“Denim is not denim, knitting is not knitting and flowing garments are not flowing garments.” The world of Deborah Cook – costume designer at animation production studio Laika films – combines ingenious engineering, imagination and seamstressing like few others. Deborah's latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings, follows the story of a young boy called Kubo who has to locate a magical suit of armour worn by his late father so that he can defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. It features beautiful, miniature Japanese textiles. Here she tells us about the process of costume designing for animated characters between just nine and fifteen inches tall. You studied sculpture: what led you to miniature costume design for animation? My sculptural work included installation environments that featured costumes and upholstered art pieces. I’ve always worked with fabrics long before I attended art school and have made clothes since I was a child. Later I learned formal pattern cutting and other skills during my sculpture degree such as welding, carpentry, upholstery, film making, painting and photography. All of which I incorporated into my artwork and a skill set that has evolved and forms the basis of my approach to costume design.
How bodies move in different kinds of clothing fascinates me. I used to watch and draw boxers and American footballers. Their protective padding looked sculptural and abstracted their body shapes, propelling their movements in a more striking dynamic and theatrical way. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4-6qJzeb3A[/embed] What is the crucial difference between designing for people and designing for puppets/animation? I have created large-scale costumes but found that there’s a deeper level of engineering needed for small scale costumes; especially for stop frame animation, it is another world entirely. Gravity is naturally present in human scale costumes, as is the movement of the body propelling it from beneath. Small scale costumes need both of those elements built into them to create a managed believable movement that can be captured in a still frame; twenty-four still frames per second is how we shoot stop motion films. There are additional restrictions in the scale of fabric I’m able to use.The possibilities of marrying the established ubiquitous techniques of sewing history to date with newer technical developments and concepts is my favourite place to create my costume designs. Read the rest of our interview with Deborah in the current, Decorative issue of Selvedge. If you know someone who might enjoy Selvedge, why not buy them a subscription for Christmas? www.selvedge.org/subscriptions