CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Nurturing Creativity

Melody Stein is a young woman who, as a  child, became enchanted, enamored and immersed in fiber and yarn – and what could be done with it.  She learned to knit when she was eight and soon after became involved in the local knitting community.

Spinning was her next challenge, first with a drop spindle and then on a wheel.  She joined the Redwood Empire Weaving and Spinning Guild when she was eleven and, with encouragement from guild members and visiting artists and her own voracious reading on fiber arts, learned how to weave and dye and felt.

Last year, while researching possible future colleges, she found the website for Rhode Island School of Design and learned that they offered a Pre-College Summer Program. “I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to try out a college experience, decide if attending an arts college was right for me and check out what RISD had to offer,” says Melody.  The application process was much like applying to college , requiring her to write an artist’s statement as well as submitting letters of recommendation and choosing an area of study for the six week program. She was thrilled to be accepted.

Deciding on my primary area of study was certainly a challenge.  Fashion Design and Textile Design were the majors that I was considering.  Textile Design seemed like the obvious choice as fiber arts have always been my strongest area of interest.  However, I felt the need to branch out and try something new, so I chose Fashion Design instead.

Fashion Illustration - Melody Stein

Each student in the program would also take Drawing, Basic Design and Art History to provide the extra knowledge needed to succeed in their studies.  These core classes were tailored for each area of study.   “For example, my major was fashion design so my drawing class concentrated on fashion illustration.”

Melody enjoyed all of her classes, but felt she was most successful in her Basic Design class.  “The majority of the projects were three-dimensional sculptures and in the end, I felt most proud of these objects.”

Paper Clay Sculpture - Melody Stein

Chip Board Mask - Melody Stein

Her experience at RISD, “taught me to be more fearless. Before RISD I was always very hesitant when it came to trying new techniques or taking creative risks. My time at RISD taught me that with no risk come no rewards and the worst thing that could happen would be to have to find a fresh sheet of paper and rework a design.”

The Grand Finale of the Summer Session was the student Fashion Show.  The challenge was to construct an outfit out of paper – any kind of paper. The runway hosted designs created in playing cards, tissue paper, cardboard and silver boxes to name a few.  Melody chose coffee filters and crepe paper for her construction.

Coffee Filter Dress - Melody stein

Melody, now seventeen, is considering applying to a pre-college program at another school for next summer. In the meantime, as she finishes her high school years, she is taking classes in sewing and color theory at Santa Rosa Junior College.

In her spare time, Melody has spearheaded the effort of iKnit Sebastopol, inviting the public to help cover Sebastopol’s light posts in the town square with colorful and cozy knitted and crocheted handwork.  They pole covers are in place now and will be up until November 21.  They then will be recycled and made into pet blankets for the Sonoma County Humane Society.