Julie Anderson is a 21st Century alchemist. She turns trash into treasure. Using recycled materials, the Santa Fe artist creates dolls, masks, puppets, purses, wearable art and more.
Anderson was a photographer shooting weddings and what she calls “their hum-drum stuff”. Twenty years ago, she reinvented herself as a costumer. An ironic choice; she wasn’t either a designer or a seamstress at the time. For her new business, Costume Salon, she hired folks who knew what they were doing. Anderson learned the tricks of the trade on the job from her talented staff. She totally relied on them; when they told her to buy a piece of equipment, she did. She expanded into recycled materials and began creating art, too. She now fabricates dolls, masks, accessories and more.
The costume business is more than Halloween. Anderson designs theatrical costumes (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Branson, Missouri), costumes for the annual Santa Fe Renaissance Fair and she has costume rental clients, year round, from around the world. Not surprisingly, Halloween is her busiest season. The next upsurge of business is for Mardi Gras.
Anderson is very serious about her designs. Her costumes are not just something the wearer puts on. They’re well-researched and each outfit is created from head to toe; from the unseen inside (she sometimes creates period underwear) to the visible outside. Apparently her clients are serious about costumes, too. These do not come cheap. By the time you add shipping, the cost can enter four-figures. She often gets celebrity requests, but does not necessarily know for whom she’s creating the outfits are for. It is all very hush-hush.
The busy designer also has clients who want one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces. She creates each piece of clothing using as many recycled materials as possible working with stuff that is literally headed for the dump. Anderson has a local reputation as a collector of useless (to others) objects. People deliver things to her all the time. If she can’t use them, she passes them on or recycles them.
Here latest inspiration is Steampunk. Never heard of this? You are not alone. Originally a literary genre that goes back to such luminaries as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, it had a resurgence in the 1980s. According to a definition on steampunk.com, it’s a “subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, reimagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk)”.It has since migrated to the art world.
She calls Steampunk a “digital world backlash” taking people back to the Victorian Era. It evolved into an art genre of gears and mechanical objects. All those Rube Goldberg devices are an early manifestation of the current trend. Anderson says that some of the art coming out of this movement is fantastic. Anderson, who has a rather avant-garde approach to her art, says she’s been working with the Victorian Era for about 15 years and had unknowingly included Steampunk elements before she knew the movement existed.
You can meet Julie Anderson and see her Steampunk and other creations at the annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival each November. Her booth will offer her wearable art (mostly coats and scarves), dolls, masks, puppets, purses and more.
Costume Salon, is located at Santa Fe Outlet Mall, open by appointment only. If you’re in Santa Fe, love the unusual and want to preserve the environment, make an appointment to see the busy artist. If you’re not in Santa Fe, let your fingers do the walking.