Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Story Behind the Lilith et Adalia Silhouettes & The History of Shadow Puppetry

Have you ever wondered what our iconic silhouette girls represented for the Lilith et Adalia image and brand outlook? Have you ever wanted to see the faces behind these seemingly faceless little ladies? A mystery they are indeed, but we the designers and illustrators of LeA do have a method to our madness!

I. Origins

When we first began thinking about this brand we wanted to create, one that evoked youth and femininity, classicism, fantasy, and whimsy, we wondered...

What image represented this?

After some inspiration seeking, we found great interest in shadow puppets and the cute little mystery behind them - they leave plenty to the imagination. Like the silhouetted cameo women who adorn jewelry and clothing alike, they evoke such a feeling of elegance without even revealing their true face.
We had our answer. We came up with our first "shadow miss", which is the one you see in our main LeA logo; her hair flowing is some sort of imaginary breeze. She brings fourth a feeling of grace and sweetness, which is perfect for our lifestyle image.

II. Going a Step Further
Once we had our first little lady designed, we thought "Should we have more?"

In an effort for an all inclusive brand image, we felt the need to add in some other girls to create a broader reach. Though it is unknown at first glance what race or culture is attached to our main "shadow miss", we felt as though we should add more girls that could represent multiple types of people.

Thus the three other little ladies were born.
Though we didn't feel the need to attach any specific race to our girls, we couldn't help but have options in mind if we were to ever give our girls a face. We felt as though we needed to represent the Caucasian/White demographic, Black/African Descent, Hispanic/Latina, Native American/Alaskan Native, and the Asian/Pacific Islander as equally as possible, as inclusiveness is at the forefront of our brand image.

However, even saying this we thought it over, and we changed gears a bit. What if any of our four girls could represent any race that you, the customers and fans, wanted? That their races and cultures become interchangeable, and any "shadow miss" could be any race or culture she wanted to be? In theory it seems farfetched, as the media and society always feels the need to attach a designated race to the most abstract or imaginary characters (Santa Claus debate, anyone?), but we are fighting against that notion.

Our girls can be anything we want, or you want. They could be from Mars if we really felt like it! They could have blue skin and pink hair, anything you can imagine!

We also wondered, should they have names like characters? Should we base stories on them? What could we do to creatively develop our girls beyond their original simplistic beginnings?

There is no shortage of ideas involving our silhouettes. Be on the lookout for various illustrations and creative concepts surrounding them. Since they can all be anyone we want, the combinations are endless. We have several ideas in mind, but we are keeping them under wraps until later!

III. The History of Shadow Puppetry and Silhouetted Art Forms
Shadow Puppetry and Silhouettes seemingly go hand in hand, however their origins are a little different from each other.

Shadow puppetry can be dated back as far as BCE, however its current state of origin lies in Ancient China, Thailand, Turkey, and various Eurasian lands. Shadow puppets were used to tell stories, put on shows, and even for religious ceremonies. The most elaborate ones were the painted and posable types perfected by Chinese puppeteers. Puppets were held behind a cloth screen and illuminated to create the magic. You could even see the vibrant colors of the puppets through the cloth screen. These remain some of the most iconic in history. Royals and peasants alike flocked to see performances; triumph of good over evil, god over demon, were popular themes.
By the early 18th Century, the art form spread into Europe and gained wide popularity in France. Unlike the colorful kinds that were seen all over Asia, the European puppets were primarily black. However, that did not take away from the superior cutwork and intricacy of the European styled puppets. From elaborate hair styles and accessories, jewelries, and fine ways of dress, the European shadow puppetry was a true marvel in of itself.

Now how is silhouette artistry different?
Well, the silhouette, a name coined from the not so desirable Finance Minister of France, Etienne de Silhouette, who relished in the poor state of the people of France. The poor made fun of the way the aristocracy had their silhouettes done - which was seen as a cheap caricature of their immense wealth. Anything "a la silhouette" was cheap and silly. They dressed up in all black garb and called out "We are dressing a la Silhouette. We are shadows, too poor to wear color!"

Luckily, the mocking ideas of the silhouette fell away, and the practice remained an elegant and highly revered artistic style throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. From the very rich to the very poor, everyone had their silhouette made. They captured the beauty and elegance of the human profile, hairstyles, and clothing with perfection. Hand cut on fine black paper and mounted into frame, it was the pinnacle of finery.

We fell in love with both of these ideas, and admired them for years, so using these art forms to express our brand image was not even a question. Our dancing shadow girls featured here on Blogger, are inspired by the animated shadow puppet concept. Our framed ladies seen on the banners of our various social media sites capture the elegance of the cameo style silhouette. Could we have created a better bond between the art forms? We think not! This will definitely be our image for years going forward.

There will also be lots more shadow puppet and silhouette art to come. As usual we have many ideas in concept form!

We also already have done some additional shadow puppet inspired art featured on our Tumblr page.

(Psst! If you click these two images they're rebloggable on Tumblr!)

We're not stopping there either!

IV. Bonus: The Work of Lotte Reiniger

Lotte Reiniger was one of the most famous shadow puppeteers to adapt the art to film and cinema. Though she faced troubles when much of her early work was lost when she fled her homeland of Germany during WWII (she only managed copies of copies, which were devoid of their original fine detail), as well as the difficulties imposed on her with increased competition with Disney's animated films, her art remained alive and highly acclaimed by people of all ages. 

One of her loveliest films is her 1922 adaptation of Cinderella, which can be seen below. 

Many more of her films can be seen on YouTube as well, we recommend them!

Thank you all for reading, more posts coming soon! If you enjoyed reading this post, please comment and share with your friends.

- Lilith et Adalia Team

Sources and Additional Reading: Playing in Shadows: An Introduction to Shadow PuppetryHistory of Silhouettes, The History of the Silhouette, Silhouettes in History

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