Having met on their Art Foundation Course all those years ago, Liz and Aislinn have been friends and contemporaries for a long time. Talking to us from her home studio, Aislinn explains her work and how it came to be.
Hi Ash, I'm excited to be talking to you finally! Can you tell us what you do?
I make costumes! I'm a costume maker, mainly for theatre, but that means a bit of everything really..
So it begins with someone coming to you with a brief, and a pattern?
No, I do my own patterns. So, how it happens is there's usually someone called a supervisor who is a bit like a project manager of costume. They are the middle man between the designer and the makers. The supervisor will approach me with a design, I then do a pattern, and make it a reality.
Someone comes to you with an idea, and a sketch?
Yes, although it's not always a sketch. Sometimes it's a piece ripped out of a magazine, or sometimes there's not a definite image at all. It's more of a conversation accompanied by a few different visual references – it can be really tricky!
I can see that! What's the trickiest brief you've had?
I did one job where the designer said they wanted it to be “a bit Vivienne Westwood” but they didn't say what era Vivienne Westwood, so I went and picked a few dresses and copied a few. It was only then the designer came in and played with what I'd done and we created it from there. So basically, it was kind of up to me to pick - if I'd have picked a different dress, the outcome would have been completely different!
That was really hard.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on two jackets for the Gruffalo's Child which is a kids show based on the book. They are both the same design but one is for the main actor and one if for the understudy. Its just a copy but in his size.
Who's that for?
I'm not sure, I've not met the actors yet..
How did you get into it?
It's a long story. I thought I wanted to be a designer, a costume designer so I did art foundation. The only bit of foundation I really enjoyed was the making part, so then I knew I wanted to be a maker. Then I went to uni to do Costume but I didn't like the way it was taught, didn't like the uni, so I dropped out. I went to another degree for tailoring, but didn't like that either so dropped out of that too. Then I ended up doing a short course in York, in the Northern College of Costume which was a four month course in the summer. There was only four of us on it was really like one-on-one tuition, which was how I wanted to learn, and how I think everyone should learn!
You got taught realistic timescales. Because it wasn't a formal qualification they didn't have to tick boxes or anything. It was just; this is what is handy to know in the industry.
From that, they got me work experience at The Royal Exchange in Manchester. Then I got myself some experience at The Scottish Ballet, and then both of them asked me back for paid jobs. I just did loads of cold-calling, sending out cvs – I sent out hundreds of Cvs! Only really one person got back to me, but that's all you need.
And it's not really stopped since then has it?
Well, the first sort of year I'd have the odd period of time where I was like - I'm never going to work again! But then I'd just do more cold-calling, more sending off of Cvs. It paid off in the end – it was really hard in the beginning but it's definitely paid off now!
You worked on Take Me Out recently..
I did! It was really exciting, just before Christmas! It was really weird. I went from doing a Shakespeare play one week straight onto Take Me Out the next. It was fun, but it was quite full on. They were shooting a show every day and so you'd only have that day to prep stuff for the evening! So there'd be four guys and 30 girls. I was mainly doing stuff for the guys, their costumes, but there'd be alterations on the girls as well.
What sort of alterations?
Lots of sewing up cleavages.. Mainly small bits, there were quite a few girls who were odd shapes, and the high street doesn't really cut for odd shapes. So there was one dress where I had to remake the skirt part, just so it was more flattering on the girl.
From Shakespeare to Take Me Out, that's a ginormous jump there – I'm guessing you don't have a normal everyday routine?
No, and sometimes I wish I did. It just means that I don't get myself into a routine. For example I'm trying to start running but it's hard to stick to anything as I work really long hours and then I just don't do it for months. But also, I think I'd get really bored if it wasn't so varied. I've been trained to take each day as it comes – never say no to a job..
Do you have a daily outfit/ uniform?
Not really. I think in my general dress I have a bit of a uniform – pinafores, tops underneath. When I work from home I wear my apron, because it makes me feel like I'm working. It helps me to separate home and work, I find that really hard working from home! And also, I do get covered in thread! It means that I don't have to dust myself down when I leave work – I always leave with threads all over my tights..
Don't we all..
That's great, thanks Ash!