Vale NIDA graduate and talented Costumier Judith Meschke, a brilliant artist and role model
Over the weekend NIDA graduate Judith Meschke (Costume, 1993) passed away after a long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer. NIDA’s Acting Head of Design for Performance, Julie Lynch, pays tribute to a ‘remarkable woman’.
Photo: Judith Meschke: 17 August, 1966 – 21 April, 2018
Over the weekend NIDA graduate and former guest lecturer Judith Meschke (Costume, 1993) passed away after a long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer. NIDA’s Acting Head of Design for Performance, Julie Lynch, pays tribute to a ‘remarkable woman’.
Judith’s fight, her sense of dignity and sense of humour has been an inspiration to us all.
Sadly on Saturday 21 April, after a brave battle she finally succumbed to cancer. Vale Judith Meschke – Costumier and friend extraordinaire.
Originally a fashion design graduate, Judith went on to train in Theatre Crafts – Costume at NIDA from 1992–1993. She was in the same year as Oscar nominee Michael Wilkinson (Design, 1993), and worked with many of the extraordinary talents that came out of NIDA during that period, including Catherine Martin (Design, 1988), Angus Strathie (Design, 1988) and Kym Barrett (Design, 1989). NIDA Graduate Course Convenor Dr Suzanne Osmond, who led the Costume course during that time, describes Judith as a student ‘who set the standard for all those who came after her in the course. She showed a rare, innate talent as a cutter: combining the pragmatism of her fashion training with the precise and sensitive touch of a true artist.’
Trevor McCosker was Head of Theatre Crafts at NIDA while Judith was a student and recalls: ‘As a costumier, a teacher, a member of a creative team and as a human being, Judith always brought a positive energy to all facets of her work, where she shared infinite and detailed excellence. With humour at the forefront of her work, she will be greatly missed, but we must not forget the legacy she has bequeathed to us.
Judith was such a good person. Indeed, we will miss her greatly.’
More recently, Judith was a guest costume teacher at NIDA.
‘We wanted Judith to bring her wealth of knowledge back to NIDA. She worked with second year students to create fabulous Victorian Showgirls,' said NIDA’s Head of Costume Annette Ribbons. 'Her natural mentoring approach, here and in every workroom, has meant that many young Australian costume cutters and makers have learned from one of the costume greats.’
Photo: Judith led NIDA BFA (Costume) classes, with some fabulous results (Victorian Showgirls 2015)
Judith was a regular guest cutter at Sydney’s leading costume house, Anthony Phillips Costumes, where she cut costumes for The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Lion King and Mathilda the Musical. Film costume designers also loved working with her: she worked with Oscar nominee Janet Patterson on Oscar and Lucinda, Oscar winners Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie on Moulin Rouge! and Trisha Biggar on Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
Sydney Theatre Company’s Head of Costume Scott Fisher describes Judith’s contribution to STC as ‘a wonderful costumier – a consummate professional, who was always a pleasure to have on our team, she was a gentle soul with incredible strength. Her passing will be felt by the entire costume community.’
Lyn Heal, Head of Costume at Opera Australia, sent this message from overseas: ‘My thoughts are with Judith’s family and the costume community who have lost a talented and wonderful colleague’.
She cut and made many demanding and large-scale costumes for Opera Australia, where she worked for almost a decade between 2004–2013, including: La Traviata, The Ring Cycle, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly and Carmen on Sydney Harbour. Carmen was the last time I had the pleasure of working with Judith: I can still remember the perfect late 1950s bodices she cut for Carmen. Judith could capture the line of a period with perfect scrutiny and seemingly effortless execution. Serendipitously, I recently found a photo where in the corner of the image Judith is leaning down adjusting a hem on one of the Starlet’s costumes. The photo is a precious memory of a remarkable woman whose work was so sharp, detailed, elegant and bright, yet she was so content out of the spotlight - her stylish and skillful work showed off naturally without any need for personal boasting, anyone who worked with her recognised her genius.
Photo: Judith fits Starlet costume – Carmen on Sydney Harbour, 2014
Set and Costume designer and NIDA Design Lecturer Stephen Curtis (Design, 1978) remembers Judith: ‘The Sydney stage and screen professions are blessed with many fine costumiers, and Judith was certainly among the finest. Her technical mastery, sophisticated design eye, unwavering attention to detail, meticulous sewing and outstanding cutting – that perfectly balanced technique and intuition – made her highly sought-after on the most demanding projects. She also had a profound understanding of the art of theatre-making, and especially of the performer’s process, and of the subtlety of the costume-performer contract. These qualities alone would have ensured Judith a long and respected career. Sadly, that was not to be, and our personal loss is a loss to our profession. But what most distinguished Judith, and for me made her such a special collaborator, were her personal qualities; not just a lovely person – as all of the best team members are, but gifted with very fine personal judgement and grace. As a Designer working with her on The Government Inspector with Bell Shakespeare, where she set up a bespoke workroom so we could be close to the rehearsal room, Judith kept the costume-making process alive with her intelligent, respectful curiosity, and kept it fun – as the best creative processes should be – with her wickedly dry sense of humour. Judith was a brilliant theatre artist, and a role model for us all. Vale.’
Judith’s brilliant legacy will be carried on by those who worked with her, and who were taught by her. In memory of Judith Meschke's exceptional friendship and extraordinary contribution to the Arts as a costume cutter and maker, her friends have set up this campaign to establish a scholarship in Judith's name for an outstanding emerging costumier.
Please donate to the ‘Judith Meschke Outstanding Emerging Costumier’ Scholarship Fund, visit gofundme.com/judith-meschke-costume-scholarship