From Africa to NY Fashion Week

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Last week New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer wrote an interesting behind-the-scenes piece about Stoll New York that largely focused on Edun knitwear designer Emily Thornton 10 AP. In the midst of preparing Edun’s line for New York Fashion Week, she popped into Stoll’s 39th Street shop to create a few last-minute pieces for the runway show.image

"The things that I am making here this week will be on the runway Sunday at 6 pm,” Thornton told the Times. “It’s like instant gratification. You can run across the street and change things. You can give them new things. Or if one yarn doesn’t work, you give them another yarn.”

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Thornton worked for Calvin Klein’s Women’s Collection for almost five years before her spring move to Edun, a brand founded by rock superstar Bono and his wife Ali Hewson to promote manufacturing and trade in Africa.

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“I love the industry because it is so tactile; it doesn’t exist in the ether,” Thornton told Dwyer for his NYT story.

Let the 2014/15 Year Begin!

To mark the official beginning of the academic year today, Provost Pradeep Sharma welcomed new faculty and RISD students from 38 countries and 41 states at the 2014 Convocation ceremony in the RISD Auditorium. Professors and department heads in full robed regalia attended the annual event, with a livestream broadcast sent to the overflow crowd in the Chace Center’s Metcalf Auditorium.

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Sharma introduced RISD Museum Director John W. Smith, who told new students about the museum’s great assets, along with department heads and graduate program directors – with a still photo from each highlighting their summer travels and explorations. ­The provost also delivered the core message of the day – a wonderfully provocative talk about tickling and revolution and the inherent contradictions of life in the 21st century. “Creativity exists,” he said, “in the uncanny spaces between the familiar and the unfamiliar.”

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In offering her own warm and inspiring words of welcome, President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID recalled the many jobs she held when she was a student at RISD, including working in a local restaurant where she rubbed shoulders with a number of alumni who have gone on to make indelible marks on the world. Among them was a dishwasher who stood out from the crowd: musical and artistic maverick David Byrne (class of 1974), the Talking Heads founder who has continued to stand out for his incredible contributions to the art world. Somerson described RISD as the “official beginning of a lifelong dream” and urged students to “turn impossible challenges into tangible results.”

Strauch Flying High

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Film critics are describing Sunshine Superman, a heart-racing 96-minute documentary about BASE jumping directed by Marah Strauch 00 GLas “jubilant and evocative.” The film was screened last week at the Toronto Film Festival, is appearing as part of the New York Film Fest in Lincoln Center in early October and was just picked up by Universal Pictures.

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Filmed in the US, Norway and the UK, Sunshine Superman tells the story of the late skydiver Carl Boenish (who died in 1984) and his wife Jean, who were the first to parachute off of skyscrapers, mountains and bridges, shooting breathtaking “freefall cinematography” on the way down. 

“The film isn’t this year’s Man on Wire,” notes The Hollywood Reporter in its review of last week’s screening in Toronto, “and not only because this eccentric hero died while practicing his passion. But it’s a thrill, and one that seriously rewards big-screen viewing.”

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The Met – RISD’s biggest and busiest dining hall – has a new look. Just in time for the start of school, crews finished installing long, family-style tables so that students can chat more easily while enjoying the good food made by RISD chefs.

To add fun pops of color to the spacious hall, Director of Retail and Dining Virginia Dunleavy snapped up some vintage chairs at a Massachusetts antiques fair. The summer redesign includes a new lounge area in a corner of the facility, where students now have the option of socializing on lush sofas while catching the headlines on a giant, wall-mounted TV.

In addition, The Met has added a new salad bar and a special refrigerated section for gluten-free foods. “It’s like a New York restaurant has opened on campus,” notes Admissions Officer Antonio Peters 04 IL, who has been coming here since he was a student a decade ago. “This place feels modern and sleek. Students are already loving it.”

Evolution Redrawn

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Illustrations by freelance artist Katy Wiedemann 13 IL grace the cover and inside pages of this month’s Scientific American. The September issue focuses on the incredible new discoveries paleoanthropologists have made in recent years – revelations that have fundamentally changed the way we understand human evolution.

Based outside of Philadelphia, Wiedemann specializes in scientific illustration and creates her amazing work using a combination of digital and traditional techniques. Just a year out of school, she’s rightfully thrilled to land the cover of a major magazine.

In the Running at Supima Competition

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This afternoon a collection of handcrafted gowns by new grad Sharon Moon 14 AP is making its debut at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC, one of the most publicized annual events for designers and industry insiders. The native of Seoul, Korea was invited to participate in the Supima Design Competition, an established runway show held each year at Lincoln Center.

A panel of celebrity judges will select the most jaw-dropping evening wear made of unprocessed pima cotton fabrics: denim, twill, corduroy, sheeting and jersey. Other finalists include students from FIT, Kent State and SCAD. 

Over the summer, Moon worked tirelessly on her elegant capsule collection, which is inspired by images of decaying flowers and involves laser cutting to snip through the fabric. “I have a particular passion for womenswear,” she notes. “I love experimenting with unusual techniques to make beautiful knits.”

Tune into a live broadcast of the Supima Design Competition, which starts at 1 pm EST.

The Fabric of RISD

RISD’s focus on critical making has clearly influenced San Francisco-based artist Adele Stafford 99 GL, who launched the handwoven textiles and apparel studio Voices of Industry in 2013.

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Now the talented weaver has made her mark on RISD, creating a garment that the RISD Museum recently acquired for its Costume + Textiles collection.

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VOI Shirt (agrarian twill, no. 6 of 8, 2014) – like all Voices of Industry pieces – was woven on a 16-harness dobby loom using 100% domestic fiber farmed and spun in the US. Stafford says of her studio: “We are influenced as much by modernist heroes like Anni Albers, Agnes Martin and Sheila Hicks as we are by traditional makers like Harris Tweed and Swans Island.”

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Alums Cited in New DIY Book

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Fast Company recently raved about DIY Furniture 2, a how-to book by industrial designer Christopher Stuart that features 30 “chic designs,” including lighting projects by Lindsey Adelman 96 ID, Rich Brilliant Willing (headed up by Theo Richardson 06 FD, Charles Brill 06 FD and Alex Williams 06 FD) and Sarah Pease 13 FD (see photo below)

Released by Laurence King Publishing in May, the book provides step-by-step instructions for making cool furniture out of unlikely, up-cycled materials, such as PVC tubes, suction cups and other inexpensive plumbing parts. 

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Chang a Finalist in LG Competition

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Link House, a digital college inspired by neighborhoods in Malaysia.

Last week Bo Yoon Christina Chang 15 PT was named RISD’s finalist in the LG Electronics’ Art of the Pixel competition. The innovative tech company invited talented students from nine of the country’s top art schools to submit digital artworks that capture the excitement of LG’s cutting-edge, high-contrast monitors.

After submitting Link Housea dazzling digital collage inspired by Malaysia’s residential landscape, Chang earned a $5,000 cash prize – plus a trip to a glamorous gala event to be held in New York City later this month. If named the top winner, she’ll earn an additional $5,000.

Through the end of July, members of the public surveyed more than 300 brilliant pieces posted to an online gallery to vote for their favorite entries. The finalists were ultimately chosen through an extensive judging process overseen by renowned digital artist Mark Tribe and LG experts.

Suburban Renewal

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This summer a group of young New York artists and designers has thrown themselves into bringing art and community into Long Island’s picturesque Bellport Village.

After Georgia Read BArch 13 and her friends cleaned up an abandoned auto body shop in exchange for the right to use the space as a gallery, they put together a series of successful summer exhibitions. The Car Show (a fitting topic for the space) gave way to The Book Show – which was in effect curated by members of the community, who donated the books – and The Beach Show, which included an 8x10’ driftwood sculpture (pictured above) built by the group.

The fourth and final exhibition, The Chair Show, opened this weekend.  

Celebrating the Land

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Landscape Architecture students who took Nick Pouder’s Ecological Planning & Design studio several years ago have reason to celebrate today as they’re seeing the fruits of their labor pay off.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is doing the honors at the grand opening of the East Kent Hamlet Nature Preserve, a former Girl Scout camp in Connecticut that is being preserved in perpetuity as open land for hikers and nature lovers.

RISD students helped analyze and map the area prior to its purchase, noting that the 263 wooded acres include such historic sites as Kent County’s first iron forge and the Barnum family farm and are home to bobcats, bears and barn owls.

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From East to West

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Trapping Birds 2014, a painting by Professor David Frazer 70 PT, is featured on the cover of the current issue of Art in China magazine. It’s one of 14 Frazer paintings included in the summer exhibition No Room for Form: Contemporary Paintings from American Artists at the SZ Art Center in Beijing. 

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Now that the show has closed in Beijing, it’s en route to the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, where it will be on view from September 18 through October 6.

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Frazer (third from left) traveled to China for the exhibition opening in June and is currently driving 30 of his paintings across the US for a related exhibition at the soon-to-be-opened International Art Center of San Francisco. Both shows feature his work along with that of three other painters: Fred MartinJeremy Morgan and Ming Ren

Rebranding Barnard

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The NYC-based design firm Poulin + Morris – led by Richard Poulin and Douglas Morris 85 GD – is currently at work changing the face of Barnard College. The firm’s rebranding work includes comprehensive environmental graphics and wayfinding signage that will appear across the four-acre Upper West Side campus. A newly designed crest has been added to the main and secondary entrances, and large-scale placards at each of the college’s four corners clearly define Barnard’s physical borders.

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More Doodle Fun @Google

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In an interview that aired Monday evening on NPR’s show Marketplace, Google Doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino 10 IL talks about making this animation to mark the 87th birthday of tennis and golf legend Althea Gibson. You can hear the short interview on the Marketplace Tech site.

Absolutely flawless weather welcomed RISD-RI alumni, family members, and friends at Matunuck Oyster Bar in southern Rhode Island this past Sunday. Restaurateur and oyster farmer Perry Raso first led an informative lecture on sustainable oyster aquaculture, including RI’s unique impact on both a local and global scale, then took the group aboard his barge for an up-close and personal look at the oyster farm. Attendees got to handle different species of oysters in many stages of growth and learn about some of the techniques, environmental benefits, and challenges of oyster farming, all while taking in a gorgeous view of Potter Pond.

A delicious platter of oysters greeted alumni following the tour, and many enjoyed lunch afterwards at the restaurant. Event coordinator Christina Rodriguez 03 IL and her husband Travis Wood 03 ID (seen in bottom photo) were thrilled with the enthusiastic turnout and hope to plan a repeat event next year.

Thanks to the RISD-RI Alumni Club and RISD Alumni Relations for supporting this great summer gathering!