Twenty-eight graduating seniors in Jewelry Design. Twenty-three boxes of gems. One generous and creative donor. One department that knows how to make its students shine.
What’s more is the department expects to have enough gems to go around for years to come.
The creative donor is David Yurman, a great friend of the school and employer of some of its graduates. And of course, he is a famous jewelry designer.
“It took a long time to arrange because it was like giving up his children,” says Jewelry Design Professor Michael Coan.
Students, with faculty guidance, got to select and keep semi-precious gem stones donated by Yurman for use in their own designs.
“The gems will live in the designs. They’re not simply handed out. This is the tribute to Yurman, and the generosity of his gift” says Jewelry Design Chair Wendy Yothers.
The gems are beautiful of course and were once chosen by Yurman for his own designs.
For the students, it is an extra spur to be thinking about using particularly beautiful stones in their own designs — something most would not have a chance to do while still in college. “And not only that,” says Professor Coan, “they represent the aesthetic of a fine jewelry designer.”
“Our new curriculum promotes the use of these stones,” says Professor Coan. “Prior to this donation we did not have components for setting stones in our jewelry courses. Our new curriculum from design to fabrication, promotes a donation of this nature.”
The jewelry using the stones were first shown in public exhibition at the graduating student show 2017 where designs from all 28 students were on display.
“It was a very personal donation and very careful records are being kept of the stones’ use,” says Yothers. “He gave the stones, [valued at over $750,000] to see how wonderful, creative students can interpret them. He knew we would be appreciative and respect his wishes.”
They came for the milk and cookies, they stayed to inquire about the School of Art & Design’s celebrated Toy Design program. Prospective students also got to see toy design-in-the-making. The department’s recent open house, in a toy-plush environment, was some serious fun!
Here are some captures from the event:
Above, Toy Design Chair Judy Ellis shows alumni work to prospective students. “We seek to recruit imaginative, strong illustrators,” she says.
Bielio Feliz works on his walrus catapult popper toy. Feed the ball into its mouth and it pops up through the tail.
At the Milk & Cookie Social, Feliz and other students, at work on projects in their Hard Toy Seminar class, answered questions from prospective students. Topics included portfolio requirements, program assignments, program hours, and long-range job prospects in the toy field.
“I love vehicles and machines,” says Toy Design major Matthew Velardo, who received his AS in Visual Arts from Dutchess Community College. Velardo is creating a planetary explorer space-themed vehicle to have a launching action feature.
“I wanted to make the coolest thing I could imagine,” says Velardo.
Reese Chamness shows off the shark pull toy that he is developing. “He’ll chomp and his tail will wiggle,” he says.
“Before toys I did hair,” said Chamness, who has worked at upscale Manhattan salons. “I needed a change. I had a BFA in sculpture. The making-stuff-that-moves-and-works — that part was new!”
“Mine is an infant’s toy,” said Rachel Hyojoo Seo with her whale spinning ball toy in progress.
Prospective students also inquired about different types drawing and sketching abilities needed for the program.
Sara Shores working on her “hatching” shape sorter! “An owl chick with pop up and hatch,” she says. Shores has a background in fine arts.
To learn more about the School of the Toy Design program visit: Toy Design FIT
Ironically, our view of historic photographs usually differs substantially from the view of the photographer who originally took the pictures. Think about the battlefield pictures taken at Gettysburg just after the battle ended in 1863. They are different not only because we were in a very bloody war then, and not only because the physical scene has changed.
“The Hope of a Union,” Video still from Unfinished Work, by Brian Emery
Photography Professor Brian Emery thinks of it this way: “The idea of ‘place’ is built up with layers of history folded on top of each other, the very top fold of which is the now. That very top layer is the lens through which we see all other layers of history in that place.”
In mid-May Emery began a month-long artist-in-residency at Gettysburg National Military Park, a program of the National Parks Arts Foundation. He resided at a 19th century farmhouse on the battlefield. There he recorded audio and video media to create an experimental documentary film. His goal, he says, was to “act like a sponge and record everything in my surroundings to create a documentary about what it means to be a “place,” and [to explore] What does the place of Gettysburg mean?”
“The Tear of a Nation,” Video still from Unfinished Work, by Brian Emery
To tell this story, Emery built a hybrid camera using a 19th century stereo view camera, and a 21st century digital SLR to record video from the ground-glass of the view camera.
“It was very important for me to view this place through this antique, stereo camera, which is very similar to the ones used by the Civil War photographers like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner.”
Custom camera rig on the battlefield at Gettysburg
The camera produces two pictures side by side, with each lens simulating an eye. It has two lenses, and makes a stereo plate that was intended to be put into a 3D viewer. One side of the plates could also be sold as a more conventional 2D image. Yes, they had 3D devices then!
Camera rig showing upside-down image on the ground-glass of antique camera
When he’s using this camera in the field, Emery sees the image that he’s about to photograph in the same way photographers of that era saw it — upside-down on a frosted glass plate.
“Little Round Top,” Video still from Unfinished Work, by Brian Emery
Emery was also moved by Gettysburg’s bucolic landscape and its rich history of inhabitation.
“Union Reenactor,” Video still from Unfinished Work, by Brian Emery
“Apparently various Native Americans used to spend time in the battlefield area, or hunt there, and possibly had a major fight, the ‘Battle of the Crows’ in the Devil’s Den area of the battlefield,” says Emery.
“There’s something special about the place that has spanned all time.”
“Confederate Reenactor,” Gettysburg, by Brian Emery
“Mother and Son at the 100 year anniversary of the Virginia Monument,” Video still fromUnfinished Work, by Brian Emery
Last semester when fashion design student Natalia Dedios was researching racing jackets she caught wind of the DuPont logo. “I was taken with the clean, graphic nature of the logo and decided to play with it. I replaced ‘DuPont’ with my last name ‘Dedios’ and mimicked the style of the lettering.”
Dedios’ emerging study of logos and newspaper typography as applied to fashion design has helped define the senior thesis project she is developing in her Sportswear Incubator class.
“Iconic logos are relatable, familiar and eye-catching. To me, putting a non-fashion-related item, like a newspaper logo, on a silk dress is playful and amusing.”
Dedios’ examination of logo-types extended to classic video game titles, shopping bags, and vintage horror movie posters. That led her eye to New York newspaper and magazine logos. “I’m playing on the logos of the New York Times, New York Post, New York Observer and New Yorker magazine.”
In the development of her “Dedios” jacket, Natalia cut out the letters in leather and top stitched them onto a leather jacket. “That was the first time I put my name on clothing I had made. I got positive reactions on it so I continued to use “Dedios” as part of my designs.”
By the end of Incubator class Natalia will have one look using the techniques experimented with in class. “So far we’ve worked with wool, delicates and sheer fabrics.” Velvet, pile fabrics, plastics and unconventional materials come next.
“Natalia’s work reminds me of Andy Warhol’s work but with a delightful personal twist,” says C.J. Yeh, Professor of Communication Design and founder of award-winning Cynda Media Lab.
Natalia plans to carry over her logo and typography-inspired work to her senior thesis collection. “It’s all about the graphic element. The pops of bold colors,” she says.
Designs she’s contemplating for her collection include puffer and denim jackets, as well as closet staples and layering pieces like T-shirts, crop tops, and silk tops.
“The most interesting thing about her approach is that she didn’t just recreate the logos like works from the POP Art era. She went further and adopted these iconic typographic styles then apply to her own name,” says Professor Yeh.
“Conceptually, it feels like a statement on how the media environment that we live in eventually become an inseparable part of us.”
For now, Natalia is continuing with the technique of top stitching leather letters on fabric. “I also want to explore painting on fabric, screen printing, using markers, sustainable dyeing and machine embroidery. I pull my inspiration from what I see in the real world every single day.”
Fashion Design student Emily Nieland was contemplating her specialization. Would it be childrenswear or knitwear? In the two weeks prior to declaring her specialization, the fifth-semester student was fully emerged in her Childrenswear Niche Market class. A patchwork design she was developing appeared to be ideal for a toddler’s first foray into denimwear.
While Nieland’s talent might be applied to either specialization, it is with Professor Barbara Seggio that she is able to explore advanced methods of childrenswear patternmaking and construction while she makes her decision.
For the first time fashion design students have the option of taking major-area electives, such as FD467 as selectives. “We’re providing choices for students in our new curriculum that was launched in Fall 2016,” says Fashion Design Chair Eileen Karp. “Students can craft their educational journey and take classes that augment their interests.”
The patchwork shorts Nieland is designing draws on her summer internship experience in trend forecasting.
“I worked for The Doneger Group and saw a lot of mixed-matched and two-toned denim and mixed-matched flannels online and in windows around the city. I have a skirt that’s lighter denim on the inside and darker on the outside along the sides. I liked the contrast. Denim is such a classic.”
Nieland collected denim swatches from different fabric stories and arranged them into a patchwork pattern. Most of her samples came from Elegant Fabric on West 40 Street.
“I sewed the seams the opposite way than they would normally go and fringed them, then put the piece in the wash. Next I’m going to finish making my pattern for the shorts. I’ve worn jeans my whole life. It defies the trends,” she says.
Says Professor Seggio, “I love how she used the swatched patchwork. It’s strong now and there’s a trend with frayed edges. She combined the two ideas to come up with an interesting concept, and at the same time saved a lot of money! It’s a twist on sustainability of reusing.”
Nieland first became attuned to the versatility of jeans from her own wardrobe. “Dressing them with belts, rolling up the hems can change the look, and makes them fancier. Small details can make a big difference. That’s something I think about a lot in my design process,” she says.
“I always wanted to work with manipulating fabrics. I thought childrenswear was a good place to start because it’s on a smaller scale.”
Turbulent events in the public arena were the catalyst for Nicole Conti’s final thesis concept. “I started with a political concept related to the anger that followed the election,” said the 7th semester fashion design major. “Things people were doing to make themselves heard — were they protesting to express anger or to make a change? I started with this personal idea that I could explore.”
Over the summer, Conti took a close look at climate issues strongly related to Standing Rock and the G20 protests in Europe. She came well prepared to the table, with a solid academic background on environmental issues. She began her undergraduate studies in environmental science at SUNY Potsdam. At Putnam Valley High School she took environmental science classes and started a Go-Green club.
“I thought of the anger directed at the fashion industry, and of how people are often not willing to implement changes in their own lives to affect change.” Her concept would be to juxtapose the expression of angry and the fashion industry.
“I began noticing peoples’ hands, how they show love, anger, brutality. I collected images of hands in various states, old, young, worn.
“I started seeing the aggression, the fight, the split knuckles and then ended up at the environmental point of oil spills, of people dipping their hands into the water to show how polluted the water was.”
Then Conti looked at animals saturated from the spills and began experimenting with different textiles to represent the oil coatings.
“I began experimenting with pulling fabric through other fabric (below) to show a spilling effect. I wanted to work with vegan leather, fake fur, organic cellulous fiber. The spikes are a representation of anger.”
Says her professor, the fashion designer Charles Youssef, “Nicole has found a great way to take (the concept of) oil spills and translate that into beautiful textiles that can be worn as garments.”
Conti’s Sportswear Incubator class proved ideal for her exploration. It is described as a research and development course where students “stretch the possibilities of shaping, seaming, handling, and manipulating select fabrics to create innovative, wearable designer sportswear silhouettes and details.”
Professor Charles Youssef, has held senior design positions at Calvin Klein, Gareth Pugh, Cerruti, and Ralph Lauren.
“This is a hands-on class where you manipulate the fabric draping patterning, even the textile development,” says Conti. “We came prepared the first day to state what our projects were about. I was able to get started right away.”
For her next step: “I’m going to keep my hands coated in fabric paint as I develop garments so that fabric becomes saturated with paint everywhere I touch it to represent your carbon footprint – what you leave behind without even thinking.”
“I can tell it’s going to work,” says Professor Youssef. “The challenge is to get it to where we visualize it to be.”
Recent graduate Alyssa Wardrop has won the 10th annual Supima Design Competition. Her womenswear capstone collection was seen on the runway during Fashion Week yesterday. Art and Design Dean Troy Richards and Fashion Design Chair Eileen Karp were there and captured the moment.
“I really got to do what I love doing and put everything into it,” said Wardrop upon receiving her award. Wardrop said earlier that her collection was inspired “by the way screens in a movie are cropped, capturing beautiful moments.”
“I was impressed with the way her designs were specific to the material,” says Dean Richards. “As an artist it’s important that the idea and the medium work together. She accomplished that beautifully.”
Supima, the trade association of American pima cotton growers, awards a $10,000 cash prize to the winner of the competition.
Currently a design intern at Calvin Klein, Wardrop graduated last year as a top fashion design major with a minor in art history. Along the way she studied a year in Milan and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“We are so proud of Alyssa,” said Karp. “Her garments are edgy and fresh and show new ways to work with Supima cotton. She really discovered her voice and aesthetic in the last year and a half. I was thrilled to be in the audience cheering her on.”
Wardrop, who completed her BFA last year, was mentored in the development of her collection by fashion designer and FIT professor and alumuns Daniel Silverstain.
Each semester speakers from the fashion industry, and beyond, discuss creativity and entrepreneurship in the Faces & Places in Fashion lecture series. This year the emphasis is on gender and how it relates to design creativity from both cultural and functional perspectives.
Faces & Places in Fashion is a credit course offered through the School of Art and Design. The guest lectures are open to the public.
“It’s an opportunity to hear from thought leaders about how current issues–in this case gender–intersect with fashion,” says Professor Joshua Williams, who leads the series.
“For instance, Zara, the clothing and accessories retailer, has launched an ‘ungendered’ clothing line in hopes of attracting millennial consumers. There’s a perception that it’s PR-driven. It’s something to discuss. As with sustainable fashion, we’re becoming more perceptive to when it’s PR-driven (‘green washing’), versus when it comes from a real concern for the environment and human rights.”
Professor Williams looks to “delve deeper into the PR and nuts and bolts of creating clothes that are “gender queer.”
“How does creating a men’s suit change when you’re creating it for a woman? How do you communicate to this market in a way that isn’t sensationalized, but authentic?” he asks.
“We are so excited to have some key pioneers of gender-diverse fashion design coming to talk,” he says. These trailblazers include Daniel Friedman of Bindle & Keep (October 2); Kelly Moffat of Kirrin Finch (October 30); and Joshua Katcher of Brave Gentlemen (November 13).
Faces & Places will also be hosting the esteemed Harlem couturier Daniel Day (November 20). Day, also known as Dapper Dan of Harlem, was the go-to designer of 80s hip hop. Some of his fascinating background was captured in a recent front page New York Times Style section article subtitled: “Twenty-five years after luxury labels sued his Harlem boutique out of existence, Gucci looks to him for inspiration.”
Ornate, flamboyant footwear has been flaunted in royal courts, the runway, the stage, even in coffins, throughout eras noted for fashion innovation. Yet for all the outward extravagance, there are secrets to their construction. The Theatrical and Character Footwear class for fifth semester Accessories Design students “introduces students to another aspect of the footwear industry,” says Professor Vasilios Christofilakos who teaches the Monday morning class.
“The young Egyptian King Tut–What might he have worn in his short life as king, and what would he have been buried in?” There was use of exotic animals and jewels; they designed gilded Egyptian toe covers.
“The brother of Louis the XIV, the Duke of Orleans–What might he would have worn to show off the ‘transgenderism’ of the time? He was also a phenomenal warrior.”
Of course Marie Antoinette is part of the curriculum–not only what she wore to court, but perhaps to the guillotine.
There’s a Spanish period famous for black and gold, harkening back to Byzantium. Prof. Christofilakos makes reference to the Byzantine slippers of the emperors and their wives, like Theodora, the clergy and high priests.
Along with lectures and demos, students create concept and inspiration boards and five footwear designs throughout the semester.
“The shoes have to be telegenic,” says Prof. Christofilakos. “They should look good on stage, for the camera, and be successfully translated for the big screen, television, and electronic devices.”
At the 2016 graduating exhibit last year there was an unusually large turnout for Fine Arts student Hendel Futerfas. Gaiety and critiquing ensued among dozens of hip-looking exhibit-goers who spanned four generations. They endlessly arranged themselves to be photographed in front of Hendel’s installation while his 102-year-old great-grandfather looked on proudly.
“Hendel is a bridge between the art world and our community” said attendee Chavi Kaufman, 24, a pre-med student from the Lubavitch Hasidim Crown Heights community.
“These orthodox parents have to be pretty cool to send their kid to art school,” said Hendel’s sculpture professor Sue Willis, after meeting family members.
According to members of this tight-knit ultra-orthodox community, there is greater reverence for the arts than ever before. The impetus, they say, came from a dialog between Hendel’s great, great uncle, the artist Hendel Lieberman, and the influential leader, Rabbi Menaḥem Schneersohn, known as “the Rebbe.”
Three generations later, young artists benefit from this legacy.
“The Rebbe was well-educated and thought art was extremely important, that a true piece of art could change a person’s whole attitude,” says Zev Markowitz, director of the Chassidic Art Institute in Crown Heights.
Markowitz, who wrote a biography of Hendel Lieberman, says that passersby used to cross the street to avoid paintings in the Institute’s window. The nervousness was due to the Talmudic pronouncement that one should not worship graven images.
Markowitz himself contacted the Rebbe during this period. “As a result, he said “things changed overnight.”
Today there are about 25 arts events a year in Crown Heights, including pop-up exhibits and gallery events.
“Sculptors strive to be magicians. To make the viewer believe and suspend belief simultaneously. Hendel’s wooden objects do just that. He takes us on a journey taking us back to consider the history of his making, the history of cutting, bending and cajoling the hard wooden forms into sensual organic curves that defy the original life of the material. The final forms project both strength and fragility. One can’t escape the metaphors of inflicted pain, rebirth, evolution to beauty and transformation inherent in these works.” – Joseph Seipel, Interim Dean, School of Art and Design
Since graduating, Hendel has completed a six-week artist residency in Korea, has exhibited work in a group show at The Rosemont in East Williamsburg, and for the past four consecutive years, had his work shown at The Beach Minyan in West Hampton Beach.
“I’m currently working on a series on the concepts of growth and transformation that reflect my understanding of my community” says Hendel. “I use wood, which has the characteristics of being strong and stubborn, yet has an organic flow.”
Hendel then cuts and patterns wooden beams in a way that allows him to bend the wood in shapes and directions he chooses. “I combine and then carve different beams. There are contradictions in the process, which represent an internal process of transformation.”
While the back story of his uncle precedes the young Futerfas, he acknowledges its impact. His connection to Hendel Lieberman, for whom he is named, carries great weight. Lieberman served in the Russian army during World War II. His wife and two children died in the Holocaust. Lieberman then, to avoid Stalin’s repression of Jews, changed his last name from Futerfas, escaped and eventually settled in Crown Heights where he befriended the Rebbe.
Lieberman’s correspondence with the Rebbe (excerpted in his biography) shows the leader’s reverence for the artist’s mission. “An artist reveals…the essence and ‘being’ of his subject,” says the Rebbe. The viewer “realizes that his previous impressions of the object were erroneous. In this way [the artist] serves the Creator.”
Today there are greater opportunities and artistic activity in the Crown Heights Hasidic community. The price of Hendel Lieberman’s paintings have risen greatly.
Young Crown Heights Hasidic artists speak knowledgeably about the Rebbe’s statements to Lieberman and other emerging artists. “Artists have all heard stories like this,” says Elad Nehorai, a blogger and arts organizer. “They’re encouraged that there’s a powerful voice that’s supporting them.”