My next creator and magic-maker is a Renaissance man of the truest form. I first met JT somewhere in the very early 2000s as a fellow performer at the Renaissance Festival. I was playing a French peasant back then and he was on the Royal Court as the French Dauphin. He sparkled and certainly commanded the attention. He was pretty to look at and had a gorgeous singing voice during the Queen’s Musicale. I think he was delighted that I reverenced to him (as my Crown Prince). So many years later, I’m now Carpathian nobility and he comes back as a ‘playtron.’ I make a point to find him each year and see what he has been working on. He currently runs his own business, Kesler Kouture. He makes period pieces for renaissance festivals and play productions as well as formal gowns for special occasions.
|JT in one of his creations|
I asked JT when he first noticed his creative drive. I believe with him, he just never didn’t have it. He tells me that he was around 3 when he began carrying his little casio keyboard with him (even into school), a plinky security blanket. After seeing the Salisbury Symphony perform at what would become his alma mater, Catawba College, JT took up the violin at the delicate age of 9. He knew early on that he had an “undeniable love for music and the arts.”
JT confides that he was amazed at what wonderful things could be accomplished when artists collaborate and that he determined that he would take part in said collaborations. He studied every sort of artistic expression he found: painting, drawing, small scale sculpting and eventually sewing - which has become the primary focus of his artistic endeavors. JT is fortunate in that his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all strongly encourage his artistic studies and added to them. They demonstrated to him several of the special sewing and jewelry-making techniques that he uses today (cross-stitching, all types of needle point & hand-stitching techniques, making beaded & braid work jewelry). I will refer to my eldest daughter, who plays a princess on the Royal Court. One of her crowns is a JT creation and it is beautiful, a gold confection with hearts and butterflies on it.
JT is not limited to the making of beautiful things. He also loves singing, making music on a variety of instruments and ballet, though he amends he has not pursued dance in formal study but admires the forms and loves to watch it. JT is also attracted to drawing, painting, sculpture, foreign languages from all over the modern and ancient world (written & spoken). He enjoys the history behind the art forms as well, the origins and evolution of them. He is fascinated how work in one format or genre will lead to advances in another; moreover, his own work seems to progress in the same fashion, one design influencing and inspiring another.
I asked him what he is working on currently. “My current projects consist of completing a Cinderella ball gown and beginning a costume representing my Idea of what the Queen of the Fairies would look like, I call it the "Queen Mab Dress." Both of these gowns were inspired by my love of the classical fairy-tales and folklore from all over the world. I feel there is a great need to bring these creatures/people into our world/reality for others to enjoy and to hopefully inspire interest in these subjects for future generations. Fables, Folklore, and fairy-tales in their pure original forms are a virtually endless source of morals and ethics that I believe are crucial to maintaining our existence as a tolerant/intelligent/compassionate society.” I have seen JT at the festival in masculine and feminine garb and it all looks magnificent on him.
|JT and friend, both wearing his work|
Juxtaposing the need to create Art against maintaining an existence in the modern work is a constant struggle. JT explains, “I have to create to exist and vice versa but making it all work in the confines of the modern society in which we all live is quite daunting at times. The most frustrating thing about being an artist of any sort in this day and age, is that most people are not willing to pay for quality artwork and for the most part people as a whole are more interested in instant gratification and quantity rather than in quality of workmanship. I think this problem is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what all goes into creating a quality work of Art. There are many years of study and days of preparation (sometimes months and years) that go into making a wonderful quality work of art that most people are not even aware of. I think it is this lack of compassion/understanding for process that makes fitting in crafting with real life the most challenging of all for me personally.” I have heard that argument amongst my other draper and seamstress friends as well.
When asked if there is a market for his work, JT replied, “There is definitely a market for my creations but almost all of them must be scaled down in the details in order to make them cost effective and more accessible to the general public. Most of my original creations require many hours of skilled handwork and cannot be mass-produced, making each one a very unique and personalized work of art. Alas, I do end up making many things for just myself so that I don't have to think of cost and time factors. Making things for my personal collection (as well as gifts for family and friends) allows me to continually develop skills and use the different types of hand work that I love to do without having to always worry about the budget.” Another observation I have often heard from my needly friends, that people are so used to mass-production and garage sale prices that customers balk to hear $300+ prices for hand-made work.
|beaded bodice close-up|
|This dress was for a production of "Playhouse Creatures" at Catawba College.|
What is his dream creation? “I've always dreamed of creating a ball gown that looks like two roses made with crimson silk, satin & silk velvet. A rosebud for the bodice turned upright and a rose in full open bloom for the ball gown style skirt covered in red swarovski crystals and accented with clear swarovski crystals to look like dewdrops scattered over the entire gown. For now it will have to remain a dream though, because the cost of the materials alone is in excess of $800. However, I hope to open my own boutique one day and maybe have this gown as a showpiece for the store. I know it's a whopper of a dream but hopefully one day it can be a reality... le sigh.”
So, what does this consummate Renaissance man with more hobbies than eyelashes do for fun?
“This is a hard question...I like to make people smile, laugh, and feel good about themselves. I love to see people happy and enjoying life. I also love playing with my niece Maydie and spending time with my family and loved ones. What we do for fun is not as important to me as knowing that I am spending quality time with the ones who matter the most. Some of my most cherished moments in life are the ones that I have spent with my mother, she is now and always will be the embodiment of what I love most in this world.” Don’t I know how that goes?
So, anyone in North Carolina (or anywhere really) who would like to have some stunning work done by an accomplished man of the needle, please feel free to check out his Facebook page. He can be found under Kesler Kouture. If you would actually like some work done, JT asks, “If you would like to hire me for a specific sewing endeavor, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. When doing so please include your full name, preferred contact information, and a fully detailed description of your idea/request. I will respond to all serious inquiries within 24-48 hours of receiving it to follow up with you.”