Weaving a future through Art to Wear
College of Design student Leigh Hawkins doesn’t consider herself a fashion designer. But her volunteer efforts are helping to bring student fashion – and art – to the stage.
Art to Wear is now in its tenth year as a student-run collaboration between the Colleges of Design and Textiles. As co-director of the show, Hawkins is helping to make sure that 11 specialized committees can pull off the April 12 event in Reynolds Coliseum, which last year drew more than 3,000 attendees.
It’s perhaps the largest fashion and wearable art show in the Southeast.
As for her own studies, Hawkins is focused on producing woven art. She’s traveled all the way to Prague to learn new ways of envisioning fiber forms. Along the way, she’s often pleasantly surprised to find herself specializing in an art medium she was barely aware of when she applied to NC State in high school.
Raised in Morehead City, N.C., the daughter of a scientist and a musician, Hawkins was applying to the College of Design when she learned about the Anni Albers Scholars Program, a five-year double major done in conjunction with the College of Textiles. She applied to and was accepted by the program, which accepts fewer than 10 each year. Participants earn two degrees: a Bachelor of Art + Design as well as a Bachelor of Science in Textiles. Hawkins is set to graduate in Spring 2012.
Hawkins’ bifurcated class schedule means she’s often hopping the Wolfline bus between NC State’s North and Centennial Campuses where the two colleges are situated. But it allows her to experience the gamut of fiber design, from how to approach a design problem to the specific means of production and marketing of a finished product.
Her design interest centers on “weaving, as well as combining drawing, photography and painting techniques with fiber design.” One of her works, “Ice, Interrupted,” is a multilayered surface with laser-cut holes that projects interesting shadows when the piece is suspended and lit. (See Video and Flickr gallery.)
“Textile art comes and goes in waves in terms of popularity,” explains Hawkins. “But it’s such a broad field. The possibilities for manipulation are endless.” Work in fibers can result in art, wall hangings, costumes, fashion, or decoration, as well as innovative fabrics for things like mosquito netting or hazardous materials suits.
The summer after her freshman year, Hawkins attended the Prague Institute, an initiative of the College of Design and the only abroad program managed by the North Carolina university system. The institute’s fiber studio course wasn’t radically different in terms of curriculum. But its setting made all the difference.
“Other cities in Europe got bombed out during World War II, but Prague is very well preserved,” says Hawkins. Prague is also the largest “Medieval city within a modern city” in Europe. “It’s filled with inspiration and has a good arts community within it. I would definitely live there for a year or two if I could.”
Hawkins started volunteering with Art to Wear as a freshman, “just folding programs and putting them out on the chairs.” Sophomore year found her assisting the jurying committee, and last year she actually co-directed that committee, which coordinates the choosing of which designers will get to show their work — a list ultimately chosen by a group of professionals in the textile art and fashion fields.
The satisfying feeling of being part of a group effort motivated her to be a co-director. Hawkins oversees planning and operations, while her co-director, Katelyn Sexton, is spearheading fundraising. The budget for the event has grown to over $30,000, making it that much more important that Hawkins watches costs and makes sure the planning is sound.
This year’s show promises to satisfy a range of spectator tastes.
“I think you’re going to see a good balance of art and fashion. There are definitely some pieces that are not ready to wear, things you would not see at Macy’s or the mall.”
In terms of her own career, Hawkins has less of a clear picture of what to expect. Certainly operations and administration is something she’s learning to enjoy.
All she knows for sure is that she won’t be designing fashion lines.
Says Hawkins: “Garments have never been my calling. I don’t know what I want to do yet. But they do a good job at NC State of preparing you for a lot of different aspects of design. They do a good job helping you learn to train yourself to be the designer you want to become.”
Many students at the College of Design rely on scholarships to afford tuition. To become a contributor, go to http://design.ncsu.edu/give or contact Carla Abramczyk at (919) 513-4310.