The Pop Palette
Artists and indie entrepreneurs get artsy & crafty with their pop culture icons
The Shape of Things: Fay Helen and Anne Hanrahan's Celebrity Makeovers
Some of us have a tendency to overthink things. We might ask, for example, what moved local designer Fay Helen to start creating original, boldly graphic likenesses of Seventies-era celebrities and adorning objects with them? What is it about her choice of icons – Tom Selleck, say, or Woody Allen or Divine – rendered in modern lines and fetching color combinations on dainty pillows and dish towels that makes us laugh out loud? What makes them so much wittier than your garden-variety, mass-produced, faux-vintage A-Team tee? What does it all mean?
It could be that the fun lies in the contrast between the careful, artful way in which Helen constructs images of a culture we've come to think of as transient, disposable, or to be appreciated only ironically. But, yeah, mostly we're overthinking it.
"With me, honestly, I'm just a simple girl," says Helen. "If it makes me smile or laugh, I'm all over it. I just see it, and I think: 'Oh, that's hilarious. I have to do something with that.'"
Anne Hanrahan, who recycles leather thrift-store clothing for her takes on the celebrity face – and who, like Helen, sells her creations exclusively at Moxie (with Solid Gold, 1601 E. Fifth) – counts irritation as an excellent motivator: "A few years ago, I got annoyed at some little shop around here, some hipster shop selling wacky crafts," she says. "There was a toilet-seat cover, a shag kind, and someone, this craft person, had just taken a piece of fabric that had cowgirls printed on it, cut one out, slapped it on this toilet seat cover, zigzagged around it, and was charging like 50 bucks for it. I thought I could do better than that."
Like Helen's heat transfers, Hanrahan's leather cutouts of Nico, Siouxsie Sioux, Felix the Cat, Alfred E. Neuman, and the like on handbags, vintage jackets, and pillows are as much about the impact of an image than what it represents.
"There are certain faces that you fall in love with," she says. "What's cool about them is the way that, even though the images have been whittled down to absolutely their bare basics, you can still instantly recognize who it is. Sometimes when I'm working on a face, while I'm putting it together and cutting out these strange little shapes, I'm thinking, 'This isn't going to work; this doesn't look a thing like Johnny Cash!' Then you get it all put together, and it's like, whoa, there he is." – Cindy Widner