But in mid-March, the Covid-19 outbreak caught the Dutch American ship, and the trip made an unexpected turn.
Perrie finally landed in the Netherlands and returned to Australia by air after a 60-day sea scent that caused multiple quarantines, ship-wide crashes and coronavirus symptoms among hundreds of passengers and crews.
When she returned to her hometown, Perth, Perrie was exposed to another compulsory quarantine in a hotel room for two weeks without any physical interaction with the outside world.
To keep his mind active and busy at this strange time, Perrie decided to be creative.
The hotel staff distributed three-day meals in paper bags every day. Soon, he accumulated a heap and an idea began to form.
Perrie wore clothes from paper bags.
“But I think only the paper bags that came and came were inspired.”
The creative process
Ashleigh Perrie made this amazing outfit out of paper bags.
Courtesy of Ashleigh Perrie
First, Perrie had to collect enough bags to put together his complex costumes.
“It was the first design dress tossed in my head, I wanted something extravagant, very formal and as detailed as I could get with the items I had,” she says.
“But actually the first thing I did was tutu, as I said in the end,” Bag-erina “because I needed bags for that and for many other costumes to stay fit. I had to cut the bags and use different shapes.”
Perrie was creative when quarantined in a hotel room.
Courtesy of Ashleigh Perrie
In addition to her ballet costume, Perrie created a tennis-fitting outfit that included a podium-style getup she called “Queen Quarantina” and, of course, an exaggerated dress called “The Maria Paper-pova”, tennis skirt and visor. It was first named “Origami Diva”.
He built the costumes using everything he could get (of course paper bags, napkins, biodegradable containers, and disposable cutlery) and using only a pair of scissors, adhesive tape and a roll of cotton. When the project came together, she shared snapshots of Perrie creations and small video pieces of the process with her mother and sister.
Quarantine said Perrie was not easy, but this was a fun, creative and exciting distraction.
“It was difficult after staying in the sea for so long and we already had three quarantine periods on board,” he recalls.
“Then it was mentally difficult to come back and confront the two-week quarantine and not knowing, and finally to wrap up your family and friends at the airport when it arrived, just ‘Ah, it feels a little disappointing home.'”
However, Perrie said that she had taken the time to deal with the situation and that her artistic release had passed.
“It was time to slow down, it was my time to just relax and take care of myself after everything I’ve experienced,” he says.
Eye of the storm
Symptoms spread, four guests on board died and others tested positive for the virus.
As the ports closed their doors to Zaandam, the Netherlands, America deployed a second ship in Rotterdam to get relief and healthy guests, but eventually they got on both ships.
Passengers eventually landed on Fort Lauderdale in Florida on April 2, but the crew was not allowed to leave. Instead, the Netherlands America had to take workers back to the Netherlands throughout the Atlantic.
“It was definitely a very difficult experience on board,” Perrie said, encountering the symptoms of Covid.
“The entire ship was locked, the company handled incredibly – it was a very difficult situation, where no one really had any experience with handling. Our captain was great. And to make sure all the guests were safe.”
Perrie calls this experience “a true mental endurance test”.
“We had a lot of faith in each other on the ship. Obviously, you had to stick with your crew friend and capture each other during the crisis. It was difficult, but it was a very, very character-enhancing experience.”
At the end of May, Perrie’s hotel quarantine ended and finally reunited with his family.
Before leaving the hotel room, Perrie modeled each of her creations – and did her best to put some in her suitcase.
He squeezed some there, but he had to leave the majority for recycling.
When Perrie shared her creations’ video on Facebook, happy friends and family started sharing online and spread soon.
“I got great answers from everyone, just people who appreciate how creative it is and how surprising it is to do it when it’s locked into a room for two weeks and there’s nothing else to do,” says Perrie.
Perrie hopes her project will make people smile.
Courtesy of Ashleigh Perrie
Has the experience traveled Perrie for life?
No, he says he likes how working on a cruise allows the crew to travel the world.
However, Perrie hopes that the events in the past few months will enable them to re-examine how the world responded to a crisis at sea.
“The biggest problem we face is the many countries that are closing their borders and the ship companies that are trying to do everything they can to take us home and facing any humanitarian assistance just to let us get off,” says Perrie.
“I mean, it would be interesting to see if anything more positive could come out of this experience – and perhaps some policies can be applied to deal with that kind of thing.”
Meanwhile, Perrie is happy to smile on people’s faces in difficult times.
“I think a lot of people see this positively in the entire Covid pandemic, and looking back is good.”
He got in touch with a number of different organizations interested in his work, from the museum and the art gallery to an organization working with women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Plus, Perrie has just released a few paper bags whether it will turn them into a case, so stay tuned for more potential creation in the coming weeks.