This interview marks the first of a series of interviews we will continue to do with many other performers.
The interview with Daniela Hahn was originally done in German last year and it has been translated to English for the international audience of Venezia Collective. It is an interview that consists of 41 questions.
(Warning for smartphone users: Long post with photos!)
VCE: Name of the performer/performers
Daniela: Daniela Hahn (with Dagmar Hahn)
VCE: The first Venetian carnival visit
Daniela: At the tender age of 11.
VCE: How many Veneatian carnevals have you attended?
Daniela: 13 times and since then I haven’t skipped a single one.
VCE: Why specifically the Venetian carnival?
Daniela: It was love on the first sight: The magical city, the creative costumes and slipping in a role playing someone else. Unlike the German carnival the Venetian carnival has also a beautiful atmosphere – no noise and no drunk people who overdo the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
VCE: Do you visit other carnivals with your self-made costumes?
Daniela: In the past, I attended the Venetian mask festival in my hometown Ansbach, Germany.
Today I also visit the Venetian fair in Ludwigsburg (Germany) and additional to that with other artists/performers I am currently visiting a Steampunk festival.
VCE: What is your motivation attending the Venetian carnival?
Daniela: The opportunity to transform myself in a magical supernatural being and to express all the impressions I collect during my entire life in form of my costume.
VCE: How were you introduced into the world of the Venetian carnival e.g. how the entire event works, about gatherings and events of the artists/performers, the knowledge of costumes and masks?
How did you acquire the knowledge? Through another experienced artist/performer or by doing research?
Daniela: You learn from the big shots. Even though I have never had an explicit mentor I learned a lot from other artists/performers and photographers by observing or working with them together: sewing costumes, posing and acting in front of the camera.
I get the information about events and gatherings via networking on facebook.
VCE: What triggered the idea of sewing your costume on your own?
Daniela: I made my first costume in 2011. Before that my mother did all that and she is still helping me. We started this hobby together and we give each other advices during the costume making process.
It never came across our mind to buy our costume and it was clear from the very beginning that we make them ourselves.
VCE: What are your sources for costume ideas and inspirations?
Daniela: Making a costume is a form of expressing what I experienced. Musicians are thinking with music, painters with pictures and I with my costumes.
Additional sources are books, historical fashion and image search engines on the Internet. However most of my inspirations just pop up in my mind.
VCE: Are there any special meanings for the details on your costumes besides the theme of it?
Daniela: Nothing is random even though later on I notice the reasons for some details why I did it in some way.
VCE: Is there anything special with your costumes that you set a focus on each year?
Daniela: That it fits. 😉
VCE: How long does it take to complete an entire costume?
Daniela: The planning procedure subconsciously starts in my head many months beforehand. Each year I am telling myself I have to start making my costume much earlier and in the end the process starts 2 months before the Venetian carnival. When that happens, I sign off from my social life and all I see for a long period are the sewing machine, the hot-melt gun and the staff at the textiles shop. 😉
However, I am improving with regard to discipline.
VCE: From where do you source those materials for the costume?
Daniela: From everywhere: From the hardware shops, arts and crafts supply shops, 1 Euro shops, flea markets, charity shops etc.
VCE: Which part of costume making is the most fun part and which one the opposite?
Daniela: I hate to sew the waistband to the dress. It always ends up not looking good but fortunately no one can spot it!
With everything else I am having fun especially it’s great to see the colours of the textiles altogether and when the costume takes shape.
VCE: Do you tailor the costume all by yourself or is there someone giving you a hand with that?
Daniela: I am doing it all by myself and sometimes it helps a lot to rethink and talk to myself about the problems with the costume. …and of course, talking with my mother via telephone.
VCE: Where and how did you learn the handcraft for making a costume?
Daniela: I completed a two-year sewing training but for the costume making it isn’t helping much.
Hence practicing with the sewing machine at home and at the beginning with my mother I sewed the Christmas gifts for my grandmothers. I gained the necessary experience from that.
Daggi (note by Venezia Collective: Nickname for Daniela’s mother) learned sewing in her teenaged years.
VCE: How long did it take to learn that handcraft?
Daniela: I am still learning! Perhaps someday I will learn how to correctly sew a waistband to a dress. 😉
VCE: Do you make costumes for other people?
Daniela: Only for friends, who nicely ask and come around for ironing their own costume.
VCE: How many costumes do you make for one carnival?
Daniela: So far only one for each carnival, but I am striving for doing more.
VCE: How many costumes have you collected in all those years?
Daniela: Each year one per person. That means 13 costumes multiplied by 2 plus the ones for my friends – approx. 30 costumes.
VCE: What happen with all the costumes?
Daniela: They are stored in the attic. We donate the oldest ones to kindergartens and theatres. The newest and better costumes are worn on other carnivals and festivals.
VCE: How much time does it take to do the make-up and dress-up?
Daniela: The makeup is the “raccoon-look”: 2 black circles around the eyes with make-up. It is done really fast. The rest takes 1 hour when the sequence of dressing up of the costume parts is not kept.
VCE: How many masks are in your posession?
Daniela: I guess there are 35 and additional to that there are some blank white masks stockpiled.
VCE: Where do you purchase your masks?
Daniela: In Venice of course! Unfortunately, we still haven’t found an atelier from where we would like to make our regular mask purchases but instead we always buy them from the same Venetian shops. The reason is more and more sellers are selling plastic masks and we avoid those.
VCE: Do you design the masks yourself or do you send your design to the mask creators?
Daniela: No, I design them myself and I realize the designs on the blank white masks.
VCE: Do you paint the masks?
VCE: Anything something special with the masks?
Daniela: In the past I tried a lot of things: Colorfoul, glitter, pearls, strass.
In the recent years I developed my own style and it is more minimalistic.
VCE: What is your profession? Does it help with the costume making?
Daniela: I would say my studies and career aspiration fits with my hobby: I am studying cultural history and I would like to work in the cultural sector e.g. museum and theatre.
My mother’s profession is accountant and that helps calculating the amount of textiles we need.
She is also a trained photographer and that helps for posing. Moreover, she has a good judgement for recognizing perfect locations and quality of light for the photos.
Besides during my childhood I was used to being a model for the camera.
VCE: How do your family and friends react to your hobby?
Daniela: “What? That is you?” is the first reaction when someone sees the photos on facebook.
VCE: What is the best and the worst thing you have experienced during the carnivals?
Daniela: The best thing is when Venetian locals give me compliments for my costume. The carnival is not always fun for them (crowded, loud) and I appreciate every single compliment.
I am always happy when particular photographers like to do photo sessions with me or other artists liking my costume.
The worst thing that ever happened was when my cousin almost fainted in her costume at the Piazza San Marco because of cardiovascular problems and a photographer persisted to take photos of her. In that case I lost my temper.
VCE: How are the photographers and tourists treating you?
Daniela: In general very kind and respectful. At times there are some exceptions and I am angry about it but I get over it really fast.
VCE: How do you react to difficult situations with those above mentioned groups of people?
Daniela: With photographers we talk about it or we walk away.
With tourists as a masked person you do not talk. You keep up the mystery around you and that makes is more difficult in comparison. However I never have any trouble.
VCE: What are your top 3 locations in Venice?
Daniela: That is very difficult to answer to that question! I am feeling at home everywhere, but especially the view from Fondamente Nove, the promenade in Zattere and I love my hidden Jazz club!
VCE: Your top 3 locations for photo sessions?
Daniela: That’s also a difficult question to answer to! Everything in Venice is photogenic. We love the old doors, bridges and those arcades!
VCE: Do you prefer busy places e.g. Palazzo Ducale, Piazza San Marco or less visited locations for instance in churches, cloisters, empty alleys in Venice/Burano/Murano?
Daniela: Mostly we go to empty alleys with people we know. After all we do not want to end up with photos which all have the same setting/background depicted but still Piazetta di San Marco, San Zaccharia and San Giorgio are the must-haves. For many years we have not walk across the Piazza San Marco in our costumes because the crowd is crazily overwhelming.
VCE: At which time of day do you like to be photographed?
Daniela: Actually between waking up and going to bed – except the time when I am eating. 😉
VCE: Any preferences regarding photographers: Veterans or new photographers?
Daniela: A good mix of both.
VCE: Your favourite photographer/phoographers you always like to work with?
Daniela: Ryan and his team Venezia Collective. *flatter* 😉
But seriously, you guys are really easy to work with during the photo sessions and the photos are superb!
VCE: What is your preferred mood/vibes in the photos?
Light, sunny and colourful (lively or pastel colours) VS dark, mystical, mysterious, dark colours?
Daniela: No preferences. A good mix of all but first and foremost that all fit to the costume. The only thing I don’t like is the flashlight of flashes, speedlights or strobes.
VCE: Your idols amongst the community of masked artists?
Daniela: My secret idols are:
Anna Marconi known for her incredible creativity and her unique posing.
Sophia Farfalla for her costumes, a perfect mix of simplicity, elegance, classiness and grandeur!
VCE: What is the best of the Carnevale di Venezia?
Daniela: For me it is the moment when I am standing next to the Venetian lagoon, posing and feeling my exhaustion, when I can hear my own breath under the mask, feeling every single muscle cramp and still knowing that I have to give my best for the people around me and the photographers keeping up the wonderful illusion I created. That is ineffable!
Here are a few more photos of Daniela. To see more photos of her please head over to the dedicated blog post from Carnevale di Venezia 2017: Daniela Hahn – Carnevale di Venezia 2017