labricoleuse: (frippery)
I'm so pleased to have a new installment of the Interviews series, this time with milliner Jan Wutkowski. Jan is not only a working milliner but also maintains a busy teaching schedule of millinery classes all over the country and internationally, and owns and operates her own boutique, aMuse: artisanal finery. Here's what she had to say about the art and the craft of millinery.

Q. How long have you been designing hats, and how did you get started?

I was very fortunate to live in Australia in 1995. For the first 6 months I lived in Brisbane, Queensland, and was actively looking for something to study and immerse myself in--some artistic skill to bring back to the US and try to make a living at. Living there seemed like such a fairy tale anyway, I mean, who gets to go live in Australia for a year and have nothing to do but have a great time and learn as much as you can? I looked into taking classes in the old craft of applying gold leaf to frames, statues, chairs, and other objets d'art, but it just didn't seem right for me.

I then moved to Melbourne, Victoria, for the remaining 6 months, and was lucky enough to live just a couple of blocks from an amazing working craft gallery. Lots of artists showing how they created their work--spinners, printmakers, blacksmiths, glass blowers, and milliners, all under one roof. Every week I'd go to the gallery and watch the milliners blocking straws and felts, covering buckram, and many other millinery skills. The next week I'd go back and see the finished product waiting for someone to purchase it. I was amazed! But I contacted the millinery school because I found out they could teach me to make handmade felt, not to learn to make hats. I'd never even heard of handmade felt until I moved Australia, but quickly fell in love with the whole process.

After I took the feltmaking class I enrolled in the millinery classes. I had been a collector of vintage hats for years and loved to wear them, but it had never occurred to me at all as to how they were made; I just knew I loved these little works of art, little sculptures you put on your head. I'm also one of those souls who have tried every art and craft around but I'd always lose interest after the first year or so. Millinery? It stuck and I've never looked back.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
First up, congratulations to [ profile] puppetmaker40, the winner of my first-ever book giveaway contest for a copy of Margaret Peot's Successful Artist's Career Guide. And, I hope a few of the rest of you check the book out as well. I'm very excited to incorporate it into my classes in the fall.

Next, a signal-booting announcement. Remember back when Talenthouse hosted the Stephen Jones millinery contest? They've partnered with another famous milliner, Dillon Wallwork, and UK's excellent HATalk E-Magazine [1] to host another millinery contest in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's upcoming Diamond Jubilee! Very excited to see the visibility of millinery and hat-wearing on the rise.

You can enter the contest here through May 3rd, with voting set to run from the 4th through the 11th. First prize winner receives free enrollment at one of Mr. Wallwork's famous millinery courses at Chateau Dumas. Swoon. Really looking forward to this contest, as i'm hoping it will be a similar sort of fantastic cross-section of milliners around the world!

[1] I suppose in the interest of full disclosure, i was a featured Milliner of the Month some years back in HATalk, but i am otherwise unaffiliated with them or anyone else hosting these contests. Just a chapeauphile and interested milliner is all.
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
We are currently hosting a short residency with renowned Broadway costume painter Margaret Peot in tandem with the release of her new book, The Successful Artist's Career Guide: Finding your Way in the Business of Art. In addition to the freelancer's workshop I announced in a prior post, she is also conducting workshops and classes with our graduate and undergraduate students yesterday and today here on campus.

Yesterday morning, she led our costume production MFA candidates in a specialized advanced workshop exploring aerosol and airbrush techniques using acid dyes on nylon spandex and silk fabrics. This is not a workshop she can do most places, because it requires students who are respirator-fit-tested due to the type of airborne dyestuff the techniques create, but because we have a respirator program in place here, we could host it! Exciting!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (safety)
I've rhapsodized in the past about how thankful i am to work at a professional theatre in residence on the campus of a major university, particularly one that functions in part as a teaching lab for production graduate programs, because safety standards and training are so high. Despite having a CV approximately 10x longer than my arm, PlayMakers/UNC-CH is the first employer i've worked for which had a comprehensive respirator fit-testing program for costume craftspeople[1].

Many theatres and independent production shops and freelance artisans don't have any idea how to implement such a thing or have the resources to do so. We're lucky because the university already has an Environmental Health and Safety department set up to do this kind of training for folks over in the science labs, medical school, and various facilities maintenance areas which work with airborne toxins far more frequently than we do, so for me and my students to piggyback onto the school's existing training and testing setup is not a huge deal.

So, here's something pretty exciting for everyone who wants to learn about respirator fit testing and training but doesn't know how to begin: on November 29th at 1pm, Lab Safety Supply is hosting a free 45-minute webinar about it! They already have a handy online fact sheet, but this presentation will allow you to interact with and ask questions of LSS's safety experts as well.

Register for the webinar here.

Honestly, this is a resource i wish i had access to or had known about fifteen or twenty years ago, and if our theatre and department didn't have the respirator training in place which it currently does, i'd be requiring all my students to register for the webinar and we'd all watch it and participate on the 29th. Hence, passing on the info here. If your company doesn't have a training and fit testing program, or if you freelance and want to educate yourself in this realm, or if it's been a few years since you were trained/fit tested and you need a refresher, check it out!

[1] This is not to say that prior employers of mine were intentionally grossly negligent or anything, rather that the arts industries were largely ignored by OSHA up until perhaps the last decade or so, when they really began to sit up and notice thanks to the efforts of watchdog organizations like ACTS. Even theatres which had training programs for their scenic painters and carps and such, often did not include costume production folks out of an assumption that our work was limited to cut-and-sew processes. But, from dyestuffs to shoe sprays, we know this is not true.
labricoleuse: (history)
We've already begun fielding phone calls and emails from prospective applicants to our graduate program for Fall 2012, and it reminds me that it's time for a roundup of informational posts on the matter!

If you are considering graduate school in your future, now is a good time to begin contacting the program directors at the various schools to which you might be considering applying. Get on the radar early, find out what you need to know while there's plenty of time to prepare--you'll have a much better shot at getting in than as a last-minute under-the-wire applicant, believe me!

I have, over the past five-plus years i've been writing this blog, made a number of posts on topics related specifically to the pursuit of graduate study in professional costume careers. Look over this link list and see whether any of them address questions you might have. And, if you have questions not addressed by any of the prior posts, please ask in the comments! I'll do my best to answer whatever you want to know!

labricoleuse: (silk painting)
The first workshop we attended at USITT-Southeast (held the past weekend on the campus of the University of Georgia at Athens) concerned fabric painting techniques using a special type of transparent paint mixed and sold by Gene Mignola for costume painters like Margaret Peot (the workshop leader).

Mignola's fabric paint (or perhaps "fabric paint" is a better notation) is actually a sort of dye paste--dye suspended in a gum arabic base, which results in a transparent color medium that thins with water and can be used to paint silk, wool, and nylon substrates, including nylon/spandex stretch fabrics. Margaret told us that this type of fabric colorant was devised in part by legendary costume designer Willa Kim for doing painterly techniques on her dancewear designs. Mignola only sells it in bulk quantities (gallons and up) though, so for most folks working on a small scale in regional or academic theatre, you'd probably be better off blending your own in the smaller quantities you need on a project-by-project basis.

In this first workshop, we used the dye/gum paint to paint on woven silk and stretchy nylon/spandex swatches. Margaret illustrated how she achieves several unique paint effects in her work, from scales to warty blobs to feathers to wood-grain. Here are some images i snapped of a couple of processes.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
The past few days, a contingent of us from the UNC-Chapel Hill graduate program in costume production attended the regional conference for USITT-Southeast.

Regional conferences can be kind of hit-or-miss, depending on how far you have to travel to go to one, who's running it, and how the luck of th programming draw falls. Sometimes the conference turns out better for say, scenic folks than costume folks depending on who they get as guests and presenters. This year was a good one for us, in that we were able to travel to Athens in a university van (so, no travel costs for our students) and one of the guests of honor was renowned Broadway fabric painter Margaret Peot, who also teaches fabric painting at Tisch. [1]

Margaret conducted two workshops on different fabric painting techniques, which i'll be writing up over the next few days, but i thought i'd post a series of images from her own work as a first-look sort of thing. She brought a huge selection of paint samples and gave a talk the first morning on her own career and experiences, kind of like a portfolio presentation, almost, in that it included a slide show full of stage shots, design renderings, and fitting photos of various costumes for which she's done paintwork. Her career has so far spanned from Cats to Spiderman, so it was an incredible array of what amounts to Broadway costume production surface-design history of the past 20 years, really.

Here are a few of the photos i took:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
I do have several excellent how-to project posts in the works, but I'll have to finish the projects themselves before i can share them, so in the interim, I'm pleased to share a new interview!

Today's participant is Eric Abele, a guy who wears (and makes!) a whole lot of hats at the Lexington Children's Theatre of Kentucky. LCT is a professional company serving young audiences, founded in 1938; Eric is their Costume Director, a resident designer, costume shop manager, and builds quite a lot of their puppets! I've never actually met Eric in "real life," despite having a whole host of friends and colleagues in common, and sharing an alma mater (UT-Knoxville). Someday, we'll remedy that! But, thanks to the internet, we "know" each other and he graciously agreed to this interview.

Q. For a bit of background, would you describe the shop at the Lexington Children's Theatre--how many employees, what different positions there entail, etc?

A. I like to describe my shop as “The Little Shop that CAN” to anyone who asks. We don’t have the traditional roles that many professional shops have; we try and keep it pretty fluid. In addition to me as Resident Designer/Costume Director I have an Assistant Costumer, who takes on many leadership roles for me and with me. Rounding out the team, I have two full-time Resident Professional Interns, over-hire stitchers and guest designers. Together, we take care of all the costume aspects for a busy eleven-show professional season of plays. It’s a non-stop whirlwind of FUN! Seriously. I love this place so much. Usually I assign projects on each show, and later (for their resumes) we try and assign a title. If we’ve done our job right, then many of us can “claim” the same project, because we’ve all had a hand in it along the way.

Q. What are your responsibilities as Costume Director? Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
I'm really excited about the new interview component of the blog, and the broadening scope it brings to the content here. I'm hoping to use the interviews to focus on professionals in costume production and related fields (like millinery!), and hopefully to bring visibility and insight into the range of careers and types of employers out there. And, i think it'll be a great way to expand the voice of [ profile] labricoleuse to include other perspectives--this blog serves as a fairly comprehensive document of my own opinions and methods, and the interviews will be one means by which I can widen that focus.

Today's interview subject is Kyle Schillinger, who works as a cutter/draper at the Clarence Brown Theatre, a LORT-D regional theatre in residence on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In addition to his work as a production staff member at the CBT, Kyle is also an accomplished freelance costume designer. Kyle and I first met one summer several years ago when we were both hired as crafts artisans at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. We've stayed in touch, and Kyle has even done some overhire work for PlayMakers shows (such as the two pairs of houndstooth trousers for the Duke in Big River. and when I decided to pursue this interview series, he immediately came to mind as a possible participant.

Q. For a bit of background, would you describe the shop at Clarence Brown Theatre--how many employees, what different positions there entail, etc?

A. The Clarence Brown Theatre’s Costume Shop is staffed with a Shop Supervisor, a full time Cutter/Draper (me), and two full time staff Stitchers – one of which doubles as the Wardrobe Supervisor. We don’t have a First Hand, but one of my Stitchers is a great cutter and helps out a lot on large shows that have a good lead-time. Melissa Caldwell-Weddig, our shop manager, spends much of the day in meetings and communicating with us and the rest of the CBT organization – she also helps me by ordering supplies that I request, coordinating fittings and making sure that our facilities and equipment are in proper condition. Together, she and I are responsible for shop workflow and making sure that each show successfully fulfills the design within the budget and timeframe.

Q. What are your responsibilities as lead draper?

A. Much of my day is spent in pattern drafting/draping, cutting, and fittings. I also spend a good deal of time talking with the designer to get into their head – I try to ask the minimum of questions during our first meeting so I don’t overload myself or limit myself with information – I ask more questions as I’m draping and during fittings. I have shifted into doing more flat drafting than draping on a form – for some reason we’ve been doing much more tailoring at the CBT lately. Then I’m in charge of cutting mock-ups, or talking my Stitcher/First Hand Amber through how I want them cut – she does quite a bit of mock-up cutting so I can keep patterning – it really helps.

Communicating with my Stitchers is a huge part of my job. If you are unable to express to others how to put a garment together than you’ll have a very hard time as a draper. I try to plan a construction method as I pattern and notch things to help me remember. Often, my Stitchers will help me figure out the method or come up with a far better way of doing something. Remember, listening is part of communicating!

Fittings are one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. I love working with the actors and designers to really achieve the costume.

We’ve started something new this year to help us all communicate more effectively in the CBT Costume Shop. On Monday mornings at 9:30 we’ve started to hold a shop meeting – Melissa lets us know what’s going on on her end, I talk through the work of the week and then we open the floor to questions. It has helped us all really think through the week and set goals.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (Default)
From now through February, because it's the time when people who are applying to graduate school are getting their portfolios up-to-date, sending in applications and scheduling interviews, i'll be addressing relevant topics now and then.

I typically start these types of posts off with links to my series of prior topical posts on costume-related graduate school subjects, so this one will stay in keeping with that tradition. Here they are:

First up, why do i write these posts? I mean, i'm not getting paid to write this blog. It's not something i'm required to do by the program for which i teach, or by the theatre for whom i work.

I remember all too well how lost in the woods i felt when i graduated with my bachelors and was considering graduate study. At that time, literally NONE of the resources i have mentioned in prior posts existed. No Survey of Costume Programs, no reference books on career options and paths or how one might assemble a relevant portfolio. You asked your professors and hoped they had the time and inclination to give you what advice they could. You asked anyone who knew anything about theatre. You maybe went to USITT or a regional conference (if you had the time and money to do so), and maybe that's the best that it got.

There was no way for, say, a student at a Pacific Northwest small state school in the back of beyond BFE to ever even know that someone like me existed over here in the Carolina piedmont, much less access their advice and experience. So, for those folks, people seeking information on this field with no really excellent local resources, i post these things and i hope to god it's useful.

I hope it helps some folks find the schools that are right for them (and, eliminate those that aren't before they even go through the full application process).

I hope it helps some folks to decide that actually, no, this career field maybe isn't for them--maybe it's an interest better kept as a hobby. or channeled into fashion design or stylist work.

And i hope it helps some folks realize that yes, this is exactly the field for them, whether they want to be a draper or a shop manager or a designer or a crafts artisan, run their own shop or work on a team at a large production facility or whatever! If just one person is helped by the posts, great, it's all been worth my time.

Statements of Purpose

So, with respect to Statements of Purpose, i have a few thoughts. I'm writing this post from purely my own perspective, what *I* think about how a statement of purpose should be written. I don't make acceptance decisions here, but i do read all the applications and occasionally offer feedback, so i've seen dozens of statements of purpose. Bear in mind as you read it, this is only my opinion and is not to be considered any kind of stone-carved hard-rule on the subject.

I can't tell you what your Statement of Purpose should be, really, because it's YOUR statement of YOUR purpose, and how could i know what that might be? I can tell you for sure what it shouldn't be though.

It shouldn't be a rehash of your resume. You've sent that, they've got it. Don't waste anybody's time--yours or theirs--restating info they already can check out (and have). If you have a great example of how a specific experience was revelatory in terms of your decision to pursue graduate study, then that's ok. For example, we had an applicant who mentioned in her statement of purpose that she realized she needed to pursue graduate study when she was hired as a wardrobe crew member for the Broadway tour of Lion King and had the opportunity to see the interior structures of the Hyena costumes; she she wanted to learn how a costume that unusually-structured was conceived and created, and felt that graduate study in a Costume Production program was the best way to achieve that goal. The statement wouldn't have been nearly as compelling if she had just said something like, "I knew from the moment i worked wardrobe on Lion King, this was the path for me." See the difference?

Your statement also shouldn't dwell overmuch on how you supposedly have always wanted to be a costumer, used to dress up your dolls as a kid, or play with fabric instead of toys, or whatever. This may all be true, but it reads like cliche and makes it seem as if you don't have much of a grasp on the field beyond a child's idealism. It's great if you loved dressup as a kid, or sewing or whatever, but how has that carried through in mature expressions of the pursuit since you became an adult? I spent about six years of my childhood drawing pictures of elaborate Southern-Belle-style formal gown designs on the bodies of women with cat's faces and mall hair. I now see a direct line between that and my career choice, but i would never, ever, ever mention that in any kind of professional context (well, except clearly in this blog just now as a negative example).

It shouldn't be vague in terms of what you communicate about the field. The specific example i mentioned up there is the best way to approach it. Have there been specific shows, or theatre companies, or a particular professor or designer you have worked with or learned from that helped you come to the decision to pursue graduate study? Explain how!

That said, don't name-drop without purpose and connection. If your statement says something like, "When i was in high school, i knew as soon as i saw William Ivey Long's costumes for Hairspray, theatre was my passion!" people are likely going to roll their eyes. Unless your next sentence is something like, "That conviction was confirmed two summers ago when i interned with Mr. Long himself, swatching and learning about fiber content, weave structure, and levels of fabric quality," it's maybe not the best choice for inclusion.

(Small digression: do you know how many people say that theatre/drama/costuming is their passion? Verbatim? Nearly all. Nearly ALL.)

If you have any specific areas of interest, by all means mention them. "I am particularly interested in the challenges and requirements of costuming for professional dance." Or maybe "Tailoring systems for menswear are my primary focus in the construction field." If you don't yet have any specific interest, that's ok, but maybe you want to work more to get a better idea of where your interests lie before applying to graduate school. And, many applicants have more than one--"This program will expand my knowledge of shop management and millinery, areas in which I hope to work professionally after graduate school."

It doesn't reflect a mature understanding though to profess that you "love everything to do with costumes." No one loves everything to do with costumes. Seriously. There is a huge difference between being willing to accept employment in which you must hand-wash dirty dance belts, and LOVING to hand-wash dirty dance belts. One is a career choice to add a relevant wardrobe credit to your resume, and the other is...well, definitely a private matter. (Whoa, pun.)

Another thing that's worth mentioning if it's applicable: is there anything specific to the program to which you are applying that appeals to you? Suppose that the program functions within a learning-lab paradigm with productions entirely student-produced--student actors, directors, designers, technologies, stage management, etc.--and that really appeals to you, then mention it. Or suppose the program works in tandem with a professional company in residence and you are drawn to that aspect, mention it. Or perhaps the program is partnered with a museum archive and involves a component of restoration or reproduction of antique garments; you love this, so mention it. Maybe you're enthused about their teaching assistantships, or some specific outreach program in which they participate, etc etc and so forth.

And a last piece of advice: ask someone to read the finished draft over for you who is likely to know their stuff. What about whoever's writing your letters of recommendation? Or someone in your department in the costume faculty? Someone besides your friends, your mom, or the person you're dating.

So, for readers considering graduate applications this year or in future, hopefully the statement of purpose doesn't seem so daunting and formless and nebulously-weird now. Maybe this post will jog a few ideas loose for how to compose yours, what you might include (and not include).

And as ever, good luck!
labricoleuse: (Default)
A couple quick reposts before i head out for the dentist (boo) and then hatblock casting (yay):

First up, I'm always on the lookout for recycling opportunities for stock-culling, and this is a great one. Clean out your stock of nylons! And, partner with some local hair salons to help with the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf! This info came through the costumers' e-list from UNCSA's Martha Ruskai:

There is an organization stuffing old and new pantyhose and old and new tights with human hair and animal fur to make booms that will soak up the oil spill in the Gulf.

If while doing your end of school year purge, or beginning of summer stock sorting please consider sending those old dead elastic hose to

You must sign up to donate. They will then send you an email with the address of where to send.

The other forwarded bit of info is on this summer's USITT Costume Commission Summer Symposium, which is hosted by UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC. The topic is wigs and hair, and here's the info from Vice-Commissioner of Symposia Kevin McCluskey:

This summer's symposium "Wig Making and Styling" will be held August 5-7 at The School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The symposium is hosted by Martha Ruskai.

The Commission is proud to support this unique chance for focused study in wig making and styling, both areas of interest continually requested by members as subjects for workshops and symposium. Martha has worked hard to put together a strong symposium, one at which everyone will leave with a focused study in their area of interest.

So here is a great chance to work with wig and hair artists who have designed and worked in more venues than I can write here....

You can download a symposium brochure and registration form at:
labricoleuse: (safety)
I'm about to head out from the conference for a day's worth of driving, but i'd like to share another photoset from the Stage Expo--the main convention floor where all the vendor booths are located, where the schools set up their info booths, and the location of some of the other curated and juried exhibits.

You can go to the convention on an Expo-only pass for a greatly reduced rate, if your main goals are to get swag, check out schools' displays, and see most of the exhibits. (An Expo-only pass won't get you into any of the sessions or panel discussions, or any of the catered parties.) In fact, i may write a post later next week about the costs of attending USITT, from the "big spender" version down to the shoestring version. Expo-only is one way to do a lot of networking without forking over the top-dollar pass money.

Some vendors and schools on the Expo floor! )

While i'm on the subject of schools, one really cool thing i learned from the folks at the Boston University booth is their new certificate program in Costume Crafts, whereby students with a bachelors degree can take specialized crafts coursework and do practical hands-on work with Boston area theatres like the Huntington as crafts assistants, and in two years' time earn a professional certification credential and get a whole mess of excellent production credits. This struck me as a brilliant way for folks interested in working as freelance crafts artisans to get valuable training and resume-building without the enormous time/money commitment of a graduate program, should they decide that a masters is not something they're interested in or ready for.

This post is by no means approaching a complete overview of the Expo, either--there were literally hundreds of booths on the Expo floor. These were just vendors and schools whose displays caught my camera's eye. I've also got plans for one more photo post, of the special exhibits "Masks of W. T. Benda," the Design Expo, and some of the other non-vendor/non-academic Expo selections, as well as some session writeups. Once i get out of here, that is, and back down Carolina way!

And, unrelated but excellent, please enjoy this wonderful article in the New York Times about the rise of textile arts among long-haul truckers, particularly knitting and quilting. Awesome!

ETA 4/5/10: edited the post to correct some company attributions/links. Thanks for the clarifications, y'all!
labricoleuse: (Default)
The Costume Design & Technology Commission sponsors a juried exhibition of poster presentations on new and innovative costume production topics at USITT each year. Exhibitors are chosen by a panel of five professionals based on submitted abstracts. This year, we had two entries, my own presentation on the parasols from The Little Prince, and 3rd year grad student Randy Handley's costume production paperwork tracking database program, CAPS.

I took some photos of the exhibits in the session, so you can see what other kinds of presentations were like! I'll be writing up the panel discussions and presentations i've been attending...probably once the conference is over, since i have so many more yet to attend today. But photos, those i can share quickly, so here they are. I don't have all the info on which ones belong to whom--i had to zoom through in a flash in order to get back to my station--so if you recognize something here and it's not credited, please comment and let me know so i can add the right attribution!

A glimpse at the 2010 poster session )
labricoleuse: (Default)
This morning, I arrived in Kansas City, MO, for USITT, the North American conference for technical theatre practitioners. This year is a particularly noteworthy year for USITT, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the organization's founding. For the next four days, I'll be attending a variety of sessions and seminars on relevant topics, and hopefully i'll have time to blog about some of them!

Today (Wednesday), I've got three events on my schedule: a seminar on the pros and cons of USA 829 union membership, the annual Costume Design & Technology Committee meeting, and tonight's "Fifty & Nifty" party (basically, a big catered shindig for celebration and networking purposes).

Tomorrow, i mentioned in a previous post that i'm scheduled to participate in two events, portfolio critiques and the juried poster session presentation for costume innovation. Unfortunately, two sessions i'd love to attend directly conflict with the poster session--techniques for teaching color theory and an overview of the maskwork of artist/artisan W. T. Benda. There is a companion panel discussion to the Benda session on maskmaking media and processes in the evening which i *will* be able to attend, so that's exciting.

Friday, I'm eyeing seminars on the history and future of fabric in theatrical applications, future predictions for ballet costume innovations, a panel on technologies for supporting long-distance artistic collaboration, an intro to the L*A*B color communication system, "USITT and OSHA," 50 costume designers of the past 50 years, and the Costume Commission evening reception.

Saturday i plan to check out a seminar on sustainable/"green" theatre practices, and the international designers' forum for costumes and scenery.

And, somewhere in there i'm going to swing through the Young Technicians and Young Designers fora, and collect a bunch of swag on the floor of the Stage Expo!

Busy, busy.
labricoleuse: (Default)
First up, i'd like to mention that I'll be participating in the post-show Talkback event for the opening night of I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda on Wednesday night.

This is a really exciting part of the PRC2 series, our second-stage programming at PlayMakers, because it allows for a conversation between the audience and various people who worked on the production. Sometimes it is the actors, sometimes the designers, director, dramaturg, sometimes people who have real-life experiences similar to those in a given play, sometimes even other interesting professionals, like the "Mindplay" series where psychologists discuss the potential motivations of different characters' behavior. It's really cool "DVD Extras" sort of augmentative event, and i'm very excited to be a part of it for this production as costume designer. This is exactly the kind of stuff i love to read about theatres putting into place as yet another means for connecting with the communities and audiences they serve.

The other topic on the table today is USITT, the national conference for theatre production professionals, held next week in Kansas City, MO, from March 31st to April 3rd. I'm attending (along with many others in our department), and will be blogging from the conference with all kinds of behind-the-scenes pix and info about what goes on at one of these things. If you've never been, it'll be a great way to get a good handle on what it's like, so you can decide whether to attend in future. This year is going to be a particularly big event, as it's the 50th anniversary of the organization, and proves to be a great conference.

There are a couple of events i should mention in advance of particular interest to costumers: the Costume Design & Technology Poster Session, and Portfolio Reviews.

The poster session is a juried presentation of posters that involve innovations and developments in the fields of research, design, production techniques, media, etc. It runs from 1:30pm-3pm on Thursday, April 1st (and that's no foolin'). During that time, you can wander the presentation hall and ask questions of the presenters, who are on-hand to discuss their topics. Most presenters bring handouts of their work for attendees to take home with info on supplies and methods. There'll be three of us on-hand from UNC-Chapel Hill this year--third-year grad student Randy Handley, myself, and second-year Shanna Parks.

Randy will be presenting his costume production management database software, CAPS (Computer Aided Paperwork System), which streamlines management paperwork from measurements to fitting requests to tech notes, allowing for much greater speed and ease of information-sharing.

I'll be discussing the modifications to parasol frame and canopy structure developed for the "Flowers to Apple Trees" illusion created for last season's The Little Prince. Shanna served as my crafts assistant on that production and will also be there to answer questions, as she was directly involved in streamlining the construction of the transformational canopies.

So, if you're at the conference and attend the poster session, look for us and be sure to say hi!

Portfolio reviews are another excellent opportunity at USITT, for which you can sign up in advance or during the conference. They're coordinated by Rafael Jaen, costume director at Emerson College in Boston, and you can contact him via the prior link to reserve a space.

I'm going to be participating in the reviews this year, teamed up with Stacey Galloway of University of Florida. We've got four 3-minute slots scheduled for Thursday the 1st from 11am to 1pm, so hopefully we'll get to meet some great folks and help them with their portfolios!

For now though, it's back to Rwanda for me. Two days til opening and notes yet to be done!
labricoleuse: (supershakespeare)
USITT 2010

Are you planning on attending USITT's 2010 National Conference? This is a great year to go, being USITT's 50th anniversary! We'll be there (meaning, several of us from the UNC-CH Costume Production MFA program), and there are a few special events I want to give advance notice on, in which we'll be participating.

The Costume Commission Poster Session is the primary juried competition specifically for theatre costume production innovators at the USITT conference (as opposed to the other competitions like Design Expo for designers in all areas, or Tech Expo for production artists in all disciplines). It's sponsored by the Costume Design and Technology Commission. According to their official blurb, the mission of the Costume Design and Technology Commission is to provide costume design and production practitioners with opportunities to share ideas, to exchange information, to develop professionally and to impact on the future welfare and development of those in our field.

Here's what the CD&T Commission says about the poster session:

At every Annual Conference & Stage Expo as many as twenty scholars and professionals present their posters, each illustrating an innovative or imaginative design or construction technique, a solution to a problem, a classroom or management technique, the results of research, or other ideas, discoveries, or developments in the field of costuming. Poster presentations are widely accepted as meeting the requirements for scholarly publication. Poster presenters also have the opportunity to publish their work in the USITT journal Theatre Design & Technology.

Both myself and Randy Handley (aka [ profile] handyhatter) had our abstracts accepted to present at the poster session this year!

My presentation will be on the parasol canopy and frame alteration innovations developed for the "Wall of Roses transform into Apple Trees" effect in PlayMakers' production of The Little Prince and its subsequent remount. Because we remounted the show, i had the rare opportunity to refine and streamline the modifications developed the first time around, and perfect the transforming canopy effect. Shanna Parks, a second year masters candidate, served as my crafts assistant on the remounted production last year and assisted in the construction of the final design; she will be a co-presenter at the session with me. Randy's presentation will be an in-depth look at his costume production management database program CAPS (Computer-Aided Paperwork System), for tracking and sorting all the documentation required for costume production, from fitting requests to measurement sheets to tech notes. We've been advised to expect an audience for our presentations of between 200-250 conference attendees. If you're at USITT this spring, drop by and check it out!

Another event i'm really looking forward to is the Member Author Signing session, at which i'll be signing copies of Sticks in Petticoats. I've sent off a review copy to Theatre Design and Technology magazine as well, so hopefully that'll be some advance input about the book from someone besides, you know, the author.

Carnegie Mellon's New Costume Production MFA Program

The ranks of costume production focus MFA programs have just expanded to a dirty dozen! We're glad to welcome Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, to the shortlist of schools offering a production-only focus. Here's the text from the official announcement:

Faculty and Staff members in the Costume Area including Barbara Anderson, Susan Tsu, Brian Russman, and Ken Chu are excited to offer a unique program that seeks to educate students who are sensitive to the interplay between artist and artisan. Our goal is to educate individuals who will be an integral part of the increasingly globalized theatre, television and film communities. We believe in flexibility and collaborative effort and are committed to producing innovators, thinkers, practitioners; artisans who can communicate as intelligent and conducive members of a team.

We are pleased to provide a broad ranging program that emphasizes the development and synthesis of skills including draping, flat patterning, tailoring, fabric painting and dyeing, jewelry creation, millinery, management and mask making, while allowing for investigation in fields of personal interest. All of this is in conjunction with training in the essentials of the world of Costume Design allowing for a wide connection to the theatre community. We encourage self-expression and seek to provide students with a great span of knowledge that will allow further self-exploration.

Join us in forging new territory as we undertake the adventure of marching toward the world of the future in Costume Production.

For more information please contact:

Brian Russman, Assistant Professor of Costume Production / 412.268.3648

Pretty exciting! I think it's so new they don't even have a live webpage for it yet, as i couldn't find any link on the CMU Drama Department site about it. Once they have a linkable URL up and running though, i'll be adding them as the twelfth program on my list of links to costume production focus MFA programs in the US.

Kaitlin Fara's Fin de Siecle Clocked Stocking Pattern Published

Remember Kaitlin Fara's fin de siecle clocked stocking pattern she created for one of her footwear projects? Kaitlin researched stocking trends and knitting patterns of the period and, utilizing several obfuscatively-notated period knitting patterns, created a reproduction, transcribing her process into a written knitting pattern that can be read by knitters accustomed to modern knitwear pattern conventions and notations.

Over the break, she published the pattern on, where it can be purchased for $2.99. (You do need to be a Ravelry member to purchase/view it; if you aren't but would like to be, request an invitation here.) Exciting!

I'm so proud when my students go the extra mile for publication of their work like that, and now, anyone who might need to knit turn-of-the-century clocked stockings has an extant publicly-available resource!

PRC Company Member Kenneth P. Strong

My final bit of news is one of care and concern. PlayMakers patrons and Triangle area theatre enthusiasts will remember the many thrilling performances of our dear company actor, Kenneth P. Strong, who in my time here has portrayed "The Aviator" in The Little Prince, and "Cleon/Helicanus" in Pericles, among many other memorable roles. Ken has bravely battled glioblastoma brain cancer for four(!) incredible years; over the holiday break, he entered a local hospice. Those who would like to leave him a message, well-wishes, and so forth, may sign his guestbook, here:

There is also an option to read updates on his condition, via the main journal that has been set up here:

Ken taught many many undergraduates as a professor here in the Department of Dramatic Art, and after his diagnosis, would tell them about his condition, his struggle with the cancer, and then would say to them that if they wanted to do something to help, to tell him a joke, because "laughter is the best medicine." If you want to leave a note for him but are unsure what to say, a joke is a good bet.
labricoleuse: (CAD)
This weekend, four students and two of my fellow faculty/staff and i all have traveled to the USITT Southeast Regional Conference, hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

If the Commission Symposia are microcosm conferences divided into disciplines (like the creature-costume event i covered last month, sponsored by the Costume Commission), the regional conferences are similar-sized events divided by geographical location--we've got attendees from all areas of production and design, from professional and academic theatres around the southeastern US. They feature workshops and demonstrations, lectures and facilities tours, networking and social events, and a design/tech expo in which entrants can present projects and compete for prizes (such as "free admission fees to USITT National"). And, of course there are the usual convention swag tables where you can load up on free stuff from sponsors--product samples, literature, coupons, promotional logo merchandise, etc.

I have some photos and a few synopses of what we've done this weekend, to provide an idea what sort of event a regional conference of this sort is! I attended a shadow puppetry workshop, an overview of PatternMaker software, and a seminar on casting with a new expandable "green" foam (both ecologically and literally speaking). I also took a facilities tour of some of the UNC-G costume production spaces, and participated in the Design/Tech Expo.

Read more... )

I'll wind this up by congratulating ALL THREE of our excellent students--Randy Handley, Amy A. Page, and Shanna Parks--each of whom received an award and all three of whom will be going to nationals on a free ride! Well, fees-wise anyway. Way to go!

We faculty folk don't get quite as good a deal--our division winners get a portion of the national fees waived (entry in the "Cover the Walls" exhibit)--but i'm not griping. Not to blow my own horn or anything, but i was one of the three winners, so hey, way to go, me, too!

To sum up, check out your own regional division conference if you get the chance, and see you at the 2010 USITT 50th Annual Conference and Stage Expo, March 31-April 3 in Kansas City, MO!
labricoleuse: (Default)
It's another week at the helm of [ profile] nicknickleby for me, so check out my piece on the Victorian dual-trade of milliner-prostitute. (I'm glad those skills are no longer linked to one another!)

I've spent the day working on an article i'm co-authoring for the USITT newsletter Sightlines on the recent symposium, and i thought it'd be a good time to mention some of the other resources sponsored by the USITT Costume Commission, in addition to the annual symposium. Some of these resources are open to anyone, and some are restricted to USITT members only.

The USITT Costume Locator Service is a Yahoo!Group with a costume rental focus. Subscribers can post about particular costumes they are seeking ("Does anyone have the Chrysler Building dress from The Producers for a show going up this spring?"), or promote their rental services. It's maintained and moderated by Kevin McClusky of Mary Washington College, and is for USITT members only.

Dickenson College Costume Storage Solutions Database is a visual archive of storage facilities all over the world. (Link goes to a previous post on the subject, in which i discuss how to navigate the database.) It's recently received funding from the Costume Commission, but can be viewed by anyone with a web browser. And, anyone with a costume storage facility is encouraged to photograph areas of it and submit them! It is maintained by Sherry Harper McCombs.

CoPA, the Commercial Pattern Archive contains over 50,000 scanned images (garments & pattern schematics) from 42,000 commercially produced patterns, dating from 1868 to 1979 and is growing daily. You can purchase the database as a CD set or subscribe to it online. CoPA is housed at the University of Rhode Island and maintained by Project Director Joy Emery; researchers can visit the collection in person, as well (you do not have to be a member of USITT to conduct in-person research, or to subscribe).

The Survey of Costume Design and Technology Programs is a database compiled and maintained by our own Costume Director at UNC-CH, Judy Adamson. I've mentioned it quite a bit on here before, particularly in my FAQ posts about applying to graduate school, but it bears mention again. It contains information on all university programs offering undergraduate and graduate education in costume design and/or technology, sorted by geographical region and alphabetically. Currently, there isn't an option for searching on other variables, such as a particular professor's name, or a particular area of focus, but you could do a restricted google search to look site-specifically, by typing in something like " tailoring" to find all the programs that specifically mention tailoring as a topic they teach. Another caveat: the Survey is updated in the fall (i.e., an update is coming soon), so all the information in there right now is accurate only as of Fall 2008. Anyone may use the Survey site, not just USITT members.

The Costume Plot Database is another free-to-the-public resource sponsored in part by the Costume Commission. Users can search for existing costume plots on there, or add new ones for the benefit of future costumers. It is maintained by Kristina Tollefson of the University of Central Florida.

Kristina also moderates the Costume Info Listserv, a general-discussion Yahoo!Group for USITT members. It's an all-purpose forum for anything related to costuming for performance--technique questions, academic questions, safety queries, job postings. The only taboo topic is rental requests or ads, which should be directed to the USITT Costume Locator Service group.

The International Organization of Scenographers, Architects and Technicians (OISTAT) maintains a website for their Costume Working Group, which features a number of international resources available to USITT members. Anyone may look at the site with a standard web browser.

It's not a Costume Commission sponsored site, but another useful database is Inside Leg, a subscription database of actors' measurements. Any shop manager or designer may subscribe, though the database is only as useful as its participants make it, which is why we ask for a release form from any actor that is cast in our shows and contribute her/his measurements, if they are not already available on there!
labricoleuse: (CAD)
Looking over the past few posts, i seem to be on a real kick of "crazycraft" interspersed with "computers and costuming"! After all those symposium creature posts, here's another computer-related one.

Remember that i spent part of my summer taking a CAD class at the NCSU College of Textiles? I discussed a bit about some of the topics covered in a previous post on vector-based drawing software like Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW.

In this post, I have a few screencaps of some of the other programs that we used in the class, including the pattern- and marker-making software produced by Gerber Technology, which i'd like to share and discuss!

Click for computer screencaps and photos of the cutter robot! )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
Okeedoke, i've finally gotten back to NC, leapt back into the swing of things at work, and uploaded my final round of photos from the symposium. These third day images have some puppet-construction coverage (both small-scale and large-scale), as well as pix of some of the participants' finished Varaform heads.

I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality of some of the lecture images--i was taking them largely without flash from the back of their blackbox theatre where the demos were held, so some aren't ideal but i think are still useful to see. And, most of the mid-workshop images are much better quality.

Read more... )

I have to say, one of the things i really appreciated about this symposium is their focus on safe work practices, as well as safe costume engineering practices. They had a spray booth for spraying, and a Barging station outdoors, where they still would not let anyone use it who had not brought a fit-tested respirator. They talked about cooling vests and locations of hidden vent holes for air circulation, building ice-pack pockets into the bodies at key locations, and were teaching a method that allowed for 360-degree vision for the wearer. Awesome!

Of course, this isn't the final post on the topic, as I'll be finishing up my rabbit and donkey (hopefully over the next two weeks) and posting about how that goes. And, my "official" article that i'm cowriting with Dixon Reynolds in Sightlines will have a lot more text, too, so that'll also be coming out in the fall issue.

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