Sunday 10 May 2015

Patricia Norris, possibly my all-time favourite costume designer, died earlier this year. The only person to receive a lifetime achievement award from both The Costume Designers Guild and The Art Directors Guild, she worked on some great films, designing costumes which I go back to again and again, films such as Days of Heaven and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Her contribution to Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart influenced all of us in the costume department at Wimbledon School of Art in 1990.

Incredibly still designing for both departments in her late seventies on Killing Them Softly and being Oscar nominated for 12 Years a Slave in 2014 at the age of 82, she must have had phenomenal energy and determination. Sometimes I feel too old to keep this up and yet I've barely got started in comparison.

So I knew she was an amazing woman who had achieved difficult things in a different time, but then I read this in the LA Times:

In 1965 she got a job as a stock girl in MGM's costume department to provide for her children she was raising as a single mother. Working her way up, she earned her first credit as a costume designer on the James Garner western "Support Your Local Gunfighter." (1971).

Not only a single parent but a single parent to five children. 

I tried to track her down when I was in LA last year as I was keen to meet her to discuss her work and experience, but she was living in the mountains at the time, nowhere near where I was, so no chance to meet in my tightest of schedules. Shame, it would have been so interesting to hear her take on it all.