29 December, 2008


I've spent the last few days with very cool people. Two days ago I spent the whole day playing Rock Band with friends in a beautiful 1890's San Francisco house. The day before I flipped through sketchbooks and watched muted porn while discussing the frivolous side of life at my favorite comic artist's house. The day before that had dinner with my parents and my boyfriend and successfully mined my mother's box of photos for the most horrible baby photos of me ever taken.

Yesterday I spent the day with the only kid that's ever made me consider parenthood and today we're going ice skating, and then fake moustache shopping for a friend's New Years party. (Fake lashes- top and bottom, moustache, tie....)

The only thing I haven't done is homework....

21 December, 2008

A Few Things of Note

It's funny that while I've survived the London cold, I arrived in SF only to come down with a nasty nasty cold. But I'm getting over it, slowly.

Tonight The Boy and I are going to decorate our little tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree and wrap other people's presents. Right now, we're eating exotic cheese on crackers, sipping white wine, and playing games. Maybe we're nerds, but we're cute.

A few things about being home:

- my mother and I have reached a point in our relationship where we are much more honest and clear with one another, so I am not dreading family time anymore. This is HUGE.

- I have missed American brunch, which for The Boy and I involves waffles, mimosas, eggs, and lots and lots of coffee. Sundays used to be my favorite day of week. Since moving to the UK, they have become just another day to do homework. It's nice having a day to look forward to again (despite being sickly over brunch today).

- I cannot wait to see my friends and give them their presents! I miss my people. People who I have long-standing jokes, stories, and history with.

- I am getting a lot of comments from strangers since I cut my hair. I was asked if I was a European movie star the other day. When I laughed and said that I wasn't, the woman winked and said, "I won't tell, don't worry." Yesterday our waitress asked if she knew me, and spent a lot of time talking with us, commenting on my hair. Something a bout the bangs makes people want to talk to me.

- One awesome thing about being home is having a computer-genius boyfriend. My computer is now fixed. This is amazing, and I am thrilled! I don't have to restart it every five minutes anymore.

- It's fun to be pretentious here. I get to start sentences with phrases like, "well, in London...." or "you know, in Europe...." heeheehee.

- It's surprising to me how many Britishisms I have picked up in my three months in London. I didn't realize how carefully I've trained myself to use certain words until I found that I had to remind myself to use Americanisms here. I have to remind myself to say "thanks" instead of "cheers" sometimes. Or "bangs" instead of "fringe". Also "school" and not "uni". There are a few others too, but they are escaping me right now.
I think I have fallen into British habits because I spent so much time alone, observing and listening. It's like the other night, when I was walking around Soho with two of my friends from class and they thought we were supposed to make a right, but I told them it was a left. We argued for a minute, but I insisted it was a left, then a right, then another left. And guess who was right? One of my friends drunkenly pushed me and said, "I've lived here for years, and you've only been here a few months. How come you know where you're going better than I do?" And I realized that it's because I don't have the luxury of familiarity. In London I don't know where anything is, so I pay very close attention to where things are in case I need to find them again. And Soho is one of the areas that is so full of interesting streets, I have paid quite a bit of attention to every place I've ever walked past.

Ok, tree decorating time! I'll catch up with you all later.

17 December, 2008


It's the strangest thing to be vacationing at a place that was your home three months ago. How do you pack to go home when the home you're visiting is no longer where you live?

My dorm room is not the most comfortable place in the world but it's where I spend my nights, mornings, and some weekends. I have made it as comfy as possible, and shipped myself my favorite throw blanket and my favorite books so that it would feel more like my home.

But now I just left all those symbols of homey comfort to come back "home". It's odd when I really think about it; when I realize that my home isn't in either city right now.

I even had to buy a UK to US adapter plug, which was a bit trippy. Seems backwards.

The flight over wasn't so bad. It was a flight full of crying babies, but headphones and in-flight movies drowned them out. Before I flew, I bought myself a slight upgrade to Economy Plus, which gave this rather tall American Redhead about six extra inches of legroom. The flight went pretty quickly, really- I got through check in and security in Heathrow in about 20 minutes. The whole thing would have gone off without a hitch had I not gotten mild food poisoning from the airplane food, and spent six of the ten hours in flight trying not to throw up.

But fate is kind to me, and I happened to be seated next to a very sweet Swedish nurse who for some reason had a stomach-healing pill in her bag. By the time we landed, I was no longer telling myself to breathe through my nose and craving salty crackers. She was a life saver. Thank you Swedish Nurse Lady!

I am actually pretty proud of myself because although I have traveled before, I've always traveled with the help of someone else. Either someone was consulted in my packing, or did the online check in for me, or dropped me off at the airport. This time I had to do the whole thing myself. And I did it! I always find myself getting very nervous before I fly, because all the preparations leading up to the flying are kind of a mystery to me. But now I am fine.

It's a bit strange being home. I am sitting on my boyfriend's bed while he's at work today. I have spent a lot of time here, and I am very comfortable in his house. Old routines are so easy to fall back into, you know? I know where things are, my body remembers the way I always sit in his car, I remember how everything works. I have history here. I haven't had any in London yet, so everything feels kinda of new, still.

It's also nice to have someone take care of me sometimes. Someone ELSE to make dinner every now and then, or to pick me up when it's freezing and rainy. I have come to love being on my own in London, actually. I love that my schedule is entirely up to me, that I am not beholden to anyone else. I've embraced that independence as much as I can, on a budget. ;) But god, it is so nice to come back and know that every night there is a comfortable bed with a hot boy in it waiting for me. It's wonderful to know that I have many years of history with friends here, and that they all want to see me so badly that they've been emailing me for the last two weeks, asking if I was home yet. It's nice to have others involved in my life, making demands on my time. The only thing I have that demands my time back in London is school (and it makes some SERIOUS demands, let me tell you...)

It is sunny out today. I haven't seen the sun in over a week. It feels amazing. And novel. I can go outside without layers of clothing under a sweater, under a jacket with a hat, a scarf, and gloves. It feels weird, but good, to be home. "Home".

13 December, 2008


I've officially begun to dream about school. I dreamt I met with my tutor to discuss my grade.

If that's the best my subconscious can come up with, then I need to get out more.

11 December, 2008

Failure, Optimism, and Drunk Friends

There are two words that hold a lot of power for me, and they are "failure" and "friend". Failure has always been a powerful thing for me, but friendship is a more recent addition, since moving to London. Today I dealt with both.

I found out that my optimism about my last project was unwarranted, as I once again failed. To add insult to, uh, insult, our fashion show was today, and the model who wore my dress wore it incorrectly, and unbuttoned and hid the best part of it. I was so deflated.

But after the show the entire class went out to dinner, and then pub hopped until 11pm. (There will be a hundred new, drunken, unflattering photos of me on facebook in a matter of hours, I'm sure.) At 11, my favorite gayboi and I headed back to the tube, but ended up getting off and heading to a pub near my flat, meeting up with two of his friends and having a fabulous time.

Until tonight, I wasn't sure this guy liked me, even though I thought he was fabulous. But when I heard him refer to me as "my friend Rachael" I was immediately happy to meet his other friends. Having someone call me "friend" has never been such an important thing before.

It's 1am, I just got home. I've had eight drinks, which in San Francisco times would have knocked me on my ass, but these days, in London I am only buzzed. That was an awkward sentence. Maybe I am a bitty bit drunk. But just a bit.

I failed my project. I've failed both projects this quarter. Miserably.
But I had a good evening, and that makes it all alright.

09 December, 2008


I just got my hair cut. Again.

The bangs/fringe are a little shorter than I wanted, but my hair is growing so quickly, my stylist cut them a little short so they'd be perfect in a week or two.

I haven't had bangs since 3rd grade, but I was inspired to give them a try again after wearing a wig while modeling another student's white project dress:

I wish the bangs were a little longer so that I looked more fashiony, less Velma Kelly. But give 'em a week or two.

(Incidentally, not 45 minutes before I cut my hair shorter, I was scouted by a modeling agency. I'll let you know if anything comes of it...)

06 December, 2008


I fly home in ten days! So excited to see the boy!!!

Also, I bought three vintage dresses today, and a VERY short denim skirt. I intend to look smashing when I visit all my friends- otherwise how can I be pretentious and pompous about living in London now?


I slept for twelve hours last night. Could have slept longer.

Now I'm sitting at my desk in spiderman underwear, sipping coffee that I haven't had time to make in the morning for days and eating waffles for breakfast. Ahhh, I have no homework today. This is amazing.

My day will be a lovely social one involving vintage hunting and hitting top shop with my friend who lives up the street. We will probably hit the gym after that, and then meet up with one of her friends (who I REALLY like) and I will dye her hair while we share a bottle of red, watch bad movies, and order in curry.

I like that I feel comfortable calling this girl my friend. She actually is. She is so very cool, and I will miss her when she flies home to Australia tomorrow. But I'm handling her model for the fashion show too, so we'll be in touch when we get our marks and all that.

I have a friend!

In fact, I think I might have more than one. I feel much better being able to refer to her as "my friend who lives up the street from me" instead of "my classmate who lives up the street from me". She told me the other day that she and her boyfriend were both talking about how glad they are that she met me because I am a good friend to her. I blushed when she told me, but I felt so happy that someone I consider a friend calls me one too. YAY!

I have been looking forward to today for weeks. I am free from homework and free to hang out with people I like without a homework centered agenda.


05 December, 2008

White Project: Sorted.

I am exhausted in ways I didn't know you could be tired. My kneecaps are tired.

Today we presented our all-white project to the tutors for a critique. We had to present our book of sketches, research, and design development, finished illustrations, and the garment fully styled on a model.

Due to a mysterious mishap and a cranky tutor I found myself having to present an hour earlier than I was scheduled, and it was a rush job. I didn't know what to say or how to present. But I joked around a little and talked honestly about what I did and didn't like about my work.

My tutor, who up until today seemed to really dislike me and my work, was surprisingly friendly. He didn't give me much feedback, but didn't say bad things either. Nothing particularly good, nothing particularly bad. We just sort of chatted in front of the class about my piece. He did say he liked my illustrations, which was a relief because I tried my hand at painting for the first time in my life ( CSM hates literal fashion illustrations, which is what I have been trained to do, and have been trying to steer clear of). Go me.

I learned so much from these last few days. The most important of which is that I have figured out how I need to approach a project to get the best results:

First of all, once I have picked my broad topic, and researched into it a lot, I need to find one or two very specific things to work from. I need to narrow my focus, quicker. Pick a topic, expand, pinpoint desired theme, focus in and go for it.

Second, at every step of the process, I should be thinking about my final product. What is the overall mood I am trying to create with this project? Do I want a tall skinny model, or am I making a point by choosing to put a short old woman in this dress? What do I want people to see? I need to think about accessories, makeup, hair, etc. From day one, I should have these questions in the back of my mind.

Third, go to school. I mistakenly convinced myself during my time at FIDM that I work best if I'm at home alone. This is just not true. I need to go to school. I spent the last week and a half at school every day from 10am - 8pm. I had people around me, technicians to answer questions, friends to help me sort out problems, and hugs when I got so angry I swore I was going to drop out. Going to school is best. I'm so glad I figured out that it's a good working environment this early on in my time at CSM.

Fourth, do what I love, but keep it simple. Do not mistake that statement to mean that I am going to play it safe. But I realize now that I stepped entirely too far away from my personal aesthetic during this project. I appreciated the novelty of it, but it was incredibly difficult to spend that much time and money on something that didn't really feel like Me. I want to stretch my style, and try new things with each project, but I think that I need to base my designs in what I love and what I do best. That way I can expand out from there, instead of flailing miserably out in the middle of nowhere with no tethering to anything concrete and personal.

And fifth, I realized how lazy I can be, and that I have to combat that inclination with all my might. I can be tired, cranky, confused, hesitant, whatever... I still need to get things done. I found that it gets easier with practice, doing things despite wanting to sit at home and surf topshop.com while watching a movie. If I can just get started and find a rhythm, I can work for hours. I just have to force myself to start.

So I feel that I can do a lot better on my next project, which we will be briefed on next week. I think our holiday homework will probably be researching topics for the next project. I will just be glad to be rid of this one and onto something fresh. I am not sure how I did on this project to be honest. But I am cautiously optimistic about my marks. I don't think I failed this time around.

I am not happy with my project at all. But I feel that I have a much better sense of what CSM and my tutor want from me. I feel that I grew a lot as a student, and that I pushed myself to try something new and very difficult. So although the final product isn't to my liking, I am a little pleased with myself.

I cannot believe it's done. I have two fashion shows to deal with next weekend, but this was the hard part. I intended to go out tonight, but I might just stay in, put on The Young Ones and go get some take away curry.

Photos, updates on my marks, and general news, coming soon.

02 December, 2008

I Gave Myself a "Stress Concussion"

It's taken a very loud emotional breakdown to show me that there are people who want to be my friend. That doesn't seem terribly logical, but that's the way it went today.

I made myself physically ill from stress today. I was so angry at my project, I couldn't be quiet about it. I was trying to keep it in but my work was awful and I was so stressed and pissed off that I finally announced I was starting over (2 days before the deadline). I couldn't seem to be consoled, I was too mad at myself.

After two hours trying to rethink my project, I noticed I had a headache. I figured it was time for a cup of tea and something with a little sugar in it to keep me going. An hour after that, my headache was so blinding that I couldn't focus my eyes, and every time I moved I started shaking, lost my balance, and felt faint. I tried to let it pass, or to walk it off, but I felt like I could barely move.

I've given myself three concussions in my 23 years of life, and this headache felt very similar to a concussion headache. I gave myself a stress concussion!

While I was sitting at my sewing machine trying to work, a lot of people came over to try and help me come up with ways to make my garment work. I got a lot of hugs, and a lot of encouragement. I couldn't really appreciate it as much as I should have, but I did notice how people came out of the woodwork to check on me, and that helped me feel less alone in my moody little world.

At 7pm, I felt so awful I could barely stand up, so I slowly packed up my bag and told my tutor that I had to go home because I felt faint. I slowly walked to the tube station, keeping my eyes focused on where I was putting my feet, trying to not get jostled by the crowds, because I thought I might fall over. Thankfully I got a seat on the tube, and I stared at the floor until I got to my stop. I carefully, purposefully walked home, trying to will myself not to pass out.

By the time I arrived home, I was a mess. I tripped on the stairs twice. I dropped my new phone because I couldn't balance while looking at a screen. I tried to cook myself something to eat so I would stop shaking, and had to hold onto the counter to not feel like the world was spinning.

It's times like this when I wish I was home, and I could call a friend or a room mate to help me. But I managed on my own, and made myself some hot oatmeal. I crawled into bed and spooned the food into my mouth ungracefully.

And that's when I got a text from one of the girls in my class. She said,
"hi, I hope you're okay. I was a little worried about you when I left. But you know if you want to get in early tomorrow, we can have coffee and look at your dress and work out wot to do."

I texted her back and thanked her and apologized for taking my stress out on her in class. I said that I would love to meet early tomorrow for some brainstorming and that I would buy the coffee.

She wrote back,
"Ok. I just don't like seeing you like that, especially when you've produced something so interesting and beautiful. Have faith in yourself. See you tomorrow for design boot camp, hehe!"

I also texted a "thank you for being so kind to me, and I am sorry that I was so emotional in class this evening" sort of text to the couple of people who helped me when I began to fall apart this evening. And they all wrote back that they totally understood, that they hope I feel better, and that I could call them if I needed anything.

Of course people say that without meaning it a lot, but I know that at least two of them do mean it. And I appreciate it so much it's hard to say.

By 8pm I was almost asleep. My head was pounding and I was just trying to breathe deeply in my dark room and let it pass. I must have fallen asleep because I woke at 11pm, thirsty, but much better.

I'm going to crawl back into bed now and try to sleep the rest of this stress headache off. But I feel a little calmer, even though I wasted an evening that I should have been working on the project, because I know that even when I am moody and stressed and at my wit's end, there are people who are willing to give me a hug.

(Oh, here's a photo of the fabric treatment I did for this project. We had to use white cotton and white felt ONLY, and so I have been working with the white felt, wetting it, stretching it, creating a lacy pattern of holes before hand gathering sections of it to give it some body and texture. There will be a collar and sleeves and some craziness at the bottom too, this is just a photo of the fabric pinned up on the dress form to give me some ideas.)

Alright, now I'm going to crawl back into bed.

30 November, 2008

Best Vintage Find

I needed to get out of the house this morning. I felt a little antsy and needed to think of something besides impending deadlines.

I wandered up Brick Lane to the Sunday UpMarket. It was raining and cold, and many of the merchants weren't finished setting up their tables, even thought it was nearly noon. I browsed a bit, nothing really caught my eye. That is until I went to leave and saw these babies shoved underneath a rack of jackets.

How awesome are they? You don't have to tell me, I know.

Best vintage find I've had in a long time!

29 November, 2008


I just splurged and bought myself a gym membership at a small gym 15-20 minutes from my house with a pool, pilates and yoga classes, and a sauna. It's a bit pricey, but I want to try it for a few months and see if I can get myself there a few times a week. It's a nice place, clean, well-lit, and according to a classmate that works out there, it's rarely crowded. I handle stress a lot better if I work out on a regular basis, so I figured if I was going to splurge on one thing for myself this month, this should be it. I even passed up some amazing high heeled boots so I could do this (and if you know me in person at all, you know that this redhead NEVER passes on expensive footwear).

I am going to try to fit a few workouts in next week, because I know I'm going to be a girl-shaped ball of stress come Monday.

And now, back to work. I have an essay to finish- I'm writing about Francis Bacon and the Polanski film Repulsion, and using them to discuss isolation in London. Then I need to finalize my wreck of a dress for the fashion show and find a new model (my model just flaked on me). No rest for me....

27 November, 2008

What's a Girl Gotta Do To Get Some Instruction Around Here?

I knew that moving to a new country along was going to be hard. I knew that the fashion program at St. Martins was incredibly difficult. I knew that I would be lonely, that the weather would be crappy, that I would be a broke student who would have to choose between food and art supplies. But I've run into so many difficult things that I never could have anticipated. It's all of those things that add up when I'm not looking.

I had a complete meltdown the night before last. I swore I was going to leave school and move home. I believed myself as I said it, and I said it a lot. I said to to a classmate. I said it to my boyfriend. I said it to all my room mates, one by one, and then again as a group over dinner. I told them that CSM could go to hell, and that I had known from the moment I was accepted into this school that it was the wrong decision. I kept on saying it until I passed out curled up on my bed. I wanted to wake up back home and pretend this whole mess never happened, because I was so furious at my school and my tutors.

Before I continue, let me explain something that I just figured out myself. Here at St. Martins there is no equivalent to what an American school might call "a teacher". We don't have classes either, instead our schedule is project-based. On some days of the week, we have a tutor in to meet with us individually. Our tutors are the head of our program, and they are not there to teach us, but to offer guidance and critiques on the conceptual/design level. They also grade us. On certain days of the week we also have technicians in. Apparently technicians are either there to assist us with sewing/drafting/making difficult things, or to (get this...)do it for us, if it's too difficult. Yes, you read that right. Technicians are there to help us sew things that we don't know how to sew. Because CSM isn't training seamstresses, they are training designers... That's a mindfuck for me. (At my last school if they found out that another student, much less a hired professional was helping you do your homework, you failed the project.)

So we have Tutors and we have Technicians, but the gap in between that in my experience should be filled by a Teacher is left empty. Instead, St. Martins is all about making the students teach themselves through trial and error.

Ah, the dreaded trial and error...

There seems to be a certain artistic disposition that lends itself to creative experimenting. These are the kinds of people that couldn't think inside the box if they tried. They will try anything to get the look they want, no matter how strange or silly it may sound. These are often the people who make it in a business that is always looking for the next innovative thing. These are the sorts of people that end up at CSM.

I am not one of those people.

I am an idea person. I have no patience for the actual construction of a garment. I hate sewing (I have been known to fall into fits of rage while trying to sew) and I despise the problem-solving aspects of pattern drafting. I understand how these things work, and I am very good at helping others find solutions to the problems in their work. But when it comes to my own work, I have no patience for the process.

Maybe I'm just lazy...?

So to clarify, I am a person who designs, understands how to construct and make the design, but needs help making it, or have someone to make it for me. Because when I run into a problem I cannot solve I am not the kind of person to experiment over and over until I find the solution. When I hit a wall, I call in a specialist (read: a teacher) to help me break down the wall.

And this is where all the trouble started the day I nearly got into a fight with my tutor.

At our last meeting, my tutor had suggested that I try a brand new technique to make my design. Excited at the suggestion I immediately went out and found five different books at the library on the topic. Over the weekend I browsed the books, bought supplies, did a series of tests and experiments, and felt confident that I could make this crazy idea happen. All I needed was some help coming up with a way to work around one problem I couldn't solve.

I went into the classroom that day with some very specific questions. I wasn't entirely sure where to begin with this project. I asked the pattern drafting technician for some advice, and that is when the trouble began. Her answer was, "I don't know. I've never done this before."

I couldn't accept that solution so I reworded my question to be more specific. She told me that she had no idea and that I should go buy supplies to experiment with.

Frustrated but determined, I spent the next three hours running around the city blowing my food budget on supplies. When I came back to school and began working I was optimistic. But each technique I tried was failing and I wasn't sure how to proceed, and every time I asked someone for help I was given nothing but suggestions on ways to spend more money on things that may or may not work.

All I wanted was some god damn help from a teacher. I had done all the research and work to teach myself how to do something new, and now I wanted some educational support from the institution that I pay huge sums of money to. But no!

Through this ordeal what I discovered is that at CSM, they do not teach you anything. No, at CSM they assist you in discovering things on your own.

So I stormed out of the classroom feeling as though I had just moved halfway around the world to attend a school where they do not teach us anything. And now that I have finally made a pathetic excuse of a home for myself, I was going to have to pack up my whole life AGAIN and move back home to finish a degree at a pathetic technical school.

I was so furious and miserable that day. I needed to talk to someone who would understand where I was coming from- someone who wouldn't try to solve the problem for me, but sympathize about how much effort it takes to just LIVE sometimes when you've just moved to another country. I wanted someone to agree that the whole CSM system was shit and that I had left everything to come here for no good reason. I wanted someone to agree with me, and to come fly out here to help me move home. Or maybe I wanted someone to just fly out here to give me a hug and let me cry on their shoulder for a little while. I just needed a friend. But I don't know anyone in London well enough to show them this raw, exposed side of me.

I wanted to call my best friend back home, but it was the wee hours of the morning. I don't have an international calling plan on my new phone yet, and I haven't been able to talk to her since I moved. I didn't want the first conversation we had to involve waking her middle of the night to cry in her ear. So I texted my boyfriend, who listened to me bitch and cry and swear that I was moving home for hours, until he decided I'd indulged in enough of a pity party to need a verbal slap upside the head.

I wish I could say that he shook me out of it, but he didn't. Instead I curled up on my bed and hugged my knees, sobbing until I passed out. I woke up an hour later shaking from the cold and crawled under the quilt, feeling ashamed of myself and miserable.

Needless to say, not my best day.

But I did learn something about how I have to approach my education here. I realize now that if I am this stressed about a single project, I need to rethink my approach even if it means I fail again. I decided to scrap everything my tutor suggested and do something entirely different, whether or not he likes it.

As a result of this decision my mood has been much more upbeat. I am incredibly stressed for time as I am starting over on a project most people began a week before, but I feel better about what I am trying to do. I am experimenting with fabric and trying to teach myself some new things.

And as a sort of penance for being such an emotional mess the day before, I went into school and spent a lot of time helping many of my classmates with their patterns. As one of the only students in the class with any drafting experience, word has spread that I can offer some sort of advice. It made me feel better to know that although I am struggling to keep it together, I do know something about fashion.

More than that I realized that I love to teach. My classmates suggested that I look into being a class helper for first year students for pay. I would love to do that, if I could. It's so satisfying to work with someone and solve a problem. Although I do not know the conventional way to do things, CSM shares my opinion on pattern drafting: if it fits, and it looks the way you want it, it is correct and bugger the rules.

So teaching is good. But I've found that what I like best about it is working with another designer to make something. Which made me think that I would like to try my next project as a team project. I plan to find a partner to design with before informing our tutor that we are a design team for this round of the game. That sounds like a recipe for success, in my opinion.

So CSM and life in London is turning out to be a lot more difficult than I expected, in ways I couldn't have anticipated. It takes so much out of me just to stay afloat that I feel very brittle of late. But I am trying to stay optimistic. I've spoken with a counselor at school about my concerns, and she informed that almost every international student at CSM starts to feel this doubt and depression at the three to five month mark. She also assured me that it will get better.

It will get better.

I was worried that going home for the Christmas holiday would make coming back to London harder. But now I cannot wait to go home and I wish I could change my flight to go back next weekend instead of the 16th. I am hoping that being with my friends and boyfriend and family will recharge my batteries for my next round in the ring against CSM.

I just have to keep reminding myself that it will get better.

18 November, 2008

I Hope Nostalgia Makes This All Seem Better

I really truly hope that a year from now, I will be able to look back on this quarter and sum up the horrible experience in a few sentences that sound nonchalant and wise. Maybe something like, "during my first quarter I failed every project. My ideas were laughed at by my tutors, and any teeny tiny shred of confidence I had in my ability to design and communicate visually was shattered. Wow, I sure learned a lot, darn skippy. Those were good times." And then I could nod sagely, pat a first quarter student on the head, and go back to work.

Yeah, I hope hindsight makes this all seem like a good ol' learning experience. Yup.

17 November, 2008

And Once Again, I Am Not Okay

I hate to admit it, but I am having a really tough time with the long distance relationship again. I thought that I pretty much had a handle on it after The Boy left London and went back home, but it seems I am falling apart yet again. The little congratulations I was giving myself for finally being a more independent woman were a little prematurely given, I think.

I hate being in a long distance relationship. I love my boyfriend, but I am not built for this kind of situation. It is fucking with my head and my heart every second I let my guard down. In order to survive it I must keep myself tightly wound up and securely locked down, carefully avoiding anything that will remind me of the life I don't get to have with him.

Burying feelings is not a good way to deal with anything, especially something as explosive as this, so I have to be very careful to not put myself in a situation that would loosen me up. One glass of wine and I am online begging my boyfriend to move here, and considering dropping out of school to go home to him. It's pathetic, but it's my reality at the moment. Despite all my efforts I haven't found a way to make the sadness of missing the person I love into romantic melancholy.

The last few days have really brought all these feelings to the surface again because I expected to be socially busy this weekend. Three times I got dressed up to meet classmates for some work and fun and three times I got stood up. (They had good reasons, and I am not mad at any of them.) So instead of having a nice time developing new friendships, I once again found myself alone in public, with nothing to do but hunch over my sketchbook and order another coffee so as to appear that I had intended to be alone all along.

See, I have no friends yet. I have a boyfriend thousands of miles away, eight hours behind me, who I cannot see or touch, or go to when I need comfort. I am trying to fill the spaces left by all the people I care about, but I've had no luck. Each day I socialize in class, but have never found myself invited out to any of the events I hear about later.

When I am in class I feel a huge sense of relief because I am around people I like who seem to like me too. I am not hiding my sadness, I am actually pretty happy when I am at school. But I must be keeping myself isolated from all the people in some way, because I am not being invited into their social lives.

I love London and school is keeping me very busy. But I am slowly sinking into depression. I'm not exercising, I'm eating like crap, I stay at home alone, awake all night and when I do sleep I don't sleep well. I'm desperate for friends, someone I can talk to. My best friend back home hasn't been able to talk with me since I moved, and she has always been my companion in my most difficult times. I am so utterly alone, in a city full of people, full of life. I've never felt lonelier than my time in London.

So yeah, things are fine. I'm fine, everything's fine. School is fine, life is fine. Everything is just fine. I'm not dying, I still have all my limbs, the world isn't ending. But I'm not happy, and I don't know what to do. I can't move home and leave my career behind for a boy. But I can't live like this much longer.

I can't deal with being alone every day anymore.

14 November, 2008

Structure, and A Change in Perspective

I am applying for a job at the CSM library. My job, if I get it, would only involve working for an hour each day, but it would do me some good having to be in the library each day. Not only will I be surrounded by all the pretty books, but it would provide me with some structure in an otherwise unstructured school environment. It would force me to go to school every day, which would in turn help me focus on working on my projects a lot more. And it would give me a little spending cash to help at the end of the month when I am super broke. So, let's hope I get a job!

Speaking of unstructured learning, I am writing to you from home right now, and it's Friday morning. See, I should be at school. Well, no I shouldn't, because today's tutorial would have been a waste of my time. I have more important projects to spend my time on. This week has been a series of tutorials on basic sewing. So basic in fact I could have taught the classes, and I am not by any means a talented seamstress. I have been incredibly bored these past few days. So instead of sewing a basic cuff on a basic sleeve all day long, I am working on my fashion show project.

I plan to hit my favorite coffee shop up Brick Lane and spend a few hours trying to focus all my energy into 100+ rough sketches of clothing ideas, one of which will end up being brought to life and shown in two small runway shows in four weeks.

Coming from a school where you had less than a week to make each garment, the idea of having four weeks to work on a single outfit is THRILLING. I have to make something amazing this time. Not only do I have to recover from a failing grade on my last project, but I need to show people that I am not The American Girl That Sucks At Fashion School. No, fuck other people- I need to show MYSELF that I am not that girl. I feel like that girl a lot these days.

I was e-catching up with a very dear friend of mine from San Francisco yesterday, and I mentioned that I failed my first project. He congratulated me. He said, "I wish our last school had failed me more. I turned in total shit sometimes, and they still passed me because they were afraid of giving real criticism. You used to bitch about the lack of honest grading all the time, remember?" I do remember. One of my biggest complaints about my last school was the lack of constructive criticism. What I turned in was always above average (because our average was so low) and so I almost never got any sort of feedback about how to improve my work.

In fact I have found in the past week that failing my last project has been freeing in ways I could never have anticipated. I am not a model student here, I am not a shining example of anything. I tried, and I failed. Suddenly I am not in a guilt-ridden panic about skipping sewing class. Suddenly I am not terrified of disappointing my teachers. Suddenly I find that school is no longer about grades and doing well by any traditional standards. School is now about Me, and What I Get From It.

Many of the major fashion designers to come out of CSM (Alexander McQueen, Galliano, Stella McCartney, Zac Posen, Gareth Pugh, Hussein Chalayan, etc) have stated in interviews that they didn't receive high marks at school. I've heard that some of the tutors downright despised their work. Yet these are innovative designers at the top of their field.

It's funny that a failing grade should grant me an entirely new perspective on school and my role as a student. School is no longer about getting impressive marks from my tutors or trying to be a shining golden student at the top of my class. I now see that my tutors are there to inform me, to assist me in making the things I see in my head come to life. I am not beholden to them or their opinions of me or my work. I am the one in control. This is my education, and it is their job to facilitate my learning. If they don't like my aesthetic, so what? I'm not here to please anyone but myself. So anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell.

13 November, 2008

High Heels and a Short Short Skirt

Today I wore black high heeled boots, gray tights, and a very short black dress under an "old man" sweater. I live in a devout Muslim neighborhood, see. I got this look a lot today:

I think people thought I was a stripper all day. Also, the heels made me about 6'2", so that didn't help me blend into my surroundings, either....

12 November, 2008

Redhead At Work

The Beatles playing loudly; sunlight coming through the gray clouds in blasts and spurts; a cold breeze reddening the tip of my nose; the smell of paint and gesso drying... Lukewarm tea with milk and no sugar; shreds of fabric and used sand paper littering the floor; fingers covered in dried acrylic; using the hairdryer to dry clumps of paint...

I took the day off from class to work on homework.

11 November, 2008

Nothing Special To Say

I feel a bit crap.

The sleep deprivation has finally caught up to me, and I left a tutorial early today to lay in bed and half-nap while watching Mighty Boosh for a few hours.

I think I might skip my sewing tutorial tomorrow (I already know everything we are going over) and spend the day in the library working on my research paper and design project. I think it will be a better use of my time, and allow me to sleep in a little.

My class went to the final year student's summer project show today. It was both inspiring and intimidating. I want to make these things, but I also feel that I am way out of my league here at CSM. Ugh.

But I am trying to remain optimistic despite a number of disappointing realizations in the last two days. I will see these three years through and I will do fabulous things if it kills me.

And now, to bed. This redhead is tired and sickly and needs a good night's sleep.

10 November, 2008

Catching Up: Everything Else

In the last week and a half I have been in a minor car accident in a cab (yes, I am alright), invited to a high school reunion of sorts, got my sleek white G1 phone that I LOVE (which thankfully allows me to feel connected to the world again), bruised my right hand to the point of sporting a purple egg-shaped swollen thumb for a few days, given directions to IKEA delivery people, carried huge heavy boxes all the way to my dorm room before building all the furniture, and found out that my older brother is getting married on April 1st (no, it's not a joke).

On top of that I took my friends from out of town to see Roger Hiorn's Seizure, began wearing hats, learned that leather boots do not protect your feet from the rain, and have been in good with the gods that decide who gets a cold from the constant chill of London.

I currently have two plants that will undoubtedly die at my hands in the coming weeks, and a new set of red flannel sheets (thank you boyfriend!). I have FINALLY fixed the broken item that arrived in my moving boxes, and have unpacked the last box of stuff I've had sitting around for weeks in my dorm room. I am in the process of setting up a claim to get back all the VAT charges customs threw at me last month, and assisted our pattern drafting teacher last week with teaching the class (which was so much fun, I will go into more detail later!)

Obama won the election and I almost cried from happiness when I found out. For the first time in my adult life I don't feel the need to apologize for being an American. I see people on the train reading the paper with a huge picture of Obama on the front and I feel like telling them that I voted for him, that I was a part of that. It's a good feeling, and I am still thrilled every time I think about our next president!

So things are busy, things are good, and I have five weeks to make something amazing and beautiful before I fly home for the holidays. Whew! So much to do....

Catching Up: Boyfriend Visit

The Boy came to visit me on Monday and left this morning. We had a very full week of activities around the city while I played the role of utterly unprepared fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants tourguide girlfriend.

We went to the British Museum and looked at the mummies (did you know the Egyptians even mummified fish?) and went to Burough Market to buy delicious Turkish Delight. We walked along the south bank and rode on the London Eye. We walked a Jack the Ripper tour around my neighborhood (I know so many distressing facts about Spitalfields and The City now) and tried lots of yummy Indian food along Brick Lane. I showed him the Splendor that is Top Shop, and we wandered all around Soho in the rain. I took him to Forbidden Planet, and I took him to Camden. We saw Quantum of Solace (which isn't out in the US yet) and had salt beef bagels on Brick Lane. He found some super cool clothes, and bought me some awesome boots. We went to the Francis Bacon exhibit (which was AMAZING and has inspired me on two different projects for uni) and he saw Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey. We had disappointing fish and chips, many gin and tonics, delicious burgers, and lots of Indian sweets.

We slept in and snuggled whenever the morning schedule permitted it and we walked around holding hands, especially when it was cold and neither of us had gloves. And there was sex. Thank god almighty there was sex. Fucking hell, there was sex. Thank you, jesus. I owe you one.

So all in all, I would say it was a very busy and very good week. It was funny, though. I am so used to our life in a San Francisco context, that seeing him here made me fall back into old patterns. I kept catching myself expecting to go back to his place, or thinking it was garbage day at my old apartment. It was very easy to forget that I was in London now, and living the lonely, poor, and cold student life. I felt a little on edge the whole time my boyfriend was here because I was never quite sure where I was.

But one very important thing happened when it came time for him to leave. I was okay. There were a few tears but I was, and am, fine. As I watched him leave on the train I knew I would be alright because my life in London is all about me. In these last few months I have managed to carve out a tiny, boring little life that is all mine. London is my city- a place where I am going to figure out who I am and what I want. My life here is completely and totally my own life.

So I realized as his train disappeared into the tunnel that my boyfriend is a wonderful addition to what is already a very full life, instead of a boyfriend-shaped hole that subtracts from my life in his absence. So I kissed him goodbye and went to class, and although I miss him and will sleep fitfully for a few nights, all in all I am okay.

Catching Up: My First Failure

I failed my first big project.

But it's okay. Surprisingly, I don't really care. When I began classes I decided to not let my grades matter as long as I felt I was learning something new.

I can shrug off the pathetic grade I earned, and I would have forgotten about the whole thing already had it not been for one issue that is nagging at me, and my entire class...

Our complaint is that we did not receive ANY feedback from our tutors on our projects. After many of us had pulled all-nighters, we all arrived early last Friday to turn in our projects. Our The tutors arrived to send us away for a few hours while they reviewed our work. By the time we were allowed back into the room (some four or five hours later), they pointed out three things they liked on three separate projects and then said, "see you on Monday," and left.

I was furious! I felt like my project was terrible, but I couldn't figure out exactly why it seemed so terrible to me. I wanted some direction. I wanted some guidance from my teachers. Honestly I would have been happy to have my project ripped to shreds publicly, as long as they told me why they hated it and how to make it better.

But we were sent home without any sense of what they wanted, or how to improve our work. When our grades were posted a few days ago two of the three projects they had pointed out and liked did not even receive high marks. We are all very confused and angry.

So far, our complaints have fallen upon deaf ears. Our tutors seem reticent to give us any feedback whatsoever. But my classmates and I have decided to get together and go over each other's work and grades and see if we can acertain what it is they liked based upon who got good grades.

We have already begun our next project, and I have GOT to figure out how to focus, kick my own ass, stretch myself in every way, and create something incredible.

03 November, 2008

Bang Bam Boom

It began when I was building a set of drawers I bought from IKEA.

I had to hammer in some nails, but being that I did not have a hammer I found a good hard book and began pounding in the nails with my fist, through the book. I thought nothing of it until someone banged really hard on the floor below me.

Oh my god, I completely forgot that someone was living below me! And here I was at 12am making loud banging noises. No wonder they pounded on the ceiling. I felt like an ass!

I really didn't want this to become "a thing" between two faceless people with a growing resentment of the other, so I owned up to my mistake and wrote the person a note, which I slid under the door to their flat. It said:

"Dear (Room#),
I am so sorry about the noise last night. I really hope I didn't wake you up, but if I did I owe you a good strong drink. It's the least I can do.
Love (my Room #)"

That whole day I hoped that they got my note, and that this person wasn't seething in their room, sleep deprived and cranky. But I got no response from the resident of the room below me.

However the next morning, I found a note slipped under my flat's door. It read:

"Dear (Room #),
Haha! You did wake me up, but it's okay! I just had to bang on the ceiling, though. So I will take you up on that drink sometime!
Love, (Room#)"

I was relieved that the person below me wasn't pissed and evil. But I realize that I had just asked some unknown person out for a drink. Judging from the handwriting, I suspected the person below me was a girl, but for all I know some huge, sweaty, pimple faced boy was happily accepting my offer of a free drink. So I wrote one more note:

"Dear (Room#),
So uh, who the hell are you? I just realized we've never met and I have no idea who you are. My name is Rachael, and here's my email if you want to look me up on facebook or something. Or just stop by!"

Yesterday, two very sweet girls showed up at our front door and introduced themselves as our downstairs housemates. The girl below me is REALLY cool, and I really want to get to know her better. She asked about what I was doing that made so many loud noises and I told her about the IKEA stuff, which inspired her to look them up online and consider ordering some drawers too. I offered to help build them for her... it's the least I could do, right?

"I am so glad you're a girl," I said to her. She laughed,
"Yeah, I could have been some big scary guy who came up here to yell at you for making all that noise."
"You could have paid some guy on the street to come up here and harass me, you know..."
"Oh my god, I should have done that," she said. "Hm, will you be here tomorrow night around, say 6? I mean, no reason, just asking..."

And so what could have been a silent hateful situation turned into what I hope is a potential friend. (As an aside, she's really cute and is kinda my type too.) And FINALLY we know some other people who live in our building. So I guess in a way, it was a good thing that I decided to build IKEA furniture at all hours of the night.

30 October, 2008


The heater is blasting, I am nibbling on bacon chocolate, my project is on my desk and I am trying to illustrate my designs right now.

I am excited about tomorrow, when I will turn in my first real project and get my first real grade.... which might not be a good grade, but at least I will get an idea of what they are looking at when they grade us.

After we turn in our work, several of my classmates and I are going to get lunch and go to a pub while we await our grades. And then I have social plans that evening. Followed by SLEEPING.

It's a cozy evening, complete with a glass of wine and movies on in the background. And it will be even better when I finally finish this project and can crawl into bed.

29 October, 2008


I have so much homework to do tonight. I don't think I will sleep much. No sleep for the social!

Today I was reminded how much I love this city when I got to play tour guide for two of my friends from out of town. They are looking to move here, so my kind of general neighborhoody/wandering/fresh-off-the-plane knowledge was perfect. I might not be able to recommend the best pub in East London, but I can show them around places they might want to live.

Walking around and seeing how excited they were by London filled me with the same inspiration I felt the first few days here. I was reminded that I moved here with a purpose, and that I have come so far since the day I arrived. I feel like I've grown up so much in just six weeks. I think I was ready for something bigger than San Francisco. I need something more at this moment in my life. And London is it. Being here feels right.

Wandering around my neighborhood with them tonight, I realized something very important: I am happy. Deep down, I am actually very happy. I love it here.

It might be cold as all hell today, and I might be facing a very long night of homework, but I truly feel that despite my occasional loneliness, I am the happiest I've been for a long time. I am inspired and empowered here in a way that I've never experienced before.

In my heart I feel sure that I made the right decision in moving here. And that is a good feeling to carry with me.

28 October, 2008

First Snow

It just began to snow. First snow of the season, and unseasonably early....

Same Redhead, Only Shorter...

Oh also, I got my hair cut last night. Anyone who knows me in person knows that I've been trying to grow my hair out for years with no success. So I finally decided to cut off all the over-dyed bits and do something short, stylish, and fun! I LOVE IT! And my hair feels healthier than it has in years...

Redhead's First Care Package

I actually squealed when I opened my mailbox this afternoon and found a surprise care package from The Boy back home. I rushed up to my room and tore it open.... inside was a pair of cute socks (I NEED socks, and they match a new sweater I got), a dvd of San Francisco (heehee), the most awesome post card ever, and TWO- count'em- TWO bacon chocolate bars. If you've never had the incredible experience of a bacon chocolate bar, you haven't lived. Truly, they are two great things that go great together.

WEEEEEE I feel loved and happy. And I am wearing my socks tomorrow!

26 October, 2008

On Travel and the American Mindset Against It

On the walk home from the market yesterday my classmate and I compared notes. Being from Australia she has a very different sense of the world than I do. It got me thinking...

As a young person living on an isolated continent, there is an expectation in Australia that you will travel the world. This girl is only 23 and has been to so many places she can't even recall them all. She tells me that while she and a friend would be wandering the streets of Hong Kong or New Delhi, she would often run into other Australians doing the same thing.

In contrast I've grown up in a country that has an inflated sense of self. There is a deep rooted feeling engrained into us that America has it all, and has it the best... so why bother traveling, right?

It is incredibly expensive to travel within the US, much less outside of it. There are many roadblocks and issues to deal with when you leave the country. Just preparing to travel can be a very big chore. It's like they want to make you feel guilty for wanting something more than America. "I'm sorry, I really want to visit Burma, is that okay with you?" you're supposed to ask.

In America travel is seen as a luxury. People who travel often are "lucky" and living an exotic lifestyle. But in Australia, you're an idiot if you don't leave the island. How different the mindset must be to grow up feeling that it is natural and important to travel to unfamiliar places, instead of feeling that it's unusually decadent to fly coach to another country for a week.

I spent the walk home listening to my classmate, realizing I have missed out on a important part of life. And I promised myself that I would take steps to change that fact because I feel so ignorant of the goings on in the world around me. I suppose that is the result of growing up in a culture that encourages us to stay put, and be proud of it. America! Fuck yeah!

25 October, 2008

Broadway Market

Today I went to the Broadway Market with a girl from my class.

We began the afternoon with strawberry beer in a cozy little pub while sharing a delicious lavender cupcake. And then we braved the wind to wander the food market. I really lucked out, and for the first time since I've moved here I am excited to cook all the healthy food in my refrigerator.

Currently I am stocked with a huge sweet potato, parsnips, carrots, fresh rosemary, a creamy goat cheese, ripe oranges, green apples, an incredible fresh pesto, organic heirloom tomatoes, green onions, chicken breast, and of course a homemade brownie.

I can't wait to cook dinner!

Along the walk to and from the market my classmate and her boyfriend pointed out all of their local hang out spots. I now know a great Chinese place, a yummy pizza joint, some delicious restaurants, a good local cinema, and some of the best pubs in the area by their standards. It's nice knowing people who have lived here a year longer than I have.

Yeay food and nice people!

24 October, 2008

Catching Up

It's been a long time since I've been wide awake at 2am, curled up in a warm bed, laptop against my knees. Or maybe it was only five weeks ago, but my life in San Francisco feels so distant now. I can recall all the places and people that pieced together my life there, but somehow life is completely different nowadays. Well, not completely different, I suppose. It is somehow still exactly the same while being entirely new.

I meant to write something on October 20th to mark my One Month in London anniversary, but I recall the 20th consisting of a very emotional evening after a very tiring day. Had I been in a more optimistic place that night, I would have toasted making it this far with a mini bottle of champagne and a single champagne glass. But I was not in that headspace, and there will be plenty of other dates that will be more significant in the future.

Some friends from California just emailed me to say that they are in London for the next few days. On top of my friends in Poland coming to scope out apartments, I also have SO MUCH to do before The Boy comes to visit me in ten days. And all of these social engagements are going to have to be worked around a very big homework project that is due on Friday. As I discussed in an earlier entry, I really have to work hard on my next couple of projects to make sure I don't remain at the bottom of my class. This project needs to be Good, as in the Capitalized G and italicized variety of "good". I will not get up in front of this class and present another project that I feel the need to apologize for. I refuse the suffer that humiliation again. So this week I might not be posting much.

It's 2:30 exactly and I am starting to regret that delicious cup of coffee I made at 6:00 after two failed attempts at an afternoon nap. Why oh why can't I be the napping type? I could get away with so much more late-night drawing sessions if I could just nap every now and then. I envy people that are good sleepers. Like beauty or brains, there is a gross inequality of good sleep amongst the human race. Someone should see to that.

2:33, and I am starting to feel a hint of sleep at the corners of my vision. I might be so bold as to suggest a yawn is imminent.

Yep, that was a yawn. I guess that's the sign that this redhead needs to unplug and shut down for a few hours.

Good night dear silent readers, whoever you are. Like my favorite Central Line train operator says on Friday mornings, "please remember to take all your belongings with you when you exit the train. And whoever you are, where ever you're going, and whatever the weather, have a lovely weekend and stay safe."

A Few More Fabric Experiments

Today I went into class feeling like shit. I didn't get any great ideas from all my drawing and painting last night, and spent the better part of the evening having a really difficult State of the Union discussion with The Boy that went until 2am.

I had decided to run with the theme my teacher suggested (peacocks) and to my dismay, I'd come up with nothing I liked. I painted, I printed, I did hideous things to fabric all morning long. Finally I decided it was time for a coffee break. Nothing takes care of your woes like some caffeine, and a few people asking if your quiet morning is the result of sleepiness or something more. It's nice to feel cared about, even if it's just a casually friendly classmate's kind of caring.

I came back to the print room wanting to try something different. So I stopped drawing literal illustrations, and began crumpling up fabric and smearing dyes around until I got something I liked.

The results of these experiments used the colors I kept pulling together for my peacock illustrations, but used them in a less obvious way. And when I smoothed out my crumpled fabric I was reminded of origami. And while talking to my new favorite gay boy, I arrived at the conclusion that I wanted to do menswear tailoring with my brightly colored fabrics.

So I took out a book on origami, a book on menswear, and a book on Pucci (just for good measure) and I'm trying to work from there.

Here are my favorite results from today's experiments in Heat Transfer Printing:

My original test that inspired my new theme:

A follow-up test using a sheer fabric and overlaying fishnet:

A variation of my colors and print method:

And lastly, I shoved this fabric into what used to be a fishnet stocking, tied it up unto a ball, printed it, squished it in another direction, printed it, took it out of the stocking, squished it and printed it again, and did it once more for good measure:

So, yes... peacock colored origami menswear-inspired womenswear. We'll see how it goes....

New Duvet Report: Warm

While at Sainsbury's my room mate and I bought some heavy-weight duvets because we have both been freezing cold at night. After sleeping under mine last night, I can happily report that I am no longer required to sleep in pajamas and a sweater.


23 October, 2008

Dinner = NOM NOM NOM

One of my room mates and I made dinner tonight. We baked chicken breasts that I rubbed in olive oil and seasoned with black pepper, chili powder, garlic, rosemary, basil, and lemon salt. We baked them with onions and sticks of seasoned carrots and parsnips.

The chicken was crispy with seasoning on the outside, and perfectly moist on the inside from all the olive oil, and the veggies were amazing! We shared half a bottle of white wine, and enjoyed our 20 minute meal that was delicious and healthy.

Go team!

Early Fabric Tests

Keeping in mind that we were only given bright colors to work with, and the way the fabric dyes paint make it impossible to see what sorts of colors you're working with as you're painting, here are some of my favorite fabric printing experiments:

My favorite:

And then the same thing, printed through fishnet:

A splatter test:

Trying to get a muddier color instead of all bright neons:

One more test, printed on silver lamé:

I donno what I'm doing, and these were all just tests to see how the dyes react, and how the colors blend, and what happens when you print on different fabrics.

But there you go. My first trials in heat transfer dyes. TA DA!

22 October, 2008

It's Getting Better All the Time....

While I let this paint dry I thought I'd take a moment to catch you up. After a very difficult week, I am pleased to say that I have had a really good couple of days.

We have begun printing on fabric. It's been SO much fun playing around with dyes while we try to get a feel for painting with the intention of printing. Of course the real work is about to begin because we've all been just messing around with the dyes, giggling at the unexpected outcomes of our work. But now we actually have to figure out how to make the medium do what we want, as we begin designing a small collection using our prints.

I've been sketching and painting at home, trying really hard to find the direction I want to start working in. I've had no luck so far. After a meeting with my tutor today I have a better idea, but I still have a long way to go.

Besides the fact that printing on fabric is incredibly fun, it's had a few side benefits as well. Now that we are all working together in the tiny print room, we've started talking and developing relationships with one another. I'm finding that I really get along with quite a few of the other students, and some of the people I thought I'd clash with are turning out to be decent folks who were just as nervous as I was those first couple of weeks.

Thrilled by possible friendships, I am making excuses to invite people out. So, on top of the hours I'll be putting into my project this weekend, my next few days will hopefully be filled with things like attending a fashion lecture at the V&A with two classmates I really like, a trip to a farmer's market with a girl who lives down the street from me, and possibly going to the new Warhol exhibit with this girl I met on.. um... ok I met her on facebook, but she goes to my school. Anyhow, the point is I have a busy weekend ahead of me, and thankfully some of the busy stuff is social.

In the last two days I ordered some shelves from IKEA, found an awesome vintage "rock star" jacket, found three great fabric stores, began teaching myself how to paint, had a bonding moment with a gay boy over trashy drag queeny fabrics, got my first locker in the entirety of my educational history, was asked to design some graphics for my friend's T-shirt startup, and bought myself a printer/scanner that is already going to good use. So I guess, life is busy, expensive, and generally good right now.

I had my mp3 list on random the other day, and the song "La Vida Es Un Carnaval" came on. The lyrics of the chorus can be roughly translated to say "No need to cry, because life is a carnival. It's more beautiful to live it singing...." Maybe it's cheesy, but it kinda picked me up with its lyrics about people never truly being alone in life, and how you could be sure that nothing is going to change, but that things will always get better. Thank you Celia Cruz for a much-needed reminder.

And now I'm off to Sainsbury's with a room mate to buy food and a decent chopping knife. Hopefully this paint will be dry by the time I get back and I can continue working on my project before I go to dinner with another room mate for a drawing date.

20 October, 2008


Two friends of mine will be visiting next week. One of them is trying to apply to the program I'm in at St. Martins, and they are looking to move to London. Although most of their time will be spent apartment hunting, I intend to take them out to dinner, a museum or two, and I'm going to speak with my tutors and see if I can have my friend shadow me one day in class. My friend was thrilled at the idea- he really wants to get into CSM and after hearing me talk about how different it is from other schools, he wants to see it for himself.

It will be nice to see a familiar face and get to share a little of my new city with two people who have never been here.

And the day after they leave, my boyfriend shows up for a week of fun, frolic, and other words that begin with "F".

Yeay for visiting!

19 October, 2008


When I have nights like tonight where I feel so lost that I cannot see light in any direction, I need to remember that I am in control of my life. And that I define what my life and future will be.

American Politics

And on a much more important topic than my own petty little complaints, this is great. Colin Powell endorses Obama:

Dorm Progression, week 5

To counter the gloomy nature of my last few posts here's a pretty picture or two of my dorm room, as it's slowly getting more livable.

You can see why I need shelving and drawers. It's getting a bit cluttered, and I hate clutter.

I finally got a cheap full length mirror (which I am using to hang bags off of, apparently). I happened to see this mirror for sale in a dodgy shop a few miles down the road from my dorm. I paid the nervous looking man, and carried it for the next couple of hours. First into a Chinese restaurant where I went to dinner, and then carried another mile or two home. It's a well-traveled little mirror.

And I got this wooden box originally to put some light-sensitive things in, but found that storing things in it and using it as a bedside table was much more pragmatic. And this afternoon I stuck some old pictures on it, and a collage I did a few years back on plastic. It's a little dodgy, but better than plain wood.

I'm Such a Fucking Downer

I think perhaps I shouldn't drink.

Not because I can't control how much I drink, but because I relax my tightly wound emotions when I drink. And then I fall to pieces.

"I am fine" is the phrase I keep using whenever someone asks how I am. And it's true, I am fine. But only until I let myself go a little. And then I am miserable.

But it makes no sense. I keep asking myself, "why am I so miserable?" I'm in LONDON for fuck's sake. I am LIVING in LONDON studying at one of the best schools in the world. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is that is bothering me so much. If I could figure out exactly what it is, I could go about fixing it. But here I am, so miserable I can't even hold decent conversation.

When I am in a new social situation, I usually put on my "fabulous face" to get me through the nervous moments. But these days I am guarded and nervous, and I hide it by being quiet. Which doesn't lend itself to meeting new interesting people, surprisingly. I'm just so wound up I can barely contain my desperation, and no one wants to be around someone who's desperate. I know I don't.

In short, I am boring because I am depressed.

The worst thing is that I realize I am fucking this up. This should be the most interesting, wild, creative time of my life. I should be out meeting people, doing things, seeing things, having fun. And here I am at home, wasting it by being miserable and lonely. I am so mad at myself! But I can't seem to fix the problem. I don't even know how to go about starting. And I have no one here to help me do it, either. No one to drag me out despite my protests, and force me to have a good time. And I need that right now. I really need it.

Determined to become a more social and independent woman, I planned to go to a pub alone last night. I intended to have a few drinks, meet some new people, and then come home. After dinner my room mates and I had a few glasses of wine while they helped me pick an outfit for my pub crawl. We were discussing boys, sex toys, and generally having a good raunchy girl talk, when suddenly I stopped having fun. They had to go get ready for their own evening plans, and I began to silently freak out.

That's when I saw my boyfriend online and begged him to come see me. I mean, I begged. I became so damn desperate I couldn't control myself. I NEEDED to see him. Of course he couldn't just pop over. The couple of thousand miles between us makes it hard for him to stop by for a few hours on a whim. But I couldn't stop myself from begging him, wishing more than anything in the world that he could magically appear at my door.

This of course put him in the undesirable position of having to say "no" to repeated unreasonable requests. Each time he said it I felt like I was getting punched in the gut. I wanted to throw up. I was so disappointed (even though it wasn't his fault), and right then decided I couldn't stand to live like this anymore. I decided that I was old enough to know that I am putting myself through unnecessary torture, so I made the drunken, grand decision that I would move home after this quarter was over.

And then my boyfriend got pissed at me, and rightly so. He got offline to start his day and let me cool down. Suddenly alone in my panic, I felt even more miserable and hopeless than before. Furious at him, and at myself I went to bed early. No going out for this redhead. My outfit for my planned night was still laid out on my bed when I crawled under the thin quilt to sleep. I found it in a messy pile at the foot of my bed this morning.

It seems I come apart every time I talk to my boyfriend. He is the only person I can talk to with any honesty about how I feel, and he's at the center of most of my feelings about being here. So the poor guy gets to hear all the crap and listen to me break down every few days. He's handling it really well, but I can't keep doing this to him. And I know he's nearing his breaking point with my complaining. I won't be winning any Best Girlfriend of the Year awards, I'm afraid. I'll be lucky to get a Miss Emotional Stability ribbon.

I hesitate to say, "I should be...." because that is a verbal set up for failure. But I should be happy. I should be. I really, really should be. Or at least I should be a little excited, or a little thrilled. But I am finding it hard to live in the moment, and see this opportunity for what it is. All I can focus on is how lonely I am, and how lonely I will continue to be if I can't shake this downer bullshit.

18 October, 2008

I Can't Shelf the Issue (har dee har)

It is safe to say I am obsessed with finding a way to get some drawers and storage into this dorm room. I tried to reorganize my stuff last night (I don't even have that much stuff here) and it was an exercise in frustration more than anything else.

A trip to IKEA is in order. I've taken measurements, I know what I'm looking for. I just need to go and buy a few things. I need to stop obsessing and solve the problem. I will feel much better when I have a place to put my socks that isn't the same drawer as my paint supplies and computer accessories.

Also, I saw this on A Softer World and it seemed appropriate to my last post. It made me smile.

17 October, 2008

My Little Pity Party

Self pity is an ugly thing. But it seems I need to indulge in it this evening.

It's Friday night and I am without friends, a boyfriend, or friendly acquaintance to go out with. Going out on my own is far too scary right now because I feel like it's either a recipe for lonely disaster, or a chance to have to deal with men who are trying to pick me up.

That sounds egotistical, but it's not. It's just that being a girl out at night on her own sends out the single girl signal. And while I may be living alone, I am not single. Honestly I don't know how to deal with people approaching me when my long distance relationship is so difficult for me right now. Until I feel comfortable with my love life as it stands, I don't feel good about putting myself out there as "unavailable, but always here by myself, and hi it's nice to meet you".

The other side of this problem is that I think I'm giving off a desperate vibe. I have never before been so goddamn fucking lonely in my entire life. I see people on their cellphones talking to friends to kill time between trains and it makes me so jealous. I have always had people to text or call when I'm out and about. I've had friends that I could rely upon to invite me out every weekend (even though I almost never went) and friends that would almost always wander around thrift stores and cafes with me. And now I can't even figure out how to socialize with people, much less make a friend who I can call to chat with when I'm bored.

Thing is, I have toned my shtick down to the point that I have almost nothing to say because I'm trying to gauge what I CAN say around people here. I am treading carefully. Maybe too carefully. But I am not comfortable here. I feel surprisingly foreign in some ways.

I just want a friend who gets it. I want one person who I can have a drink with, who is going through similar things. I want someone who calls me when they need an ear, or have some free time. I want a friend. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Let me say that I do love being alone. I really do. But I'm had enough of it for right now. It's Friday night and everyone I know is busy or hanging out with their real friends, and didn't catch my subtle hints about looking for something fun to do tonight. And I am afraid to go out on my own and run into situations that I don't know how to handle. I feel so pathetic. I should be out in London doing new exciting things and meeting new exciting people in new exciting places. And instead I am spending another night at my computer, indulging in a little pity party for myself.

I want to be the kind of person that can have a great time on her own. But I am not there yet. I am too confused, too desperate, and too broke to go out and navigate brand new social waters alone. When I feel this stressed it's hard to find the social balance necessary to be fabulous yet approachable, fun but not flirty, interesting but not showy, and clear about what I want and what my boundaries are.

So instead I will slouch in the chair at my desk while moping about how I have no friends, and generally feel sorry for myself for the rest of the evening...

15 October, 2008


One of my room mates took pity on me as I microwaved a potato for dinner and made me some bacon and chicken on cheese bread to go with it. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes. Add a few slices of ripe tomato and I was in food heaven.

However good bacon tastes on a normal day, I can promise you it tastes INCREDIBLE when you haven't eaten real protein in three days.


I can't believe we're half way through October. I have almost been here one month. It feels longer. And shorter. And I guess about right, too. Before I know it I will be too busy to think, and then it will be our Christmas break, and I'll be flying back to San Francisco for almost three weeks.

My life is definitely not boring.


I am once again faced with the question of buying paints and supplies for tomorrow's class, or shopping for food. I think I'm opting for paint...

Everyone loves a starving artist, right?


On my walk home I noticed a parked ambulance across the street, medical personnel hanging out calmly at the back of the vehicle. As I wondered what was going on, I happened to look down at my feet on the sidewalk. I wasn't sure at first what I was looking at, but once it dawned on me I made a point of walking through rain puddles the rest of the way home. See, when I looked down I noticed I was standing in one of many small puddles of human blood left out on the sidewalk. No caution tape, no sign, nothing to alert me that I was about to saunter on through what I'm guessing was a minor crime scene. No notice, just very dark blood pooling in the cracks of the brickwork.

I've never been so glad to walk through dirty rainwater puddles in my whole life.

14 October, 2008

Art Begins and Inspiration

As of tomorrow I will FINALLY begin an artistic project at CSM. I've felt so bored with my courses until now. I haven't been able to get excited by any of our projects. But now we finally get to begin our first fashion oriented project!

For the next three days we will be doing life drawing from a model(my favorite!) to bring about ideas that will eventually become our first printed design on fabric. And in two weeks, we begin our all white garment design project that results in a fashion show at the end of term. WOOT!

I went out and bought some art supplies just now (I opted for supplies instead of food today. Funny that I am finally in a position where I need to make that decision.) Yesterday I researched some incredible books in our library that have helped me get an idea of the sorts of designs I like on fabric. I also visited some vintage shops over the weekend in an attempt to to train my eye to ONLY look at prints.

I rarely wear prints or patterns so it's been an interesting switch in my aesthetic being in the Fashion and Print program. I LOVE prints, but I've never felt comfortable wearing them... until now. I just made the decision to focus on prints and figure out what I like. So with all this new visual information in my head, I plan to go to class tomorrow and explore all sorts of ideas on paper.

My Amazon.com wishlist now consists of a waffle iron, a frying pan, and these fantastic fashion and print books that inspire me. Take a look if you have any interest in print or fashion design:

Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textile Design- I LOVE this book. It gave me so many ideas.
Fashioning Fabrics- Again, very cool ideas.
Pattern- Tricial Guild's style is one facet of pattern that I really enjoy- graphic, colorful, ridiculously drag queeny, and ostentacious.
Print in Fashion- I really want this book because it gave me a nice sort of introduction to the idea of pattern in fashion. Which seems silly, but it eased me into the idea.
Adorned in Dreams- I really want to read this book on Fashion Theory. I think the role of fashion in a modern world is fascinating. I'm roughing out an essay on the topic to share with you all sometime soon.

Go forth, look at pretty books and be inspired like I was!

Reading List

So excited to read my new book purchase:

Of course I still have to find the time to finish Tropic of Cancer too...

13 October, 2008

A Little Lie.... A Little Help, Please?

As the words came out of my mouth I believed them for a moment. "I hate it here," I said quietly before punching the letters into a chat window and hitting Enter.

I don't hate it here. And I am not homesick. But something is making me feel awful right now. I cannot focus. My apathetic attitude is worrying. I just want to float free and ignore life.

The funny thing is, I really don't want to move back to San Francisco. I love London, despite the weather, despite being broke, despite not knowing where I am, or where to go, or how to get there. I love this city and it feels like I was supposed to be here.

But at the same time I feel so lost. Something is missing, or something is wrong. And I don't know what it is, but it's making me toss and turn all night, and walk around feeling drugged all day. It's making me feel like I'm wound too tightly and might explode, yet I can't make myself care about anything all that much. I am hesitant about being too brave. I am excited by feeling terrified. I am miserable and broke and not sure how I'm going to buy groceries and drawing paper tomorrow, but I'm happy and looking forward to classes. I am lonely and desperate for companionship, but happy to be spending so much time in my own head.

I am incredibly confused. How is it possible to be so unhappy and so happy at the same time? How can I love living in London and hate my life here at the same time? What is it that I want and how do I fix whatever it is that is making me so panicked and sad?

What is going on and what the fuck do I do?

12 October, 2008

It's Not Getting Any Easier

It seems I fall to pieces every time I talk to my boyfriend. I cannot fathom staying here for three years without him, and the situation seems so hopeless that my chest tightens and I feel I can't breathe. It's pathetic, honestly.

I am going through withdrawal from him. And I don't know what is on the other side of the withdrawal. I think I am making myself feel worse in order to ensure that I don't ever feel okay without him, because I'm scared of what that may mean. I think I'd rather need him and be miserable than feel confident on my own and risk feeling disconnected from him. See, I am beginning to wonder if I'm worried that getting over missing him will mean that I am actually getting over him.

I knew that doing a long distance relationship was going to be hard on me, but I had no idea that I would feel such an intensely emotional duality about it. On one hand I am completely fine on my own. I have moments when I am lonely or miss my old friends, but I am also incredibly excited to meet new people and have so much time on my own.

But on the other hand I am a nervous wreck at the same time. I feel both completely fine and utterly panicked. I keep finding myself rushing home immediately after class in hopes that my boyfriend will be awake and online, even if I have nothing in particular to tell him. I am so desperate to feel close to him that I sometimes lose sight of why I am here- for an education at one of the top design schools in the world. And in order to get that education, I need to be incredibly focused on what is going on here, now, with me. And not on him, no matter how much I love him.

So how do I stay connected to someone that is thousands of miles away, while also being independent enough to focus on my own life? How do I maintain a relationship when I cannot reasonably expect my partner to be there with me, or be around when I need him? And how can I find a way to get over my fears, and disconnect from the relationship just enough to allow my focus to be where it should, while staying connected to a man I love?

How the hell do I balance all of this and not drive myself utterly insane in the process?

Oh No!

Oh my god, I just said something to my room mate and pronounced it with a pseudo-English accent. Crap, I'm becoming Madonna...

Country Life

Do I eat Country Life Butter because it's British?

No, I eat it because my room mate happened to have it out and I had to try it....

11 October, 2008

Hey Ladies

Sitting by my window I just overheard a heavily accented man's voice saying, "hey ladies, you look too good, eh? I show you how to find a husband, yes? Too good, too good!...... Ladies???" Followed by the sound of high heels on pavement disappearing into the distance, quickly.

Maybe he needs to work on his approach tactics, yes?

New Look

I just tried something new, with the help of one of my room mates and her curling iron. I feel this new look suits the Me that's in London much more than my usual ponytail...

Going With the Flow (of Drinks)

It began innocently enough as a trip to the supermarket to buy dinner fixings. But on the way it was suggested that we get a drink at a local pub and scope out the Friday night scene.

My favorite room mate and I found a not-too-busy pub in which we could have a pint (we seemed to favor anything ending in "berg" or "bourg") and observe the Brits in their natural, drunken state. Drink had, dirt shared, boys avoided, we began to head back home to buy groceries and cook dinner. But on the way we passed a little park next to the church that some satanist had designed and decided that we wanted to see this strange structure in the park (it made me feel the need to read From Hell again).

At the entrance of the darkened park a small group of young guys were taking a smoke break. As we passed one of them immediately said, "you two alright? Know your way around and all that?" His friendly tone was warmed by a charming Irish accent. We appreciated his concern, introduced ourselves, and spent a good half hour smoking with Irishmen in a darkened Satanist's church park on a Friday evening.

During our initial search for a good pub, my room mate and I had noted a funny little underground bar that used to be an underground toilet, we think. It looked a little dodgy though, and had avoided it. But turns out our new friends were taking a break from a birthday party being held at that very bar. So a few minutes later my room mate and I were underground, doing tequila shots with cute Irish boys and a very drunk birthday girl (whose name I never did get, oops).

You know you're in England when people comment on how your smile is nice because your teeth are even. Lucky for me that they are, because I smiled a lot that evening as I got progressively drunker and enjoyed the attentions of a number of very sweet boys, while dancing with girls I didn't even know.

Very drunk, and still without dinner, my room mate and I stumbled home around midnight to scavenge for food in the kitchen. I began to eat some yogurt, a piece of ham, and a toaster waffle while she sorted something out with another student in our building. While I was waiting for her I decided that I needed a glass of water to stop my head from falling off my neck. But my Brita filter was all the way in my bedroom. I slowly shuffled down the hall, grabbed the water filter off my desk, and that's when everything changed. See, I spotted my bed. And that tiny little uncomfortable mattress has never looked so good, so welcoming, so comfortable as it did in that moment. I downed the water and collapsed onto my messy unmade bed. Next thing I knew, my room mate was at my side giggling and pulling my boots off.

"Wait, no, I must have stinky feet..." I mumbled.

"I don't care, stupid," she said and pulled my boots off.

"Wait, I have food on the table. I nee-"

"I'll take care of it. Here, drink some water, get some sleep." She handed me a glass of water, kissed my cheek, threw my quilt over me and closed the door.

I mumbled "thank you," as she left, but I don't know if she heard me.

Best. Room mate. Ever.

And so ended my first Friday night drinking in London.

My head hurts...

10 October, 2008


Someone below outside is whistling "oh my darling clementine" as I type this. I think it might be one of the construction workers. I'm waiting for my room mate so we can go run some fun errands together on this lovely sunny day. I am wearing my new old-man cardigan that makes me want to paint, or discuss literature in smoke-filled bars. I love this sweater.

I had to go into uni for a lecture this morning. A lecture that was really just a 15 minute run-through of a few key points of the course as told to us by the dean. He said nothing terribly interesting, but he did start by congratulating us on getting into one of the most competitive and highly regarded fashion programs in the world. And for some reason that perked me up.

I talked to one of my fellow students after the "lecture" about feeling like I have a lot of catch up to do. She seemed to be a really intelligent woman when I met her a few days ago, and she worked for one of my fashion idols last year, so I really wanted to pick her brain about CSM. She gave me some good perspective on ways to approach education here, and I left feeling a lot more optimistic about my future here in school. I think I'm going to ask her to coffee so I can get to know her a little better. She seems like she's my contemporary (a little older than most of the students) and has lived an interesting life all over the world. She seems like a potential friend, and I really need to find some of those.

So I guess I'm feeling better about things today than I did yesterday. And now, off to run errands...

09 October, 2008

Exhausted and Slightly Downtrodden

I cannot seem to sleep. I think it has something to do with sleeping alone in a tiny bed after years of being in a queen size bed with someone else. My restless nights are compounded by regular fire alarms in the building at all hours. And then last night a mirror fell off my shelf, smashed into a plate on the desk below and sent my makeup flying around the room, shattering into the carpet. I wanted to go back to sleep, but it wasn't mean to be.

Sound travels down the hallway, and every morning a few of the room mates' more piercing voices find their way to me as they prepare breakfast in the kitchen. Sleeping in rarely happens on planet Redhead, but a little sleep would be nice right about now.

Zzzzzzz five more minutes, Mom....

Anyhow, my summer project presentation was disheartening, to say the least. I knew I hadn't gone all out for it. I knew I could have made presentation boards and painted pretty pictures. But I didn't. I was focused on the emotional havoc caused by moving, and when I arrived here I arrived with no art supplies and no fabric. Art was not high on the to-do list, I'm afraid.

But when most of the class pulled out collaged books of photographs and fabric experiments, followed by books of illustrations and test runs on mannequins, or fully painted renderings and beautiful hand made fabrics they did themselves.... I realized that I really need to step up my game.

I have never before been at the bottom of a class. I've always pulled an easy A, or at least an easy high B. But sitting in this classroom, watching everyone else present their beautiful work and all the research and time and effort they put into it.... I was ashamed to get up there and show my crappy little sketchbook. I turned red, forget everything I wanted to say, made a few excuses, flipped through a couple pages to show my thought process, and stood there to meet the blank, bored stares of my classmates and professors.

"Do I really want this?" I asked myself. "Am I cut out for this?"

And then I asked, "am I really so lazy that I'm not willing to work my way up to the top?" This program is going to be hard for me. I suppose I am used to my work being "pretty good" on average. This program is going to be quite a trial, I think.

I am not so competitive that I need to be the best. But I refuse to be the worst. I have got to pull out all the stops and dive in. I need to do things that are not fun or easy for me. I need to establish that I am not the lazy American girl that presented a shitty project the first day of class. I cannot let that first impression last. My next project has to be amazing. It has to be fucking incredible.

But on the bright side, I suppose I have nowhere to go but up. If you start at the bottom, your progress is more noted, more obvious. If you start at the bottom, you have the opportunity to blow them out of the water someday when they least expect it.

So I guess I just need to stop distracting myself and focus. Focus entirely on my courses, and not on running home to chat online, or wandering around high street looking for a jacket and a pretty lamp. From here on out, if there is any chance that I could reach higher and push myself harder, I need to do it. I need to focus on school. I did not come here to sit around online like I did back home.

And I need to get some sleep.