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Green Fire Phoenix

Workmanship Award - Best Mask                            Best-in-Class Journeyman
Balticon 40

Green Fire Phoenix - Front ViewWell...I can't tell you how long ago the concept for this costume began...and even then it was only a vague thought that I could use the first raw component I found to do something along the lines of what I ultimately came up with. This is one of my most complex costumes to date, involving so many different elements, materials, and skills.

From top to bottom, you have yet another polymer clay mask in a flame pattern accented by glass beads. Along the top of the mask are floral arrangement fronds (the color of the fronds and the green glitter gracing them, believe it or not, is the original way they came...this was the element that inspired the costume). The mask is worn over wavy red wig because let's face it...my salt-and-pepper locks definitely do not bring to mind flames :) Next is a beaded necklace made to draw the sparkle and glitter down into the costume, the rest of which is more muted than the mask. The underdress is a simple sheath-style gown modified from an existing pattern. It is made of two layers of chiffon material. One layer is dark green, the other layer is a stunning flame pattern shot through with gold threads. (The dress was made to be reversable, so you can be sure you will see another flame theme somtime in the future.) The overdress is made of the second component I found to inspire me in this costume a Red Heart ombre yarn in greens and golds and rusts that were a perfect complement to the fronds. I crocheted the mesh dress without a pattern, increasing the chains in the back to give the bottom of the skirt a bit of a flair, decreasing on the sleeves to taper. Finally, the wing-cape. This was made of a variety of fabrics that I could not begin to name. All had a transparent quality and silky flowing aspect, though. One, the gold, was actually a woman's scarf that I bought at a Flea Market for fifty cents. One of the best buys I ever made, given how perfect the color was. The shapes of the flames were cut out free-form to mimic the mask. The construction is actually kind of rough, with the outside edges held with a locking stitch and the overlap where the colors meet camoflaged by glass beading paralleling that on the mask. The cape was attached to the dress by means of a sweater pin at the back of the neck and attached to the hands by bead rings attached to the tips and worn on my pinkies.

The Presentation

For the first time in my competitive costuming career, I not only presented a skit, but I had a cast! My dear friends Jeff Lyman and Angel Taubner bravely threw in their fate with me. The professional photographer called them props...but that was because he didn't see their stunning performances in the skit. We set up on stage during the blackout them literally from head to toe in all black and me in the Phoenix costume. They flanked facing the audience and I crouched between facing away. I was covered by a black cloth of extremely flowing fabric as symbolic ash. Marty, the MC ready my original poem, Green Fire Phoenix (see below) and as he read I stood, the "ash" fell away and I escorted Angel to the edge of the stage, we moved away from one another and I crouched once more, "dying". As she moved to the side of the stage, Jeff covered me back up with the ash. Cued by the poem, I rose once more and rushed toward Jeff. He shoved me away, I rushed toward him again, only to be rebuffed. I "died" once more, this time Angel shrouded me with the "ash" cloth. The poem concluded and I rose once more, and turned toward the audience, unbowed. For this performance, and the costume, we won Best in Class. Now, Angel and Jeff, who have never once competed before, are now automatically Journeymen! Ooops!

I have to thank my friend, Patti Kinlock, for catching all the cool action shots from the masquerade itself.

Green Fire Phoenix

Over and over,
I rise from the ashes
Of my former lives

I have died a thousand
Upon a thousand deaths

Some, peaceful passings,
Gentle goodbyes
Without a whisper of pain

Others shred my soul
Leave me empty-eyed,
My body battered and broken
Hope fled with a final,
Sighing breath

I have died a thousand
Upon a thousand deaths,
Only to rise up again
In endless incarnations

Eternal embers
Ever burn at my core
Banked in protective ash
Fed on never-ending faith
Until I find the strength
To be born again

Life burns too hot in me
To be extinguished

Danielle Ackley-McPhail / 4/11/06


The mask for this costume won a 
Workmanship award for Best Mask.
<<yes, my lips are green, and yes, we left the red-eye in on purpose...seemed somehow apropos.>>

(right) a close-up of me in costume so you can get a better look at the finished mask. (below) An early stage of the mask sans plumage.


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