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Meet costume designer Jasmine Atkinson

We sat down with Jasmine to find out more about her journey at Arts University Plymouth, which has included pursuing her lifelong dream of working with Disney, as well as working on costumes for Richard III at The Globe Theatre.
<p dir="ltr">21-year-old <a href="https://www.instagram.com/jasmine_poppy_designs" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Jasmine Atkinson</a>, from Malvern, Worcestershire is a final-year <a href="https://www.aup.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/ba-hons-costume-production">BA (Hons) Costume Production</a> student from Arts University Plymouth. In the run up to our Graduate Shows 2024, Jasmine is working on creating a costume interpretation of Queen Charlotte’s dress, based on a painting in Buckingham Palace’s Queen’s Gallery.</p> <p dir="ltr">We sat down with Jasmine to find out more about her journey at Arts University Plymouth, which has included pursuing her lifelong dream of working with Disney, as well as working on costumes for <a href="https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/richard-iii/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Richard III at The Globe Theatre</a>.<br /></p>
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Jasmine Atkinson

<p dir="ltr">Jasmine joined Arts University Plymouth in September 2021, after a gap year between school and university that had been compromised by a series of national COVID-19 lockdowns in the UK. Determined to make the most of her university experience, Jasmine has not only thrown herself into her studies but is also pursuing her dream of applying her skills as a costume designer to the global Disney brand.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the summer of 2023 Jasmine took part in the Disney Cultural Exchange Program, working at Walt Disney World in Florida. This was the most recent step in a journey that she started at a young age.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to work at Disney,” Jasmine explained. “I first started attending Stagecoach Performing Arts when I was six years old, and when I was 15 we had an opportunity to perform as backing dancers in Beauty and the Beast at Disneyland Paris. I stayed there for a week and was given a tour of their costume department and fabric store, which was an incredible experience. Seeing the work that they did behind the scenes contributed to my desire to study costume production for myself.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In pursuit of her dreams, Jasmine planned to take a gap year after finishing school and before starting at university. Her plans were underway to audition for experience in Disneyland Paris for the summer of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed her plans.<br /></p>
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Jasmine's memories from Disney

<p dir="ltr">Jasmine said: “Having made the decision to take a gap year, I stuck to my plan even when it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to work at Disneyland Paris. Instead I set up a business making face masks at home. I’d spend all day designing and sewing them, then would deliver the local ones in the evenings or post them further away. I made over a thousand masks in that period, then when some of the national lockdowns settled down I tried to have a more normal gap year. I ‘d spent enough time alone, so I travelled around the country visiting friends and spent some time seeing Croatia as well.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Jasmine knew that she wanted to study costume production and spent time looking at different universities before choosing Arts University Plymouth.<br /><br />“I grew up in Malvern, which was a small town, and my textiles class at school only had ten people in it. From my experience, I liked the level of supervision and support that you received in a smaller class. I looked at a number of universities to find the right costume degree for me, looking at options in London and Nottingham, but it felt like they packed in way too many people for a practical course where one-to-one support really matters.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Plymouth appealed to me because the city is so close to the sea, and when I looked at Arts University Plymouth the class sizes were smaller and I knew I’d get more support when I needed it. I reached out to the course leader, Marie Dunaway, and she was happy to answer my questions, and after I made an application we stayed in touch throughout my gap year, giving me advice about things to do that would help me hit the ground running when I started the course.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Studying BA (Hons) Costume Production at Arts University Plymouth, Jasmine has gained a number of the most sought-after costume craft skills, including strong technical competence in pattern-cutting and construction for costume and accessories. Jasmine is learning how to cut and make costumes to industry-standard, with first-hand advice from wardrobe professionals.</p> <p dir="ltr">With around 30,000 students in total in Plymouth, there are countless opportunities for Arts University Plymouth students to collaborate, both within and beyond the arts university. In her first year in the city Jasmine began working with University of Plymouth’s Musical Theatre Group, acting as Costume Supervisor alongside classmate Laura Corbey.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There are so many theatre groups in Plymouth that offer opportunities for Costume Production students to gain hands-on experience,” said Jasmine. “In the first year of our degree, Laura and I made over 40 costumes for a production of Into The Woods, as well as dressing the actors during their performances and helping with rapid costume changes. During our second year we expanded this by recruiting first-year Costume Production students to help us do the same for a production of Legally Blonde. Now that we’re in the final year of our degrees we’re ready to take a step back from the practical side and instead manage first and second-year Costume Production students for the upcoming performance of Footloose, coordinating their efforts and handing over the opportunity to incoming students.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After her plans were interrupted by the pandemic, Jasmine had planned to delay her efforts to work with Disney until after her degree, but then during her second-year she spotted an advertisement for the Disney Cultural Exchange Program for international students and decided to apply.<br /></p>
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Into the Woods with costumes designed and made by Jasmine

<p dir="ltr">“Earning a spot on the Cultural Exchange Program was a competitive experience and I was thrilled to be offered a place. For three months over the summer of 2023 I worked in frontline guest interaction roles in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World. We were thrown in at the deep end and I learned so much from the experience. After the first week of training we were set to work. International applicants like me usually worked the late shifts, which meant that I saw the firework displays every night.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Everybody on the Cultural Exchange Program lived together at Flamingo Crossings Village and because the international applicants often worked the same shifts, we became close over the summer. The majority of my shifts were spent working face to face with visitors to the theme park, but I didn’t lose sight of why I was there, and chased every opportunity to learn more about costume production and design for Disney. There were so many different types of costume needed, different uniforms for staff members in every resort and so many character costumes for performers interacting with visitors.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“At one of the costume seminars I attended we learned about the different roles that were available, and there were talks from senior figures who’d attended student programmes like the one that I was on and worked their way up. I connected with the Costume Manager for Magic Kingdom and she took me for a tour of the Costume Department. Each park has its own costume warehouse, with giant character heads hanging on rails waiting to be worn. Getting to see behind the scenes was fascinating, seeing the ways that the costumes were sewn, altered and maintained.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I also attended a career development event about Disney Cruise Line. Unlike working in the larger theme parks, the costume teams are smaller and so instead of specialising in a single role, you need to be skilled in alterations, dressing characters, and cosmetology, including character wigs and makeup. Having that wide range of skills reflects the way that we’re taught at Arts University Plymouth and so I think that’s what I’ll pursue after graduation.”<br /></p>
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Jasmine's costume designs

<p dir="ltr">Now in the final year of her BA (Hons) Costume Production degree at Arts University Plymouth, Jasmine is working towards her final major project, which will be a chance to showcase her skills and the specialisms that she has developed.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Showing off my skills at the end of year Summer Show will be the culmination of my studies at Arts University Plymouth. I’m working on an interpretation of Queen Charlotte’s dress, based on a painting in Buckingham Palace’s Queen’s Gallery. I intend to create the whole thing, starting with the undergarments and then moving on to the dress that she wears in the painting. Recreating a garment from history like that should allow me to show some of the range of skills that I’ve developed and give me a portfolio piece to show when applying for future work.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Due to graduate this summer, Jasmine continues to take advantage of every opportunity that she can to get as much industry experience as possible. In January the BA (Hons) Costume Production cohort visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London for a tour to learn more about the backstage areas, which led to Course Leader Marie Dunaway sharing an invitation to submit applications for a work placement helping their wardrobe department prepare for the summer season.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jasmine’s application and interview with The Globe’s Head of Wardrobe was successful, and so in May she travelled to London for a week helping preparations for the opening of the new production of Richard III.<br /></p>
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<p>“Working in The Globe was such a fantastic experience,” Jasmine said. “This was the largest professional production that I’ve worked on so far and I learned so much. From costume fittings and amendments to timing character entrances and how much time they had for costume changes, the scale of the work was fascinating, and it was incredible to see things like the practical work that takes places to clean fake blood from costumes between scenes.”<br /><br />“While I was there I worked with the Head of Wardrobe, Deputy Head of Wardrobe, Wardrobe Supervisor and Wardrobe Assistants and they were lovely and very supportive. There was one Wardrobe Assistant a few years ahead of me in her career and I was able to quiz her about what work she’d done to earn that position and find out more about where all of her peers were working, which gave me a realistic view of what to expect in my own career. The whole experience was very inspiring and will be invaluable when I graduate.”</p> <p dir="ltr">From script analysis to character realisation, <a href="https://www.aup.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/ba-hons-costume-production">BA (Hons) Costume Production</a> at Arts University Plymouth empowers students to develop practical and design skills for costume in performance. The unique strength of this course lies in its combination of technical focus with opportunities to experience the performance industry first-hand.</p> <p dir="ltr">The hugely diverse range of processes and media on offer makes Arts University Plymouth an exciting place to study costume production. Interdisciplinary collaboration is actively encouraged, particularly amongst students in film and other media productions, with unrivalled access to a range of digital processes, textile printing and 3D-making.<br /></p>
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Jasmine at the Globe for Richard III

<p dir="ltr">Arts University Plymouth was voted by students as #2 in the UK for Facilities at the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024, and Winner in Facilities for South West England, celebrating the access students have to the wide array of subject-specific resources available across all creative disciplines. Students voted based on Arts University Plymouth’s cutting-edge resources, including Fab Lab Plymouth, diverse multimedia and photography studios, a comprehensive Materials Lab that supports innovative practices in hot glass, ceramics and biomaterials, and the university’s well-equipped Drawing Lab, Fashion and Textile studios. Arts University Plymouth was also the highest scoring specialist arts university for Learning Resources in the UK in the National Student Survey 2023. </p> <p dir="ltr">To find out more about Costume Production and speak directly to expert academics and technicians with a wide range of industry experience, <a href="https://www.aup.ac.uk/events/open-day-undergraduate-and-postgraduate-june-24">come to the next Arts University Plymouth Open Day on Saturday 22 June 2024</a>, from 10am to 2pm, which will take place during the Graduate Shows, giving an excellent opportunity to see the kind of work that our undergraduate students create. <a href="https://www.aup.ac.uk/posts/claim-up-to-80-when-you-come-to-visit-us2">We also offer a Travel Bursary of up to £80 if you’re visiting an Open Day or Campus Tour to help with your travel expenses.</a><br /></p>