A New Kind Of Thinking: Silas Waller

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Silas Waller. An 18-year-old up-and-coming designer and artist from North Carolina. He’s been interested in fashion for as long as he can remember, but his design aesthetic and objectives continue to grow and change. He taught himself how to sew using his mother’s old sewing machine, and began creating simple projects like small bags and skirts for his younger sister and cousins. In his sophomore year of high school, he placed nationally in a competition for Fashion Construction after winning first prize in North Carolina. His knowledge of sewing grew through attending programs in both Fashion Design and Fashion Construction at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In his junior year of high school, he began attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for an intensive two-year immersion in the visual arts, during which he began to see and appreciate the correlation between fashion and art. This sparked his interest in fashion as a form of visual art rather than merely clothing. The School of the Arts also opened his eyes to the diversity of people and artists that exist in the world around him. He became dissatisfied with the fashion industry’s mainstream portrayal of fashion as a gender binary that excluded people who identify outside of it, and allowed very little fluctuation between differing genders on the spectrum. Throughout his entire life, Silas had always gravitated away from men’s clothing because he felt it limited him from being able to dress creatively and expressively, but he didn’t always feel valid or socially accepted when he wore women’s clothing as an alternative. He decided he wanted to change that. Silas is now a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology where he studies menswear in the hopes of making men’s fashion, and the fashion business as a whole, a more free and creative industry. His work is also meant to dismantle the gender binary in its entirety and change people’s minds about what gender means.

What is your name?

“Silas Waller”

What is your age?

“18”

Where are you from?

“North Carolina”

What is your Instagram handle?

“@slswllr”

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What type of art do you do?

“All kinds! I'm mainly interested in fashion but have a passion for and experience in drawing, painting, design, sculpture, photography, and performance art.”

What is it like to view the world from an artist standpoint?

“I’m not sure that I’ve ever viewed the world from a non-artistic standpoint, so I don’t know how or even if it’s different than the way other people view the world. I know I have an acute attention to detail, and I pay attention to things like what light looks like reflected on a window pane or how the colors of the world around me interact and create organic compositions. Viewing the world as an artist is also very political. If artists want their work to be impactful, it often gets tied into politics as well as emotions, so staying informed on what is actually going on in the world is essential to present-day artists.”

Is there a certain way your art has impacted you or someone else?

“Without art, I wouldn't be the person I am today, I have no idea who I would be or what I would be doing or what I would want to be doing. Art allowed me to feel free to express myself and discover who I am and who I want to be. Art has been an outlet for me emotionally and politically. I hope that I’ve been able to connect with and impact other people through those forms of expression, or at the least made them feel inspired.”

When faced with adversity, do you think art is a good way to solve a problem?

“I think art is a good way to bring awareness to a problem, which is a big part of finding a solution. Art is also a wonderful tool for getting through personal adversity because it’s a way of expressing one’s emotions rather than keeping things bottled up. But as far as solving problems in the world at large, I think art can only do so much. It’s an incredibly important part of the process, but it alone won’t create a solution, which is why we need to inspire people who have a real control.”

Have you ever experienced any negative/harsh words about your art? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, are you afraid of it happening someday? Why?

“Since most of my art has taken place in an educational setting of some sort, I’ve been exposed to critiques with other students and faculty. In these situations, I’ve obviously received some negative feedback from time to time. In the moment it can feel detrimental, but you have to remove yourself from the work for a second and take that feedback into consideration. After doing so, I just feel motivated to create more, to solve the problems people identified. And in some situations, the feedback doesn’t change my own perception of the art, and I’m still satisfied with having created something I’m proud of.”

If you could meet any artist (writer, poet, designer, dancer, etc.), dead or alive, who would it be?

“I would go back in time and meet Lady Gaga during the era of the Fame Monster.”

Choose any artwork/style from any media (Dance, hair, graphics). Which is your all-time favorite?

“In visual art, I love post-impressionism and modern art and especially appreciate the de stijl movement. As for other media, I have a real interest in contemporary dance and am interested in the ways in which dance and visual can come together and create performative works.”

Somewhere out there is a child who is being discouraged from their calling in art, what would be your advice to them?

“Persevere! If you are passionate about art, embrace it! Even if art doesn't end up being your job, it will always play a part in your life. Denying or neglecting that calling will not only keep you from reaching your potential as an artist but also keep you from being free and happy.”

What is one thing that makes you angry?

“Donald Trump”

No matter what art you do, what are your artistic goals for the future?

“I want to leave an impact. Whether it’s something that secures me a spot in history textbooks of the future, or just something small, I want to use my life to make some sort of change, and I’d like that change to come about as a result of my art. Right now, my primary focus is fashion and bringing about change in the fashion industry. I’m specifically interested in and concerned about the way the industry regards gender, because despite the progress that has been made, it’s still very negligent and exclusive about a lot of genders, and still grossly stereotypes the genders that it does represent.”

The Future of Fashion: Elizabeth Brennan

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Elizabeth Brennan. An 18-year old fashion designer and photographer from Princeton, New Jersey. She began designing at age 5 and launched her own label, Elizabeth Willis NYC, in the fall of 2016. She produces all of her pieces domestically, as reducing the ethical and environmental toll that fashion takes is a cause close to her heart. She is hoping to create a special yearlong collection in the coming months, releasing one new piece per month. Elizabeth took up photography as a freshman in high school and has since had her work featured in numerous regional exhibitions. Through her fine art photography, she seeks to make the ordinary memorable, and through her photojournalism (she has produced four books to date) she seeks to tackle issues such as traditional gender roles and being a woman in sports. She will apply to colleges this fall and is beyond ecstatic to find her home for the next four years.  Elizabeth spent the past summer working as a publicist and assistant to a fashion blogger and recently joined the team at The Odyssey online as an op-ed writer. She will also be penning relevant, socially-conscious articles for fashion brand GS Love. Elizabeth believes that young people have the power to do whatever they put their minds to, be that enacting change in their community, starting their own small business, or snagging their dream internship. She can be reached at elizabeth.brennan99@gmail.com, or through her Instagram account, @elizabethwillisnyc, and she loves to collaborate on exciting artistic endeavors!

What is your name?

Elizabeth Brennan

What is your age?

18

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in central Jersey.

What is your Instagram handle?

@elizabethwillisnyc

What type of art do you do?

I am a fashion designer and photographer.

How did you become an artist?

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I grew up, like most children, doing arts and crafts kits — I could never have anticipated that beaded bracelets and paper dolls would spark a lifelong passion for fashion! I began taking photography courses in school a few years ago, and I plan to continue studying it in college next year.

Are your parents/guardians proud of your decision?

My parents have been incredibly supportive of my creative pursuits. Whether they are accompanying me to Mood in New York City, driving me to a blogger meet-up in Boston, or helping me think through my business plan, they have always believed in me.

Is there a certain way your art has impacted you or someone else?

Designing, in particular, has provided me with an outlet, as well as a number of amazing opportunities, such as the chance to work at NY Fashion Week. I have also made great connections with others in the art world (like Hawwaa!)

What forms of art do you think are good ways to solve social issues (murals, speeches, clothing, etc.)?

Although I believe the written word is often the best way to induce social change, sculptures and mixed media installations, like Doris Salcedo’s “Shibboleth,” and Ai Wei Wei’s “Sunflower Seeds,” can have a similar impact.

Have you ever experienced any negative/harsh words about your art? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, are you afraid of it happening someday? Why?

One woman told me that she didn't like one dress that I made, but that’s the only criticism I have received so far. In the end, that dress happened to be my favorite, so while I was upset that it wasn't well-received by everyone, I didn't take her words to heart.

If you could meet any artist (writer, poet, designer, dancer, etc.), dead or alive, who would it be?

I would love to meet Frida Kahlo. She is so inspiring, and her story has always fascinated me!

What’s your favorite color? Why?

My favorite color would have to be black. It is so versatile! I have a background in film photography, and although I have moved on to the digital realm, I still find myself drawn to the contrast that black and white lends to a photo. In addition, black always looks classic and sharp; it is the quickest, easiest way to throw together an outfit in the morning!

Choose any artwork/style from any media (Dance, hair, graphics). Which is your all-time favorite?

I think that Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama is so beautiful.

What is one thing that makes you happy?

Spending time with my family and friends makes me the happiest.

In school, whether it’s elementary, middle school, or high school, should art be funded?

I absolutely believe that art should be funded in schools. I have been fortunate enough to attend a school where the arts are valued enough to provide financial support for all sorts of disciplines, from photography and media to fine arts and drama.

What’s your favorite food?

Chocolate chip pancakes!

No matter what art you do, what are your artistic goals for the future?

My ultimate goal is to travel the world taking photographs of the places, and people, that tourists don't see. I’d also like to start designing custom pieces.

It's an "All-inclusive" thing: Cameron Cruz

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Cameron Cruz. An out-there and weird 17-year-old visual artist currently living in Georgia. As the offspring of a painter/Interior designer, she has been surrounded by art her entire life. It’s something that has always been there for her to express herself growing up. She was a weird child with the personality of an 80-year-old Puerto Rican grandma, which has yet to dissipate. She has an extensive collection of sewing and craft books which has aided in the discovery of finding a type of art that speaks to her. She loved making dolls as a child and hand-sewing little creatures together, which has transformed over time into her current work. It wasn’t until her sophomore year in high school that she began to incorporate different mediums into her artwork, which is when she began to combine her art with her love of fabrics. She has a love for all things tactile: fibers, textiles, yarn, wool, etc. The purpose of her art has changed and evolved so much as she grew up and it continues to do so. Cameron uses art as a form of self-expression when it comes to her emotions and opinions. She draws inspiration from people and society. As she began to build more concepts behind her art she started using her art as a platform to speak on social issues. As an all-inclusive, poc, gender non-conforming artist, Cameron takes pride in producing art that communicates her beliefs on feminism, civil rights, equality, and social issues.

What is your name?

“My name is Cameron Cruz”

What is your age?

“I am currently 17 years old”

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY but I live in Atlanta, GA

What is your Instagram handle?

“@mochajunk”

Are your parents/guardians proud of your decision?

“I think they are. They’re so happy when I win awards and I really do want them to proud of me.”

What is it like to view the world from an artist standpoint?

“I think artists tend to be a lot more open-minded when it comes to society and the world. I’d like to think that my openness partially comes from being an artist.”

When faced with adversity, do you think art is a good way to solve a problem?

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“Art is an amazing way to solve problems. Art speaks to people in an entirely different way than words do.”

Have you ever experienced any negative/harsh words about your art? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, are you afraid of it happening some day? Why?

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“Besides the usual critique, I don’t think I’ve ever personally experienced harsh words about my art. But it's something you can’t really escape as an artist, people are always going to have negative feelings about your art.”

If you could meet any artist (writer, poet, designer, dancer, etc.), dead or alive, who would it be?

“If I could meet any artist I would have to choose Frida Kahlo. She’s been an idol to me for as long as I can remember. Her exhibit was In the High museum when I was younger and my mom took me to see it. It was such an amazing experience to see her artwork at such a young age and I definitely think that inspired me to pursue art as a career.”

What makes art amazing?

“Art is this physical representation of ideas and emotions and it’s just such a wild thing. What makes art amazing is the fact that it’s so free. There’s no do’s and don’ts. I mean you go to school as an artist and you get taught the principles and elements and you learn these foundations that are really important for creating and constructing artwork, but to able to create with no boundaries or limits to what your art has to be is what’s really amazing”

What’s your favorite color? Why?

“My favorite color always seems to change and I always have an assortment of colors I love, but for a while, it’s been yellow. It’s just such a happy and bright color.”

When it comes to seasons, which is your favorite?

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“My favorite season has always and will always be Autumn. Between the mix of Halloween and plethora of cardigans and scarves, there’s nothing to not love about it.”

Somewhere out there is a child who is being discouraged from their calling in art, what would be your advice to them?

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“Never compare your art to someone else’s and always have fun making art. I have such a bad tendency to nitpick at my work and think that an entirely other artist is so much better even though what we make is completely different. And you always have to have fun making art. An admissions counselor I talked to once told me that if I’m not having fun making a piece I should stop because your best work comes from when you're having fun making it.”

What is one thing that makes you angry?

“The one thing that makes me angry is ignorance. People who just blatantly hate a group of people based on false knowledge and someone else’s thoughts. It’s just frustrating.”

What is one thing that makes you happy?

“One thing that makes me happy is I guess the opposite of ignorance: Awareness. People who are open-minded and aware of important issues.”

What’s your favorite food?

“My favorite food is just soup. I love soup so much it’s just really nice.”

No matter what art you do, what are your artistic goals for the future?

“My goals for the future have drastically changed in the past few months, but I’ve always had one goal that has pretty much remained the same. I would love to open up a studio for people of all ages to come in and learn about art that you don’t really get to learn about in regular school or at glen. Learning about fibers and sculpting and making weird art and just having fun being different. Learning how to sew and knit. Just being able to have a safe space to be included and be able to create without limits. I would love to be able to do that.”

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Colored Pencil Queen: Alexis Kalil

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Alexis Kalil. An 18-year-old fashion-inspired artist from Utica, NY. Alexis enjoys exploring the color and texture of fashion design through her drawings. She focuses on connecting one piece to another and primarily specializes in colored pencil. As a child, Alexis’ interest in art started early on and continued to grow as she matured throughout the years. It was her grandfather who noticed her talent at such a young age and he encouraged her to pursue that talent. In December of 2008, Alexis’ grandfather passed away around the Holidays. During this time, Alexis used her artwork as a way to express herself in honor of her grandfather. To this day, Alexis has had many opportunities in the art world by featuring her pieces in numerous local art shows. Regarding Alexis’ work, she hopes to inspire others in art and in fashion as a whole. She hopes that people who see her work will pursue their own dreams and learn how to chase them in many ways. Coming from a small town, Alexis had the opportunity to live in an art-friendly environment where everyone supported local artists and had great admiration and appreciation for those of who created in all forms. Alexis doesn't only have an eye for art, but she is very fashion savvy as well. Currently, she is a freshman at The Fashion Institute of Technology studying Fashion Business Management. Besides drawing and having a strong interest in fashion, Alexis enjoys photography and sewing. For her personally, she felt it was important to become well rounded in many related areas for the benefit of her future. Down the road, Alexis plans to use her creative side and combine both of her skills within the business of the Fashion Industry in whichever direction that takes her.

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What is your name?

“Alexis Kalil”

What is your age?

“18 years old”

Where are you from?

“Utica, NY”

What is your Instagram handle?

“@lexikay25 and @luxurylexx”

How did you become an artist?

“I used to draw and paint every day as a child, and eventually my family and school art teachers noticed my talent.”

Are your parents/guardians proud of your decision?

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“They are very proud of me and are so encouraging. My mom loves to hang all my artwork around the house for everyone to see. Anytime I catch up with family they always ask to see what I am working on. My family comes to every art show I am featured in and encouraged me to take summer courses for many years as a child to pursue the education of art.”

Is there a certain way your art has impacted you or someone else?

“My art has impacted my whole family but most importantly my grandpa. My grandpa had cancer and a few days before he passed away, he made sure he went to see my painting hung at my public library. He was very ill and managed to come and see it. He was so proud of me and that is my last memory with him, I cherish it.”

When faced with adversity, do you think art is a good way to solve a problem?

“When faced with adversity, I think art is one of the best ways to solve a problem. It gets your mind off of things that bother you, and it is a good way to express your feelings in many ways from choosing the color to creating a piece. Many artists are able to influence others through their art during hard times.”

In what forms of art do you think is a good way to solve social issues (murals, speeches, clothing, etc.)?

“I think it is a good way to solve social issues with art when it expresses feelings and emotions of the general public. Color can be a tremendous part to express these feelings. One of the most interesting pieces to me was Pablo Picasso’s Guernica which expresses the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.”

If you could meet any artist (writer, poet, designer, dancer, etc.), dead or alive, who would it be?

“If I could meet any designer, it would be Michael Kors. I love his products personally and one of the watches he sells was my inspiration for a still life drawing I did.”

What’s your favorite color? Why?

“My favorite color is blue because I am in love with each shade. From light to dark, I love to wear blue clothing and I love to incorporate blue into my artwork when possible.”

Choose any artwork/style from any media (Dance, hair, graphics). Which is your all-time favorite?

“My favorite style to see and wear is anything leopard print. I've always been a fan and it is definitely making a comeback!”

What is one thing that makes you angry?

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“One thing that makes me angry is how competitive the art and fashion industry is. There are many people out there who deserve to have a chance and are not always recognized. Often people only look up to the well-known names instead of branching out and finding something or someone new.”

In school, whether it’s elementary, middle school, or high school, should art be funded?

“I am a strong believer that art should be funded in schools. The subjects that are focused on the left side of the brain are always funded but why is it fair to cut out education that focuses on the right side? In my opinion, art is just as important as any other subject because this gives people the opportunity to educate and discover more about themselves. I was always surprised in high school how many people had hidden their artistic ability until forced to take an art class. This gave those people the opportunity to launch and become comfortable.”

No matter what art you do, what are your artistic goals for the future?

“My artistic goals for the future are to develop my skills over time and hopefully begin to sell my work someday. I hope to inspire as many people as I can throughout my artistic journey.”

The Up-Cycling Designer: Ethan Martin

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Ethan Martin. A young fashion designer based in Lompoc, California, whose goal in design is to prove that anyone can make their dreams a reality regardless of age. He began designing in the summer of 2016. Initially, he learned to sew to be able to make costumes for drag queens. He eventually fell into designing for women to make them feel confident while standing out. Ethan is a junior in high school and studies fashion design on his free time. His specialty is spunky, colorful, streetwear and, in great contrast, elegant and voluminous formal wear. He is currently taking a graphic design course to learn about color theory and elements of design. He loves what he does and wishes to do it for as long as possible. As a student, his budget is low so he recycles fabric and materials to make his garments. His goal is to be able to create beauty without affecting the planet. He works mostly with donated scraps of fabric and recycled unconventional materials. He believes that the fashion industry should start turning trash into treasure to help save our environment. He wishes to go to California College of the Arts, FIT, or Parsons. Aside from fashion design, Ethan spends his time baking pies and playing video games. Between school and fashion design, he is always doing something. He is extremely excited to be apart of the Daydreamers Club. He can’t wait to put his voice out there and make a statement in the world.

What is your name?

“My name is Ethan Hayes Martin.”

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What is your age?

“I am 16 years of age.”

Where are you from?

“I was born in Bakersfield, California, but now I live in Lompoc, California.”

What is your Instagram handle?

“I have two: @slassattack and @ehmdesigns”

What type of art do you do?

“I do fashion design that has no labels.

How did you become an artist?

“I was always creative and I realized that I should pursue it to its full extent.”

What is it like to view the world from an artist standpoint?

“It lets me find beauty in everyone and thing. In other words, it’s a way to see through beauty-spectacles.”

Is there a certain way your art has impacted you or someone else?

“It gave me a passion and a future. I also have made dresses for my friends and brightened their lives.”

What forms of art do you think are good ways to solve social issues (murals, speeches, clothing, etc.)?

“All forms of art can conquer social issues with the proper approach.”

Have you ever experienced any negative/harsh words about your art? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, are you afraid of it happening some day? Why?

“Someone called one of my skirts a tablecloth. My client loved it so I didn’t care. What I always think is that the best revenge is to do better.”

If you could meet any artist (writer, poet, designer, dancer, etc.), dead or alive, who would it be?

“Hawwaa. In person. Over coffee. Or Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.”

What makes art amazing?

“The emotion.”

What’s your favorite color? Why?

“Blue. Every other color has issues in my eyes.

Red: Too childish

Orange: Doesn’t pair well with anything

Yellow: Too bright

Green: Close second to blue

Purple: Hard to find the perfect shade

Brown: Ugh”

Choose any artwork/style from any media (Dance, hair, graphics). Which is your all-time favorite?

“Fashion design, oil paintings, dance, graphic design. My favorite is actually graphic design because it is needed for everything.”

Somewhere out there is a child who is being discouraged from their calling in art, what would be your advice to them?

“Proceed with caution. Follow your dreams but play it safe.”

What is one thing that makes you angry?

“Polyester.”

What is one thing that makes you happy?

“My mother and Ghibli films.”

In school, whether it’s elementary, middle school, or high school, should art be funded?

“Art shouldn’t be necessarily funded more because everybody’s art is different. Support and providing materials that are affordable is the name of the game. I’d rather have everyone do their own thing with less than having everyone do one thing with lots of money.”

What’s your favorite food?

“Pie, pasta, and Japanese curry.”