Curatorial Insights

Curatorial Insights

Curator Kate Irvin works with intern Edith Young 16 PH in the museum’s Donghia Study Center.

Rising senior Edith Young 16 PH jokes about having launched her aesthetic career as a fashion designer in the third grade. That’s one reason she was so happy to get a full immersion in the history of fashion as a Museum Fellow in the Costume and Textiles department at the RISD Museum. As part of her liberal arts concentration in the History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC), she worked closely with experienced curator Kate Irvin during spring semester, digging in to the museum’s incredible collection of historically significant textiles and garments dating back as far as 1500 BCE.

“It has been an amazing, hands-on experience,” says Young. “Unlike museum internships I’ve done elsewhere, this one involves no administrative tasks. And the work is different each time I come in.”

“Edith handles incoming donations and acquisitions,” says Irvin, “frequently vacuuming new pieces for the collection or helping me respond to faculty requests to use specific textiles related to a class. She has been awash in all kinds of stuff.”

As a Photography major, Young says she’s comfortable with digital technology but has less experience working with her hands. She’s fascinated by the meticulous hand craftsmanship that goes into the pieces she learned about at the museum and in the History of Western Textiles class she took with HAVC Lecturer Charlotte Hamlin. “I’m really excited about digital printing and textile design and how photography and textiles can work together,” she notes.

With a burgeoning interest in figural patterns, Young loves discovering random designs in the Costume and Textiles collection—such as a velvet swatch she found printed with sumo wrestlers. “It was very cool,” she says, adding that it inspired her to begin assembling her own typologies of found images and creating patterns she prints onto cotton and silk. “I’m still playing around with these ideas,” she notes, “but I already made a skirt using a plastic lucky cat print.”

Although graduation is still a year away, Young is considering careers that will allow her to apply the visual knowledge she’s gained as a museum intern. “I’m thinking about going into art direction for a brand or a publication, which is kind of like curating for a different audience,” she says. “This summer I’ll be writing about beauty and fashion as an editorial intern at the beauty blog Into the Gloss.

Young credits her high school art history teacher at Phillips Academy for starting her down this road and says that the many disparate experiences she’s had off campus and on—including the support and inspiration she derives from her “super-creative” classmates and peers at RISD—are coming together to make her a better artist. “Developing an interest in different mediums definitely helps you to think outside the box about your own work,” she notes. “It’s so interesting to see how other artists and designers can start with the same idea and work it in a completely different direction.”

text by Simone Solondz / photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

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