Jacqui Hamer works in the National Theatre costume department where drawing plays an important role as a way of sharing ideas and communicating with designers
Describe your role in the creative industries..
I work at The National Theatre in the costume department, my role is Head of Alterations. This involves fitting, altering and sometimes making costumes from period to modern dress. We work on all garments and also have to resolve any quick changes needed or effects required. This often means seconds to change from one outfit to another, a visual effect they’re trying to achieve and mechanisms with fake blood (we seem to do a lot of blood-letting and torture at The National…!) We’re a small costume department made up of a Ladies team, Mens team, Costume Props, Alterations and Textile artists. We work on approximately 24 shows a year plus touring/education productions and occasionally other West End shows. So we’re very busy….
Costumes for Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee from Wonder.land (National Theatre 2016)
Why do you think drawing
Line and proportion matter as much in a garment as they would in a drawing or sculpture. If a costume is unbalanced or your eye is thrown off in some way it fails or jars. I often draw something out as a means of clarifying my thoughts - a drawing will often flag up a problem before you've wasted valuable time and money on it. It’s also extremely useful to have drawings from designers though this is becoming increasingly rare. A drawing makes our job a little easier as this gives us much more practical information quickly; a mood board is rather harder to decipher when you’ve actually got to produce something in a limited time. It also means it’s less likely to change much as the designer is clearer in their own mind about what they want.
What course did you decide
to book and why?
I initially booked a Life Drawing class with Martin Shortis as I wanted to work on anatomy and he was recommended to me. His knowledge is incredible and I felt that I was learning a lot so I returned for a few terms. I’ve since taken evening course, Drawing a Head with James Lloyd and a Drawing the Contemporary Portrait with Sophie Charalambous as well as Life Drawing: Subject and Object with Laura Smith and Constanza Dessain and Drawing a Head: Expression and Colour with Ishbel Myerscough which I enjoy a lot and return to regularly.
How has this course helped to develop your drawing practice?
The courses I’ve attended have been invaluable to me principally because of the quality of the tutors. It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut when you don’t have the structure of a college education; you can find yourself doing the same things all the time and making the same mistakes. When you’re snatching a couple of hours after work your time is especially precious. A good tutor will suggest something different, suggest another direction or medium and support you when you’re trying something new. I feel like my drawing has improved immeasurably through trying different courses and teachers, each one has taught me something new. I’m now finding that what I’m looking for is changing; initially I was focussing purely on improving my technical abilities after not having drawn for many years but I find it’s become more of a mental challenge for me now and my interests are shifting from just trying to draw what’s in front of me to becoming more interested in trying to create some sort of atmosphere or narrative. Although my drawing and painting is limited to evenings and weekends it’s still very important to me and I really appreciate the way the tutors take the public students as seriously as the full time ones. I’ve also learnt a lot from the other students in the classes who also find the energy to draw after a day’s work; we all share a self-motivated commitment and willingness to learn and we’re all wrestling with the same issues.
How have the courses impacted your professional practice?
The most obvious impact on a practical level is with the body paddings. Life drawing has helped with these a lot! But also we re-use and re-cycle as many of our costumes as possible; different sizes and shapes of actors, outfits mixed and matched or totally changed and a good eye is an essential skill to have. Drawing has also helped me get more balance in my life; I enjoy my work and count myself lucky to be able to spend my time making things however, this does involve constant demands from many different directions but I have developed more patience now that I have rediscovered my love of drawing and painting - I have something that is purely my own. Once I get a stick of charcoal or pastel in my hands the stresses of my day disappear. I value that space and guard it selfishly. Bliss.
What is the next course you’d like to do?
Something different! Something to throw a spanner in the works - there are a lot of options at The Drawing School.
To find out more about public courses and to book click here
Line and proportion matter as much in a garment as they would in a drawing or sculpture. If a costume is unbalanced or your eye is thrown off in some way it fails or jars. I often draw something out as a means of clarifying my thoughts.Jacqui Hamer Costume Department at the National Theatre / Public Programme student