Chelsea Exploration for Textile Inspiration

Fabric Styling BFA students come from a variety of majors and not all have the painting experience that Professor Sara Petitt finds important for creating original fabric designs.

Students painting from inspiration cards before translating to Bristol paper and digital scanning

“I want students to be able to scan painted and drawn images into the computer and continue to work on them digitally. This way they expand their design options and add something to the mix that’s exciting,” she says.

To find inspiration from sources they might not otherwise use, Prof. Petitt brought her sixth-semester Color Combinations and Repeats class to Chelsea art galleries where the students viewed contemporary art and collected invitational postcards of work they admired.

“The goal is not to copy artists’ work but to appreciate the beauty of the brush strokes and the nuanced lines, which is quite different than beginning with computer imagery,” she said.

Fabric Styling student Niambi Moore incorporated her favorite lyrics into her design

Upon return from some 20 galleries, students hand-painted their chosen images on copies of newsprint in order to experiment freely.

“Students shouldn’t overlook the beauty of the painted line, which has a vitality that escapes even the best digital paint brush tool. There’s something different about holding a brush or a pen or a pencil and drawing or painting,” she says.

CAMELLIA AULD has mapped her design to be printed on bedding fabric

“I encourage them to take elements of the postcards and to paint with gouaches, water-based tempera paints,” says Prof. Petitt. “I want them to combine the spontaneity of drawing. To keep the feeling of freedom I’m having them work on newspaper.”

After exploring the design they then paint on Bristol paper, to later be scanned and mapped as product samples. Students chose to create their final output for either home fashions or apparel.


“Working this way makes our designs more personal, versus working directly with computers, which tends be straight lines, clean squares and shapes.”- Fabric Styling student Chaerhin Kim 

“I want them to do all-over, tossed designs,” says Petitt. “They should have a sense of where the pattern repeats on printed cloth.  We spend time doing tracing layouts.  It’s different doing a hands-on repeat as opposed to a digital repeat,” says Petitt.

“When the students go back and do their work digitally they will be aware of additional possible design layouts, ones that reflect their inner aesthetic and personality.” she says.

Fabric Styling student Lauren Phillips created a textile design for the apparel industry

“This is the first time I used gouache. I can mix a lot of colors and make a lot of variations. It’s freehand, so we can get what we want easier than with the computers. If we make mistakes we can still overlap and change into a new design.” – Fabric Design student Soyeon Kim

“Textile designers should enjoy creating their designs. Your soul shows though in your work! They need to understand good design because many fashion fields deal with print and pattern,” says Prof. Petitt.

Laura Onuska’s patterns go into many product areas. “She has a very edgy fashion sense,” says Prof. Petitt.

Students in Prof. Petitt’s class learn the hand fundamentals before they go into the digital world. “They’ll take that with them and it will only serve them well,” she says.

Soyeon Kim’s dress pattern “The handpainted gradations of color in these designs convey a free spirited textile design,” says Prof. Petitt

“I enjoyed the Chelsea art galleries as a source of inspiration. I hadn’t been there before. It was good to get that experience in a class like this to see different color forms and artistic ways.” Fabric Design student Laura Onuska

“We’re so lucky to be in New York City, the art, cultural and fashion capital of the world. I want them to experience as much as they can of what the city has to offer and use it as inspiration for their work.”

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Michaela Lawson deconstructs Kendrick Lamar Grammy album

Photography student Michaela Lawson was struck last August by inspiration so strong for Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy album Damn that she was compelled to “speak her truth” about it.  Unintimidated by the album’s stature, she became part of an informal community of artists independently responding to it.

DNA: “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“My photography is not only inspired by the visual arts of different periods, but by other mediums, especially music,” says Lawson. The overarching theme of Lamar’s lyrics is “’You decide the choices you make. How do you want to see the outcome of things?’” she says. “It brought me to ask myself how I might approach my photography and express myself the best way I can.  I had to start thinking what I wanted to show the viewer.” Planning it all on her own was a personal challenge, she says.

Fear: “I’ll prolly die walkin’ back from the candy house, I’ll prolly die ‘cause these colors are standing out…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

Lawson says she listened intently to “every beat, and lyric-by-lyric, to deconstruct and decipher it until I understood each individual theme of the 14 tracks.” The multiple interpretations and complexity of the album didn’t escape her.  By October 26, she had a set of photos responding to each song. “I chose a line from each of the 14 songs that stood out for me. I made it a priority to visually explain how this could connect to me,” says Lawson.

God: “Flex on swole” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“I am impressed by Michaela’s work.  Her use of color and the striking compositions of these photos are powerful. While being attuned to the times and current culture, she clearly has a personal vision that is evident in every one of these photos.”  Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design 

“Songs like ‘XXX’ made me look at my world, my feelings toward America and how it has treated my people and anyone less fortunate,” says Lawson. “ I found lines like: “’America please take my hand, can you help me under’– it  cut off at ‘under’ — which is intriguing to me.” She says she used her visuals to amplify the consequences of the country’s current gun laws and interpretations of Second Amendment rights.

XXX: “America, please take my hand can you help me under…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“I created a handmade physical notebook for the project and printed miniature pictures for references. I made a calendar with a final deadline before Thanksgiving break. Almost every October weekend I shot. “I used lighting equipment and gels that complimented Black complexions. I used red and blue, big and small depending how much red and how much blue. I also wanted to light black skin in a visually pleasing way. It coincided with the theme of Wickedness vs. Weakness,” she said.

Loyality: “Tell me who you’re loyal to…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“Michaela is someone to watch. She’s influenced by movies, books, words, definitely music–not only visual things but her experiences. She’s quiet but assimilating things around her. It allows her to produce. She’s a self-motivator. Yes, there are outside things that motivate her. I’d classify it as being an artist.  An artist should always be producing and she always is.” – Prof. Curtis Willocks 

“The models I used brought their own postures, their own style–we all connected as one. I enjoyed working with so many different Black people. We talked about each song,” she said. “It was a coincidence that we were learning to use strobes in class [Photo 3: Advance Photographic Solutions] and that was what I needed the most to help me with the project,” she said.

Love: “ Just love me..” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“David Joseph who works in the cage [where photographic equipment is stored] gave me advice about equipment. Professor Willocks gave me help in the studio. Being able to try the strobes and decide on effects these expensive things make possible was terrific. Now I carry that knowledge wherever I go. “Professor Willocks would always say ‘You have these resources –the equipment and lighting, lenses, cameras — Use it!’ His class made me a better photographer.  If I wasn’t at the school I probably would not have done this project. The resources–there is so much you can do.”

Element: “They won’t take me out my element..” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“The models I chose reflect how I see myself. Not extravagant, but people who dress like me and express me in my culture as a Black woman in America. I wanted to show Black love, Black friendships, Black fear, Black pain, and of course pride.”

To see more of Michaela Lawson’s project go to What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth. To visit her website go to: TiltedLivingVisuals

Photos used with permission.

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From Jacquard to Pointcarre: Back to the Looming Future

There’s a great story behind the groupings of textile samples now on display in the Feldman Center fifth floor hallway. The swatches, with their 3D texture, have themes, style and color suitable for upholstery or apparel. Woven samples like these are used for student portfolios and as selling tools by the industry.

Textile Surface Design students use computer-aided hand looms to develop the weaving and software skills used in industry production.  “Developing the technical and creative skills that are in keeping with the inherent limitations of the looms and software,” says Professor Nomi Kleinman, “requires critical thinking as well as artistic sense.”

Textile designs by: Mia Nazzaro

The collections were created in Complex Dobby Wovens (TD 334) class, which focuses on industry practices for designing woven fabrics using the computer-aided design program Pointcarre.  Part of the assignment, says Prof. Kleinman, was to develop collections coordinated through color and one of three trend options.

Prof. Kleinman pointed to various student work that stretches the limits of design using the technology.

“Mia’s work [above] is successful because of the stylized shapes and minimalist look. She responded creatively to a trend that was assigned, by drawing her own shapes and then adapting those using the software,” said Prof. Kleinman.

Fabric designs by: Stephanie Stickle

“Stephanie [above] did a beautiful job interpreting her sketches from idea to fabric. The software allowed for highly detailed adaptation of original sketches,” said Prof. Kleinman.

“The use of Pointcarre has allowed students access to industry-wide textile software to produce real world fabrics. Their knowledge of weaving, coupled with Pointcarre’s advanced tools and functions, enables students to design within the constraints and rules they would apply when going to production. We can easily see from the examples the students have woven that understanding those parameters has  enabled them to be ready for anything that is asked of them.” – Steve Greenberg, President, Pointcarre USA. 

Fabric designs by: Alexa West

The students used a construction technique called Pique, which means “to prick” in French. The name comes from the quilted quality of the construction, which can be seen in all the student work.

“Alexa accomplished beautiful dimension in her fabrics [above]. They have an almost carved out quality. She’s walking this line between organic and geometric shapes,” says Prof. Kleinman.

Fabric Design by: Donna Schneiderman

Donna Schneiderman’s work, above, is a unique theme, says Prof. Kleinman. “She did alternative camouflage. She developed this brightly sun-kissed colored look. The shapes are reinterpretations of standard camouflage. She worked within the parameters of the loom to develop sophisticated patterns.”

Fabric designs by: Miriam Ortega

Says Prof. Kleinman “Miriam Ortega drew on her family’s Central American heritage as inspiration and redrew traditional motifs.  The yarns she chose give it a water-color-painted effect and bring something very unexpected to the surface.”

Fabric Designs by: Keira Wiggins

“One of the fabulous things about these fabrics [of Keira Wiggin’s above] is the scale,” said Prof. Kleinman. “In weaving we’re limited by width, but not height. She used that to her advantage to develop designs that appear very large scale. She reinterpreted the diamond in several different ways to bring something new to the familiar motif.”

If you’re thinking you can buy a yard of fabric from a student you may be out of luck. These take up to an hour an inch to weave.

“Industry employers would be motivated to hire students based on seeing structure like these,” says Kleinman “It shows how they understand the building blocks of woven designs, their color abilities and sense of style.”


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“She sits beside me like a silhouette”

As told to by fourth semester photography student Haleigh Foray: 

It’s my job as a photographer to make my subject feel comfortable and real in front of the camera. Yet I wasn’t able to feel that way myself as a subject. So how could I ask someone to do that for me? During a six-week project I became more myself and free.

Haleigh Foray

At the start of the winter break, Professor Curtis Willocks gave an assignment to our Traditional Photography (PH253) class that would be due at the start of the semester. We were to assume the role of a LIFE magazine photographer of the 1950s. Any topic was fair game, even if it had a contemporary relevance. In deciding what to capture, I kept coming back to self-portraiture.

I came across a project “Self-Untitled” by photographer Samantha Geballe. Her work explores body image through self portraits, which she states “envisions the feeling that false interpretation provokes.” She put herself forward for everyone to see, with nothing to hide — something I’ve struggled with doing.  The focus of my project proposal was to be comfortable and confident in front of the camera, whether I or another photographer was taking the photographs.

Haleigh Foray

“Haleigh’s work is just beautiful. Her composition, her use of light, her style. She’s very sensitive to people, always helping and assisting others, and now she’s applying that sensitivity to herself. This project gave her the chance to express herself–who she is as a young woman” – Professor Curtis Willocks

There was a musical component that set the tone of the project: “She sits beside me like a silhouette sings Harry Styles in a song from a recent solo album. Those words took on a special meaning for me–Silhouettes show your body.

Women are still expected to act and look a certain way in projecting their confidence and beauty that’s limiting in scope. I wanted to show that you just need to own your body for what it is now, in the present.

 Photos provided by Haleigh Foray

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“Another level of reality” in Andrew Williams-Leazer’s thesis work

The whole world is an assemblage when you think about it. Things drop off, get picked up and reused.  In Andrew Williams-Leazer’s Fine Arts thesis work, you can often tell where he’s been, and what he’s picked up and contemplated along the way.

Williams-Leazer’s assembleges, as he calls them, go beyond the borders of his canvases to portray cartoon figures gone psycho, pop culture figures gone awry, and the punishment of a prize-fighter’s power punch.

“Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“It got to where if I didn’t add anything to the canvas’ surface I wasn’t impressed with my work,” says Williams-Leazer who is entering his eighth semester. His work includes a hybrid of painting, 3D elements and collage techniques.

Materials he uses are often hyper local: notes he took in Spanish and biology classes, found Monopoly money, reassembled magazine lettering, and wooden limbs and numbers made from scrap wood.

Detail of “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

The streets, the curbs, landing areas, recycling bins, all serve as Williams-Leazer’s art supply store. He browses, lingers, considers the shapes and materials of each item.

“I wasn’t doing great financially in my Abstraction class,” he says. “For my last project I asked Professor Jeff Way if  I could build something instead of using a traditional canvas. I built it entirely with scraps of wood from the sculpture room and elsewhere. I was very particular; I only chose interesting shapes.”

Detail of “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“Andrew’s work is raucous, colorful and layered with multiple meanings. With connections to recent art grappling with race and identity it is clear that Andrew is very self-aware and committed to a serious project. I look forward to following his work and career.” – Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design

Says the young artist who grew up on Long Island, “When I stick to an idea, but listen to feedback, the work improves. There’s nothing better than critical critique,” he says. “The feedback from professors is great. I’ve been able to produce my vision. The best professors are great guides,” he says.

Detail, “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“The next semester, in Abstract and Figuration, we were to use a technique from the previous semester. I started applying wood to canvas.” By his last semester, in Painting and Development of Thesis class, Williams-Leazer says “I kinda owned it in terms of a technique for developing a body of work. I would stretch the boundaries of the guidelines but meet the requirements.”

“Andrew’s work deals with the modern, crowded, urban world we live in. It’s full of engaging imagery, both serious and humorous. He’s using materials in a way that gives his work another level of reality.” – Fine Arts Professor Susan Daykin

Andrew Williams-Leazer with his work

His work “Death’s Birthday,” has “painterly aspects like the Playboy figure, and more gestured ones like Marilyn Monroe.” he says “While the Batman is sketched loosely as a figure drawing. It was an interesting relationship when I applied class notes and sketches juxtaposed with the largely drawn figures,” he says.

“Forgetful Father Fight!,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

Wood pieces used to create a gun, knife, pipe, fist and little dog are used in his “Forgetful Father Fight!” The “ahhhh” and “woof” in this “comic book rumble,” as he calls it, are borrowed from cartoons. The piece represents a dispute between a father and son.

“THE BIG DISPUTE,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“All of my works came about from overall ideas I had,” says Williams-Leazer. “For ‘THE BIG DISPUTE,’ a large ominous arm comes from outside the canvas to connect with the main figure. It’s a dispute, a boxing match. I wanted the main figure to look disoriented, so that’s a central part, a collage-like element. The figure is the starving artist. I put him in several pieces. It’s a hidden figure, a character. Maybe I’m referencing myself.”

Andrew Williams-Leazer with his works that combine assemblage, collage and painting techniques.

Photos provided by Andrew Williams-Leazer, Sue Willis & Rachel Ellner

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Ron Amato Captures Artist Portraits in Provincetown

Great images are captured in an instant, but providing history and context is the product of years of research and observation. Professor Ron Amato combines a sense of Provincetown history along with an understanding of newly destabilizing demographic trends there. He used the latest in photographic lighting technology to, well, make more history.

“Anne Packard,” by Ron Amato

Amato’s work reached near completion during his recent sabbatical, two years after his initial efforts to capture Provincetown artists in their work spaces. He has been photographing in crowded, often creatively chaotic artists’ studios since 2015 and now has assembled enough for an upcoming exhibit at Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

“With this body of work Ron Amato demonstrates his abilities as a photographer to truly capture a place and its people.” -Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design

“I began the project because I was intrigued by Provincetown’s robust artists’ community,” says Amato. “There is a bustling but insular art economy that drives part of the town. It seemed closed to outsiders. I had a deep desire to break that surface and find what it was all about.”

“Robert Henry,” by Ron Amato

The photos highlight the salient issue in Provincetown’s current debacle — the artist population is aging. New young talent is mostly frozen out of permanent residence by high real estate costs. They are the victims of Provincetown’s cachet.

“I had numerous conversations with the artists about the difficulties faced by younger artists living and working here the way they have done,” says Amato. “Three artists I photographed are part of a group that secured an old community center to create Provincetown Commons, a space for supporting young talent. This is artists rising up to help other artists. It’s greatly inspiring.”

“Pasquale Natale,” by Ron Amato

Amato was originally drawn to Provincetown by the fellowship of the artist community. But the history began to intrigue him: the Pilgrim landing in 1620, the rich traditions of the Portuguese fishing community, the response to the AIDS crisis, and now the changing demographics. “It’s what makes for a delicate balance that keeps drawing people back,” says Amato.

“Jo Hay,” by Ron Amato

Longtime residents are quick to point out (400 years later) that the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown before they sailed across the bay to a beach they called Plymouth Plantation.  Since at least 1899, when Charles Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art, artists have been prominent in Provincetown. But the artist colony was in decline by midcentury. It wasn’t until long after World War II that a new and diverse generation of artists saved Provincetown from kitsch and economic decline.

“The unique artist community that has developed around Provincetown is beautifully and humanely brought to life and the work represents a remarkable achievement for Prof. Amato,” says Dean Richards

“Mira Schor,” by Ron Amato

The technology Amato used for this project helped. “In recent years there have been advances in battery-operated studio strobes that allowed portability and nimbleness while shooting.  This was key to capturing the images I have,” he says.

Amato often worked in tight, cluttered spaces or outdoors. The lightweight, portable but powerful units, allowed him to work without a wall plug or an assistant.

“Pete Hocking,” by Ron Amato

The units are controlled by an attachment to Amato’s camera. “I never had to put down my camera to change the lighting ratios. I could do it all from the controller. I could create multiple outcomes from the same setup and choose the one I liked the best in post production.” says Amato.

“John Dowd,” by Ron Amato

Amato’s first visit to Provincetown was in the summer of 1999. “The town cast a spell on me,” he says. “It was the first time I felt free, of judgment, commitment, of my own limitations.” He brought with him rolls of expired film as an afterthought.  “I ended up shooting every roll I brought with me. In a way this project started that summer 18 years ago.”

All photos used with permission


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NYC: Drawing on First Impressions

The magic of digital design isn’t all on the screen. It’s also what students learn roaming the Manhattan street grid and the even more colorful places like Coney Island and the Highline.

Mary Perrone’s Mood Board

Students in Professor Lauren Zodel’s Digital Design Studio class learn Photoshop and Illustrator techniques specific to fashion design. Course assignments emphasize sketching, color, line planning, silhouette, and fabric design.

Three of her students this fall chose iconic images from New York City for their projects. “The common thread for first-year students is being new to New York, and their expectations versus the city’s reality. With so much going on here, they miss a lot…the small things within the big picture.”

Says Mary Perrone “I was most nervous about this class; I’m not one to spend spare time on the computer.” But it turned out to be one of her favorites she said. “Prof. Zodel played off our individual styles very well. She understands your vision and instructs you to that end.”

Mary Perrone found inspiration on Wall Street

Mary Perrone:

“I was watching the Business Channel – at the bottom of the CNN screen in the FIT dining hall,” said Perrone. “I took a financial course in high school and we developed our own stock portfolios. It was considered a life skill. It fascinates me that I can be a part shareholder of something so big.”

For her project, Perrone, who is from Flower Mound, Texas, explored Wall Street and took photos of the bull across from the New York Stock Exchange. In stocks the highest share price of the year is called the 52-week high, she said. “It gave me my project title.”

She posterized everything using the Photoshop filter. “The bull looked 3D at first, she said. “The squiggles are the stock prices. I took a picture of a scatterplot representing Bank of America’s current stock price and superimposed it on the images.

Students in this exercise first make a “mood board” to set the tone for the image collection. Then they explore a “color story, ” the colors that will be featured in the garments and fabrics.  The yellow in Perrone’s project is chipped paint coming up from the subway.

“The colors I wanted were very commercial,” she said. “I borrowed from Facebook, Shell Oil, and Pepsi – companies that produce on a very wide scale. A lot of details in the clothes are taken from menswear, such as the collars and structure of the garments.  All the garments are easy to wear and to produce, which are important to a public company.”

Anabelle Hernandez:

By Anabelle Hernandez’s Mood Board

Anabelle Hernandez wanted to represent the components of one’s personality. “The overall instruction was not to do the cliché thing, to go beyond. I took that seriously. I couldn’t find that within Manhattan,” she said.

“I wasn’t that inspired by things I see everywhere in Manhattan and the business attire people wear. So I went to Coney Island looking for something more colorful. I’m from Miami and am used to Florida colors. I saw prints, colors, many people dressed for fun!”

She used Photoshop to superimpose murals with snake scale patterns from a picture she took of a floor, and added a photo of a snake in a zoo to mirror the snakeskin and emphasize the idea.

For her mood board, she imposed the people of Coney Island where the sky should be, and used a photo of Zeus holding a lightning bolt, also from Coney Island.

Anabelle Hernandez

In Manhattan, Hernandez took photos of a neon sign in a bar window, which shows the playful side of people, and titled it Cyclone. “I’m showing both a serious and a more playful side of people,” she said. “I used a photo that I wasn’t initially keen about but became interesting when I added color, which surprised me. Keep your originals; you never know!”

The last image is a photo she took in Times Square facing upward. “The background was sky, which I changed to yellow, which is my main color for the collection.”

Amanda Hoffman:

Amanda Hoffman’s Mood Board

“The first thing I considered was the contrast between nature and the city,” said Amanda Hoffman. “I tried to portray this by combining elements from both. I took pictures of buildings and streets to capture what everyone thinks is New York.”

The next part was to find some nature. She found it at the Highline.

“Among my images, I found a wall closeup. I used it to overlay with pictures of wildlife and structures. I turned down their opacities, making them visible without taking all of the viewer’s attention. Lastly I chose a title to reflect the different perspectives, nature in the city, and buildings. I warped the text to give it a different perspective.”

Amanda Hoffman mixed tall buildings, walls, and the Highline’s plantings

She picked three warmer green tones from the plants, two basic cooler tones from the buildings, and one accent color, the purple from the flowers. “I used the same background to keep the pages cohesive. I created three prints. For two of them, I went into the original background in my mood board and created repeats out of sections of buildings. For the other I used a section of a building that had lots of windows. I took this and turned it into a repeat. This gave more of the linear feel of the buildings, creating almost a stripe.

“I then created three outfits that went well together but also worked on their own. The angular and soft silhouettes emphasize this contrast. Shading them made them look more three-dimensional. Learning different tools in Photoshop helped me improve my work, especially my figures in the project.”

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A memorable dinner party at the Flatiron

There’s a memorable dinner party in the window at the northern wedge of the Flatiron building, where Broadway angles across Fifth Avenue. The “hosts” who put it all together are three Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) seniors taking the  Advanced Store Window Presentation course led by Professor Anne Kong.

A mannequin wearing place settings amid a gallery of icicles

Riffing on postmodern installation artist Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party,” a female mannequin wears the place settings, amid a gallery of icicles. The feast is at her feet.

“We were challenged to create a holiday window about tradition and celebration to rival the flash and dash of Bergdorf Goodman’s window displays,” says Prof. Kong. “The students, Alexandra D’Alleva, Joseph Klaus and Yoo Jung Lee, were inspired by the traditions and cultural celebrations that take place  around holiday times. They wanted to capture the spirit of New York and how we are all connected.”

A side view of the table setting. Icicles create a cool stellar winter environment encompassing the figure.

The feast includes fruit cake, gingerbread, cider, and all types of cups, glasses and goblets. There is wooden driftwood with candles and holly for Yule in St. Lucia, unity cup with fruit for Kwanzaa, latkes and dreidels for Hanukkah.

Rather than taking a traditional approach to setting the table, the students chose to outfit a mannequin to represent the table itself, donning plates as the skirt, table napkins as the bodice, and a table cloth as a train.

Her necklace is constructed of flatware: knives, forks and spoons attached to a chain. On the tip of a fork there’s a mouthful of caviar diamonds.

Silverware necklace.

“The scene abounds with elements that are reminders of the different celebrations that represent the people of New York,” says Prof. Kong. “I go home at night and I can tell whether it’s Ramadan or a Hindu celebration by the lights or the projections of the stars on their homes. But food closely ties to the specific celebrations that touch us at holiday time.”

The Holiday Table

Does Bergdorf tell Goodman? “The display’s secret weapons are the eye candy that attracts the shopper or viewer and makes them linger. The students used Icy iridescent lucite stalagtites dropping from the ceiling. They’ve been in storage, donated by a faculty member,” says Prof. Kong.

Icy iridescent lucite stalactites

The illuminated fiber optics threading through the mannequin’s hair creates another dramatic visual. The students deconstructed a lamp to create it.

“We were using every tool in the shop!” says Prof. Kong. Students used a saw, a grinder, and a drill press to convert the flatware into a jewelry piece.

Evening view of the Flatiron building, where Broadway angles across Fifth Ave

The project, a collaboration between Sprint, Cheryl McGinnis Gallery and FIT, will be on view through mid-January.

The FIT community is also encouraged to visit the Harlem Holiday Window 2017 project, window displays of local businesses that span the corridor of Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard between 117th and 127th streets.


Photos provided by Anne Kong

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Making the holidays equal for everyone

Friday evening brought together over 100 student gingerbread-house builders and decorators. Before the end of the evening their sweet, tasty homes got packaged up to be delivered to Partnership for the Homeless.

“Today is about making the holiday equal for everyone,” said Volunteer Event Coordinator Deborah Payton-Jones.

Volunteer Coordinator Deborah Payton-Jones, center, surrounded by students with the gingerbread houses
“Seeing and hearing table after table of all of our FIT students, from all the Schools, working, decorating and laughing together, was the best present of this season for me,” said School of Art and Design Associate Dean Melanie Reim.

“It’s fun seeing how many students want to help others,” said Marty Sullivan, Director of Student Organizations.

Tiahna English, Zhudiang Yao and Jessica Jakobsson

“I grew up in Sweden but this is my first time making a gingerbread house as a volunteer project. It’s nice to give back,” said Jessica Jakobsson, a Home Products Development major.

Noah Plofker and Welmis Gutierrez

“It’s a two in one, having fun and helping making gingerbread houses for charity,” says Advertising and Marketing student Noah Plofker.

Student gingerbread house designers at work

“The event brought a big smile to my face and a bigger sense of pride,” said Associate Dean Reim.

On Saturday a holiday party was held at FIT for gingerbread house recipients.  Families were also treated to holiday gifts and lunch. “It was fun,” says Yon Hee Allen, a student volunteer and Illustration major. “We had music playing. The best part was the kids–they danced and ran around the gym!”

Photos: Rachel Ellner

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Flower power: arranging for PAVE event with skill, intuition and a little Zen

“Just as we know about color affecting mood, floral arrangements done with skill can be uplifting and the focal point at an event,” says Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) Professor Robin Drake.” Flowers can be so personal and we had so many beautiful ones from which to choose.”

Students from Prof. Drake’s Overview VPED class were invited to prepare floral centerpieces to be showcased at the upcoming Planning and Visual Education (PAVE) event to be held at Cipriani on Wall Street.  PAVE is a retail trade organization that works to connect design students, educators and professionals.

Angela Giaco creating her arrangement for the PAVE event

Joe Baer, the visual merchandising expert and co-founder and creative director of ZenGenius, hosted the class and supplied the flowers and other materials. “He provided great direction. He has an effusive spirit and clearly knows the magic of the art form,” says Prof. Drake.

“We learned a lot about an important aspect of what can go into a large-scale event,” said Prof. Drake. “The arrangements have the capacity to engage viewers, whether in fine arts, or featured at a high-end restaurant or an important event where you want people to feel welcome.”

Joe Baer, co-founder, CEO and creative director of ZenGenius

Baer taught four different formal approaches to arranging flowers, and one that is free-form, or naturalistic.

“Baer emphasized a Zen-like practice of stepping back and seeing the beauty in the flowers,” said Prof. Drake. For each arrangement Baer instructed students to quickly sketch the “movement” or “gesture” — to capture the way the flowers should flow, to be used as a guide.

Ariel Leder with her flower arrangement

“It’s a mixture of skill and intuition,” says Prof. Drake. “Our students have loads of intuition; combined with the instruction they received they created some intriguing designs.”

Photos of students: Robin Drake


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