Who can combine feathers, rhinestones, human hair and tinsel into one psychedelically beautiful dream? Her name is Christian Joy and she did just that as the costume designer for the psycho opera Stop The Virgens. Even as a little girl this Iowa native knew that she wanted more out of life than a typical suburban existence . Following her dreams led her to New York City, where she started dabbling in fashion design while working as a shop assistant. It was here that she met the young Karen O and their friendship led them to a fruitful and fantastical collaboration that continues to this day. Christian’s irreverently DIY approach to creating clothes and a keen understanding of colour naturally progressed into making some awesome art. I spoke to Christian about her projects and what’s next in the pipeline.
TG: Many different ideas and references combine in the costumes. How did you come up with this vision?
CJ: Well Karen and KK both had their own vision and so they presented me with a bunch of different inspirations for what they wanted and then , you know, I took what they
wanted and sort of turned it into what I thought would be a good idea. For a lot of stuff I kinda came up with the idea by thinking ok theme is Voyeur or something and then I’d look up the Japanese version of it, ’cause the Japanese version always seems so much more outlandish or something about the Japanese version always inspires me more. I think because of all the patterns and colours, it’s just a totally different look. So basically when they would say- hey we want this- I’d try to look up something completely different ,I’d look up the word in Japanese wear so that is where a lot of it came from .Also I looked at a lot of high fashion actually, ’cause with what I do with Karen , we never take it to that level, that super duper, really intense high fashion, so I thought I’m gonna have a look at Galliano , McQueen etc because it’s so intense and I looked at a lot of couture, just to check those references out too.
TG: You are an artist ,a fashion designer, a blogger as well as a costume designer. What other things excite you?
CJ: (laughs) Um..what else excites me ? You know I wish I could paint actually! (laughs) I’d like to try to paint actually. Music…I mean there is a lot of stuff that excites me that I don’t know how to do…but those things are the ones that I really love-music and painting. Fortunately I married someone who is good at both of those ! Then there is travelling, eating great food, meeting new people…
TG: I love all your handmade prints! When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
CJ: When I started working with Karen I started doing these one of dresses and I had no formal training in fashion or art or anything, but I moved to New York and I became influenced by the DIY, kinda punk scene , Ramones and CBGBs and the film scene and I thought – damn! They all just kinda went for it! – so I though you know I’ll just go and try it and for some reason doing it on fabrics , creating prints on fabrics and costumes just happened to be the best way it worked for me. If I tried to make a painting , it’s like I can’t work it out, but if I put it on a piece of clothing or fabric it’s just a completely different thing, so I started hand painting pieces .Right around the time of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s second record Show Your Bones , I decided , I’m gonna learn how to screenprint and so I just started doing it then and it sort of became the look, and now I’m starting to do the full textile posters..
TG: They are so beautiful, I love them!
CJ: Thank you, thanks so much ! I was so excited to do it as I love them and I’d never done them before, both Karen and my husband were like you gotta do those textile prints , so I really want to elaborate on those.
TG: You did a costume collection for “Where The Wild Things Are” , a solo show titled “Visitors Must Be Amused” and recently “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Shrimp” in Tokyo. What does it mean for you as an artist to have your work on show like this?
CJ: Oh, it’s really, it feels great. It’s amazing that people think that highly of you that they want to share it, you know and I mean , being an artist is what I always imagined myself being, and I think it’s that thing – I started more in fashion and started going down that fashion road and I kinda realized- hey it’s not me, I wasn’t feeling it , so I think it was cool to jump over that line and start showing in galleries because that feels better to me, the fashion world doesn’t feel right to me. It’s exciting to actually break through there and go -look I can show this in a gallery and here and there and just to know that people appreciate it as artwork, it’s pretty amazing too..
TG: A Christian Joy woman is…?
CJ: A little bit of a maniac (laughs), bold, colourful, intelligent, imaginative..
TG: You are married to Jason Grisell who is also an artist, albeit a musician. Do you feel it helps to be in a relationship with another creative person?
CJ: Oh yeah ! It’s amazing. I mean I feel like if I could have another part of my personality , it would be him. So it’s like so amazing because I feel I can live vicariously through him, he is so insanely amazing and his voice is so beautiful and everything.. and I’ve always wished that I could sing (laughs)- it’s like I’d love to just open my mouth and for that to come out (laughs). So I think it’s incredible how he works and what he does. Basically he is the other half that I would love to be!
TG: What are the best things about living in New York?
CJ: Food and people in New York are amazing , it’s like you go out and since there are so many different cultures in New York , you are constantly baffled and excited and overwhelmed and I love feeling like there is so much art that is accessible, you can go to the Met or the contemporary museums or galleries, there is access to things that you could not have elsewhere – a blend of culture that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
TG: So what’s next for you?
CJ: I just had these two big things happen so now I am thinking, um what’s next? I think I want to create like really big wall hangings and doing things like that , and hopefully get to show those too !
TG: I want one for my house ! Thank you.