Four high school pupils have been given the chance to create costumes for a major new production by one of Scotland’s most visually spectacular performance theatre companies. Upland and Oceanallover have joined forces for Modern Makers, providing young people with the opportunity to learn key craft and design skills.
Mary (image by Florencia García Chafuén)
Oceanallover, run by Alex Rigg and Florencia García Chafuén from Moniaive, is renowned for bringing together dance, theatre, music, poetry and fine art for productions that can involve dozens of performers and are often seen at major events and festivals. They are especially renowned for their high-quality sculptural costumes that take months to conceive and make. Hazel Fairley-Keast (16), Kirsten Bleasdale (17), Fern Strang (16) and Mary Griffin (16) have joined the team, and will each design and create a costume for Orographic, which will initially be performed at five locations across Glasgow as part of the inaugural multi-sports European Championships in August.
Left to right: Hazel, Mary & Kirsten (image by Florencia García Chafuén)
The young women, all from Dumfries and Galloway, are taking part in the annual Modern Makers scheme run by the region’s Upland CIC Arts Development Agency. Based on the idea that, “the best way to become a skilled maker is to learn from one”, they are learning wide-ranging skills that will be helpful in their school work and in progressing onto their future careers. Alex says, “Modern Makers seemed like a really good opportunity to pass on our skills and knowledge by bringing young people right into the thick of the making. They will each have a large hand in creating a costume for Orographic. That will provide them with a fundamental training in costume making and using challenging and unusual materials. What they have to do is develop an idea and make it work. Because it’s for a real-life production, it has to be a really good job". Alex adds, “In an ideal world, Modern Makers will help them become the sort of people that companies like mine will hire because they are good at the practicalities of making and the concepts – how to translate an idea into physical form. It’s quite an uncommon set of skills.”
Fern (image by Florencia García Chafuén)
All four 'Modern Makers' are considering careers in the creative industries. Mary, who goes to St Joseph’s College in Dumfries, explains that, “I applied for this because I really wanted to gain experience in art and design industry. I’ve been loving it. You learn so much from Alex - how to problem solve and be practical. That’s really valuable because you can design lots of things but half of it isn’t actually practical so it’s good to start making things. She says, “It’s so inspiring to work with someone from the industry. You know that what they are saying is true and you are getting their first-hand experience. I like the environment because it’s friendly and patient, and I like the sharing of ideas. It’s good to be learning with a new and different group of people. You can explore and see what your strengths are, and break through your limits - and it’s really exciting knowing that your work is actually going to be used.”
Hazel, who goes to Wallace High Academy, adds, “I’ve always been interested in arts and craft and I’m doing drama at school. It’s really helpful because we have to design a costume for that and also because I’m hoping to do costume and set design for theatre, film and TV.” Fern, who goes to Lockerbie Academy, comments, “My teachers encouraged me to go for this because I’m doing drama and art, and there’s an element of clothes design in art.” Kirsten, who goes to Douglas Stewart High School, says, “I’m not sure where I’m headed yet but this fits in with my interests and I think it will help me make up my mind. I’m hoping to get into a good university, so this is really good for building up a portfolio and showing that I’m are doing stuff outside school.”
Fern & Alex (image by Florencia García Chafuén)
Each year Modern Makers offers a small group of young people an opportunity to work with a professional maker over 30 days to learn craft. It supports the rural contemporary craft sector giving young people the opportunity to gain experience of working with a business. Amy Marletta, Upland’s Projects Director, says, “For most of our history, making things by hand was the norm, with skills passed from one generation to the next. In this digital age, when so many spend their days in front of a computer screen, the thrill and satisfaction in taking time to make something is that much more important. Being able to offer four young people the chance to work with someone as skilled as Alex is brilliant. They not only have the challenge of learning new skills but also the thrill of seeing the costumes they make being used in a spectacular performance. Amy adds, “This project creates a unique experience for the young people involved, developing hands-on creative skills as well as life skills such as problem solving, working as part of a team and confidence building all of which can be applied to their future careers.”
Modern Makers 2018 is supported by The Holywood Trust and the William Grant Foundation. Article courtesy of Matthew Shelley.
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