Saturday, 28 April 2012

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Matilda Temperley - Photographer for Circusfest 2012

London-based Matilda Temperley photographed this portrait for the Roundhouse Circusfest 2012 events programme in London starting this April. The moment I saw this photograph I was instantly mesmerized - it captures all that is dramatic about circus costume - just look at that collar!

See more of Matilda Temperley's work on her website

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Book: "The Circus. 1870s-1950s"

"The Circus, 1870s-1950s"

Here's a fantastic book I've been using for reference in designing the Circus collection for the Showtime Stitches Esty shop. It's full of posters, photographs, lithographs showing the colourful and vibrant world of the circus, all around the world. It's a huge and heavy book full of information, great for anyone interested in vintage posters and photography, the circus, and the history of performance.

"This is a gee-whiz spectacle of a book, a three-ring extravaganza as bright as a pinball machine." —The New York Times Book Review

By Linda Granfield, Dominique Jando, Fred Dahlinger, Jr., edited by Noel Daniel.

Published by TASCHEN (ISBN 3836520257)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Costume at Sands Film Studios - The Guardian

I came across this feature on the Guardian website, it's an audio slideshow on the costume department of Sands Film Studios, a company in South London. Sands created the costumes for Little Dorrit (1988) and Bright Star (2009) and are currently working on Les Miserables. They are also preparing for an exhibition of their costumes - I can't wait to see that!

See the full slideshow on the Guardian website - A Costume Drama at Sands Film Studios

Sands looks like an incredibly inspiring place to work for anyone in to costume making. I loved their costumes in Bright Star - I spent most of the time watching the clothes in that film rather than paying attention to the narrative! I especially liked the purple dress that Fanny wears when she's in the bluebell woods. That scene was so beautiful, as was the scene with the butterflies in the bedroom - so magical!

(Photos from the slideshow on the Guardian website - link above)

To learn more about the life of a Costume Designer and Wardrobe Manager, read my post about Hannah Lobelson from the Globe Theatre - here

Friday, 13 April 2012

Gareth Pugh's Ballet Costumes

This April, Wayne McGregor's widely anticipated merging of fashion, ballet and contemporary dance will be staged at the Royal Opera House, London. With Mark Ronson scoring the production, 'Carbon Life' is set to modernise an art form previously considered out-dated or boring by some, bringing ballet to the centre of the fashion world's attention.

Gareth Pugh, world famous fashion designer known for his black and white, fantastical but slightly aggressive collections joins the team as Costume Designer. The photo above shows one of his designs: simple in colour and texture, but stunning in the complexity of angles, points and shape. The sharp edges add a skeletal or shell-like quality making the dancer more creature than human, bringing us back to a more animal, primitive behaviour - which is evidently well suited for a piece investigating human identity, psychology and masculinity vs. femininity. Pugh says that we wanted to convey naivety of birth, and then development, so "everybody starts naked, then evolves" through their costumes.

McGregor never works with pointe shoes or tutus, so Pugh had plenty of scope for experimenting with shape and structure, as well as new fabrics and textures not offered by classical ballet costumes. He does include some elements of traditional ballet attire - his footwear is shaped to allow the dancer to dance on their toes, and despite is stiff appearance, is apparently surprisingly unrestrictive and allows the foot to move in every way it needs to.

All in all these costumes are set to be an incredible part of the show and most importantly convey a style that has never before been realised in such a traditional dance field.

'Carbon Life' is on until April 23 at the Royal Opera House.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Circus Inspired Fashion

1. Rose metallic bralet, £30, Miss Selfridge
2. Gold glitter finish leather ballet pumps, £265, Jimmy Choo
3. Silver mermaid sequin top, £48, Topshop
4. Dragon nail colour, £17.50, Chanel
5. Feather and jewel headband, £35, Urban Outfitters
6. Ivory barnacle jacquard dress, £1,585, Alexander McQueen
7. Shimmer skater skirt, £32, Topshop

Circus costumes are all about dazzling the audience, and this season we are seeing plenty of glitter, beading and sequins on all types of garment! Embrace the glamorous look and wear shiny velvets and sequin-covered fabrics from day to night. Accessorize with feathers, jewels and most importantly, bright coloured nails! Go for red, pink or purple, but if you're looking for that extra glitz that just screams 'Showtime!', go for gold!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - Exhibition and Tour

Today I went on a guided tour of the Globe Theatre in London, and visited their exhibition about the rebuilding of the theatre and how it functions today. After reading the article about Hannah Lobelson, wardrobe manager at the Globe (see my post on this here), I was really interested in seeing more about how this theatre works, and its focus on accurate historical detail.

The Globe Theatre was originally built around the 1590s for Shakespeare's theatre company, the Chamberlain's Men. Sadly it only lasted until 1613, as it burnt down after the thatched roof caught fire during a performance. The current theatre, a recreation of the original, was opened in 1997. It is a fully functioning theatre, performing Shakespeare's plays as close as possible to how they would have been played in his time. The theatre is open-air, with wooden seating benches, and although I haven't yet seen a performance there, I'm sure the atmosphere is completely different to our contemporary theatre set-ups! This year, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, companies from all over the world have been invited to perform Shakespeare's 37 plays, each in a different language - from Swahili to French. For more information on 'Globe to Globe', go here.

The Tour

Our tour started off outside in the piazza, where we could see the outside of the theatre, the thatched roof and wooden/plaster walls. It's funny because I always imagined the theatre to be much more imposing, but next to the Tate Modern it looks so small! Inside there is space for almost 2000 people, which was definitely a surprise!

The stage decoration is fantastic! Although it is made entirely from wood, it is intricately painted to give the illusion of texture and luxurious materials. For examples the columns aren't real marble - they are just painted that way! The roof is even more awe-inspiring, although it isn't visible from the seats. It is painted with images from the zodiac and even has a trap door - this one symbolises the Gods and heavenly subjects, while the one below symbolically leads to Hell.
Unfortunately the tour doesn't take you backstage, which I would have liked, but you can understand why. The exhibition gave a good insight into how the costume department works though....
Hand woven ribbons/braids
Starched ruffs drying by a fire

The Exhibition

The exhibition shows both how a dressmaker would work in Tudor times, and how costumes are constructed for the Globe nowadays. The photos opposite show examples of historical costume making.

The costume department at the Globe work incredibly hard to be as historically accurate as possible. Although it isn't plausible to sew every seam by hand, as many hand-woven threads, fabrics and natural dyes are used as possible. Embroidery is done by hand, and is so fine you can barely see the stitches!
One source that the costume makers use to create their period costumes is Janet Arnold's collection of books, Patterns of Fashion. I have these books, and I agree that they are incredible for any costume enthusiast - the research is in depth, the drawings are wonderfully clear and detailed, and the patterns are easily to use.

A few of the costumes were on display, for example Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth. There was a video showing the dressing of Cleopatra: the layers of clothing are endless - I hope there weren't any quick changes for that character! Also on display were samples of velvet and silk fabrics from the 15th-17th centuries, that might have once been part of garments or furnishings. It's stunning that these have remained so intact!

The tour and exhibition of the Globe Theatre are available every day, more information can be found on their website. Highly recommended for anyone interested in historical theatre or costume, and for school groups studying Shakespeare or Tudor England.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Printing Tutorial 2 - Creating Stencils

(This post is part of a series - learn how to create your own silk screen to use with these stencils here)

I have started to create stencils for screen-printing onto items that will be on sale shortly at the Showtime Stitches Etsy shop, and I thought I'd give you all a quick how-to, to go with my earlier post on creating your own screen for printing.

Stencil making is easy and extremely versatile - although complicated designs take a little more time and working out, they are possible. Layering simple stencil designs printed with different colours can give an interesting effect (and a clever illusion of complexity!), or you could stick with block images. Honestly the possibilities are endless...so let's get started!

What you will need:

 - Paper/card (regular printer paper is too thin, but card needs to be easy to cut, no more than 1mm thick)
 - A sharp craft knife
 - Cutting board (if you don't have one, use a thick, stiff piece of scrap cardboard)
 - Pencil/pen

Step 1

Find yourself a clear space to work, with a flat and smooth surface. For me (having just turned 18, living with my family but sadly not living in a house with a huge number of spare rooms) my art studio is currently my bedroom floor... So don't lose hope people! As long as you have any kind of clean-ish place to work, you can make beautiful things! Trust me!

Step 2

Design your stencil - draw it out as neatly and clearly as possible with a pen or sharp pencil. It might help to have with you some images for inspiration and reference - I'm using the 'Circus' book (I'll post about this soon, it's a really great book!). If you design becomes complicated, shade in areas that you will cut out. Make sure that no unshaded/unprinted area is isolated. By this I mean that you won't be able to have floating bits of card to stop paint when it comes to printing, so make sure you use little tabs that won't be cut to keep pieces in place. (You can probably see I messed up a bit with this on the 'c' in 'spectacular'!)

Step 3

Using your knife, cut the stencil out. Clearing up all the tiny bits of cut paper can be annoying, so keep them collected as you go along! Once your stencil is all cut, you're ready to print with it. Use a silk screen or sponge with paint - and remember, your stencil can be used over and over so don't chuck it away!

My first print didn't work out too well, although I do like the texture achieved by using less paint...

Here's my second try, worked a little better I think!

And here's a quick test I did with the stencil after printing with it - I like the texture, reminds me of old newspapers somehow?

Want to create your own screen for printing with these stencils? Click here for a tutorial!

Let me know how your stencils turn out, leave a comment below!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Printing Tutorial 1 - Make your own silk-screen for under £5

Screens for printing can be expensive, but by making your own you can save a lot of money! I've made one for under £5, and here's how...

What you will need:

An old, wooden frame (£1 from a charity shop)
A piece of netting/gauze fabric (£1 from scrap bucket at Linen Direct)
A stapler and staples (£1 from Poundland)
Duct tape/water-resistant tape (£1 from Poundland)

Remember, many of these things you might already have at home, others can easily be found at Pound shops or charity shops - specialist equipment is never necessary!

Step 1

Remove the backing/glass from your frame, as well as any attachments on the back.
Cut your fabric a few centimetres wider than your frame.

Step 2

Using a stapler to fasten the fabric to the frame. Start with a staple in the middle of one edge, then stretch the fabric until it is a tight as possible and staple opposite. Keep going until the fabric is taut over the frame like a drum.

Step 3

If needed, use a hammer to flatten the staples - the surface needs to be as flat as possible.

Step 4

Cover the frame and fabric edges with duct tape to protect the wood. And there you go - a screen ready to use for printing!

(Pinned to the Showtime Stitches 'Tutorial' board on Pinterest - click here)