2AMt is a wonderful community of artists from all over the theatre spectrum, but we think it’s high time to give designers a little extra love–so we’re going to check out the big talent and bigger brains of some special designers in a series of designer spotlight posts. First up is Debbi Hobson, costume designer–and tanguera–out of Boston, MA. Take it away, Debbi!
I came into my art, costume design, by a very roundabout method. I was at university studying creative writing and ancient literature, and needed a work study job. The costume shop needed a stitcher, and I knew how to sew. I had been involved in dance my entire young life, so I was familiar with the workings of a theatre,so I thought it would be interesting. Little did I know I had just found my calling. My training was what they call in the restaurant business “Classical” I learned as I went. My previous experience had been with patterns on my mothers old Singer, so I knew how to sew for fashion. I very quickly learned how to sew for theatre, which was an entirely different world. And I loved it. I was blessed in that my professor was extremely patient and helpful, and so I learned not only how to stitch, but how to drape, and eventually, how to design. After graduating, I got a “Normal Job” and worked in theatre free lance part time. Before too long I was turning down theatre work because I had a “Normal Job”, which I hated, and I realized that turning away work that I loved for work that I hated seemed to be the stupidest thing I could do. So I quit. And I have never looked back.
Lately my inspiration has been coming from the traveling I have been doing in South America. After being immersed in an entirely different world of art, culture, environment, and way of dressing and adorning oneself, it has crept into different aspects of my inspiration for art and design. For example, after being introduced to certain trees in Argentina whose bark was unlike anything I had ever seen before, I knew that I would be utilizing the colors in dyeing fabrics, and recreating the textures of the Ombu Tree in garments or jewelry in some fashion. Or the Floss Silk Tree in make up design, or millinery design, or even in armour design.
That being said, my normal go to when I need inspiration is history. Looking back at at what people used to wear can often give me an inspiration for a twist on a silhouette that suits a character or theme in a way that a straight interpretation may not. Photographs of the past, especially candid shots, give such breadth of information about people, that I find them to be incredibly inspiring.
A favorite show that I worked on would have to be from 2006, The Bog of Cats at the Devanaughn Theatre in Boston MA. It was one of those situations where we had very limited money and limitless creativity and skills by those involved. The script was rich and full of nuance, the actors were as talented as the script, and my fellow designers were true collaborators. It was an amazing experience as a young designer, and I was able to design garments to help the actors discover and deepen their characters. The satisfaction I received from this gig was not that the money was there and I could create anything I wanted, it was that I had a director who was extremely talented and had a vision that caused her designers to become excited and inspired, who created an environment of collaboration where the exactly right people came together and discovered, designed, and gave birth to the world that she wanted for her characters, and I was given permission to explore ideas that maybe should have been dismissed out of hand, but were not. And a couple of those ideas led to other ideas and creation bloomed. I made a cloak for a character that looked like it was stitched together from the hides of stray cats, I made a wedding gown that was to never see the inside of a chapel, but instead would see the destruction of home, hearth and heart. And everything I created I was proud of because it was a production where my compromises led to better ideas. And that I have found to be a wonderful thing to have in a production team and director.
Absolute favorite artist would without a doubt be Colleen Atwood. Her work is to me the epitome of what a costume designer should do. Her costumes either evoke specific emotion from you as an audience member. Or they allow your focus to be on the actor, and not what they are wearing, which can be even more difficult as a costume designer. Giving someone clothes that are so perfect for who they are and where they are and what they are doing that you don’t even notice the clothes is talent. Anyone can make outrageous, but very few people can make outrageous seem normal. Or normal seem outrageous, and that is something that she does exceptionally well.
You can contact Debbi here.