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.