MEL: How long have you been in business and why the names for your shops ‘Pearls & Swine’ and ‘Temptress of Waikiki’?
BINK: I love the names I have chosen, but its hard coming up with a name for your business; it needs to be right, memorable and reflective. Pearls & Swine came about 3 or 4 years ago, it's hard to pin point as it's been a long journey with a lot of mistakes, twists and turns.
I call my business "Pearls & Swine" as a reference to the biblical quote "Don't cast your pearls before the swine". I guess on some level it's referring to my religious upbringing. "Pearls and swine" is something I used to say when referring to not being understood. It's a bit Ying Yang, contradictory, juxtaposed, pretty/ugly, that is very much what I am all about, as is the work I do. I appreciate that some might consider my work silly or OTT, this doesn't concern me, as enough people get what Pearls & Swine is about. I am not driven by a need for fame or fortune. I am driven by my love affair with creating, and getting feed back from customers who tell me that they felt wonderful in my work is the cherry on top!
"Temptress of Waikiki" is a quote from The Adams Family Values movie, it always makes me laugh when I watch the movie as Gomez is freaking out in the police station regarding Debbie, who has intoxicated Fester - he calls her "The Temptress of Waikiki" as she and Fester went on honeymoon to Hawaii. I wasn't sure what to call my burlesque business and while thinking about it The Adams Family came on and it hit me....... it was the perfect name for a burlesque business.
MEL: Do you have formal qualifications or are you self taught?
BINK: I am dyslexic but practical, I haven't studied. I have noticed many talented artists I have met have felt very under confident or even embarrassed by not studying. I am not rated by my qualifications; I am rated by what I do, so I am not ashamed of this. I have done my time, if most study for 3 years to gain a qualification I have more than that, I have not been told what is the "right way" to do what I do but I have found my own way. It has been an organic process, each idea is a step that leads to the next, I am obsessive and a perfectionist but I see the evolution of my work. I am not content to rest on my laurels. I want to do better every time I made something. So I feel very much that I have benefited from not studying or doing an internship, I feel less rigid or fashion/rule bound as a direct result. My life has been quite strange and when I look back I can see very clearly that I am the result of all I have endured, everything happened for a reason and it's all been worth it to reach this point. I can't remember ever having any real interest in millinery oddly enough, I even struggle to refer to myself as a milliner, and it sounds quite pompous to me. I have always loved art; and I am a very visual person. We didn't have a TV when I grew up but the few movies I was allowed to watch were old Hollywood movies, I always loved costume. I am not inspired by sewing, so costume making wasn't for me. I learn from my mistakes and I confess I do make a few, if you keep working on something you can normally flip it from a mistake into something amazing as it means you have to think outside the box!
MEL: You have two different websites - one is your pearls and swine and the other your Burlesque range, Temptress of Waikiki why the two different sites?
BINK: Pearls & Swine has benefited from this split in my business for several reasons. The first being when women shop they look at the whole image, and prior to this split I used to shoot the headwear WITH the pasties/c-strings, and sadly nipple pasties are burlesque so this put all my work into a niche market.
MEL: Where do you get your inspiration from?
BINK: Inspiration is the state in which I live. I think it's almost impossible to know where it comes from. I avoid looking at other people's headwear as much as humanly possible, plus I don't follow fashion or buy magazines but wherever I go and whatever I see I am thinking "Can I put that on my head?”. I adore colour, glitter, Halloween, insects, flowers, birds, religious icons, cultures, pop surrealism, past eras. I always want to do something that is unique, once something is done it seems a bit pointless redoing it, so if I am aware that another designer has done something I would avoid doing it or find a way to make it my own.
MEL: Do you have a muse?
BINK: I generally have several muses at anytime, they come and go but they are always real people that I meet or know, not celebrities. My first and constant muse is a beautiful drag queen called Kitschi who lives in a pink fairylike world that she has created and few will ever have the privilege of seeing. She inspired me from the minute I met her, and is a very talented artist in her own right. She is living art, which is what I love most, people who ARE art!
MEL: I know you design a lot for Burlesque artists, but who else might wear your pieces?
BINK: I do design for burlesque performers, but my headwear is now increasing being worn by Ladies who go to the races, brides, proms and more occasions. I do a lot of bespoke creations now which I love as it means I get to create something new and different. Customers who allow me the most freedom I think benefit most, if I feel relaxed and confident in what I am doing I think the end result shows that.
MEL: Who would you love to design a customised head piece for and why?
BINK: The person I would have most loved to create something for is Isabella Blow, probably the most famous hat wearer ever. I think she was fabulous in every way, an icon, eccentric and living art. I once read that she attempted suicide by driving into a Tesco delivery truck - upon recovery said she always hated Tesco. Sadly she is now wearing hats in heaven and I will never have that opportunity! I do have a soft spot for the ladies on a blog called Advanced Style, this is a blog devoted to older women who aren't giving up on being fabulous just because they are older. In particular a darling lady called Ilona Smithkin, she is such an inspiration. She makes me look forward to getting older. I totally intend to grow old disgracefully and to be a gaudy rock and roll granny! So she is the one person I would REALLY love to make something for!
MEL: Have you designed a new range of headpieces/pasties recently, and can you tell us about them?
BINK: I design new work every week; I need to keep sane while recreating old work which people can order via my website. I have neglected the burlesque side of my business while being very focused on the Pearls & Swine side and what you focus on most is most likely to thrive. So I put a collection of pasties together for my latest shoot which benefited from me having recently created some very OTT hair accessories. I wanted to create images that were very decadent and retro. It's hard to shoot nipple pasties without them looking burlesque, but I think I managed to achieve this! I still enjoy creating burlesque costume, but headwear is where my heart is right now.
MEL: What kind of magazines feature your designs, and which magazine would you love to feature in?
BINK: It's a bit random really, just had some gay/lesbian magazine and a golfing magazine too. Pearls & Swine was in the Official Royal Ascot Magazine this year. I get some burlesque and pin up work too. My work just made it onto Vogue Italia's site. I think every designer wants Vogue magazine. I hope I get that one day, but I am not playing by the rules of fashion. I don't network, I don't put out two collections a year, or do catwalks, and I don't have a PR company representing my business. I am far too impatient for that stuff and not interested in celebrity. I just want to create, I am a real person, and the fashion world isn't a world that interests me. Oddly enough I am not interested in millinery; I am interested in art and the "theatre of being". My art is more focused on being art, not art you put on your walls.... though the walls of my home are full of what I consider art! So I wouldn't be surprised if my creative journey takes me away from headwear to towards sculpture or installations. I love 3D art.
MEL: How would you manage your studio if you suddenly got drawn into the big time business?
BINK: I hope my business never gets to the point of being beyond what I can control. I am very reluctant to work with anyone else creatively. I have now reached the point of not being able to do wholesale as I have enough business to keep me busy, but it's still manageable. I think at some point I will get someone in to help with the internet stuff, paperwork, researching materials, pot office, blogging etc. My business is unlikely to ever reach the point of needing to become a factory as most of my work is quite avant garde and as a creative I need to create not recreate. Once I make something I am no longer involved with it, it's like once it is "expressed" it is done for me, so I may end up going in the direction I originally intended: making just one of a kind items. I see this as a journey, I have no idea of where I am going but I can look back and see how far I have come creatively and as a person and I know that I can deal with whatever will come.
MEL: If you could choose a piece of music which represents your style which track would you play?
BINK: Ooohhh, good question! There are so many songs. I need music on while I work and my taste is very eclectic. I think if I had one song I would choose Goldfrapp: No 1, I have a soft spot for Glam Rock and the album ‘Supernature’ it is so glam. I adore the 80's too, The Cure are the band I play no matter how I feel they are always the right music. I love The Pixies and Depeche Mode too....
MEL: Your home is an amazing collection of vintage, antique and the curiously bizarre, which is your favourite collectable?
BINK: I see my home as an extension of myself. It's very reflective of me; it's an art project that will never end. I live in West Yorkshire which I adore. I am a charity shop, car boot addict. I am drawn to ugly things, retro art and furniture, taxidermy, kitsch things, bright colours, icons. Living in West Yorkshire means I find these things very easily. I think my favourite collectable is J.H. Lynch art, though I love all art from that era. I love the cursed Crying Children art and have a huge collection of art that would have decorated kid’s bedrooms in the 70's. It's creepy and dreadful, that is why I love it.
MEL: You have a religious themed entrance, with all manner of artefacts, why do you think you are drawn to the religious and are you religious in anyway?
BINK: I had a very strict religious upbringing; the end result is I have no interest in religion and its restrictions, demands and lack of reality. I think I have a slight fixation with this art as a result of being told it was evil as a child.
I have recently begun designing Virgin Mary headdresses, I have lots of them planned and I would LOVE to do an art show with them. Not a fashion show, I want the work displayed as art. I don't know why. I hope no one will buy anything as I love it so much I would be devastated to sell it!
MEL: Finally I noticed you were very inspired by Hollywood glamour, who is the most glamorous queen of all in your eyes?
BINK: Anne Baxter, she played Nefertiti in the 10 Commandments.... for me she steals the movie. I love her voice, her look especially in that movie. She is very catlike and sexy. I know everyone loves Marilyn or Marlene or Betty Page, I love them too but for me Anne is the girl I loved best.
Thank you Bink I look forward to receiving my custom piece!
Interview/photos by Melanie Smith - www.mudkissphotography.co.uk
Photo of Bink [top] is by photographer: Fashion Loves Photos