Adventuring out into the wilderness to find animal bones and taking them home to wash in strong and stinging peroxide is a common occurrence for a certain crafter of big, regal, dramatic and sometimes exotic headdresses. Animal bones, antlers, wasps' nests and feathers are just some of the unusual materials used.
Cat Dillon, 26, is Texan born and raised. She’s been involved in the arts her whole life, but her headdress-making journey did not begin until two years ago. It started when Dillon was planning to attend a Gods and Goddesses fashion event. She put together a dead sea goddess ensemble with a headdress.
“I ended up putting together a headdress the only way I could imagine how to do something like that,” she says.
Dillon said it was such a big hit that she began making more. People started to want them, so she started making them to sell at events in the area.
Dillon enjoys using gems and natural found things, such as shells and wasps' nests (which she says she checks for critters) for “crazy textures,” antlers, skulls and bones. Dillon is careful not to use materials that would give someone an allergic reaction, so she avoids dried flowers, which could contain pollen. Instead, she uses fake ones.
“I’ve used things like broken toy ships to Barbie dolls' parts to get crazy shapes,” she says.
The clever use of spray paint covers up the original materials.
Even with nature-based accessories as her main aesthetic, Dillon has done geometric shapes and used metal pieces in her designs.
The design process and time depends on the style and size of the accessory. Smaller headdresses take three or four hours, but larger ones with abstract shapes can take a week because of epoxy or mâché dry times.
Dillon's endeavor has turned into a job. She even hosts headdress-making classes in different parts of the state.
Typically, Dillon sells her headdresses to be worn at Renaissance festivals, balls or fairs that go on around Halloween. Other clients are cosplayers and mermaid enthusiast groups.
The headdresses monetize well around festival seasons, and then things die down in January. To make up for slow time, Dillon started working as a production assistant in the costume department for the TV show Queen of the South. The show also bought several of her headdresses and filmed them in a scene.
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Dillon also makes full outfits to accompany the headdresses.
“It all started when I was working with a photographer who wanted to do more full-costume shoots,” she says. “We started branching out from doing the crazy makeup and the headdresses to doing full outfits, and that’s when I made my first dramatic, long vampire coat.”
After that adventure, Dillon supplied outfits for fashion shows at events such as Lord Byron’s Panoptikon and Convergence 23 music festival.
Dillon says her goals are to travel and do photo shoots with a well-known photographer and to build a stable enough career to pick and choose the jobs she takes.