Design Army contacted me a couple months back about a collaboration with Neenah paper called "Classic Cities". I was asked to choose I city I love and to create something, anything, with the Classic Neenah paper line to represent it. My choice was obvious: Philadelphia. I would use the Philadelphia Mummers as inspiration.
Do you know Neenah? You probably do. This company makes very beautiful paper. I've used it before for letterpress and printmaking projects, so I was eager to collaborate. I can spend a lot of time talking about paper. Such a susbstrate! Anyway, this project brief focused on specifically on Neenah’s Classic line of paper-I hadn’t used that specific line before. After a bit of investigating I found that Neenah Classic consists of a deep navy, a soft eggshell, a black and bright pepper red color.
Quickly first-why the Mummers? I lived on Two Street in Philadelphia for about five years. Two street is a very specific location in South Philadelphia. It’s where the Mummers live. The Mummers encapsulate what I love about Philadelphia: its inherent strangeness, irreverence, and its history (you can read more about how and why I chose this topic in my interview with Design Army).
The Philadelphia Mummers can be quickly defined as costumed men and women who welcome the New Year with a large festive parade. But, when you live on Two Street, you quickly release that that the neighborhood is actually a series of clubhouses where different factions of Mummers meet and spend the year planning and practicing music, making costumes, and rehearsing dance steps. These are mummers.
I recall first moving to the neighborhood out of happenstance. Gradually the neighborhood transformed, for me, from a small neighborhood near I-95 underpass to a hub of creativity and skilled craftsmen. This is what Philadelphia is to me-a scrappy place that constantly surprises with its niche bursts of creativity and innovation.
Okay, back to the project at hand: I designed a mask. A mask inspired by the fancy brigades of mummers. Neenah’s Classic line turned out to be the perfect material for it. I wasn’t sure how much paper Neenah would send to me to create the thing, so I made a small design and template. But, when I found a 40x30 in box on my doorstep, I knew I’d scale up the project.
Check out the slideshow above for process photos. Design Army ended up doing a fashion shoot with the mask for their book. It looks awesome. I'll share it when it surfaces in print. Thanks Design Army and Neenah Paper!