Costume designer, Jennifer Tremblay, shares with Artlab how she has been staying creative these past few months in the great indoors.
During this pandemic, it has been interesting to see the many ways in which people have been getting creative with staving off boredom. One activity that stuck out the most to me was using objects and settings available in one’s own home to recreate famous paintings. With the help of my parents and my daughter Scarlett, we attempted to recreate Norman Rockwell’s painting “First Trip to the Beauty Shop.” This painting seemed very appropriate in an age when getting a simple haircut is near impossible.
Finding the objects I needed was easy. It all seemed relatively simple to do until I tried to sit my daughter still and show her how to pose. She made the cutest faces and did a great job mimicking the little girls’ facial expression in the painting. The “sitting still” part was another story. Suddenly this painting idea wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be especially with the added challenge of the reflections in the mirror and having to constantly try to move things around including my poor father who had to try to contort his body to take the photo without being seen in the reflection. We tried several times to perfect everything as best we could and finally settled on the fact that we did our best with the limited amount of patience that Scarlett was going to provide in “sitting still.” She was thrilled when I told her we were done and proceeded to run endlessly and aimlessly around the house.
Jen and Scarlett's rendition of Norman Rockwell's "First Trip to the Beauty Shop" (1972).
Life as a single mother has become increasingly difficult these days. Every parent is struggling now with the challenges of being cooped up in a house with children who still need to focus on schoolwork from a distance. This requires their parents undivided attention for many hours of each day. This challenge has not come easy to parents who are also still working remotely from home like my sister is currently doing while also trying to continue my nephews education. Though Scarlett doesn’t have schoolwork to worry about, there has been the added stress of trying to get her to focus on her dance classes which continue to take place through Zoom. I have to sit with her and monitor that she is paying attention since she has a hard time focusing on a computer screen and constantly gets distracted.
Besides following the trend of recreating famous paintings, I’ve been trying to get creative with other ways of entertaining myself and my toddler. My mother and I immediately started sewing masks to donate to hospitals and places in need. To this day, we have sewn and donated over 500 masks. We’ve also participated in Netflix’s initiative to donate home sewn masks to various places. I’ve worked on Netflix shows in the past and was scheduled to begin working on the second season of “Society” when the virus hit and changed the course of everyone’s lives. It was hard to grasp the life change in the beginning and my anxiety kicked in at full force when overnight my life went from designing costumes on a Sony/Screengems film to sewing face masks. As the time has passed its become comforting and fulfilling to know I can use my skills to help other people during these challenging times. Along with sewing masks, I’ve also been sewing summer dresses for Scarlett since she’s recently decided that she will only wear dresses and refuses to wear all of the pants and shirts I bought for her.
Crafting has always been a passion for us and now we are including virtual Monday craft nights with my dear friend and Scarlett’s “Auntie Meg.” Scarlett looks forward to these nights and constantly asks when we will be doing another craft with Auntie Meg since she doesn’t grasp the concept of the Monday night schedule. I’m beyond grateful that we can dedicate this time to each other and that Scarlett has such a positive and caring influence in her life. I look forward to the days we can spend time together in the same environment again but for now this is a wonderful addition to our days and helps break up the repetitiveness that comes with life in quarantine. Movie nights have also become a fun event to look forward to on Saturdays with a group of friends gathering on Zoom to share dinner and conversation together before watching a movie we all voted on and an intermission in between for dessert.
Though life isn’t quite what I expected at this point in time, we are still making the best of it. I think it’s especially important now to look on the bright side and appreciate what we have. I could find it so easy to complain every day and let the news overwhelm me with fear and anxiety but it’s better to break the cycle and come up with a new routine that gives me something to look forward to. Once this has passed and I’m back working on film sets I know I will miss having all this time to spend with Scarlett. People always reminisce about when their children were young and how the time flew by and they wish they could go back. I am one lucky mother to be able to soak up these experiences and influence her at such an important stage in her life that will make up a large part of who she becomes in the future. I will enjoy every moment for now and look forward to the day when I can tell her about our life during the pandemic and show her our photo rendition of Norman Rockwell’s “First Trip to the Beauty Shop.”
Written for Artlab by Jennifer Tremblay.