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Saturday’s first Brick City Phenomicon was unlike anything the City of Sanford and its historic downtown have ever seen before. The brainchild of Hugger Mugger Brewing’s Tim Emmert, the Phenomicon brought cosplay (which didn’t seem too out of place with Halloween right around the corner), art and films and panel discussions on just about every nerdly topic imaginable … and we use the term nerdly with affection.

One of the highlights of the day was the appearance of hands-down the creepiest and most creative costume of the Phenomicon — the Victorian Pennywise.

The creation of Sanford artist Ceirra Doll, costumer May Hemmer and model Mallory Nicole, this creative take on the creepy clown monster from Stephen King’s “It” (the Bill Skarsgard version) was a hit throughout the day for adults and kids. Pennywise posed for hundreds of photos with trick-or-treaters and stood out even among the most elaborate cosplayers Saturday.

The Rant reached out to Ceirra — a professional makeup artist and budding special effects wiz — to ask her about the idea and work that went into making Pennywise very real (and very creepy).

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Progression of Victorian Pennywise, from 5 a.m. Saturday to the Phenomicon.


The Rant: Your take on Pennywise freaked us out … tell us where the idea came from and how you made it happen.

Ceirra: Well, I’m a makeup artist, and May is a professional cosplayer — she does elaborate costumes, and I do elaborate makeup. We were both on the Brick City Phenomicon committee, and that’s how we met. Instantly, we hit it off and decided we should collaborate on something. When it all came together — the makeup and the costume — it was just wonderful.

The Rant: So why a Pennywise bride?

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Queen Elizabeth I, the inspiration for Victorian Pennywise

Ceirra: Well, she’s not really a bride. Yes, her outfit is a 1970s vintage wedding dress that May had in her closet. I had talked to her about all these costumes I wanted to do, but I don’t sew. I loved the idea of making Pennywise a woman — and his red hair and huge forehead reminded me of the old paintings of Queen Elizabeth I. I mean, she is Pennywise — so I had the idea of the big poofy dress with the ruffles, beads through her hair. When May told me she had this vintage dress she got at a thrift store for $10, I said this can happen. So we did some planning, and it was just magic.

The Rant: How long did this take from start to finish?

Ceirra: I started this way back in June. That’s when I started working on the prosthetics. I took alginate [a powder compound made from seaweed or kelp that is added to water to make a putty substance dentists use to make molds of teeth] and I made a mold of Mallory’s face. Then I poured a concrete substance in there to make a perfect copy. From there, I sculpted the brow onto her face cast, then put latex over it and made the forehead prosthetic. I also messed around with the right makeup and accessories to make sure everything was perfect.

We were hoping for a dry run before hand to test it out, but everybody was so busy. [The Phenomicon] was its debut. We got up at 5 a.m. to get everything prepped. It took five and a half hours from start to finish. It was a process. But it seemed to all work out.

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The Rant: What was the typical reaction in downtown Sanford?

Ceirra: It was a mixture of, “Oh, look!” and “Whoa!” We had a little girl — she was maybe 2 or 3 — who was just fearless and ran right up to her for a picture. Then we had grown men running away or teens who had to be dragged on stage [in Karma Boutique & Coffee Bar] for a photo. Sometimes Mallory would take her teeth out and tell people she was really a nice person and not scary, but I’d say, “You’re not helping, Mallory.”

The Rant: Are you using Pennywise again this week for Halloween?

Ceirra: I don’t think we’ll be able to get it together again for Halloween, but I’d love to do another photo shoot with her. We have beautiful, historic places here in North Carolina that would make an ideal place for photos. But when we pick a day, we really need to pick a day. It takes a long time getting this ready.

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pennywisefinalThe Rant: What got you into body painting and makeup?

Ceirra: My Facebook page has photos of my body painting work — it was just a hobby of mine, and I wasn’t doing it for anybody in particular or for jobs. I just love horror movies, I love fantasy and I love doing makeup. I love transformation. I’ve been getting work for it in the last two years … it’s kind of snowballed.

The Rant: You’ve worked with [Sanford horror film director] Christine Parker?

Ceirra: She messaged me a few years ago, and said, “Hey, we’re working on a feature film, Blood of the Mummy, and we’d love to have you come and help with the makeup.” I’d never met Christine or [special effects artist] Bill Mulligan, but I said sure. I thought it would be just a few people making a film in a backyard, but this was legit. I showed up for that first meeting, and I was blown away. Very impressed. The film is really cool, and I can’t wait for it to come out. Everything was spectacular. Bill has worked on a ton of movies and has been part of a ton of panels. He’s taught me a lot about practical effects. He’s been a huge help and inspiration.

The Rant: How did the first Phenomicon go?

Ceirra: Such a great turnout. It was so wonderful. There was a woman who made this Ewok outfit, and it was movie quality. Just amazing. At one point i look around and people are LARPing (live-action role playing), there’s elaborate cosplays, people are talking nerd. It was beautiful. I wondered if in Sanford there would be a little pushback on this, but that wasn’t the case. It was a bunch of people having fun and sharing a common interest. It was pretty great. It went a lot better than we thought it would.

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