John Merritt III
Costume Designer · Crafts Artisan· Wardrobe Supervisor· Stitcher

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In the Summer of 2017, I was offered the position as the costume crafts Artisan for Great River Shakespeare Festival. I was introduced to millinery that summer, as I was learning new tools of the trade from experienced crafts artisan at the festival. The mainstage shows were Richard III, The Comedy of Errors and Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. Richard III required many hats and I had the opportunity to build some of them. As an intern, I also had the opportunity to work on the intern apprentice show, which was Henry VI: The Rise of Richard (which was a play from all the three Henry VI plays combined into one) and worked as the costume crafts artisan. The assignments I had for that show was all made by me with no supervision, opposed to the mainstage ones when I had supervision. Learning at Great River Shakespeare Festival was an invaulable expeirence and I was grateful for the opportunity. 

Henry VI: The Rise of Richard

Position: Costume Crafts Artisan 

Process: Carpet Padding/Fabric Stiffener for Lady Eleanor 

For Henry VI: the Rise of Richard, the intern apprentice production, I created a renaissance inspired hat for Lady Eleanor with a detachable diadem that gets taken off when she gets framed for Witchcraft in the play. 

Reference photo 

Step 1: Assess what type of hat needs to be made, and how it could be approached. The Assistant Designer/Draper gave me this image saying she was interested in creating this hat, with the detachable diadem at the top of the temple. 

Rear view of hat, pinned in place drying 

View of inside attached lining

Pattern piece cut, and wired for stability 

Step 2: I decided to use carpet padding for the base of the hat, because its thick enough it will retain the shape. After measuring the actress' headsize, I cut a triange with a rounded edge (that will go across her backside hairline), and a nice pointed tip that will go against her temple of her head. I took some millinery wire and zig-zagged it on the edges of the carpet padding, for extra stability and so it could be adjustable to a different headsize. 

Fabric cut for outside of hat. 

   Before fabric stiffener, pinned in place.                        Fabric stiffener applied 

Step 3: After I wired it, and stabilized it I then pinned it to the headform to retain the shape of hat as desired. I then covered the wig head with plastic bags and tape, and then applied fabric stiffener on the hat, completely pinned in place. I had to apply in layers, and set a fan on it for it to try. I kept applying layers of fabric stiffener on the hat because it still would not retain the shape around the backside of the head as well as I wanted it to. I used about three layers, still pinned in place to the wig head. 

                         Before veil                                                   Veil Pinned in 

Step 4&5: After hat is completely dry, I unpinned the hat and started attaching the fabric to the hat. Before I attached the outside fabric , I placed a magnet on the inside of the hat for the detachable diadem (that was also attached to a magnet) for it to be taken off easily during the performance. After this, I then sewed the fabric on the outside of the hat, and then attached a veil that was requested to go on top. After this step, I then attached the lining. 

Step 6: Attaching the trim, and finishing up. I slip stitched silver trim along the side edges of the hat to enhance the curve of the hat. After this step, the hat was ready to wear! 

Production Photos 

Richard III

Position: Costume Crafts Artisan

Leather Skull Cap, for Lord Tyrell. 

For Richard III: I patterned and constructed a leather skull cap for Lord Tyrell. I hand sewed embellishments around the brim. The designer was interested in making the skull cap not seem perfect, so imperfections were incouraged in terms of putting it together. This was sewn on an industrial sewing machine. 

Step 1-4: Cut/Sew six triangular skull cap pieces. The pieces will eventually round out. After all pieces are attached, put on wig head and trim the long ends to match up even. I was short on leather pieces for this priject, so I attached scrap pieces from the leather that I had and attached them to make out the brim band. 

Step 5: Hand Embellished gold trim along the sides of the brim. 

Fitting Photo, front view.

Fitting Photo, rear view. 

Production Photo 

Richard III

Position: Costume Craft Intern 

Bishop Miter hats (2)

I patterned and created two bishop miter hats for the Bishops in Richard III. 

Step 1-3: Pattern out the shape of the bishop miter hats, and sew them along the edges to create the distinct point. Sew on the trim along the pattern pieces and turn inside out. 

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Step 3- Finishing: Stitch the trim down along the tails of the hats. After this is done, I pressed and stitched the white edges of the hats down, so the end of the hat was the red and gold trim. I then attached the tails on the back pieces only. After this I then slips stitched the hats together.

Production Photo