Designer Annie Temmink coaxes ‘Beasts!’ to life

Join Annie Temmink and other artists for DIY crafting and a special performance at the opening of “Beasts!” on March 2. By Martyn Kyle Join Annie Temmink and other artists for DIY crafting and a special performance at the opening of “Beasts!” on March 2. By Martyn Kyle

After years spent living abroad and around the U.S., Annie Temmink thought something was missing from her native Charlottesville.

“I miss really great dancing and really wild visual clothing and adornment,” she says. “They’re rich opportunities for people to have moments of unbridled, creative expression, and they’re really critical for connection, and happiness, and all the things that most people want.”

As an internationally awarded sculptor and costume designer, Temmink is tackling the problem head-on by collaborating with other local artists to build “more wild and outrageous experiences in Charlottesville.”

The revolution begins with “Beasts!,” a show about imagining and creating wild creatures, on display in March at The Bridge PAI and featuring pieces in Temmink’s trademark style—architectural costumes with kinetic elements—developed around the idea of making creatures she hadn’t seen before.

“I didn’t set out to create a particular narrative,” she says. Rather, the works take on life once they are created, especially once they are worn.

In addition to soaking up the visuals and musical performances by Weird Mob and Free Idea at the “Beasts!” opening, visitors can try their hand at creating their own work. “I work with common household items like cardboard, construction scraps and cast-off materials, and I think that adds to the fun,” Temmink says.

Her wearables center on elaborate headdresses that sweep up, down or out, spanning the wearer’s crown, shoulders or entire body. From dangling mobiles to fanning coronas to glittering starbursts made of spoons, her concepts begin with everyday items and go big.

“The first time you look at a spoon, you’re like, ‘I don’t know what to do with this,’” she says. But her willingness to explore—to look at a spoon over and over again, to get inspired by ice crystals and plant geometry, to arrange and rearrange shapes with pleasing emotional qualities until something clicks—evolves into works that are larger than life.

Growing up in an artistic family—her father is a carpenter and her mom runs City Clay—Temmink always made things by hand. In college, she studied sculpture and realized she wanted to do something beyond “make this thing that sits on the wall.”

After college, she became a Watson Fellow, receiving $25,000 and 12 months to pursue a research topic outside the U.S. “I made adornment and costumes and textiles in Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Indonesia, Japan and India,” she explains. “Seeing how adornment is celebrated in other cultures gave me the link that costume is sort of like sculpture but way more fun.”

Once back in Charlottesville, she got a job working in carpentry and rented a studio space where she made costumes after work and on weekends. “It was definitely one of those jumping off the deep end moments,” she says. But Temmink was committed to going outside her comfort zone, to showing up to the work and being disciplined about creation.

In 2016, she produced a fashion show for the Maker Faire and began making giant hats. From there, she started getting commissions for theaters and private clients, including a fireproof Donald Trump wig for a fire ballet opera company and bedazzled shorts for Ke$ha, and for numerous fashion shows along the East Coast.

Most recently, Temmink’s work was featured at the World of Wearable Art in Wellington, New Zealand. “It’s like the Olympics of costumes,” she says. “The most amazing things you’ve ever seen are on display in this hybrid of fashion and theater and runway.

The organization found her work on Instagram, invited her to submit it, and her creation went on to win the award for Best New Entrant.

“It’s really as simple as staring doubt in the face, and saying, ‘Look, I hear you, but I’m not going to go with that. I’m really going to be courageous and explore this idea, even if it’s crazy, or it’s not profitable,” Temmink says. “…because there’s something about it that’s really important.’”

The beasts in “Beasts!” originate from that very same place. “The concept came from thinking a lot about the blocks that come up in a creative practice. To me, a beast is a thing that has a positive side to it, but it might look overwhelming at first.”

And of course, she says, it’s also huge fun to make a giant creature.

“The point of all of it is a joyful expression,” she says. “To make me laugh, to make other people laugh. As we get older there’s less and less room for that, or it doesn’t come up because we take things so seriously. I think it’s important to create your own joy. And there’s nothing more fun than making these wild creatures and getting to see how they come to life.”

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