Costume Nefertari by Aaron Schneider for Entice Carnival. Photo by Gary Jordan Studios, Model Lisa See Tai
Paramin is a small village just north of Port of Spain that still carries a huge section of our Traditional Carnival. In addition to being a food basket for the country, it’s one of the ancestral homes of Blue Devils or Blue Jab, and Parang.
Paramin is so ingrained into his style as a designer that he said, “I paint, and each time I sit at a canvas to attempt a painting, no matter what I tell myself it always ends up being a portrait of a Blue Devil.” He gives community credit for shaping his mind into what gives birth to a perfect mixture of old mas and new mas to the road. “Growing up in Paramin and witnessing the organic formation of these characters made it difficult for me to understand the meaning of new mas, the layer that is the costume,” he mused, “this is because these devils wear no fancy dress bon vivants, they mad mas with their bodies and their character. This concept breathes life into a part of my design persona as I approach each design to give every person who wears my costumes a character to portray, that is true to their very primal selves and bodies.”
It’s not surprising then, that Aaron Schneider has become one of the masters in mas today. An artist, actor, and all around riot on Facebook, he is most humble about his designing career than anything else. He entered the industry in 1999 for Nottinghill Carnival and has been a staple of the local scene as a designer and feather worker since the year 2001.
Further inspired by and taught the design process by the greats such as Peter Minshall and Wayne Berkeley, Aaron’s point of view as a designer is turning each masquerader into a living interpretation of an idea. “My point of view keeps changing, so it’s difficult to pinpoint it down as any one set of values,” he said, “Currently my point of view to attempt to find my beauty in the revelation of the organic pattern the work creates, I let the materials be my guide.”
The thing about Aaron’s work is his gift with feathers, we asked him where he learned the delicate skill, “I don’t know that I ever learned feather work,” he said, “There are so many wonderful examples of their use in the bird kingdom that I feel what I do is more of a copy of what I see in the world than an actual skill.” He went to say, “However, I remember some advice I got from Berkeley ‘No matter what bunch of features you are using, pretend you are God and you must make a creature out of those feathers, they must look natural as if they grew to be that way and not placed by your hand’”
This advice seems to have developed Schneider’s signature style, especially when it comes to his feather work. He “ghost” designs for some major players in the industry, but it’s his gift with feathering back packs and body work you can identify his touch on any costume he does.
His process begins with understanding the words that he will use to describe his work, “Always words, descriptions, quotes, poems, usually powerful words that are free to a visual description of what I am to attempt”, he remarked about his design process, “I used these words to get the inspiration to make something immortal in mas with my mortal hands.”
Aaron’s work this year can be seen in Fantasy and Entice Carnival, with his section entitle Nefertari being a prime example of his design aesthetic. It is bridge between the then of old mas being a Queen with an identifiable crown and adorning jewels, and the now with a sexy female silhouette in both the front and backlines that will give any woman the Goddess/Queen confidence to portray the theme of iconic and powerful women. He also co-designed Zenobia with Humzee, which has been giving me She-Ra does carnival life!I always ask my subjects what advice they would give any new comer to the industry who may be reading this, to which Aaron offered,
“Practice on your sketching skills, invest in some good quality markers and practice with the raw materials. Don’t get caught up in the hype of what everyone else is doing, just stay true to your point of view and smile a lot.”
Head over to his social media for more about his work, and some of his hilarious social commentary @aaron.f.schneider.
Thank you for reading and I’ll catch you next week!