Theatre Alumna Stitches Career From Design Tech Concentration

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 25, 2020

Costume designer and fabricator Nicole Clockel now based in Chicago

Nicole Clockel
Nicole Clockel is a costume designer and fabricator based in Chicago.

When Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) alumna Nicole Clockel began her freshman year at another university, it didn’t feel right. Remarking that it was a “forgettable year, very uneventful,” she wondered why. “I thought to myself, 'What is the one thing that has been missing from my life this year? Theatre.' Clearly, nothing else is sticking with me in my heart.” 

sketch of 45 plays president jacket
A visit to a friend at Kennesaw State University changed her path. “I saw how much was going on in the College of the Arts and I was like, ‘Wait. I love this.’ It just kind of felt right, that gut feeling. I’m a big believer in gut feelings. I applied when I got home and went the next semester.” The decision proved fortuitous, and Clockel studied Design Tech as a concentration, specifically costume design, and graduated in 2015 with a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies. Reflecting back upon her decision, she said, “Theatre is the only thing that sticks with me that I could see doing continuously.”
image of 45 plays presidential coat

Her favorite show while at Kennesaw State was an original play conceived, written, and co-directed by TPS professors Charles Parrott and Jim Davis, entitled “Bloody Pulp: Crisis in the American Comic Book.” She designed the costumes, intrigued by the fact that they were “real people in grayscale, superheroes in pop art color; the stage was black and white with thick lines to make it look like a comic.” Prof. Parrott worked with Nicole on "Bloody Pulp" and said the performance "required a wide variety of costumes: aliens, donkeys, classic gangsters, and World War II soldiers. She brought a joyful spirit to the designs that elevated the entire show." She was also asked to return to KSU after graduation to design the costumes for "Feathers and Teeth," pictured below. 

Since then, Clockel has been adding numerous projects to her portfolio with her work at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. What started as an overhire position on “The Prom” at the Alliance turned into a long gig as she designed and stitched her way into becoming a design assistant. In the spring of 2020, she made the decision to leave for Chicago. “Some of the best choices that I’ve made that have changed my life have been ‘just take the plunge, do it on a whim’ type of things,” she added. While saying goodbye to the Alliance for now, she reassured them that “I will come back and design something” in the future.

Clockel credits KSU for helping her prepare for her career. “I really enjoyed assisting Elizabeth Rassmussen; she’s my number one design mentor.” Clockel also acknowledges Brittany Johnson, Costume Shop Manager for TPS, who taught her “all of the practical skills I learned there. Would I have ever learned these costume construction skills on my own? I doubt it, I really doubt it.”

The feeling was mutual for Johnson. She said, “I loved having Nicole in the costume shop as a design tech student. She always came in wanting to learn and drove herself to excel in multiple areas of costuming, design or construction; I count on her being present. She also has this wonderful sense of humor that always brightened my day.” Her positive attitude was also noticed by professor Parrott. He said, “One thing that makes Nicole special is that she puts people first and she lets her art work in service of the things she believes in.” 

Clockel dreams of writing or illustrating a children’s book one day, and, if Clockel feels it in her gut—watch for it, book publishers. It’s probably going to happen and work out well.

 To learn more about Nicole Clockel and to see her work, please visit Learn more about the B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies at KSU. 

--Kathie Beckett


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