Purls of Wisdom

Alumni Profile Series: Lizzy Gee

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Nov 04, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

We hope you enjoy the fourth installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives!

For a shorter biography of Lizzy Gee, check out the alumni page of our website! 

Lizzy Gee Headshot

Name: Elizabeth Marie Gee
Age: 22
Education: 2018 graduate of the Pratt Institute
Majors: Fashion Design BFA
Website: www.lizzygee.com
Instagram: @treslizzy

 

Who is Lizzy Gee?

SHe's a Rebel 1-198551-editedFrom perusing Lizzy Gee’s website before our interview, it is easy to tell that she is a colorful person, an imbues that sense of boldness and brightness in her designs. Seeing Lizzy’s outfit and a small section of her apartment on our video call only confirms that she loves color, and I can’t want to hear what she has to say. Lizzy graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York just a few months before our interview with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design and is currently working as a head teacher at The Handwork Studio as she makes plans for her future.

I ask Lizzy a few fun questions to get us into the interview, and in the process learn that the night before our conversation she watched the movie Stardust on Netflix. (Lizzy is a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan.) If Lizzy could be any animal, she would be a flamingo because she loves pink, and her website is full of vibrant shades of the color. Lastly, I ask Lizzy what she wants to be when she grows up, and she laughs. “Well, I’m being it! A fashion designer!”

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Lizzy started knitting classes at the Handwork Studio when she was eight, and after a year of that she started machine sewing. Lizzy also did Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio for four or so years, and credits her experiences there with helping her develop her entire fashion skill set before she went to college. “Without them, I wouldn’t have known any of it, because no one in my family can even hand sew. So I’m officially the seamstress of the house, thanks to them.” Lizzy was interested in handwork before she began attending the Handwork Studio classes, however, because she was always intrigued by the idea that she could draw something and have an idea and then actually bring that idea to life. She dabbled in making board games when she was younger, but nothing clicked with her more than knitting and making clothes.

While she was 13 (and still attending Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio), Lizzy also started working as an assistant instructor, helping out at birthday parties and camp during the summer at the Narberth studio, an experience that foreshadowed her current position as head teacher. Lizzy tells me about a time during Fashion Bootcamp that stands out to her as a perfect representation of how great the Handwork Studio was in helping build her as a person and a designer. “I remember Ms. Alisha and Ms. Julia tried to help me figure out how to thread a serger. That’s a much more complex machine than a sewing machine, and it uses five threads, and they sat with me for like two hours trying to figure it out. That was the next step, and they were happy to help me through it.”

 

Lizzy’s Journey

Wilder WoMann 2-379538-editedBecause Lizzy has known that she wanted to go into fashion for so long, she was able to start having incredible job and internship experience at a relatively young age. When she was still in high school, Lizzy took classes at the Moore College of Art and Design and interned at the costume department at Villanova University (where they thought she was a college student until the very end of the internship, when they found out she was only 16!).

Once she arrived in New York for her freshman year at Pratt, Lizzy started interning right away, even though her university advised incoming students against doing so because companies might try to take advantage of them. Lizzy heeded the warning but once met a woman near her school named Julie Mollo who had her own studio and made performance-wear for different musicians, Lizzy jumped at the opportunity to learn from the business and see what it takes to run your own brand. Lizzy planned to intern for bigger and bigger brands over the years to gain a variety of working experience in different environments, so her second internship was with a designer named Mara Hoffman. Hoffman taught Lizzy all about print design, something she had been interested in ever since she attended the Handwork Studio. Lizzy’s third internship was with her “idol, Christian Siriano. When I got an internship with him, I was like ‘I think this is the pinnacle. I don’t know how I can get any better than this.’ I just love that he does plus size too, and I’ve only ever made designs for myself, and I’ve been plus size since middle school. So it was really nice to meet someone who doesn’t care what size you are, and is going to make something nice no matter what.”

I, like Lizzy, attend university in New York, so I ask her what it was like to move from outside of Pennsylvania to the city. “I love it. It’s definitely a different pace than any other city. But I love it. I think it helps that I went to a school that still has a campus feeling, so you feel that calm amongst the crazy. If I had gone to Parsons or FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] I would have felt very overwhelmed and I wouldn’t have stayed after graduating. But I plan to stay for at least a year.” I agree. I love the city, but without a quiet, collegiate campus, my university experience would be very different than it is now.Wilder WoMann 4

Like many people, my sense of the fashion industry, especially in New York, is that it can be pretty cutthroat. Movies like The Devil Wears Prada depict a very specific image of what that world resembles, and I ask Lizzy if it was at all daunting to enter that universe as a young designer. “There’s definitely stereotypes for a reason,” she tells me, “And I’ve met all of them. Surprisingly enough there’s all different kinds of personalities and brands out there, but you can find a really different experience than the harsh, cutthroat environment they make it out to be. My very first big brand internship was Mara Hoffman and...it was one of the most welcoming environments. So it depends on the environment, and there’s definitely brands out there that can take advantage and make you feel like you can’t do it, but there’s also brands that want you to succeed. Even though The Devil Wears Prada tries to tell you different.”

Apparently, other people in Lizzy’s life were concerned about how she would fare in the New York fashion industry as well because she would get a lot of "'Oh, you’re too nice to be in fashion. Oh, you’re too sweet, you’re not gonna make it. But you can always be like a teacher?’” Lizzy ignored all those comments. “My main thing is to run my own brand, and the only way to do that is if I work for a brand...Why not try to go in there and make a change? I love it so much; I’m not gonna give up just because some people tell me they think my designs are ugly or something.”

 

Lizzy’s Art

As I guessed from looking at her website and seeing her for the first time, Lizzy loves color. She elaborates on her art and vision, and why she creates the way that she does.

SHe's a Rebel 2“I always have had a lot of color and boldness with my designs. I try to balance femininity and edge, so I design for a girl who wants to wear pink and wear bright colors, but also, you know, don’t mess with her. That’s the vibe I’m trying to bring out. Also when I went to Pratt, I started to learn about menswear, and I love the idea of helping straight men not have a fear of dressing flamboyant and wearing what they want. I have a lot of friends who are guys, and they love my designs, but they’re too afraid. If they want to wear a really bold print, they’re worried people will assume certain things about them rather than think they just really enjoy color."

"I want to create a brand that blends that aesthetic together and is not really defined by gender or a demographic; it’s just a personality. And that is a more feminine edge, I guess. It would be made sustainably. What I tried to learn in school is the best way to sustainably create prints and textiles, because that’s where most of the pollution comes from in fashion. All that dying, all that manipulating of materials to create the fabrics we have. Which ones are the best in terms of decomposing, which ones last the most so we won’t be throwing away garments? I’m trying to find a universal quality to having fun with prints and color.”

Lizzy’s artistic vision changed significantly while she attended Pratt, and she expects more change to come. She made five mini-collections before she even started college, so she thought she knew what she wanted, but learning about menswear, prints, and accessories at Pratt helped expand Lizzy’s horizons. She’s now more open to starting her brand with accessories and building into clothes or experimenting with a more versatile range of techniques and demographics.

 

Trials and Successes

One instance immediately comes to mind when I ask Lizzy if there’s anything she’s done over the last few years that she’s especially proud of.

Dancing Lobsters

“I’ve always dabbled in costume design, but that’s never been where I definitely wanted to go because I want to design for the everyday person as well. I’ve never wanted to design clothes that feel exclusive, you know? That’s why I get rigid if I know I have to sell something for slightly more expensive than I’d buy it at. But there was a costume design competition at Pratt. They partnered with a famous boutique in Manhattan to do this competition, and the winner’s costume would be displayed in the front window. Which is a dream come true for anyone who wants to show their own designs. I initially didn’t think I was going to do it because I was stressed out with what I was doing, and the theme was under the sea, and I was like, okay, a million people are gonna do mermaids and jellyfish. I like to put a humorous spin on my work, and I couldn’t think of anything for the first week. My professors kept telling me to apply and try, and midnight the night before it was due I remembered The Amanda Show, and my favorite part of that show was with Judge Trudy, who always yelled “Bring in the Dancing Lobsters!” and I was like ‘Oh, my God. I’m gonna make a dancing lobster. But I’m gonna make it sexy and elegant, but it's still gonna be the dancing lobster. A costume that you can dance in.’ So that’s what I made.”

Lizzy describes the lobster dress as “kind of cartoonish but elegant,” with sequins, long antennae, and a tail like a train. “And I ended up winning,” she tells me, with a smile. It was the first time Lizzy had a window front with her name on it, and she was thrilled when she was it in person for the first time. After the competition, Lizzy ended up getting a contract with the store and sold a few more dresses to them.

When I ask Lizzy if she would change anything about the last few years, she has a surprising and refreshing answer. “I don’t know if I would change anything.” She pauses for a long time to think, and I make sure to tell her that she doesn’t have to have something and that it’s a good thing if she doesn’t want to change anything about her recent life. Ultimately, however, Lizzy tells me that if she “had to choose something...I did a summer abroad in London, and I loved it so much; I applied for the college experience and decided not to go. I wasn’t sure if I should do that, because I was so young. But after going, I totally could have done it. But I love New York. So if anything, maybe I would have done that as my fashion degree. So if I decide to get my masters I’d go there.”Wilder WoMann 1

Lizzy’s final words prove to be fantastic advice for anyone reading this, but especially for kids at the Handwork Studio who wish to pursue careers in fashion. “Don’t listen to anybody who says what you’re doing is weird or out of the ordinary or that it can’t happen,” she says, “Because you can make it happen. That’s literally what being a designer is. You design clothes you’ve never seen before. What makes you different is what makes you succeed. That’s not pushed in the classroom enough. There’s multiple ways to get to where you wanna be...Having patience with yourself and learning the skills to create is the hardest at the beginning. I’m teaching a group of machine sewers right now, and they already think they’re bad at it, almost. Every time they make a little mistake. That’s probably the hardest thing. Once you learn all those mistakes are learning experiences you can build upon, fashion will come so naturally to you, and you can go and have a career in it.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Lizzy Gee
Photo 2: Lizzy wearing clothes from her "S/he's a Rebel" Collection, 2016
Photo 3: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017
Photo 4: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017
Photo 5: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "S/he's a Rebel" Collection, 2016
Photo 6: Lizzy's "Dancing Lobsters" costume in the window of Screaming Mimis
Photo 7: Lizzy and models wearing clothes from her "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017

Tags: The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Lizzy Gee

Alumni Profile Series: Emilie Patton

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Oct 21, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

We’re happy to share the third installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives!

For a shorter biography of Emilie Patton, check out the alumni page of our website!

Emilie Patton headshot-1

Name: Emilie Marie Patton
Age: 21
Education: Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, Final Year
Majors: Fibers and Material Studies

 

Who is Emilie Patton?

Emilie Patton (Emilie, not Emily, a mistake I made the first time we emailed) has a bright, bubbly personality and a friendliness about her that makes me look forward to speaking with her even more. Before we get into the meat of the interview, I realize that both Emilie and Julia Haines, a Handwork Studio alumnus I interviewed a few weeks before, both attend the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and are both majoring in Fibers and Material Studies. When I ask Emilie about it (without specifying Julia by name), she guesses who I’m talking about immediately, and tells me that in addition to being in the same, relatively small class at Tyler, they also danced together in high school. Small world! 

Here’s Emilie Patton in a flash: The last thing she watched before our interview was a series on Netflix called Haven, which she describes as a police show, but also a milder version of Supernatural. She laughs as she tells me she’s on season three and only started it two weeks ago. If Emilie could be an animal, she would be a rabbit, because “they have such nice eyes, eat grass all day, and hop around.” I ask what she wants to be when she grows up, and Emilie tells me that she plans to be “a working artist.” She pauses. “Well, a successful working artist,” she adds with a laugh.

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Emilie first truly got involved in the handwork world when she started taking classes at the Handwork Studio in 6th grade. She took a sewing class with her friends and made pajama bottoms, and from then on she just “really liked going there.” Emilie attended a Handwork Studio class every summer, and sometimes she would attend classes at night during the school year as well. I wonder if she expressed any interest in handwork before she started going to the Handwork Studio classes, or if her parents just decided to enroll her, and she makes it clear that she “was really interested in it. My great grandmother was a seamstress, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew because I learned hand sewing from a family friend when I was around 6. My mom doesn’t know how to sew, and my grandmother who lived an hour and a half away couldn’t teach me because I wasn’t there, so going to this was the best option that I had to learn to do this skill that I really wanted to learn.”

Emilie fondly remembers when she took the Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio when she entered high school. She tells me that it was a nice environment, a really fun class to take and that she and her friends had a good time making garments together. “It was a good highlight of my childhood.”


Emilie’s Journey

Emilie patton outfitsUnlike Julia, who decided to apply to Tyler very shortly before the deadline, Emilie was aware that she wanted to go to art school earlier, but she also struggled with choosing between art and another path. Emilie was originally going to attend school for pharmacy (her dad’s a pharmacist, and her mom’s an ICU nurse), but then she took art classes in high school and realized that she could apply the skills she loved, like sewing, to 3D art, amongst other things, and “it kind of took off from there.” At the end of her sophomore year of high school she told her parents that she didn’t want to go to school for anything related to health care, but art instead.

Emilie is from Havertown, PA, a place she describes as a “small town,” so everyone knew her parents and knew that Emilie originally wanted to go into a medical field. When she decided to embark on her art school journey, not everyone was thrilled. “Some of my high school teachers told me that I wouldn’t find a job,” she admits, but a beloved high school art teacher helped her get to where she is now. “You’ve got to find those people who believe in you and stay with them.” Emilie pushed through the confusion and criticism and took AP art her junior year of high school, an experience that solidified her love for art and convinced her that she was making the right decision by planning to go to art school. “Junior year is when I was like, no I want to do this. I do not want to be a pharmacist for the rest of my life; I want to be an artist. I think taking an art class and seeing I could apply those skills, helped.”

When I ask Emilie if she has had any job or internship experience related to handwork, she hesitates. “This is not like a ‘true job,’” she says, “But I used to teach kids in my neighborhood how to sew. Like on my own, with my friends. I would make bags and bring them to class, and a lot of people asked me where I got them, and I told them I made them by sewing. And in middle school a lot of people wanted me to teach them. I did that freshman year too, in my dorm.” I tell her that even if she doesn’t consider that a “true job,” it’s still really cool. I would love to learn handwork, and if I had a peer who could teach me how to do it, that would be so much easier. Rather than try to teach myself, or go to a class. “I taught myself how to knit,” Emilie laughs, "And it’s a lot easier to learn from someone else.”


Emilie’s Art

Emilie Patton (front)We cycle back around to talk about the Tyler School of Art, and what Emilie’s life has been like attending school there. What kinds of classes does she take; does she concentrate on something specific in her major; does she mostly take studio classes?

“I focus more on garment construction,” she tells me, “And on the ideas of processes. I really like to weave my own fabric. The idea of making something completely from scratch really intrigues me, and I usually focus my work on garments and exploring the body through clothing. A lot of the classes I take are - I took a garment construction class last year and a weaving class, and that’s kind of where it started - but I like taking classes that are more hands-on in physical processes. Silk screening, natural dyes, everything’s kind of from the ground up. That just really intrigues me.” Emilie typically takes three studio classes a semester, and one non-studio, so much of her time is focused on actually making art.

In my experience, artists go through a period when they come into their style and discover their artistic voice, and this period can last anywhere from a few months to a few decades because style is always evolving. I ask Emilie to tell me about her artistic passion, how and when she developed her style, and whether her interest in building structures from the ground up was something she always wanted to do, or whether it came into play later. “It came into play later,” she responds. “Way, way later. I’ve always liked the idea of the processes of things, but more recently, last semester, it took hold. I was in Rome for four months for a semester abroad, and there were no fibers classes over there, so I was taking whatever I could that was craft centered. I took bookbinding, paper making, and a sketchbook class. I really struggled. I had the worst block ever, it was awful. It wasn’t until the very end until one of my professors told me ‘Just don’t think’ and it clicked. So I started making things, not as a concept, but that the way of doing things is in itself an art.”

Emilie told me at the beginning of the interview that she wants to be a working artist. I wonder if she has any idea what she wants that to look like.

“My goal in life is to own my own brand in a sense. I’m really interested in functionality. I want to do work based on making something functional in someone’s life, not just extremely contemporary, which I don’t have an exact knack for. I’m jealous of people who have that knack. I would love to own a store where I could transform my work into things people can use every day in their lives, and become almost a household name, in a way. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.”


Trials and Successes

When I get to the part of the interview where I typically ask what the interviewee is the proudest of, or for an accomplishment of theirs they’d like to share, I’m pleasantly surprised when Emilie wants to give me two. Both pertain to garments she’s made, at two different times in her life. Emilia Patton (back)-1

“Senior year I made my prom dress, and it was one of my favorite dresses I’ve ever made. It doesn’t fit me anymore, but it was just something I didn’t think I’d be able to make structurally. I made the pattern myself, and I never did that before, and it was something I was really proud of.” She had to sew herself into it, she laughs, but it was worth it. “The second one was designing a three-piece collection of 11 pieces total for a class I took last year. I made a killer pair of pants that were completely pleated around the bottom that took me five days to make. I worked on them for like 12 hours a day, and when I was done I was so happy, and they looked so good on my model, and I was like ‘Yes! Finally!’”

When I ask Emilie the opposite - to tell me something she wishes she could change about the past few years - I’m surprised by how similar her answer is to the one Julia Haines gave me. “I wish I had a better sense of my artwork a couple of years ago. Going through that struggle of finding your own style is really hard. Because you doubt yourself a lot.”

Close to the end of the interview, Emilie tells me another story about her time at the Handwork Studio. “This is my second year working at the Handwork Studio, and I had the opportunity to help teach the Fashion Bootcamp last year, and I’ll be doing it this year as well if there are enough campers. And it’s really inspiring to see these girls who are like 13 and 14 make a two-piece collection from scratch, from fabric they get to choose, and they get to design everything, and they find patterns and alter patterns. It’s so inspiring seeing that as someone who does this almost as their career. Seeing it start so young kind of reignites the fire and makes me think 'Yes, this is what I want to do! This is great!' It’s so great having these kids get this environment that, a lot of times, they don’t get at school or anywhere else, and people saying, 'You can do this, we believe in you.' And then they do amazing things. It’s crazy. A girl made a dress based on the night sky, and I helped her dye it, and she put all these stars on it, and it was beautiful. Like that came out of your mind. You made that. It’s such a nice feeling that you can help these girls get there.”

I want to end with some advice Emilie offered for any kids at the Handwork Studio who may be inspired to follow the same path as her, or just to pursue their passions: “Stick with it, because there’s going to be times when you wanna give up, and you think your work isn’t good enough or it’s too hard or stressful. People will try to tell you that you’re in school for something you don’t need but stick with it, because you want to do something you’re going to enjoy for the rest of your life. If it’s something you’re passionate about, keep it.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Emilie Patton
Photo 2: Emilie's designs
Photo 3: Emilie wearing her designs, front
Photo 4: Emilie wearing her designs, back

Tags: The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Emilie Patton

Alumni Profile Series: Sharon Baranov

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Oct 07, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Welcome to the second installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives. Happy reading!

For a shorter biography of Sharon Baranov, check out the alumni page of our website!

Sharon headshot-1

Name: Sharon Baranov
Age: 18
Education: First year at the University of Pennsylvania
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Who is Sharon Baranov?

Sharon tells me that in addition to engineering she paints, sews, and does fashion design. Her favorite type of art is probably making clothes, but the week before our interview she took a still life painting class (where she tried oil paints for the first time) and loved it.

When she grows up, Sharon most likely wants to do something in mechanical engineering, but she also wants to relate her engineering back to fashion, because she finds that “they’re kind of intermixed a little bit because they’re both about making things.”

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Sharon started sewing at a remarkably young age. Her mom bought her sewing kits from Joann Fabric that she really enjoyed and she attended a knitting class at another camp and had a great time, so her mom signed her up for classes at the Handwork Studio. She tells me that she was 5 or 6 years old when she started attending the Handwork Studio. To start that young, someone else in Sharon’s family must have been interested in handwork if she got involved that early, but she shakes her head. “No one else in my family really did sewing. My two older sisters had learned to knit so when I first started knitting one of my sisters (who is about ten years older than me) was starting to help me, but she didn’t know a lot. She couldn’t really cast on or anything, so then my mom sent me to the Handwork Studio.”

Sharon has been a part of the Handwork Studio family for virtually her entire life. When I ask her about her journey with the Handwork Studio, she tells me that she started taking hand sewing lessons after camp, did doll making, and then once she was old enough she started machine sewing. (She had a private teacher that taught her how to machine sew before she began to machine sew at the Handwork Studio because she wasn’t yet old enough to be in the class. If anything evidences Sharon’s dedication to the craft, this is it!) “Once I was old enough to do [machine sewing] at the Handwork Studio I took a class every week and a bunch of my friends did it with me because my mom told their parents about it so I would take the doll making class on Monday kind of by myself or with one other friend and for machine sewing it would be me and like six of my friends. We would go for the Friday class. And after that they kind of...I guess by the time we went to middle school they had stopped and I kept going, and by then I stopped taking classes and did volunteering in classrooms. And then once I turned fourteen, I started working at the Handwork Studio.”

It’s telling of Sharon’s dedication and love for handwork that she stayed committed even when those around her found other things to do. Even after Sharon aged out of the Handwork Studio, she remained involved, working at the Narberth studio through summers and school years.

Its hard to imagine that the Handwork Studio has been anything less than formative for Sharon because of her lifelong relationship with it, and she agrees wholeheartedly. “It definitely had a lasting impact on me because it kind of got me going in sewing, and I had really great teachers, and they were really fun. Especially because I had a lot of friends that went with me and I made friends that kept me going. Taking sewing classes by yourself - which I also did with a private sewing teacher - can sometimes not be as motivating because you’re by yourself. With a bunch of friends you’re all picking your projects together, and it just makes the experience really fun. Eventually, as I got older...they still kept me on volunteering because I was too old for the classes. I never had a break when it was like “Oh I’m too old for the classes but too young to work.” They just kept me going with it.”

Sharon immediately launches into a story when asked if she has a favorite anecdote or experience that she wants to share. She talks about this “huge fat bunny that one of the teachers had knitted a while ago” that sat in the studio that all the kids loved to play with. “One summer,” she recalls, “I decided that I wanted to make it. So they just let me do my own thing, and every time I had the chance, I would work on knitting this bunny. They weren’t very strict that I had to do every project and they let me do my own thing. It was really exciting because I finished the bunny and it was a huge bunny.” She forms a circle with her arms, indicating how large the project was, and laughs. “It was really cute.”

 

Sharon’s  Journey

Instead, she is asked to talk about the most significant way handwork plays a role in her life, outside of working at the Handwork Studio of course. She tells me that the Handwork Studio taught her “about the fun you can have with sewing,” so now she focuses more on doing projects that make her happy. “I just finished making my prom dress in April, and I just do little fun projects. I don’t make it something that is difficult for me; I just do what I like. That’s what they taught me.”

“It was really hard,” she admits, “because I decided to make the pattern for it myself, so that was really difficult, but once I got the pattern it kind of went a lot smoother and I was able to finish it.” She thinks for a moment before telling me about her 3-week internship for a tailor that she completed as her senior project, alongside making her prom dress. She worked at a store called SewRob near where she lives and got to see more of the business side of sewing.  Did she focus on administrative tasks? Fashion related work?

“I saw what he was doing with the tailoring and the pinning, but I didn’t work as much with the actual sewing of stuff because it’s still his business and he had to let his workers do their own thing,” she explains. “But I basically checked if everyone finished the work right. I would take a pair of pants and press the hem and make sure there weren’t any threads hanging off, and then I would check it off. I also watched him pin different dresses. A bride came in, and I was able to see that.”

 

Sharon’s Art

Despite pursuing a career in something outside handwork, Sharon makes it clear that sewing will always be her hobby. She chose not to embark on a fashion career because she likes being able to make clothes for herself, and she likes the freedom of making patterns for things she wants. “That’s how I got into engineering,” she says. “I was thinking that I really like making things and fitting them together and seeing how they work.” She starts to tell the story of how she moved from fashion to engineering.

“I went to Parsons for a three-week summer program, and I did fashion illustration there which was a lot about putting the design and the colors together and stuff like that. And I liked it and thought it was really fun but it wasn’t really what I was going for. I was thinking a lot more about the patterns and how you can construct different clothes, and that’s really what I like to do. I don’t do as much fashion illustration at home; I just like to put things together and make the actual clothing. I know there are jobs like that in the fashion world but right after Parsons I had physics in school (my junior year) so we started doing projects like building a catapult or a bridge. I saw that I liked those two and how making those things connected to making the patterns in my sewing. I was thinking that if I get a degree in mechanical engineering and learn a lot about how things go together and how you make things then if I don’t like doing anything other than doing that with clothing then I can always go back and use what I’ve learned from my degree in mechanical engineering and apply it to clothing.”

 

Trials and Successes

When I ask Sharon what she’s done over the last few years that she’s the proudest of, I’m thrilled to hear her say her prom dress. She goes into detail about the process and design.

“Basically it’s this corset pattern, and it’s not like anything I’ve made a pattern for before so at the beginning I was really struggling. I did pattern draping on a mannequin, and it took me six tries and so many months to do it and finally I just was like ‘This is close enough’ and started cutting out fabric and making it into the dress. And as it came together it felt really good because I got so many compliments from people who were like ‘Oh my god, how’d you do this’ and it felt really good to see a final product. And that's really what I like about sewing. You get through the whole process which can be really challenging sometimes, but then you get a product in the end that you’re really proud of.”

As a visual artist who normally sticks to drawing and painting, I don’t really know what it’s like to use your artistic skills to make something intrinsically functional and to be able to wear your creation. Sharon agrees, saying that “You’re really close to your clothes. A lot of people express themselves through their clothing or just like nice clothing, so I feel like when you can make it for yourself, it’s just really nice. And it feels really close, even more sometimes than a painting.”

What is something Sharon wishes she could change about the last few years? She pauses for a second, then tells me that she wishes that she’d kept sewing more after she decided not to pursue fashion as a career. Before she attended the Parsons program, Sharon had sewing teacher that had her make something new every week, and even though it was challenging, she wishes she had kept up with that schedule. Sharon essentially took a six-month break from sewing and only really got back into it to make a dress for her winter formal, her junior year. “It was a little bit of a sore topic, but I wish I had kept going because there are so many things I could have made during that time…then I did my junior formal dress, and it was like, okay, I really miss this.” She’s coming into the realization that she needs to find a way to keep sewing in her life (which is why she took this summer off from work - to make art). It’s always a balance to keep space and time for your art alongside everything else school throws at you.

Does she have anything else to share about the Handwork Studio?

“It was a really good experience and made sure that I’ll always have something that I like to do and that I’ll always make time for. It helped me approach the arts. My mom is very into sports and stuff, and she’s never done any art, and my older sister was into painting, but I’m the first one to get into sewing. So it really helped me find ‘my thing.’”

 

 



Photo 1: Portrait of Sharon Baranov
Photo 2: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 3: Painting of Sharon and her sisters
Photo 4: Jacket designed by Sharon 
Photo 5: Sharon in her prom dress, front 
Photo 6: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 7: Sharon in her prom dress, back

Tags: Handwork, The Handwork Stories, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Sharon Baranov

Alumni Profile Series: Julia Haines

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Sep 23, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

The Alumni Profile Series will feature profiles of graduates (and some current members) of the Handwork Studio and give you an inside look into how they maintain their passion for the craft! We hope that learning about the alumni will inspire your kids to follow in their footsteps and help them see that no matter who they are, what their background in handwork is, and what they hope to be when they grow up, they can do anything they put their minds to!

For a shorter biography of Julia Haines, check out the alumni page of our website! 

Julia Haines Headshot

Name: Julia Claire Haines
Age: 22
Education: 5th year student in the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA
Majors: Fibers and Material Studies, with a certificate in Art Education
Website: www.juliaclairehaines.com/

 

Who is Julia Haines?

I sit down to talk to Julia Claire Haines on a sunny Thursday afternoon in the summer. There is a brief bit of fumbling as we both try to get our video and audio to work, but after a very friendly introduction, we get down to the interview.

Julia Haines Portrait

After asking some standard questions about her education and age, I tell Julia that I want to ask her some fun questions, so our readers can get to know her a bit more. I end up learning that the last thing Julia watched on TV was an episode of the second season of Netflix’s Queer Eye with her mom and that if she were an animal, she would be a hedgehog because she is “small and dutiful and sometimes prickly, but mostly soft.” When I ask Julia what her favorite type of art is, she immediately tells me that fiber art is her passion. She uses fabric and other craft-based mediums to create 2D and 3D works, and she particularly loves silkscreen printing on fabric and embroidery. To Julia, handwork is a very directional and soothing process.

When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, Julia responds enthusiastically with “A lot of things! But I graduate next year, and when I graduate, I want to teach art, either in Philly or one of the surrounding districts.” She wants to teach at a public school, preferably K-12, and credits working with elementary aged students at the Handwork Studio for helping her become more open to teaching younger children. 

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Julia’s formal introduction to handwork is synonymous with her introduction to the Handwork Studio because she became involved with both in elementary school when her mom won a week’s worth of classes for her in a raffle at the Alex’s Lemonade Stand annual fundraiser. Before attending the Handwork Studio’s classes, Julia tried - unfortunately unsuccessfully - to teach herself to knit and was interested in sewing and embroidery, so she loved learning these skills in a more structured setting at the Handwork Studio. After being a part of the Handwork Studio family for several years, Julia took a brief break, then came back as a CIT for some time during high school. Then, she tells me, “I went to Tyler and I kind of returned to my roots, I think because, for me, my foundation in art is definitely through sewing and handcraft and not necessarily in drawing and painting. So once I became more confident in my abilities as an artist at Temple, I started really diving into fiber practices again.” Julia currently works as a counselor at the Narberth studio and ended up applying for the position after bumping into owner and founder Laura Kelly this spring.

I ask Julia to reflect on the experiences she had at the Handwork Studio as a child and how they impacted her, and she makes it clear that they “were definitely formative. I learned how to do these skills that pretty much transferred to my university education, which is kind of cool, I think. To learn something when you’re like ten years old, eleven years old, and that actually comes into your college experience.”

Another part of Julia's experience at the Handwork Studio that impacted her was the atmosphere. “I remember feeling so comfortable and safe when I was there and that contentment that I felt while I was there was a good gauge in every other situation I found myself in growing up. Whether that was like formal activities or with friends. I kind of knew what this really nice, gentle comfort was.”

 

Julia’s Journey

There are plenty of kids at the Handwork Studio who want to pursue pathes like Julia’s and go to art school or continue to involve handwork in their careers in some way, so I ask her about her work experience and what led her to decide to attend the Tyler School of Art. It turns out Julia has been involved in a lot over the past few years and loves to keep herself busy, and the diversity of her work experience only reflects the sentiment that she wants to be a lot of things when she “grows up.”

The summer after her freshman year at Tyler Julia worked as an education intern at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, where she researched their Navajo textile collection and compiled an information booklet for docents who lead student tours. She also worked for the same foundation the summer after her sophomore year of art school, but this time she went into their classrooms and evaluated how well the artists were teaching kids about the Barnes artwork and helped expand the children's’ critical thinking and analysis skills. This same summer Julia worked for Anthropologie as a display intern. In between all this Julia has worked on the sets of several movies doing costumes, photography, and production work, and in addition to working at the Handwork Studio this past summer, she was the blogger and insight editor for one of her professors, who sells tufting guns. Handwork, she says, has basically played a roll in all the jobs she has had so far.

As someone who briefly considered going to art school myself, I am genuinely interested in Julia’s choice to go to the Tyler School of Art, which she describes as a very last minute decision. She tells me that she took advanced art in high school but never considered art school because she thought it meant mostly drawing and painting realism and she wasn’t as good at that as she wanted to be. When she was a senior Julia was accepted to Temple University as a biology major, but January of that year she decided impulsively to apply to Tyler and scrambled her portfolio together in a month. “It was the smartest and the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” she laughs when I tell her how impressive that is.

HWHaines12-1Once she got to Tyler, Julia never took any class or experience for granted because she just got in “by the skin of my teeth - the day before the deadline-” so she was open to any and all critique about her work. When I ask her what her typical day looks like, Julia tells me that her class schedule is pretty low maintenance - three studio classes a semester, each two and a half hours long and twice a week, and then two or three other classes that occur one to three times a week. This past year Julia went to the studio every day after classes, especially when she was busy preparing for her thesis show between November and January, and she easily spent 40 hours there each week. She admits that spending so much time in the studio can sometimes be rough, but that having friends both in the studio to keep her company and friends outside of the art school to keep her grounded and supports her makes it better. “If you love it, it’s fine,” she tells me. “It’s the only time that your only obligation is just to make art and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re not being smart. At the end of the day, it’s fun.”

 

Julia’s Art

IMG_0719+copy+2I ask Julia to describe her art, and from where she draws inspiration. Does she have a theme that most of her art revolves around? Has that developed with college? “I’ve reached the most mature phase of my art where there’s this theme I’m really engaged with,” she tells me, “And mediums I’m very committed to so I’m able to compound my work one on top of another.” She warns me that she’s essentially reciting her artist’s statement and can send it to me if I’d like (she does!), but explains the concepts behind her art anyway.

“I’m inspired by the impact that genetics play in our lives, both biologically, geographically, and politically. I draw a lot of inspiration from my mom’s side of the family who immigrated to the US at the turn of the century to a coal town and exploring how each generation changes but how these initial industrial towns that were hubs of immigration have gone into a decline and that is often politicized by all sides of the political spectrum. I’m sort of evaluating the romanticization of these industrial towns and how they impact the future generations. And the mediums that I work in to explore this theme are screen prints that I print on fabric, and these prints are derived from photographs that I’ve taken specifically of the town that my great-grandparents and my grandparents grew up in, specifically their blocks and their houses. And I’m especially fascinated with these very small but beautiful details in architecture such as shingles or molding that I then try to extrapolate on a much larger scale either through installation or soft sculpture. And I play with either very muted or very vivid colors depending on what emotion I’m trying to evoke with the piece.”HWHaines11-1

I’m impressed that she can speak so openly and eloquently about her art considering it’s difficult to analyze your own work, and she tells me that it definitely took her a long time to focus on that theme. When you first go to art school, she says, people are “making art about just anything” and she got caught up in that wave, because “it’s hard to be introspective and not oversimplify yourself.” Over the years she’s focused more on making art for herself and not for others, and, in her words, “a lot has changed politically since I entered freshman year in 2014,” she is now more interested in “why politicians target these towns and what they had to gain from them.”


Trials and Successes

HWHaines001I warn Julia that we’re getting to the end of my long list of questions, but that I still have a few important ones left. I ask her what she’s done that she’s the proudest of in the last few years, and she says her thesis show without hesitation. Many complications went into the show, and she spent a wild two months putting it together, but in the end, it was worth all the stress. She tells me that she took a lot of things that were painful to her and translated them to a large-scale installation - larger scale than she had ever done before - and it turned out great. After her thesis show, Julia had to prepare for another show in April, and she said that through all this stress she learned how to trust her decisions more.

When I ask Julia what she wishes she could change about the last few years, she answers me easily, and confidently. “I could be hard on myself and I could say ‘I wish you were more honest with your art practice and you weren’t trying to make art for other people and you were just focusing on yourself first and other people second.’ Because I feel like at the beginning I was very focused on what my critique would be like and what people would think of it, not necessarily what I even thought of it. I was just picking stuff that I thought looked good or was pretty. So if I could, I would go back and change that, but I feel like that’s just something that happens with time and there's no point in being sad about that. I would have been more selective about some of the people I chose to spend my time with. I think your gut instincts are usually correct about people, and I should have relied on those instincts more. Academics wise I wouldn’t really change anything. I think things happened the way they were supposed to.”HWHaines004

I think that’s a great philosophy, and I tell her so, and she, humbly, shakes her head and thanks me.

Finally, we reach the last of my many questions. Does Julia have anything else to say about the Handwork Studio? She thinks for a good moment before telling me that being back at the Handwork Studio and in that community of educators has been wonderful and that it is great to see people’s passion and how much they support each other.

“[The Handwork Studio] definitely changed a lot of things about my life, and I know it will change things about other people’s lives too.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Julia Haines
Photo 2: Julia with her project, "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 3: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 4: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 5: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 6: Piece from "Point of Replication," 201
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Photo 7: Piece from "Point of Replication," 2018

Tags: The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Julia Haines