Text and Interview: Monica Uszerowicz
Photos: Todd Weaver
Video Courtesy of AWAVEAWAKE and Maximilla Lukacs
Soft and billowy smoke gives way to a dancing girl, moving just like those grey vapors, so ethereal in form she might be a nymph. “A Thousand Petals,” the video for AWAVEAWAKE’s Spring 2017 collection, feels like a meditative, moving Rossetti painting, lush and floral. A collaborative work between AWAVEAWAKE designer Jaclyn Hodes, director Maximilla Lukacs, and songwriter Flo Morrissey, “A Thousand Petals” features Morrissey–whose beautiful voice scores the short film–engaging in a delicate tea ceremony with Tracy Conti, listening to the ocean through a conch, saluting the sun. Named for the visceral relationship between the human body and the natural environment that surrounds it, AWAVEAWAKE is an eco-friendly line by Hodes, full of monochromatic silks and romantic but structured forms. (Solange is a fan.) For “A Thousand Petals,” which feels like a love spell, Lukacs–who makes films that border on fairytale magic and real social activism–and the dreamy, honest Morrissey were natural fits. On the brink of the election, we spoke to all three of them about their individual practices and what matters most.
How did the three of you meet?
MAXIMILLA: I have known Jaclyn since we lived in New York in the early 2000s. It has been beautiful to witness the birth of AWAVEAWAKE and Jaclyn really coming into her own voice. We reconnected a few years ago working on a project with Joanna Newsom and have become close friends over the last few years. Flo and I met a few years ago when she was recording her first album. She asked me to film her in the studio, and I think there was an immediate recognition of kindred spirits when we met. We made a video for her song “Show Me” in this labyrinth atop a mountain in Malibu, which was an incredible experience, and have kept in close touch ever since.
“A Thousand Petals” displays a certain truth: a specific vision can be shared by people who work in vastly different mediums. You all seem to share similar ideas—beautiful, tender, connected to the planet.
FLO: I think we all are feeling our way through, connecting the dots to each other as we go, wanting to share a message of hope. There is so little of it in our world, and I think we are linked by something deeper than what we can see. But to love and look for the true things–that is what’s important for me.
MAXIMILLA: There is just an easy, natural synergy between the three of us, and I think we have all been wanting to make something together for a while. This film just became that perfect opportunity. Jaclyn’s clothes have a sort of inherent narrative, a very specific way that her clothes make you feel, and I think part of the three of us working together was bringing that narrative to life in the most organic, effortless way. Even though we had specific inspirations and ideas for the film, in the end it was just the three of us really genuinely feeling into what the project was and allowing the vision to come forward. So yes, there is a certain truth at the heart of “A Thousand Petals.” It is kind of an emotional truth that I think really resonates–kind of like a heart-opening magic spell that gently overtakes you, much the same way that the tea being served in the film does.
Can one of you tell me about the title “A Thousand Petals”?
FLO: Jaclyn asked if I’d be in the video and write a song to go alongside the visuals and clothes before we had really spoken of the direction. We all felt connected to the symbol of the lotus–it is one of the unfolding spirit , the thousand petals of the crown, the gradual and beautiful unfolding of each human’s potential. I love that the lotus only grows in muddy water, showing to me that beauty can be grown wherever we are, even amidst the “ugly” mud. The lotus has been an important sign for me this past year. I then read up more about the background and had a book on chakras– it immediately inspired the start of the song and I followed.
Jaclyn, you have a stylist background, but you studied history, writing, sculpture. How is your multitude of practice channeled into your work?
JACLYN: I didn’t go the traditional route of design school, but immersed myself instead in lots of disciplines in college in order to really explore the world through research in books and discourse. I imagine it’s all been useful and has informed my work, because I opened myself up to lots of mediums and all those subtle influences make their way into the work. My graduate studies in costumes and textile history was defining after delving into historic western archives, but traveling has offered me the best design education, as the traditional dress and accessories of other cultures inspires me most.
You utilize AWAVEAWAKE to help start a dialogue about ethical fashion and the general hygiene of the planet. Can you talk about this?
JACLYN: The dialogue is quiet, but it is there. The clothing doesn’t proclaim anything loudly except that its use of natural dyes is connecting with the original, ancient way of coloring materials, without chemicals and with the medicinal property of plants–if you want to go there. The silhouettes are surely feminine and offer up a sensual and flowing way to dress that has also been described as powerful. It felt important–if I was going to create anything new, it had to be done in both an ethical and completely sustainable way. The impact of chemical dyes on our waterways is catastrophic and one of the most overlooked aspects of the industry.
The name AWAVEAWAKE references nature and human’s relationship with it. Tell me about its origins—both the label and its name.
JACLYN: When I was founding the label, I was simultaneously seeking out a name but knew that naming something was quite an important practice and like most important practices, I would have to do the work while remaining receptive to what wanted to come through to me. I wanted the letters of the name to be like a pattern, like a woven something, and I wanted the visual expression to have a resonance as much as the sound and meaning. I wanted for there to be an open meaning that was full of significance but that could also be open to poetic interpretation. AWAVEAWAKE came to me and I thought, well, this is kind of odd. But it’s as if the name insisted upon itself and I allowed and continue to allow its meaning to unfold to me.
Likewise, the inception of AWAVEAWAKE has been a journey over the past four years to offer my creative expression to others that were in alignment with my ethics and lifestyle. I first thought it was about relocating to New Mexico, but then life led me to explore India and Southeast Asia and to eventually find a second home in Bali. Now I am settling the business and myself in Los Angeles, where I’ve been spending time since 2003. The natural dyes have always guided my journey with the clothing and so I imagine there’s still terrain for me to follow after I set up a home. South America is likely next.
Flo, I read that the tea ceremony in the video was very important for you, since it’s something you’ve been doing for the past year. Tell me about tea ceremonies and what it was like to have one in this video.
FLO: I sat in my first tea ceremony with our mutual friend Baelyn Elspeth in New York at the start of this year, and immediately felt the power of it…I find it a very grounding and revealing heart-based practice. I have toured in Japan and it’s become my favourite place in the world. Although this type of tea ceremony is different and practiced in Taiwan, I really resonated with the likeness there: stillness and tradition and intention put into ceremonies is very rare, but so cherished in a world of motion. I love that you get in touch with true nature through just drinking and being with the leaf. I signed up to become a member of the Global Tea Hut–the hut in Taiwan that Baelyn and others are a part of–and get a new tea once a month to sit with. It is a gift and I hope to get to Asia and deepen the love in good time! This part of the film was one of my favourites as Tracy and I really felt tapped into each other. Amongst the chaos of “getting the shot,” I felt held and calm.
How did working with Maximilla and Jaclyn help your own practice grow?
FLO: I had worked with Maximilla before for a video for “Show Me.” It was really a wonderful, true moment. I feel connected to her creative heart and it helps that she is a true friend who understands where I’m coming from and visa versa. The privilege to have her guiding on this project was equally if not more great than before, as I felt my natural growth. She has, in a sense, seen me grow from teenager to woman. Jaclyn, where do I begin? We spent a lot of moments together in the past year and I feel she is a real reflection, sister, friend. I don’t know many as graceful and inspiring as she. Asking me to write a song to accompany the video really was important to my growth–having to attune to the energy of the message, the product, the people, the art to connect to others was a little new, [compared] to what I am used to. It was quite emotional to finish and be vulnerable in that way.
Maximilla, I’m stunned by your work. It’s hard to ask artists where they draw their inspiration from because it’s too broad, but what sorts of things do you draw influence from? I see fairy tales, sisterhood, mythology…
MAXIMILLA: Thank you so much for your kind words. For me, inspiration always comes from the most unexpected places. It is such an elusive thing, so this is always a difficult question to answer.
Last year I finished reading A Fire In the Mind, which is a Joseph Campbell biography. It was such an amazing read because it’s one thing to love what someone does, but it’s a whole other journey to see how they arrived at that work. His life story is so incredible, but the most inspiring part of it is that his genuine boundless curiosity about life took him all over the world, into so many different cultures–at a time when the world was a much bigger and less accessible place–and led him to find those threads that we as human beings have in common. Through myths and stories and rituals from all over the world, he was able to give us a picture of our collective consciousness…In a very divisive and compartmentalized world, he was able to see the throughlines that run through every culture almost before anyone else. I have been really fascinated with mythology, with archetypes, with Jungian symbolism, with Alan Watts, with human consciousness, with searching for deeper truths, with “awakening” or becoming WOKE, with ritual and ceremony, the rise of the FEMININE–these are all inspiring things to me.
I am also into the idea of emotional narratives and “feminine time,” which Maya Deren really pioneered with her beautiful short films and talked about so eloquently in her diaries. I am very influenced by filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Věra Chytilová, and have been digging up Hungarian art films from the 1960s and 1970s that are blowing my mind. I also love dance and movement. I love the photography of Deborah Turbeville so much! I am fascinated by early matriarchal civilizations, Buckminster Fuller, The Motherpeace tarot deck…Most importantly, I am always influenced by my insanely talented friends who are constantly putting out incredible work that always pushes me to work harder and push further.
I think we all are feeling our way through, connecting the dots to each other as we go, wanting to share a message of hope.
Please tell me about your activist work. Women’s rights and the environment are both important to you.
MAXIMILLA: I am writing this on election day so I am feeling especially fired up about women’s rights and the environment! I think as an artist, if I can use my skills to affect positive social change that is very powerful, and it feeds back into everything else that I do. Politics and art are sometimes a dangerous combination. You never want to be didactic in art. But having created a separate outlet for that work, The Department of Peace, I have found that it can be super creative, super inspiring, and it connects me to a whole different audience of people.
I co-founded The Department of Peace with three other badass ladies in 2012–Sarah Sophie Flicker, Tennessee Thomas, Rebecca Parks Fernandez. The first PSA that we made really came out of a feeling that nobody else was giving a voice to women’s issues in that election. We were all in a bit of shock, as most women felt like we had already fought these fights and we had made a decision as a country to move forward. But then all this anti-woman legislation started appearing on the state level and Mitt Romney was talking about overturning Roe v. Wade. Sound familiar? Who would have thought that we would be hearing even more horrifying things four years later, in 2016?
That first PSA with Leslie Gore and her amazing song “You Don’t Own Me”, we made ourselves with no backing from any organization, and it was seen by over 4 million people, picked up by all the mainstream news media, and we even received a thank you letter from Gloria Steinem! That experience proved to me that we now have the tools to do anything we want and bring it to the world stage. The tools are out there and people need to realize all the power that they have and start using it!
For me, this election has really brought into focus how important it is for young people in particular to get involved in politics. The only way we are going to move the needle on important issues that we care about is to keep making noise, to pay attention to what is happening–not only on the federal level but also at the state and local levels. We need to participate in our democracy or we have no right to sit back and complain that the world does not look the way we want it to.
Climate change is real, as well. We are polluting our oceans at a terrifying rate; we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels. We need to respect our Mother Earth. My hope is that we will embrace compassion, collaboration, community. It IS happening on many fronts. But we cannot go on consuming and polluting as we have been. We must evolve, we must grow, we must honor this beautiful planet that we have the great privilege to call home. We must LOVE ourselves, we must LOVE each other, and we must LOVE our planet if we have any hope of surviving and thriving.