UAPB sophomore uses technology, textiles to bring theatrical costumes to life

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

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Breanna Adkins, a UAPB sophomore completing a costume design internship at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, creates a skull cap using a heat gun on sheets of WonderFlex, a heat-activated composite material commonly used by professionals in the costume design industry.

Breanna Adkins, a sophomore majoring in merchandising, textiles and design (MTD) at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently gave her lion’s share of contributions to costume design for the theatrical production of “Drumming Through the Fables,” which premiered at the Arts and Science Center (ASC) for Southeast Arkansas on July 27. Adkins, currently completing a costume design internship at the ASC, used special textiles and an intricate molding process to create masks of the members of the animal kingdom, worn by actors in the play based on the tales of Aesop and Anansi.

“Breanna created elaborate masks using the same materials and technology used to create the world-renowned costumes used in the Broadway production of ‘The Lion King,’” Dr. Kaye Crippen, professor of the MTD Department, said. “She was able to combine her knowledge of textiles from UAPB with her own artistic creativity to produce a unique final product.”

Dr. Crippen said Adkins used moldable extruded thermoplastic composite sheets, which allow for the convenient shaping of a structure like a mask using a heat gun. The composite material used to create the masks, WonderFlex, is commonly used by professionals in the costume design industry.

Adkins’ creative process began with sketching different designs for each of the animals and asking others on the set for their feedback. After the designs were selected, Carlos Harrison, a costume artist and graduate of art at UAPB, used his experience in sculpture and airbrush painting to complete the headdresses worn by the actors.

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Adkins and Stephanie Ong, director of “Drumming Through the Fables,” examine costume fabrics that were hand-dyed and bleached to create a pattern.

“One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my costume design internship is that you can take junk and make it into something remarkable.” Adkins said. “I was truly amazed at the wonderful things you can create with paper, cardboard, hot glue and some creativity.”

Dr. Crippen said internships such as Adkins’ are an important part of the MTD program because they enable a student to build needed experience early on in their academic career. A vast and varied background helps ensure that students are eligible for different jobs in the industry by the time they graduate.

“The ASC has been very supportive of our students in the MTD department and has instilled them with knowledge in the use of technology for costuming and apparel design,” she said.

Dr. Lenore Shoults, executive director for the ASC, said Adkins fulfilled the costume design internship at the ASC with outstanding results, and that her imagination in costume design was matched by her professional approach to the work.

“Ms. Adkins’ creative work with WonderFlex, the new technological theater material that creates free-form moldability, was exceptional,” Dr. Shoults said. “She needed to apply superb creativity with doggedly hard work and excellent follow-through. From sketching to imaginative problem solving on how to bring the cast of characters to life, Breanna was a stellar member of the artistic team.”

Adkins is a native of Dallas, currently studying at UAPB on a band scholarship.

For more information on the MTD program at UAPB, contact Dr. Kaye Crippen at (870) 575-8367 or crippenk@uapb.edu.

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