I got chatting with lovely Sylvanna Yukich. She’s the mega talented gal behind Miss Scarlet in the Ballroom. Picture those gorgeous vintage style mannequin heads in shop windows adorned with feathered hats, furs and jewellery. These beauties would style the clothing and accessories in a way that would make buyers… buy them!
How fun window shopping would of been back in the day with such beautiful displays. Miss Scarlet in the Ballroom is bringing back the classic, vintage looking mannequin heads with her own unique style. I asked her a few questions to learn more about her, and the processes behind her creations.
1. How did your brand name ‘Miss Scarlet in the Ballroom’ come about?
That’s an easy one, my favourite Cluedo character! It took a while to come up with something and that popped into my head one day and i felt like it just really worked.
2. What would be your favourite creation to date, and why?
I love them all, each one has a certain element that I’m always totally chuffed with once the whole piece is finished. Your one had to be the frosted crown complete with the little plush bejeweled centre and recently the multi tonal purple hair for Duchess DeBerry. I would have to say my favourite creation though would have to be Lucille Ball. it was such a passion project, I just love her, I watched many ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes while I worked on that one.
3. How did you learn all the processes of taking an old mannequin head and turning it into something beautiful and new looking?
I’m surprised at myself really, I was always terrible at the practical making projects at uni. I did a lot of googling to try and find techniques for what I was trying to achieve so it’s sort of a mixture of techniques I found and just my own way of figuring things out. My partner works a lot with motorcycles on both the mechanics and panel/paint work so some of his workshop techniques actually helped along the way, turns out trying to get the best finish for a mannequin isn’t very far off from trying to get a good finish for a gas tank, it’s all about the prep work!
4. Have you ever had a mannequin disaster where something has gone completely wrong?
One word, varnish! It is the devil. Months of work and a perfect paint job can be undone in a matter of moments if the varnish goes wrong. My biggest disaster was when I freshly varnished a mannequin on our coffee table, I went to shift the table to give it a 360 degree check, not grabbing both of the collapsable table legs they snapped closed and the glass top went over and so did the glistening wet with varnish mannequin, it went for a decent roll through the carpet! It was one of those slow motion moments that just happens right before your eyes but you can’t do anything about it. So that all had to be sanded back and have some of the paint retouched, luckily not the face! So glad it wasn’t the face!
5. How much time goes into prepping and finishing your designs?
A lot of time! Once i have a design/idea in mind or from a client I pretty much go gung-ho straight into it as I get so excited about it and then it becomes a slow process, lots of drying time and painful sanding to get a perfect as possible finish. Sometimes it can take longer than i anticipate if there is a logistical problem and I have to figure out how to make something, an interesting one was trying to figure out how to incorporate glasses for Vintage Pip’s mannequin. But then comes the fun part, the painting, because a piece can come together so quickly with certain details and it’s so exciting.
6. You studied a Bachelor of Design, was there anything in particular that you wanted to do once you graduated?
Yes I did do a Bachelor of Design and actually majored in Interior Design. I learnt a lot from that degree but I wouldn’t say I was super passionate about it. At school I always loved art and when the decision is thrust upon you at the young age of 17 to decide what your career will be, I was like ‘ummmm, I like art…’. I did apply for jobs in the interior design field for some time after graduating and didn’t get any of them, but it seems to be a hard industry to break into. I had always wanted to do my own thing anyway and I guess that’s what I’m doing now with Miss Scarlet.
7. I know you quite like your golden eras from the 20’s right through to the 50’s, but if you had to pick just one decade as your favourite which would it be and why?
Late 20s into the 30s for sure. The architecture, fashion, furniture, design, cars, music, dance and the sort of cozy sophisticated glamour that it portrayed. Entertainment was such a big thing back then too, so many talented performers from that era. I particularly enjoy Buster Keaton and Fred and Ginger films as well as some Dixieland Jazz.
8. Can you remember which mannequin head required the most skill, or challenged you the most?
Although she was my favourite, Lucy was absolutely the most challenging. I built up and tore down about 5 iterations of the poodle hairstyle before I got it right, I always work from pictures so the curls ended up being flat to the head for the first few tries as I couldn’t visualise it in 3D, then I had to think about how the curl is actually constructed and how would I ‘sculpt’ those curls if I was doing this hairstyle on myself, then it finally worked. Working with clay was also new for me as well, but it worked out great in the end.
9. Where do find the most inspiration?
It’s hard to pinpoint, from lots of places, I might see a particular image, film or a certain person that really sparks my interest or something that I’m just generally really interested in. For instance I loved visiting Versailles and the story of Marie Antoinette, I can’t wait to finish the Marie I started about a year ago but her hair is so huge I need to figure out how that will work without her tipping over.
10. And lastly, what’s your favourite sweet treat?
I went through a hilarious outer monologue to my partner just now to conclude that my favourite sweet treat is definitely donuts!
How amazing is Miss Scarlet in the Ballroom? I’m so chuffed with my own custom-made mannequin head ‘Gene Gateaux’ – I love her so much and she looks wonderful in my boudoir.