Sophia Rickson began playing mas before she could walk being pushed in her stroller wearing the costumes her father made for her. The 27-year-old Belmont-born beauty now heads her family business, Savage Arts International, which is based in Toronto and produces mas costumes as well as creates designs for the theatre among other things.
Rickson is presently in Trinidad for the Harts Carnival band launch as well as to build the set for reigning National Chutney-Soca Monarch, Kris "KI" Persad's performance at tomorrow's 50th Anniversary Independence Chutney Soca Monarch Competition at Skinner Park, San Fernando. The mas maker took a break from running around selecting and purchasing material to drop in at the Express for a chat.
"I've not slept for the past couple of days. Sleep is actually a luxury for our family because we are always working, but we love what we do. Our main thing is designing and producing carnival costumes, but we also do design and construction for shows, the theatre and we do interior design as well," Rickson said.
Rickson's family migrated to Canada when she was a child where her father, Kenrick Rickson continued to design and make costumes. Kenrick Rickson got involved in mas making when he was 12-years-old working with Irvin Mc Williams. He continues to travel through North America and the Caribbean designing and producing costumes for various mas bands. His work won the band of the year and queen of the bands titles at the St Thomas carnival this year and his king took first place at Caribana 2012.
Sophia Rickson is chipping in her father's footsteps designing and creating costumes for bands out in North America and she also does all the section leaders for the Harts Carnival mas band here. The young entrepreneur also practices the dying art of wire bending, which she also learnt from watching her father since she was a toddler.
"Wire bending is the aspect of mas I love the most. My sister and I grew up watching my father work. When we were very little we would sit on the workbench and take in everything he was doing. My sister also does a mas band out in Toronto. Everything my dad created with wire looked so realistic that you could tell exactly what it was before he dressed the frame. I also do my own welding and I bend and shape aluminium."
"When I was small and learning to bend wire people at the mas camp used to be amused and want to know what I was trying, because I was a girl. My father used to tell me that everything would be harder and more challenging for me because I was a girl. Not that men are better, but people give women a harder time. He told my sister and I that we had to learn to do things on our own. I do everything in making mas now, working freehand and I'm always covered in glue, paint and whatever," Rickson said.
Rickson said that whatever money she makes doing mas goes right back into her craft. She would be passing by a store and see some fabric in the window and the next thing she knows, she is buying all they have to put aside for when the right project comes along. Rickson said that her entire family is devoted to mas-making and design so much so that their home is basically several mas camps and a full scaled events production house all rolled into one.
"Our dining room is a workcentre with tools and material all over the place. I also sew, so the machine is in a corner there as well. My parents met in mas, so my mother is very supportive of everything we do and she does not mind that we have ruined her house and destroyed her parquet floor. We live, sleep and eat mas in this family. This trip is the closest I've come to a vacation for a while and as soon as I am finished this project for KI, I am going to get some rest here and in Tobago before I head back home."
"KI's song tells the story of Trinidad and Tobago being like heaven. So I'm designing a set that features the pearly gates and from beyond the gates you will see all the beautiful things of our wonderful nation. We are all working really hard on it. I may live abroad, but believe me, I am all Trini and the mas is inside of me," Rickson said.