Mosman Voices - oral histories online

Thelma Afford

Interviewed by Nancy Johnson on 14 August 1996
Subject: ,

Thelma Afford. I trained as an art teacher, only in art that is in Adelaide I trained. Then I got 12 months off and went to Melbourne and then became involved with a costume designer who couldn’t put down on paper his ideas. And so he’d explain what he wanted and loose his temper very often, and I would put it down on paper, which was a wonderful experience and that gave me my love of theatre designing.

Nancy Johnson. So you made a really good team.

Thelma Afford. It was a wonderful experience. Oh yes I went to Melbourne. I trained as an art teacher in Adelaide and then I got 12 months off and went to Melbourne and Melbourne had a worldwide theatre man called Pierrre Fenary (sp) in Melbourne. He was very short tempered and couldn’t put down on paper what he wanted. It was a wonderful experience to just have this well-known costume man describe what he wanted and then to put it down on paper for him. Then I went back to Adelaide to do more teaching.

Nancy Johnson. You came from Adelaide then to Sydney did you?

Thelma Afford. Yes. Sydney was having its Centenary and I was brought over to do the designing for the clothes.

Nancy Johnson. So you were starting to make a real name for yourself.

Thelma Afford. Well there wasn’t much being done, very little with theatre designing in those days and as a matter of fact up there are some of those early designs.

Nancy Johnson. They are wonderful sketches. Did you draw them? They were your own drawings?

Thelma Afford. Oh yes. Always. I’d have to put down on paper what I wanted. It’s only a fair thing for a production of any sort not to just say: you do what you want, which is very seldom occasionally happens, but not very often. I did most of the buying of materials and colour of it, what I knew what I wanted it to look like. As a matter of fact I had hundreds of these designs, up until a few years back, I mean about up to 20 years ago, and that’s all I’ve got now of that. I gave the Mitchell Library here has a large number and Brisbane has a lot. I gave some to Adelaide, and as a matter of fact, she came over here.