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Decadence by Design

You are what you wear… If the theme of this year’s HighBall Halloween (10.21-10.22) applies to the annual Costume Couture contest, then we’re about have plenty of interesting detail revealed about this year’s contestants. If you are what you wear, than the last time we saw three of our designers, they would have been a [...]



You are what you wear…

If the theme of this year’s HighBall Halloween (10.21-10.22) applies to the annual Costume Couture contest, then we’re about have plenty of interesting detail revealed about this year’s contestants.

If you are what you wear, than the last time we saw three of our designers, they would have been a Poké Ball, a giant insect and a human chandelier.

What started nine years ago as a fun fashion component to an October block party has now become the cornerstone of the event, drawing crowds by the thousands and design and fashion talent from all over the map.

While we here at (614) will likely be throwing something together at the last minute, we wanted to take the time we’re saving by cracking open the creative minds of three of our returning designers.

Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros • @ferreyroscouture


Past Design Experience: Miss Universe pageant

HighBall Experience: 2 years

Just like the globe he’s traveled to make Columbus home, Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros is a well-rounded resource of diverse fashion experience, education, and history.

In his home country of Peru, the designer was exposed early on to the fashion of the ’60s—the Jackie Onassis era, as he calls it—growing up in an American area of Peru, where his grandfather and father had settled before him. It was one of the first countries to see the fashion, music, and art of the states. For years the most famous designers, like Coco Chanel, had stores in Lima, which he said was known as “the Paris of South America.”

“Fashion around the world has many commonalities,” he said. “The famous women in the U.S. inspired the fashion so, in this time, in my country, the women wore their hair tall and bouffant with the same square heeled shoes and gloves.  The fabrics were chiffons, Chantilly, organza—and the shoes were the same colors as the bags. The jewelry also matched and many women wore tiaras and other adornments in their hair.”

Cut to decades later, and it’s hard not to see that influence in Saenz-Ferreyros, a designer who has spent a large portion of his career designing Miss Universe pageant dresses, and last year made his HighBall debut with a stunning chandelier-based design line.

“I wanted to prepare something spectacular,” he said. “I love chandeliers and crystals, so I thought about how I could bring these together in one costume—and turn a person into a chandelier.  But I wanted it to be a real chandelier with lights—that dim just like they do in your house.  And I wanted it to have sconces, just like you might have in your home.”

Not only was he able to accomplish his vision, but throughout the process he kept increasing it’s wattage by adding a little more to the basic chandelier skeleton day after day, eventually pushing it to over five feet wide.

“It turned out to be everything I imagined it to be,” he said. “When I looked and listened to the reactions people had, I was so gratified. Just as when I’m making a dress for a customer, I put everything into it—my ideas, my vision, all my effort—and it paid off.”

He is quick to credit his models, Darci Joy, Hunter Swackhammer, and Mark Adamek -as requiring someone to walk around as an elaborate human chandelier begs for some shared executive credit. This no doubt comes from the fact that well before his designer days, Saenz-Ferreyros walked the runway himself, working for companies in South America.

“When you enter in runway modeling, you are part of the fashion,” he said. “When you are modeling clothes, you are really modeling ideas. You are an important part of interpreting the vision.”

One year later, and people still remember his creation vividly.

“People will come up and say, ‘Oh, you are the designer of the Chandelier! It was fantastic!’” he said.

No doubt they’ll be waiting to see if he can top his first creation with his follow-up at HighBall 2016.

Shiree Houf


First Halloween costume: Minnie Mouse

HighBall experience: 5 years

You could say that Shiree Houf has grown up along with HighBall.

As a student protégé in 2009, her Queen Elizabeth-inspired queen bee costume took home top honors, and she’s proved to be no fluke, taking home wins in 2013 and 2014, and third in last year’s event.

Houf, who has an MFA in design from OSU and a BA in theatre from Miami University, is back for a fifth competition, one that could place her among HighBall royalty.

Whether it’s bees or broken dolls, Houf’s creative satisfaction lies in the little “coincidences” she happens upon in the design process. For example, that first big project as a student:

“So many choices were made in order to either evoke the insect or the historical figure—honeycomb fishnet stockings, a red curly wig with antennae, shoes that miraculously looked Renaissance-esque yet also kind of wispy-wasp-ish. The more of these I can make happen the more content I am as a designer,” she said.

This year, not merely content to find a design that executes to perfection, she’s upping the ante. But that’s part of the fun, she says. “One of my greatest strengths as a designer is that I feel I can almost always accomplish what I put on paper. It may be because, as I’m designing, I’m already thinking of how to make it happen in reality,” she said. “This year, I am actually attempting one of my biggest “dream pieces”—something that lives beautifully in my mind and I hope/pray that it comes out just as good in real life.”

For Houf, her HighBall work is a natural extension of her long-time creative streak.“I’ve always been making things,” she said. “My mom would get so angry because I wanted to keep everything! Cereal boxes and scrap fabric were used to make a pair of slippers, egg cartons made little dolls or beads—in my mind everything has potential to be used to make something else.”

Now, she’s passing that on to her own little girl -a new inspiration for “making things.” “On a higher level though, now that I am a mom, I want to create to inspire my daughter,” she said. “I want her to grow up thinking that her mom is pretty cool.”

 Que Jones

Alter Ego: Drag Queen Gretta Goodbottom


HighBall experience: 2 years

He may not have placed at the 2015 HighBall, but Que Jones did take the unofficial award for most prescient design, filling the runway with world of Pokemon—draped on colorful drag queens—long before it took over the world.

The second-year competitor hopes to change that in 2016, representing what truly makes HighBall a special event: a showcase for designers that has very little to do with formal training or resumes in the couture world.

“When I was 8, all I wanted for Christmas was a sewing machine,” he said. “My grandmother graciously got me one and the rest is history.”

And he’s been sewing like a madman ever since. Although last year was his first fully designed line, he’s got trunks and bins full of things he’s sewed and stowed, ones “that won’t fit anyone without serious alterations.” Now, he considers his lack of formal training his advantage.

“I design purely on aesthetic and concept, and figure out how I am actually going to do it after the fact,” he said. “I was completely self taught as a seamster, which means while I may not do things the technically correct way, there is a practicality to what I make and how I make it. It allows me to try new things without even realizing they are new.”

Jones loves more than anything to be scared, and his second year contribution will carry the theme “Straight Outta Hell.” He’s also ready to correct mistakes from a huge first-year learning curve.

“I learned a ton—mostly, when designing for outdoor shows you have to be aware of wind,” he laughed. “I used a lightweight foam for the ball, and the vicious wind was not kind. I thought at one point my poor model was going to be blown off the stage.”

Meet the Designers

These five will be competing against Saenz-Ferreyros, Houf, and Jones at this year’s Highball:

Hanna Rose

First Costume Created: Turned sister into a mermaid

Previous Design Experience: Studied Bra Design in London

Highball Experience: Debut

Born in Detroit and raised in Columbus; studied fashion in London at UCA Epsom, ranked 17th in the world for fashion design.

Edina Ndebele

Previous Design Experience: First runner-up, Cotco Fashion Fair Competition

HighBall Experience: Debut

Born in Zimbabwe; has showcased her award-winning designs at the New York Africa Fashion Week (Jul. 2011), Virgin Islands Fashion Week (Oct. 2011), and Louisville Waterfront Fashion Week (2012).

Barbara Wallace

First Costume Created: Human Christmas tree

HighBall Experience: 4 years

Graduate of CCAD with a BFA in fashion design; has worked as an accessories designer for Bath & Body Works and Life is Good; owns Black Cat Made, which designs competition suits for bodybuilders.

Horst & Steamy

First Costume Worn: Army soldier, cat

First Costume Designed: Vivi (Final Fantasy 9) cosplay

HighBall Experience: Debut

Horst: world-renowned felter that has revolutionized the centuries-old craft by incorporating new processes with a keen sense of color and form. Ms. Steamy: designing all manner of clothing. Together: combine the intricacies of fabric with bold wool embellishments.

For more about this year’s HighBall festivities, visit

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Arts & Culture

Two of the 13 “Greatest Places in America” are in Central Ohio

Mike Thomas



Throughout Central Ohio, efforts to uplift communities have been ongoing for decades. Now, some of these efforts are garnering attention on the national stage.

According to a report from Columbus Business First, The Short North Arts District and Delaware's historic downtown were named among 13 “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association, a national organization of urban planners.

The APA's picks highlight locales representing “the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.”

In its rundown of the Short North Arts District, the APA points to the neighborhood's status as "a pioneer in urban revitalization in Central Ohio," and goes on to call the neighborhood the "art and soul" of the City of Columbus.

As for downtown Delaware, the APA It highlighted efforts by civic and business leaders in transforming the derelict city center into a thriving neighborhood full of attractive amenities for locals and visitors to enjoy.

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Arts & Culture

Nina West makes TV History with Emmys appearance

Mike Thomas



Hometown hero Nina West is having a big year. Following her "Miss Congeniality" win in season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race, West has released of a children’s music album, Drag Is Magic, and a comedy EP, titled John Goodman.

Now, the Columbus drag icon can add a moment of television history to her impressive list of accomplishments.

According to, West is the first person in Emmys history to walk the purple carpet in full drag.

Season 11 of Drag Race, which airs on VH-1 and has been renewed for a 12th season, took home 4 Emmy wins, including the trophy for "Outstanding Reality Show." The long running competition was nominated for 14 awards in all—the most of any VH-1 show in history.

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas



While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can't wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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