Carmen Thompson (Diitiidaht/Kyuquot/Coast Salish) has been designing and building costumes for theatre, the stage, television, music videos and feature films for more than 15 years. Her attention to detail and commitment to cultural authenticity has made her an in-demand member of creative teams in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Victoria, Canada.
“I truly love what do. I work as a Cultural Liaison/Costume Designer/Costume Builder in productions.“
Carmen’s father, the late Art Thompson (Diitiidaht/Coast Salish), was a renowned First Nations carver and painter and he inspired her to combine both her cultural background and technical training in her work. Her mother, the late Cathy Leo (Kyuquot), raised Carmen to pursue a career in the arts, which started with sewing at 10 and then acting at the age of 13 in feature films and television in Vancouver.
“My first job in film was as a Background Performer on 21 Jump Street. Let’s just say that Johnny Depp is a very sweet introduction to the film world.”
Carmen formed her own graphic and web design company in Victoria in 1997, and in 2003 moved to Los Angeles to study Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise. She worked on more than 40 feature films during her career. In 2010, she moved back to Canada, and began branching out with a 7′ x 12′ copper wall installation based on her father’s design, at the Vancity Credit Union in Victoria.
Carmen’s first theatre/stage performance production was Missing, an opera by Marie Clements and directed by Peter Hinton. “What an eye-opening experience, working live theatre. The story and characters grow with each rehearsal, with each day.” Carmen then Costume Designed the 2019 play, God’s Lake. “I had fun making Raven come to life on-stage.”
Other career highlights include serving as the costume designer for Jamie Foxx’s Intuition Tour and the BET Award Show honouring Michael Jackson; costuming the Haida and Coast Salish cast for a Murdoch Mysteries episode; recreating costumes for the Teen Choice Awards and VH1 Rock Honors-The Who; and designing Polynesian costumes for host Duane “The Rock” Johnson and 24 dancers for the Kids Choice Awards.
Carmen was the Costume Designer for the international TV series, 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus, which involved designing more than 150 historic costumes representing different Indigenous nations such as Amazonian, Anishnaabe, Inuit, Aztec, Maya, Blackfoot, Cahokia, Cree, Inca, Iroquois, Kwaguilth, Nuuchahnulth and Pueblo.
Carmen was given the Nuu-chah-nulth name Tl’aakwaa from her Uncle Ron Hamilton/Ki-ke-in/Haa’yuups, means copper and it is particularly appropriate for an artist whose works are luminous, brilliant and culturally centred.