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Meet Lauryn Terceira

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauryn Terceira.

Lauryn, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Though my official job title reads ‘Costume Designer,’ the work is one of a narrative artist. I’m not just creating clothes, I’m building character and enhancing worlds. That’s where I am currently, but this journey began years ago. I won’t take you through my earliest memory, which involves Costco and a child leash, but as a kid my mother would read to me from my grandpa’s boyhood books with browned and frayed fabric covers. These books, which I think were from the early 1900s, were filled with anthropomorphized animals. I was too young to read, so while my mother did the talking, I looked at the illustrations. There were always critters dressed in the sharpest duds and I was obsessed. I realized before I could even read that clothes could engage and deepen the value of a character in a story. I spent many an afternoon wrapping and twisting forgotten fabric scraps into gowns, trying to imitate these animals. I usually used myself as a canvas and would inevitably become trapped in the garment; extricating myself meant destroying it.

Animals and clothes — I thought I could make these two very different subjects into a career, but I couldn’t find the right combination. I was an alchemist throwing dust bunnies and cotton balls into a beaker hoping to turn my disparate interests into career gold. While in high school, I was able to work at a zoo. I really enjoyed it, even if some days, I got peed on by marmosets. I remained fascinated by animals and wanted to study their behaviors, so I majored in biology in college. And research outdoors was great, but I missed sharing stories like I had with my mom all those years ago. Unlike the books I grew up with, my subjects were sparrows and spider monkeys who most definitely did not speak the same language, let alone visit a tailor.

Luckily, I met an amazing costume professor, Elizabeth Payne, who taught me about costume design. This was a field that would allow me to continue my study of behavior (the human variety), but also have conversations and weave new tales through art! I immediately switched gears to costumes and apprenticed at theatrical establishments in Texas and Ohio where I stitched my fingers off and got to learn the ropes with designers and artisans from all over the country. Excitingly, I recently assisted Lex Liang, one of those costume designers from my Cleveland Play House years, on The Great Leap, a co-pro with the Pasadena Playhouse and EastWest Players, two historic LA establishments filled with more wonderful artists. I got my MFA last spring from UCI in costume design under the excellent mentorship of Professor Holly Poe Durbin and Marcy Froehlich, with whom I co-founded a film production partnership between Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film with UCI’s Costume Design program. Somehow I also managed to run off and join the circus for a bit of costume mayhem.

Since graduating, I’ve been balancing my time assisting on theatrical productions from The Dallas Theater Center to Pasadena Playhouse while diving into television and film. I’m the personal costume assistant to Lyn Paolo; every day is an adventure on different projects. I worked on Little Fires Everywhere that just came out and just finished a stint on a show for Netflix. My business partner and I are gearing up to start our own project, but for now I’m excited to learn from LA’s finest and discover new opportunities in the city. And the animals? I recently managed to use my design skills on a shark-themed educational outreach event, so I continue to find ways to turn the cotton and dust bunnies into gold!

Has it been a smooth road?
I have always struggled between giving my imagination free rein or living within the safety of practicality. When I was 6, I begged my father for some muffins at the grocery store; he conceded. Just before we checked out, I put them back and solemnly told him, “We don’t need these. They are unnecessary.” I should have been shunned from any fun-loving communities right there, but that’s just a simple example of my inner conflict. I love reading fantastical books when I have free time (a declining phenomenon over the years, although my interest hasn’t waned) and had all these ideas bursting and bubbling around in my head.

Of course, allowing myself to embrace my imaginative side as a job was another story. I felt that there was always that 50s cookie-cutter mentality I couldn’t shake: find a stable job with a stable income and this will lead to a stable life. But if the first season of Mad Men taught me anything, most of those women were housewives and really unhappy. Clearly, that was not going to work for me and I needed to balance out the two. It took a long time to realize that stable didn’t mean foregoing the weird and wild world of costume design! Life is like a bowling alley. I thought I could only choose the lane or the gutter. However, who’s to say you can’t jump your lane and take a stab at a whole different set of pins. You’ll get to rerack and try again anyway!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a freelance costume designer, every project I work on has unique qualities. My science background gives me a hunger to dive into research and create unexpected surprises that add intellectual and literal layers to my work. There’s a research librarian, Scott, who I met in grad school and I love to pester when I start a project. I always think he’ll tire of my endless queries, but just the other day he said I was his favorite alumnus!

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I am just coming up on my one year anniversary of moving to LA. Although I haven’t been here long, I already know this is a great place for storytellers, be they costume designers or otherwise. LA is bursting with culture and people wanting to collaborate. Even though the field is dramatically changing with each news report, the people and the energy are still here. There are going to be some major changes, but creative minds are the best kind to find solutions in our current world.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rose Eichenbaum, Paul Kennedy, Jesús López, Andrew Pearson, Simon Sorin

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