The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a sort of renaissance in art. Many creatives took to the easel, recording studio, pottery wheel, camera, and just anywhere in which they could express themselves. Alexandra Kate turned towards her sewing machine, a couple of large cardboard boxes, sheets, paint, lights, and props. Using the materials at hand, Alexandra began to make costumes and set pieces based off the Studio Ghibli film Howl's Moving Castle, posting a few scene recreations to TikTok. Seemingly overnight, her videos went viral. Since then, Alexandra has turned what once was a personal comfort project into something more of a full length series on TikTok. Today, The Global Spotlight talks with Alexandra about her work as well as plans for future projects.
When did you first get into set design and costuming?
I have always loved set design and costumes since I can remember.
I did a year of film school which opened my eyes to set design and I was already making a few pieces for costumes. I started to really dabble in set design when I first started TikTok in 2019 and have tried to develop my skills since then.
You first went viral on TikTok when you started recreating scenes and set pieces from one of the most popular Studio Ghibli films, Howl’s Moving Castle. Can you tell me more about this project?
I have always adored Studio Ghibli films, Howls Moving Castle being one of my favorites. This led me to reading the book. Ever since then, I have always secretly wanted to live in the magical castle itself.
I had a rough idea in my head of doing some simple TikToks for a while, and then the pandemic hit. Long story short, the years have been hard. I found myself wanting to create a little bit of magic in such a struggling time. I was in lockdown and decided, why not start a set on one of my favorite comfort films and with all the free time I had? I decided to go all out on my creativity to see how far I could go.
If I can not find cheap backdrops to purchase, I use old sheets to paint various backdrops such as the base wall in the castle. I collect large cardboard boxes and paint them for scenery such as the door and the fireplace behind Calcifer.
I really enjoy the hands-on approach of the entire project, so I rely heavily on lighting to help provide the magic effects.
Did you originally plan to do more with these videos before the first few had gone viral?
I had planned a few, but nowhere near the extent where I am at now.
My original plan was to create a few TikToks, move onto another project and come back to it at a later date, but the encouragement I received from Howls Moving Castle spurred me to continue creating them.
What about the reception of these videos, did you ever expect them to get as much praise as they have now?
Not at all! I was floored by the amount of love these TikToks have received, and definitely not prepared for it.
There have been weekends and afternoons with last minute painting, planning props and sets to try and keep these TikToks going.
Have you ever considered a career as a costume maker or set designer before?
It used to be one of my dream jobs.
It still is, but I am afraid I have never taken it as seriously as I probably could have.
Ever since I started watching your videos, I’ve been absolutely mesmerised by the costuming you did for Calcifer the fire demon and how you set up his fireplace to look like there are actual moving flames in it. How were you able to do that and what made you design Calcifer the way you did?
Calcifer was tricky. I didn’t have a real concept for him, but I knew I wanted to keep him as magical as possible.
Due to being in lockdown, getting materials was challenging, and I like to keep costs down as low as possible, so I decided to improvise. I used an old orange shirt as a base and painted some garden netting as an overlay to add texture and provide a rough fire look.
The flames are made from an old pillowcase I had which was then painted and duct taped to a fan hidden behind the logs which sit on a stool. Turn on the fan and presto! Fake flames! I have a little pocket light hidden amongst it to help provide that fiery glow.
Are you currently working on any other projects like the one you did for Howl’s Moving Castle?
Believe it or not I am currently painting more sets for Howls Moving Castle but free time has not been on my side. My mind is constantly coming up with new ideas, one of the projects I really want to delve into is the Lord of the Rings.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your followers?
Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I still can’t get over all the encouragement, kind words and just plain interest I have received from you all. It has pushed me to go out of my comfort zone, try new things, throw myself into my creativity and I couldn’t be more grateful to have such a kind hearted group. Thank you!
KEEP UP WITH ALEXANDA ON HER TIKTOK
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