CSD CEP Design Student Prize profiles: Emily Hurst Assoc.CSD, Design for Stage and Screen – CDC

Every year we celebrate graduating CSD CEP student designers across the globe through in-person and online award ceremonies.

The CSD CEP Student Prize is awarded yearly to one design student from each of the CEP design courses who has demonstrated great work throughout their course, recognising their talents and constant hard work.

As part of our celebrations, we’re showcasing talented CSD CEP Student Prize winner Emily Hurst Assoc.CSD from Nottingham Trent University about her design approach and plans for the future.

Nottingham Trent University, Emily Hurst Assoc.CSD

Emily with her two final year project pieces, Sofia Fiori (Left) and Katrina Van Tassel (Right).

Tell us a little about your work:

I was a dancer for most of my childhood – and my favourite part of this was always being backstage of the shows we did every year. The atmosphere, the mild chaos – and, of course, the costumes made me so happy that I always knew I wanted to keep some part of that with me, even after I stopped dancing.

When my mum taught me how to sew, I realised how I could create my own costumes. Everything developed from there – and from my love of making, grew my love of designing. Creati

ng worlds for others to enjoy brought me the same joy I found in the theatre all those years ago.

In my final year, I had two briefs which challenged different aspects of design and making. I thoroughly enjoyed these two projects, as they allowed me to explore designing for both stage and screen.

My first project was a speculative Netflix series of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ set in 1799. One of the main things I wanted to explore was how historical accuracy could be balanced with informed character decisions. I had a lot of fun experimenting with how I could adapt the historical silhouettes to give the characters a more in-depth visual personality.

The character I most wanted to do this for was Katrina Van Tassel, the female lead. I sought to explore the more rebellious nature she had in the script compared to the original story and I built on this to add depth, helping her to stand out in a very male-dominated story. I adapted the traditional long skirts into culottes, so she could ride a horse as a man would, whilst giving her a Spencer Jacket and straw hat to keep her in line with the high status she carried.

I love details, so every element, from the buttons to the patterns of the fabric, were researched and created with intent. I made Katrina’s costume as part of my final project, including hand-braiding and making her hat from straw to keep it as close to my original design as possible.

My second project was a speculative stage production of the book ‘A Secret of Birds and Bone’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. This project is very special to me, as it was the first time that I was able to create a visual world completely from scratch, so I felt I had no limitations.

I had the privilege of talking to the author of the book throughout my design process, and her opinions and support helped bring this project to life. I designed the characters with the intention that they would be able to meet the audience after the show, so the details within the costumes were incredibly important. I used many techniques, such as embroidery, beading, leather work, and fabric manipulation in my designs to reflect elements and themes of the story – specifically birds. I gave each character a bird that suited their personality and used this – alongside 19th-century peasant research – to create a starting structure I could use to build each individual. I also got to explore and learn puppetry as part of this project, and alongside my creation of Sofia’s costume, the main character, I made a puppet of Corvith, her pet crow, which was such a fun experience.

Cast Line up for Sleepy Hollow, featuring 10 of the characters.

What does being awarded the CSD CEP Student Prize mean to you?

It’s a huge honour to receive the award. Costume design is something I find such joy in, and I feel like I had a breakthrough during my time at Nottingham Trent in finding my own style and process. With this development came challenges, doubts and second-guessing. However, to receive recognition for the work I created and am proud of has made me feel so much more confident in my ability as a designer and where my work could take me.

Sofia Fiori and her pet crow Corvith

What’s next for you?

I’m currently exploring the heritage craft of straw work in millinery and how it can be translated into other areas such as puppetry – inspired by my final year projects at NTU. Alongside this, I am very grateful to have been accepted onto the Screenskills course for high-end television and film, which has already given me so much insight into where my next steps as a designer could be.

I am also in the process of designing a show from scratch as a personal project so I can continue developing my skills as a designer and build my portfolio.

Where can we find you?

You can find me via the CSD Find-a-Designer here, or via my website or Instagram.

Are you a Design for Stage and Screen student?

Individuals who have recently graduated, are in the early phases of their Design for Stage and Screen career or have the required equivalent competencies can apply to join CSD as Associate members. Learn more about CSD Associate membership here.