Life On The Job

Famous or Historic People

Catherine Martin (26 January 1965 - ) Set Designer, Costume Designer, Designer

(Source: Weekly Review)


Catherine Martin (born 26 January 1965 in Lindfield Sydney) is an Australian costume designer, production designer, set designer, and film producer. She won two Academy Awards for Moulin Rouge! in 2002 and another two for The Great Gatsby in 2014. Having won four Oscars, she is the most awarded Australian in Oscar history, having overtaken 1950s costume designer Orry-Kelly. (Source: Wikipedia)


Catherine Martin attended North Sydney Girls High School, and during her time there as a student she worked as an usherette at the Roseville Theatre. From an early age she showed interest in stage shows and particular the designs and costumes, her school was quite active in the arts, which provided her ample opportunity to begin educating herself in this field.

She went on to study visual arts at the Sydney College of the Arts and pattern cutting at East Sydney Technical College, as well as, design at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA).

During her time at The National Institute of Dramatic Art Catherine worked closely with a fellow student who is now her husband Baz Luhrmann. (Source: Wikipedia) 

National Institute of Dramatic Art

Employment & Training

Catherine gained the opportunity to design sets and costume for Baz Luhrmann’s stage precursor of ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and after finalising her studies she worked as a full time designer on Lurhmann’s production of Lake lost in 1988.

In 1989 she designed the sets for an Australian stage production of ‘A Diary of a Madman’ that starred Geoffrey Rush, during this year she also worked on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

In 1992 she was given the chance to recreate her designs for a screen version of the play Strictly Ballroom, for her work she was awarded two Australian Film Institute Awards for best design and costume design.

Catherine then went on in 1996 to win an Oscar nomination for her work on Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and after her completion of the work on the film the pair married on her 32nd Birthday 26th January, 1997. (Source: CM website)

In 2001 Catherine worked on one of her most acclaimed films ‘Moulin Rouge!’ she designed the sets and co designed the costumes and for her work was awarded two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

She designed Nicole Kidman’s wardrobe for her husband’s film ‘Australia’ in 2008. She received her fourth Oscar Nomination for best costume design, but unfortunately did not win on the night.

Recently Catherine has launched a range of home wares that includes paints, wallpapers and rugs.

Did You Know?

Catherine Martin's portrait by Douglas Kirkland is hung in the NPG in Canberra


Experiences & Opportunities

Catherine Martin's creative collaborations have been essential to Luhrmann's plays, operas, feature films and live events for 20 years. Along with Luhrmann, Catherine is a partner in Bazmark Inq, which includes subsidiaries Bazmark Live and Bazmark Music, and is one of the world’s most innovative producers of film, theatre and entertainment.

Catherine began collaborating with Luhrmann during her final year at NIDA, when she was hired by Luhrmann's experimental theatre company to design his production of Lake Lost for the Australian Opera. This earned Catherine and colleague Angus Strathie a Victorian Green Room Award for Best Design.

Since then, Catherine has designed almost all of Luhrmann’s subsequent productions including Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for which she won the Sydney Theatre Critic’s Award for Best Opera Design, and a version of Puccini’s opera La Boheme set in 1957. The latter went on to open on Broadway in 2002 to critical acclaim and won Catherine the coveted Tony Award® for Production Design.

1992 saw Catherine’s film debut with Luhrmann on the hugely successful Strictly Ballroom. Her design on this film earned her Best Production Design and Best Costume Design at both the BAFTA and AFI awards.

She followed this success in 1996 with William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, also directed by Luhrmann, for which she was awarded another BAFTA for Best Production Design and an Academy Award® Nomination for Best Art Direction.

In 2001, Catherine won two Academy Awards® for Costume Design and Art Direction for her work on Moulin Rouge! as well as AFI awards for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design and a Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Production Design among numerous others. 

Catherine Martin with two Oscars
Catherine Martin with her two Oscars for the Great Gatsby - one for Set Design and one for Costume Design in 2014
(Source: Dailymail UK)

Catherine was Production & Costume Designer and Co-Producer of Luhrmann’s epic Australia in 2008. The film starred Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and earned Catherine an Academy Award® Nomination for Costume Design.

Catherine’s other projects with Luhrmann include guest editing the first signature edition of Vogue Australia (January, 1994) and designing the look of 2004’s lavish Chanel No. 5: The Film, a global campaign starring Nicole Kidman for which Catherine designed sets, while legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld designed costumes.

In 2009, Catherine designed the costumes for a musical number conceived and directed by Luhrmann starring Beyonce Knowles and Hugh Jackman which was performed at the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

Catherine’s work for Bazmark Live includes her directorial debut with the Autumn/Winter 1998 show for designer Collette Dinnigan at the Louvre in Paris, and the design of a streetscape for Fox Studios Australia’s backlot in Sydney.

A notable exception to her work with Luhrmann has been Catherine’s set design for Neil Armfield’s award-winning production of Diary of a Madman starring Academy Award® winner Geoffrey Rush in 1989. This production was revived with original cast and crew to great critical acclaim at BAM in March 2011.

She has also been the Guest Editor for Vogue Living Australia for the May/June 2009 Special Collector’s edition of the magazine.

While undertaking these primary roles, Catherine has also been developing her own homewares brand, collaborating with Designer Rugs, Porter’s Paints (wallpaper and paint), Mokum (fabrics) and most recently, Anthropologie (bedding, furnishings). (Source: CM website)


YouTube: UNCUT interview with Catherine Martin, Costume and Production Set Designer of The Great Gatsby


YouTube: 'AUSTRALIA' - Behind the Scenes - Production Design





Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin

ABC: One Plus One (Video: 26 mins)

One Plus One


The Guardian 3 March 2014

The Guardian
Domain 27 February 2016


Sydney Morning Herald 3 March 2014



Below the Line 7 February 2016

Below the Line
The Age: 20 November 2008

The Age
ABC: Big Ideas (with video)

big Ideas
ABC: By Design (Audio file)

By Design


Creating a set for a Broadway Production of ... "Moana"

 PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking 


1. Set design is one of the most important aspects of theatre to create a mood and provide a context for the story.

You are to investigate the following videos on how various Set Designers have transform a script into a visual experience for the audience.

WICKED Scenery: Design Concept

MARY POPPINS - Education Series, Part 7: Creating Mary's World

THE LION KING: Setting the Scene

Shrek the Musical: Episode 2 - Design: Sets and Lighting

2. Which set did you think created :

  • the best or most appropriate mood?
  • the most suited environment?
  • "fitted" in with the script the best?

Share with a partner. Did you agree? Why? Why not?

3. You are to create a set for a the stage production of the Musical based on Walt Disney's Moana.   Look at the following trailer and select one scene.


4. Catherine Martin's set designs are acclaimed right across the world and she has been recognised officially for her work through many awards throughout her career.

You are to create a scale set design in a shoebox using the one scene you have chosen from Moana. Remember to use the appropriate song for your set design.

Look at the following example: Paper Model of the Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical Stage Set Design


Set Design

For this you will need the following:
- A shoebox
- Cardboard boxes
- Paints
- Pencils
- Sharp scissors
- And glue (PVA or a hot glue gun will work best, but a standard glue stick will also work)

"Take the top off of the shoebox and turn the box on its side. You can cut off a side or into the side for more light or special, filtered lighting effects. Experiment with patterned papers, colored translucent acetates, and various cloth materials using a flashlight as a lighting source. Stage floors are usually black so if your set has a visible floor with material expressions or accessories be sure to include them. Consider the questions and ideas below, make sketches of your ideas, collect images from magazines or found materials and objects and construct your scene. You can create a backdrop, fake walls, flats and three-dimensional objects like stairs and platforms. Don’t forget to add a few scaled actors in your set to complete the design.

  • When does your scene take place?
  • What kind of materials were used at that time?
  • What colors will your set be and how will the costumes look with those colors?
  • How will changes in lighting affect the mood of the sets.
  • Are there shadows or dark spaces for surprises?
  • What elements must be in your set?
  • Do actors move your set around?

Brainstorm. Conceptualize. Sketch ideas. Construct and test. Complete! (Source: Next CC)

And the very last step is to present your set! (Tip: Make sure you put your set in a good position preferably close to light, to show off all of your hard work).

You have to also place your characters into the set to complete the miniature set!

Present to the class.

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