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Cross-disciplinary Exploration at Co-Works


Painting grad student Susan Doe MFA 17 PT created this piece by crocheting and painting rolls of paper towel. | photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

Students in a fall multidisciplinary studio presented fabric-based sculptural projects in the Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery in early December. “It’s always great to see your work outside of the studio,” noted Sculpture Senior Critic Lee Boroson, who taught the studio, as he surveyed the wide range of pieces temporarily installed in the brightly lit gallery. 

The 12 students enrolled in the elective represent eight different departments at RISD and say that the multidisciplinary composition of the class is a large part of what made it so meaningful. “I took this class to see how far I could push my work and expand the skills I already have,” notes Apparel Design senior Lauren Perea 17 AP. “What’s great about multidisciplinary classes is that everyone contributes ideas from their own course of study, which is an important part of the learning.” 

Boroson encouraged students to step away from their normal processes and practices and investigate tools available to them in RISD’s interdisciplinary digital fabrication studio, Co-Works, where the class met each week. They experimented with fabric and specialized machines like needle stitchers, sergers, ActiveSeam machines and overlock stitchers, learning the basics of patternmaking, working with fabric under tension and using fabric as a mold for casting, among other techniques. 

Landscape Architecture grad student Qi An MLA 17 made 64 X-shaped forms that can be snapped together in multiple ways to create diverse 3D structures. Playing with various stitching methods as the project progressed, she ultimately opted for an all-white color palette.   

Textiles grad student Asma Belhamar MFA 17 TX created a large-scale photo collage on paper as a mockup for the final piece intended to be digitally printed on canvas cotton. “It’s made up of photos of a mountain back home in Dubai,” she explains, “where the landscape is changing very quickly because of massive development.” 

And undergrad Helen Hong 17 ID took a more design-focused approach, creating an entire collection of lined leather bags dubbed SNACKS, an oblique reference to her intention to market them as fun and affordable investments (priced like snacks versus pricey meals). “The quality of your craftsmanship is really great,” Boroson noted as he tested a zipper during the final crit. 

“I played with different colors and fabrics,” Hong says, “and was inspired by city lights to make this Urban Glow line. I may still try a line of more neutral shades as well.” 

Also inspired by light, Indhu Solayappan 17 ID made geometrical pieces out of slip-cast porcelain using fabric molds and then joined them together to create a wall-mounted light fixture. The project is a great example of how useful fabric can be in contemporary design and architecture, a concept that Boroson says the design world has historically ignored. 

“Fabric can be flexible, transparent, impermeable, delicate, rigid, lightweight, porous or stronger than steel,” Boroson points out. “My hope is that this class helped inspire students to push their limits and develop new methods of experimentation and research.” 

Simone Solondz

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tags: graduate, innovation, interdisciplinary, research, students, Sculpture

At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.