Students up to Challenge of Designing Wearable Apparel from Home

When Chris Mateer first learned that Catlin Gabel might be moving to remote learning, he was nervous as to how he would translate his teaching methods from an art studio to online. But he quickly adapted, focusing on the essential elements of each project and staying connected with his students. And most importantly, he’s thrilled and proud of the work that his students created.

Upper School students in his Design Studio courses were asked to create a wearable piece of apparel and an accessory out of materials not typically associated with fashion and to document the results.

“Basically”, Chris said, “the prompt is an exercise in resourcefulness, creative innovation and problem-solving. My goal is to allow students to really run with their own ideas while stretching and increasing their technical abilities and self-confidence as storytellers.”

Chris also requires his students, whether they are working from home or in the studio, to produce slide-quality photographs so that they have more permanent documentation of their work.

And the results are stunning. Students created jackets, skirts, and shorts from magazines, tin foil, and leaves; hats and bags from packing bubbles, plastic bags, and food wrappers; ties and accessories from crayons, cereal, and Legos. To see how these fashions came to life, the full gallery is accessible here.

Chris has discovered that his teaching techniques haven’t changed dramatically since moving to remote learning. He still begins with project guidelines and expectations and shares examples of past work created by former students to help his class think about what is possible.

The difference is that his schedule now includes zooms, check-ins, and group shares. “I typically will narrate a slideshow during a zoom and then ask everyone to share a piece that resonated with them. It has been awesome to ‘pass the mic’ around and listen to how much they are enjoying each other’s work. To me, that is the best feedback I could receive.”

But he’s looking forward to when he will be back in in the Creative Arts Center studios, a place that has been his home away from home since he arrived in the fall of 2012 from New York City. “I miss students coming into the studios in between classes, during their free blocks and during lunch, and co-curricular periods to hang out, make art, and/ or do homework. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social hub that the art studio provides to Upper School students, and I miss feeling lucky enough to be part of that scene.”