Rhea Thierstein, Creative Director and set designer extraordinaire is currently practitioner in residence for students on LCF’s performance design and make-up courses.
Working with students on BA (Hons) Costume for Performance, BA (Hons) 3D Effects for Performance, and BA (Hons) Hair, Make Up and Prosthetics for Performance, Rhea has been bringing her creative ingenuity and enterprising know how to the classroom.
Her career has seen her create whimsical sets, props and costumes which have brought to life the advertising campaign concepts of clients including Mulberry and Selfridges. Whilst her art direction and production design clients include M.I.A and her bespoke scenes have been featured time and again in top fashion magazines such as Italian, American and British Vogue, POP, Wallpaper, Vanity Fair, Love, Another Magazine and W.
We at LCF News were keen to find out what ideas and insights someone who has launched her own successful creative business and worked closely with photographer Tim Walker could offer students hoping to take on similar challenges. Rhea kindly let us in on her creative inspirations and advice…
What work are you doing with the performance courses at LCF?
It really differs on the course and the year group that I’m with. I had assumed that students at LCF would just be focused on fashion, but the variety and amount of fields the degrees cover is really great. Make-up and Prosthetics and Costume 3rd years are working on their research projects for their final projects – they’re at a very interesting stage where they’re getting to the point of experimenting and gearing up to making their final pieces – again there are some really unique concepts and techniques being trialed. I’m very impressed! 3D Effects year 2 are also working on very interesting projects – they can tailor each module to their own personal interests and strengths and pinpoint the industry they are ultimately looking to go in to. It’s very inspiring teaching across the degrees and has really opened up my eyes to so many other creative references and techniques.
What has been your career highlight so far?
There’s been so many for so many different reasons! I think the biggest highlight was Grace Coddington making me contributor of the May issue of American Vogue last year. I didn’t see it coming and was hugely flattered that she was so happy with the project I did with Tim Walker – The One and Only.
What advice would you give to a student hoping to work in set design and art direction?
I would say work for people who inspire you. That way you’ll benefit the most and learn technical skills which are relevant to your work and you’ll see how the industry works. Try different things. Be patient. Work hard. Punctuality and reliability go a long way.
What was it like starting your own business?
It’s very hard. You have to keep an eye on every aspect of it. There’s so many different things to consider – self promotion, managing figures, running a team, overseeing projects, having a space to work from, building relationships and then being creative!
Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d known?
I don’t know. I think experience is the best ingredient for running a business – but that only really comes with time. I wish I’d have known more about accounting and not to panic if work didn’t come in – you never know what is around that corner.
What inspires you about what you do?
I think it’s the huge variety of projects. I love experimenting and learning new techniques. Nature features quite prominently within my work – which is where I find a lot of my inspiration, so it’s very creatively satisfying. Projects are a good excuse to research a subject in great depth.