Each semester, the Artist Resource Center connects students with internships throughout the city. This fall, Eileen Wang and Pepper Ellet’s credit-bearing internship was at LouisBoston, one of Boston’s premier clothing stores. Eileen and Pepper helped to construct a variety of eye-catching displays for the holiday, including a 10-foot-tall holiday tree ball gown fashioned from over 25,000 recycled plastic spoons (below). We asked Eileen and Pepper about their experience.
What program are you in at SMFA, and what is your artistic focus?
EW: I am currently in my third year in the BFA program, and I would say that my focus right now is soft sculpture. I’ve been calling them my Closet Diaries, because they are a series of soft sculptures that seek to present a visual commentary about clothing. Using second-hand clothing from thrift shops as the base of the sculptures, I try to understand the personality of the clothing and build into them. While the end products still resemble clothing articles, they are transformed in such a fashion that they become no longer wearable and are viewed as a wall piece.
PE: I’m in my last semester of my fourth year of the BFA program. My work focuses on installation, performance, public intervention and event production.
How did you hear about this internship?
EW: I found this internship on artSource, and immediately applied for it!
PE: I heard about this internship three years ago from Judy Blotnick, who taught “Art as Fashion, Fashion as Art.” I then saw it listed on artSource while I was looking for internships and Louis was the first to call me back.
Tell us about a few of your projects.
EW: One project always inspires another. I took the hula hoops used for the fall installation and transformed them into the star for the spoon tree. Then because the feedback I received from the star was so positive, it then developed into a series of ceiling installations. I was really lucky to have the support of my supervisor, Khayista, in furthering each creative project. Other than the sculptural installations in the store, I also enjoyed helping to set up trunk shows for visiting designers as well as changing around the visual arrangement of the store.
PE: The best parts about the internship were the space itself, the location on the waterfront and the beautiful merchandise we were working with.
How do you think you’ll use this experience going forward?
EW: This internship actually opened a new field for me which I am really excited about. I feel that making visuals is a way to combine my two passions: fashion and fine arts.
I am constantly inspired by not just the beautiful construction of the clothing there, but also the interaction between the customers and the clothing in the store. Why are people attracted to certain clothing? What does picking a certain piece of clothing say about the customer’s personality? How can I incorporate the personality of the clothing into the visual displays of the store? This internship was not only a very relevant learning experience for my art practice, but I found a new interest in making installations for the store.
PE: It was an important experience for me in that it positioned me into a professional environment in which it was essential that I learned to assert myself and be taken seriously as an artist and not just an intern. I think that facing obstacles forced me to learn how to articulate and legitimize my creative input—and that’s what will be most helpful to me in any professional environment in the future.
Do you have another internship in the works?
EW: I do! I have plans to be in New York for this coming summer.
PE: I am not able to do an internship in my last semester at SMFA but in the future I plan on applying for internships with event coordinators.
What are your plans and hopes after you graduate?
EW: As of now, I am interested in continuing to explore visuals. I am curious about all visual aspects of a store: how it looks, how it is set up, and how that setup interacts with people. I see stores as a space where I can be very creative and have lots of people interact with my creations as well. It is so amazing to be surrounded by beautiful clothing, and be able to create a space based on them.
PE: I hope to be stable enough financially after I graduate to still make art in some way. It is not my expectation to become a working artist showing in galleries, but to incorporate and articulate the awareness and creative perspective that art school has afforded me into whatever I happen to be doing to pay the bills.