Artful and Profound COVID Scarves

Students in Professor Susanne Goetz’s Screen Printing Scarves (TD316) class were inspired to create pandemic-themed designs as their final project this semester. “Some are thoughtful, some humorous,” says Prof. Goetz who is internationally recognized as a textile designer and educator.

Sonja Feaster’s “The Sanity Scarf” story board

Students were asked to design a contemporary screen printed scarf accompanied by a storyboard with visual information about their concept. Designing with FIT’s print workshop in mind, students were only able to use two colors supplemented by overprinting and halftone effects.

“The Sanity Scarf” by Sonja Feaster

The theme was completely open. Lectures covered how scarves have long been used as a medium of political comment and to memorialize current events. Prof. Goetz says that students learned about artists who focused on social justice issues in their work.

Audrey Martiandy’s “Brunch After Quarantine” storyboard

Audrey Martiandy‘s storyboard suggests that she misses not being able to meet her friends for brunch. “Her design highlights in a satirical setting the unwillingness of some people to do their part by wearing a mask,” says Prof. Goetz.

Audrey Martiandy’s “Brunch After Quarantine” scarf design

While students are not screen-printing their designs in the School’s screen-printing lab this semester, they prepare the artwork ready for the print process and create digital visualizations. Fortunately, this is an advanced class, so students do have hands-on workshop experience. That helps them imagine how the designs would look once they are produced, she says.

Sonja Fester’s “Until we meet in Tokyo” storyboard

Students also watched videos of practitioners and innovative print processes to help keep them connected to the workshop.

Sonja Feaster, in one of two separate projects, wrote a short bio and created texture mappings for an Olympic commemorative silk scarf design, “Until We Meet in Tokyo.”

Sonja Feaster’s “Until We Meet in Toyko” scarf design

It honors both resilient Olympians and frontline healthcare workers. Feaster says that Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, told COVID workers “You are our true champions.”

In the design, Olympic athletes are “handing the torch” to healthcare workers, who will carry it until 2021. The narrative is highly symbolic. It celebrates a year of resilience, sacrifice, and unity.

Detail from “Until We Meet in Toyko” scarf design

Katherine Murphy calls her design “Finding Peace in 2020.” Because of the pandemic, she says, “there has been a lot of stress and negativity this year. I wanted to create something that still reminded us of the good, even in difficult times.”

Katherine Murphy’s “Finding Peace in 2020″ storyboard

“The pandemic has allowed me to spend more time with them by living at home,” says Murphy. So even in a pandemic, there is always something for which to be grateful.

The border of her scarf has inspirational quotes such as, “to keep us hopeful.” She also included the hand prints of her family.

Katherine Murphy’s “Finding Peace in 2020″ scarf design

To follow Sonja Feaster go to:; for Audrey Martiandy go to:; to follow Katherine Murphy on IG go to: @KMurphy_textiles.

Click here to learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Textile Surface Design major.

All images used with permission.


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Kam Mak’s Studio Class: Virtually Live

Illustration Professor Kam Mak revels in teaching studio painting classes with live models. It’s been part of his class syllabus for 20 years. Pre-pandemic he led a popular study abroad program in Florence where students paint in the medium of Renaissance masters. Naturally, remote teaching poses challenges. But Prof. Mak has technology on his side.

By Star Pendergrass

It’s not just a matter of turning on a camera in the studio. Challenges can range from capturing skin tones properly to adjusting to how a live model is observed on a computer screen.

Even a simple teaching gesture like demonstrating brushwork directly on a student’s canvas is no longer possible.

“Instead I provide live demos on how, for instance, to block out the figure with the brush, and how to render the form,” says Prof. Mak. “They see me doing it live.”

By Amanda Bueno Veras

Prof. Mak insists that painting live models is a key learning tool in studio classes such as his Advanced Color Rendering class. The challenge is working with a figure that’s constantly shifting. “We start by working with models and directly observing them,” he says. “It’s four straight weeks of six-hour sessions with the same pose,” he says.

“I’ve made comparisons with having a model pose remotely versus using a photograph; I still prefer models because a model is dynamic.”

By Erika Syvanen

In a live class, some students get to sit up-front. Others have to be rotated in from the back. Online, however, students can zoom in, crop and do close-ups. Or they can zoom out so that they see most of the pose on their screens.

Prof. Mak uses a digital SLR for streaming the model. He also uses a smart phone to transmit his live teaching demos. “It’s being recorded and uploaded to Blackboard so students can review them again later.”

When a model can’t work from an equipped remote studio, there is an alternative: “The quality of an image from a current smart phone produces high-quality video. They’re streaming poses live and the students are loving it because it’s so clear.”

By Mello Loperena
“There are benefits like changing our individual computer screens to have the display in black and white and really get an understanding of the values. You can zoom in on certain areas. The cameras tend to provide high-quality images that provide lots of information to create a beautiful study,” says Mello Loperena (’21) from Prof. Mak’s class. 

In a live studio class it’s only the artist’s eye that is seeing and interpreting the image they see. But remotely, explains Prof. Mak, there are several stages for that image to go through before it gets to your eye.

“I tell my students to accept the limitation and find something new. It’s a new experience in a new medium,” says Prof. Mak.

Lobna Bayoumy

How does that translate into finished work? Prof. Mak admits that it can depend on the equipment the student has. A small laptop has limitations. Some students have a large external monitor connected to their laptops so they see the image large. “They cost about $100,” Prof. Mak says.

“In school I would tell them to walk up close to the model. I would be two feet away and point out ‘you’re not looking at this.’ Now, remotely, they can request that I zoom in on the model’s nose to see the structure better. Now everyone gets to see it!”

Or, Prof. Mak might lower the intensity of the light so that the student can see the entire plane of the figure.

By Clarisse Tam

Certainly there are aspects to the the teacher-student interaction that has changed. “I sometimes see their work during the break when I can. But after every class they upload work in progress via Google Drive and I comment in the first hour of the following week. I go through each painting.”

“Nothing can replace the dynamic of a real person and how the human eye can interpret the three dimensional experience” says Prof. Mak “It’s how the artist learns, through direct observation,” he says.

Emily, Art Model

“I think in the tech world someone is working to make this experience even better. But, if we didn’t have the current technology, we could kiss this class goodbye.”

After all, the masters themselves were innovators. They developed new perspectives and poses and worked with new pigments and paints. They used optical lenses. “If they had  computers, maybe they would have used them as well,” says Prof. Mak.

Click here to learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Illustration major.

All images used with permission.

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Dillon O’Keefe and his team create Witchy Business

Magic happened when Wacom brought two teams of animation students together and gave them a week to produce 45-second animated shorts. Computer Animation student Dillon O’Keefe was on Team East. Each team collaborated only on Zoom and each team member was paid for the intensive week of work and also received a new Wacom One graphics tablet and animation software to keep.

Witchy Business Still

“True to reality-TV format, says O’Keefe, I went into the challenge not knowing any of the details. They told me I was accepted [chosen from candidates all over the Americas] and asked if I wanted to participate without really telling me what the project entailed or would happen in the coming weeks. Being someone who usually takes chances, I sort of blindly said yes.”

The exercise was not a contest. It is run by Wacom as a series called Cartoon Crunch.

“Cut-throat it wasn’t,” says O’Keefe. “The lack of competition made one less thing we had to worry about.  The West Coast team seemed like they had it together, full of great artists!”

Witchy Business Still

Team East’s concept started with all four team members pitching ideas to each other. O’Keefe says “a team member pitched a story about a witch making a potion to bring back a zombie cat. We all loved that idea and started building on it.”

“Witchy Business starts out with an interesting storyline — especially so near Halloween! The team then came up with great artwork for the pan across the witch’s room,” says Computer Animation Professor John Goodwin. 

O’Keefe says “when you have that immediate collaboration you know it’s the start of a good idea.”

Check out the teams’ finished videos here:

And what changed from start to the final product? That’s documented in a day-by-day video with almost two hours of detail and advice from experienced mentors. (Those who might consider Computer Animation as a major can view it here: Cartoon Crunch Day 5.)

The list of changes includes tweaks like camera angle adjustments and timing. “It’s cool watching it all come together,” says O’Keefe.

Here is what O’Keefe calls a rough animatic, taken from an animated gif to help get the timing and ideas across for what will be the final animation.

Rough animatic by Dillon O’Keefe

O’Keefe notes that Team East members juggled different roles but that “We all had certain strengths and also collaborated on certain things.” He ended up as director, overseeing overall production, and working on story elements, character design, timing, rough and final animation “and then the big final step of editing it all together with color shadows and backgrounds to make it look complete.”

Witchy Business poster

O’Keefe says Cartoon Crunch “really pushed us all to our individual limits. Passion is what drives everything. If you’re motivated and passionate enough, you can create whatever you want.”

There is much more “business” from O’Keefe. Prof. Goodwin says a must-see is Rat City on Shrroms: “It’s another great telling of a story with wonderfully executed art work,” he says.

See more of Dillon’s work at and on Instagram: @dillon.okeefe. Click here to learn more about our Animation, Interactive Media, & Game Design major.

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Anya Shakhmeyster reimagines Russian style with a new sensibility

“One of the best things about my Russian heritage is a straight-forward, no-BS approach to life. But taken too far it can conjure up a cold Russian winter!” says Anya Shakhmeyster. The Fashion Design alumna (’12) recently launched a menswear collection that modernizes the hard-edged masculine style of the Soviet era.

The Shakh collection

Anya’s collection, Shakh, is an ode to her grandfather, a product of Soviet masculinity. “He was stylish and charming. He wore the perfect hat and coat for each season from fedoras and panamas to wool overcoats and trenches,” she says.

“He had a powerful presence, but was a closed book. My collection reflects on what the vulnerable side to him might look like.”

Anatoly Shakhmeyster, Anya’s grandfather far right

At FIT Anya won the 2012 Critic’s Choice Award for Sportswear, as part of the graduating Future of Fashion show. Her study abroad year in Milan at Politecnico intensified her interest in menswear. “My professor, Helen Field, encouraged me to create men’s collections while everyone else was working on womenswear,” she recalls.

“Anya has always had a uniquely clear conceptual focus, says Professor Sharon Rothman who mentored Anya in her Thesis Portfolio class. “I loved her exciting journal presentations, full of emotionally charged images and sketches.”

Anya Shakhmeyster’s Sketchbook

What Russia represented in the 50s, through 70s, explains Anya, was competitiveness.  “Think Yuri Gagarin and the space race, and the emphasis on the military and sports.

Clothes had to have purpose, especially uniforms worn by athletes and government officials. “Fashion represented the tough, urban male,” says Anya.

“Clothes had to be comfortable to work in, easy to wear, and functional. No frills, no extras.” Yet not without detail: “Athletes wore lightweight wool shirts with bright color combinations, raglan seam lines, and thin lines accenting muscle and strength,” says Anya

Anya Shakhmeyster’s sketchbook

“I see the modern man through the lens of a healthy masculinity. Where confidence and assertiveness is alive but met with openness,” she says.

“It’s important to create seam lines to give more attention to the curve of the back. A man’s back is a symbol of strength and purpose and should be celebrated,” says Anya.

“When I design a collared button-up, I’m thinking about how to discretely place a mesh pocket hidden inside the left chest for AirPods. How can I make sure it stays elegant and doesn’t go tech? Something too colorful or busy isn’t for the guy who wants something more traditional, more streamlined.”

Ironia shirt

Anya’s Ironia shirt is named after a classic 1976 Russian film “The Irony of Fate,” set on a New Year’s Eve in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “The checks on the taxi cabs swirling in the moonlight are juxtaposed with palm leaves of Southern California, where I live. The tonal print is subtle. Its understated technique goes in and out of view in the light.”

The Tolik turtleneck, below, has quarter-inch pipings and subtle artwork at the hem.

“Focusing on details is my way of representing the multidimensionality of men. The seams accentuate the shoulders and back, the playful palm leaves evoke a SoCal breeze,” says Anya.

TOLIK TURTLENECK is a playful take on  the styles worn by Anya’s grandfather

“Menswear is magic for me,” says Anya. “So much is hidden. What’s happening inside the jacket? What color is the piping that’s hidden away? What is that pocket for? With womenswear things tend to be more obvious, and on the surface. With menswear, beautiful details might be there, but hidden. I take pride in enhancing them.”

The tonal Matroyshka print appears in the inside lining of the collection jackets

The style and ease of California surf culture has been an influence on Anya as well. “Yet the effortless vibe can sometimes be too casual for what I’ve wanted to create.”

That was until she discovered the surf culture of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia (who knew there was surfing on the Bering Sea?) Kamchatka shares a northern section of the Pacific Ocean with Alaska.

“I thought wow, two unlikely things can come together like the urban grit of Russia and the peacefulness of surf culture!” she says.

The Travel jacket comes with 5 pockets with a detachable back pocket

After launching in late September, Anya was a guest on Brandon Alexander’s New Age Gents Instagram series “Let’s Talk.” They discussed the evolution of masculinity. Her pre-launch party (pre-COVID19) brought together friends and supporters for the panel discussion “The Power of Masculinity.”

All of the garments in her collection are made in Los Angeles with fabrics sourced from Japan. “Her quality approach to comfort and simplicity is inventive and mature,” says Prof. Rothman.

Fall capsule

To see more of Anya’s work go to: Shakhlosangeles, and on Instagram: @shakhlosangeles

All images used with permission.


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Voting Reminders: Make Your Voice Heard

Good design can help deliver an important message: Vote! It all helps counter efforts of voter suppression, claims of fraud, and attempts at voter intimidation. The work from Professor Tevonian’s Foundation of Graphic Design class is an example of how we can help the public make its vital decision to vote.

Natalie Betances

Postcards with bold design and expressive typography that serve to get out the vote: They are the results from the semester’s first assignment in Professor Tevonian’s class.

Wei Zhen

“The goal was to encourage voting, not by commanding the viewer, but by showing why it is important,” says Prof. Tevonian. “Vote, Make Your Voice Heard” was the text that was included in each design.

Lauren Feijoo

After a year of foundation classes and an intro to typography, sophomores majoring in Communication Design Pathways take a class in one of several specializations before choosing a BFA major.

“The first assignment of this foundation class provides a taste of the profession,” she says.

Ninoska Lugo

The specifications for the 6″x5″ postcards required the use up to two colors and the rendering of two different solutions–one using an image and the other to be completed with typography along. This was to be accompanied by a matching stamp for each solution.


“Now that the project is finished, each student is mailing out three postcards to ideally ambivalent citizens and will ask them if the postcard influenced them to vote,” says Prof. Tevonian.

Michael Broikou

“Depictions of a ‘voice’ being heard through symbols and typography were not enough for this assignment,” says Prof. Tevonian. “There had to be connections to the essence of the country, with reference to the flag and Statue of Liberty.” One “theatrical example,” was Wei Zhen’s Statue of Liberty (second image) with red fingernails, she says.

Jiyoon Kim

There was class discussion of using how to make an image “inclusive,” says Prof. Tevonian.  Nicole Kubinski’s design (below) achieves this through the use of abstract and neutral icons. “Next semester’s study focuses more on the use and creation of symbols and metaphors” she says.

Nicole Kubinski

“The principles of design were followed quite well and often with elegance,” says Prof. Tevonian. These included use of the grid, consideration of white space as part the solution, and an awareness of hierarchy that was expressed through contrast of type size and amount of white space.

Jessica Orlando

“Students seemed to be under the positive influence of their Typography II class from last semester, which involved intensive study in the use of type to express ideas, along with the use of the grid,” says Prof. Tevonian.

Sun Rui

“Most of the students were more comfortable using black and white, however, there were exceptions. They mostly viewed all colors equally except within certain contexts such as Sun Rui’s postcard (above) using the pink female symbol as part of the word ‘vote,’” says Prof. Tevonian.

Ava Herrera

“For now, says Pro. Tevonian, “imagine flags flying, the band playing, and please, do vote.

All images used with permission.

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Dolls With Deep Stories

“My original goal was to make the most beautiful doll in the world,” says Fine Arts sophomore Jada Hairston. “I wanted my dolls to be pretty objects. What else could dolls be, right?  But as I was developing my college portfolio in 2018, I realized that’s kinda boring. I was writing my artist’s statement and thought ‘what if dolls were not just beautiful? What if they were made to have more thought, more depth then just hollow plastic?'”
“Ruby,” the first doll Jada Hairston made with heavy bead work (2019)

Hairston continues: “It’s a given that dolls represent beauty and idleness in whatever culture produces them. Even now I am motivated by my middle school dream of making the ideal doll,” she says.

The looks of Hairston’s dolls have changed over time. “My vision morphed from making them vapidly beautiful to them having a storyline and personality. There is innocence, like most dolls, but there’s a deeper story there. They are not girls, but women who have experienced life, tragedy and are living with whatever has happened to them. They are not perfect, they make mistakes, but they keep living.”

“Summer,” head bust, by Jada Hairston (2020)

Hairston began making dolls when she was 13. “It started as something simple. I was collecting dolls in middle school and there was a doll I wanted, but couldn’t afford. Being a beginner artist I tried to replicate it but didn’t have strong enough skills to execute my ideas.”

And yet, her early work enhances her current classwork:

“I can see how the expressive brushstrokes she uses in the paintings she’s making in my Painting III class have a precedent in how she adds colors to the surfaces of her dolls’ faces, ” says Fine Arts Chair Julia Jacquette.

Two dolls made a year apart by Jada Hairston to compare her progress.

Her creations start with an idea, she says. “The face, the costume and body arrive from constant thought. I use sculpey clay to sculpt everything. The inside of the doll is hollow. Then like beads being strung on jewelry wire, I string the dolls together. On top of the head there is a wire peg. I tie the elastic string around that wire. There is also that same wire at the feet and hands,” explains Hairston.


“My current process is definitely enhanced by my FIT experience. When I was a highschooler I tended to be disorganized and it reflected in my work. I also used to rush. It’s why a lot of my dolls eventually fell apart,” she says.

Doll made by Jada Hairstron

“In Fine Arts, says Hairston, “there is an emphasis on structure rather than pretty details. In the past, I wanted everything, body and all, to be super detailed and very doll-like. Now I make sure everything is structurally sound and when that is done, I then worry about the fashion and face,” she says.

Doll made by Jada Hairstron

Hairston says her current phase of doll-making was prompted by COVID-19. “At the beginning of the year I reached a point where I plateaued. I was making fewer dolls and it was taking me much longer to finish one, which is unusual because I’m a very quick artist. My ideas were clogged up. Not only that but my life was a lot more busy.”

“Opera Singer,” by Jada Hairston. (June, 2020)

Before the pandemic, Hairston says, she had less time for doll-making because of her commute from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, on top of classwork.

“When COVID-19 happened, I suddenly had this free time to work on projects and explore new ideas,” she said. I had ideas tucked away in my mind for years that were being unleashed. I would spend 10 hours straight just making a doll. I feel like because of quarantine and being home all day, my skills have accelerated.

Doll made by Jada Hairstron

Hairston says her “art goal” this year is to incorporate doll-making into her class work.

Follow Jada Hairston on Twitter and Instagram: @mysterious_artist_j

 All images used with permission.

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Bengali women serve as inspiration for CFDA award winner Mohua Goswami

Admiration and inquiry of Bengali women are at the center of award-winning knitwear design major Mohua Goswami’s CFDA collection. Goswami’s work showcases the free-flowing and personalized styles of the Bengal region in eastern India, where her family roots are. They are also influenced by the multicultural region around Pune, a city inland from Mumbai, where she grew up.

Mohua Goswami’s CFDA award-winning Grihini collection

Goswami’s collection, Grihini, was inspired by important women in her life. “It’s my attempt to give a physical form to the musings of a demure Bengali housewife, the ‘grihini.’ It is from a place of curiosity; I was born into a Bengali family, but never lived in Bengal. My family was attracted to the educational, cultural and business opportunities around Mumbai, India’s business and financial hub. Wanting to know more about what it means to be Bengali is what drove my collection.”

Pages from Mohua Goswami’s design journal

Goswami spoke to her grandmother about her grihini life in 1950s Bengal. She also watched her mother play the same role in real-time in Pune as society evolved. But Goswami also notes the influence of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s films.

“While society during his time [1950-1980] could not yet fathom a separate existence of women other than in relation to men, Ray portrayed these images successfully in his narratives. Rather than trying to show men and women as equal or not, Ray showed them as complimentary to each other. It’s in his depiction of women, that the character of a grihini changed what it meant to me,” she says.

Grhini collection: Mohua Goswami
“Mohua Goswani’s designs immediately captivated me with their ability to combine a personal vision with a larger cultural narrative. Her inventive knitwear thoughtfully combines pattern and material with results that speak to our moment. I am moved by the research that Mohua performs prior to creating her designs. She is clearly inspired by her family and its history, but equally committed to connecting that past with the future of fashion. Her determination and the power of her talent can be seen in every design and her CFDA award is well earned.” – Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design
Grihini collection: MG

“As I was working on this project, I was subconsciously equating the housewife with the Devi–the many-handed goddess,” she says. “In Hindu mythology, the goddess is also a wife and a mother, as well as the protector of good and the destroyer of evil. That analogy crept into my illustrations,” she says.

Detail from a Kaledo knit, inspired by Satyajit Ray’s film “Devi”

“The purpose of fashion is not just to toy with the visual pleasure of the audience. There has to be an element that invokes certain feelings in the creators themselves. It has to be personal. That’s how we keep the novelty of fashion alive, by making it clear the different ways of telling a story,” says Goswami.

Ray had a “special knack” for portraying women. “One of his best films, ‘Charulata,’ analyzed the character of a grihini. Charulata is the childless, intelligent, and beautiful wife of Bhupati, a newspaper editor.”

From Mohua Goswami’s CFDA award-winning Grihini collection

In the acclaimed opening scene, Charulata moves from one window in her house to the next, observing the world with opera glasses. “She is like a caged bird in her mansion. We sense her curiosity and desire to know the outside world” says Goswami.

Publicity still from “Charulata”

“As she moves to the interior corridor, her husband walks past her without noticing her. She sees him the same way she sees the outside world. Distant. Without a single word being said, we sense Charulata’s loneliness and boredom.”

Of course, history has documented trailblazing feminists, who shattered the glass ceiling. “But we often forget the woman hidden away in kitchens and backyards, putting food on the plate and making sure the house still stands – the grihini.”

Key influences of the Grihini collection

Goswami’s challenge was to give a “physicality” to the nuances of a Bengali housewife. “My collection took from the subtleties of her world and wardrobe, and how they are linked. As she ties her keys to the end of her saree, she creates beautiful lines in the drape. The keys suggest crossing the threshold from woman to wife. As she evolves, so do the layers on her saree. Layering, lines, and a mix of masculine and feminine energy became the foundation for this collection.”

It can take Goswami considerable time reading and viewing movies before she’s ready to create her designs. “I can spend weeks with no results. Then I read a book, and one line sticks with me and I decide to base an entire collection on it.”

Exploration with styles and drapes

Next, she puts everything on paper, in her design journal. “This helps solidify my inspiration and translates it into design elements. It’s also the best way to explore different directions my collection might take. I then pick and choose from among them” she says.

Goswami won the CFDA Design Scholar K11 Innovation Award for her collection. “It was an honor just to be nominated, and a great surprise to win!” she says. “It is essential for an upcoming designer to gain exposure, and this award has done that for me. It has also helped me to network with like-minded creatives.”

From Mohua Goswami’s CFDA award-winning Grihini collection
“My collection took from the subtleties of [the Bengali housewife’s] world and wardrobe, and how they are linked. As she ties her keys to the end of her saree, she creates beautiful lines in the drape. The keys suggest crossing the threshold from woman to wife. As she evolves, so do the layers on her saree. Layering, lines, and a mix of masculine and feminine energy became the foundation for this collection.” – Mohua Goswami

Working under COVID has shaped elements of her creative process “When the pandemic hit in March, I was finishing touches to my Grihini collection. The pandemic has taught me to adapt. My creative process involves being amidst the action, going places, being physically present to take the atmosphere. With COVID, that came to a halt. I had to develop a collection within the four walls of my bedroom. With virtual museum tours, access to a vast sea of information, and the ability to meet with people virtually, bridges the gap,” she says.

Mohua Goswami

Goswami intends to pursue a career in knitwear design, textile development, and sustainability.

“With the pandemic the fashion industry has been given an opportunity to focus on solving a lot of its problems. With everything I have absorbed these past four years, I hope to channel all my energies towards that.”

On a page in Goswami’s design notebook appears a question about whether the grihini knows how to cook shukto. Most likely yes. The traditional Bengali dish is one that Mohua’s mother Oona has long mastered. She generously shares the Goswami family recipe with us here:

To follow Mohua Goswami on Instagram @museum_ofme and on Behance

All images used with permission.


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The semester’s first assignments

How do you teach remotely a curriculum grounded in creativity? Creatively. The high level of teaching and student engagement within the School of Art and Design shows how quality instruction can take place under unusual circumstances. First assignments are often what set the pace.

This semester, there’s no such thing as being too far away to attend FIT. These first assignments we’ve gathered, show how prepared we are to educate the next generation of creatives.

Remotely, it’s still a classroom, still a lab, albeit on a screen that’s likely to be no more than 17” across. But one thing is for sure. Learning is possible, and interaction with peers is possible, from wherever you are. Powering up, isn’t just about getting to class!

The following first assignment descriptions are extracted from the more detailed versions that our students receive.

“Isolation” by Jessica Garcia


Professor Curtis Willocks: PH251 Advanced Photo Solutions

When we spoke to Prof. Willocks he was on Governors Island conducting experiments with speedlights for a future assignment. “If I want them to do it, I have to do it first” he said.

“For the first assignment, I want them to use whatever lights are available – flashlights, night-table lights, window light,” he said. “They are to create an image of how they feel, how they relate to the concept of isolation because of COVID-19. I want them to be creative and draw on what’s happened to them over the last few months. Someone may be in an apartment with six or more people, others might be out in the country. This is something that makes them think.”

For this in-class assignment says Prof. Willocks “they need to think quickly. I don’t mess around, come on. Sometimes you have to set the pace the first class, the first hour! The first step it’s about creation.”

“Isolation 2” by Jessica Garcia

Prof. Willocks references similar assignments that were done for magazines and other publications during COVID-19. “I want them to think, then work quickly.”

Textile Surface Design

Professor Susan Rietman: TD356 Tabletop and Related Products

Want more on your plate? Students’ first assignment, ceramic products-formal dishware, for Prof. Rietman’s class, is part of a three-step project for fifth semester students. Says Professor Rietman “It’s one of my favorite classes to teach because students get really excited when they produce marketable product designs.”

Julia Ermacor, class of 2020

Students will create a series of four coordinated designs for fine china rendered at actual scale: a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate and cup and saucer. They develop a design concept by using historic/traditional references in a unique way and rendered in mixed media on watercolor paper.


Prof. Cheryl Griesbach: IL326 Traditional Painting Media: Methods and Materials

This first assignment is to create an expressive, detailed and realistic portrait of a friend or family member. Students are encouraged to investigate their subjects’ personality “to add interest to the painting.” With their subjects’ input, students develop a concept using lightning, background, any props available, and Photoshop to make an exciting image.

By Amanda Bueno Veras

Last semester, Amanda Bueno Veras submitted her portrait (above) from this class and won the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition 2020 for $2,000.

Professor Kam Mak: IL484 Advanced Color Rendering I

This senior painting class is a “selective” and not a required course. Says Prof. Mak “It’s their first opportunity to use all the painting skills they have learned at FIT, and to find a voice through painting. Students’ first assignment is one they’ll work on all semester. It’s less about technique and more about learning how to express themselves.”

Oil painting of Joan of Arc in battle, by Nicholas Keslake

Students can use any medium — oil, tempora, acrylic, collage, and for some a mix of painted or embroidered 3D – and the human form to convey an emotion.

By Faythe Stone

The painting (above) by Faythe Stone was created in Prof. Kam Mak’s class by Faythe Stone. It was a winner in The National Arts Club 2020 Will Barnet Student Show.

Packaging Design

Professor Cliff Bachner: PK318 Design Process Studio

“Our first project for the semester is creating a brand based on our students’ individual family heritage and/or immigration histories” says Prof. Bachner.

Big Bastards juice, by Luke Paccione

“The project consists of creating a new brand name and identity as applied to three packaging forms with distinctively different proportions within the food and beverage category.”

Delicious Dictator snacks, by Jay Kim

Fashion Design

Professor Jerry Delova: FD462 Designer Sportswear Incubator

In preparation for the class, students this summer started a journal consisting of tear sheets, and concepts, fabrics, and precious objects that speak to their aesthetic and ideas as a designer. For the first fall class, students will give a short presentation of their journals and research so that class members can better get acquainted.

Prof. Delova describes the course as a “pre-thesis class, to investigate, experiment and conceptualize ideas that students carry forward into their final spring semester collections.”

Jewelry Design

Prof. Michael Coan: JD142 Introduction to Gemology and Gem Identification

Prof. Coan will be teaching students to examine and identify gem material, their synthetics and look-a-likes, using physical samples he has sent them by mail. Students all get the same selection, but the quality and imperfections in the gems will be different.

After defining critical nomenclature, Prof. Coan will have students practice a technique called “sight identification.” He says “We can learn a lot simply by looking at a gem but we have to know what to look for. Students will examine specific gem specimens and record their observations.  We will be adding a higher power of observation to the mix, as well — the 10X Jewelers Loupe.”

Prof. Coan invites prospective students to come to the first class and find out what “flawless” really means!

Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design

Professor Craig Berger: VP321 Sketching and Visualization

The students in this course will likely not have done field analysis and sketching, which is what most exhibition designers and architects do when conducting research, Prof. Berger says.

By Ralph Emrick

For the first project, students must analyze an exhibition space both in person and online and sketch the space plan, elevation and perspective. Because of COVID-19 that space will most likely be a retail or public art display space.

By Ralph Emrick

Labor Day gives the students an extra week. The two-week assignment, due September 15, students will have produced: an exhibition picture and a real life, two exhibition rooms (one from a book or online and one live and interactive), a floor plan, rough dimensions, a rough elevation view with varying line weights, at least one detailed or many sketchy perspective views and a presentation with title block, designer picture and name, scale, location.

Fine Arts

Professor Joel Werring: FA151 Painting 1 & FA143 Foundation Drawing 1

“The beginning of the semester is about encouraging students to experience the physical world— not just form, but the air around form, the spaces between objects,” says Prof. Werring.

“We understand form and scale because of the space that surrounds form. We take space for granted. The same with sound. We understand sound because of the silence around it, just as the intervals between words allow us to understand language.”

Giorgio Morandi still life 1932 scaled

“In painting and drawing, all areas of a flat, two-dimensional plane are equally important. An artist employs both positive and negative shapes. Students struggle trying to describe forms. So sometimes it makes more sense to draw the non-thing in order to describe the thing,” says Prof. Werring.

For the first assignment, Prof. Werring shows students moon studies made by Galileo, based on his observations through his crude telescope. “As Galileo’s moons wax and wane on the page, they exemplify the interdependence of figure and ground relationships on a flat plane. He paints the black sky to describe the light of the moon. Space becomes physical.”

Galileo’s studies of the moon

A similar thing happens in the work of Giorgio Morandi, who painted still-lifes, dusty bottles and objects in muted and subdued tones. “The more you look, the more you notice a beautiful tug of war between objects and the space between them. Their interplay creates movement and tension. His edges become slippery, allowing for objects to recede and negative spaces to advance.”

Prof. Werring provides black and white reproductions of a Morandi painting and asks students to create a large value scale with white, light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black. The students then cut and tear from those five values to create a value collage from their Morandi reproduction.

Student value collage after Morandi

The struggle to do this assignment produces beautiful results. “The collages feel constructed, built, handmade. Some are rough and ragged, others are clean, meticulous….The assignment puts the emphasis on practice and not the end result. It allows the students to be in dialogue with another artist, and with themselves.”

Textile Surface Design

Prof. Hidenori Ishii: TD473 Advanced Digital Studio

The first five-week project, a high-end scarf design, has special relevance given the need for face coverings. Still, Prof. Ishii is not limiting the class to the obvious. “Students can really take advantage of this project in many ways,” she says.

Art Deco Scarf Design, by Lucy Catterick

Students will be assigned a theme based on one of three current fashion trends. They select a target market, write a brief about the target customer, and develop a color palette that follows the current trend.

Final Scarf by Ju Hee Yoo

After her approval, students design one complex high-end scarf layout using the School’s software. The scarf must incorporate a field, a border and a smaller print repeat that will be incorporated into the border or field. The final scarf will be printed on paper. Students are required to color match their design palette to their final printout.

Communication Design

Professor Thomas McManus: CD134 Capturing Creativity

Professor McManus offered two different assignments he alternates between at the beginning of the semester.

One is The Exquisite Corpse: Create an “exquisite corpse” by working with two other students to create an animal in a zoo by not knowing what the other students are doing in the making of the drawing.

Exquisite Corpse assignments: Mouse, Cat, Muscle Man

The other is “The Getty Challenge: Go to the Getty Museum website and try to recreate a masterpiece there using only the materials you have in your home.

The Getty Challenge, by Christine Lee

Graphic Design

Professor Stephanie Tevonian: GD216 Foundation in Graphic Design

By their third semester, students take an introductory class in a choice of majors before deciding which one is right for them. Prof. Tevonian teaches one in Graphic Design. She starts with a two-three week assignment that touches on the basics. Students design a postcard and appropriate stamp starting with two different approaches (using only typography, and then original abstract imagery or symbols).

This year, the theme of the card encourages voter turnout. Through the design, they show why this is significant. The initial copy, subject to change, reads: Vote, Make Your Voice Heard, November 3, 2020. Students will design the stamp in class to match their card.

The subject is an obvious one right now, but students have to show why it matters using only the visuals.

(Since this is Prof. Tevonian’s first time teaching this course, we’re going with a photo (above) that shows a belt she wears mid-semester “to remind students to laugh and remember that communication is through many different means and methods.”)

Textile Surface Design

Professor Kimberly Lennox: TD334 Complex Wovens

The theme for this first class project is Finding Inspiration in Tough Times “This has been a rough year for NYC,” says Prof. Lennox. The city will rebuild, but we have lost so much. Stores and restaurants have closed and cultural institutions struggle to outlast this storm. Think about what life in NYC would have been like without the challenges of the pandemic.

Students will consider: What favorite places might disappear?  Pick one place, person, or thing in the city to be inspired by.

From Assignment 1 of Prof. Lennox’s Complex Wovens class

Students will share their inspiration with pictures and sketches. They will include color inspiration and three thumbnail sketches that can be translated into a twill fabric. Students will photograph their work so they can present it remotely.

All images provided by faculty members featured in this post.

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Illustrator and Story-Teller Brian Michael Weaver to Teach This fall

In a world gone buggy…What do you get when you combine a tough-guy detective, a sultry butterfly, a hungry ladybug, a hard-nosed mosquito, a missing pencil box and a tail the size of Brooklyn?…

You get incoming Illustration Professor Brian Michael Weaver, aka Neil Numberman!

Brian Michael Weaver

New this fall Prof. Weaver will be teaching Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media II. He’s illustrated such groovy graphic novels as the “Joey Fly, Private Eye” series. He is writer/illustrator of the monster-ific picture book “Do NOT Build a Frankenstein!” And he’s a frequent contributor to Highlights Magazine as a Hidden Picture artist. His most recent picture book series is “Flip & Fin.”

Get to know more about him!

The first story he created was of a cat and a spider under the dining room table when he was three years old: “I’ve always made stories through pictures. A favorite medium was flip books starring stick figures getting crushed by rocks, or a mural on a long piece of paper telling a story, usually about the Ninja Turtles or The Ghostbusters.”

“I want to encourage students to tell stories through their art, because there will always be a need for new voices. I’m so excited to help them grow as storytellers, and find the best way to do it.” – Incoming Prof. Brian Weaver

He won over his English teachers in middle school: “I would add illustrations to my stories, such as my take on Romeo and Juliet: ‘Pencilo and Penliet,’ about a pen and pencil that fall in love. In the end they throw themselves into the gap between the office desk and the wall, never to be seen again. Tragic!”

Brian Michael Weaver

Finding new ways to tell stories: “I’m keeping a daily journal about my life in the COVID-19 lockdown. I like using standard comic techniques like word balloons, thought balloons, and captions, but also less tradition comic elements. Sometimes I’ll throw in a photograph, a screenshot of a text exchange, or an aside to introduce a character… It’s an efficient, unique way to tell the story.”

Says incoming Prof. Weaver: “I’ve been a guest speaker at FIT for over five years. I am absolutely floored at the quality of work I’m seeing from the students. I swear at their age, I was making the most awful stuff. I think it speaks to the quality of education they’re getting from their teachers, and just as importantly, I believe, from their peers.”

He’s often hired to animate, and tell quick one- or two-minute stories: “I love brainstorming with a director and a team on the best ways to make a visual gag work, or to tell the story in the funniest and most efficient way.”

By Brian Michael Weaver

Engaging the young reader: “I’m also working on a chapter book that’s inspired by the collaborations between Ronald Dahl and Quentin Blake–Dahl with his dark, twisted humor, and Blake’s beautiful loose ink line. The books were chock-full of illustrations. The Twits had at least one drawing per page! I love how the writing and the illustrations work together to keep a young reader turning the page.”

The need for storytellers and new voices: “I live for storytelling–and the more creative, the better. The media is changing faster than a lot of us can handle, but content is king. I will encourage students to tell stories through their art, because there will always be a need for new voices. I’m so excited to help them grow as storytellers.”

Starting amidst the pandemic: “I admit I’m a little intimidated at beginning the school year in this pandemic, mostly because I won’t get the opportunity to meet my students in person. But I was a guest critiquer in early May and it went very well. I viewed their artwork through screen sharing with no problems. It very easy for us to have a dialogue about their projects. They were passionate about their work, with no lack of motivation. If I’m beginning my teaching career in a remote classroom, so be it! We’ll make it work!”

Prof. Weaver is one of 12 incoming Illustration professors. To learn more about the Illustration department go to:  Illustration at the School of Art and Design.

All images and videos used with permission.


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Opportunities in the Rebranding of America

There’s a wave of rebranding taking place across the country in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, and a realization that Black dollars matter as well.

For many major brands, it has been a long time coming.

“The names and images on so many products were weaponized from their inception,” says Communication Design Professor Elvin Kince. “It has been part of a system that reinforces certain myths, stereotypes, and the social and economic hierarchy of America. For this reason, it has been tough to get rid of them.”

Three professors from the schools of Art and Design and Advertising and Marketing Communications (AMC) shared thoughts about this reckoning and their ideas for addressing it in the classroom.

“We need to empower students to get ahead of these issues and participate in decisions in the organizations they will work for” says “Sandra Krasovec, Program Coordinator of Packaging Design.

The need for rebranding is only one manifestation of racism and “present sudden awareness” says Professor Elena Romero of AMC and a correspondent for LATiNAS on CUNY TV. “It is not likely to be a short-term societal concern that will get swallowed up by the pandemic.”

Changing the name of an established product or service is not always simple. The name and packaging of Aunt Jemima is certainly racist, but how many other pancake mixes can most people name? On the other hand, a football team does not have to be chosen on a supermarket shelf. If you’re in Washington DC you really don’t have many options. But now, only after decades of complaints, is the Washington Redskins on the brink of change.

The situation differs from the 1970s, when companies realized their brands, slogans, and even corporate names meant different – often derogatory — things in different languages. As businesses globalized, they turned mainly to consulting firms that used then-new computers to search through hundreds of languages and check for bad or awkward words.

Reducing racism in branding today, however, requires more than a dictionary or thesaurus. And it requires a sustained effort.

Prof. Krasovec has seen rebranding efforts recede once public outcry has died down. “Black Lives Matter is the catalyst” she says. “Hopefully society sustains its outrage and we can do a better job teaching the next generation.”

Maybe this American branding issue  has hit a critical mass of rejection of the older ways and attitudes” says Prof. Kince. After all, ‘Black Lives Matter’ itself is a great slogan and a basic truth.” Yet it is controversial and even provocative to those who want to deny or dismiss the concept. Black lives matter doesn’t actually seem to matter to those who scream ‘all lives matter.'”

“We have a wide range of students of different backgrounds and experiences. To teach as if there’s one experience or expectation may not serve the student body as well as it once might have. For instance, when I was a student, our designs were focused on White Anglo-Saxon Protestant tastes” says Prof. Kince.

To answer the question of “What makes it different this time?” Prof. Romero suggests looking at historic moments that got corporate America to face systematic racism:

She notes the election of Barack Obama as symbolic and a historic first. “Finally America could see a Black man and his family beyond the usual stereotypical images perpetuated in the media. But we did not become a post-racial society as some predicted. Old wounds were still there” she says.

“We then moved from campaign slogans pushing ‘change’ and ‘hope’ to ‘Make America Great Again,’ leading to a retreat from ideas of diversity, inclusion and equity” she says.

The killing of George Floyd, of course, was not isolated. “Its impact was compounded by a long history of discrimination and outright ‘legal’ murders and incarceration of Black men and women making the time ripe for a cultural shift. BLM is a second Civil Rights movement” she says.

“Finally, the effects of COVID-19 made people re-evaluate life and the pursuit of happiness: COVID-revealed racial disparities and the fragility of life. This produced a new calling out of injustices, forcing individuals and organizations to take a hard look at what was considered to be the social norm or at least acceptable.”

Courtesy of Prof. Curtis Willocks


Prof. Krasovec says students have to be equipped with more than platitudes.

“I worked on Uncle Ben’s in the 80s. Even then the name was in question. We took it off. We put it back on. As a young designer I was naïve but it made me uncomfortable. Brand managers were reluctant about changing. Now I agree it’s definitely derogatory. It’s alluding to plantations and an acceptance of slavery. Back then it was considered brilliant branding, but it’s shameful that they’re still around” she says.

“To train students to be sensitive to stereotypes, I have used that and other brands as examples. I worked on the Mars Inc. brand Suzi Wan. It was not considered racially insensitive by brand managers.” Yet Suzi Wan was based of the name of a 1957 novel Suzie Wong, a Hong King prostitute.

From Women’s Day

Diversity in corporations matter says Prof. Kraovec. “I remember using a pattern from Asian-Indian symbolism meaning infinity, but with no attention to a small inner piece resembling a swastika. A print run had been completed when a manager called and asked if we realized what the pattern looked like. The package was pulled and redesigned. These experiences made me more culturally aware about developing brand identities” says Krasovec.

“The future will not have these degrading references so easily available” says Prof. Kince,“but that’s a start, not the final goal.”

It’s important to address these issues “without sugarcoating” says Prof. Kince. “The various ways bias is used in society should become an active part of the classroom conversation and curriculum.”

After all, biases makes the economy less efficient and thus makes everyone poorer.

“We have a wide range of students of different backgrounds and experiences. To teach as if there’s one experience or expectation may not serve the student body as well as it once might have. For instance, when I was a student, our designs were focused on White Anglo-Saxon Protestant tastes” says Prof. Kince.


“We need to practice what we preach” says Prof. Romero. “Whatever we say we are, or are not, how does that translate in our pedagogy, curriculum and faculty? We need to continually evaluate our course work. Are topics of race, class, and gender infused in the subjects we teach, not only in terms of history and context, but in terms of reaching audiences such as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+. And we need to diversify our guest lecturers and faculty.”

Prof. Romero favors “creating learning spaces that include student voices and experiences. Have students participate in projects where they’ll create solutions to real-life problems. For example, in AMC, we might develop anti-racist campaigns and propose solutions for businesses.”


Says Prof. Krasovec, “Our students come from all over the world. They come with their own cultural biases and are sensitive to these issues. The challenge is to make those needed discussions comfortable.”

She remains cautious about industry. “I don’t think brands are doing enough. They’re just saying they are. The pandemic and global climate change have put a lot on their plate – new package safety and sustainability issues will continue to push innovation. Tackling systemic racism will force a new dialogue on the ‘why’ of  brands and what they mean. All are within our ability to teach.”

“The future will not have these degrading references so easily available” says Professor Kince, “but that’s a start, not the final goal.”


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