As they complete their last semester, four graduating students offer their take on the RISD experience.
Class of 2021 Q&A | Textiles
The Class of 2021 series continues with Textiles seniors Felicita Devlin 21 TX, Kasia Hope 21 TX, Franyelly Rodriguez 21 TX and Sam Slipkovich 21 TX, who reflect here on why they opted for Textiles, how their thinking has shifted in the age of COVID-19 and what makes the RISD experience unique.
What’s your take on the Textiles department now that you’re in your last semester?
Slipkovich: I have always considered myself to be an analogue artist, but now that we’re done with our skills-based classes and I’ve had time to reflect on what I liked the most, I would say it’s working with the industrial knitting machines, which allow me to articulate what I’ve wanted to all along.
Rodriguez: I have enjoyed how hands-on the major is. And there is a lot of room for experimentation—whether it be in dyeing, weaving or printing—which I appreciate.
Devlin: I’ve always been interested in digital work but couldn’t understand how to fit it into my own practice. I took a Digital + Media course with Shawn Greenlee 96 PR and learned how to code, and now I’m really comfortable working in 3D design. I’m reading a great book called Stitching Worlds that connects coding with textiles and points out how the forms are similar.
“Having a professor who believes that textiles can be a storytelling medium is wonderful.”
Are there other RISD professors who have mentored you along the way?
Slipkovich: The teachers who have influenced me the most are Lisa Scull 82 TX and Jim Drain 98 SC, who is my academic advisor. Our minds really connect. Also Dawn Clements, who passed away when we were sophomores. She was the first teacher I had at RISD and a big influence.
Devlin: I’m especially grateful for Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX and Joy Ko, because they introduced me to digital textiles which has become my path. And Jim Drain as well. Having a professor who believes that textiles can be a storytelling medium is wonderful.
What other aspects of the RISD experience—outside of the studio—have helped to guide your path?
Hope: Definitely Co-Works, where Felicita and I work. That’s the hub of interdisciplinary culture at RISD, which I think should be pushed even further. Collaborating with people from other departments promotes creative interdisciplinary thinking.
Rodriguez: Communities and clubs like BAAD and Mango Street have been beacons of light during my time at RISD. As a person of color, I need other people like me to help me process some of these experiences.
How has the pandemic affected your overall experience? Any unexpected positives?
Hope: It’s hard to make textiles digitally, but we’ve regained some sense of normalcy this year. The silver lining of the pandemic was more focus on mental health and work/life balance. Jim [Drain] has been a great proponent of that as well.
“Communities and clubs like BAAD and Mango Street have been beacons of light during my time at RISD.”
Devlin: The pandemic made everybody self-reflect and grow enormously in the span of just a few months. A lot of us are intensely going after what we want now and making work that revolves around healing.
Is that the focus of your degree project? Can you describe how that work is going?
Devlin: I’m focusing on the idea of the glitch and how it manifests in the physical world. I’m creating this persona (that’s pretty much me) that uses textiles and being an error as a way to trick the system and avoid being detected by white supremacists. It’s an abstract concept. The degree project gives you the opportunity to think conceptually.
“I’m making a large-scale installation in the fine arts realm that explores childhood trauma and how memory degrades over time.”
Hope: I’m making a large-scale installation in the fine arts realm that explores childhood trauma and how memory degrades over time. I’m using photographs, Jacquards and objects—like a six-foot-tall table I’m making right now—that reference different interior spaces from my memories and how they overlap.
Slipkovich: I’m from Tennessee, and my work shows things from a southern queer perspective. My degree project is inspired by the song Will the Circle be Unbroken? which asks if a death will break up the family. It’s about preserving information and safeguarding what you hold close. There are three parts: a portrait, a story about a miracle and a story about a funeral.
Rodriguez: I’m using furniture pieces and hand-printed silkscreen lengths to create an installation inspired by the women in my life. I’m very excited about it!
How would you describe the RISD experience in general to future students?
Devlin: I have a complicated relationship with RISD, but for me the best part was finding my community here. I developed a lot of inner strength at RISD and learned to advocate for myself, which is huge.
Rodriguez: I would advise new students to stay true to themselves. It’s very tempting as a first-year student to cater your work to what professors or your peers think is “good,” but in the end you need to make work that excites you and will keep you going.
Hope: RISD was exhausting, but I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. The people I’ve met here have been crucial to my development as a person and an artist. I’m scared but also really excited about what will happen in the future.
—interview by Simone Solondz