Michigan has a lot to offer residents and visitors to step outside of their normal routine and escape into some fantasy fun. This weekend you can step back in time and enter two realms of fantasy at The Olde World Village in Augusta, Michigan (13215 M-96, Augusta, MI, just north of I-94 between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek) and the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival in Vassar, Michigan (west of I-75 at 7464 Frankenmuth Rd.)
The Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival started last weekend and will continue on Saturdays and Sundays through June 26, 2016 with music, fun food, and fairytail fun. This weekend’s theme is “Pillage the Village” with Vikings and Pirates. In addition to their regular crew of pirates, Vikings, and scalawags, special guests include The Crew of the Pirate Ship Crysta, the Dread Pirate Roberts, The World of Swimming Mermaid School and Andromina The Mermaid.
At the Olde World Village they are having their Steam Dream Expo, Michigan’s longest running Steampunk Convention, this weekend. For those who are unaware, Steampunk is the science fiction genre of the 1800’s, the era of steam engines, dirigibles, clockwork contraptions, with dapperly dressed, dashing gents and gorgeous gals in corsets and other Victorian era finery.
The Olde World Village is decked out for the steampunk crowd which includes an invasion from Lansing’s Capitol Steam, Performances by Eli August and the Abandoned buildings, Bell, Book and Canto, and many others. DJ Vourteque will slinging the steamy tunes when he isn’t doing his duties as MC. If you enjoy things a bit more on the steamy side, make sure you get the VIP pass and hit the more adult orient and after dark events that will go through 10 p.m. and beyond. For a few free samples, check out some past performances from the Olde World Village.
After this weekend the Olde World Village takes a couple weeks off to retool and then returns on July 9th for the BlackRock Medieval Fest and other events through the December so you may want save their event schedule.
Next weekend, in addition to week three of the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival, an old favorite is being resurrected in Grand Rapids, Michigan as JAFAX 2.0 (Japanese Animation, Film, and Art Expo) at the Amway Grand and DeVos Place Conference Center. Anime and Cosplay fans will be hitting downtown Grand Rapids and enjoying the riverfront ambiance.
For those of a more historical bent, check out Michigan’s Civil War Musters where the Living History reenactors will don more traditional Civil War era wardrobe, roll in the canons, powder up the rifles, mount their steeds and maybe even cut loose later at the Emerald Pheasant. Hastings’ Charlton Park hosts their muster over the weekend of July 16-17. If you have never been to Charlton Park, you are in for a treat as they moved historic buildings to the park instead of tearing them down and it is a beautiful piece of history. Add the canons, costumes and live action history and you will be blown away! Down in Jackson the Jackson Civil War Muster happens on the weekend of August 20-21 and you can expect more guns, canons, horses and soldiers.
Among Rennies, Furries, and other lovers of fine and fun costumes in the midwest, Beckalyns Masquerade has become a well known name for quality, hand made masks, ears, and tails. Although she was quite busy preparing for the first weekend of the Blackrock Renaissance Festival this weekend, Beckalyn took some time to meet and answer a few questions in advance of the first day at Blackrock this Saturday.
John N Collins: You are becoming well known among the Rennies (attendees of Renaissance Fairs) for the quality and artistry of your products. Mind telling my readers a bit of your background, how you got into the artistic crafting work you do, and how you learned your craft?
Beckalyn: Well… I have an art & social psychology double major from WMU, so this whole mask-making dealio makes a bit of sense: how does wearing a mask change OUR OWN self-perception, and how does it change the perception of others toward us? .. that sort of thing.
How was I trained? Well, as far as mask-making goes, I’m “self-taught.” I have experimented with various media and have settled on my favourite (“Celluclay” — the original, grey stuff). I am a natural materials snob. I use only naturally-coloured feathers (and fur and wool and horns and antlers, etc etc) and only what is legal for me to use and sell. Had to do a bit of research and talk to the DNR on that!
My first mask was a dragon, which I created for Hallowe’en way back in ’91.. after that, I made one with pheasant feathers that a friend had given me — “they’re just too pretty to throw out!” That mask I donated to a cancer fundraising auction. At that point, I decided I wanted to put together enough pieces to have a show during one of Kalamazoo’s Art Hops… but was sort of gently shot down. So, I made a few more and elected to “show” my own works at arts and crafts shows.
It took a while — my earliest appearances were at Christmas at Wings and the Street Rod show at Kalamazoo’s fairground — but then I ended up at the SilverLeaf Renaissance Faire and my niche was found!
(honestly, John, I could chatter like a magpie for EVER about my origins and so forth… steer me!)
JNC: What products do you have available when you set up shop?
B’yn: First and foremost, I am a MaskMaker at heart. Despite not having the time to really CREATE lately, my booth does have a few of my elaborate rigid feather masks. I also have the less-elaborate, leather-backed feather masks which I call “Festival” masks.
Another main item I craft are feather fans, which came about from customer requests at SLRF.
To make use of odds & ends feathers, I make barrettes and earrings and staff straps and other little feathery things… and lately I have become known as “The Tail and Kitty Ears Booth” at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, because I make foxtail ties and two sizes of kitty ears.
JNC: Do you do special commissions? If so, what sort of commissions do you do?
B’yn: Commissions? Oh my, yes! Mask-wise, I like to say “If you wanna be it, I can make it!” I’ve done dragons and trolls and goblins and birds (including phoenix) and foxes and wolves and even a black unicorn!
I gladly welcome any challenge — the raccoon was fun, so was Anubis — but confess that this is not a good year for commissions because of the upheaval of moving, etc.
I welcome special requests for fans, too: if someone wants a specific colour combination, I typically make three fans from which to choose; because I will sell the other two! Same with the Festival masks.
Foxtails and kitty ears? You betcha! I can even make FEATHERED kitty ears in specific colours.
JNC: Have you had any interesting/weird commissions that you could tell us about?
B’yn: My favourite was a dual mask commission from one of my Patrons (she has more than six of my masks). She needed a Good Fairy and a Bad Faerie mask for the Ball of the same name, hosted by Brian and Wendy Froud. I also made a trio of masks for Red Horse Ranch: a Fox, a Hound, and a Horse… which ended up in some odd requests for “Pony Play” ears and tails from some folks of that ilk, who saw the horse mask on my website. And no, I wasn’t able to make pony play ears. Just didn’t have the time! Honestly, I don’t really want to know what folks DO in my work. Really. Nope.
JNC: Where can you be found by folks who want to pick up some of your products?
B’yn: I have booth 506 at the Michigan Renaissance Festival; it’s near the ice cream shop, “kid land”, and Heart’s Delight’s booth. That show runs seven weekends, starting mid-August. This year, that’s the 16th.
My work is also in the tent I am sharing with my girlfriend, Heidi, who has Twisted Tresses and Trappings, here at Olde World Village’s BlackRock Medieval Festival and some of their other events throughout the year.
Also, a couple of my other friends run Mystik Waboose, and attend NUMEROUS events like anime & “furry” conventions and so forth, in NUMEROUS states. They carry my ears and tails, and can serve as a conduit for commissions of any sort.
JNC: Do you have an Etsy or other account where folks can buy your products online? Where else can you be found online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Etc?
B’yn: My presence online is minimal at best, unfortunately. I *do* have a website — BeckalynsMasquerade.com — the challenge is simply to spell both “Beckalyns” and “Masquerade” correctly… but it’s only a pale, pale shadow of what my ‘site USED to be. I just haven’t had the time to get it REALLY created and updated. Frankly, I’d rather be in my studio than at my computer… or lately, I’d rather be doing ANYTHING business/art-related than getting my house ready to sell!
It’s been a strange, harried year.
Once we move, and I re-establish my studio on my FARM (read: Dream Fulfilled FINALLY) I plan to set up an etsy store and maybe even supplement my “official” website with a FaceBook version of Beckalyn’s Masquerade.
JNC: My main site is The Weird Review and I like to end my interviews with my weird question. Can you share something weird and wonderful about yourself?
B’yn: My newest and latest passion is raising rabbits. Yes, they’re furry and fluffy and cute and wonderful. They are also tasty and prolific and raising them is the BEST way to get the fur colours I need most for my kitty ears! I “take care of them” myself, and ready the pelts for tanning myself, and they’re done at Moyle Mink and Tannery here in the United States. Pretty much, all of the rabbit fur I use comes from MY rabbits, tanned in MY country. I proud of that. And content.
JNC: Thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview with me!
B’yn: T’was fun. Thank YOU.
Special thanks to The Weird Review official model, Lillian Fox, for modeling Beckalyn’s fox ears and tail and the folks at the Blackrock Renaissance Summerfest for permitting the photoshoot on the grounds of The Olde World Village in Augusta, Michigan.
The Blackrock Renaissance Summerfest is happening from Saturday July 12, 2014, at 10 a.m. at the Olde World Village in Augusta, Michigan and continues every Saturday and Sunday through August 3rd from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The Weird Review official model, Lillian Fox will be at the festival with prints available for purchase.
The Michigan Renaissance Festival is open Weekends & Labor Day • August 16 – September 28 PLUS Friday, Sept. 26! 10am – 7pm • Rain or Shine!
Images from our photoshoot with The Weird Review official model, Lillian Fox, modeling Beckalyn’s Masqueerade Fox Ears and Tail at the Blackrock Renaissance Summerfest at the Olde World Village in Augusta, Michgan
More about John N. Collins:
The Michigan Renaissance Festival runs on the weekends through September 29, 2013 at 12600 Dixie Highway, Holly, Michigan and pirate talkers are more than welcome. If you have never attended a renaissance festival you are in for a treat and maybe a shock. The festival grounds seem to go on forever.
Music lovers are in for a treat with over ten stages and other venues where various musicians and other performers keep the hordes (last Saturday alone over 20,000 passed through the gates) of attendees entertained with music, merriment, and dance.
Just inside at the Green Grove Stage the mermaid musical maidens of “Sirena” danced, drummed, and dazzled with their beauty and songs.
During you will want to visit the queen, catch the joust, see the Flight of the Raptor, watch wizards with lasers in The Lost Caverns of Camelot and even renew your wedding vows!
While all the entertainment and activities will keep you running, don’t forget to take a little time at one of the taverns and dine on their dozens of delightful drinks, desserts and delicacies.
More about John Collins