Flight patterns: Deborah Kruger’s feathered work migrates worldwide

There are more dimensions to textiles and to flat, recycled materials than width and length… and more uses beyond clothing than have been imagined by most. Deborah Kruger, Textile/Surface Design, ’76, has helped lead the way. The internationally recognized artist credits FIT.

“FIT changed the course of my life. My artwork is influenced by textiles and design and that started with my studies at FIT,” says Kruger.

“Re-dress” by Deborah Kruger (Form based on traditional Aztec Ceramics)

“The Textile/Surface Design faculty was unilaterally supportive of my design skills,” says Kruger. Their enthusiasm about my talent set me up for success. The program was intense and comprehensive. My lifelong love of textiles was cemented during my time there. My training and passion have been evident in my artwork ever since.”

Kruger’s solo show, “Avianto,” is touring the US through 2025. The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle in Manhattan recently acquired two of her large environmental pieces, “Accidentals” and “Ropa Pintada,” which will be on display beginning May, 2024.

The touring exhibition includes Kruger’s mural-scale piece “Red Wing,” along with seven mid-size pieces and several smaller works. The exhibition will be coming to NYC in November as part of the “Follow the Thread” fiber event produced by ArteMorbida, a textile arts magazine.

“Ropa Pintada” by Deborah Kruger (Form based on tunic-like Huipil from Chiapas and Guatemala)

Kruger’s signature “tail feathers” that are not real feathers, appear in all her work — wall-hung pieces, sculptures, and installations:

“Some viewers think my tail feathers are fiber or paper,” Kruger says. “They are surprised to find they are recycled plastic.” She says having the feathers “read” as textiles delights her.

Kruger says she is inspired by those who expand the boundaries of their materials, such as Olga de Amaral of Colombia, Magdalena Abakanowicz from Poland, Nick Cave from the US and El Anatsui from Ghana. For her, that means using recycled materials, especially plastics, on which she and her workshop team screen-print designs using her drawings of endangered birds. Her production studio is close to Guadalajara Mexico, on Lake Chapala.

“Corona de Plumas” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

Kruger says reading limnologist Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” made a deep impression, especially learning how pesticides, especially DDT, affected songbird populations. Carson’s work, of course, sparked the 1960s worldwide environmental movement. It led Kruger to consider addressing habitat fragmentation, species extinction and even the ongoing loss of indigenous languages. Half of the world’s current 7,000 languages are expected to disappear by 2100.

Viewers can see how her FIT and two-dimensional wallpaper design work influenced her artwork and preference for fiber and textiles. The feathers started appearing in the 1990s, with the advent of her environmental work.

“Breastplate” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

“Choosing to use recycled materials brings attention to the waste and consumption that contribute to pollution and habitat fragmentation. These factors, along with climate change, are responsible for the drop in worldwide bird populations,” says Kruger.

“FIT changed the course of my life,” says the internationally recognized artist. “My artwork is influenced by textiles and design and that started with my studies at FIT…My training and passion have been evident in my artwork ever since.”

When she began using recycled plastics, Kruger experimented with digital printing. She liked the quality of the images, but not what she calls the “crankiness of the digital printers.” She moved to hand processes like silk-screen printing for her thousands of feathers.

The artist in front of “Redwing” the latest mural in her environmental portfolio

“It was like a homecoming,” Kruger says. “When I was a textile designer, we silk screened all our samples. It is a skill I shared with my team so that they have a bigger employment toolbox. That, in turn, helps preserve handmade culture.”

Kruger also has an ongoing series of textile artwork inspired by traditional women’s handmade garments such as kimonos from Japan and Korea, and the huipil, still worn in Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala.

“Kimona 2” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

“My interest in traditional women’s clothing grew out of my FIT training and has persisted throughout my life.” she says. “My weaving professor, Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal, was my mentor for 40 years until she died at 98.”

Kruger also started an artist residency program in Mexico. “When I was a young artist and mother, I attended the Millay Arts residency in Austerlitz, NY as their first fiber artist. I had the opportunity to focus on my artwork for an entire month. It was a game changer!” Other residencies would follow in the US and France.

When she moved to Mexico in 2010, she realized that the near-perfect year-round weather and beautiful scenery would make an ideal place for a residency. She founded 360 Xochi Quetzal. Over 300 artists and writers have attended, staying for a month or longer. Some have permanently moved to Chapala, helping to create an artists’ colony there.

Kruger’s next steps? One is a neon wall installation that addresses bird extinction. The other is a public sculpture shaped like a birdcage. Instead of bars, the cage would be made from simplified drawings of endangered birds fabricated from aluminum, steel or 3-D printing that would be entered by humans instead of birds.

“Broken Round Sculpture” by Deborah Kruger (Broken ceramic plates hand-painted with drawings of endangered birds grouted around ceramic form)

Kruger who also works with ceramics says “Each medium allows me to express my environmental concerns in an exciting new way.”

To see more of Deborah Kruger’s work, visit her website: DeborahKruger.com. Follow her on IG at: DeborahKrugerStudios. For a schedule of her upcoming exhibits go to her exhibit schedule.

For more information about the Textile/Surface Design AAS and BFA programs, go to: Textile/Surface Design at FIT.

All photos of artwork by Carlos Díaz Corona. All images used with permission.

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Photon Sorcerer Cat Trzaskowski

Cat Trzaskowski’s “photon sorcery” nods to history but generates the excitement of entirely new experiences. His work’s scope is rooted in his own life but spans centuries. It’s evocative without being imitative. Uncovering hidden worlds through art is the bedrock of Trzaskowski’s practice.

“More Life: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa” (2023), Dye sublimation composite photo on aluminum, by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski’s senior thesis, comprised of intense photo composites, is informed by over a year and a half of research, travel, studio photography and “post-production wizardry.” The impetus, he says, is to uplift the queer community:

“My subjects are all friends or colleagues, conveyed the way I see them: magnificent, creative, worthy-of-being-protected, worthy of living long beautiful lives without fear. I used the formalized visual language of the Baroque period, the time of the Counter Reformation, which aimed to persuade people through the power of beauty,” he says.

“More Life: The Inspiration of St. Matthew” (2023), dye sublimation composite photo on aluminum, by Cat Trzaskowski

“We often think of the camera as a tool of simple description, but Cat’s work shows the tremendous chasm between what our eye sees and what the photograph can show us.” 

– Professor Brad Farwell,  Photography and Mix Media

“Synapse I” (2021), by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski describes himself as a photographer and digital artist, a practitioner of photon sorcery, a term he has coined to describe his artistic process. “It’s creating things that don’t exist through the magic of lens, space, and light with photons and pixels.”

At FIT Trzaskowski says he learned how to paint with light, to place precise splashes of color, to capture invisible movement, and to create dizzying visual illusions, all in-camera.

“The Seeker” (2020) Series, by Cat Trzaskowski

“The FIT Photography department is phenomenal,” says Trzaskowski. “It feels like my found family. I was surrounded by people who were invested in helping me grow past self-imposed limitations…Because of what I’ve learned, I can conjure things never seen before in my art.”

“Bloom” (2020), self portrait, by Cat Trzaskowski

“Introducing imperfections and distortions with various acrylic materials, mirrors, filters and even everyday objects allows me to improvise on the fly as I shoot. The magic comes from the unpredictability of the outcome,” says Trzaskowski.

He describes how growing up with aphantasia — an inability to create mental imagery — compelled him to draw:

“When I read a book it would be hard to visualize the story in my mind, so I would want to draw it. It was my way of bringing something invisible into a visual world. “I think that drives the work I create. Now, I look through my lens and that is the portal of revelation.”

“She Commands Chaos” (2022), by Cat Trzaskowski

“Cat’s artistic vision, and technical prowess, come together to create something, which moves beyond the raw material of a superficial reality toward a more complex and beautiful truth.” 

– Professor Brad Farwell, Photography and Related Media

“Back to Stardust” (2022), by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski says he “romanticizes” his life as in a “Wes Anderson-like narrative always going through my head.”

Thinking in this poetic way fortifies him. “It’s been a bumpy journey. There have been difficult times, but doing this work is such a joy that I can’t help rhapsodizing about it.”

“The Hares of Iberia” (2021) Digital Photo Composite by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski credits much of his progress and growth to his time at FIT.

“The FIT Photography department is phenomenal. It feels like my found family. I was surrounded by people who were invested in helping me grow past self-imposed limitations. So many professors and staff pushed me to achieve what I didn’t think was possible. They showed me how to walk the path, and for that I will always be grateful. Because of what I’ve learned, I can conjure things never seen before in my art.”

“The Story Makes You Who You Are” (2021), Self Portrait by Cat Trzaskowski

Cat Trzaskowski’s BFA thesis, a series of seven large-scale prints, will be the subject of a solo exhibition in September. “More Life: A Baroque Celebration of Queer Identity” will be on view at ChaShaMa at 266 W 37 St in NYC, from September 16 to October 5, 2023.

To see more of Cat Trzaskowski’s work, visit his website at www.cattrzaskowski.com and on IG @cattrzaskowskiphoto.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Photography and Related Media’s AAS and BFA degrees, go to Photography at FIT.

All images used with permission.

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Playground Detroit had its origin in NYC. How Fashion Designer Paulina Petkoski employed her design skills to help make it happen

It can be easier to be a creative in Detroit, the city where she grew up, says Paulina Petkoski (Fashion Design ’10), but it helps to get a jump-start in New York City. After nearly a decade of working and designing in NYC, she returned to her hometown Detroit in 2014.

Petkoski had already co-founded Playground Detroit while living in New York, hosting pop-up exhibitions, music showcases, and film screenings in Brooklyn and Manhattan, inviting Detroit artists to New York and bringing New York-based artists to Detroit. Playground Detroit has now moved beyond pop-ups, to its own gallery and performance space in Detroit.

Exterior of Playground Detroit gallery and creative talent agency

“Initially, I was inspired to showcase Detroit talent to a New York audience,” Petkoski said. Unlike Detroit, NYC has a robust, developed art market and industry where talent can be easily discovered and appreciated. The drawback? “Detroit affords many creatives more time, space and wanderlust, to be resourceful in their practice.”

Artists and creatives, she says, have the potential to thrive in Detroit, “thanks to the benefit of less expensive space, allowing time to create.”

Audience arrival for “Detroit Swag” Exhibit Photo: Jesse David Green.

“I am always amazed by the creative work of our alumni and how the skills they develop at FIT can be applied in so many ways to positively impact our world. The work Paulina is doing demonstrates the power of art to bring change to a community. Her gallery Playground Detroit is truly contributing to the cultural life of the city and providing opportunities to that city’s artists.”

– Dean Troy Richards, School of Art and Design

Detroit also has a rich design history, including important architecture, an influence on the Mid-Century Modern movement, and is home to the world-renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art and College for Creative Studies, all of which set the foundation for a city that thrives in creativity, she says.

“Detroit Swag” by Detroit mixed-media collage artist Judy Bowman, at Playground Detroit

Petkoski’s path to FIT wasn’t linear. Growing up in Detroit, she says, “I always wanted to be in fashion. My grandmother taught me how to hand stitch pillows and make dresses for Barbies. Once I got a sewing machine, I started thrifting and upcycling clothes, reworking vintage patterns, and figuring out what a yoke was before any formal education!”

Her father, an architect, was also an influence, stimulating her early interest in art and design.

George Petkoski and daughter Paulina Petkoski

“Living and working abroad allowed me to think differently. I gained an understanding of international design,” says Petroski.  “Detroit can feel like a small town despite being a large city. Those experiences have allowed me to maintain a global perspective.”

Before arriving at FIT, she spent a little over a year at Michigan State University. The college offered an exchange program with FIT, but she instead decided to transfer entirely. “I was waitlisted for the main campus in Manhattan, but pre-approved for the study abroad program at Polimoda. “I moved directly to Florence for a year and began my first semester. It was a pivotal, life-changing experience,” she says.

“Rito de Noches,” by Ivan Montoya, part of an online exhibit

Petkoski encourages designers to learn more about business, even while in college. “Often designers seek to start a business right after graduating,” she notes. They learn quickly that “It’s not just about creating a collection.”

While attending FIT, she launched the sustainable clothing line Sosume, taking calls from buyers at Barneys in-between classes. Later she conceptualized Playground Detroit while working full-time for Rachel Roy, where she eventually became head of trim and embellishment.

Opening of Detroit artist Zoe Beaudry Exhibit at Playground Detroit

“The design process I learned during my time at FIT continues to influence all of my work, says Petkoski. She manages off-site and site-specific exhibitions, designs public art experiences and events; she has directed the gallery branding, the website, and helps emerging artists craft their creative image and personal branding. “To me, these are all forms of design,” she says.

During her time at FIT she traveled to Australia to attend a wholesale tradeshow for Sosume, and later visited factories in China and Hong Kong to understand sourcing and production while with Rachel Roy.

“Living and working abroad allowed me to think differently. I gained an understanding of international design. Detroit can feel like a small town despite being a large city. Those experiences have allowed me to maintain a global perspective.”

Frst exhibit at Playground Detroit gallery, featuring the work of Cristin Ríchard

Playground Detroit didn’t start as a gallery. After returning to Detroit, Petkoski and her partner did pop-ups. They quickly outgrew their initial “bedroom turned gallery,” where they had begun to host exhibits in 2014. “It was in a 6,000 square-foot residential loft building. As word got out, attendances began exceeding 200 people,” she recalls.

The Motor City Match program helped them find a commercial location and create a business plan and budget. To raise funds for the gallery they “launched an ambitious Kickstarter and achieved the $75,000 goal.”

Mural by Sydney G. James, part of a billboard campaign for the film premiere of “Detroit.” Photo Lamar Landers

With widespread community support and additional funding from various community lenders including Michigan Women’s Forward for the interior renovation, they took over a historic building, dating from 1887.

“The design process I learned during my time at FIT continues to influence all of my work, says Petkoski. She manages off-site and site-specific exhibitions, designs public art experiences and events; she has directed the gallery branding, the website, and helps emerging artists craft their creative image and personal branding. “To me, these are all forms of design,” she says.

Artist and Designer Scott Klinker’s off-site exhibit, supported by Playground Detroit

Playground Detroit maintains its operations primarily through artwork sales, client-based projects and special events including dinners and music performances in the gallery space.

“We have public gallery hours, host opening receptions and sell artwork online through Artsy and 1stDibs. We just finished an interior mural project for a soon-to-open speakeasy in Ann Arbor. Annapurna Pictures from Los Angeles hired us to commission Detroit artists for a billboard campaign for the film premiere of ‘Detroit,’ directed by Kathryn Bigelow.” As a social-mission enterprise, Playground Detroit seeks grant support as well.

Petkoski continues to her work as a fashion stylist and designer. She also teaches at College for Creative Studies on topics such as closed-loop design and circularity.

Paulina Petkoski’s oversized anorak jacket from her FIT thesis collection

One of her fondest memories as a student in Professor George Simonton’s class was meeting esteemed alum Calvin Klein who came to visit. He offered to meet with students one-on-one for feedback on their work. “I met him at his gorgeous Chelsea office,” said Petkoski. “He graciously reviewed my collection.”

Then “a few years later, I was attending the Armory Show wearing one of the designs he helped me with, an oversized anorak jacket. I greeted him and he recognized the design. It was such a great moment!”

Go to Playground Detroit for more information about current and past exhibits. Follow Paulina Petkoski on IG @paulinapetkoski and visit her website at: PaulinaPetkoski.com.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Fashion Design major, go to: Fashion Design at FIT.

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Harrison Shaw: Innovation is his brand

FIT’s campus covers little more than a city block, but for their inspiration, students have all of New York City — and sometimes the whole world — to explore. Harrison “Harry” Shaw (Packaging Design ’23), took advantage, starting during the pandemic. His product concepts and presentations come across as almost real…as if we could walk down the street and buy them this afternoon after work.

Here are four of them:

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

“Tagged Brewing Co.” (Capstone Design Studio, taught by Prof. James Silva)

“This was one of my first big school projects during the pandemic,” says Shaw. “I was living in Bushwick and it was hard and nerve-racking to take the subway to commute around the city. I went by foot to explore areas near my apartment.”

That is when he came upon The Bushwick Collective. The Collective hosts a year-round outdoor art exhibition and annual block party that brings together local businesses.

“From there, the beer idea just took off. It gained a personality on its own,” he says.

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

“Harry came into the program with a strong design foundation and motivation to succeed. His determination in his coursework led to outstanding design projects,” says Prof. Marianne Klimchuk, former chair of Packaging Design

Shaw’s assignment was to develop a 360 brand identity (that is, looking at a brand’s positioning and opportunities from every angle) that hit on four different BFA design majors: Packaging, Advertising, Spacial Experience Design, and Graphic Design.

As with other Packaging Design class projects, Shaw started off by taking a dive into the landscape of brands, mapping what might motivate potential customers in the category. Then he created a brand that clicked with his insights.

“I describe it as finding a solution to a problem consumers never thought they had,” says Shaw. He then created territory boards, sketching out ways to motivte the consumer. And finally on to addressing digital development, typography, illustration, brandworld creation, to arrive at a packaging design concept.

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

Nottinghill Distillery (Designers Portfolio, taught by Program Coordinator Prof. Sandra Krasovec)

“Nottinghill Distillery was inspired by my study abroad in London and Scotland, an opportunity I was afforded through the Packaging Design program.

“We visited 12 brand and packaging design firms like Bulletproof, JKR, Pearlfisher. We sat in on their design process presentations, and went over case studies. We asked questions and gained insight into the design world in the UK,” says Shaw.

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

“I was so inspired by the architecture, particularly in Notting Hill, which has this amazing juxtaposition of old, classically designed buildings, but with vibrantly colored facades,” says Shaw.

“I wanted to  capture the essence of what I felt there, developing a gin brand that held both an essence of class and striking color.”

The brand story Shaw created tells of a place where “passion, creativity, and smoky allure converge.”

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

The allure of Nottinghill Distillery is its smoky infusion made from “smoldering embers and aromatic scents that waft through the air of Notting Hill.” The Distillery uses a “time-honored technique,” that includes “carefully selected, hand-charred woods to infuse the gin.”

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

“BUZZZ!” (Strategic Design Studio and Design Strategy, taught by profs. Marianne Klimchuk and Susan Palombo) 

Shaw then segued to another type of suds. His BUZZZ! is a men’s personal care soap brand that he suggests be used for showering at night.

“This was a fun project that required upfront research and strategizing the development of a robust brand design concept,” he says.

Says Prof. Marianne Klimchuk, “I am beyond proud of Harry.  I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot of outstanding brands and packaging designs in the marketplace that Harry had his hands on.” 

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“The overarching concept of BUZZZ! revolves around being inspired by night life — to bring a sense of a neon glow and the ‘buzz of the night’ to customers’ showering routine,”  Shaw’s brand story states.

“In my communication style, I wanted to give it a voice that millennials can connect to, playing with modern slang.”

His line “Night Showers Hit Different” does that. His playful yet bold approach to the night shower has “unique charm,” as he describes it: “It’s a moment of escape, a sanctuary where one can wash away the stress of the day and emerge refreshed.”

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“Harry came into the program with a strong design foundation and motivation to succeed. His determination in his coursework led to outstanding design projects.” – Prof. Marianne Klimchuk

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“Vibes CBD” (Brand Identity Design, taught by Prof. Candace Allenson

“Vibes CBD” was one of my first projects coming out of the pandemic, and the start of my bachelors degree. I was missing that feeling of vacation and that feeling of relaxation and playful spirit that comes with being on a beach with a cold drink to just relax,” says Shaw.

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

“I took that yearning for something fun again; I wanted to develop a brand that was just super fun, one that captured that essence of what I felt was missing because of the pandemic.”

His brand story states: “The waves are your playground with Vibes CBD. Colorful and playful branding will transport you to the beach with retro typography inspired by classic beachside neon signs, palm trees, and iconic sunsets that explode in the sky.

“Whether you’re catching waves or just chillin’ with friends,” Shaw writes, “Vibes CBD’s refreshing flavors and soothing properties will be your go-to beachside companion.”

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

During his time at FIT, Shaw interned for two outstanding design firms. The first was with graphic design agency Piscatello Design Centre. “It gave him a keen sense of what excellence looks like,” says Prof. Klimchuk. Shaw then spent several semesters interning for JDO, a global brand and packaging design agency.

“These educational experiences and his innate abilities took his design thinking skills and executional abilities to a new level,” says Prof. Klimchuk.

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

Shaw is currently employed by the design agency Vault49, working on packaging and branding design.

Says Prof. Klimchuck “I am beyond proud of Harry. I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot of outstanding brands and packaging designs in the marketplace that Harry had his hands on.”

Harrison “Harry” Shaw

To see more of Harrison Shaw’s work visit his website: HarrisonShaw.myporfolio.com, and on Instagram @shawgraphics.nyc.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Packaging Design program, go to Packaging Design at FIT.

All images used with permission.

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A conceptual online museum of appropriated art

When he was a child growing up in Szechuan, China, Harry XiZhuo Lin enjoyed watching television programs on art and culture, such as those on the History Channel. He always noticed where the artwork came from –- places like Egypt, China and India –- and where it had ended up –- places like the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre.

From Harry Lin’s presentation of “The Stolen History of Art Collection”

Lin, an Advertising and Digital Design senior, learned more about “stolen art” and issues of repatriations through his studies at FIT. His interest never abated. He was recently awarded first prize in an NFT Design Competition sponsored by Fabriq Labs, a digital design marketplace. Lin’s winning project, “The Stolen History of Art Collection,” is a NFT collection of artwork and artifacts that have been deemed improperly acquired from their places of origin.

Lin aims to correct misconceptions and bring attention to looted art:

“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this,” says Lin. “If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic.”

Lin describes NFTs as “representing digital authenticity and ownership.” His NFT collection is minted through what he calls an “experience art gallery.”

”Visitors will be allowed to acquire the NFT through contactless technology,” says Lin. Think of it as digital theft of already stolen art!

Harry Lin’s project provides examples of “stolen” artworks

“We want people to keep the authentic history of art alive,” says Lin who is passionate about artwork being accessible to all. He says that of the approximately 8,000,000 artifacts in the holdings of The British Museum, only a very small percentage are on display.

During a semester abroad studying at Leeds Arts University in the UK, Lin gained greater appreciation for issues involving art repatriation:

“I feel privileged to have visited the UK and to travel abroad to see these artifacts in person. I wish my people from China could all do the same to understand our heritage and the achievements of our ancestors.”

Lin explains the process of transforming images to the 3D platform Blender before formatting for NFT minting
Lin explains the process of transforming images to the 3D platform Blender before formatting for NFT minting.

Lin’s winning project was part of his senior graduation thesis in the format of an integrated advertising campaign. “This is an ongoing project. My hope is that one day museums will acknowledge the dark history of their acquisitions by repatriating certain works of art,” he says.

“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this. If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic,” says Lin.

In addition to minoring in Art History, Psychology, and Creative Technology, Lin is president of the Metaverse Club, for FIT students interested in exploring new technology and working on digital design projects.

The Metaverse Club won third place in the NFT Design Competition. Its project prompts fellow students to create a collection of NFTs that reflect the diversity and creativity at FIT. Photos of students are turned into characters in voxel (Lego-like) style. The club’s advisor, Interaction Design and Immersive Technologies professor Michael Posso, ’08, had arranged for guest speakers to discuss blockchain and 3D design.

The second place prize went to Lauren Breuer, a Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries senior. Her “Spot the Difference” art collection addresses the topic of speciesism with a focus on the dog and cow meat trades.

Metaverse Club won third place in the NFT Competition

Fabriq Labs, an advocate of “Web3,” partnered with FIT for this first NFT Design Competition. Web3 is the general term for the emerging on-line collection of small, specialized, often individual web services.  The contest was initiated by Chair William Reinisch and Professor Renee Leibler of the Entrepreneurship department.

Prize money was $2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second; and $750 for third.

Harry XiZhuo Lin

To see more of Harry XiZhuo Lin’s work, visit his website: harry-lin.com. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Click here to learn more about the Advertising and Digital Design major and here for information about student Clubs and Activities at FIT.

Click here to learn more about Student Contests and Industry-Related Projects.

All images used with permission

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A postcard with a stark message about school gun violence

“I started off with the image of the empty classroom, brought in the silhouette of a hand holding a gun, and then, using the pen and star tools in Illustrator, illustrated the American flag behind that in the windows,” says Cindy Choo describing how she created the winning image for FIT’s Constitution Day Postcard Competition.

“I thought of the prevalence of school shootings in the news and the fear they create for school children and teens,” said the Graphic Design senior.

Cindy Choo’s first-place winning Constitution Day Postcard

Choo won first place in the annual postcard competition sponsored by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Participants are instructed to illuminate a section of the U.S. Constitution in a contemporary context.

Professor Ronald Bacsa had assigned students in his Design Competition class (GD 361) to create work for the completion. Students had to design a front and back of a 3×5 or 4×6-inch postcard that reflects their beliefs in any part of the Constitution.

“Creating a victorious work that addresses the issue of gun control feels entirely appropriate with all that is going on in the news,” said Prof. Bacsa.

Choo, who is minoring in Art History and Asian Studies, is a gpassionate about designing playful, fun, and colorful pieces that bring joy, but I am also committed to creating meaningful work that speaks to people on a deeper level,” she says.

“I believe that the right to bear arms should be balanced with the need to prevent gun violence. Implementing gun control measures is essential to prevent further tragedies,” said Choo. “Thoughts and prayers alone aren’t enough.”

Winners of the Constitution Day competition are selected in the spring for the week of Constitution Day. (Constitution Day is September 17.) To submit a design for 2024, students can email their work to [email protected] and cc: history professor Daniel Levinson Wilk who helps oversee the competition at: [email protected].

See more of Cindy Choo’s work her website and follow her in IG: @nicetomeetcchoo.

Follow this link for more information about FIT’s Graphic Design BFA.

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Daisy Ruiz’s illustrated South Bronx tale

Daisy Ruiz, Illustration ’16, has released her first book, “Gordita: Built Like This.” In this illustrated long-form comic, a Chicana Bronx teen is bullied for not being curvy, but is helped by friends and mentors. The plot mirrors the author’s own middle school experiences and offers lots of good advice to victims and to folks who can help. A sequel is already in the works.

“Gordita: Built Like This” is a 28-page comic illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Ruiz, known online as Draizys, is founder and creative director of the award-winning compilation zine Deadass Tho NYC. Her illustrations take inspiration from her career trajectory, her East Coast Chicana upbringing, and everyday NYC living.

“The story came out of me growing up as a Mexican-American in the South Bronx,” she says.

“I experienced shame as a child from my family, classmates, and strangers because of my body shape. It took a long time for me to love myself. It’s a journey I’m still on. I want young kids and adults alike to know that we are more than our bodies, and to learn to accept ourselves as we are.”

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Gordita’s friends and guidance counselor are central to the sophisticated storyline. They provide different perspectives to Gordita’s lived experiences. Among the characters:

Cassandra is the prettiest girl in the class but she’s shunned by classmates for being curvy and having the boys attention, she’s sexualized at a very early age.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Treasure is gothic and bisexual. She speaks up for her friends but she’s still reduced to being called fat by classmates.

Marie is quiet and shy because of her body odor despite her being a pretty girl.

Miss Payne, a woman in her 30’s, can emphasize with the girls because she was their age once.

Gordita relates to all their stories and realizes that no matter the body shape, some people will always have something off-putting to say.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

“I experienced bullying in subtle ways at FIT,” she admits. “But being in the EOP (Equal Opportunity Program), I was able to know people from different majors, so I never felt isolated for being a BIPOC student.”

EOP is a program that acquaints incoming students with navigating FIT in a summer program before college starts. FIT also assigns a counselor to each student for support.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Daisy has an uncommonly long list of people who helped her at FIT. “I’d like to give a shout-out to my professors Eric Velasquez, Kam Mak, William Low, Tony Capparelli, the late Chris Spollen, and Ray Lago for being particularly instrumental professors in my journey to becoming an artist,” she said.

There are two versions of “Gordita,” one with more frank language that could be inappropriate for some youngsters. It is already available in English, with Spanish editions and, as noted, a sequel coming soon.

Daisy “Draizys” Ruiz, illustrator and author

“Gorditas” will be available shortly in the Gladys Marcus Library. The book can be purchased at Blackjoseipress.com, in person at the Silver Sprocket store in San Francisco, Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, and Gulf Coast Cosmos Comics in Houston.

Follow Daisy Ruiz on IG: @Draizys, and on Twitter: @Draizys.

To learn more about FIT’s Illustration and Interactive Media major, go to: Illustration at FIT.

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Elaine Drew: Actor, Tailor, Medieval Writer

After two novels that take readers back 1300 years to early medieval England, Elaine Drew has just released a lavishly illustrated short story from the same period, A Knight’s Bad Day. Another is in the works.

Drew had a bachelor’s in English from Emory University and had worked in public relations for General Electric before tiring of corporate life, turning to acting, and coming to FIT for an associate’s degree in Fashion Design, graduating in 1976.

Cover art “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

 “Acting at least has some link to English and writing,” Drew said. But her mother had been a talented designer and seamstress, and her boyfriend at the time, an actor, had by happenstance gotten a free, reconditioned old Singer for her.

“The machine was shiny and black and beautifully decorated with gold scrolls. I was less than thrilled. But feeling guilty, I thought I’d better sew something. I bought a pattern and learned to sew the way I had learned to cook: by slavishly following the directions.” It was the 70s, pre-YouTube.

Detail from “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

“To my surprise, I found this absorbing. I decided to decorate the long wool culottes I’d made (it was, again, the 70s) with hand embroidery that I made up as I went. I was hooked.”

Drew said her years writing university papers and corporate pamphlets had left her wondering if her output was any good. “But when I made a garment, I could hang it up and look at it. I could tell whether it was good or not. I decided to become a designer.”

From “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

Cue FIT: “I loved my classes. I even loved the sewing instructor who ripped out the zipper I had slaved over and then explained how to do it correctly. I dearly loved my tailoring tutor who taught us couture techniques, and my millinery instructor who showed us how to block felt into a shape.

“I loved draping and pattern making. A big surprise was loving the History of Costume course. I had never liked history, and this introduction to the field from a different point of view came in handy when I started to research the early medieval period for my writing.

Detail from “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

“I got my start painting in the Fashion Illustration course, which acquainted me with watercolor and illustration techniques. The Life class started a lifelong interest in drawing the figure.”

FIT helped Drew get her first job, at a junior sportswear company called N.U.T.S. The owners didn’t want to say, but in time they confessed it was the acronym for “No Underwear This Season.” Again, and for the last time, it was the 70s.

Garden and castle from “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

After a few years Drew went freelance. “It was the era of boutique clothing, and I created and sold one-of-a-kind pieces to department stores like Bendel’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdales, as well as many small boutiques.”

She also made costumes for a group that put on medieval plays at The Cloisters and was an exhibition consultant for The Met’s Costume Institute. She met fashion scholar Harold Koda there long before he was its curator. Drew had a gig in Paris for an exhibition of Ballet Russe costumes and later married and moved to Los Angeles and worked in costuming for the Center Theater Group.

Detail from “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

All of that has influenced her books: “I look at a character’s costume from the point of view of its construction.

“I learned to go to libraries and museums. Illustration skills flow from design skills, such as thinking about the design of a page, the color story, and adding a telling detail while not distracting from the whole. As an FIT teacher explained, ‘You can only have one prima ballerina.’”

From “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

“After we moved to a small village in England, I decided it was time to find work that didn’t depend on a specific location. I was writing more—even poetry for Winchester Cathedral—when Saxon remains were found under the children’s school playground. I began thinking about these early English.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to set the Cinderella story in early English times with a bratty and sassy heroine, the opposite of her usual portrayal?

Christine Mower in “Noah’s Ark,” performed at the Cloisters. Costume by Elaine Drew

That led to two years researching this period of Hampshire’s history (around 802) and spawned her first book, Courting Trouble. “I enjoyed the main characters of that book so much that I did another book about them, Nun Too Clever, a mystery.

Stephen de Pietri in “A Woman Taken in Adultery,” performed at the Cloisters. Costume by Elaine Drew

For those books, she illustrated the covers.  A Knight’s Bad Day illustrates a tale featuring the hero of the first two books.

The illustrations for that book were mostly manual. Drew did outline sketches designed as two-page spreads, then refined and enlarged in Adobe Illustrator and printed full size with a wide format printer. With a light box and Faber-Castell Ecco Pigment pens, she traced the line art onto Arches watercolor paper, then painted these illustrations with Holbein’s gouache. The finished paintings were scanned and modified in Adobe Photoshop.

Detail from “A Knight’s Bad Day,” by Elaine Drew

For her next project, in progress, she’s using only digital tools, adding an iPad and Fresco to the mix. She’s back in the United States, living in the San Francisco Bay area, in the town of Pleasanton. But the Saxons followed her.

Elaine Drew in her studio, Pleasanton, CA

Elaine Drew’s book “A Knight’s Bad Day,” will be available shortly in the Gladys Marcus Library.

To see more of the writer and illustrator’s work, visit ElaineDrew.com and on Instagram: @Elaine_Drew3

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Fashion Design major, visit Fashion Design at FIT.

All images used with permission.

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Toy Design’s Susan Adamo Baumbach on Whimsy, Twists and Tech

Professor Susan Adamo Baumbach, longtime faculty member, is now acting chair of FIT’s high-profile Toy Design department. Thriving in the fast-moving world of design, refinement, production and sales of toys and games, is a challenge she meets. While she’s a die-hard enthusiast for some games of the past— must-have toys like the Frisbee and a deck of cards–she’s constantly working on the next thing.

Acting Chair of Toy Design Susan Adamo Baumbach. Photo: Sophie Lancione

We asked the acting chair about her life in toys and her vision for the department:

Could you describe a few highlights of your week as acting chair?

SAB: I’ve been teaching Game Design during the spring semester for many years. The biggest highlight for me is when I see students’ work evolve, see that there’s been exploration and not just holding to the original concepts. I love playing games with them. Tonight I brought in Pie Face!, Boom Boom Balloon, Tapple and Chardoodles.

Photo: Sophie Lancione

One of your early jobs was as an editor of a video game publication. How did it lead to toy design?

SAB: I got a cold call while I was at Video Games Magazine about an opening at CBS, which was starting a video games division. I didn’t design video games, I reviewed them. But I got the job, then went to their toys department. From there I went to Pressman Toys where I worked for a long time. (Games are the core of Pressman’s product line – classics and ones based on TV game shows.)

How much does being in NYC give the department an edge?

SAB: We can walk down any street and have an idea. One toy inventor told me that he is always asking himself, “Is there a toy here? Is there a game here?” He would go to Canal Street and buy random parts to see if he had something when he got home.

One of my favorite stories has to do with Chicago inventor Burt Meyer who was in NY for the Toy Fair. He and his boss, Marvin Glass, were looking at the lighted boards around Times Square and Glass said that if you could make that into a toy, then we’d really have something. Once back in Chicago, Burt started work on what would become Lite Brite, one of the top toys of all time.

Photo: Sophie Lancione

What things are most important to you in a Toy Design applicant?

SAB: Good question: Fresh thinking that takes everything about the end-user into consideration, some art skills with a good sense of proportion, maybe whimsy, an unusual twist on something we think we already know.

Our department recruits students heading into junior year. Many students hear about it at FIT. They meet someone in the program, they find it in the course book. We do a “cookies and milk” event to publicize the department.

Photo: Christian Steininger

Where did you grow up and what toys did you play with?

SAB: I grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. A neighbor who was a year younger than me had a great stash of toys and games. When my older sister Jane caught on that I was a sucker for games, she started charging me a quarter to play with her.

Photo: Christian Steininger

How did your taste in toys and games evolve?

SAB: A game called Think-a-Dot made me aware that math had toy applications. That was definitely a leap. Etch-a-Sketch was quite a ‘wow.’ Mr. Potato Head (rebranded to Potato Head) —using real produce. I had a plastic train set I loved; Barbie, Ken, Midge and Alan, a 10-speed bike. My tastes grew with every new box I opened.

So many kids now spend so much time on social media. Do they have time for toys?

SAB: Well, many of their adults limit social media time. And sometimes kids feel spent themselves and want a new ‘flavor.’ Spring is here—Frisbees, bike riding, kite flying, drone flying—These provide their own experience as well.

Photo: Christian Steininger

I used to have a doll and it just sat there. At best, my dolls had eyes that blinked. Now they can practically do your homework. Is there less of a nurturing element with owning a doll?

SAB: Typical baby dolls have given way to plush, which may now, overall, give kids that toy-nurturing play. Plush feels so good, can have amazing colors and features and, if licensed plush, is like having your favorite characters at home.

Major news outlets are reporting a big increase in interest in toys and games for adults. A third of all toys and games are used by adults. Are you adapting your curriculum to this expanding market?

Toy Design Acting Chair Susan Adamo Baumbach. Photo: Sophie Lancione

SAB: I don’t know that any one of us can keep track of all of it, so we have to keep asking each other, “What’s up? What’s going on?” I’m frequently using Google News to search “toys”, “games” and company names.

The biggest change is students designing toys in Solid Works, which are then printed in our Print FX 3D lab. Advanced hard-toy design and engineering, drafting and technical drawing—the department keeps up with the expanding market and a big part of that is our relationship with the faculty who, at their own full time jobs, are always ahead of the game.

With so much evolution in the toy industry, how do you recruit faculty members who are on top of their craft and are also good teachers?

SAB: Right now we are on the hunt for a couple of people who are good industrial designers. So saying that here is one way to attract them! We also get recommendations from our faculty.

Photo: Sophie Lancione

Toys today cover a staggering gamut of playing experiences. Is there still a toy that everyone of a certain age “must” have?

SAB: I would say—Frisbee, deck of cards, couple of pairs of dice, chalk, ball.

What type of inter-disciplinary activities might you have in mind?

SAB: Right now we are involved with the Cooke School and Institute in South Harlem. Juniors and seniors also work with the Hudson Guild here in Chelsea. It’s an agency focused on those in economic need.

What toys do you buy for your own family?

SAB: Husband David and daughter Aurora are both players of SET, an amazing card game. They also like SpotIt! and Aurora is especially too good at it,

Toy Design Acting Chair Susan Adamo Baumbach. Photo: Sophie Lancione

To learn more about the Toy Design major in the School of Art and Design visit: Toy Design at FIT.

All photos by Photography majors Sophie Lancione and Christian Steininger. To see more of their work go to: SophieLancoione.com and on IG: @sophie.lancione. Follow Christian Steininger on IG: @ccsteininger.

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The Radical Act of Repair: Artful, Visible Mending

It may be a radical idea, but you don’t always need to hide your mending. Your stitching can be admired. Students and faculty members recently participated in “Radical Acts of Repair,” a workshop featuring noted textile artist Celia Pym remotely from London. It explored darning and the art of textile repair.

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Round patched darning techniques with pieced knitwear. Moths take notice!

The workshop, supported by the college’s Sustainability Grant, was led by Fashion Design professors Tom Scott and Amy Sperber. Pym gave detailed demonstrations and also discussed several projects she’s created in her London studio.

“Celia spoke inspiringly about the individuals and stories behind the garments that she’s mended,” said Prof. Scott. “Her work focuses on bringing a new chapter into a garment’s life by repairing it with visible mending techniques that are celebrated, rather than hidden.”

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Detail of a student’s woven darn technique as the weft is being completed. 

Each participant brought an accessory or item of clothing to work on. They received guidance from Pym on repairing their well-loved, well-worn items. No previous darning experience was necessary.

Photo: Smiljana Peros
Photo: Smiljana Peros

Fourth-year Knitwear student Jennifer Ho practicing the darning techniques on a sweater she brought to the workshop.

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Student practicing the woven darn technique with waste yarns collected from the Knitting Machine Lab.

Photo: Smiljana Peros

 Fourth-year Sportswear student Amari Harper, starting the weft threads on her woven darn mending. 

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Student notes from artist talk and darning demonstration given by Pym, and student example of woven darn technique using yarns collected by Prof. Scott.

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Fourth-year Knitwear student Anna Lindsey darning the back of a sweater.  

Photo: Smiljana Peros

Group shot of Radical Repair participants with Pym in her London studio.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Fashion Design major, visit Fashion Design at FIT.

To learn more about FIT’s Sustainability Grants go to: FIT Sustainability projects.

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