As I sit down to write, "Marianne" by Tori Amos plays in the background. "And they said Marianne killed herself, and I said not a chance. … Why, why, why did she crawl down in the old deep ravine?" she sings. Bucket Siler, local writer and founder of Santa Fe Zine Fest, explains that the vision for her latest project, the illustrated story Pigtail Girls, started with this piece of music. The lyrics, steeped in melancholic mystery, are laden with imagery that Siler brings to life through her writing alongside the drawings of local artist Lindsay Payton.
As Siler describes in her synopsis, Pigtail Girls is "a uniquely dark, feminist fairy tale that balances horror, whimsy and violence." Thirteen girls reside in an orphanage built on the edge of a ravine where a witch is rumored to live; the girls are forbidden to enter the chasm below their home, but each month another maiden disappears. In October, the maiden-gone-missing is Marianne and the story proceeds to unravel—we discover how Marianne disappeared and whether or not she is still alive.
To create her world, Siler drew from Greek and Irish mythology and folklore, such as the Celtic witch Cailleach Bhéara, which quickly sparked Payton's interest. Of her work, Payton shares that she is influenced by Hans Christian Anderson tales, the subtly sinister illustrations of Edward Gorey and old fairytales. "When I read it, I felt a really strong connection to the style," Payton tells SFR. "It's a really dark visual picture and everything I want and look for when I read. It was immediately a 'Yes! Can I do this?'"
While writing, Siler listened to "Marianne" over and over and when Payton joined the project, she listened as well and slowly began translating the tale into visuals. Though both artists were informed by the same tune, they pursued and absorbed the story through independent practice. "I didn't want to bring someone on as an extension of my hand and mind, I wanted them to have their own relationship to the story, to be really into it and excited about the project on their own," Siler explains. "When I met Lindsay through a mutual friend, I gave her the story, but I didn't give exact instruction—I said, 'If this is exciting to you and an image comes to mind that you want to illustrate, do that.'"
Payton took this loose instruction and ran with it, creating imagery that doesn't give away the story's main events but instead conveys aspects that spark her own interest. The creative freedom even made space for the illustrations to inspire Siler to change certain aspects of the story. "It gave me a visual," Siler says. "I already had an idea in my imagination, but it gave me a new vision."
Further, she says, Pigtail Girls' haunted imagery and prose pose questions about "resistance and submission, conformity and revolution," all interspersed with breadcrumbs that lead back to Amos' lyrics. This combination eschews traditional publication, but also pushes the parameters and margins of a traditional zine (an inexpensive, self-published booklet often created by independent artists and writers and generally shorter than a novella).
This surprised Siler, a constant zine creator, and she says she didn't expect it to be a complete transition in her writing practice. "But as this has gone on," she continues, "I will probably trace this back as a real turning point for me that I didn't at first expect or see." Moving forward, she aims to further develop the story for conventional publication. "It's asking for it," she shares. "All of the material is there just begging to be expanded upon."
The release of the book itself, which was funded by a recent kickstarter.com campaign scheduled to run for 30 days—yet met its goal in four—now culminates with an event at Southside DIY venue Ghost. The limited edition print of Pigtail Girls (a mere 200 copies!) will be for sale as well alongside a selection of Payton's new and original artwork. Musicians, including PSIRENS, Lady Uranium and Scissor Lift, perform to help create an ethereal atmosphere complementary to the dark and sinister spirit of the tale.
Pigtail Girls Zine Release
8 pm Friday Nov. 10. $5-10 suggested donation.
2889 Trades West Road