When a Mural Artist And a Costume Designer Collaborate

February 19, 2024
Actor Drew Doyle (in costume) with Costume Designer Melanie Ransom and Artist John Tafejian, in front of his mural in downtown Olympia. Photo by Tim Ransom.

Most likely you’ve seen the mural by artist John Tafejian at 5th and Water Street in downtown Olympia. When costume designer Melanie Ransom saw it, she immediately envisioned fabric that could be made into costumes for Harlequin’s production of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged). Even though the mural is modern, the colors and shapes reminded Melanie of Elizabethan designs. She approached John to gauge his interest in a collaboration, and the result is now on stage.

John fits his murals to the available space, calculating the size of each square, playing with the design, and thinking about how it will be seen from a viewer’s perspective. Often parts of each mural are kite shapes, 1⁄2 a kite, or 3⁄4 a kite, or a kite on its side, or upside down. You can see this kite design in many of John’s murals about town. Look closely and you’ll see that this mural has two 3⁄4 kites, one right-side up, and one upside down. There are only two actual squares. When choosing colors for the Water Street mural, John went for ones that reflect the natural setting, the green and blue of the nearby park and water.

Local printer, Rainier Fabrics, produced the fabric, which Melanie then turned into a suit and pumpkin pants for actor Drew Doyle.

John consulted on the process and did some paint work on the fabric as the costumes were being produced. The pumpkin pants are part of Drew’s base costume throughout the show, and he wears the suit at the opening. We hope you enjoy Complete Works and appreciate this added layer of artistry brought to the production by the inclusion of the work of this local visual muralist.

John is the recipient of the Golden Brush Award from the Olympia Downtown Association.

Melanie is the Resident Costume Designer at Harlequin Productions.

Special thanks to the Friends of the Costume Shop for their support of this artistic collaboration.

Actor Drew Doyle. Photo by Tim Ransom.