The ‘Meet the Graduate’ series will see Kozzii interview early career professionals and get the low down on how they a faring in the ‘real’ world, the successes they have encountered, and the tricky challenges they are facing when just starting out. Our contributing graduates also offer a unique insight into the courses they have studied on, providing an inside eye for those young (or mature learners) looking for a way into the industry via university or college.
This time we meet costume designer Jessica Mol, who graduated from the Arts University Bournemouth a year ago (2017), after studying Costume with Performance Design.
Jessica took some time out of her schedule to chat with us about her first year in the big wide world…
You graduated a year ago. How have you found your first year out?
I guess it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster and nothing could have prepared me for where I am now. I took last summer as a nice break to relax and enjoy myself; after all those years of studying it was nice to have some me time. It was also incredibly terrifying, having nothing to go to in September was a serious shock to the system. However, it has been exciting to be able to have the freedom to do anything I want. I have been working extremely hard in varying jobs; meaning I have limited time off which I make the most of to hang out with friends and just enjoy this stage of my life.
What has been the most difficult part of starting out?
For me, not being in that creative environment all the time, and bouncing off everyone’s energy. Not having that proximity to other likeminded people where you can easily collaborate on new and exciting projects all the time. But also, job applications, no one ever tells you quite how hard the whole process is.
What one thing do you wish they had told you at uni to prepare you?
I think the most useful thing to have known, would have been how to contact directors, producers or other professionals; and that the way to get into TV and film productions is by getting an agent, and how it’s best to do that. I feel like they didn’t quite prepare me for that fact, although I have definitely learnt amazing skills that can be tailored for various different roles.
How do you keep yourself going between jobs?
I am currently working two part-time jobs in between my freelance work. I think working on set has made me need to be busy, and I like to be constantly doing different things. This also gives me a semi-steady income as well, and I’ve found a job I love and enjoy going to most days of the week, which is for the National Trust at a beautiful property, where I get involved with wearing period costumes every day.
What advice would you give to someone about to graduate?
Put yourself first, take some time for yourself, whether you read a book, go for a run, walk the dog, go out for dinner with friends, book a holiday. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Don’t judge yourself on other people’s achievements! Everyone is different, so never put yourself down when comparing your own life to what everyone else is doing.
What would be your ideal role/job/client?
I love anything crazy, so probably being the costume designer on a fantasy film would be the dream; however, working as an assistant on a big film with any of the amazing professionals in the industry would be incredible. To be honest, anything where there’s an amazing crew of people, with a creative buzz, I don’t see what can be better than that.
What made you want to work in costume?
It’s funny, as I was always in the school plays when I was younger…until I realised I hated being on stage and ended up helping out with scenery and hair and makeup and the wardrobe department. Didn’t ever think I could ever have that much fun as a job. Honestly, it’s creative, different every day, and you get to meet some incredible people.
How would you describe your design style and process?
Once I’ve done lots of research, and sketching to grasp the character, then it’s time to do the final designs. I find a pose that suits the person, sketch it out on thick watercolour paper and then draw all the garments. I use Inktense pencils to add colour and shading, as I find that they are easy to control and suit my style.
Who has been your professional inspiration?
I’ve always loved Colleen Atwood! When I’m watching a film and all of a sudden, I realise why I love it so much – because it’s all her. She uses amazing fabrics and textures to add depth to the characters, and that’s inspired me to really look at fabrics when I am working.
What is your design inspiration/what makes you tick creatively?
I like to do a lot of varied research, find it in everyday things, people I see, clothes that they are wearing, anything really. The best part is reading a script for the first time, getting to grips with the themes and understanding those characters. Finding similar characters in film and tv for references and lots and lots of sketching!
What was your uni course like? What kind of things did you get to do?
-now that is a difficult one, we were able to try anything and everything. In first year, we got to try out all the different specialisms to then choose which one we liked most and wanted to continue with. I have always liked drawing, so I follow the design route, and later specialised in design for screen. In terms of what we did…some days we had lectures where professionals came in to talk, other days was sewing in the studios, researching or doing the more paperwork type bits and pieces in the computer suite, sketching and making mood boards in the studios, out in the town sourcing for any grad film work or fabrics, fittings with the actors, photo shoots, crew meetings, breaking down costumes in the dye room, making props in the workshop…it depends what project I was working on I guess…
Would you recommend your course to budding costume designers?
Yes! I would absolutely encourage anyone to apply, whether you know exactly what you want to do or not, your own ideas will change. This course definitely gives you scope to find your own way and try something new.
The Arts University Bournemouth has many highly regarded courses on offer for undergraduates. The BA (Hons) Costume and Performance Design course has recently been recognised as a centre of excellence by The Queen’s Anniversary Prize 2017. You can read more about this prestigious award here.
For more information on Jessica’s course click here.