BA [Hons] Design for Stage + Screen Character MakeUp Design
Coming from a Fine Art background Klaudia's approach and dedication to design is quite unique. She works through a range of media and constantly pushes and adapts her skillset to each individual project. She may be a graduate in character design but her skills span much wider than that. She loves working in the chaotic world of production, makeup and costumes as well as hiding away in the corner to draw.
A large tree in the shape of a chicken leg grows on the roof. Bordering between worlds the hero of our story wonders if it is reality or fiction. The hut painting is inspired by the Slovakian village of '
Čičmany ', opposing in colour to the Village that Vasilisa comes from. The runes on the door come from the ancient Russian church of Ynglism.
Yaga's hut is her safe haven, to an outsider, it is full of frightening elements, skulls, and wicked potions...to the witch it is a seasonal collection of herbs and potions, a celebration of nature within her home. It is eclectic, warm and homely - roots, dried herbs, potions, cauldrons, brooms, baskets, bird cages and books litter the cottage, a feast is set in the middle of the room.
Our cottage was located in Glendalough surrounded by a dark and beautiful forest. I dressed and designed both of the locations for the interior and exterior - handpicked dried flowers, cluttered dining table, as well as potion bottles and traditional Slavic design elements, are a key part of this scene.
The Village that Vasilisa comes from appears, at first sight, to be just as perfect and pristine as the heroine. In reality, the white wooden cottages are rotting inside - the villagers attempt to paint colourful flowers on the outside to preserve the image of perfection while everything around is rotting and dead, the ground is burned with no natural growth and the cottages are falling apart, barely staying up.
Vasilisa is heavily influenced by the Virgin Mary iconography and the traditional Slavic dress - the pearls and ruffles in the first dress resemble grandmothers' table cloths, elaborate communion dresses, and wedding attire from the Slavic cultures. It is a symbol of oppression where the views of the village and the idealism is put upon Vasilisa. When she falls pregnant she is deemed dirty and no longer welcome in the village.
Her second dress returns her to the Slavic roots away from the constraints of the village. Her hair is loose and flowing, Vasilisa has changed and she is free.
Our inspiration for the script was the Hungarian representation of Baba Yaga - Vasorrú Bába - which translates to the "Iron nosed midwife". This is referring to the old wise women of the village in charge of the rituals of initiation, birth and death also including abortions. As this topic is taboo folktales blurred it into something surreal and divine.
Baba Yaga is often described as having iron teeth, a hooked nose, and guarding the waters of life and death as well as stealing or eating children, all of these can be understood through the idea of abortion - the stealing of the child as getting rid of the baby - waters of life and death as the amniotic fluid and Yaga's iron-nose nothing more than the metal utensils she would use in the procedure.
Yaga in her standard form is nothing more than a misunderstood village folk healer or ahamn who's image was distorted by the village when christianity came to wipe out the pagan world. Her costume is traditionally hungarian and her tatoos Croatian, as tattoos were also often seen as taboo this further highlights Yaga's status as an outcast.
In my design process, I was exploring the ideas of Liminality - Translucency - Distortion - Caricature - Reflection - Projection - Shadows - Layers. Using watercolor pencils in my initial drawings I was able to layer and blend colours giving the illusion of existing between worlds.
The idea that the feminine figure and the character of Baba Yaga has been distorted by society and morphed/changed/molded into something other , external elements constricting and distorting the feminine.
The blue Baba Yaga on the right is crying, a detail often overlooked by the scary face. Throughout my research and design, I often felt sad for Yaga, her life despite her unfathomable power appears quite lonesome... a folk healer once adored and needed by the village now outcast to live alone.
One of my favourite aspects of my design process was the projection of my own drawings onto my face, I really enjoyed the fact that the drawing wasn't the final stage, it helped me to visualize and place the look.
What do we see when we look in the mirror ? Do we see our real face or is it an image that society has PROJECTED or imprinted onto us , especially with Covid we see a lot of our own reflections – so is this image that we see through the distorted lens of a mirror reflecting of our own inner battles and how we perceive ourselves or is it an image projected / expected of us? The reflection of the distorted – defeated – broken – damaged – used – worn – cracked – caricature … in terms of liminal spaces mirrors are also an entry into another world or a gateway
The Evil Baba Yaga represents a caricature of who she really is. It is the fear of society that has been projected onto her, while her actions as a midwife have also been demonized, this further distorts and creates the worst possible transformation of Yaga, the Nightmarish old hag who steals and devours her victims.
For filming I chose to focus on four Baba Yaga transformations.
Old wise woman - quite ordinary - grayed hair and worn old face.
The Evil Yaga - Nightmarish Hallucination.
Inspired by the possible origin story of Yaga coming from the ' Zlata Baba ' Stone statues which translates to ' Old golden woman '. These were ancient pagan statues who are believed to have been worshipped by the Slavic Pagan.
She is also inspired by the 'Marzanna' who is a polish deity representing rebirth and death, who, in modern day is celebrated as a straw figurine burned or drowned at the end of Winter, symbolizing the beginning of spring.
Yaga at the end of her life is on the threshold of the liminal space. Her skin is thin and translucent. The finish on her skin is quite painterly mimicking that of the evil and golden Yaga's as characters of the liminal space. This transition would be done in a stop-motion animation way where elements of the makeup are added on frame by frame to create the illusion of a moving picture.
The three riders are servants of the Baba Yaga, bringing with them the change of day. Inspired by the invincible Hussar knights of Poland and the Lajkonik, symbol of Krakow.
Logline: A young woman visits the terrifying crone in the woods seeking help. The strange encounter hovers between reality and nightmarish folktales.
Inspired by the fairy tales of Baba Yaga and my heritage I worked with a scriptwriter to create a story that encompasses Yaga's transformative qualities and highlights the design possibilities. I was the co-director, concept artist, Makeup/Costume/Production Designer and maker, Producer, head MUA and set dresser for this project.
My project explores the origin of Baba Yaga, examines her various representations through visual interpretation and illuminates the role she holds within fairy tales as well as a society today.
The Shapeshifting image of Baba Yaga and the Forest as a Transformative space in Slavic fairytales.
Baba Yaga is a supernatural being, an old hag and witch living at the heart of the forest in a hut that spins around on chicken legs. Surrounded by a rich and illustrative history she is
a well-known figure in Slavic folk tales. The liminal forest is an important aspect of these stories and to the understanding of the witch, Yaga is a threshold character and a shapeshifter
not only in figure but also in nature. Her often ambiguous qualities as villain or donor give complexity to her character that has many interpretations. Most of all she represents feminine strength and the power of nature. Baba Yaga’s role over time has significantly reduced, which led to the forgetting of some of her attributes and a misunderstanding of the character.
My thesis explores the origin of Baba Yaga and examines her various representations and
illuminates the role she holds within fairy tales as well as a society today.