Block 657: May 11, 2015


We are down to the last two weeks of the shop’s employment for the season. I can’t believe we’ve done all this work in this amount of time.

I can’t believe it.

Date: May 11, 2015

Crane: 657

Days Spent on Project: 811

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: I got an email in the Fall of 2013 from Jacqueline R., whom I had first worked with in Chicago at the Cherubs/National High School Institute at Northwestern University. In the years between, she had also moved to New York City, had freelanced as a lighting designer around town for a while but then landed a job at Rutgers University in New Jersey as their… Technical Director (?) in the large dance department they had there.

She was looking to hire a few costume designers to design one or two pieces for their upcoming Fall dance concert. Would I be available? Would I be interested?

Again, freelance. Of course I was available and, of course, I was interested.

When I was a young(er) designer, in college, my first attempts at design had been in the Kenyon College Dance Department. Dance costumes *can* be incredibly artistic, beautiful, works and I do like working with the challenge of color, silhouette and MOVEMENT in ways that aren’t frequently needed for plays. I was looking for work, but I was also looking to expand my resume and experience. So, I said yes.

The details of the project were interesting. Even though Rutgers has a fully function design department and program (and therefore a shop and support), we outside designers weren’t allowed to use any of their materials or resources. There would be no shop help. Nothing fitted. No fitting room. No measurements taken for you. No support.

Also, the fee for the project was “all inclusive,” meaning that the fee was also to REIMBURSE you for any materials you needed to complete the design. Yep, you had to buy the clothes and materials using the money that they paid you with. That even included the money for train fare to Montlcair… you had to pay for it yourself.

In the end, I knew it was a crappy deal. I knew, in order to make a profit, I’d have to take the cheapest way out on anything. I’m not sure why some companies do this; you want to have a great product, but you’re almost daring the people you hire NOT to put effort into the final product. You’re relying on the overachieving work ethics of the people who need the work to ignore the reality of the situation.

I was hired to design for two choreographers. The first was Samuel P. He was actually a lot of fun to work with; he had a clear idea of what the piece wanted to be, what his inspiration was, but he was open to ideas on what people wore. In the end, I built something like a dozen dresses out of metallic foiled stretch fabrics that tied (origami style!) around the bodies of the actresses. It wasn’t that much work… maybe a day or two. And the product looked good.

Fortunately, Sam liked the product and he asked me to design a new piece for his company in the Spring of 2014. Unfortunately, there was no fee and no budget, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do…

I didn’t have to think too hard; the dates he gave me conflicted with The California Project from last spring. I backed out graciously, saying that I’d love the opportunity to work with him again in the future. But then this Portland move happened.

I’m not sure the option exists anymore.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve got Bach on this morning. Trying to switch up the musical preferences to see if it changes the work flow and the attitude today.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I’m continuing to devour Twyla Tharp’s book.

It’s incredibly great. Reading it, I feel like it’s giving me permission to work and try.

It’s so good it will require another read once I finish this first pass.

Time to make opportunity!

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