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Denver mother, daughter feed year-round hunger for masked fantasy

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  • Denver mother, daughter feed year-round hunger for masked fantasy

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    Denver mother, daughter feed year-round hunger for masked fantasy By Colleen Smith
    Special to The Denver Post Posted:

    10/12/2013 12:01:00 AM MDT
    A masked crew gathers at ArtSmyths: From left, Felixx Welliver, Laura Haynes, Tiffany Smyth, Atomic Sean and Lynn Smyth. The Smyths own the shop. ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post ) ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post ) <a href="">tiffany</a> There is something about a mask.
    <a href="">sell tiffany and co jewelry</a> "You almost become the character, the creature of the face you're wearing," said Tiffany Smyth. "Masks let us be transformative shape-shifters."
    cheap tiffany She and her mother, Lynn Smyth, would know. They're the duo behind Artsmyths Emporium of Curiosities and Affectations, 1454 S. Broadway, in Denver. The maskmaking enterprise's products are sold wholesale to 50 stores internationally and retail at Renaissance fairs in Colorado, Arizona and Texas.
    tiffany jewelry outlet The Smyths say that costume passions play out year-round. There's Mardi Gras, music festivals, New Year's Eve, weddings, proms, quinceaneras and the cosplay subculture. The pair equips all of them.
    tiffany and co "Our philosophy is this: It doesn't have to be ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post ) Halloween to dress up," said Tiffany. "Any excuse is a good one."
    stores sell tiffany jewelry But there's no doubt that October is their high season, nor that Halloween and art both run deep in the family.
    For years, Lynn, a glass artist who expanded into painting murals and faux finishes, sewed elaborate Halloween costumes for her young daughters, including a Tweety Bird get-up that then-preschooler Tiffany refused to wear.
    After graduating from Denver School for the Arts, Tiffany, now 37, began assisting in her mother's painting works.
    "It's funny because I used to be the captain," Lynn said, "but now she's the captain."
    Tiffany self-deprecates. "We work together," she said, but "oddly enough, we have the same vision."
    This month, the pair's shop is chock-a-block with masks. African animals. Japanese demons. Elegant fairies. Pearly unicorns. Intricately painted Day of the Dead skeletons. About 300 designs range in style from Venetian to Victorian and from sci-fi to steampunk.
    There are accessories, too: hats, gloves and just about any other item you might want for a masquerade: elf ears, pixie ears, and wings of dragons, butterflies and dragonflies, and even the feathered wings of Mercury. ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post )
    Artsmyths also carries clothing that might be best described as funky bohemian Gothic yoga fairy. There's a method behind that seeming mashup of style niches.
    "Our clothing can be costume or streetwear," said Tiffany. "You can wear our stuff on stage with the right accessories. It's more expensive that a boxed costume, but it's a better investment because you can sleep in it, do yoga in it or go out in it, depending on how you layer it up."
    The pair's masks begin with a leather base — leather because it's durable, natural and breathes. Held on with sturdy suede ties, they mold to the face of the wearer, making them more comfortable than plastic or rubberized masks. ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post )
    On that leather foundation, Tiffany and Lynn layer embellishments. More leathers, this time painted and tooled. Or feathers, fringes, cultured pearls. Swarovski crystals, glass beads, glitter, seashells, spikes, rivets or rhinestones in dizzying, surreal combinations.
    Tiffany's on a mission.
    "I want to change what people think is a costume. I like to see individuality and personal creativity instead of the same 'sexy nurse' costume," Tiffany said. "I don't like the cheap, acetate, mass-manufactured costumes. I like quality."
    On Saturdays this month, the store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and serves customers free wine and cookies and does costume consultations. Customers can bring in clothing to match it with a mask or, conversely, bring in a mask to hunt for accessories. They can get a hat styled.
    One recent Saturday, Tiffany was living her mission, wearing a black dress with sliced sleeves, feather earrings that dangled to her collarbones and medieval-style boots over the wings tattooed on her lower legs, while helping customers choose from among the simple eye patches that sell for $20 to mask creations that run around $350. The highest-dollar item that the shop produces is a ship hat that Tiffany makes only once a year; it sells for $2,000.
    The women know the secret of their shop's success. "Costume play is escapism," said Tiffany. "It's needed for all our hearts and psyches. ... When you're completely covered and nobody knows who you are, people respond to you so differently. Masks break down barriers."
    The maskmakers will demonstrate that principle at their shop's anniversary party at Mercury Café on Nov. 30, a month after the Halloween frenzy dies down. It's also Tiffany Smyth's birthday, and she's billing the live-band bash as an "Early Hollywood Revival Jazz Funeral Dead Celebrities Party."
    Lynn will be dressed as Charlie Chaplin. Tiffany?
    She's going as Frida Kahlo, another dark-eyed artist with colorful ideas.
    Colleen Smith is the author of "Glass Halo" and "Laid-Back Skier" by Friday Jones Publishing.
    Masks for makers
    Mother-daughter team Lynn and Tiffany Smyth offered the following tips for DIY masks.
    Safety first: Make sure you can see. Many masks obstruct peripheral vision, and that's dangerous.
    Comfort is important. "If it's uncomfortable, you won't wear the mask," Tiffany said. "And you want access to the mouth, so you can drink and eat."
    Smaller masks are easier to wear.
    Some leatherwork-supply stores, such as Tandy Leather, offer maskmaking classes, but the Smyths do not. "Even if you're super crafty, start with one of our leather forms and then go to Hobby Lobby to embellish it," Tiffany said.
    You can plan your whole costume around your mask — or vice versa. The thing to remember: Spend time on getting the right accessories. Tiffany Smyth, right, works on a recent order at ArtSmyths, the shop that she and her mother, Lynn, operate. Assisting Smyth are Atomic Sean, left, and Felixx Welliver, background. ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post ) Print
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