August 6, 2020
Arts & Culture

Designs of the times

A desire to learn to sew led Renate Henschke to a career as a maker and costume and production designer. She’s recently been collaborating with other Adelaide creatives and Windmill Theatre on a new online series called Honey I’m Home.

What triggered your interest in fashion and design?
I always admired my mum and her mother’s ability to make clothes, crafts and toys with ease. I spent a lot of my childhood in fabric stores and antique shops with mum making me feel fabrics for their quality and pointing out clever design details on clothing. I owe my eye for detail to her. I decided to study fashion at Marleston TAFE for personal reasons, to learn to sew – I never imagined it could turn into a career.

How did you segue from fashion to working in film, TV and theatre?
After studying in Adelaide, I moved to Dublin, Ireland, where I lived for 10 years and had the great fortune to work for a design agency. I designed and managed their production for a few years before setting up my own clothing label, Arms, in partnership with them. We had a good run for a few seasons and my designs sold in boutiques across Europe, Japan and online in the US. It was financially tough and creatively rewarding, but reached a natural end.

Throughout this time, lots of my friends were making short films and videos and I was always helping them out on the side. I decided to pivot my creative skills towards costumes for television and film. I was fortunate to live in Dublin when there were lots of opportunities to work on professional feature film sets in the costume department. I preferred working in a team and loved problem-solving, and my making skills were a natural fit. The rigorous feature film demands of costume details really appealed to me. I am a maker, so I love any opportunity to make or detail elements by hand.

What’s been your career highlight?
I’ve been very lucky to work on many excellent projects. One was Windmill’s first feature film, Girl Asleep, which was my first film job in Adelaide. It was a dream to work with the team and make designer Jonathon Oxlade’s visions come to life. I co-ordinated the workroom where we made all the fantasy costumes. Another highlight was designing the Adelaide-directed feature film Animals with collaborators and friends Sophie Hyde, Bryan Mason and the Closer Productions team. The film was shot in Dublin and so was a return to my second home. It was a joy to make such a beautiful film about genuine female friendship.

Tell us about Honey I’m Home
This is a new online series I’m working on with my friends and creative comrades Jonathon Oxlade and Chris Edser. Chris suggested we team up with Windmill Theatre and apply for one of the Arts SA COVID-19 grants. We were delighted to receive the grant and are creating short animated episodes inspired by this strange time of isolation we have all been living through. We’re using a mix of illustration, sculpture and stop-motion animation to bring these sweet, weird and hopefully funny stories to the world. We can’t wait for people to see them.

Where’s your favourite local place to seek creative inspiration?
The Art Gallery of South Australia, the Botanic Gardens and the Museum of Economic Botany are constant sources of inspiration. If I need to clear my head, I have a favourite walking loop in Belair National Park. 

This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine. Since publication, the first two episodes of Honey I’m Home have gone live – keep an eye on the Windmill website for more in the coming weeks.

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