Toi Whakaari Costume Design Workshop 2015

Also known as the 3 days I spent in the capital city with no adult supervision with my great friend Eden. I was so happy to go to the workshop at the National Drama School although I must admit the summary of the workshop had me confused. “No traditional sewing techniques would be taught” But this is a costume course what are we going to do all day!!! I thought. But of course Toi Whakaari had it sorted.

When we all arrived at Toi Whakaari we joined in a school Kōiwi with all students and staff. It started with a school ‘sing along’ of sorts where we sung together adding different beats and sounds to it as we went as well as one of the third year students rapping about the school during the song. It was an awesome experience and really showed what a close family the school was and I found that really fun and interesting. After the sing along teachers and students stood up and shared news and experiences they’d had over the holidays. We then split into our workshop groups and went our different ways. My group (costume students) had a tour of the whole school first. And oh my god the school is much larger than I ever expected! Four stories, about three (I think) different preforming stage areas and many large open spaces for the design students to work.There was a basement stage as well as a huge workshop for students working on their life size sets they were to build. We of course got to see a lot of the costume design room where the students work. It was a great space with everything you could ever need!! The students at the time were working on tutus and we got to see some of the tutus made by the previous years students. I want to make one now!!! The school is made out of and old shed (a large one obviously) and the roof is made almost entirely out of opaque corrugated plastic roofing (Pulling out all the technical terms I know). This meant that the school had very little need for lights in the plaza and top level classrooms. Everything was so open and light and it was just a great area to work in. Not to mention the view from the top levels was just stunning.

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After the tour we were introduced to our tutor for the two days and we begun the workshop. The first day was just practicing drawing the body from real life and then drawing dress over top, which wasn’t anything new to me. We also had a discussion about the differences between Costume, Fashion and Wearable Art. Which was interesting as we had a few students in our workshop who participated in WOW and other wearable art shows.  And that was the first day.

The second day was much more interesting. We were taught about how the body can be changed and its relation to how the costume changes around that. We tested this by wrapping each other in quilting batting to create grotesque, unnatural and strange modifications to our bodies and then drew each other with these modifications. Which was fun and interesting.
We then were given a challenge over lunch to buy a garment from a recycled clothing store and make an Alice costume using this sort of technique. We read the first few pages from the novel  ‘Alice in wonderland’ and had to choose ‘a moment of transformation’ within those pages. An example would be where Alice grows or shrinks or when she in soaked by her own puddle of tears. I decided to focus on the change of Alice’s dress when she falls down the rabbit hole (I can’t find my original drawing I did for this, I will post it when I do) I went with the theme of everything being surreal and cartoonish and I had the image in my head of Alice falling down the hole and her dress ballooning up around her, then when she reached the bottom I could see her hastefully trying to pat down this now overly poofy dress to no avail. My design consisted of Alice with her dress puffed up around her in the classic Disney dress. At the end of the day we all shared our designs and our basic mock up on the dress form and then reflected on the workshop.

It was a great two days and I met some awesome people while I was there and I felt really inspired by what I saw. Below are photos of costumes made by the third year students.

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I absolutely adore historical costumes so I was so glade the school put these on show during my time there. Of course all credit goes to the students at Toi Whakaari who made these beautiful costumes. My poor and rushed photography skills don’t do them justice.

In summary the workshop was amazing and I have definitely learnt from it. When ever the next chance comes up to got to Toi Whakaari again I will jump on it. Its a great school with an amazing environment and is the sort of thing that is going to make me miss living in New Zealand.

Thank you for reading

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