Posted by Amaranth
A name that’s fast becoming de rigueur in the alternative fashionista circuit, Hysteria Machine can be seen adorning the bold and the beautiful at many a European festival or gotherati event. With the likes of musical elite such as Lindsay Schhoolcraft from Cradle of Filth, Dianne van Gierbergen from Schoolcraft Xandria, Niha-Ceta from Other Day, as well as the band Eleine. Then she also has Drag Queen Superstar The Virgin Xtravaganzah, and Neo-Romantic figurehead Viona Ielegems donning her creations (not to mention yours truly along with many other lovely ladies including: Abi Rose, Psychara, Sabien Demonia).
Her pieces range from one-off, large and intricate to lovely standard trinkets that really are reasonably priced – such as her mini deer antlers for only £15! And what’s even nicer is that all her horns are vegan friendly – even though they appear so realisitic, no furry, scaled or fluffy creature were at all harmed in the making. Which is great news! Her manufacture process also means that they are incredibly light and comfortable, unlike the real bone-formed weight of those “borrowed” from our animal counterparts. As she also makes everything by hand, no two pieces are exactly alike, and you can request alterations or additions at very little cost (depending in the scale of the change that is).
Her creativity astounds me, and I follow her work constantly to see what she’s going to come up with next. The quality is also second to none – these pieces really look like they stepped out of a film or theatre set. But I think the thing I like most about Hysteria Machine, is her humility and passion for her art. Her down-to-earth demeanour belies out-of-this world inventiveness. When a person can have their toes gripping firmly to the soil and their hair brushed by clouds and stardust – they get my vote – because it’s so easy these days to get bogged down in dirt or swept away by hot air.
But now time to hear from the creator herself – Cara Trinder, and I lead in with her mission statement:
Hysteria Machine aims to create unique, high quality accessories and headwear that push the bounds of creativity, equipping the dark and incredible to push theirs, while still remaining comfortable and affordable enough to give the world access to become the creations they were meant to be.
We both grew up in South Africa and found the alternative lifestyle in those unlikely climes. Could you tell me a bit about your discovery of the darker life beneath that African sun and any trials or difficulties it brought?
I have always been a weird kid and was lucky enough to have parents that fostered my creativity and individuality. Although I was always into the alternative scene, I only got into goth and the darker side of things when I was 20 and on a working holiday here in the UK. It was magical though, my landlord was a huge fan of The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees to name but a few and opened my eyes to it all. I never looked back.
Wearing knee high New Rocks, fishnets and corsets day to day in the boiling African sun was a testament to my dedication to the scene though! Like I said, I had always been a bit odd, so dressing in gothic fashion didn’t change how people reacted to me but I did have a few people pull their children close if I walked down the road. What can you do but laugh it off?
What brought you then to this antipodean isle? How did you find making a life here so far from what you knew?
My husband wanted to move over and I have always adored England, so it was an easy decision. Making a living from Hysteria Machine has been a lot of hard work and dedication, and I only went full time a year ago after spending a long time building up a fan base and ensuring I had a lot of happy customers. What more could a person want than getting to wake up every morning and do what they love. I am early riser too so am generally tinkering away from 8am.
When did you first start making your accessories? Did you have any formal training?
The only formal training I have had was high school where I attended Pro Arte Alphen Park, a semi-private art school in Pretoria. It was such an amazing place and I studied fine art and print making while there which built the foundations of my creative expression, but all the weird headwear and jewellery was a case of trial and error until I got it right.
When did you decide to go into business, how did that come about? And what were you doing before you decided to launch Hysteria Machine full time.
I am always making things, from paintings to sculptures and accessories. Friends and family kept telling me that I needed to sell these creations too and I was a little sceptical anything would come of it. But one quiet day, about 3 years ago I decided to open an Etsy store and see how it would go. At the time I was also working full time as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities. It was a good job and I really enjoyed it but it simply got to a point where I was either making headdresses until the early hours of the morning or at my other job and something had to give. Around a year ago I finally took the plunge to doing Hysteria Machine full time and while it’s been terrifying, it has also been really rewarding.
Tell me about the name of your company: Hysteria Machine
Oh dear. Well, you see my company is named after a device Victorian doctors used to cure hysteria in women. I thought it was a quirky name and in a way feel the purchase of outlandish headwear also helps to satisfy that itch inside.
What was the first item you ever made and what was the first item you sold?
I couldn’t even tell you what the first item I ever made was! I vaguely recall sewing patchwork bunnies at the age of 5? Both of my parents are creative, so we were always making things. The first Hysteria Machine piece that I ever sold was a small framed sketch of a girl wearing an octopus wig. Before that, I was a full time fine artist back in South Africa and specialised in painting nudes and sold those too.
Tell me about a defining moment in your career? Pivotal moments, that looking back shaped your work or what you have become?
I don’t know if they can be broken down into ‘instances’ as the creative process is pretty fluid for me and I generally just go where the inspiration take off to. However one moment I would say was finally figuring out the secret to high quality, life-like casts, it really opened to door to what I could create and meant steady and reliable stock I could simply make from scratch.
You have amassed a great team of creatives and work with some amazing people. Tell me about that? How do you choose who you work with on a collaborative basis?
It is crazy to think about some of the people I get to work with! Many are models, photographers and hair and make-up artists that I have admired for years, and they actually want to work with me. It’s still pretty surreal.
Generally I like to get a feel for the person, see if its someone I get on with, as there needs to be a back and forth dialogue and our ideas need to be in sync. I never base choices on how many fans or followers a person has, it’s not about that, but rather the energy and the talent a person is bringing to the table.
Going into business and being an original designer is not without its difficulties or pitfalls. What is some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome or things you have to work though on a daily basis?
Constantly having to think up new ideas, fresh creations and balance that between current workload and having any sort of family life can be hard. One of the hardest things is finding a way around the issue of weighty pieces, so I am constantly experimenting with new materials, often expensive, that may not be up for the task.
Many people are unaware of the implications of copying designs they see online and there have been numerous cases of original designs actually been stolen and resold by other parties (Claires accessories and Primark to mention the larger culprits, but even smaller independent designers have resorted to this tactic). What are your thoughts on this? And if the item is simply recreated for own use, do you see this in the same vein?
I have seen a few of my designs copied by other companies and you do get this terribly sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. After working tirelessly to create something different and still true to my style and then to see someone else simply recreate it is horrible. All I can say is: don’t do it guys! Support independent companies and don’t rip them off, your reputation is not worth it.
For home crafters that are recreating for themselves, I don’t really see it as a huge problem. If you feel you can make something similar for yourself, why would you buy it? But, try not to make an exact copy. Rather draw inspiration from a piece and create something personal to you.
As you have previously mentioned, and certainly something I know from experience, your headdresses are both light and easy to wear even though they look quite substantial. Can you relinquish any secrets about your process?
A lady never tells! Ha! Well truthfully, I work a lot with strange resins and foams, so I have managed to create very realistic replicas of horns and skulls, etc, which weigh a fraction of the real thing. I make ram horns that weigh something silly like 30 grams each, which really opens up how crazy you can go with a headdress. I always want my headdresses to be comfortable on, lightweight and easy to wear for long periods of time without causing the dreaded pressure migraine or any pain in the shoulders and neck. Using these wonderful vegan elements allows me to do that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A better question would be where DON’T I draw inspiration from! Honestly there is beauty and possibility in everything around us, from the patterns of bark in a tree to staring at hours as ferrofluids dance (one of the most mesmerising things ever). Obviously I quite like skulls and enjoy exploring ways of working with them that are unique. Coming from such an artistic background, I recall spending a lot of my youth paging through the numerous art books my parents had and simply being spellbound by all the opulence (and gold!) in the pages, that has played a big part in what I create,
If you could design something for anyone, living or dead, real or fictional – who would it be and why?
I really really REALLY want to make Amanda Palmer a headdress. In fact, I have been mentally writing her a letter with my offer for a while now. I first heard of her in the Dresden Dolls in my early 20s and instantly their music became the soundtrack to my life, followed by her other musical ventures as well. Amanda’s done a lot to help give me the courage to stay weird and follow my passions. I adore everything she does and love her openness and compassion, she is just an incredible human in general.
Also my mother. She was a seriously colourful character and sadly passed away 2 years ago, which was before I was making all the crazy things I do now. I wish I could make her something truly over the top, tying in all the things she loved, like some weird bright-toned Indian headdress with cats hidden in it. She would have loved that.
If you could create a new subcultural movement, what would it be and why?
I have no idea! Some sort of tribal goth movement that worships Cthulhu? Generally I find the alternative scene pretty all-encompassing and you can happily embrace your own brand of weird within it.
What does the future hold for Hysteria Machine? Any exciting projects in the pipeline? Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I would like to be able to take a holiday! Somewhere with white beaches, palm trees and a little cocktail shack within a short stumble. Seriously though, I couldn’t tell you. Hysteria Machine is constantly evolving and had anyone shown me what I would be making in three years when I was just starting out I wouldn’t have believed them.
Hopefully in five years’ time my work will be even stranger. I am currently working on the Catacomb Couture range and have launched a few designs already, that is really exciting and it is fun playing with lace and skulls in such a delicate way.
In short I have no idea, but it sure is going to be fun finding out.
Published in Devolution Magazine
Photo of Cara by Jamie Mahon
Photo credits: Lady Amaranth, Viona Art & Lillian Liu