Lily Fulop, a rising Senior at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design (BDes ’18), recently took her passion for working with yarn, fabric and patterns and turned them into reality through a coordinated Independent Study. Her Independent Study, which started in the Winter of 2017, created a structure for her pattern explorations and allowed her to learn more about the materiality of fabric through constructing garments.
Indpendent Studies at the School of Design offer opportunities for highly qualified Design students to pursue an area of academic interest that is outside the scope of the regular curriculum. It is meant for students who have shown the capacity for self-directed learning and can be a way of deepening an area of personal interest, or a way of doing research at the undergraduate level.
“A few different things came to pass that led me to the idea of my Independent Study,” said Fulop, who was also named one of GDUSA's Students to Watch for 2017. “Over the past year or so, I've gotten know myself better as a designer, and I've started to understand better where my interests lie. I've always knitted and crocheted, and love working with yarn.
“I love patterns because I love color and thinking about how simple forms can interact to create something with character,” added Fulop. “When I make organic and abstract patterns, I find the process very meditative, which I appreciate. Fabric is great, because it has so many uses, and so many possible ways to bring joy to everyday experiences.
“Everyone has to wear clothes or furnish their home, so why not make it fun?”
During Fulop’s sophomore year, she designed a crocheted lingerie line for Lunar Gala, CMU's student-run fashion show, which led to an even greater interest in working with fabric and creating garments. After taking Assistant Teaching Professor Matt Zywica’s class Semantics and Aesthetics, which had a focus on reflection and discussion of students’ aesthetic experiences, Fulop realized that color and texture are the formal qualities she was most interested in exploring.
“Around the same time, I also started devoting more time to my artistic practice,” said Fulop. “I'm really interested in painting and illustrating abstract shapes and patterns, and I didn't really have an outlet to work on this in our design curriculum.”
Then, after taking Associate Professor Peter Scupelli's Futures class at the beginning of her Junior year, Fulop found the inspiration for the Independent Study she would take part in for the rest of the year.
“We were doing an exercise where mapped the different career paths we might take,” said Fulop. “One of my branches had to do with textile design, and as I charted it out, I became more and more excited about it.
“I realized that this was actually something I might want to do, and decided I needed more experience.”
The path of Fulop’s Independent Study changed and grew as she started working through it.
“As I got going, I realized that were a lot more considerations to make than I had predicted, so I spent longer than intended working on creating my fabric prints,” said Fulop. “I did a lot of refinements to make sure the scale and repeat of patterns made sense. Since getting the fabric, I've been working on creating garments and pillows from it, which also is a time consuming process.”
Fulop’s Independent Study enabled her to work with yarn and fibers in a Soft Sculpture class and she has started an internship with Kelly Lane Design, an organic clothing line founded by School of Design Alumna Kelly Lane, where she’s transforming fabric remnants into yarn and knitting bags and pillows.
“Lily’s going against established ideas of what patterns should look like,” said Associate Professor Dylan Vitone, who is Fulop’s faculty advisor for her Independent Study. “She’s developing her own pattern language and it’s fun and interesting to watch her paint something in a computer and then transform that into a piece of clothing.
“They’re super interesting and beautiful,” added Vitone. “She’s creating non-traditional things that surprise you when you see them on a piece of clothing”
“Dylan has been really great, because as a photographer, he always pushes me to create a story or narrative within my work,” said Fulop. “This kind of concept direction has been really helpful to me, because I usually approach pattern illustration without a lot of conscious thought. For me, it's usually more of a spiritual experience where I let the material dictate my choices, rather than having specific intentions from the outset. Dylan has helped me create a more narrow focus that has helped to create a collection of prints that relate to each other.”
Now at the end of her junior year, Fulop has found the exploration within her Independent Study to be “really invigorating.”
“It helps me to be excited about my studies, as I've been looking for ways to connect my personal interests with other classes,” added Fulop. “I think it's really important for CMU to encourage our creativity and curiosity so that we can expand our skill sets and figure out our values.
“This kind of exploration, in turn, allows us to be more meaningful contributors to the academic community.”
By the time she is finished she hopes to have completed a line of clothing and home goods that communicates her aesthetic and makes people happy. She’s also looking forward to having a better understanding of the sort of design she’ll pursue after she graduates from the School of Design.
Independent Studies at the School of Design are made possible thanks to generous contributions from donors to the school. These types of projects not only help facilitate learning and exploration, they help lay the groundwork for the future careers of our students.