It’s fast, furious and hectic – and I wouldn’t have it any other way
Sandy Harris is the artistic director of Creative Seed, creating carnival costumes and props across the UK.
MY life is a constant whirl of sparkles, bright colours and feathers – and I love every second of it!
I studied Art and Design, then found a part-time job working for a costumier when I lived in London, and got the opportunity to work on fantastic pieces – from costumes for Freddie Mercury to period items for the Royal Opera House.
It taught me a lot about the way light entertainment worked, and how different it was making pieces for period productions, which could take weeks to complete.
I then got a job working on costumes for the musical “Starlight Express” and ended up being in charge of the whole costume department, but my life changed the day I went to Notting Hill Carnival.
I was absolutely blown away by the colours and the amazing displays.
I knew that’s what I wanted to do, so I packed up and returned to my native north-east, and set up Creative Seed with my husband.
No two days are the same. The day begins with a quick check of where we are and we prioritise what needs to be done first.
We work across a number of different sites because we have so many items that we need to store. This means that on any particular day I can be on the move from one to another, sticking on embellishments at one office, stitching on sequins at another, or simply sitting down and coming up with ideas for a new carnival.
We are constantly busy, often having to work on lots of different events at the same time.
This includes not only creating the costumes and the bigger pieces, but also working with community groups to ensure a carnival is really inclusive.
Once I get the theme of the carnival, the work really begins and I start looking at designs, fabrics and colours.
Our small team creates amazing headdresses that are made in such detail that it can take a week to make just one.
We add sparkles, glitter, sequins and feathers to fabulous costumes.
At the moment it also includes the creation of a three-and-a-half-metre phoenix on a steel frame with a giant head, wings and fire!
This is part of a carnival on the theme of monsters, myths and magic and we’re having an amazing time making a number of fantastical pieces for the floats.
We’re also involved in a whole range of other carnivals around the country, so each day it’s important to make sure we stick to our schedule so the whole process runs like clockwork.
We often hire out special pieces for celebrations and weddings, or create bespoke props, so we have to make sure that we are ready for the deadline.
Often in the middle of everything I have to down tools because someone will get in touch wanting a dance troupe, stilt-walker or a fire-eater for an event – which we also supply – so it’s a matter of getting that organised as soon as possible.
Although it’s great to get away by around five p.m., quite often it’s just a matter of staying until the work is done, particularly if we’ve got to meet up with a group of carnival participants after hours.
It’s fast, furious and hectic – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!