Beginnings

Hi Everyone

When I last posted In July I had just finished my work experience at the national theatre and I was about to start work in a Brighton costume studio for a few weeks. I didn't know it at the time but I was about to have a few very intensive weeks of costume making for an exciting feature film which unfortunately I can't really say much about on here! 

Although the studio mainly produces mens tailoring, on this particular project we were making ladies costumes of which I was making bodices and jackets of different styles, fabrics and braids. The fabric colours and particularly the braiding were a vibrant mix of bright pinks, yellows purples and greens. I wish I could show you some pictures but suffice to say they were amazing.

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The first couple of weeks I was finding my feet and getting used to the workings of the studio. I found these first days a real challenge as I wanted to prove myself and I was also getting used to new ways of working with the pressure of a deadlines, this is where my training at the northern college of costume really payed off!

So far I had been used to making costumes from scratch but generally speaking in a costume workroom the fabric pieces are already cut out by the pattern cutter and ready to assemble. I found this a little disorientating to start with as you have no prior knowledge of the garment before it is handed to you. However we were given a fully made up sample of each garment for reference on how it had been put together and what it should look like. On occasions some alterations had been made on the sample without any notes and so it required a bit of puzzling out and back tracking at times when pieces did not quite fit together as expected. 

The experience, although intense at times was great one for me and within a couple of weeks I began to feel more confident in what I could do which I hope will only continue, I feel very lucky to have achieved what I set out to do only a few months ago! 

After 3 or 4 weeks out I am back in the studio and this time I will be making mens costumes for shows at the royal Shakespeare company and the Manchester royal exchange. I have already made up a pair of trousers and started on a waistcoat and I know there will be a lot to gain for me including learning more tailoring techniques. I have a feeling it will be another intense few weeks coming up but I know I will give it my best shot and come out with a lot more knowledge and confidence than before.

Button fly trouser making

In other news in my free time I am making a corset to sell online for when I open my etsy shop, I will also be designing and making more corsets and possibly some dresses too. This is where I am at with the corset..

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It is constructed using a silk top fabric with a coutil lining. Coutil being a densely woven fabric perfect for giving a corset strength and shape. It can be used as an interlining between the top fabric and lining for strength or you can buy it in brocade  and with a satin finish, perfect for use as a lining and interlining in one as I have done. 

puppet making

As well as working at the costume studio I am also doing a few days of work at Nick Barnes puppet making workshop in Hove. You can see the website here. There are some brilliantly quirky puppets being made here and the workshop is fascinating to see being as it is full of various creature head sculpts and mechanical puppet frames.

plastazote sculpting

The first thing I did was to have a go with some plastazote sculpting, a material that is often used for puppet making due to it's ability to be sculpted and it's light weight. It is a very versatile foam that comes in sheets of various thicknesses that can be cut, moulded and shaped to create some amazing structures. Just type plastazote puppets into google and you will see what can be achieved with it!

I started by having a go at sculpting a horses head which I then wanted to practice at home. By using images of horses for reference I picked out the angles and features of the head to draw out as a flat paper pattern, It is a process of trial and error which can take a bit of time. The flat pattern was then used to cut out the shapes in plastazote and then shaped and glued together with a contact adhesive. One thing I definitely need to buy is a respiratory mask as the glue is strong and after a while I had to stop as the fumes were getting to me!

Another method of working with plastazote is to first sculpt the head in a material such as a rigid foam. Masking tape is then stuck on over the sculpt so that the pattern pieces can be drawn directly onto the head and peeled off to make a flat pattern. 

As well as plastazote sculpting I have been helping to finish a puppet of The Lorax for the theatrical show. It was finished using wadding for padding out with and covered in a fabric skin which was then manipulated to look like a shaggy fur around the seams. You can see the Lorax in action here

The puppet workshop has been another great experience that I hope will bring on more exciting things to make in the future. As well as helping with the sewing and applying fabrics I will be practicing more with plastazote so that I can make some puppets with it. (Hopefully next time I will have more pictures to show)

Bye for now

Michelle x