PAINTINGS & SHORT STORIES
[an ongoing project]
A R T I S T
a t k a m a n ė s t u d i o
Her wardrobe consists of corsets and sequined boots made from left over fabric and notions. She has a heart of gold and shares it generously with the creative underground of Amarillo, Texas. Mave designs and sews costumes for performing artists of drag and burlesque. Little is advertised about her talents or the underground. One may hear about a show or performance opportunity while eavesdropping on a whispered conversation while checking into the Camelot Inn on the I-40 access road near exit 72A.
Mave’s sewing room is down two flights of chipped cement steps beneath the front desk of the Inn. It’s accessible through a plain hollow core door in the back of a housekeeping closet past the mop sink. The Camelot Inn’s brand, “A castle-like outdoor look, because every princess must stay in a castle at least once in her life,” was Mave’s idea, free truck parking and $33 rooms adds to the attraction for those visiting town for the underground. It was Mave’s great aunt Fanny who first introduced her to Amarillo’s secret creative pulse. Fanny was a seamstress for Vegas showgirls at the Stardust back in the 1970s. She knew a thing or two about sequence and raised Mave since she was a little girl. The Camelot was Fanny’s home away from home. One could say, Mave grew up there with monthly road trips to Vegas for Fanny’s deliveries of mended wares. Given Fanny’s Vegas connections and Amarilloans’s conservative yet curious interests, the Inn made for the ideal location to discretely perform the art of drag and burlesque. During Fanny’s time, a stage was built complete with purple velvet curtains in the Inn’s basement. The entrance is through the narrow boiler room. The situation became a win-win for everyone.
Mave clinks and jingles when she walks and sounds like Cher when she talks. Her gait has a certain swagger. It gives her a sense of importance, a commanding interest as she passes through a room. She never makes eye contact with those whom she has not been introduced to by someone she trusts. Don’t’ expect her to like you or be your fast friend, Mave’s comfort level is small and intimate when it comes to meeting strangers. She saves her keen whit and dry humor for the creative underground community. Those are her people. She believes they are kindred spirits.
Of course Mave has a cat. Its name is Tom Jones and he prefers to lounge in the kitchen window sunlight of her 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom stucco home on Rock Island Ave in Dalhart, TX. Dalhart was the center of the Dust Bowl back in the 1930s. She drives a 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with a silver flying goddess hood ornament. Dalhart is 82 miles from Amarillo. She doesn’t mind the commute and is a regular at Dalhart’s annual Muscle Car Party Weekend each May. She posts availability on couch surfing website, opening her doors to underground groups for the event each year. She won’t talk business during the event weekend but is happy to share her home and introduce everyone to The Grill, Drive Thru & Dine In for Frito pie and an orange Fanta. Long lines don’t bother her.
Every Thursday through Sunday Mave clinks down the Camelot Inn cement stairway into her emerald green sewing room with twinkle lights fastened around the ceiling. There’s a red chaise lounge in the corner under a gold arched floor lamp with a round white lightbulb in the domed lampshade. She’s prompt and keeps an organized schedule of appointments. Her time is of high value to her. The clientele travels from as far as Pueblo, CO, 321 miles away. The bulk of her people come in from Oklahoma City. She always has hot earl grey tea and gluten free tea crackers available during fittings, she streams Josephine Baker and burns Nag Champa incense, the red box. Mave is quick to offer guidance on personal style for she is a quick study on personalities and can read a person sharply and quickly with great accuracy.
Although very hush hush, the Amarillo creative underground has a long-standing reputable history for being a hub of drag and burlesque creative self-expression for those who live in small conservative towns. It was natural for Mave to step into her great aunt Fanny’s position, carrying on the dedicated service supporting the underground community. If you are in the area and hear the clink and jingle at the Camelot Inn, you’ll know there’s a performance in the works. Eavesdrop at the front desk and you’ll know how to find it.