Bella’s Tchotchkis: Sparkly Accessories for Sparkly People
Technology has taken the fashion world, the entertainment world, and the burlesque world by storm, and there is no shortage of cutting edge technique in the costumes on the burly stage. Upon further investigation, we caught up with one of the most innovative pastie makers in the country, Bella La Blanc of Bella’s Tchotchkis, to learn more about her adventures in making the perfect 3-d printed pasties, including engineering her own 3-D printers for the job! The following interview excerpt is an up-close and personal account of Bella’s process and her thoughts about how artists can work together in a competitive field.
RLR: So, how long have you been doing 3D printing?
BLB: Well we started toying with the idea about five years ago. My husband is a software architect and does computer engineering and stuff like that on the side as a hobby. Yeah, he’s a nerd by trade, and a nerd for fun, so, in other words, he’s really HOT.
BLB: With that being said, we started seeing these big Maker Fairs and Tech Fairs, and we’d go to these, and we saw a 3D printer. And he was like, “I really want to get one, I really want to do something with it”. And I was like, WTF are we going to do with a 3D printer?
So we bought a Duplicator I-3 and it was a build your own kind of kit (a lot of this was his hard work too!) because if you bought them pre-built it was $5-6000. If you bought your own kit and built it yourself when they first came out, it was only $2000.
We started fucking around with it and making all kinds of cool shit. And we realized that the plastic was hard, that you could print it really thin, you could print it really thick, and then it was literally him and me on the couch one night just talking and I was working on merch, and I looked at him and he looked at me and I held up a pastie and he already knew.
And he said: “we can try…”
So, he literally built all the patterns from scratch. We’re talking we probably went through at least 2-3 rolls of filament
RLR: Yes, because you’re trying different densities and shapes, right?
BLB: Exactly- A lot of my earlier models were a little thinner, my next models a year or two later were a little on the thicker side, but they were also heavier; it took us years of tweaking. We had to consider what KIND of plastic are we going to use? Because there are tons of other kinds of plastics out there now like PLA, PET,a bunch of others, and I have rolls of all of them!
Then we had to figure out high melt temp, low melt temp, warping, cracking, proper temp to print at- things that especially even now, people who are buying 3D printers don’t think about. And, you know it has become kind of weird in the 3D printing pastie community because a lot of people are doing it now…
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s one of those “hey, you’re getting started, awesome, can you reach out to someone who’s been doing it for a hot minute, just to make sure you’re doing it right? I don’t want to admit the amount of money that we spent to figure out exactly the right consistency, the right plastics. I mean, we’ve gone through a couple of printers too, because, if you’re going to buy a printer and work it like a work horse…
RLR: How long does it take to print the pasties?
BLB: It takes about two hours to print one pair, but it’s not a big deal if you just keep them printing morning, noon and night. You do have to go down and scrape the printer, so I set up a print before going to bed and when I get up in the morning and scrape the printer and get the next print started. The truth is, the machine does all the work.
RLR: Oh yeah, after the two years of engineering where you figured out what you wanted to do and how to do it right!
RLR: So, do you have a different printer now that you prefer, or are you still using the same brand but an updated model?
BLB: So, now we use printers that my husband has built from scratch because we know what we want and how we like things done.
BLB: Even the parts for the printer are 3D printed!
RLR: That’s amazing!
BLB: It’s become a science of exactly what we want and how we want it. So, you can’t buy the printer, because he made it!
RLR: That’s what you want, a product that no one else can get!
BLB: I do suggest for someone who wants to get into 3D printing- don’t buy a MakerBot, they are really outdated. If you have one, great, just make sure you have the updated stuff for it. But I’ve seen a lot of positive things come out of the Prusa brand. That’s my suggestion. Don’t spend thousands of dollars perfecting it like we did! Let me help you; I fucked up so you don’t have to!
RLR: How can someone buy your pasties, and what is your site and social media info?
BLB: You can go to Bella’s Tchotchkis website which is www.bellastchotchkis.com, powered by Square (easy for payments) or to my Facebook page. Usually the easiest way to contact me is through the Facebook page or the contact button on the website. Sizes are: Small- 2”, Medium- 2.5”, Large 3”, with smaller and larger sizes made by request. Usually average turnaround from making it and getting it to your home is less than a week (in the U.S.). If you don’t see what you want on the website, I can always make it! (View more of Bella’s creations on Instagram @bella.lablanc)
(There’s much more to learn from this interview! For full text, click HERE)
Hello! Since the book release in June, The Pastie Project has had some exciting opportunities come up, and we want to share them with you!
First, thanks to everyone who follows our Instagram @thepastieproject! We are nearly at 3,000 and growing every day! Please follow us and tell your friends about the Pasties of the Day!
Second, we are very excited to announce that Rosey La Rouge will be presenting Pastie History at this year’s Burlycon X in November! See her on Friday morning, and don’t forget to catch her in the library signing copies of The Pastie Project!
Next, it’s about that time to start thinking about holiday gifts, and The Pastie Project is the perfect present for your burlesque enthusiast friends! Order your copy here!
Well, we finally got it together to get a Facebook page for The Pastie Project. We’ll still be doing #pastiesoftheday every day, but we’ll be moving our daily posts over here by June! Follow to get your daily Facebook dose of pasties!
A huge thanks to the most respected burlesque site and publication, 21st Century Burlesque, for the feature in March! We appreciate the support, and look forward to sharing the book with everyone, for sale online in June! Read the article HERE!
This timeline, lovingly illustrated by Fyodor A. Pavlov, is meant to show the progression of the pastie and it’s design in America from early burlesque of the 1860’s through the present. The women we showcase here are all undoubtedly iconic, but several are also representative of something specific to the history of pasties, and the elevation or preservation of burlesque costume history. The captions and close ups below give more detail about the contributions these special ladies made to burlesque and pastie evolution.
Little Egypt, a character seen at the World’s Fair in 1893, represents those who came first in burlesque on this timeline. Her illustrated costume is reminiscent of the predecessor to the pastie- the metal breastplate “bras” commonly seen on belly dancers, and in theatrical productions and “burlesques” as early as the 1860’s with Lydia Thompson and her “British Blondes”.
Carrie Finnell is known to be the first to use pasties with tassels. Her performance “hook” was that she could make her breasts jump in and out of her dress with pectoral manipulation alone. Her use of nude, nipple-like pasties was first to bypass the nudity laws, but her use of them as a decorative item was an innovation of the the 1920’s.
Sally Rand represents the art of the fan dance on this timeline. As the years have gone on, Miss Rand’s fame is still more widely recognized, despite the fact that fan dancer Faith Bacon preceded her. Miss Rand is also a representation of other “gimmicks” besides pasties created to skirt the nudity laws of the time. The fan dance act did not reveal any illegal nudity at all until a final, still, pose at the end of the act. In many places in the 1920’s and 30’s nudity was legal in still life representation on the stage. Of course, in some states, nude body suits or bras and bottoms were still required behind the fans.
GYPSY ROSE LEE
Gypsy Rose Lee is arguably the most famous burlesque performer of all time, and should be represented on any burlesque timeline, especially for her breakthrough to the mainstream in the 1930’s and 40’s. She is famous for getting around nudity laws by very rarely taking much off, and being known as the “intellectual stripper”. Gypsy often wore (and made for her chorus members) net bodysuits with strategically placed decoration over the breasts and nether regions. With her lifelong theatrical background, she made many of her own accessories. Gypsy is also famous for adjusting her pasties on stage, as a tease.
LILI ST. CYR
If Gypsy was the star of the 1930’s and 40’s, Lili was the icon of the 1950’s and 60’s. Her narrative acts and her presentation of elegance and wealth on the stage elevated her art and expanded her audience reach. Lili was creative with her theatrical concepts, but still maintained an unattainable air in her performance. Once famous, her costumes- including pasties, were built by artisans and set the standards for the time.
Jennie Lee, “The Bazoom Girl” was famous for her tassel twirling skills in the 1950’s, and 60’s, but she is also part of this timeline because of her dedication to rights for exotic dancers and the preservation of burlesque history. She was the founder of The Exotic Dancers League, and The Exotic World Museum. The Burlesque Hall of Fame was born from her desire to keep retired burlesque dancers connected, and to showcase the history that they were a part of.
JO “BOOBS” WELDON
Jo Weldon represents burlesque educators in the neo burlesque movement on this timeline. Jo worked in strip clubs in the 1980’s, was part of the neo movement in the 1990’s, and has become one of the most respected authorities on burlesque education in the United States. She has been teaching pastie making to new performers for more than ten years, she started the New York School of Burlesque in 2003, and she wrote The Burlesque Handbook. She is not alone in her mission to educate- Miss Indigo Blue, Michelle L’amour, Bella Blue and many more, run nationally recognized burlesque schools from coast to coast.
DITA VON TEESE
Dita Von Teese is the mainstream-reaching representative of burlesque today and a modern icon for the art form. She is the most recognizable burlesque performer in the United States if not the world, and her opulent costumes, often designed by legend-in-her-own-right Catherine D’Lish, have defined the new silhouette of “classic” burlesque. We credit Dita with the popularity of the “illusion” style pastie, a must have for the classic performer.
We hope that you enjoyed this Pastie Timeline breakdown, and that you find the descriptions helpful in understanding why these are the people and pasties chosen to represent this part of costume history. The captions should give any interested burlesquer or historian a jumping off point in which to do deeper research. Special thanks to Fyodor for his impeccable and original artwork!
All text and imagery copyright The Pastie Project, Rosey La Rouge and Fyodor A. Pavlov. Please do not duplicate, quote, or use imagery without permission from Rosey La Rouge.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, to all those who helped The Pastie Project reach over 160% of our Kickstarter goal!
Because we surpassed our publishing goal, we will be able to send $500 to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends Challenge Fund, which helps Burlesque Legends with travel expenses to get to the BHOF Weekender in June.
The books and rewards will be sent out in June, and we will have a book release party late the same month to celebrate The Pastie Project’s success and its availability on Amazon.com.
The magical burlesque community, it’s supporters and fans have made this dream possible, and I cannot be more excited to share a book made with all of my love for the change, art and joy burlesque has brought to my life.
THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, shared and promoted this Kickstarter! We are so very excited to have reached our primary goal last night!
What does this mean?
Reaching our primary goal means that we can go to print with the book, so everyone’s orders will be filled! Hooray!
Now that we have a whole 11 days left to continue our fundraising, here is what will happen-
We might actually recover some of our costs for creating the book, meaning money we paid for photo rights, illustrations, and services! Woo!
After we recover some of these costs, the rest of this fundraiser $ will be donated to The Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends Challenge, which helps to fund travel expenses for Burlesque Legends who want to come to the BHOF Weekender. Additionally, we hope to donate swag to the Weekender Volunteer/Performer gift bags!
What should happen now?
Continue to spread the word, continue to pledge! Anything we make over our goal and costs only helps the BHOF Legends Challenge more!
Plus, anyone placing a preorder for the book here will be saving 25-40% off the cover cost after this challenge, so, if you want the book, order it HERE and now! Let’s make a new goal of $12,125, which would up us to 150% of our original goal.
Thank you again! Let’s see how far we can take The Pastie Project together!
Do you want to know more about the history of the pastie and why the smallest costume pieces in burlesque are some of the most significant? Come listen to Rosey La Rouge, creator of The Pastie Project, discuss all of the above, and see beautiful examples of historic and modern pasties from around the world. Get an up-close view of pasties inside and out. This is a promotional event for The Pastie Project book- we hope you can make it!
It was my pleasure to spend time with Burlesque Legend April March in her home this summer, talking to her about her burlesque career and documenting some of her vintage costume pieces. She is one of the friendiest people I’ve ever met, and our afternoon together is a memory I’ll treasure- especially our afternoon ice cream treat! Read the full interview HERE, on Burlesque Beat. (Images: Rosey La Rouge)