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Costume and Makeup Educator: ‘Passion Is a Must’

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Artistry came early to Kathryn Wilson, but she soon realized she preferred working behind the scenes. The new assistant professor of theatre and dance has designed costumes and makeup for dance, opera, film and theater, working with the National Choreographers Initiative, Shakespeare Orange County and South Coast Repertory Theater, among others. Also an accomplished craft artist, Wilson holds an M.F.A. in costume design from UC Irvine and a B.A. in theater arts from Loyola Marymount University.

What inspired you to go into your field?

I was always very artistic as a child and throughout high school. I was always active in theater but never enjoyed being in the spotlight onstage. As an art major, I discovered the theater department’s costume shop and fell in love. Designing costumes and makeup became a way for me to pursue a career that was creative, and teaching became a way for me to share my passions and skills with others. 

What areas of continued scholarship and research are of interest to you?

I am interested in focusing my work in the areas of costume crafts and makeup, utilizing innovative techniques and materials that will help our students expand their skills. I want to be able to bring the most current, up-to-date industry techniques to the classroom, so that what I am teaching is directly related to what is happening in the industry. In addition, I want to find a way to integrate more artistic techniques, like figure drawing, painting and sculpture, into my classes so that my students can be more well-rounded artists. 

What do you hope students get from your instruction and expertise?

I hope that my students will leave my classes with a desire to experiment and create. I have 14 years of experience in costume crafts, such as dying/painting, leather work, armor, masks and millinery, and am continually interested in learning new techniques. I hope that they will be energized with the techniques that I am able to teach them, and gain a desire to seek out their own interests and passions. 

What do you feel the general public may not understand about the art of costume and makeup — and what would you like them to know?

I would like the general public to know that working in costumes and makeup is hard work and that it takes someone who is very dedicated and persistent to remain in the field. That is why passion is a must. Another aspect of this field is that, as a costume designer and a makeup artist, you can be very creative on a daily basis, which is why I love the work I do.