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.

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