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A design statement in three parts: Sheara Abrahams on putting the razzle dazzle into Elephant Parade

Press release   •   Aug 20, 2013 18:20 UTC

Sheara’s new Elephant Parade design makes an immediate statement – a design in three parts and the only elephant in the national tour to make use of collage. Sheara comments: “I wanted to do something 1920s inspired, a time period that appeals to a lot of people. My new Elephant Parade creation is called Razzle Dazzle and it’s got an Art Deco-inspired feel.  I wanted to something that had some of my costume design roots involved in it but also had a striking illustrative quality that combines painting, collage and recycling.” Talking about the layers of her creation, she adds: “In a way, it’s an elephant in three parts. It has a strong bold Art Deco pattern at the bottom and then the top section is a collage of recycling magazines and in the central panel there’s a catwalk of ladies fashion.”

A catwalk has never been done for an Elephant Parade before and the beautiful detail of the figures contrasts wonderfully with the bold upper and lower sections of the design.

Sheara is a well-established costumer designer, stylist and illustrator. She works widely in both theatre and film. Following her role as Principal Set Costumer for ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ and the Academy Award Winning ‘Les Miserables,’  Sheara is currently involved in ‘Cinderella’, Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Creating a 3D design on an elephant was a fresh challenge. Sheara comments: “The type of art I do usually involves smaller costume drawings or illustrations, which tends be pencils and pens on paper. So an elephant is a bit of an enigma when it is a three-dimensional sculpture, as you’re never quite sure how the idea will go round a 3D design. It’s a case of how to use the curves and form something that is initially hard to visualise on paper with a flat design. In a way through, it’s the challenge of the 3D form that makes creating an Elephant Parade elephant such fun.”

Recalling the first time she saw Sheara’s design as a rough A4 sketch, intu’s Amanda Campbell says: “It was one of those designs you just knew was going to be special. I remember looking at the first batch of design ideas with the Elephant Parade team last winter. Sheara’s design simply jumped out. It had a joyful summer quality about it and it was confident, striking, individual and totally authentic. Everyone has their own personal preference with Elephant Parade’s elephants, but Razzle Dazzle was the first design commissioned for the tour. We’re thrilled to have Sheara on board.”

Sheara has been a lot more than a contributing artist for the Elephant Parade national tour. In recent weeks she has been heavily involved in the schools programme that is an integral part of the Elephant Parade tour. For the first time, children around the UK have the chance to submit design ideas, with the winners gaining a commission to create an elephant for the national tour. Sheara was a judge for the Watford schools judging day with the local intu team and looks forward to doing further mentoring with the young artists she has discovered.

Reflecting on the judging day, Sheara is clearly still very energised by the whole experience. “It was a fantastic experience” she says. “I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it. It’s so important to spread the word of conservation among the young and to get youth involved in projects like this. I was really blown away by the designs I saw and it was really hard to pick a winner. We ended up having to create a voting system decision to decide on the winners.”

When asked about some of the designs that stood out, she adds: “I also found it incredible to see how different people’s minds work - from an 11 year-old boy, who transformed his elephant into a soldier, to a 14 year-old who created a solar system. There were also some wonderful Asian-inspired patterns. Overall, there was such an incredible variety. The children’s ideas were so creative and an inspiration too.”

Sheara’s elephant Razzle Dazzle has already won many admirers and it was one of the 13 tour elephants selected to feature in the London preview event. But it may not stop there. Rumours are rife that Sheara is already contemplating adding another elephant to the tour for the start of 2014. Naturally at this stage, she doesn’t want to give too much away, but when pushed she gave a few clues. “I was very fortunate to work on film Les Miserables. There was actually an elephant in Paris in the 1830s so I’d like to create an elephant inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel and the elephant at the Bastille.”

Historic references feature across Sheara’s ideas for Elephant Parade, but why elephants? Her reply is immediate: “Who doesn’t love an elephant? There’s something about elephants that appeal to you, whatever age you are. There’s something about their grandeur and their timeless quality. There’s also something about elephants that appeals to everybody.” But with Sheara there’s an authentic, serious side to this as well. “You see on the news footage about elephants in Asia and the terrible things that are happening and the thought they won’t exist and there may come a time when our children won’t see one is just horrific. It’s important to raise awareness, but Elephant Parade’s approach to doing it in a fun and engaging way is what makes Elephant Parade special.”

Thinking about the issue of raising awareness Sheara then returns to talk about the National tour that launched at intuWatford in July 2013. She says: “The fantastic thing about this Elephant Parade is the fact that it’s a tour – and intu’s contribution here has been so important. It’s not just London-based, it’s travelling all over the country to people that haven’t previously seen anything like this before. And to top that, what better way to engage local communities than to get local schools involved, young children bringing loads of people together people into shopping centres to see the elephants.”

Mike Spits, Founder of Elephant Parade met up with Sheara in early July when the team was making a short film about the Elephant Parade story, which will be released later this autumn. Mike commented: “Sheara is a perfect ambassador for what Elephant Parade is all about – raising awareness of Asian elephant conservation, but in a fun way, a way where the art does the talking. When it comes to Razzle Dazzle, I’m not going to use words to describe it because it’s one of those creations that needs to be seen."

Elephant Parade is the world’s largest open air art exhibition of decorated elephant statues that seeks to attract public awareness and support for Asian elephant conservation. Created by local and international artists, each elephant is a unique piece of art. Parades have been run in the following cities:

Rotterdam 2007

Antwerp 2008                     

Amsterdam 2009

Emmen Zoo 2010 

London 2010 

Bergen 2010 

Heerlen 2011

Copenhagen 2011 

Milan 2011 

Singapore 2011 

Hasselt 2012

Trier-Luxemburg 2013

UK national tour 2013-2014

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