Sunday, 22 July 2012

Olympic Torch Relay- Bournemouth

Back in March in I did a favor for my dancing teacher and made him some contemporary circle skirts for his piece with Pavilion Dance Adult Contemporary Company. When it came to April I found a spare hour to visit Pavilion Dance to give back left over fabric and collect portfolio photos. On the spot I was asked what I was doing in July. At that point I knew I would have graduated and had one month left on my contract in my student house so I said not much. "How would you like to costume a load of break dancers for the Olympic Torch Relay?" was the next question..... There was no way I was going to say no.

Organised by Activate Performing Arts, Pavilion Dance South West and choreographed by Avant Garde, the initial idea was that the dancers were athletes (but with a little break dancing gear feel) at the Olympics and the dance piece would be a journey from the opening ceremony, to the games to the closing ceremony.
My main source of inspiration came from Olympic athlete's track suit uniform and the Olympic ring colours: blue, black, red, yellow and green. I had originally intended to put the dancers in white tracksuits and dip dye parts of the tracksuits, but due to budget and the amount of dancers it wasn't possible. My idea had to change. I decided that the initial uniform would be to keep the white tracksuit bottoms and for break dancing street credibility, have black vest tops with some form of a logo at the front with a athlete race number at the back to keep them unified. Sounds easy doesn't it?.... It really wasn't. This was the first project where I was sourcing clothes rather than fabric. I found it a really hard task to search for garments that were perfect and were in budget range. Especially white tracksuit bottoms. It sounded like a bog standard colour to get and yet very few retailers and wholesalers sold them! Fortunately, thanks to some deep searching on ebay and very close to fitting day I found a wholesale retailer who I was able to strike a deal to send me samples to fit the dancers on time.

After some careful decision making and planning all the tracksuit bottoms were divided into equal colour groups. and their began the dip dying saga. My advice to anyone who is going to do dip dying at home is to make sure you have a decent size kitchen to rinse clothes.

 Space for a washing up bowl to have hand dye in, cupboards to hang clothes off of whilst in the dying process. 

And another space to hang clothes to dry. Unfortunately my house didn't have the space for this but fortunately two fellow costumiers' flat/house did! Thank you Helen and Hanah!

Next were the tops. A new thing I learnt. It is easy to get plain black vest tops for adults.... but for some reason they don't exist in any children's wear. However plain white vest tops do.  At this point I was prepared to try to dye them all black but then the Choreographer requested for them not to be black before I bought the dye. I was very happy to have that problem solved.

The design for the tops was inspired by a relay race track, particularly when it curves round. To abstract the design the five colours were incorporated into the design. As I was free hand painting the design I needed to make the lines as sleek as possible.

A stencil, made out of card board, was made to help with the sleekness but also to keep each line roughly the same distance apart for every single top

As for the numbers.... well there's not much to say about them other than I'm so glad I discovered transfer paper when I did the sweet tutu project. That method came in handy once again.

Final Photos 

 These professional photos were taken by Jerry Fenner. Check out his blog! Theres a lot more photos on his site! 

Also check out Activate Performing Arts to see what other dance and theatre events are happening near you.

Last advert (I promise!) before I leave you to look at the photos. Thank you Pavilion Dance for giving me this opportunity. It was an absolute pleasure working with you again. To see what dance performances are happening in Bournemouth, or your interested in picking up a few new dance moves check this website out

Okay I'm done now. Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Just a quick update

So I've successfully graduated from my degree course at the Arts University College at Bournemouth with Costume with Performance Design and have now entered the real world. After the insane year I've had with the medieval period, a dissertation and mixing sweets with ballet... real life does sound like sanctuary.

So what can you expect next? Well my biggest news that has just passed is that I have completed my first official job as a costume designer and supervisor for Pavilion Dance South West. I worked with four local break dancing crews and a professional break dancing crew from London for the Olympic Torch Relay in Bournemouth. And guess what.... a little bit of our performance made it on the BBC! I'm awaiting some professional photos and I've been given permission to write a post about my costume journey so watch this space! This post is coming very soon!

My next project will be starting in August where I am Wardrobe Mistress for the Orchard Theatre's Summer Youth Project "Annie" in Dartford. 10 days to costume 175 kids... challenge accepted.

After that... I am not sure what is happening next. However, I still have quite a few custom makes that I ow a couple of people. I haven't forgotten about any of you.... promise! This next stepping stone in my life is very exciting and yet slightly scary at the same time. Bring on the professional madness!

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Sweet Tutu

I think it's safe to say that the past 6 months has been the busiest time of my life over 1 single project. For anyone who has been following my progress on facebook, I thank you for putting up with my posts, photo splurging and for taking interest.

Model- Leigh Cookson
Photographer- Sarah French

So why the tutu? Well cleshay answer number 1, The tutu was something I wanted to cover on my course. Looking back to when I went to the Costume graduate exhibition before I left school (that was a very long time ago!), the tutu's in the exhibition blew me away just as much as the 19th century period costumes. So when the opportunity arose at the start of the academic year, I jumped straight on it. Answer number 2, For anyone who knows me, or has read my introduction, my background is dancing, having a mum with a dancing school and a big wardrobe full of costumes!!! If it wasn't for my mum dragging me to the costume store every school half term and putting me in the dressing room for every production she supplied dancers for, I don't think I would have developed the strong passion and love for costumes and theatre that I have now. I wanted to pay homage for that background but add a little bit of Lucy Bell craziness into the mixture.

So how did this crazy idea start? So back in November the costumes girls and I went to see The Nutcracker at our theatre in Bournemouth. At this point I was definitely wanted to do the tutu project, I just didn't know which character. Whilst watching the Sugar Plum Fairy suite I remembered that the last time I watched the ballet, in London,I was extremely disappointed with the Sugar plum Fairy's costume. From their I went on a slight mission to remember every single version of Nutcracker I had seen. The one that stuck out the most was Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker with a line in the programme I own “Everything is edible in Sweetieland and its inhabitants are judged not by how they look but how they taste!” 
So from this quote I had the new question of could I make you judge my work by looking but make your taste buds very aware of what you can see? So from here I changed the extremes. I decided to create my own version of the Sugar Plum Fairy, with the intention to make her the brightest, sweetest, most artificial (remember the artifical part!) character on the planet. With this decision came the second decision and advisory from my tutor that because of the amount of extreme detail and textiles that would be done, the tutu would be better as an exhibition piece where you could look close up at the sweets. Rather than see them from a distance and half the detail would lost.... not to mention that half of the decoration would possibly fly off the minute the dancer did pirouettes. 

The parts that should have made me insane (and probably did) 

The one challenge that went through many trials and errors in the entire project. How the bloody hell am I going to make these sweets look real? Thanks to our uni having an amazing workshop department, the technicians there gave me a helping hand where they introduced me into silicone and resin. 
 All the sweets in the boxes were covered in silicone where they made maulds for resin. For the more squidgy guelliton sweets the same process was made but use liquid latex instead of resin. Other sweet processes were made but i'm not telling you everything ;)

Model- Leigh Cookson
Photographer- Sarah French 

 Disolvable fabric. A textile technique I wanted to try so this was a good excuse to experiment. In my samples I could create caramel baskets and sugary treats. But what made it to the tutu was layers of various pinks, purples, blues, and green thread machined in different patterns created the look of candyfloss stretched out. On a small scale it was fun. On a bigger scale...

... I went a little mad. In total I think I spent 19 hours machining like crazy but once the water runs through you get this cool effect.

The last insane idea was to make edible rose petals. Another textile technique I found that I wanted to try. The process was easy. However...
Photo courtesy of Becki Fisher  
                                              .... there are over 100 petals!.....
                               ....and I was mad enough to bead every single one of them too!

Model- Leigh Cookson
Photographer- Sarah French 

Well that showcases all the mad things I have done in this project. I hope you have enjoyed this post. Sorry it has taken me so long to get round to writing it. 

List of thank yous 

Dexter- thank you for teaching me the art form I always wanted to learn. It has been an amazing journey and I would easily do it all again. Also thank you for believing that I could do this and pushing my boundaries further than my limit.  

Heather, Mikala and Sophie- We did it guys! We can all make tutu's and they all look amazing! 

Sarah French- Thank you for stepping in as photographer last minute. 

Emma Rae Hart- Thank you for doing the hair and make up. It adds to the final touch perfectly. 

Leigh Cookson- My beautiful model

Becki, Hanah, Emma, Danae, Helen and Jess- In the last 2 weeks of the project, at some point these guys all helped me: bead, sew petals, forced fed me chocolate, injected caffine into my bloodstream (okay they got me caramel lattes) and have pulled me back on my feet when I wanted to breakdown. Thank you guys for keeping me alive!!!! 

And lastly (and cheesey thank you but its needed) Mum- This project would never have existed if I had never gone to dancing, never seen a ballet and had never played dress up in dressing room 8 or the costume store. Thank you for giving me all of this. 

Monday, 20 February 2012


So there I was scrolling on facebook when I came across Argosy Player's photo album Cinderella
It reminded me that I still hadn't done my blog post on it. I'd like to point out now that none of these photos are mine, they belong to Argosy.

Argosy invited me back to help costume Cinderella. Unlike last year I worked with the Supervisor to costume the entire cast. This meant making in an incredible crazy short period of time. We were told that the panto should have a 1980's influence but some things should just be left as fairytale panto (such as Cinderella and the chorus' daywear). The three characters I mainly took on were the Fairy God Mother, Prince and Dandini.

I was told that on audition day the actor who was cast as Fairy God Mother turned up as a bit of a punk fairy with Doc Martins. So my starting point was a corset and tutu skirt silhouette. As the character is responsible for Cinderella's ball gown, travel and arrival to the ball this made come up with the concept that she should be like fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. The Bodice is a mix of an 18th century corset and Westwood's classic velvet and elastic corset tops from her 1980's collection. The skirt was based on a more recent design where the layers of net are cut shorter and shorter at the back displaying a bustle of colour.

Princy. Simply based on Prince Charles (and Prince Williams) royal millitary atire. This make was a bit of a learning curve for me as I realised that you can't always adapt one pattern into something completely different. If I had the chance to start again I would have drafted Princy from scratch.

As the Prince was based on the royal family I couldn't resist the urdge of making Dandini like Adam Ant. During rehearsals the actor was appearing more and more like Blackadder, the Prince's loyal servant who really has no sympathy for the Prince and full of sarcasm. So here's my combination of the two.

A wash of colour from the chorus.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

In Extremis

A post I've been meaning to do for a while. Gonna keep this one short as it was a while ago.

So for my Specialist Practice unit I made a costume for the medieval play In Extremis. Designed by Emma Peters (a fellow student on my course). Medieval period was something on my "to do list" in the making department and supporting a student designer seemed like a good idea for the hope of future work. So what the hell.... lets make a Medieval costume.

My character was King Louis VI AKA Louis the Fat/Gross. Challenge 1: Making my character look big as the actor is skinny and is multirolling. Solution: Make a fat suit that can survive a quick change.

Challenge 2: Imply textile skills somewhere in the project. Solution: The design for the cloak had an autumn leafy pattern to it. This was something I wanted to interpret from scratch. However due to time and money this wasn't possible. So I was given a pre-printed fabric as a base and I was to work on top of it. I simply copied the original leaf motif and intended on printing it in a bolder colour.

Happy Accident time!
A simple accident where I had more binder than metallic dust created a see through silhouette that the Designer just so happened to love. Enhanced with a little gold paint edging this print went on the fabric.

The Final Product (this is not my photo!)
So there you have in In Extremis told in a nutshell. Sorry it took me so long to post!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A quick update

Man it has been a busy 3 months and i still haven't stopped. Just thought I'd do a quick update post of whats been going on that will eventually have posts of their own in detail.

So uni wise I had my Specialist Practice where I made a medieval king costume for a live production. In Extremis was how should I put it..... full of extreme challenges that I just couldn't turn down. It was an intense 6 weeks of making but was incredibly rewarding.

Next on my agenda was to get at least one of Katie Sin's designs realized and here it is.

                                                   (Model- Katie Sin)

1st time for me to use PVC properly for making costumes. Usually I experiment with the stuff and create a textured texile piece with it. This was a fun experimental make where everything I've learnt in cutting on stand, pattern drafting and making decisions for myself to make the design look better in real life came into practice. Now that I know how to make this dress and have a couple of rolls of various PVC colours and patterns.... there maybe a little series of this dress out coming soon. :D

And finally panto. Normally students take advantage of their time off for xmas and relax.... Sleep is for the wicked I say!
Argosy Dramatics asked me back to make costumes for their panto Cinderella that will be on at the end of January. But rather than make a one off piece for them.... I've collaborated with the Costume Supervisor by mainly "re" designing and making the principle characters and co-ordinating the chorus together. It's tough. I've got roughly 9 costumes to make by 6pm tomorrow for a fitting but I am loving watching my drawings come to life in fabric. If I managed to get a few pictures of the run I'll post the designs and costumes on here at a later date.

So that's my last 3 months in a nutshell. I have 1 week of "holiday" left before I go back to uni and start my EMP project... the last project before graduation. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!! Wish me luck!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Sindy Sin

Okay so I'm giving the designing thing a go and taking it a little bit more seriously for once rather than scribbling an idea and calling it a drawing.
So these designs are for Sindy Sin and are currently unofficial initial designs. There could be a a few updates of designs with possible finished makes so get ready for a series. All designs are PVC and maybe leather based.

Design 1

Sindy gone corporate/military/uniform. Zips up at the front. Probably put together by panels. Similar to the naughty nurse outfits you can get online however there could possibly be a Sin Doll logo somewhere (sleeve/ corner of the slit) that can be printed or machine embroidered to define it as a one off piece.

Design 2

The Ring Mistress. The jacket is of the same style as my pirate/ring mistress jacket (see themed events label). The only change I've made is by opening the skirt panels and lacing them together with leather or suede ribbon/strips. Making the jacket smaller or bigger at any time. Leotard underneath the jacket.
Design 3
Sindy gone sub? This design is based on a drawing I scribbled in front of her. I am thinking that the corset would be made of leather or a leather effect kind of fabric and its a choice in whether to make the red stripes pvc or simply ribbon. Still debating if this could work in pink.

Design 4
The kitteh. When I first met Sindy she wore a leopard print coat and had a furry leopard cat hat. I wanted to incorporate leopard print somewhere in my designs so why not make her a Dead Sexy Kitten? Again paneled dress but the triangle of the skirt are sewn where the seams of the black pvc should meet up, which causes the skirt to go out. The tail and belt would be sewn together it's just a question of if they are fixed onto the dress or not. I have no idea if is possible to get hold of leopard print pvc. if there isn't this maybe my free time dye room experiment.