Every wardrobe needs a cache of shape-shifting goodies, the small, evil additions that successfully take the piss out of bland or serious clothing. When you pair fishnet hose with even the most corporately classic suit, you alter its personality for the better; or you could tie a leopard-print scarf over a trench coat. Dorothy might have been the first to discover the power of red shoes, but who hasn’t noticed that scarlet heels instantly take a “meh” black dress into “We’re not in Kansas anymore” country?
Although Megan Poss is wearing what she calls “the Vancouver uniform”—a long black top and jeans (in her case, it’s “an el cheapo black dress from the Bay and I don’t know what kind of jeans these are”)—around her neck is a necklace of pea-sized pearls and one of her own pieces, an oval pendant, crystal rimmed, that depicts a Victorian wasp-waisted corset. For Poss, the woman behind the Spark label, this deliberate homage to Dita Von Teese is more understated than most of the work from her self-styled “dungeon” (the subterranean garage of her East Vancouver townhouse). What she makes there is as off-kilter as your grandmother’s book group discussing the new Maeve Binchy over Earl Grey tea drunk out of skull-shaped cups.
“People have a certain idea of what’s pretty and ugly, scary, or cutesy,” Poss says, pouring an infusion of camomile rose and lavender while her black cat cruises the room like a puff of dark smoke. “I like to play with those perceptions.”
On her idea board, a Living Dead doll bought off eBay and a bright-pink metal Mexican skeleton are neighbours. On her desk, glittering pendants hang on miniature dressmaker’s dummies with feathery wings. Gothic type identifies the “misc findings” and “samples” stored in boxes covered with pinup-girl images. It all adds up to a unique aesthetic that Poss terms “punk princess”.
Poss came at her new venture slantwise, armed with a background in interior and film design, including work on Smallville. She has always made things. “I was kind of a craftsy kid,” she says, but five years ago she got serious about jewellery, scanning and Photoshopping vintage images from her trove of old books, mounting them under resin, and framing them with Swarovski crystals, now one of her signatures. (These days, she has a mould made to create little three-dimensional plaques or has designs fired onto porcelain.)
While her first pendant featured a rabbit, a skull-and-crossbones—another early design—is more typical of her style. She defuses its piratical connotations with curlicues and butterflies. Then there’s her heart on a chain, the anatomical rather than the Valentine’s kind. “It’s kind of a sweet, sparkly image, then it’s ”˜ooh’, that’s a heart,’ ” Poss says, describing others’ reactions.
“I really like the idea of subverting, twisting,” she says. Although she does create the more traditional type, some of her cameos feature pink skulls on a punk, black background or glittering coronets above and below a cluster of roses. On one of her porcelain pendants, an ornate crown tops a skull. Recently, Poss latched on to a chandelier graphic, “something people have had around for centuries”. She customized it with small crossbones.
The spangly subtext of her company name is serendipity. Spark was chosen because its simplicity will let her evolve her line in any direction she wants. She’s already moved from jewellery into plain black T-shirts screen-printed with a Victorian scroll, a cameo, or a skull and crossbones, all with a smattering of glitter.
She makes bags too. Looking for gaps in the grrrl market, Poss has dreamed up little wrist-strap bar purses just large enough for a cellphone, cards, keys, and lip-gloss, in chocolate or pink velvet embroidered with roses, a butterfly, or a skull with heart-shaped eye sockets. Printed with Queen Skully or Miss Cameo (characters of Poss’s own creation), a small zipper bag in plaid—a fabric that reminds her of school uniforms, kilts, and U.K. punk—is a neat way to keep makeup under control. Poss adds that she already has samples of a mini jewellery box in production, and would also like to do kids’ stuff.
The first stores to buy her line—Jeweliette (692 Seymour Street), JEM Gallery (225 East Broadway), and Barefoot Contessa (3715 Main Street; 1928 Commercial Drive)—are still customers. Poss now sells across Canada and on-line at www.spark-girl.com/, and she’s hoping to break into the U.S. market soon. Her jewellery starts at $44, bags at $20, and T-shirts at $38.
It’s easy to imagine her designs rocking London or New York City, but MEC–dominated Vancouver? “There’s a definite market for it,” Poss says, adding that the range of customers that latched onto her work last year at Portobello West—which included soccer moms—surprised her. But then, she says of her pieces, “It’s a fun way to subvert an outfit. You have to have a sense of humour. They’re not to be taken too seriously.”