There was a special rapport and intimacy shared at the recent fabric and embroidery workshops led by Dr. Vaddi Sarvani from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderbad, India. The visiting professor spent a week teaching saree draping and Indian embroideries to Fashion Design and Textile Surface Design students and faculty. “Her knowledge was textbook and the exciting imagery she showed make it accessible,” said Textile Surface Design Professor Nomi Kleinman.
The demonstrations, including soft draping techniques, are applicable to children’s wear, menswear, women’s outerwear and couture design.
“In my demonstrations for children’s wear students, I used bright red, yellow, and blue colors with bead work in order to bring about cheerfulness into kids wear surface ornamentation,” Dr. Sarvani says. “For the couture wear classes, I used silk organza fabric, sheer and transparent.”
For menswear students, she used gabardine, woolen striped fabrics in brown and black colors and wool threads in dull shades for attaching little mirrors to jackets and blazers.
But the saree itself, traditional yet popular in India, evolves.
Some Fascinating Saree Facts:
Draping: An Indian saree is 20 feet of fabric, which can be plain, embroidered or woven. It can be very light, even diaphanous, or quite heavy.
Not just gift-wrapping: The saree is tied over a petticoat, a six gore skirt made of cotton poplin. A tightly fitted saree blouse is also worn.
Flattering: Sarees are not easy to put on. But they remain popular because women appear more beautiful and attractive in a saree drape.
Signaling: Adolescent girls are allowed to wear a saree when they reach marriageable age and usually not until any older sisters are married. A married woman or widow is expected to wear saree as a symbol of her status.
Gifting: It is a custom among Indian woman to gift sarees to each other on festive occasions as a symbol of hospitality and friendship. Sizing is, well, easy.
“Dr. Sarvani’s presentations and participation in Fashion Design and Textile Surface Design classes offered an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding of design trends, traditional Indian pattern making and saree draping,” says Deirdre Sato, Dean of International Education.
Tributes for comic book writer, editor and publisher Stan Lee flooded social media following news of his passing earlier this month. Lee was responsible, according to the The Economist, for turning “a low-rent pulp art form into a pop-culture powerhouse.” Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Avengers, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor and others inspired intense loyalty, but the loyalty was also for the values their creator stood for. Here are remembrances from among members of the FIT community that touch on Lee’s influence, values and artistry:
Ray Lago’s Spidey Pin-up for Marvel
Illustration Professor Ray Lago says he felt “privileged” to illustrate many of Stan Lee’s characters for Marvel:
“In the 1960s there was a freshness, even magic, to what StanLee along with artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and his many other collaborators were doing at Marvel Comics.
“With brand-new characters, bold new art styles and a more interactive relationship with their readers, it’s not overstating the case to say that StanLee and company were redefining the genre. Like the contemporary music of the day, ‘The Marvel Age of Comics’ had a new ‘sound’ and it just bowled us comic book readers over!
Says Lago “We found ourselves addicted and living for these once-a-month doses of adventures, waiting impatiently for, as ‘Stan the Man’ would put it, ‘Next Ish!’
“Great comic book art will always be an inspiration for me. It was by copying the art in classic Marvel comics–onto oaktag, or cheap rough drawing paper bought at Woolworth’s — or even lined yellow writing paper—that I learned to draw. Those who collaborated with and worked for StanLee were my first instructors. It was a dream-come-true many years later to actually work for Marvel and contribute to Stan Lee‘s universe.
“Yet as important as his comics were to my development, StanLee‘s characters and stories resonated with me deeply and left a lasting impact on how I viewed the world. Heroism, nobility, decency, humility, compassion… it’s all there in his colorful characters and their adventurous tales, along with explorations of our human failings. His writing was equal parts cornball and modernity, reflecting our American traditions and our social upheavals.
“Always remember, StanLee was the first to inject diversity into the superhero genre with the introduction of the Black Panther!”
Illustration Professor Edward Murr, who worked for Marvel:
“On some level, I felt I knew him well and he knew me. He ‘spoke’ to me all the time, whether reading Stan’s Soapbox or an issue of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or the Hulk. When did Stan Lee really hit my life like a bombshell? I know the exact date, time of day and remember the feeling I had when it happened. It was about eight a.m. on the morning of my eighth birthday in 1974. I was in love with comics and read them from cover to cover. My first word as a baby was ‘Batman’; I cannot remember a time when they didn’t matter to me.
“In the fall of 1974 I was walking in Jamaica, Queens with my grandmother. In the window of the local bookstore was the ‘Origins of Marvel Comics,’ a book by Stan Lee with an amazing cover that showed the Incredible Characters flying off of a typewriter. On the morning of my birthday I opened a present from my grandmother and it was the ‘Origins of Marvel Comics!’
“I read it cover to cover, over and over, studying the art, reading the stories and enjoying the history of these incredible characters and their worlds, the exciting stories, the dynamic art. It expanded my imagination. I took in every story and image, running like a movie in my own head. By three years old I said I was going to be a cartoonist, by eight there was no other option. Now, I teach Comic Book Art, Illustration and Art. My friends and I have built careers out of our time in the Marvel bullpen.
“In a world that is not always kind, Marvel Comics offered another place, another option, where you were welcome, and wanted, an escape to incredible adventures with characters that affected me as much as real people. It was Stan Lee and friends who took me there. This is how Stan Lee affected me. I know I’m not the only one.”
Dr. Ron Milan, Chief Diversity Officer, a life-long comic book fan, says “StanLee was always my hero. I read his comics as a way to escape growing up in Buffalo. He showed me that anyone can be a superhero.”
Professor Ramon Gil who teaches in the Computer Animation and Interactive Media department recently oversaw the Diversity Comic Con event at FIT. His professional start in comics started pretty early. He received his first cartooning credit at the age of 10, he says.
“Stan Lee provided me an escape as a young immigrant boy who felt awkward and out-of-place. But pretty soon comic books became more than just a sanctuary, it became fuel to pursue art as a career. I owe all that to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and all the creators who came before and after them. Stan brought out in countless, creators, the desire to tell stories.”
Says Prof. Lago “There is so much more I could say, so much. I was moved by StanLee‘s stories and characters as a child and I am moved today. His is the passing of a legend.”
For Debra Ziss, following her passions has meant following her palate as well as her talent for illustration. Ziss was in the Chelsea ‘hood last week giving tastings of lush Vermont cheeses and kibitzing about all things fromage with customers at Whole Foods.
The last time this illustrator, hand letterer and designer was in these parts was to attend High School Live. Dual passions were always on her horizon. Ziss has always had “a serious love for cheese,“ as well as for specialty food and beverages in general. “I started taking beer and cheese classes around town and became a certified Level One Cicerone while working as an illustrator,” she says. At Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp, she was the only illustrator. “I was just so fascinated with cheese!”
In Vermont and Wisconsin, where cheese makers would take notice, proving that good illustrations travel widely:
“When I finished a year-long design and lettering job, I took a break to build a portfolio of food illustrations,” says Ziss. “My idea was to create a portfolio for editorial and cookbook jobs. I had wanted to get off the computer and to reacquaint myself with traditional media while creating a body of work on something that interests me.”
In 2015 Ziss contacted a cheesemonger in the city and asked to do a collaboration. Ziss proposed to draw a cheese a week from the store’s cheese case. Together they would “cross-promote” on social media.
“I found myself doing these deep-dives into the stories behind each cheese I drew. From the animals who produced the milk, the land they grazed on, to the cheesemakers, affineurs (who age the cheese) and people who sell it. Every step of it was fascinating!”
Soon Ziss had three projects doing what she liked. “Sometimes the things you do quietly get you work and recognition down the line. There’s always an audience.”
After working on projects with Vermont and Wisconsin cheese companies, Ziss wanted to still work more directly with cheese. In 2017, she made the leap. She now works as a cheesemonger at a New York City cheese shop and as a brand representative for some of her favorite cheese producers.
“With every job, once I stop learning I’m sort of done. I want to change and do something different.”
Dealing with the public as a cheesemonger is the opposite, but also complimentary to what she is used to as an illustrator. “I have to be professional with my illustration clients so that carried over to helping customers,” says Ziss.
Being an illustrator can be solitary, she concedes. “My day-to-day interactions are few and far between. There are days that I barely speak to anyone! I didn’t know I had the skills to talk with the public, but it turns out I genuinely enjoy it. It’s lovely to be able to share my passion with customers,” says Ziss.
“My cheese clients for illustration give me a great deal of creative freedom and trust me to bring their ideas to life. Cheese people are kind and generous. I’m so fortunate to have found my way to working with them as both an illustrator and (cheese) monger.”
In 2014, New York City documentary photographer Erin Lefevre (AAS ’13) began a photographic exploration with her brother Liam. It was in the style of call and response: Erin would photograph Liam and he would write about the what she had captured.Its purpose was to achieve a greater shared experience. Liam is on the autism spectrum and his thoughts and feelings had not always been available to his adoring older sister.
In August 2018, Erin’s photos from “Liam’s World” were featured on the New York Times “Lens blog.” The feature, “Visualizing Life with Autism,” written by Sara Aridi, attracted responses worldwide applauding both Erin’s photographs and her approach.
The approach was one that allowed Erin to have a greater “presence” in her brother’s experiences and thoughts. “People who are marginalized are often denied a chance to speak for themselves,” says Erin. “I have a collaborative relationship with Liam and help him speak for himself.”
The project, she says, “has strengthened our bond.” And it has helped others.
“I received heartwarming messages from parents all over the world raising children on the spectrum. They said that hearing of Liam’s story helped them to better understand their own children.”
Erin now lectures about “Liam’s World,” an on-going project, and has received requests for television appearances.
It also strengthened her own place in her family. “I have family members who didn’t understand what I really did with photography who now show their support. It proves my belief that photography can empower others and better the world we live in.”
To see more of Erin’s work go to: erinlefevre.com. Follow her on Instagram @erinlefevrephoto
“My comic sketch during Inktober, came from my enthusiasm for starting my transition,” says Taylor “Blue” Summerfield (Computer Animation-Interactive Media ’19). “It shows a conversation between myself and my partner, so lighthearted and happy.”
Summerfield received his AAS in Illustration. He says that although he’s now an animation student, he “retains a love for Illustration–so I’m participating in Inktober. It’s a fun warm-up or cool-down to my schoolwork,” he says.
Inktober is a month-long event, which often involves following prompts, for drawing each day’s sketch. For his “I’m on Hormones” comic sketch, he followed his own inner prompt:
“I find the best way to express my feelings is through drawing. It can be difficult to express in a journal or personal blog how I feel about my transition journey. But with drawing, even if it’s just a quick sketch, it can catch the energy of the moment that I’m bursting to tell people, and pin it to paper,” says Summerfield.
“Summerfield’s drawings are a sequence of images expressing a personal experience. They communicate a profound meaning beyond the pictures.” – Ed Soyka, Chair, Illustration
“I digitized my original Inktober drawing (above), by bringing it into Paint Tool SAI and Photoshop,” explains Summerfield. His initial drawing was done in Faber-Castell markers and white gel pen on gray-toned paper.
“The sketch was inspired by an earlier one I did over the summer, ‘She Called Me Sir.’ It was before I started hormone treatment,” says Summerfield.
“It was about the first time that a stranger at my job referred to me as ‘sir’ and with male pronouns. I was overwhelmed at the time and decided to make a comic about it– the same excitement that drove me to make the comic about my hormone treatment,” he says.
“Both comic sketches reflect key moments that I and other transgender people experience in our transitions,” says Taylor “Blue” Summerfield
“Everything–be it the beginning of hormones and the instant feeling that things are finally going right, or the act of being recognized for the first time as who you actually are by a total stranger–matters so much to me. I plan to make more comics as I continue to become who I am,” he says.
To see more of Summerfield’s drawings and animations go follow him on Instagram at: @coldpups.art
When Anna Niklova (Illustration ’18), notices an appealing flash of color in a passerby’s outfit, she is quick to offer a compliment. In her senior year she began noticing a less subtle trend. Call it accessories grandstanding. “Funky, colorful socks with all kinds of patterns came into vogue, often with footwear adapted to show off the designs,” she said. Niklova decided to capture the sock-and-footwear swagger.
For her Senior Book Illustration class with Professor John Nickle, she adapted and expanded her sock-and-shoe illustrations. The working title for the 24-page book is “Sock in Shoes that they don’t belong in…or do they?”
“I was intrigued by how accessories change and adapt. I saw how capturing an emerging trend captivates others as well,” she says.
“Socks in heels seemed groundbreaking. I was seeing it everywhere,” says Niklova. “I concentrated on the socks in this [above] illustration. It was challenging to portray sheer, embroidered socks. I liked the idea of being able to show off a pedicure even in cold weather!” she says.
“I totally loved Anna’s book — her sense of humor and her illustration style. Her shoe and sock styles are so on point with trends and fads.” – Sarah Mullins, Chair, Accessories Design
“Socks and sandals seem like the most stereotypical ‘wrong’ combination! It’s been mocked as a ‘dad’ fashion choice. I wanted to show a look that’s somewhat in between; it still looks like a dad combo, but a relatively cool one,” she says.
“Prof. Nickle encouraged me to add text to my work. It was fun creating lines for each illustration and using sign painters’ inspired fonts. I wanted the book to be colorful, quirky and fashionable but also funny, which is partially why I chose a ridiculously long [book] title,” says Niklova.
“What I love about Anna’s book is that it’s a concept book that is both goofyand sophisticated. She seamlessly blends retro type design, graphic design and nuanced illustration.” – Professor John Nickle, Illustration
Jelly shoes, plastic shoes also known as “jellies,” were the most fun for Niklova. “They can be uncomfortable to wear without socks, so people have gotten to wearing colorful, patterned socks with right colored jelly shoes. Because of the shoe’s transparency, it begs for a fun pattern to show through. I also had fun with the different meanings of ‘jelly,’” she says.
“Anna Niklova’s engaging and sophisticated illustrations have street cred and they certainly demonstrate her design chops. Her work captures how individuals drive trends, in this case by adapting accessories in ways that are both useful and wonderfully expressive. By bridging two of our design areas–accessories and illustration—she represents innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that typify FIT.” – Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design
The thong flip flop has some history beyond NYC sidewalks. “My original vision was unflattering, yet it turned out looking better than most socks with flip flops do. Maybe I should have gone for the five-toe-socks, which have a slightly disconcerting look,” she says.
“I visited Japan over the summer and gained a new perspective on this combination. I am working on an illustration of the traditional Tabi socks in the Zori shoes, the origin behind the westernized flip flops.
“Birkenstocks are especially personal. I used to think of them as shoes you might only wear at home, or as pharmaceutical footwear. But I fell in love with them and now spend the summer in them. I’ll carry a pair of socks in my bag for when it gets cooler at night. I enjoyed picking the colors for this one, using the light blue for the outlines as well as creating the socks’ pattern,” says Niklova.
“It’s getting cooler and more funky sock-shoe combinations are popping up. I am expanding the book and hope to share it with a larger audience. I want to inspire others to experiment with their footwear and extravagant socks. Everyone has to keep their feet warm. Have a little fun with it!”
“Even the pastries were intensely colorful,” says Prof. Jada Schumacher, “so were the window displays, stain glass lettering, cobblestones, oysters next to lemons and limes, the fabric and grosgrain ribbons, clothing in the Marais district, the flowers and leaf colors.”
They are just a few vibrant details from A Color Voyage study abroad class in Paris and the South of France, where students become immersed in color, its creative legacy, historical and contemporary applications.
“Students cross-pollinate and share ideas about color and light from different fields of study,” says Communication Design Pathways professor Jada Schumacher who designed the course, which is open to students college-wide.
A visit to Monet’s water lily gardens at Giverny made for stunning vistas.
“Students love that they’ve seen these paintings so many times but hadn’t understood the cropping and scales. You see that it’s the only way possible to frame a painting in this space because it’s so full and lush and overgrown.”
Monet’s predilections make more sense. “He had the garden staff wipe off the leaves so that they reflected light well when he painted,” says Prof. Schumacher.
Students toured the Gobelins Factory, the still-functioning French national tapestry factory from 17th century.
“Michel Eugène Chevreul, a color theorist and chemist from the early 1800s worked at the Factory. He coined the term “simultaneous contrast,” a basic term in color theory. “It refers to how colors are perceived differently when they are next to each other, which create challenges for artists and designers, and merchandisers,” says Prof. Schumacher.
Students were “dazzled” inside the former limestone quarries, which are now light projection spaces at Carrières de Lumières (quarries of light).
“Motifs from 1960s pop and classical paintings provide a wrap-around experience to the space. Along with the power of music it provides an immersive experience,” says Prof. Schumacher.
“In France students used images and online resources in researching topics related to the exhibition. Then they explored the cities, going on pink photography expeditions to hunt and capture images that reveal interesting, intentional, and notable uses of the color pink,” says Prof. Schumacher.
“It was an incredible color adventure!” she says.
For more information about upcoming study abroad programs, please go to Study Abroad FIT
To see more of Prof. Jada Schumacher’s work visit her website: DesignOrange and Instagram account @design_orange.
Photography professor Curtis Willocks was honored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Friday, September 14 as a cultural innovator and for his role in the vibrant cultural life of Manhattan communities. The event, part of the kick-off for the African American Parade 2018, took place at the Schomburg Center for Research in African American Culture. Many of his students and fellow faculty members, beaming with pride, were in attendance.
“Curtis is extremely well respected. To have him on the list is an honor for all of us,” said the Manhattan Borough President. “He’s being honored for his art and teaching.”
“This recognition suits Curtis perfectly,” says Photography Prof. Max Hilaire “He’s an exemplary person. He creates sanctuaries to uplift his students. He is involved on so many fronts: FIT, FIT Photo Club, ICP, Photoville, Penumbra, Chinatown, Coney Island, Fashion Industries High School and more. He maintains strong industry contacts with many top manufacturers and their representatives.
“Above all, the quality of his photography reveals a kind heart, modest and enriching.”
A roar went out when Prof. Willocks was called to the podium.
Said Eliani Corriette, (Fashion Design), “I am so happy to be surrounded by other friends of Curtis’ and FIT alumni at this event. We got to see our dear friend and professor be honored for his work for the years he has put into the community. I have to admit, we were all prepared to make a lot of noise when they called his name to receive his award in hand!”
“Curtis Willocks is truly a one-of-a-kind professor, friend, and human being,” says Photography alumna Erin Lefevre (’13). “He repeatedly goes above and beyond to broaden his students’ perspectives and positively fosters their love for photography and creativity as artists.”
The honorees assembled for a photograph after the ceremony. Former Mayor David Dinkins was in attendance.
“His selflessness, dedication, his passion as an educator is unlike anyone else I have ever encountered” says Lefevre. “It was so fulfilling to watch him be publicly recognized for all of the wonderful work he contributes to his communities.”
Says Prof. Hilaire, “Curtis has been a steadfast friend, honest, generous, humble, comforting with a magnetic approach.”
A recent work by Hendel Futerfas (’12) highlights one of the themes of Labor Day, which had much to do with the development of garment manufacturing. “It evokes feelings of nostalgia for an older and simpler time,” says the Fine Arts alum of his oil on canvas.
“I like the idea of infusing a flare of modern color. I see it in a way as bridging the then and now,” says Futerfas.
Angela Rizza has long been obsessed by detail, “starting with ballpoint pen drawings in high school where I’d render each illustration with pens using them like graphite, to FIT where I’d zoom in at 200 percent on the computer and go to town on some animal scales.” Rizza’s early work was influenced by the realistic style of her grandfather, John Leone, an oil painter of American West scenery.
For Rizza, art is life… and the bigger the audience and the better her drawings’ detail, the better. Her career’s fast rise, and the fact that she does art that she loves, holds many lessons.
“I’ve been told ‘less is more’ and to only render focal points. But there’s something about capturing each line in a row of feathers or creating embroidery patterns in a dress. I find a calm that I love, hence all of the detail in my artwork,” says Rizza.
Throughout college Rizza experimented with traditional mediums, mostly in black and white. While she had an eye for color, she says she had trouble applying it while protecting her drawings. She experimented with gouache, watercolor, acrylic, pigmented inks, and oils.
By senior year, she honed a technique for creating tightly rendered graphic drawings, to which she applied layers of oil paint glazes. “It created this great old-school storybook effect, but is was less practical when it came to real life jobs; I didn’t have a month to let the oils dry, and they were difficult to scan and photograph.”
Angela’s development as a professional, what empowers her to create great work, emanates from both traditional skills and problem-solving abilities. It’s what empowers her to create great work. What is outstanding is how she is able to apply her imagination. she has a unique vision of what might be.” – Ed Soyka, Chair, Illustration
Her first year after graduating in 2011 was spent experimenting. In order to color a piece and not smudge or undermine the meticulous line work, she transitioned to Photoshop to create graphite-like drawings that were colored digitally. She also started using ink for a crisper look to her work. “The end result was a finished, print-ready illustration in two or three days, and I could get really elaborate with coloring my drawing,” she says.
To illustrate children’s books, she began creating illustrations based on favorite stories like Tolkien’s work and Game of Thrones. She also created fan art to build a larger audience on social media.
“Draw what you love and the work you want will find you,” was the advice from other artists that she took to heart. It worked. By her second year out, Rizza’s Tolkien art was featured in a book about his stories. She was invited by HBO to attend the Game of Thrones season premiere in New York City. She stood on the red carpet and got to watch the first episode of the season.
Her next turn was creating geometric, carefree work with a folk art twist. She reinterpreted animals and plants as clusters of patterns within a shape. “I’d begin with a basic silhouette of, say, a chicken and draw the shape of the wings, then shapes within the shape and shapes within those. I would had a colorful piece filled with details I love, that were less serious and more lighthearted.”
“I got to draw dinosaurs!…It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Angela Rizza
Her love of line and detail work was ideal for activity books. In 2016 her first coloring book was published. “The Book of Beasts” is filled with monsters of myth and fantasy. Her sequel, “The Book of Prehistoric Beasts,” came out last year. “I got to draw dinosaurs. I was obsessed with dinosaurs throughout elementary school. It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Two Scratch Pad activity books on nature and mythology followed. She is currently working on two more.
Her work next appeared in shows hosted by Light Grey Art Lab run by young illustrators. One themed-exhibit, “Skate or Die,” featured her work on skate decks for Halloween, and her work was part of a tarot deck for another such collaborative show.
Angela’s work and craftsmanship has soared since she graduated. Her composition has grown more complex. The maturity of her work is really phenomenal. Part of her evolution comes from adding new ways of working, which she continually does in new work..She is always creating! – Illustration Prof. Kam Mak
Once she had “a decent portfolio” and audience, Rizza started indulging in her love of birds and nature. While her first pieces were in simple settings, Audubon-like, she began finding parallels between flora and fauna, such as a flower sharing the same accent color as a specific type of bird, or the patterns on an owl looking similar to a piece of bark. In some pieces she found parallels between animals–like the eyes of an owl and the markings of a moth.