'I've been an antique dealer for 30 years and this little costume thing is just a little hobby of mine'
A major obsession would be a more appropriate description of Ron Muncaster's 'little hobby', designing and making costumes for himself and partner Jacques Straetmans (who died 29 January 1996) to wear in the Mardi Gras parade. They are the culmination of almost a year's thought, four to five months' work and hundreds of dollars in materials. Muncaster is one the most prolific and memorable of the costume competition entrants, receiving more awards than any other contestant - eleven prizes, including six firsts, in eleven years.
The adulation of the crowd and the opportunity to be creative are the source of both his motivation and his continuted enthusiasm. Although now 60, his passion has not diminished: 'Retire! I'll never retire, I said, even if they have to wheel me up on a float, I'll still be there in the parade because it's the highlight of my year.' His home is his workshop, an Aladdin's cave with entire rooms taken over by costumes, past, present and in progress. The labyrinth of small spaces and staircases has forced him to design the huge costumes so they fold or dismantle.
Muncaster has no training in the design and construction of costumes. 'I first started by buying a paper pattern but I didn't know how to read the pattern because it looked so complicated. I just ended up cutting the shape out myself. It's all trial and error?. This is where I sometimes get into trouble. I have these ideas but I don't know how to construct them. When I come to get it all together, it doesn't turn out and it ends up something else.'
Nevertheless, his creations are finely detailed and finished. They are always elaborate, fanciful pieces very much in the tradition of the Carnival in Rio and New Orleans Mardi Gras. The sheer magnitude of each costume is startling, especially in relation to Muncaster's almost fragile physique. However, he has refined his techniques and materials to produce large but lightweight sculptural forms. In fact, the materials are often the starting point for a design. Hardware, haberdashery and sports stores have all provided a disparate mix of objects that have sparked his imagination.
'It is the artistic side of Mardi Gras that I like.'
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