Abby Wilkinson works as Costume Designer on Elysium Theatre’s Macbeth
Final year student Abby Wilkinson is prepping for her final year project, ending “an amazing three years” on her costume degree. With a summer working as a costume designer on the Elysium Theatre production of Macbeth, and later Reiver -Tales from the Border behind her, she has gained vital skills, industry credits and contacts to help her take her first steps in her field after graduation.
We caught up with Abby to find out more about the experience and how her degree helped her prepare for the role.
You recently worked as a costume designer on the Elysium Theatre production of Macbeth, how did the experience come about and what where you main tasks?
When Elysium theatre company was looking for someone to help source and construct the costumes, one of my lecturers recommended me as I had previously volunteered to work on the Northern School of Art production of Macbeth. I wanted to get as much real-life work experience as possible, applying what I had learnt on my course. I was so pleased to be recommended and delighted to have the opportunity to put my skills into practice in a live theatre production.
Elysium gave me the theme of the play alongside a budget and time frame. From this I developed the concept further and worked from an agreed costume plan. My role was to externally source elements of the costumes, such as the trench coats, boots and accessories, alongside constructing and sewing other elements and providing alterations and maintenance.
What did you enjoy about the experience and what did you find challenging?
It was a fantastic opportunity which I was really grateful for. It was good to gain industry experience and I enjoyed working with a different concept. The whole experience provided me with the opportunity to explore different creative techniques and learn new skills. It was good working alongside the cast and crew; everyone was very friendly and encouraging. Sourcing the appropriate costume elements in a short time frame and within a limited budget was a challenge, but one I enjoyed.
What did you think you learnt and do you feel your degree prepared you for it?
The costume interpretation with design course I am studying, has given me the confidence and skills needed to undertake work experience in a theatre. It has also given me the ability to adapt those skills to be relevant to the production requirements, such as creating accessories including bullet belts and weaponry bags.
Working with the Elysium Theatre Company allowed me to gain experience in creating costume for live theatre, but also working with props and accessories understanding their impact on the costume. The production included fight scenes and weaponry, so it was important that the costumes allowed for full and safe movement for the actors during those scenes, alongside the addition of safety equipment into the costumes.
Let us know about any other projects:
The work with Elysium theatre company has provided me new opportunities to work on costumes for upcoming theatre productions. It has also provided me with contacts for many industry professionals. I have also just finished working with the company, providing costume alterations and maintenance for the production “Riever – Tales From The Borders.
I am currently working towards my final major project and are looking forward to featuring all the skills and techniques I have learnt throughout my time at the Northern School of Art and from work experience opportunities. It will be a great end to an amazing three years on the costume course.
How are you enjoying your course, what is your advice for students looking to study costume?
I am now in my final year, and throughout the course I have gained skills in both the theoretical and practical aspects of costume. I particularly enjoyed the corsetry, tailoring, millinery, and costume design modules. The course has given me the opportunity to learn skills which I can apply to my future career in costume design and construction. For any students, if costume or fashion history is what interests you, I would absolutely recommend this course.
I would also recommend getting as much practical experience as you can; volunteer within the university, apply for work experience and don’t be afraid to take on any opportunity. It is so exciting and rewarding watching your costume come together and seeing it on stage.
Our costume degree is a unique and dynamic course with a industry focus that encourages and provides student with the vital work experience needed to succeed in the costume industry. Graduates have gone on to work on large scale productions such as Downton Abbey, Fleabag, Doctor Who, Victoria and so many more. Find out about our costume degree here.