Actor/Designer Ellie Piercy created unique hand-made uniforms for our volunteer stewards and each one contains a unique piece of Globe history.
Earlier this year Shakespeare’s Globe underwent an award-winning rebrand. Drawing on the very building itself, at the heart of the design lies a deceptively simple red circle. In fact this is not a circle but a twenty-sided polygon hand-carved from a piece of oak from the original building of the theatre. The hand-printed design that later went on to become our logo has graced many things from posters to brochures, tote bags to hats and our steward’s uniforms.
As part of the rebrand we looked at all the ways in which we visually represent ourselves. When visiting the Globe our wonderful volunteer stewards are some of the first people you will meet and obviously they want to look good.
When looking for someone to design the new steward uniforms our Design Manager, Hannah, contacted actor/designer Ellie Piercy. Ellie has performed at the Globe many times — as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, 2007, as Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well in 2011 and as Celia in As You Like It in 2015, as well as roles in new writes Blue Stockings 2013 and The Heresy of Love, 2015. It’s fair to say she’s part if the Globe family.
Let’s hear from Ellie herself:
The Globe is an extraordinary place, I fell in love with it long before performing there. What has been a continuous element, one that I have admired and been inspired to maintain, is its uniqueness, its unapologetic stance, as a one-of-a-kind venue to produce work that is creative at its core.
With her thorough understanding and passion for the Globe the highly creative Ellie was the ideal person to create the uniforms.
As an actor with a family, it has not been possible to work all the time, nor is that necessarily a good idea, and whilst at home, I developed into a business, my love of textiles and desire to upcycle.
I take old linens with a story, such as those donated by friends’ grandmothers and print images of wildflowers and insects onto them to create clothing to be worn, used and enjoyed. It’s been my aim to honour this fabric’s past and create things that are practical but full of craftsmanship and have a story behind them.
Ellie made a much-admired shirt for someone at the Globe and when Hannah approached her with a brief to create the stewards uniforms she asked Ellie to use the same approach of upcycling and beautiful adornment. It also had to be true to the new brand, be practical, and allow the stewards to move freely whilst acknowledging and reflecting their importance.
Though having always been on the stage at the Globe, Ellie is deeply appreciative of the volunteer stewards and aware of the part they play in the bigger Globe experience.
My connection with this place is not only my love of Shakespeare and wonder at his ability to reveal our humanity in the most incredible stories and characters but the open sharing of the process that takes place in this ‘wooden O’ . We are all a part of it. The audience are members of the show and the stewards nurture and herald those watchers.
It was decided that the new aprons would be made of linen. Linen is an ancient fabric that has a particular appeal for Ellie, not only in the pre-owned pieces she acquires for her designs but from her experiences on the Globe stage. She says,
When I wear period clothing there it’s always part of my costume, worn underneath the corset and the heavy dresses for coolness and as an insulator. So that’s where started.
The shape of the apron is as important as it being created from hard-wearing fabric. Ellie consulted with the stewards to understand more about their needs and created a design that combined traditional working aprons with a flexible strap system that allows individuals to tighten and shorten the apron as desired. Pockets were a must because stewards must carry programmes, bottles of water and other small items.
A workshop was set up where, under the guidance of Ellie, the stewards screen-printed their own individual uniforms.
Though Ellie normally upcycles existing fabrics for a project of this scale it was not possible to create reliable and consistent pieces that would look uniform so we bulk bought new linen instead. However Ellie had the beautiful idea to “include more of the story of the building into the apron”. Not only does each logo sport a hand-printed logo each one has a secret panel on the inside created from a small piece of costume that once appeared on the Globe stage. Some of our longer-standing stewards may have even seen the productions from which the fabric was sourced.
As Ellie says,
‘They [the stewards] are part of these productions and this was to say thank you and pay recognition to that.’
It also means that a little bit of our previous productions go on living in future seasons, overseen by stewards established and those we have yet to meet.