Friday, June 7, 2013

A creative costume career takes flight around the world for 2008 UAB grad

Theatre UAB alumna Amanda Mattes is celebrating after completing her master of fine arts (MFA) degree in performance costume design at the University of Edinburgh, College of Art, but this feat is just one part of her substantial oevre.

Mattes, of Birmingham, minored in Japanese language and culture while receiving her bachelor’s degree in theatrical design and technology from UAB in 2008. After graduating, she worked as a costume designer at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and did various designs in New York City, as well as worked at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. She moved to Scotland in 2011.

For her thesis design, “Imoseyama Onna Teikin,” she translated the script from the original Japanese text, as there wasn’t an English version, and collaborated with a composer to create an original design for an opera.

“Imoseyama Onna Teikin” roughly translates to “An Exemplary Tale of Womanly Virtue,” Mattes said. It is based around 640 CE, the time of the coup d’etat by the Soga clan after which Fujiwara no Kamatari defeated them and restored the kingdom to the true emperor. The work features Shinto and Buddhist symbolism and mythology. Through her design, she focused on the aspect of the feminine within the work, and she related this in the textile work through linear Shibori (similar to tie-dye) textiles, which represent the striated muscles in the birth canal.

“It’s all about female strength and unity in a male-dominated society,” she said.

Mattes recently worked on the world premiere of the stage production of “Princess Mononoke” which went up in London in April and then toured in Japan. This is the only production to be sanctioned by Japanese film director, animator and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki, who produced the 1997 film. Tickets to the London shows sold out in less than five hours, and the production will be re-mounted there June 13-29. She also designed costumes for a short film, “Ilgu,” which is currently being shot in Russia and Edinburgh.

She is now designing a new dance piece, “Colours,” for the Scottish Royal Conservatoire, which will run during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Later this summer, she will begin work as an assistant and costume maker for a feature film, “Legends of the Underground.” It will begin filming in Amsterdam in early 2014. Mattes has also been asked to write lessons and do voice-over for TEDEd for costume design and history education. She will start with “How to Make a Hat” for Hat Day Sept. 15, followed by pieces such as “The History of the Blue Jean” and “Greece and Rome: who wore the toga and why?” She also just started a collaboration with graphic designer Pushpi Bagchi, for which she will create and make masks centering around each of the 22 official languages of India. This project is based upon recent theories of the disappearance of these languages, as more and more people in India speak English, she said. It will be presented at an exhibition in Edinburgh in August.

“I feel very fortunate to be pursuing and living my dream. I know I wouldn't be where I am without the training I received at UAB, and I am very thankful for that. Even the outpouring of support I receive now encourages me to move forward,” Mattes wrote from Scotland.

Her advice for other aspiring young artists at UAB?

“I think the most important thing for any young artist to remember is that if you work hard, you will achieve what you want out of life.”

Shannon Thomason, Thomason@uab.edu, is a media specialist in the UAB Office of Media Relations. Her beat covers the arts at UAB.

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