Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Raydene Salinas

There’s a clay pot resting on top of a cable box just outside of BKLYN Clay when I arrive as if it’s drying in the sun. It’s a hot-but-not-too-hot summery day, and I am happy to meet Raydene Salinas inside the cool (temperature and awesomeness-wise) clay studio where she is already working.

Most people get to have one life where they’re passionate about something they do, but Raydene is lucky: she has five. When she is not at the clay studio, she is a freelance photographer, Photo Editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut, the founder of the site Lady Guns Global which recognizes women's achievements around the world, and a certified yoga instructor. She also enjoys acro yoga and will later head to an acro yoga practice for an upcoming performance.

I met Raydene when I interviewed her about being a photo editor and it was a funny experience—within minutes I found myself speaking to her as if I had known her for years. She has a bubbly, welcoming aura that makes people feel at ease, whether they’re chatting at a Tribeca coffee shop or hanging out at a ceramics studio.

She just finished a little clay pot that's resting on a table in front of the pottery wheel where she sits. It will be a centerpiece for her upcoming wedding, and she has a few more to make before the big day. Today she will try for two more.

But first, a tour of the studio, a place she’s been coming to work on ceramics since the beginning of the year. Raydene tells me that for herself she tends to make items she specifically needs at home, like a juicer she recently finished. If not she worries her home will just fill up with ceramics because she loves working with clay so much. She has turned this passion into her own, newly-launched ceramics collection, sprig + arrow, for which she makes elegantly rustic yet modern mugs, bowls, plates, and more.

Downstairs, there are shelves upon shelves of ceramics made by studio members, Raydene included. I am terrified of swinging the wrong way and destroying everything. Luckily I don’t and everyone’s work stays intact. Raydene shows me more of her work, teeny pots and bowls in white and red and gray clay. Then we go upstairs, she ties up her beige apron printed with tiny horses and hits the wheel again, a bag of clay in front of her. She wets her hands and as if by magic forms gray lumps of clay into newer, slim, curved shapes and soon her hands, her legs, the apron, are covered in clay. She laughs and keeps spinning, making her way through a bag of four balls of clay before calling it a day.

To my untrained eye, everything is astounding because another human created something from nothing with their hands, but Raydene has higher standards. “Some days you only get one,” she says with a soft smile, packing up the clay.

Follow Raydene on Instagram and Twitter.
Follow Lady Guns Global on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.
Follow sprig + arrow on Instagram and Facebook

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mermaids V

As ever, some sights and scenes from the annual Mermaid Parade on Coney Island.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Katy Pyle

“It’s important to laugh,” says Katy Pyle. “Today I want to laugh.” 

Katy is the founder and Artistic Director of Ballez, a dance company and technique that rewrites traditionally gendered ballet narratives to include previously shut out gender expressions and non-gendered movements. It promotes inclusivity, diversity, positivity. As Pyle eloquently writes, it “invites everyone to witness and celebrate the history and performances of lesbian, queer, and transgender people,” and “the virtuosity of complexly gendered embodiment, energetic eloquence, queer coding, and the magical adaptability of expression that Ballez dancers have cultivated through their lives as a way to survive and thrive.” 

Since 2011, Katy has been teaching the original “Adult Ballez Class” at Brooklyn Arts Exchange in Park Slope. Katy and her co-teachers have now taught all over the country, from their regular weekly classes at Brooklyn Arts Exchange (or BAX) to Yale University, Bennington College, NYU, Sarah Lawrence College, and many other institutions. They have also been featured in The New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Dance Magazine, among others. 

In a cafe, Katy discusses feeling artistically stuck and blocked in relation to the country’s current political climate. For a long time, she danced only in her hallway, in natural, improvisational movement she would film and put on her Instagram, and with the Ballez classes she would teach every week. But she is feeling herself unravel a bit more these days, and has begun a series of “channels” as she calls them, in which she performs alternative versions of classic choreographers’ work in drag—most recently, she tackled George Balanchine. 

Every time Katy tells me something new she’s thinking about or experimenting with or creating, my jaw drops in awe and “You’re a genius!” spills from my mouth. But I really believe it. I think it takes a special kind of person to see a void in the art world then expertly fill it in a way that only they ever can. Since I first photographed Ballez in 2013, it’s been delightful and staggeringly wonderful to see it grow. 

Today, we are heading back to Katy’s roots. After the cafe, we make our way to BAX where she meets up with Madison Krekel, a Ballez company member who will be co-teaching Adult Ballez that day. They make notes for what they want to accomplish, like partner and barre work, and a laughing exercise Katy is especially invested in. In these times, she tells me, she needs a laugh and a Ballez class to keep her spirits up. 

Students file in and class starts. Everyone shares their name and pronoun of choice, then the laughter exercise begins, everyone leaning on each other’s stomachs and just starting to laugh and laugh. The lightness and the happiness that comes from it radiates through the length of the class, from barre work set to 4 Non-Blondes and Prince to original Ballez choreography set to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. At first some people are hesitant, but slowly they begin to open up—they watch, they smile, they dance. 

Follow Katy on Instagram
Follow Ballez on Instagram and Facebook