Julia Walker visited BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts students to provide an in-depth introduction to the process of breaking down materials; including how to age, enhance, distress and weather costumes and props.
Julia is a professional theatrical costume prop-maker and designer based in Manchester, with over 20 years experience producing for theatre productions, film and television such as Lucas Film's 'The Phantom Menace' and Dreamworks Film's 'Gladiator'. She specialises in producing character pieces, studying a character’s background and story before creating a unique costume for the stage.
During the workshop she highlighted how the personal history of a character can be added to what the performer is wearing without a word needing to be said, how some costumes are not complete until they are imbued with a sense of history, time and place.
“I'm looking forward to expanding on the knowledge and the skills I learnt throughout the day, and I am definitely going to use the skills in future projects.” - Jessica Eacock, BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts student
Students were encouraged to pair up, and were given some time to visit local charity shops to purchase an outfit, before returning to the costume studio in order to build their character. For instance, students Hannah Eaton and Jessica Eacock purchased a pair of shoes, formal trousers and shirt and determined that their character had become lost in the woods, making decisions which would influence the processes they then followed for the breaking down application.
Jessica explained, “The story behind our costume is that a person aged in their mid-twenties ran away from home to find that they were lost in the woods overnight. During their time in the woods they fell into a swamp, causing the costume to become damp and muddy.
“Also, as they were frightened they began to run through the forest catching their clothes on sharp branches causing the shirt to tear and the character to bleed. Our costume was designed with a crime/mystery television series in mind.”
Julia’s aim for the day was not only to introduce the varied techniques involved in breaking down, but also to make them aware of how one day costumes that they produce may then be broken down by another specialist, and they need to understand how and why this happens.
Techniques covered included how to test dyes and colours on different fabrics for an authentic blood, coffee or sweaty finish, as well as what everyday objects such as cheese graters can be used to transform a new item of clothing into a well-worn character costume.
Student Hannah Eaton said, “It was really nice to be able to learn from Julia, we learnt how certain effects on clothing are achieved in the world of television and film, for instance how to create fake mud that looked realistic as well as sticking to the clothing effectively, and also what everyday objects can be used as tools for the process.”