Category: faculty work

Stitcher and singer Rosario Rizzo

By , February 14, 2013 7:13 pm

The gowns, dresses and a harem outfit designed by the late FIT instructor Rosario Rizzo are now on display in the Pomerantz (D) lobby. Professors Anne Kong and Glenn Sokoli of the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Department helped create a narrative for “The Master and His Muse” through the use of color and style representative of each era.

“The most interesting part of doing the exhibit was hearing about the history and life of Rosario Rizzo and how his wife Rose told the story, and then bringing to life the collection. Each garment represents a milestone in their lives,” said Professor Sokoli.

Rosario Rizzo was praised in American fashion for his fine hand-sewing, tailoring and embellishment techniques. He was also an opera singer and dedicated husband to Rose, who shared his passions and livelihood.

“Glenn and I strove to capture the time period of the garments through the styling, the hair and accessories to best illustrate for the viewer the era. The first garment we documented  is 1965 and the latest was 1987.”

- Anne Kong

Rizzo designed ensembles from silks, laces, rich wool and opulent brocades, with the finest surface detailing.  He considered every aspect of his client, her body type, coloring and the event she was attending. He draped the garment lining directly on his customer.

“The interiors of the garments were so finished off, the stitch work was so fine. We were amazed by the detail. That’s really where you get to appreciate the art of what he did.”

- Anne Kong 

 Most full-coverage beading was done on blocks, before the final garment was sewn, worked from under the frame unseen, much of which Rizzo did himself.  All the finishing was hand sewn in tiny, evenly spaced stitches. Seam allowances never showed, and unlined garments were all hand-bound.

Rose Rizzo

At the exhibit opening, Professor Sokoli had Rose stand on the red carpet with replicas of herself throughout the decades. “She still wears the clothes. Her husband designed the suit she’s wearing  in the photo with hand-beaded pockets,” says Sokoli

Rizzo was born to Italian immigrant parents in the Bronx. The family was rich with culture and hand craftsmanship. Rosario learned sewing from his mother and made wedding dresses for relatives and outfits for a girlfriend before attending Needle Trades High School on West 25 Street.

 “You know it was so much about the detail. He was like a sculptor the way he draped on the body.”

– Anne Kong

Rizzo showed singing ability at a young age. He sang on Italian radio, with the Metropolitan Opera school’s theater group, and at Carnegie Hall. It was his singing teacher, Maestro Fernando Maero, who introduced Rizzo to Rose Colaianni. The two shared many interests. Colaianni had studied mandolin, piano, singing and acting, and was also a graduate of Needle Trades High School.

“We learned from Rose that Rosario initially took jobs in fashion to pay for opera lessons. When he opened his own atelier she came to work for him.  She was there, side-by-side Rosario as he custom designed his couture fashions.”   – Glenn Sokoli

“Rose wore the red dress with the rhinestone belt [above] to President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball. Rosairo and Rose hobnobbed with many politicians like Tip O’Neil and Mayor Koch. I referenced from photos  of Rose wearing these gowns to create her actual hairstyles. Rose told us that Rosario did her hair and makeup for the major events they attended.” – Glenn Sokoli

In 1958 Rizzo proposed to Colaianni. He gave up his singing career and opened his atelier in Queens, where he and Rose began married life.

In 1993 Rizzo began teaching at FIT’s Fashion Design Department. He and Rose created and taught the wedding gown and beading courses in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies, as well as a range of fashion design courses. In 2000 he created the couture techniques certificate program designed to immerse students in couture hand sewing techniques through to the finished garment.

“Rose wore this  saffron and white beaded coat and dress ensemble [above] at a New Year’s gala, where she descended down a two-story marble staircase. The whole room turned and looked…What you don’t get from looking at this is that the gown weighs approximately 60 pounds.”

- Glenn Sokoli

Rosario and Rose said their life together was like a fairy tale. They were nearly inseparable for over 50 years. They traveled extensively, attended red carpet events, political parties and inaugural balls of presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

“We wanted to create the atmosphere of his atelier by creating two large-scale doors, and then detailing them with two ‘Rs’ representing the unity between Rosairo and Rose, which are also the designer’s initials.”

- Anne Kong

Known throughout the world for his couture technique classes, Rizzo and his wife and muse Rose, inspired a generation of students with exquisite workmanship and skill.

photos: Alessandro Casagli & Rachel Ellner

The exhibit “The Master and His Muse” is open to the public until March 10.  The Pomerantz building is located on the corner of 27th and 7th Avenue.  

What King Tut would have worn…

By , December 12, 2012 1:28 pm

… with jewelry design professor Steven Parker’s help of course. In the old days — the very old days — people shopped for pre-owned jewelry at their favorite Egyptian tomb. A lot of that loot survives today in the wings of major museums.

King Tut’s imagined bracelet.  Photos: John Bigelow Taylor

But sometimes precious items go missing yet again during periods of political upheaval. Well, at least they could. A bracelet of King Tut’s — a lesser known ninth bracelet — with a prescient clockwork mechanism was lost, then found, then lost again. Well, in truth it was never lost. But it was “found” by Professor Steven Parker, whose fanciful creation of this ancient Egyptian-themed bracelet suggests what Tut might have worn.

The famous archaeologist Kent P. Streaver (an anagram of Steven Parker)  writes in metalsmith magazine that when he came into possession of the original bracelet, he called on its  oracular powers.  The bracelet foretells that the famous archaeologist might not fulfill his  mission.

Sure enough, “a hand bandaged with dirty linens,” swipes the bracelet from the  archaeologist’s “field of vision.” Alas, “the bracelet [is] gone!”

“I can only hope that the bracelet will resurface someday,” concludes Streaver (setting us up for future adventures).

To read the full story of the bracelet’s journey go to:  And expect more amazing discoveries from the good archaeologist… err… FIT professor.

Tis the season…

By , December 7, 2012 4:33 pm

…for getting together to make gingerbread houses.  Art & Design chairs, assistant chairs, the dean and assistant dean got together for team-building and some very sweet house-building last week.

Photos: Walter Murdock

Houses are being donated to storm victims from the FIT community.

Layout designer: Paola Pachon 

King of Prussia is illuminated!

By , November 29, 2012 5:33 pm

One of the most exciting things about King of Prussia, PA is the town’s name. Now along with the driver’s license address “King of Prussia” (officially confirming every driver in town as royalty), you also have a community with an exciting new centerpiece.

Most town boundaries are marked with dull, functional signs. Now six new gateway monuments stand at the entrance to King of Prussia. The town’s mall remains the big attraction. It’s the largest on the East Coast, with 20 million unique visitors coming every year.

Craig Berger, chair of visual presentation and exhibition design, developed the gateway with the King of Prussia District.

One of six gateway monuments to the town of King of Prussia, PA 

Creativity doesn’t get stuff built on its own. The collaboration is the deal here, says Berger.

Berger used an educational interactive approach, which brought together designers, business leaders and fabricators. It is hardly common for these three entities to plan and develop a commercial project from beginning to end. “Well, to design yes,” says Berger. “To pay for it no.”

Made of aluminum with internal dynamic LED lighting, the gateway monument uses cutting edge technology.

“Very few urban gateway projects use lighting as a design centerpiece,” says Berger. “The soft glow of the sign edges make the signs visible from a great distance. The illuminated letters create a strong town identity.”

Photo: Eric Goldstein

A residency in Provincetown

By , October 3, 2012 1:18 pm

This summer photography professor Jessica Wynne was one of 20 artists selected for the Freight and Volume/DNA Summer Residency Program 2012 in Provincetown, MA. The artists’ instructions were to “create new work inspired by their environment.” The DNA Gallery recently presented the results of its inaugural artist-in-residency program.   Wynne shared with us a photo from the exhibit. It’s of her little companion Molly, her source inspiration in many environments.

photo by Jessica Wynne

“The experience was great because I was surrounded by artists who were working in different mediums. This charged creative environment helped fuel the creation of a new body of work,” said Professor Wynne said of her two-week residency.


Tea Time with Wendy Yothers

By , March 2, 2012 8:18 pm

Wendy Yothers’ silver and engraved glass, “Baba Yagga’s Teapots for brewing Light and Dark Spells,” were deemed bewitching enough to join the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection last year.  Now the FIT professor’s latest teapot designs will be on exhibit at the Hot Tea Bienniale, an invitation only exhibit  at the Craft Alliance in St. Louis, March 9-April 22. 

“Rain Forest Teapot,” made of rain forest woods and deer antlers. 

“She’s just phenomenal. She’s a sculptor and an artist. Her teapots are beautiful. They’re contemporary realization of ancient skills,” says FIT Jewelry Design Chair Michael Coan”

Artists are chosen for the Hot Tea Bienniale with a two-year lead time–plenty of time for inspiration to brew.  “I loved re-thinking teapots and tea to create new work, ” says Yothers. “Everything I make is inspired by its function–its use in daily human society.”

“Teapot 1″ for the Hot Tea Bienniale in St. Louis

Yothers hasn’t made tea in her teapots, but says they are all “tea-worthy.”  “Most people would rather look at them than use them.” Her own preference is  for a good cup of fresh brewed tea. But “tea bags are fine if that’s what’s available,” she says.

“Teapot 2″ for the Teapot Biennial in St. Louis

Yothers’ pair of tea caddys she made for the Bienniale were constructed from camoe engraved glass, silver, a pearl, and a black Tahitian pearl. 

“Teapots for brewing Light and Dark Spells,” in the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yothers, a silversmith by trade, makes, designs, and restores teapots.  “It’s not my first rodeo with tea vessels, sacred and profane,” she says.

Images used with permission


Tempting us with Temptress Truffle Popcorn

By , December 19, 2011 4:53 pm

For Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Professor Veronica Romano, “presentation and packaging is everything.”   Except that Romano has a discernible palate, and an herb garden in her backyard, so what’s inside has to taste great too.

Veronica Romano with Temptress Truffle Popcorn

The excellently packaged and deliciously tasting Temptress Truffle Popcorn is a product right out of Professor Romano’s kitchen and garden.

“Just making popcorn one night for friends, loving truffle oil, and wanting to create a popcorn that was healthy and not full of fat,” is how Romano describes the origins of Temptress Truffle Popcorn.

Temptress Truffling

“I brought it to the PAVE board meeting and we served it with Godiva truffles. We had a truffle party!” says Romano who also treats her students and the Art & Design staff to her gourmet popcorn.
























From garden to kitchen to presentation











“I get inspired by materials I have around,” says the wonderfully obsessed Romano describing her cone-shaped, snowflake-designed, parchment paper packaging. Romano put to use a snowflake stamp she and her students received at the Martha Stewart Show as well as her corporate holiday gift stamp. “I like working with available resources that I have at hand, and things from nature. There’s so much around us that we can use.”

photos by Rachel Ellner w/ photo styling help from Anne Kong

The Year of Kam Mak

By , November 30, 2011 1:47 pm

It began with in Year of the Rat for Kam Mak.  Since 2008, the professor of Illustration has created the drawing for the U.S. Postal stamp in recognition of the Lunar Calendar.  Last year it was vibrant kumquats that decorated our holiday card envelops. This coming year it’s a feisty dragon with a jaw nearly unhinged. For 44 cents beginning January 2012, you’ll be able to send off your snail mail in fire-breathing, big-toothy style!

Year of the Dragon 2012 postage stamp by Kam Mak


Image provided by Kam Mak

Along the Hudson

By , November 18, 2011 5:53 pm

These days, Professor Kingsley Parker of Communication Design,  views stretches of the Hudson River from the window of a commuter train on his way to and from FIT.  Represented in a 63-foot-long installation of sailors’  navigational routes overlaid on tarps, are scenes of life Parker has observed along the River. His installation, “Up River,  now on view in the Museum Gallery, represents the historic waterway. It includes two- and three-dimensional models portraying vignettes of daily life that evoke the flow and vitality of the River.

“Up River” by Kingsley Parker

“I moved up river after 37 years of living in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have come to marvel at the (Hudson) River’s diversity as I commute back and forth by train,” says Parker.” Parker’s artistry connects him to the proud tradition of American landscape painters, like Frederic  Church and Thomas Cole, of the Hudson River School.

what-when-where:  “Up River” runs from 11/12 -12/ 10 at the Museum at FIT. The museum is open Tuesday – Friday from noon – 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. for more information call 212 217-4558


Watch it here! The fine art of Stephanie DeManuelle

By , November 17, 2011 2:46 pm

“The filmmaker shows the way artists think and work to overcome obstacles and get past their struggles. Artists work their way through things…It verifies what art students are doing,”

- Stephanie DeManuelle, Chair of Fine Arts

On Monday November 14, a film screening of  “The Art of Stephanie DeManuelle,” was held in a lecture room packed with students and faculty.  The film shows DeManuelle in her studios in New York and the Adirondacks. It includes interviews with gallerists and another artist.

“I am thrilled with the discussion the film inspired,” says DeManuelle. “I knew that the filmmaker, Robert DiMaio, had an idea of what artists do. He has made 60 of these films. He envisions using films about artists to show in schools.  The filmmaker shows the way artists think and work to overcome obstacles and get past their struggles. It’s an excellent model for school kids.”

“”Untitled,” by Stephanie DeManuelle

The approximately 10 minute film can be seen by clicking on the embedded link: “The Art of Stephanie DeManuelle.”


Art work used with permission.


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