Archive for the ‘interview’ Category

Blowing Up: An Interview with Balloon Artist Molly Munyan.

March 17, 2016

Molly Munyan in her Royals-inspired balloon dresses (image credit: Bo Flores Photography)

Molly Munyan is a Kansas City-based balloon artist. She is known for her handcrafted balloon outfits. Munyan recently held a balloon fashion show. Molly discussed how she became interested in crafting balloon outfits, her creative process

Did you come from an artistic family?
Somewhat, my parents met through doing theater in college. They are artistic, but more on the performance side. I am definitely the child that is the culmination of the most artistic aspects of both of my parents. I am definitely the only one to try and make a career out of the arts. My two older biological brothers, neither of them are terribly artistic. I kind of got the lotto on the artiness.

What was your first memory of making art growing up?
I don’t really know, but I was always the kid that had my hands in something. Wrestling and soccer after recess, that wasn’t me. Staying late after art class, that was always me. I was always doing something. I haven’t had that much inclination towards 2D. It’s been origami, ceramics and Play-Doh, dumb shit like that. I’ve always been doing something like that.

What inspires your personal fashion sense?
Someone asked me, “If I was a combination of two icons, who would I be?” Easy, Pee-Wee Herman and Beyoncé. Getting dressed, I follow the motto of, “If I look like I would look good in a music video, I’m good to go.” Not all music video looks look the same, but they are extremely whatever they are. I want to look extremely whatever I look like. Just never settle.

What got you interested in creating balloon art?
I really just stumbled into it as a kid. I learned how to when I was bored in my parent’s basement. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I picked it back up. Everyone sort of asked me at once if I do parties. I was like, “Uhhh, I can.” The way I became a business professional is that I called Chick-fil-A and told them I’m a professional if they would hire me. They said yes, so I became a professional.

What was the first outfit you created out of balloons?
I was homecoming queen in high school. I made my homecoming dress out of balloons. I prototyped it a couple of times, but that was the first outfit I made. It’s what got me into it.

What is your creative process for crafting balloon fashion?
Making a balloon dress. Step one: Caffeinate. My creative process for the balloon dresses kind of varies. Sometimes, I’m like sitting at a stoplight and think, “This would be a great skirt design.” Then, I sketch it and I have it in the bank when I want to make a balloon dress. Other times, I sit down with a blank mental canvas and say, “What am I going to go for?” A lot of times, I have sketches in my balloon dress sketchbook. I pull from them, I pull from ideas that I’ve had. It always ends up a little different than you could ever plan. On paper or in your mind, it will never look the same as on the form. There are changes you do make along the way, but I do have a plan for it. Always.

How long does it take you to complete an outfit from start to finish?
It depends on what I’m making. A lot of the process is the creative process. Me sitting there going, “What am I going to do?” If I made a look and made the exact same look afterwards, it would take two-thirds of the time. It cuts out the creative process and I’ll I have to do is make balloons. Around 15 hours, often more, rarely less.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Honestly, my biggest challenges are just sort of being a real person. Responding to emails, being places on time, staying on top of the little things that aren’t fun. I’m much better at big artsy projects that I’m excited about. It’s always been hard for me to get shit done when I’m not passionate or inspired about what I’m doing. That’s a big challenge, getting things done to get me to the place where I want to be. The big art projects, the exciting, new things.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto that you live by?
“No one can be uncheered with a balloon.” -Winnie the Pooh.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.” -Buddha

Also, “Be here now” is a thing I think about a lot. Living every moment to the fullest and that bullshit. My watch says now on it, so I can look down and remind myself that the time is now. No time like the present to be happy and make others happy.

What advice would you give to designers just starting out?
This is a piece of advice that I received from my favorite poet Steve Roggenbuck, “Make art that you like. If you make art that you think is going to attract the most people, you’ll find that your audience Is watered down with people that don’t like the real you or interested in the real you.” He also says that over time, you can’t fake passion. Do what you’re passionate about, things that you love. Your inspiration will never die if you’re still excited about what you are doing. You can even see with my Royals and Chiefs dresses, they were like marketing pieces. I don’t see them as sellouts because I loved what I was doing. I was excited about every part of the process. They were totally fun to make. I wasn’t making them for anyone but myself. It was fun.


Molly in her Chiefs-inspired balloon dress (image credit: Bo Flores Photography)

The Future of Fashion: Sex + Ice Cream.

March 15, 2016

Nicole Leth, owner and creator of Sex and Ice Cream.

What does the future look like? Probably a lot like Nicole Leth. Nicole is the creator of Kansas City, MO-based fashion line Sex + Ice Cream. She is opening a boutique in Kansas City, also called Sex and Ice Cream, in May. Nicole recently discussed how she became interested in fashion, her creative process and the qualities she looks for in innovative designers.

Did you come from an artistic family? Were your parents artistic?
Not really artistic, more creative I would say. Both my parents were in the medical field. My dad was a doctor and my mom is a nurse. I would say I got most of my creativity from my dad though. He was brilliant, like a literal genius. He wrote books on the side and made jewelry all while being one of the top anesthesiologists in the country and traveling the world. I definitely have his brain and learned how to be driven from him. He was an amazing human being.

What first got you interested in fashion?
I was always, always, always a fashion buff. As a kid I would read fashion magazines and then doodle the clothes on Sailor Moon look-a-likes in my journal and make up scenarios about where she would wear the outfits. When I got older I would mow lawns all summer long to make money and save up to buy some of the designer clothing I saw in magazines. I had it all calculated out. I knew that a Marc Jacobs bag = 7 lawns or a Kate Spade top = 3 lawns.

What inspires your personal style?
Everything. A lot of the times, its my mood when I wake up in the morning. You’ll know I’m having a good day based on how colorfully I’m dressed. Songs inspire me too. I’ll listen to a song and all of a sudden have an idea for an outfit based on the way the song made me feel. Lately, I’ve been really into the Beach Boys and have been putting together outfits with a lot of sheer neon, gingham, and kind of tropical-vintage silhouettes- all things the Beach Boys make me feel.


Nicole Leth (image via

Who are some of your favorite designers and why?
Someone who influenced me very early on was Betsey Johnson. I remember the first time I stepped inside a Betsey store and was blown away by the patterns and unapologetic femme edge to everything. As I got older and started to make fashion my career I started to find more designers / brands with brains like mine that really influenced me and helped me grow in my own way. Peggy Noland, Seth Bogart, Emma Mullholland, Jeremy Scott, and Lazy Oaf have been some of those for me.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge, by far, has been being taken seriously as a professional. I’m a 23-year-old girl who embraces her sexuality but also has her own business – which is apparently a hard concept for people to grasp (and it shouldn’t be). A blonde in a crop top and hot shorts who is ALSO a motivated businesswoman, store owner, writer, artist, and has an 4.0 GPA!?!? WOW WOULD YA LOOK AT THAT!!!!?!? But all jokes aside, it’s been a struggle to work with people and have the respect factor there. I’m a very trusting person and its been a huge challenge to realize that people may not always be what they say there are/may not have your best interest.

How did the concept for Sex + Ice Cream come together?
It all started when I was 18 and going through a bad break up. I was absolutely heartbroken after I found out (who I thought was) the love of my life was cheating on me. I wanted to do something to empower myself and build something that would belong to me, and only me, for the rest of my life. So I decided that I wanted to start a clothing line. That boy and I used to do a thing where we would eat a pint of ice cream after we had sex and he would always tell me “Nicole sex and ice cream is OUR thing, you’ll never be able to do this with anyone else.” So that night when I decided that I was heartbroken and decided that I was going to start a clothing line I immediately knew that I wanted to call it “Sex + Ice Cream.” It was my way of telling him “No, sex and ice cream is MY thing and you can NEVER take it away from me.” I’ve obviously moved on since then and I haven’t talked to (let alone thought about) that guy for years now but to me the name “Sex + Ice Cream” is less about revenge now and more symbolic of a teenage girl choosing her dreams over a boy for the first time in her life and believing in herself for the first time in her life.

What was the first piece of clothing you designed for Sex + Ice Cream?
It actually all started with some fabric I designed with bras all over it. I did these little doodles in my journal of these bras that reminded me of some of the powerful female friends and family and then screen printed them all over yards of fabric. I absolutely fell in love with the process of taking personal drawings and turning them into repeat patterns and designing textiles. I ended up making an entire collection of clothing out of that bra printed fabric and showing them at my first fashion show when I was 19. I still get emotional when I think about that first collection, it represents so much to me.

You are opening a Sex + Ice Cream store in Kansas City soon. You are featuring clothing from female designers from all over the country. What qualities do you look for in the work of designers you are going to be featuring?
I’ve been picking brands that have been influential to me, my personal style, my womanhood, and my artistic career. I made a list before I ever knew I was going to open a store of brands and designers I wish were sold in Kansas City. They range from small scale independent makers I’ve found on Instagram to big-time clothing brands that I’ve been shopping online from for years. Its important that their aesthetic fits with mine in some way and I’m really excited to create a retail collective of pieces and objects that are meaningful to me!

What is your creative approach to designing fashion?
I design based on what I am experiencing at that given moment in time. Much like my personal style, the clothing I design reflects who I am, what I am thinking about and feeling and what I am interested in at this exact moment in time. I’m interested in the narrative qualities of clothing and treating it as a visual diary. I think about designing the fabric first and then I think about what type of garments I want to make from the fabric.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by? What advice would you give to designers just starting out?
The most important thing you can ever do when something negative happens to you (whether it be in the professional world with your business/job or in your personal life with a romantic partner) is turn it into something good — something that you can learn from or better yourself from or just let go of. I’ve realized over the past years that a bad thing can only be bad if you let it be, but once you take the power away from the bad and turn it into something good that you can ultimately use to better yourself. You are capable of anything. This is empowering yourself. Knowing that nothing can ever break you down completely is a very stabilizing thought. For example, when I was 18 and going through that break up I thought that my life was over. I thought nothing good could ever possibly come from that. But without that bad break up, I wouldn’t have felt that fire to decide to chase my dream and start Sex + Ice Cream. That incident helped me see how strong I was and believe in myself more than I ever had before. And that’s the most important thing.

Past Interview Subject Jon Cleary Wins a Grammy.

February 16, 2016

Jon Cleary (image via

Congratulations to past interview subject Jon Cleary on his Grammy win for Best Regional Roots Music album. The NOLA-based pianist is one of the funkiest players out there. Here is my interview with Jon from 2010.

For more of my audio interview with New Orleans artists, check out my podcast, New Orleans Voices.


Interview With a Mermaid: Aurelia Gyldenscale.

January 29, 2016

Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit Joey Kirkman)

I recently posted a satirical piece on mermaids. However, I wanted to dive in deeper on the subject and gain some insight from a professional mermaid. Aurelia Gyldenscale is a Kansas City-based mermaid. She is known as the Heartland Mermaid. Aurelia recently discussed how she became interested in mermaiding, her creative process and advice to aspiring merpeople. For more info on Aurelia Gyldenscale, check out and her Facebook page.

What inspired you to become a professional mermaid? 

Growing up, I loved to read fantasy books and books about world mythology. I don’t recall ever reading any specifically about mermaids, but it was the imagination and the adventure that I sought. When I got into college I had less time to read for pleasure. I think the opportunity to escape into a world of fantasy and adventure is what brought me to involve myself with the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I worked at KCRF in several different positions for a few years. First as a henna artist, then as Queen of the Fae and the Princess of Denmark. In 2014, they were casting for mermaids, so I auditioned. After that first season, I fell in love with the character, the interactions and the mythology. I started working with Merbella Studios, out of Florida, to create my own custom silicone tail and started planning to take on more event appearances once it was finished. The rest is history.

Are there any challenges to being a mermaid in the Midwest? 

It can be harder to find work when you’re not near an ocean and finding a place to swim can be a bit more challenging as well. Most people in the Midwest haven’t seen a monofin before, let alone a full tail, so a big part of the process is educating them about what it is, how I use it safely, and letting them know that I have insurance. It’s still worth the extra effort. 


Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit J. Berendt)

How old were you when you designed your first mermaid outfit? 

24. The first mermaid tail I’ve helped design is my current tail. At KCRF we rented tails, so I didn’t have much creative input in the actual tail itself. However, I’ve been making costume pieces and accessories for all of my Ren Fair and Circus characters for about six years. I’m a very crafty fish.

What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about mermaids?

I feel like the biggest misconception about mermaids is that you have to fit into this stereotypical idea of what it is to be a mermaid in order to live the dream. You don’t have to have an incredibly expensive silicone tail or be a certain size or have a certain length hair to have fun as a mermaid. There are so many affordable options for fabric tails these days that anyone can realize their dream of being a mermaid. One of my dreams is to eventually open up a mermaiding school where I can help teach people how to be safe, maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, and harness their creativity while mermaiding.

How does your creative process work when designing outfits?

When I’m working on a piece, I usually go into a craft store knowing exactly what I want to do or where I want to go creatively. Then I try to find the materials, fail miserably, and come up with something new (and most of the time better) from what I see is actually available. For inspiration, I like to browse traditional mermaid imagery in art and popular culture. I’ve spent more than a little time on Pintrest weighing ideas as well. A big thing that is important to me is originality. My mermaid character may be inspired by different things I see or experience, but nothing in it is a copy. I want my props, costume pieces, and set items to reflect that goal as well.

What inspires your fashion sense?

I kind of go back and forth between a love of clean lines and minimalism and the “more is more” philosophy. So, it depends on the day how I’ll dress myself. I’ve also been a fashion model for about 6 years, which you would think would make me a fashionista. I think it’s done the opposite. I’ve spent so much time having other people doing my hair, makeup, and wardrobe for me that I like to not think too much about it all myself unless it’s a special occasion. The exception here is vintage clothing. I love vintage pieces. It’s a shame that it is hard to find them though (being 5’11”…women were so much smaller pre-1970s). 

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

Education, learning and growth are the most important aspects of my life. My favorite quote related to this is from Pablo Picasso: I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” If I see something that interests me, I go after it. I research it. I find a way to make it happen. 

What advice would you give to merpeople just starting out?

Start slow. Learn about the community. Be safe. Mermaiding is such a new hobby and sometimes people get this idea that it’s easy. At the end of the day, our tails are sports equipment, not toys, and need to be treated as such when swimming. Always swim with a buddy, always check your equipment before going in, and always be considerate of the other people around you. It only takes one unsafe swimmer to get monofins and tails banned in a public pool. As for everything besides swimming, there are tons of online resources through the Mernetwork forum. Take the time to learn about it, especially before investing large amounts of money, just like you would any other hobby. Come to it with an open, friendly attitude and people will be happy to help.


Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit Joey Jirkman)

Past Interview Subjects Nominated for 2016 Grammy Awards.

December 8, 2015

The 2016 Grammy nominations were announced today. Several of my past interview subjects received nominations this year. I choose most of my interview subjects. If I interview an artist, it is because I greatly respect their work. It is always a great honor to interview so many diverse, talented people.

Guitarist John Scofield is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo (for “Past Present”) and Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

The Punch Brothers are nominated for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for their song “Julep.” They are also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Jason Isbell is nominated for Best American Roots Song for “24 Frames.”  He is also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Pianist John Cleary is nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is nominated for Best World Music Album.

The Grateful Dead are nominated for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package.

DJ/Producer Kaskade is nominated for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix of the Galantis track “Runaway (U & I).”


Gratefully Deadicated: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead.

December 8, 2015

Photo credit:


Friday (12/4/15) marked the 50 anniversary of the formation of the Grateful Dead. I have been fortunate to interview three out of the four members of the “Core Four” and several former members of the Grateful Dead throughout the years. When you see the name Grateful Dead come up on the caller ID, you trip over yourself to grab the phone. Here are links to my past Dead-related interviews:

On playing with the Dead, “I’d find myself playing, say the right hand being with Jerry, and the right foot with the bass. Each limb being with a different instrument. Maybe doing my own talking with the snare drum, but filling for the other instruments with those other limbs and breaking it up like that. It got so you could really hear the pieces, who is doing what. You would separate it that way.”

Mickey Hart:…/mickey-hart-dancing-with-the…/ (Audio)

Bob Weir:…/the-grateful-deads-bob-weir-…/

On song selection with the Dead, “You know, if Jerry was singing and I was up next. I would have the whole song Jerry was singing to decide what I was going to do next. I’d sort of feel it out while I was playing Jerry’s song. I’d just call out what I was going to do, and we would go into that. Then it was Jerry’s turn.”

Bruce Hornsby (who played keyboards with the Dead in the late ’80s/early ’90s):…/bruce-hornsby-interview/

On learning to play with the Dead, “I considered my self fairly well versed in their music, which meant I knew about 40 Dead songs. I thought that was a lot. They had a revolving list of about 160, that were on their list of songs in active rotation. It meant I had to learn about 120 songs. That was definitely challenging, but they were so loose about it. It was such a loose environment. They hated to rehearse, kind of like I do. I’m the same way. They would just tell me the key and just say, “OK, just wing it.” Some of their music is very simple, and some of it is very complex. “Help On the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower,” that part in the middle isn’t something you can just wing. You can’t hear that and play it. You have to learn it. You have to spend time wood shedding it. There were several songs like that. Those would often be the most enjoyable songs to play, once you learned how to play them. There’s a little more meat on the instrumental bones. It was really fun, but they were a lot to learn. I could have probably done a better job of doing my homework. I did what I did. I can’t say I did my best. I probably could have been a little more studious in my wood shedding of the songs. I tended to just use my ears. Frankly, I would just lay out a lot when I didn’t know something. Often, the best thing to play is nothing. There’s a lot of players up there. Often, I would just sit there. People would think, “Why is Bruce not playing? He must be bummed out or something.” It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was just trying to leave some space. Also, a lot of times, I wouldn’t be playing because I didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I didn’t know it, so why be up there sucking? All in the name of looking like I’m into it and playing. I would just stop.”

Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead keyboardist from 1968-1970);…/qa-with-tom-constanten-forme…/

On touring with the Dead, “The usual vicissitudes of travel. The music is the easy part, I’ve often said. Some people get stage fright. Not me. I get stage calm. After the day’s hassles with flight connections, hotel reservations, and all, it’s when I’m finally seated in front of the keyboard that I feel most in control.”

The Grateful Dead helped change the face of modern music. Happy 50th! What a long, strange trip it’s been.

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