Episode 04

The Alumni: Life After SCAD

By Whitewall
Whitewall Presents, April 14, 2020
Chapter 1

SCAD graduates discuss their journey after graduation.

SCADPepe Hall, home to SCAD Fibers; courtesy of SCAD.

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is known internationally for its diverse academic departments, programs, and platforms. With over 40 majors and 75 minors, the creative offerings—and the programs that support students after graduation—attract a global student body from over 100 countries.

SCADPepe Hall, home to SCAD Fibers; courtesy of SCAD.

SCAD graduates are equipped with practical know-how and creative skills to thrive in the real world. Diverse majors—like Fibers, Design for Sustainability, Industrial Design, and Visual Effects—encompass classes that push students to think outside of the box. And thanks to supportive alumni boards and programs, 99 percent of SCAD alumni are employed or pursuing further education within 10 months of graduation—90 percent of which are working in a creative profession.

SCADPepe Hall, home to SCAD Fibers; courtesy of SCAD.

Most Fibers majors— a program offering BFA, MA, and MFA degrees that focuses on how fibers are made, the techniques that are applied to them, and how to turn into them into products, art installations, clothing, and more—complement their studies with accessory design and fashion. These well-rounded talents are what score alumni sought after projects and careers at companies like Google, Bravo, Anthropologie, Macy’s, Diane Von Furstenberg, and more.

SCADTrish Andersen installation at Design Miami/ 2019; courtesy of SCAD.

Trish Andersen, a 2005 SCAD graduate with a BFA in Fibers, took classes in interior design and furniture design. Andersen grew up in Dalton, Georgia—where tufted carpet was invented and where carpet manufacturing still thrives—and from an early age was inspired by the history of fabric and textiles. “Whether designing or fabricating events, creating site-specific installations, launching a collection of products, or creating in my fine art practice now, I find that the core of it all I learned at SCAD. I learned how to think outside of the box and then execute with a high level of craftsmanship and care,” said Andersen.

Her art practice now revolves around using a rug tufting gun that is traditionally used for rug making. “It is this small little tool that is helping me connect back to my hometown and all of the stories of how that town came to be. It is fascinating to me,” she said.

SCADPortrait of Cory Imig; courtesy of SCAD.

Cory Imig—a 2008 SCAD graduate with a BFA in Fibers—also enjoyed the processes the major provided. “I was very interested in the concepts that I identified with the discipline—time, repetition, pattern and structure,” she said. Her recent site-sensitive installation Linear Spaces was included in the latest “State of the Art” show at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, AR. Pushing the viewer to imaging space differently, it plays with the perceptions of the second and third dimensions. “This piece, along with the other large-scale installations I create, alter spaces physically, visually, and temporally.”

SCADCory Imig, Orange Stick II, 2017.

Closely linked with Fibers is the Furniture Design major. The two tracks have a dialogue many students and outsiders understand, incorporating fiber into furniture design and vice-versa.

Katy Skelton, a Furniture Design student who graduated in 2011 with an MFA, spent her time at SCAD cultivating technical abilities. She also drafted a business plan while in school, focusing her thesis on creating a fair-trade line of furniture that she traveled to India to produce. “That project was the blueprint that I used to launch my own business when I graduated,” she said.

SCADKaty Skelton's Safari bench.

Today, her eponymous label operates out of Savannah, not far from SCAD, producing residential and commercial light fixtures with an in-house team. Her clean, inventive designs can be seen in an array of residential and hospitality projects, lending the viewer a look into what she considers luxury.

SCADKaty Skelton's Wallis sconce light.

“I see handmade and artisanal objects as the most luxurious goods in the market,” she said. “The attention to detail and amount of care that goes into each piece is essential to a high quality, heirloom piece. I think that the luxury market is really starting to discover and appreciate the works of small makers.”

SCADFahm Hall; courtesy of SCAD.

SCAD students have access to studios, projects, equipment, and mentors that shows them the relationship between large- and small-scale projects. The skills necessary for working with metal on a lighting design piece can easily translate into working with metal on a jewelry design piece. Jewelry Design BFA, MA, and MFA students have the chance of working with partnerships through internships at companies like Fossil and Michael Kors, leading to careers at companies like Swarovski.

Baiyang Qiu in the studio.

Baiyang Qui, a 2009 SCAD graduate with an MFA in jewelry, began working full-time with her eponymous label just four years after graduation. Today, her nature-inspired creations are made of recycled fine-gauge gold and platinum wire. “By combining traditional hand fabrication with emerging technology, my work presents a delicate, sculptural aesthetic while maintaining a level of strength and quality required of wearable jewelry.”

SCADBaiyang Qiu's Ribbon pendant.

Additionally, she partook in market programs and exhibitions, like the American Craft Council award show, to gain exposure and experience of communicating with collectors. “I was always encouraged to make these connections happen,” she said. Currently, Qui designs and fabricates each piece by hand with her small team in California.

And in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, she’s putting her skills to use. “Our local hospitals are short of personal protective equipment (PPE). As a maker, I joined a local volunteer group to help with 3-D printing and making face shields to donate to the hospital. This just one example of a type of skill I learned at SCAD that could be used in many places and situations.”

SCADPortrait of Jocelyn DeSisto courtesy of SCAD.

Jocelyn DeSisto also majored in Jewelry, graduating in 2017 with her BFA. Just a year later, she founded her jewelry brand Lot28, dedicated to creating awareness around climate change through the lens of 3-D printed and hand-painted contemporary jewelry. The foundation of each piece is created by scientific and contemporary methods, followed by traditional techniques.

SCADLot28 by Jocelyn DeSisto; courtesy of SCAD.

“I start by observing samples from New England tidal pools under my microscope or by referencing historical marine drawings,” From there, she translates the microscopic forms into 3-D models, prints them in clear resin, hand-dyes and hand-paints them, seals them, and tension sets them in sterling silver. “Lot28 acts as a springboard to discuss our influence and opportunity to enact positive environmental change,” said DeSsito.

Lot28 Anemone ring by Jocelyn DeSisto.

DeSisto’s latest collection aims to raise awareness around coral bleaching. As a result of climate change, the world has lost over 25 percent of the world’s living coral in the past 30 years. Her personal interest in this goes beyond the designs—it is embedded in her sustainable business practices.

“With the ability to print on-demand in-house, I’m able to maintain a minimal inventory that results in minimal waste,” said DeSisto. “Incorporating SLA 3-D printing into my studio process was a step towards my sustainability goals.”

SCADFahm Hall; courtesy of SCAD.

This year, SCAD is celebrating 10 years of its Design for Sustainability degree program—a major that’s inspiring students and communities to think about the future. The collaborative environment found within these major pushes students to focus on things like organizational change, material innovation, and subsequent design.

SCADPortrait of Naz Mizraie courtesy of SCAD.

Naz Mirzaie, a 2013 graduate with an MA in Design for Sustainability, credits the program for empowering her with a broad understanding of human-centered and participatory design. By giving her the chance to learn about systems thinking, social impact, design research, and service design, she learned how to be a creative problem-solver by integrating layers of analytical, storytelling, and visual skills.

“Working within cross-disciplinary teams at SCAD enhanced my communication, facilitation, and collaboration skills, which I use every day at my job,” she said, speaking of her career today as a Senior Design Researcher and Service Designer at IDEO in Cambridge, MA.

SCADSCAD Design for Sustainability students working on recent design challenge; courtesy of SCAD.

Today, the core of her practice at IDEO is about empathy and curiosity, as she leads clients through research to discover insights and inspiration.

“We contribute to all phases of the design process, from planning a creative research plan to translating insights into actionable design and storytelling. At IDEO, we are a group of creative problem-solvers; we drive change through co-creation with our clients,” she said.

SCADPortrait of Milim Lee courtesy of SCAD.

While some graduates evoke sustainable change at a fashion brand or a non-profit organization, others may use its powerful message at a publishing house or a film production company.

Milim Lee graduated last year with her MFA in Visual Effects. She spent her time at SCAD adopting 3D software and development skills to achieve photo-realistic, 3D art, and simulation. “I also enhanced programming knowledge by learning various scripting languages for the pipeline development,” she said.

SCADMilim Lee's work on Vader Immortal.

She’s now a technical artist at ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm‘s Immersive Entertainment studio, dedicated to pioneering new ways of storytelling. Lee works on real-time VFX creation, optimization, and pipeline development, delivering filly optimized photo-realistic VFX assets to support storytelling, and assist them with tool development to improve efficiency in production (seen in such recent projects like Vader Immortal’s first three episodes). “The studio requires a lot of technical research to push the barrier and to publish high-end immersive media,” she said.

SCADMilim Lee's work on Vader Immortal.

Lee’s first professional connections to the world of effects were made through the SCAD Career and Alumni Success (CAS) office. Her first assignments were completed during college, as an intern at Blue Sky Studios. There, she participated in applying 3-D vision to the Academy Award-nominated animation Ferdinand, and assisted initiating a new pipeline using a real-time game engine.

“The internship helped me become familiar with the general workflow and how the industry creates content, as well as understand the value of immersive technology in media production,” she said. “These experiences helped me to define my creative career path and become a technical artist.”

SCADFahm Hall; courtesy of SCAD.

For many students, commencement is a celebratory chapter closing. But for a handful of others, it’s a new beginning. The SCAD Alumni Atelier—an ambassadorship program for alumni—enriches both the creative and professional endeavors of SCAD graduates, as they strengthen their connection with their alma mater.

By joining a select group of other emerging and established artists within SCAD’s global network, the continue their relationship with SCAD and its student body. The atelier serves as an ongoing support system with an array of programs at the university, such as the Career and Alumni Services, SCADPro, and SCAD Art Sales.

SCADSavannah College of Art and Design President Paula Wallace attends the 40 Celebration; courtesy of SCAD.

“The Alumni Atelier is a spirited sanctuary for SCAD alumni to refresh, reset and to create new, innovative work. The SCAD learning environment cannot be replicated, and often I hear from graduates who want to get a taste of that protected, positive and powerful SCAD student life once more,” said Paula Wallace, President and Founder of SCAD. “It gives me great joy to continue to offer robust alumni resources and the SCAD Alumni Atelier is an especially rewarding initiative.”

Chapter 1 — Noteworthy

Baiyang Qiu in the studio.

Within 10 months of graduation, 99 percent of SCAD alumni are employed or pursuing further education.

Portrait of Trish Andersen courtesy of SCAD.

90 percent of SCAD graduates are working in a creative profession, like jewelry design, furniture design, or visual effects.

SCAD

Today, graduates return to the SCAD Alumni Atelier to engage in innovative work.

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