We had the good fortune of connecting with Clare Henkel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clare, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I started designing costumes when I was in my mid 20’s. That was before marriage, before children, etc . Becoming a mother changed many things about my work/life balance. Part of my brain was always thinking about my children–you just can’t help it! There were times when either my stepdaughter or later my son would come with me to work–this messed up the balance in some ways, but leveled it all out in others. Being a theatre artist means that there were times when I could not be present for child-related things; but other times when I could spend so much more time with them than someone who works 9-5. Thankfully, I’ve had a great husband all of this time, who has been an active participant! As life continued, and many mothering duties eased up or went away, I found myself working more and more. But as I’ve gotten older, and especially this past year during Covid, I have realized that I am ready to do other things in my life. To shift that work/life balance back to myself and my husband. To find other artistic pursuits–like learning to mosaic, cook more, and to play the ukelele. And to travel, once we are vaccinated.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have mostly been a freelance costume designer for the past 35 years. I say mostly, because I often worked as a photostylist when I lived in San Diego, as well as designing costumes for a few shows a year. I think that people enjoy working with me because of the personality and character I bring to my designs. I am constantly striving to do something different–to learn something new on each show. My favorite shows to design are ones where I can combine periods and come up with something unique–mashups—I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like! Working in theatre is seldom easy. I have moved twice for my husband’s jobs, and have had to re-invent myself each time. This has also given me an opportunity to assess exactly where I was then, and how I wanted to present myself to the world. Motherhood brings its own challenges as well as opportunities. I’ve learned along the way that kindness is important. Not overworking a shop so they begin to hate you. The importance of snacks! Respect–for the design process, others’ work, actors’ ideas (most of the time), and the very unique, beautiful, fragile, ephemeral things that makes live theatre. This past year has allowed me time to think about all of this, and so much more. I have realized that I get a great deal of pleasure from other artistic pursuits in addition to designing costumes, and I look forward to having more time in the future to pursue them.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Boulder, and feel very fortunate to live near Mt. Sanitas as well as downtown Boulder. If the friend was a hiker, I would take them first to a trail or two right in Boulder–Wonderland Lake Loop, Shanahan Ridge, near NCAR, or Mt. Sanitas if they were up to it. We might drive up Flagstaff Mountain and have a sunset dinner one night at the top, looking down at the lights below. Lunch at the Kitchen Next Door on Pearl Street, after a stroll into shops like Peppercorn. Then later, drinks at the bar at Oak at 14th. Several of my favorite places have closed this year, sadly. But the Hungry Toad remains one of my favorite places, and we would definitely have a meal there. If possible, we would see a dance concert by 3rd Law Dance Theatre, and have a drink in the lobby of the Dairy Center–also check out the galleries there. In Denver, we would go to the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. We might eat at The Office and go the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to see a play, hear a symphony concert, an opera or ballet. We would go to the Denver Botanic Gardens. I’d want to show my friend the Arvada Center for the Arts, and see what was happening in the galleries, both theatres, and/or an outdoor concert in the amphitheatre. We might head up to Rocky Mountain National Park, rent a cabin for a couple of nights, and drive all through the park, hiking often–especially the lesser known, less crowded trails. Maybe rent a canoe at the Frisco Marina and paddle around Lake Dillon, having a picnic on one of the islands. Cross country skiing somewhere, if it was winter. So many things to see and do!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As a young designer, I had the opportunity to assist some more established designers on shows at the Old Globe Theatre in Sa Diego. Two, in particular, taught me so much, and I feel lucky to have worked with them. I haven’t stayed in very good touch with either of them–but Robert Blackman and Robert Morgan, Jr. are the two designers. From them, I learned how to deal with actors, directors and costume shop personnel. How to shop in LA for fabric. How to dive into someone else’s head, to pull costume pieces that they would later like or dislike–and not to get defensive about their reactions. I said at one point that I could design a Bob Morgan show without him even showing up! Not true, I’m sure–but I knew what he wanted. I learned how a gorgeous piece of silk fabric can make you swoon, when it is turned into a period dress that is worn onstage by a beautiful and talented actor. I learned how costume renderings indicate so much personality as well as the intended costume design. I was even given the opportunity to design the more contemporary parts of certain shows–because I was young. I now find myself relying on younger assistants at times for more contemporary shows–it’s a nice circle of life. One more shoutout to Lynne Collins, who has given me so many wonderful opportunities to design-both in California and here in Colorado, where she is the Artistic Director of Plays at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. We have worked together so much over the years, and have such trust and belief in each other. It’s a beautiful thing!
Facebook: Clare Henkel
All photos are ones that I took myself, with the exception of the Top Right photo–that is by Tom Russo