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January 6th, 2005

125 Plumage: Isanti Azul flaunts magnificent feathers

by Leda Resurreccion

ISanti Azul is the brainchild of Ivonne Santiago. The creator, holding a degree in psychology, founded this creative vein through performance. The early summer of 2004 still had resonance from the off Broadway production of Goddess dance & the Black & Blue Ball. A few weeks of finding random feathers on the sidewalks of New York City held sway over an idea in the making.

plumage: n., the light horny waterproof structure forming the external covering of birds.

ISanti Azul consists of original pieces made with ostrich, coq, goose, pheasant and egret feathers. Finding the best plumage or feathers in NYC can only be from Dirsch Feathers. Jay Dirsch’s business originated in Queens and eventually moved to midtown. He supplies individual designers such as Ivonne Santiago, Bob Mackey and endless numbers of Broadway shows. He is one of the last of the “plumassiers.” Other suppliers work in bulk for production line pieces. The plumassier supplies individual feathers for the construction of boas; egret tufts which are sprayed, dyed and at times, “burnt.” The usage of rare bird feathers has been banned since the Edwardian Age in Europe. Most feathers are from farmed feathers of specific birds.

The majority of Ivonne’s designs contain “coq.” Coq, or rooster feathers, are usually from China. The feathers are custom dyed and sometimes burnt.” This is a difficult stripping process which uses chemicals. It leaves the remaining feather with a unique texture.

The ISanti Azul pieces are structured for lightweight wear. The creator utilizes a process used by theater costume designers. Some of the pieces contain anywhere from 60 to over 200 feathers hand cut or stripped by Ivonne. The construction can take from 2 hours to 1 week. One of the larger pieces, a mohawk made with 65 pheasant feathers, took 4 hours to construct. Some smaller mohawks are made from the lesser-priced turkey feather but have been brilliantly dyed. The most recent is a red, white and blue custom turkey Mohawk tipped with tiny rhinestones.

ISanti Azul has available a series of neckpieces using goose and coq feathers. These pieces contain jet beads, Swarovsky crystals, pearls and glass wrapped in wire and backed by raw silk or grosgrain. The feathers give a hint of the Belle ?¢‚Ǩ¬¶poque meets the new millennium. The headpieces are for the more daring.

The artist is inspired by different cultures, including the Aztecs, various American Indian tribes and eastern head wraps. The Carnival, The Opera, burlesque and her own performances are the sweetener to her ideas. The new hats are her homage paid to the Edwardian Age. Top hats with rakish ostrich, coq and egret, dappled with rhinestones are the latest pieces. The custom headpieces are large, extremely feminine and brightly colored.

Isanti Azul creations can be found at Gothic Renaissance (108 4th Avenue, between 11th and 12th Street) and view the website for more retail locations: www.ISantiAzul.com.

Filed Under: Articles | Arts & Leisure | New York

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