The Herbs

In this project I redesigned the 1968 children's television programme, The Herbs. My  hypothetical production would be a piece of travelling theatre that is part of an educational event to teach young children about plants and gardening. They could watch performances of The Herbs, which will take place outdoors, as well as participating in other activities such as herb planting and drawing botanical plates. My production is set in the 1960s, taking inspiration from designers such as Mary Quant and John Stephen. Each character's costume reflects their namesake herb through colour, texture and prints, designed by me. The animal characters are portrayed as puppets and accompanied by puppeteers who act as their friends and helpers.

Dill is energetic and excitable, and accompanied by his puppeteer Dizzy who is a dog walker. Dill is made from a plastazote skeleton which I covered in fleece and hand dyed rayon fringe, along with a fuzzy wool textile for his ears and tail. His puppeteer wears a mohair playsuit inspired by Mary Quant and a polo-neck made from jersey printed with my dill themed pattern.

The Narrator is a gardener and would show the children around her herb garden before introducing them to her magical friends. She is the only character who is not a magical herb so her colour palette is more subdued. She wears a patchwork top, made from the herbs' prints, along with a large sunhat, a tool belt, and some dungarees. I want her to look like a real gardener so I have distressed her costume to make her look like she has been working in her garden.

Final illustrations of characters from The Herbs in a line up

Left to right: Tarragon the Dragon; Parsley the Lion; Aunt Mint; Constable Knapweed; Sir Basil; Bayleaf the Gardener; Lady Rosemary; Mrs Onion; Narrator; Solidago; Pashana Bheda; Dill the Dog; Chives 

Narrator, kneeling next to a basket planting something, wearing gloves and a sunhat on her back
The puppet, Dill the Dog, is looking into the distance, he is smiling and his tongue is sticking out
Close up of Narrator's torso. She is wearing a patchwork top made of floral design, dungarees and a tool belt.
Dizzy, the puppeteer, standing with her hands in fluffy pockets.
Close up of Narrator. She is holding the handle of a basket of herbs in front of her tool belt with a trowel in it.
Twa Corbies

Twa Corbies is a piece of immersive storytelling theatre that is inspired by two Border Ballads: Twa Corbies and Isabel and the Elf Knight. We are told the story by Thomas the Rhymer, who sits in front of the fire and invites the audience into his tale. The audience sit around tables in a sixteenth century pub and are taken back in time to the Scottish Borders in the 1570s.

I have created my own story by blending these two Border Ballads into a dark tale of magic, mystery and death. The plot follows Lady Isabel who is enchanted by an elf knight, Euphemia. Euphemia whisks Isabel away in an attempt to kill her. Upon learning her fate, Isabel turns the tables, lulling Euphemia to sleep and killing her with the knight's own dagger. Euphemia's body is then left for the Twa Corbies, or two ravens, to scavenge. 

The costuming is historically inspired, diverting from accurate dress through textiles and exaggerated form. I looked to the paintings of celebrated Scottish artist Sheila Mullen for inspiration. Each character has been assigned plants which reflect their traits. I used these plants to create abstract textiles and motifs using a variety of dyeing techniques. For example, Maude's gown is dyed with a deep red, I used shibori techniques to create shapes inspired by elder flowers and embroidered over these floral motifs. Lady Isabel's gown has a panel made from a dyed silk velvet which has been embossed with stitchwort, one of her botanicals.

Final illustrations of characters from Twa Corbies in Tudor costume

Left to Right: Ingram; Thomas the Rhymer; Maude; Lady Isabel; Euphemia the Elf Knight; Twa Corbies 

Two textile samples for Ingram. Left, a pink leather with slashes and right, a darker pink wool with pink patterns and embriodery
Three textile samples for Maude. Left, a dark red satin; middle, a dark purple satin; and right, a red satin shibori dyed and embriodered
Three textile samples for Euphemia, on the left a black cotton velvet with yellow embriodery, top right a cotton velvet with a branch pattern in it, and bottom right a blue leather with slashes in it
Two textile samples for Thomas. Top, dark brown fur and bottom, pale orange wool with a hazelnut pattern across the bottom
Four textile samples for Lady Isabel. Top left, a dyed silk velvet with floral embossed pattern; Top right, a yellow satin with purple embriodery; bottom left, dark purple silk velvet; and bottom right, dyed satin
Three textile samples, the top made of loops of leather, left a dyed purple and red satin and the right a dyed orange and black cotton velvet
Skills & Experience
  • Bardennoch - Exhibition at Kirkcudbright Galleries - 2021
  • Gretna Green Wedding Dress Exhibition - 2019
  • Diapason - Collaboration with Alex Rigg - 2019
  • Five Telegrams - Edinburgh International Festival - 2018

Photographs by Molly Simmons 

 

Video by Sandy Butler