runway photos. We decided to do this instead of a real collection since many of our pieces are so vastly different from each other. Also because each signature piece we make is usually based on a character we either made up or on a story we wrote that included the character.
Recently, we were published in January’s edition of Gilded magazine out of California. This photo shoot was also based on a short story we wrote.
We were lucky enough to meet a kindred spirit who really understands the stories and inspiration behind our pieces. The photographer (Breanne Marie Photography) captured the story line well through her photos! She has been amazing to collaborate with and you can check out more of her beautiful work here.
We will do a full blog post with the story and all the photos from the shoot soon! But for now below is one that we love of model Jen ferguson.
We are also very fortunate to have my sister, Ashley, as part of our team. We will be creating a line of complementary (to our items) stencils for airbrushing makeup by this summer!!
You can check out Ash's other work on her website http://skrockimakeupartistry.weebly.com
*Ash with model Carra Pischke Photograph by Brenda Lakeman
We were also featured in a local in print and digital magazine, T8N, with a photo essay. This shows never seen before shots of our studio, inspirations, quick drawings and water colour tests of various pieces we make. We asked one of our favourite models Carra Pischke to join us for the shoot! The interview was done by the editor Carmen and the photo essay portion was done by Brenda Lakemen out of St. Albert. For anyone interested in checking out a bit about our studio and a little bit about the makers of all these item T8N Magazine (March edition) is available on their website! For those that live in Edmonton or St. Albert the magazine is at dozens of different locations free of charge for pick up. A full list of available places is located on their website! Here is a link to the feature with the full print version at the bottom
T8N March Issue
Lastly we recently changed the pricing on our website to US dollars to be included on social media like “Pinterest.” This now makes all our items pinable! For our Canadian customers this just means you will see the Canadian amount on your bill. If you want to purchase in Canadian dollars you can also do that through our Etsy shop!
Details to follow soon about other photoshoots and publications!!
This shoot was based on a short story we wrote :) It's only very roughly edited to show the context and the ideas behind the shoot. I included the scene notes to further describe the items we used as well as the through process behind the shoot. The photographer was the fantastic Breanne Marie Photography.
This photographer was all for the crazy ideas we threw at her and added in some ideas of her own to create a truly unique set of photos.
The models were, Carra Pischke, Jen Ferguson and Randy Cusack. With Makeup by Ashley Skrocki Makeup Artistry and hair by Dani White.
On a cloudless night the stars shone upon a forest through which no light could reach. Pathways once lush and inviting were consumed by branches long and short entwined like lovers against the twilight. Deep within the corridors of winding trees dark secrets aching to be told are disclosed in clandestine meetings by the shadows that keep them. The intones, crisp against empty air, hang in anticipation of the drums beat calling to those who have yet to appear. The circles completion draws nearer and nearer as they amass. Of blood and stone that which must be given is presented in the face of the full moon. Those who assemble beneath its watchful eye gather not for light and though the stars shine, their light is lost amid the branches, and tonight the moon shall turn its back on this forest.
Not far from the gathering there winds a dusty path outstretching its worn fingers through countryside’s and touching the hamlets where those unaware of these nefarious goings on blissfully unwind from the labours’ of the day. But the merriest of all were undoubtedly the traveling companies who setup their temporary quarters at some unexceptional whereabouts along the weaving roadside. Their day had passed in hours of toil hauling belongs, wares, and caravans onwards to a destination only determined upon arrival. When they stopped to await the coming dawn the fires were built against the embers of a slow sinking sun. With the cauldrons bubbling and the fresh game roasting it was song and bottle that beckoned most. But not all would find solace in such illusions and one such young man sought his retreat in the moons mesmerizing face. With little hesitation he blissfully set forth from the comforting nest of his encampment and the fuzzy warmth of friendship, security and ale onto the dusty path.
Along the path he strolled the air was crisp against his face and the silence was unbroken save for even pacing of his own footsteps. Lost in his thoughts on he wandered unaware of the distance he had travelled when a darkened wood consumed his view. The sound of a maiden’s sweet laughter drew the young man from his contemplation and step-by-step he travelled ever deeper into the woods. A glimpse of her cloak, the flash of her hair like smoke stranded against the dark draws him closer still. Her slender hand reaches from the shadows with but one finger out stretched and, as though it were the night itself beckoning, entices him onwards. Each step reveals another piece of her identity. Upon her face a black filigree mask obscures her identity and an intricately detailed ivory cloak with ornate trim wraps around her weaving her to the shadows that hold her. The gold of the ring on her beckoning finger captivates the young man and, as though in an anesthetized trance, he is powerless. So bewitching is her gaze he is oblivious to the rings razor edge against his skin or the body pinned tightly beneath the shroud just steps away. In her other hand she carries a mask with a dark visage and great horns. Those who have gathered in surreptitious amassment remain buried in the shadows but watching carefully the transpiring events. With but one drop of the young mans blood upon the tip of her index finger the transformation has begun. A horned creature, enslaved to that which commands these dark woods, now stands where once an innocent man stood its soulless gaze resting upon the risen goddess. Agape beneath the taunt shroud the mouth seems frozen in time like a marble sarcophagus in a forgotten mausoleum. Yet when the single drop of innocence is passed from bent fingertip a gasp can be heard like rustling leaves caught in the forests throat. Slowly beneath the shroud the body stirs as if reanimated from a state fit for the grave she moves again. There in the forest, behind the back of the moon, where the stars light cannot reach, stands a goddess of ancient will, at one side her noble sacrifice no more than a husk as he is, and at the other a body returned from the grasp of death. And from every shadow there appears another set of horns, another set of deep black eyes peering, their numbers are innumerable filling the night. Like a butterfly emerging from the hollows of the mortuary the shroud slips form her as she rises. In the eyes of the goddess the gold of her adornments shimmer. At her foot there lies a great horned mask its empty eyes starring back at the stars.
The scene notes show roughly what items the models would be wearing, what the models might be doing.
Scene one: shows model in cape with filigree mask and Swarovski crystal cuff. Raising one finger to beckon the traveller. Black mask. Large armour ring. The woman is wearing a large skirt. Cape is golden or ivory with black trim.
Scene two: shows man and woman- no mask on the female model. She is tracing her finger with the ring down the front of he chest. Leaving a small drop of blood. He is holding the demon mask. He is wearing a cape with a large axe pendant.
(Various edits below) Breanne thoughts of smoke bombs, which worked amazingly with the sort of fairy tale shoot. I love the black and white version as well. This reminded me of a old fairy tale that would have been filmed in the 70s. The smoke from the bombs changed so rapidly, with the far right picture making it seem like the smoke is coming from the models hand.
Scene three: shows the woman now in large mask/with large skull necklace with drop of blood on her finger holding it over to silhouette on the table. No cape in this image. Cathedral cuffs.
A incredible image by Breanne Marie Photography with fantastic editing.
The woman on the table has the cloth sucked into her mouth like she is breathing air in. the man in the mask is faintly seen in the background. Large dragon cuffs with onyx. Horned mask, black filigree shoulder armour. Cape with trim. Potentially it is showing her rising from the table with the clothed still draped over her in the back ground there is multiple demon masked wearing men cloak off to show accessories underneath. Skull belt on male model .
Behind the scene shot with Tanner. This even makes it look more like some vintage film. On the right side you see the hair artist Dani White.
You can see the model Randy transformed. I love the shots Breanne Marie Photography did of Randy.
Totally surreal shot!!!!
Picture 5: solo pic of woman. shows the woman from under the blanket wearing the larger Phaedra set (large statement axe set, cuffs, belt, earrings). Shorter stone bodice/corset. There is the mask by her feet.
the blue smoke only adds to magic of the overall shoot.
Alternative edit by Breanne Marie Photography.
To see other photos done by Breanne Marie Photography please check out her website here.
We will be setting up for our final large craft sale of the year this week! The show, Make It!, runs from Thursday through Sunday and takes place at Northlands in Edmonton! The parking rate has been reduced just for the show and there will be 200 artists onsite. To see a selection of our items that may be at the show check out either our Etsy shop, Facebook group or shop!! We haven’t even had time to list tons of new items on our online store !
We also have two catalogs completed for you to view on our website under the catalog and look book section. They are in PDF format and can be viewed on mobile or desktop devices. Almost everything in either catalog can be custom made in time for Christmas, if it is ordered before December 1 for out of town orders and up to December 13 for local Edmonton or surrounding area!
We recently won the SWAG wearable art competition in the corset category a couple of weekends ago and we are beyond happy! Part of the prize will include our piece on display at the Affinity Gallery from 11 March – April 2016 in Saskatoon!
We have been working with several local photographers on creative photo shoots lately and developing pieces for upcoming shoots in the near future. One of the pieces is this leather bodice inlaid with labradorite, rutilated quartz and moonstone!
We have been working on several cloaks recently for a recent photo shoot and upcoming shoots and we have had several requests to buy the leather trim we make. This will be an upcoming item for 2016 and will be sold by the yard for all you seamstresses and costume makers out there!
We would like to sincerely thank all those who came to our booth during last weeks Calgary Art Market and the recent Banff Mountain Film Festival! It was great seeing so many familiar faces and meeting so many new fans and customers as well!
Thank you to all those that came out to our shows in September! It means so much to us to receive local support! It’s great to catch up with all of you and to make new friends!
Are you ready for the Christmas season?
Christmas is just a few months away, with this in mind we are taking custom orders for Christmas! If you want a custom journal, guitar strap, jewelry, cufflinks, wallet etc now is the time to place your order to ensure it is completed and arrives on time. A custom order can be as simple as adding someones initials or logo to an item!
Our fashion show last month was amazing! For anyone that wants to see many of the items created
our look book is on our website!
The look book is available for download in PDF format under the menu heading "look book" on our website. We are working on several blog posts about the fashion show, developing the items and behind the scenes photos. Below is one of the models in our dragon corset, medieval style horns and copper horned dragon mask.
Make up: Ashley Skrocki
Photographer: Simply Captured
The Banff show is a new show for us and runs in conjunction with the opening weekend of the Banff Film and Book Festival (October 31-November 1)
Art Market- Calgary Telus Convention Center (November 19-22)
Make It Edmonton- Northlands (November 26-29)
We have been asked numerous times on how to care for the leather items you may have purchased previously! Below are some easy tips on caring for your leather.
Tips on taking care of your hand crafted leather items
Have you seen anything on our Facebook group or blog that is not listed on our store? Contact us and we will see if we have it in stock!!
Some behind the scene shots and creation pictures for our September 2015 fall runway show at Western Canada Fashion Week “Fantasy Night.” Our look book was shot with Studio E Photography and he provided top-notch high quality shots, with Ashley Skrocki doing hair and makeup and Tanner and myself directing the models to get some really great shots that captured the pieces. Studio E provided some great direction, taught us tons about how to do a runway show, offered advice on future shows and provided lots of assurance in case things went wrong or models cancelled/didn’t show up at the last minute.
We were lucky enough to find two really amazing and accommodating models that were willing to work until around 3:30 am each night!!! We had so many items that the look book took two different nights to actually photograph. Our first model on Thursday was Carra Pischke and on Friday was Pauline Yee.
Ashley being the perfect assistant arranging the pieces Carra wore. Ernest off to the side probably asking not to have his photo taken!
Ashley from Ashley Skrocki Makeup Artistry lacing up the cuffs I made to go with the full "Seraphim" collection.
Getting some jewelry shots of one of our large statement pieces. Tanner is helping create an almost a light tent effect over the piece.
Partially painted beaded mask.
Before the Swarovski crystals and pearls were added.
Painting the hand carved belt.
To view our complete look book please click here.