Entering FIT’s first full semester of remote learning last fall, Prof. Dan Shefelman says he was searching for a way to approach his Illustration BFA course, Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media II, in an engaging and relevant way. This course, true to its title, is designed to embrace the changing media landscape.
“It would be hard to imagine a more drastic change than we are going through now,” says Shefelman, “so how can we actively evolve our visual communication methods and engage an audience?”
Tapping into the feelings of isolation, frustration and a powerful need for students to connect from their remote locations, Shefelman called for a video game designed to respond to current events.
Students worked in five teams throughout the semester. This was their assignment:
Create a mental and emotional vaccine for the isolated, crisis-ridden, change-inspiring world we are living in. Using a game format to tell a story of some sort of journey, we explore fantasy, reality and/or inner worlds relevant to the events of the times. Think about why you want to make this game. What do you want the user to experience? Is it pure escape? Working out frustrations-aggressions? Connecting with others in a virtual way? Call to action in the actual world?
Now, let the games begin!
Instructions: The world as we know it is ending, but you’ve got a plan…to get off the damn planet! You are a dedicated doomsday conspiracy theorist who has known the end is near for ages, but now is the time to act! Gather resources, recruit a team, steal top secret government plans to build your rocket, and find a new planet to call home.
Instructions: Enter into the world of Reflect, where you reflect on the emotions of grief through a series of mirrors. The main character embarks on an emotional journey through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Instructions: A girl wakes up in the middle of the forest; she recognizes herself as the Little Red Riding Hood. She needs to get to Grandma’s house but she’s lost in the woods. The goal is to solve puzzles, find keys, open gates, collect items, and defeat shadow monsters to clear out the way in order to reach grandma’s house. The girl will receive help from fairy tale animal characters, such as the frog prince, blue bird, the little mer-witch and seven dwarfs.
Team Red Zone:
Instructions: The game begins in March, 2020 when lockdown first began in New York City. Players will have to conquer obstacles along the way that will increase in difficulty with each level. Each level will take place in the five boroughs and have a time limit.
Team Possums vs. Racoons:
Instructions: Collect that trash! A battle between your average trash cats. Whichever side collects the most trash wins!
The proposals from the student teams surprised Shefelman, “in sophistication, depth of meaningfulness,” he says. As the semester progressed “the collaborative process brought more depth to the ideas and some fantastic visual development art and storytelling.”
Please accept these GIFs from the students of Prof. Anthony Capparelli’s Pictorial Problem Solving Illustration class
Creating GIFS in Prof. Anthony Capparelli’s Motion Graphic and Holiday Card Assignment, allows students to add movement and motion to their illustrations. They choose their inspiration from assigned themes such as album art, tourism, and theater events.
Their earlier assignment was a two-page graphite value study — a historical illustration for a children’s book. “The GIF assignment was quite a change for them,” says Prof. Capparelli.
Building on the skill set from previous assignments, students employed a mix of traditional and digital techniques to produce artwork that could be digitally and visually manipulated.
“The preparation of these images became an exploration in problem-solving strategies.
“Students discover there is more than one way to accomplish their project goals, and more than one digital program to aid in their processes,” says Prof. Capparelli.
Attending class remotely from four continents,19 students in Prof. Jerry Dellova’s CAD for Fashion Design class FD342, finished the semester a few days before Christmas, filling their screens with a riot of colors, print and pattern designs.
As is typical, the students presented their final projects to their professor and classmates. What was not typical was that they presented from as far as Brazil, Korea, Kazakhstan, Germany, Shanghai and Beijing. For some, 9 am in New York was, well, tomorrow! Excerpts from four projects are presented here:
“The pure land” refers to a world within,” says Shiyu Zuo, who, from China, presented her collection based on Tibetan landscape and culture. She drew inspiration from traditional Tibetan clothing and elements such as temple scripture and propitious clouds.
In the course, CAD for Fashion Design and Development, students use Lectra’s Kaledo CAD software to digitally create fabrics and explore textile possibilities for garments they’ve designed. They merge garment and fabrics to create collections that share an overall balance of color, pattern, texture, proportion, and function.
Saule Amangeldi, who presented her collection from Kazakhstan, is impassioned about protecting coral reefs. Of particular concern is coral bleaching due to ocean acidification from climate change. Her collection is aimed at bringing awareness to the vibrant beauty of the coral reefs.
For their final projects, students must come up with a defining theme for their collection, a customer profile, color palette, and a specific market they’re designing for. They also have to research competitors and retailers in that market.
Emerson Kobak who presented her collection from New York City, draws inspiration from the underground feminist punk movement of the 90s. “Being a Riot Grrrl she says in her mission statement, “means supporting and uplifting every sexuality, color, race, identity. Being a Riot Grrrl means being Freee.”
Woven plaids and stripes, original and coordinated prints, knit stitches and intarsia patterns flashed across the classmates’ screens amid the lively discussion.
A French chic autumn and winter collection with a romantic sensibility! Edgy knitwear, jackets, coats, wool pants and skirts, which can be worn in “warm light that shines on a winter evening.” That was the theme of KJ Lee‘s collection, which she presented from Queens, NY.
“I am so impressed with the work,” says Prof. Dellova. “The creativity and their energy levels during this trying time. Working and learning remotely is very difficult and they all exceeded my expectations.“
What happens to use of a well-equipped workshop when many students can’t get to it? New instructional videos to aid students confined to home. New ways of creating those videos. Extra attention for the students who need to be there. Workshops and labs across the FIT campus have faced challenges with different approaches. And yes, some have closed during the COVID lockdown.
The Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) Lab in ACO8, is one that has stayed open and expanded its instructional materials to include more than 40 staff videos now on the shop’s website.
“This Lab is the program’s greatest resource,” says VPED Professor Anne Kong. “It enables students to realize their designs in the studio courses that teach hands-on techniques. Students see their designs go from sketches and renderings to a dimensional piece; this provides a greater understanding of production and installation, which is a critical skill for our majors.”
Steven Ceraso VPED/CDP Technologist has worked on-site throughout the fall semester. “We learned that the lecture part of classes can be taught remotely. This allows the lab to be more accessible when students need access to tools, machinery, and work space,” he says.
“For students who didn’t have campus access we supported them by producing their work and mailing it to them so that they could work with deliverables at home,” says Prof. Kong. “They watched some of their projects produced virtually. In the spring we plan to continue this process for our majors.”
Says Ceraso, “We made adjustments like wearing masks, social distancing, and curbside pickup for some projects. Another important aspect of this situation is making it a point to be professional and accomplish goals efficiently. Communication with students actually improved.”
The students often emailed ahead about their ideas and what they were trying to accomplish before meeting in the shop. That wasn’t always the practice previously.
“I was able to work more cohesively with individual students, and that trust, respect, and understanding was apparent on all sides,” says Ceraso who is also a Continuing and Professional Studies instructor and creator of a course in furniture–making.
Working with smaller, more focused groups was a “great experience,” he says. “With most classes scheduled remotely, we effectively expanded our open hours in the shop. Students that had to be there and could manage the logistics often found they could accomplish things with fewer restrictions and less waiting time.
VPED student Diana Rico, ’22, for instance, was an RA for the only dorm open during the fall semester, so she was able to spend more time in the studio. For an assignment for Professor Glenn Sokoli’s Three Dimensional Construction, students had to recreate a company logo made only of wood.
“I chose Savage X Fenty, a female-empowering brand,” says Rico. “Their logo is just an “X” but I wanted to celebrate the items they sell, so I made the overall logo in the shape of a woman and used the original “X” shape to look like a lace-up corset,” says Rico.
“I started with the Illustrator file, then moved to the foam model, then cut the pieces out with the help of Steve and the CNC machine, then painted and put it all together.”
Rico’s project “involved a lot of complex cut parts,” Ceraso said. “I helped her redesign the original artwork because it didn’t match up with the limitations of our CNC [computer numerical control] machine tools. We both learned a lot.”
Says Rico, “I loved working on this project and can’t wait to do more 3D stuff next semester.”
For an assignment for her Foundation in VPED class with Professor Samiel Laury, Jasmine McCulloch built an octagonal, 15” tall model for an outdoor dining space. McCulloch mastered the mitered spline joints and calculated all the dimensions and angles. The materials are plywood and solid wood, all from scraps of leftover wood already in the shop.
Communication Design student Himeka Murai, ’22, worked on a project for Prof. Kong’s Foundation in Visual Presentation class. It is for an in-store display, constructed from discarded pallet wood.
The design is based on traditional architecture, but also uses complex angles and wood joints.
“It’s great to have a dedicated student want to build something this complicated and spend so much time working on it,” said Ceraso. “She was learning the craft of joinery while she was working on her project.”
Murai said “it was a long journey, but I really enjoyed the ride. I am glad that I decided to push forward with what I had planned to do, even though it looked impossible at the beginning.”
Suki Wong ’22, worked on a sign project for VPED professor Glenn Sokoli’s 3D Dimensional Construction class. Nearly two feet wide and made of wood fiberboard, it was done by programming the shapes on the CNC. “There was also much staining and finishing involved. We used leftover stains and Suki did several tests on different pieces first,” Ceraso said.
“Using the machines on campus helped with the majority of this project, as well getting guidance in problem solving,” says Wong. “It is a different experience than I could have imagined, between attending remote classes and getting on campus to work on big projects,” says Wong.
With the help of Ceraso and her professor, Wong was able to source materials on campus. “Professor Sokoli and I were able to cleverly figure out how to use less material to create this sign,” she says.
Like many technologists working at FIT, Ceraso is a designer himself. A sculptor with graphic design expertise, he has been working with fellow technologists N’Ketiah Brakohiapa and David Halbout on developing instructional materials. They built a video dolly for live-streaming shop demos with an old MacBook and other equipment in the studio.
“It has worked out fine for the time being. This impromptu assemblage made me think about how to make this device more capable,” Ceraso said.
They are creating content about working safely and effectively in the Design Lab and D425 Print Lab.
“The current situation makes us consider new methods of working. Providing detailed interactive materials and how-to videos will benefit our students in the future,” says Ceraso.
To learn more about the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design major go to VPED at FIT.
Students in Professor Susanne Goetz’s Screen Printing Scarves (TD316) class were inspired to create pandemic-themed designs as their final project this semester. “Some are thoughtful, some humorous,” says Prof. Goetz who is internationally recognized as a textile designer and educator.
Students were asked to design a contemporary screen printed scarf accompanied by a storyboard with visual information about their concept. Designing with FIT’s print workshop in mind, students were only able to use two colors supplemented by overprinting and halftone effects.
The theme was completely open. Lectures covered how scarves have long been used as a medium of political comment and to memorialize current events. Prof. Goetz says that students learned about artists who focused on social justice issues in their work.
Audrey Martiandy‘s storyboard suggests that she misses not being able to meet her friends for brunch. “Her design highlights in a satirical setting the unwillingness of some people to do their part by wearing a mask,” says Prof. Goetz.
While students are not screen-printing their designs in the School’s screen-printing lab this semester, they prepare the artwork ready for the print process and create digital visualizations. Fortunately, this is an advanced class, so students do have hands-on workshop experience. That helps them imagine how the designs would look once they are produced, she says.
Students also watched videos of practitioners and innovative print processes to help keep them connected to the workshop.
Sonja Feaster, in one of two separate projects, wrote a short bio and created texture mappings for an Olympic commemorative silk scarf design, “Until We Meet in Tokyo.”
It honors both resilient Olympians and frontline healthcare workers. Feaster says that Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, told COVID workers “You are our true champions.”
In the design, Olympic athletes are “handing the torch” to healthcare workers, who will carry it until 2021. Narrative and highly symbolic, it celebrates a year of resilience, sacrifice, and unity.
Katherine Murphy calls her design “Finding Peace in 2020.” Because of the pandemic, she says, “there has been a lot of stress and negativity this year. I wanted to create something that still reminded us of the good, even in difficult times.”
“The pandemic has allowed me to spend more time with them by living at home,” says Murphy. So even in a pandemic, there is always something for which to be grateful.
The border of her scarf has inspirational quotes such as, “to keep us hopeful.” She also included the hand prints of her family.
Illustration Professor Kam Mak revels in teaching studio painting classes with live models. It’s been part of his class syllabus for 20 years. Pre-pandemic he led a popular study abroad program in Florence where students paint in the medium of Renaissance masters. Naturally, remote teaching poses challenges. But Prof. Mak has technology on his side.
It’s not just a matter of turning on a camera in the studio. Challenges can range from capturing skin tones properly to adjusting to how a live model is observed on a computer screen.
Even a simple teaching gesture like demonstrating brushwork directly on a student’s canvas is no longer possible.
“Instead I provide live demos on how, for instance, to block out the figure with the brush, and how to render the form,” says Prof. Mak. “They see me doing it live.”
Prof. Mak insists that painting live models is a key learning tool in studio classes such as his Advanced Color Rendering class. The challenge is working with a figure that’s constantly shifting. “We start by working with models and directly observing them,” he says. “It’s four straight weeks of six-hour sessions with the same pose,” he says.
“I’ve made comparisons with having a model pose remotely versus using a photograph; I still prefer models because a model is dynamic.”
In a live class, some students get to sit up-front. Others have to be rotated in from the back. Online, however, students can zoom in, crop and do close-ups. Or they can zoom out so that they see most of the pose on their screens.
Prof. Mak uses a digital SLR for streaming the model. He also uses a smart phone to transmit his live teaching demos. “It’s being recorded and uploaded to Blackboard so students can review them again later.”
When a model can’t work from an equipped remote studio, there is an alternative: “The quality of an image from a current smart phone produces high-quality video. They’re streaming poses live and the students are loving it because it’s so clear.”
“There are benefits like changing our individual computer screens to have the display in black and white and really get an understanding of the values. You can zoom in on certain areas. The cameras tend to provide high-quality images that provide lots of information to create a beautiful study,” says Mello Loperena (’21) from Prof. Mak’s class.
In a live studio class it’s only the artist’s eye that is seeing and interpreting the image they see. But remotely, explains Prof. Mak, there are several stages for that image to go through before it gets to your eye.
“I tell my students to accept the limitation and find something new. It’s a new experience in a new medium,” says Prof. Mak.
How does that translate into finished work? Prof. Mak admits that it can depend on the equipment the student has. A small laptop has limitations. Some students have a large external monitor connected to their laptops so they see the image large. “They cost about $100,” Prof. Mak says.
“In school I would tell them to walk up close to the model. I would be two feet away and point out ‘you’re not looking at this.’ Now, remotely, they can request that I zoom in on the model’s nose to see the structure better. Now everyone gets to see it!”
Or, Prof. Mak might lower the intensity of the light so that the student can see the entire plane of the figure.
Certainly there are aspects to the the teacher-student interaction that has changed. “I sometimes see their work during the break when I can. But after every class they upload work in progress via Google Drive and I comment in the first hour of the following week. I go through each painting.”
“Nothing can replace the dynamic of a real person and how the human eye can interpret the three dimensional experience” says Prof. Mak “It’s how the artist learns, through direct observation,” he says.
“I think in the tech world someone is working to make this experience even better. But, if we didn’t have the current technology, we could kiss this class goodbye.”
After all, the masters themselves were innovators. They developed new perspectives and poses and worked with new pigments and paints. They used optical lenses. “If they had computers, maybe they would have used them as well,” says Prof. Mak.
Magic happened when Wacom brought two teams of animation students together and gave them a week to produce 45-second animated shorts. Computer Animation student Dillon O’Keefe was on Team East. Each team collaborated only on Zoom and each team member was paid for the intensive week of work and also received a new Wacom One graphics tablet and animation software to keep.
“True to reality-TV format, says O’Keefe, I went into the challenge not knowing any of the details. They told me I was accepted [chosen from candidates all over the Americas] and asked if I wanted to participate without really telling me what the project entailed or would happen in the coming weeks. Being someone who usually takes chances, I sort of blindly said yes.”
The exercise was not a contest. It is run by Wacom as a series called Cartoon Crunch.
“Cut-throat it wasn’t,” says O’Keefe. “The lack of competition made one less thing we had to worry about. The West Coast team seemed like they had it together, full of great artists!”
Team East’s concept started with all four team members pitching ideas to each other. O’Keefe says “a team member pitched a story about a witch making a potion to bring back a zombie cat. We all loved that idea and started building on it.”
“Witchy Business starts out with an interesting storyline — especially so near Halloween! The team then came up with great artwork for the pan across the witch’s room,” says Computer Animation Professor John Goodwin.
O’Keefe says “when you have that immediate collaboration you know it’s the start of a good idea.”
Check out the teams’ finished videos here:
And what changed from start to the final product? That’s documented in a day-by-day video with almost two hours of detail and advice from experienced mentors. (Those who might consider Computer Animation as a major can view it here: Cartoon Crunch Day 5.)
The list of changes includes tweaks like camera angle adjustments and timing. “It’s cool watching it all come together,” says O’Keefe.
Here is what O’Keefe calls a rough animatic, taken from an animated gif to help get the timing and ideas across for what will be the final animation.
O’Keefe notes that Team East members juggled different roles but that “We all had certain strengths and also collaborated on certain things.” He ended up as director, overseeing overall production, and working on story elements, character design, timing, rough and final animation “and then the big final step of editing it all together with color shadows and backgrounds to make it look complete.”
O’Keefe says Cartoon Crunch “really pushed us all to our individual limits. Passion is what drives everything. If you’re motivated and passionate enough, you can create whatever you want.”
There is much more “business” from O’Keefe. Prof. Goodwin says a must-see is Rat City on Shrroms: “It’s another great telling of a story with wonderfully executed art work,” he says.
“One of the best things about my Russian heritage is a straight-forward, no-BS approach to life. But taken too far it can conjure up a cold Russian winter!” says Anya Shakhmeyster. The Fashion Design alumna (’12) recently launched a menswear collection that modernizes the hard-edged masculine style of the Soviet era.
Anya’s collection, Shakh, is an ode to her grandfather, a product of Soviet masculinity. “He was stylish and charming. He wore the perfect hat and coat for each season from fedoras and panamas to wool overcoats and trenches,” she says.
“He had a powerful presence, but was a closed book. My collection reflects on what the vulnerable side to him might look like.”
At FIT Anya won the 2012 Critic’s Choice Award for Sportswear, as part of the graduating Future of Fashion show. Her study abroad year in Milan at Politecnico intensified her interest in menswear. “My professor, Helen Field, encouraged me to create men’s collections while everyone else was working on womenswear,” she recalls.
“Anya has always had a uniquely clear conceptual focus, says Professor Sharon Rothman who mentored Anya in her Thesis Portfolio class. “I loved her exciting journal presentations, full of emotionally charged images and sketches.”
What Russia represented in the 50s, through 70s, explains Anya, was competitiveness. “Think Yuri Gagarin and the space race, and the emphasis on the military and sports.
Clothes had to have purpose, especially uniforms worn by athletes and government officials. “Fashion represented the tough, urban male,” says Anya.
“Clothes had to be comfortable to work in, easy to wear, and functional. No frills, no extras.” Yet not without detail: “Athletes wore lightweight wool shirts with bright color combinations, raglan seam lines, and thin lines accenting muscle and strength,” says Anya
“I see the modern man through the lens of a healthy masculinity. Where confidence and assertiveness is alive but met with openness,” she says.
“It’s important to create seam lines to give more attention to the curve of the back. A man’s back is a symbol of strength and purpose and should be celebrated,” says Anya.
“When I design a collared button-up, I’m thinking about how to discretely place a mesh pocket hidden inside the left chest for AirPods. How can I make sure it stays elegant and doesn’t go tech? Something too colorful or busy isn’t for the guy who wants something more traditional, more streamlined.”
Anya’s Ironia shirt is named after a classic 1976 Russian film “The Irony of Fate,” set on a New Year’s Eve in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “The checks on the taxi cabs swirling in the moonlight are juxtaposed with palm leaves of Southern California, where I live. The tonal print is subtle. Its understated technique goes in and out of view in the light.”
The Tolik turtleneck, below, has quarter-inch pipings and subtle artwork at the hem.
“Focusing on details is my way of representing the multidimensionality of men. The seams accentuate the shoulders and back, the playful palm leaves evoke a SoCal breeze,” says Anya.
“Menswear is magic for me,” says Anya. “So much is hidden. What’s happening inside the jacket? What color is the piping that’s hidden away? What is that pocket for? With womenswear things tend to be more obvious, and on the surface. With menswear, beautiful details might be there, but hidden. I take pride in enhancing them.”
The style and ease of California surf culture has been an influence on Anya as well. “Yet the effortless vibe can sometimes be too casual for what I’ve wanted to create.”
That was until she discovered the surf culture of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia (who knew there was surfing on the Bering Sea?) Kamchatka shares a northern section of the Pacific Ocean with Alaska.
“I thought wow, two unlikely things can come together like the urban grit of Russia and the peacefulness of surf culture!” she says.
After launching in late September, Anya was a guest on Brandon Alexander’s New Age Gents Instagram series “Let’s Talk.” They discussed the evolution of masculinity. Her pre-launch party (pre-COVID19) brought together friends and supporters for the panel discussion “The Power of Masculinity.”
All of the garments in her collection are made in Los Angeles with fabrics sourced from Japan. “Her quality approach to comfort and simplicity is inventive and mature,” says Prof. Rothman.
Good design can help deliver an important message: Vote! It all helps counter efforts of voter suppression, claims of fraud, and attempts at voter intimidation. The work from Professor Tevonian’s Foundation of Graphic Design class is an example of how we can help the public make its vital decision to vote.
Postcards with bold design and expressive typography that serve to get out the vote: They are the results from the semester’s first assignment in Professor Tevonian’s class.
“The goal was to encourage voting, not by commanding the viewer, but by showing why it is important,” says Prof. Tevonian. “Vote, Make Your Voice Heard” was the text that was included in each design.
After a year of foundation classes and an intro to typography, sophomores majoring in Communication Design Pathways take a class in one of several specializations before choosing a BFA major.
“The first assignment of this foundation class provides a taste of the profession,” she says.
The specifications for the 6″x5″ postcards required the use up to two colors and the rendering of two different solutions–one using an image and the other to be completed with typography along. This was to be accompanied by a matching stamp for each solution.
“Now that the project is finished, each student is mailing out three postcards to ideally ambivalent citizens and will ask them if the postcard influenced them to vote,” says Prof. Tevonian.
“Depictions of a ‘voice’ being heard through symbols and typography were not enough for this assignment,” says Prof. Tevonian. “There had to be connections to the essence of the country, with reference to the flag and Statue of Liberty.” One “theatrical example,” was Wei Zhen’s Statue of Liberty (second image) with red fingernails, she says.
There was class discussion of using how to make an image “inclusive,” says Prof. Tevonian. Nicole Kubinski’s design (below) achieves this through the use of abstract and neutral icons. “Next semester’s study focuses more on the use and creation of symbols and metaphors” she says.
“The principles of design were followed quite well and often with elegance,” says Prof. Tevonian. These included use of the grid, consideration of white space as part the solution, and an awareness of hierarchy that was expressed through contrast of type size and amount of white space.
“Students seemed to be under the positive influence of their Typography II class from last semester, which involved intensive study in the use of type to express ideas, along with the use of the grid,” says Prof. Tevonian.
“Most of the students were more comfortable using black and white, however, there were exceptions. They mostly viewed all colors equally except within certain contexts such as Sun Rui’s postcard (above) using the pink female symbol as part of the word ‘vote,’” says Prof. Tevonian.
“For now, says Pro. Tevonian, “imagine flags flying, the band playing, and please, do vote.“
“My original goal was to make the most beautiful doll in the world,” says Fine Arts sophomore Jada Hairston. “I wanted my dolls to be pretty objects. What else could dolls be, right? But as I was developing my college portfolio in 2018, I realized that’s kinda boring. I was writing my artist’s statement and thought ‘what if dolls were not just beautiful? What if they were made to have more thought, more depth then just hollow plastic?'”
Hairston continues: “It’s a given that dolls represent beauty and idleness in whatever culture produces them. Even now I am motivated by my middle school dream of making the ideal doll,” she says.
The looks of Hairston’s dolls have changed over time. “My vision morphed from making them vapidly beautiful to them having a storyline and personality. There is innocence, like most dolls, but there’s a deeper story there. They are not girls, but women who have experienced life, tragedy and are living with whatever has happened to them. They are not perfect, they make mistakes, but they keep living.”
Hairston began making dolls when she was 13. “It started as something simple. I was collecting dolls in middle school and there was a doll I wanted, but couldn’t afford. Being a beginner artist I tried to replicate it but didn’t have strong enough skills to execute my ideas.”
And yet, her early work enhances her current classwork:
“I can see how the expressive brushstrokes she uses in the paintings she’s making in my Painting III class have a precedent in how she adds colors to the surfaces of her dolls’ faces, ” says Fine Arts Chair Julia Jacquette.
Her creations start with an idea, she says. “The face, the costume and body arrive from constant thought. I use sculpey clay to sculpt everything. The inside of the doll is hollow. Then like beads being strung on jewelry wire, I string the dolls together. On top of the head there is a wire peg. I tie the elastic string around that wire. There is also that same wire at the feet and hands,” explains Hairston.
“My current process is definitely enhanced by my FIT experience. When I was a highschooler I tended to be disorganized and it reflected in my work. I also used to rush. It’s why a lot of my dolls eventually fell apart,” she says.
“In Fine Arts, says Hairston, “there is an emphasis on structure rather than pretty details. In the past, I wanted everything, body and all, to be super detailed and very doll-like. Now I make sure everything is structurally sound and when that is done, I then worry about the fashion and face,” she says.
Hairston says her current phase of doll-making was prompted by COVID-19. “At the beginning of the year I reached a point where I plateaued. I was making fewer dolls and it was taking me much longer to finish one, which is unusual because I’m a very quick artist. My ideas were clogged up. Not only that but my life was a lot more busy.”
Before the pandemic, Hairston says, she had less time for doll-making because of her commute from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, on top of classwork.
“When COVID-19 happened, I suddenly had this free time to work on projects and explore new ideas,” she said. I had ideas tucked away in my mind for years that were being unleashed. I would spend 10 hours straight just making a doll. I feel like because of quarantine and being home all day, my skills have accelerated.
Hairston says her “art goal” this year is to incorporate doll-making into her class work.