Brooke Catino is “Miss Bala Dress from the Heart” contest winner!

“It was a scenario I would make up in my head as a child — I would win this contest and be flown out to LA to have my dress design made by a big name designer whom I looked up to and then wear it to a Red Carpet premiere.” – Brooke Catino, winner of the Miss Bala Dress from the Heart contest. 

American Fashion Designer Michael Costello, Actress Gina Rodriguez and Fashion Design Student Brooke Catino on the Red Carpet for the “Miss Bala” movie premiere

It started with a text message from a friend — “Do it!” she told Fashion Design student Brooke Catino (AAS ’21).  Less than three weeks later Catino was walking the Red Carpet in the red dress she designed for actress Gina Rodriguez’ “Miss Bala Dress from the Heart” contest.

Or maybe it was no contest — the “Miss Bala” actress and fashion designer Michael Costello knew immediately that Brooke’s design was the one. “We both picked it at the same time!” Rodriguez told Catino after embracing on the Red Carpet.

The red dress design contest, conceived by Rodriguez, was to capture the essence of Miss Bala: strength, loyalty and resourcefulness. Rodriguez is widely recognized for her role as Jane Villanueva in the comedy series “Jane the Virgin.

Fashion Design student Brooke Catino wearing her Miss Bala design on the Red Carpet

“I never thought these contests were the real deal, but it was!” says Catino. “I entered January 10, the day before the contest closed. I was on break. I figured I had nothing to lose. It would be fun either way,” she says.

“I took two hours. The first hour I sketched 10 sketches and erased them all! I was thinking: If they are picking a dress to make, they’re going to pick one that has the least fabric and that is easy to construct. I included draping and a slit in the dress. There were a lot of [entries] of big gowns and that didn’t seem resourceful. In the movie there’s some action. She’s going to need to move around.”

Lucinda Catino with daughter Brooke at the LA Premiere of “Miss Bala.”

It all continued at breakneck speed. “On January 21, I got a call from a California number. I didn’t pick it up. I got a voicemail that I read while it was playing out loud. ‘This is Sony and Columbia Pictures. Give us call back when you can.’ They didn’t say that I won. When I called back I heard ‘Congratulations!'”

Catino, from Saugus, MA, previously attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design. “I was transferring in two weeks, but the movie premiere would be at the end of January.”

Says Catino “I never miss school, or rarely. What a bad first impression I’d be making on my teachers I thought. But yet this scale and opportunity! This is what I’m going to school for, to have my designs made and presented this way! “My teachers were super-excited for me as turned out.”

Professor Melanie Santoriello who teaches Textile Principles for the Fashion Designer totally got it. “I already feel privileged to have you, a celebrity in my class,” she told Catino.

“The experience I got thrown into actually helped me make this transition easier. Just being exposed to the industry for those few days. I gained so much insight into what goes on.”

Catino and her mom, Lucinda, were flown out “in style” to LA.

“The ‘fancy’ designer they said who was making my dress wanted to do a fitting before the event. They mentioned the name ‘Michael.'”

“I said if this is Michael Costello I’m going to freak out. I’m such a fan him and his work.” – Brooke Catino.

It was Michael Costello! “We had 30 minutes to get ready. We went to his studio. There were camera crews. They shot some promotional videos. He showed me some techniques and sewing tips. We got to hang out a few hours. He’s super genuine.”

“Michael Costello said he and Gina loved my design. I was on Cloud 9. It was so surreal.” – Brooke Catino

Brooke Catino receiving an embrace from Actress Gina Rodriguez

That was Monday. The premiere was Wednesday night. A hair, make up and nail team came to the hotel room for “the full treatment,” says Catino.

Catino says her parents’ role has been critical in her pursuit of fashion. “They have encouraged me every bit of the way. They fully embraced my attending art school. Since I was as young as I can remember, I wanted to do fashion design. To stay on this path with their support has been incredible for me.” Catino’s mom is a nail technician and dad Patrick a health club owner.

Catino is a transfer from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her three semesters there “was an experience I will never forget,” she says. “I am beyond grateful for my start there. I learned so much and it prepared to me to make my way to the big city. I will always cherish my time there.”

Brooke Catino wearing her award-winning “Miss Bala” design made by Fashion Designer Michael Costello

Finally, Catino got to pose for the cameras in her red dress.

“I felt confident. This is my design made by such a notable designer! Then more celebrities came.  I got to speak to Terry Crews and others.”

By the time the carpet was packed, Gina Rodriguez had made her way to Catino.

“She gave me the biggest hug! ‘I loved your design’ she said. She looked at Michael Castillo and then back at me and said ‘We both picked it at the same time!'” 

Video and photos courtesy of Sony Pictures and Brooke Catino


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The “overly fantastic” Brother donation

Last week educators from Brother–of sewing machine fame–came to campus to train faculty and technicians in the use of Brother sewing, embroidery and cutting machines. The company has donated 25 high-tech machines to the School of Art and Design, and they’re game changers.

“Overly fantastic!” said Fashion Design professor Lauren Zodel. “The capacity of what it can do! The intricacy of the stitches and the level of aesthetics was higher than I expected.”

Barbara Mikolajczyk providing instruction for the Brother multi-needle embroidery machine

The multi-needle embroidery machines will allow students to create their own embroidery instead of having it be out-sourced. The cutting machines make it simple to cut through thick materials; faculty were able to cut through leather with ease during the training. Specialty quilting and felting products allow students to add artistic affects and textures to their garments.

Barbara Mikolajczyk providing explanation of the multi-needle embroidery machine

Faculty watched as the The Brother PR670 stitched a design that had been created in the design software. It takes custom-drawings or image files and turns them into 2D or 3D embroidery. “It’s a companion to any Brother embroidery machine” said Barbara Jones, National Educator.

The Brother PR670 stitching a design that was created in the design software

“I learned how to cut fabric and create original layouts, to size, scan and trace images and create designs that can be attached as embellishments. The digital part was so accessible!” Fashion Design Prof Cecilia Tsypina.

Professors Philippa Lindenthal and Cecilia Tsypina with Cindy Hogan

“We discussed using the correct scanning mats for materials and fabrics. The ScanNCut DX machine will automatically detect the mat and function for virtually perfect cuts!” Melissa Heinz, Product Development Manager.

Cindy Hogan assisting faculty member Cecilia Tsypina with the ScanNCut DX

Brother had been on campus two months prior to the training to tour the campus to get ideas of how to support the students.

“We had seen a lot of multimedia art that Fashion Design and Fine Arts students were doing. It inspired us to broaden our horizons in supporting FIT” says Brittany Arena, Marketing Specialist at Brother International.

Mario Maldonado, Fashion Design Technologist

“I like the computerized functions. This is the future,” says Fashion Design technologist Mario Maldonado. “The threading is by the numbers. The rest is up to the computer. I like the ways it can simplify things. I’m amazed. You can even go sideways, left and right. They thought of everything.”

Mario Maldonado, Fashion Design Technologist

“We’re delighted to be part of the Brother training,” said Eileen Karp, Chair, Fashion Design. “The potential for our students and faculty is phenomenal. There’s a big learning curve, but there are videos and training resources that are part of this wonderful donation.”

The Brother PR670 finishing up the design

Says Eileen Karp “The Fashion Design department is thankful to the Brother team for their wonderful instruction in using the features of both the home and industrial machines donated so generously for our students.”

The Brother team: top left to right: Melissa Heinz, Brittany Arena, Cindy Hogan, Angela Wolf.  Sitting: Barbara Jones, Fashion Design Chair Eileen Karp, Barbara Mikolajczyk

“We’re very excited to see what the students create–cool things we haven’t seen before,” says Arena. “We know know they will exceed anything we can imagine!”

Says Prof. Zodel “I already have students who want to use them for their thesis projects!”

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Mariam Khan’s “Don’t Triptych” project addresses anxieties of Gen Z digital world

Graphic design student Mariam Khan (’20) is immersed in a digital world. One can see quickly that she excels at merging imagination and digital design, her medium of expression, to great effect. Born into a technology era considered synonymous with “Generation Z,” she is ever aware of its perils, of the mental distress and maladies that affect her generation.

“Don’t Tryptych,” a recent graphic design poster event in the Great Hall, gave us an opportunity to talk to Khan about her work.

Mariam Khan at the “Don’t Triptych” event in the Great Hall

A graphic design triptych is a three-panel artwork that can stand individually or together. Khan explains that the challenge is to design a piece on an individual topic that has a cohesive message.

“For our Graphic Design 345 Core Studio I class,” she says, “we were asked to design a triptych for a symposium. We created a list of potential topics, ideas, points of view related to address the controversial world of Generation Z. I narrowed my topic to issues of mental health within the digital world.”

Mariam Khan’s “Standards & Acceptance” triptych

“There are ideals, taken as standards, that we struggle to follow — the pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, to have a perfect life. Trying to achieve false standards for acceptance leads to anxiety and persistent self-scrutiny,” says Khan.

Detail from “Standards & Acceptance” triptych (1 of 3)

It is encouraging to see the students tackle the bigger issues of our day in their work as designers.  Mariam Khan’s posters demonstrate how effective visual communication can greatly be a tool for provoking thought.” – Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design 

Detail from “Standards & Acceptance” triptych (2 of 3)

“My intention for this design,” says Khan, “was to shrink and condense the elements in my illustrations and show them ‘moving’ though the panels. This represents the connection to my subject matter, mental issues.”

Khan was inspired by Japanese woodblocks like Hokusai’s “Great Wave,” which “is powerful in the way it ‘pushes’ the eye in an intended direction. The aesthetic has always drawn me in. I wanted a minimalist palette because the illustration is powerful itself. The feeling of anxiety is strong, so I chose the colors yellow and black.”

Detail from “Standards & Acceptance” triptych (3 of 3)

Khan employed juxtaposition to provide contrast between the titles of each panel. “They communicate my idea for the triptych. For instance, “Anxiety & Self-Scrutiny” are paired together. There’s a contrasting effect that communicates the overall idea,” she says.

Mariam Khan’s “Delusions and Perceptions” triptych

For her second poster set, juxtaposition is rendered with cut-out letterforms including a digital typeface. “It’s to show how the digital world breaks through and mixes into the real world. I was inspired by [graphic designer] David Carson’s work. I wanted to create something busier than the cleaner look of my first triptych.”

Khan cropped her titles so they show through the cutout letterforms. “It’s a good thing when your audience digs deeper to figure out your concept. Also, some letterforms became more interesting to look at with digital type around it.”

After cropping, the cutout became her imagery and the digital type gave the titles and additional information. She used green type to represent the digital realm along with a gray background to give attention to the imagery itself.

Mariam Khan’s “Delusions & Perceptions” triptych

In her third triptych, analogy and metaphor come into play. She manipulated symbols as part of the design. “I wanted to use something to show what’s not real, a standard versus a standard, and the idea of pure thoughts decaying,” Khan says.

Detail from “Delusions & Perceptions” triptych (1 of 3)

Designing the third triptych was easier after her experience with the first two. “I already had ideas. I used images that show the distortion of delusions, the standards of a  Barbie versus a Bratz doll, using a decaying sunflowers. Sunflowers represent pure thoughts, and here they are withering. I connected all four photos with the same coloring.”

Khan used a glitch typeface to represent the glitches happening in the digital realm along with the glitches in the real world.

Detail from “Delusions & Perceptions” triptych (3 of 3)

“I wanted to show how much the digital realm is breaking into our real world,” said Khan.

Professors Sondra Graff and Frederun Scholz oversaw the “Don’t Triptych” project.

All images used with permission.

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Drawing students to the new exhibition space

The Art and Design Gallery at FIT showcases work that often has its inception in the classroom. It also serves as a classroom itself.  So if you see students actively drawing with an instructor close by, it likely means class is in session,  as it was recently for a Foundation Drawing I class taught by Professor Stephanie Pierce.
Rosemary Howard and Prof. Stephanie Pierce

“I took my Foundation Drawing I students to draw in the new exhibition area so that we could deal with an exciting and complex space,” says Prof. Pierce.

Foundation Drawings I class

An emphasis of Foundation I Drawing class is on the principles of drawing from direct observation.

“The students were thinking about space through the concept of linear perspective using a horizon line and vanishing points,” said Prof. Pierce.

Mitzhael Jean Baptiste

“It was both a fun and challenging project because the space allowed for dealing with both the inside and the outside of the building,” says Prof. Pierce.

Julia Fernandez with Prof. Stephanie Pierce
Julia Fernandez with Prof. Stephanie Pierce

“The space was built for this type of adaptability and use. One day there are students on the floor drawing and the next day there’s a fashion extravaganza!” – Austin Thomas, Exhibitions Manager for the School of Art and Design”

” I encouraged students to employ the concepts they had learned so far to better understand the relationships among the things they were observing–sight measuring, comparing scale relationships, extension or sighting lines.” – Prof. Pierce

Ian Scheck, in the background is Malachi Wade and Julia Fernandez

Students returned to their drawings for two more sessions.

Sophia llanes

“They were also asked to expand the drawing by adding more paper and to deal with more of a panoramic view,” she said.

Caroline Aull and Jennifer Hotzler
Caroline Aull

The students “came across some surprising and eye-opening problems to work out,” said Prof. Pierce.

“To draw, to look and be seen! Students and passersby make it their own space. It’s a very ‘activated’ environment,” says Ms. Thomas.

Annie Timothy and Rika Mantaring

The next exhibit in the Gallery space, “The Future is Inclusive,” is about imagination and positive social change. It opens February 13, 2019.

Photos: Rachel Ellner

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A Passage to India 20 Feet at a Time

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.

Saree draping

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.”

Embroidery demonstration with Textile Surface Design students and faculty. “She really gave us an extremely in-depth talk and demonstration on traditional embroidery,” said Prof. Kleinman

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.

Kasuti designs, a traditional form of folk embroidery

But the saree itself, traditional yet popular in India, evolves.

Prof. Rebeca Valez-San Andres, Dr. Sarvani and Fashion Design Chair Eileen Karp

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, according to Dr. Sarvani, 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. Vaddi Sarvani demonstrates saree draping with Fashion Design Prof. Rebeca Valez-San Andres

“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.

Dr. Sarvani with saree fabric

Dr. Sarvani came on an International Foundation of Fashion and Technology Institutions (IFFTI) travel grant, which is open to FIT faculty.


Photos: Rachel Ellner

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FIT Faculty Remember Stan Lee

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 Stan Lee 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 Stan Lee 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!

Ray Lago’s Avengers Index Cover

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 Stan Lee 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.

Stan Lee, courtesy of Marvel

“Yet as important as his comics were to my development, Stan Lee‘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, Stan Lee was the first to inject diversity into the superhero genre with the introduction of the Black Panther!”

Fan tribute Tweet

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!’

July 27 Stan Lee Tweet

“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.”

Fan tribute Tweet

Dr. Ron Milan, Chief Diversity Officer, a life-long comic book fan, says “Stan Lee 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 Stan Lee‘s stories and characters as a child and I am moved today. His is the passing of a legend.”
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Debra Ziss: An illustrator with a cheese indulgence

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.

“Chevre Thing” by Debra Ziss

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!”

“Tetede Moine,” by Debra Ziss

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.”

Cheese Map, by Debra Ziss

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.”

“You Float My Goat,” by Debra Ziss

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.”

“You’re a Perfect Pair,” by Debra Ziss

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.

“Wanna Spoon?” by Debra 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.”

To see more of Debra Ziss’ work go to:

Images used with permission.

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Liam and Erin’s World in Photographs and Words

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.

Photo: Erin Lefevre

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.

Photo: Erin Lefevre

“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: Follow her on Instagram @erinlefevrephoto

Photos used with permission.


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The Power of Pronouns: Blue Summerfield’s Joyful Inktober

“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.”

“I’m on Hormones,” Inktober sketch by Taylor “Blue” Summerfield

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.

“She Called Me Sir” by Taylor “Blue” Summerfield

“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:

Images used with permission.

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Anna Niklova captures the swagger of “extravagant” socks and mismatched footwear

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.

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.

Groundbreaking: socks in heels that allow for pedicure drying

“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

The “Dad” combo

“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 goofy and sophisticated. She seamlessly blends retro type design, graphic design and nuanced illustration.” – Professor John Nickle, Illustration 

Jelly Shoes aka “Jellies”

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

Flip flops have a Tabi-socks-in-Zori-shoes origin

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 flaunting a new trend

“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.

New York City streets serve as a  sock and footwear runway

“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!”

To see more of Anna Niklova’s work go to: AnnaNiklova


All images used with permission.

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