24 August 2009


Okay, so before I retire to the couch with my book for the ultimate luxury of a real-life, bon-a-fide, nothing-niggling-in-the-background afternoon off, I want to tell you the good news: I got offered a spot to study furniture and product design at an art school here in London! Hence all that portfolio talk as of late and all the stress and anxiety that's dangled me over the brink of madness so many times recently--but now it's over! I got in!

A bit about my interview this morning: I knew in advance that I was getting interviewed by the Head of the Upholstery department (let's call him 'Pop-Pop'), so right away I wanted to dress in a way that would make him think 'upholstery.' I decided to wear brown corduroy culottes, a navy blue tank top made of recycled vintage prints, and a pair of slightly-heeled walnut-colored sandals. If there was ever a look that said 'really cool chair,' it was this one. So I'm feeling good, I'm feeling upholstered, and I even get there early and find the right building on my first try. I am TOGETHER.

Then the lobby starts filling up with other applicants. We're all crammed onto benches and leaning against walls, secretly checking each other out. After all, we're all applying for any spots that are left open, and I know my program only takes 30 a year. The girls are gorgeous and glammed up, wearing long necklace chains and bright red lipstick and carrying collages, and the guys are spiked high, wielding giant black portfolios and looking smug. And here I am, with a small black binder tucked into a tote bag, looking like a seat cushion.

Then I get called into the interview room, and find myself face-to-face with the interviewers. Pop-Pop was just as I had anticipated. But then there was the second interviewer, the wild card, the one I didn't expect. Unlike Pop-Pop, this tutor did NOT smack of upholstery. He smacked of art and hipness and designer-confidence. In fact, I think I saw him ride into the building on a motorcycle in full leather gear earlier that morning. He appeared to be the polar opposite of the kindly, blue-eyed Pop-Pop, twinkling away at the table next to him. Let's call this other tutor 'Craig.'

Craig opens up by describing the design program. He wants to make sure that what they offer is what I'm looking for: 'If you want to design, say...a watch [here he flicks his glittering Omega], then this is not the course for you. We don't teach mechanics, we don't teach load-bearing. See this chair I'm sitting on? Chairs have to be built to hold 16 stone. If you weigh more than that, then...well, you've got bigger problems. [chuckles to himself] But that's not my point. My point is that you don't get taught that here. There's no engineering, no applied science. You are here to learn DESIGN.' 'So, like, vases?' Pop-Pop looks pleased, hammers the table: 'YES!' 'And lamps?' 'YES! EXACTLY!' Craig looks happy that I have understood the concept so far. He goes on: 'And the study is very self-directed, based on what your personal focus is. Say you decide you want to re-design light switches. We would LOVE that. It's DIFFERENT.' I decide to try a furniture-design joke: 'So I shouldn't say I want to design chairs?' Pop-Pop roars with laughter. He knows full well we are in Chair Central here. Craig requests my portfolio. I explain that I wasn't sure what exactly a furniture design portfolio should look like (Pop-Pop chuckles sympathetically), so I created one that covered a few different disciplines (drawing, building, shooting, and writing). Craig opens it up, expresses approval at the layout. He gets to the sketches first. This was by far the most nerve-wracking section, as I haven't drawn in some time. I'm pretty sure a couple of these sketches even pre-date my period.

But then...three deep, the sketch that solidified my position not only in the furniture design course, but in their hearts forever...Please note that I was very worried about including this picture at all, because one, reproducing a cartoon is no doubt death to a portfolio, two, drawing cartoons is something every teenager on the planet can do and is very much an art phase to be grown out of, and three, come ON, it's a REPRODUCED CARTOON. Not even an ORIGINAL. Alas, I couldn't stop myself, because it's a picture that makes ME happy, and everybody needs a pick-me-up in the middle of an interview, and if this doesn't make you overjoyed, then you have no soul:

Craig stops here: 'Do you like Calvin & Hobbes?'
'Do I like them? I LOVE them!'
'I have the entire box set!'
'Do you?? I want it, but my whole collection is piecemeal!'
'Mine was, too, but I wanted to treat myself! Can you believe how selfish he was to stop drawing after only ten years??'
'I know! And now he's just painting for fun in Arizona or something?? Crazy! He's too brilliant for that!'

Craig looks at me for a moment, and then I know: we have just become bff's. A similar dialogue occurred at the emergence of the Wind-Up Birds in the 'build' section ('Did you name them from Murakami's work?' 'I did! I love Murakami!' 'Me, too!'). This was no longer an interview for an art program--this was a book club between nerdy-comic lovers, a kindred spiritship.

They then dismissed me for a few moments so they could discuss my application, but I hadn't even sat down on the chair in the hall before I was called back in. AND OFFERED A SPOT. I think I may have shrieked like a beauty pageant contestant, but I could be wrong. It got a bit blurry for a moment there.

But lest I get too excited, the next hurdle awaits: will my student visa get approved?? Back to the States in a few short days to find out...and if it doesn't, then we're back to San Francisco and looking for the next best thing!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go curl up with Bill Watterson collection to celebrate...and maybe write him that long overdue love letter...


sunny said...


sooooooo exciting.

may your student visa be approved effortlessly and without a smidgen of red tape.

Darcy said...

procrastination nothing! this has all been creative preparation, that's what i think. well done!

Darcy said...

i am going to make some donuts now. excuse me.

Anonymous said...

FANTASTIC! I knew you could do it!

Kimberly said...

Congrats! That is so way beyond exciting. Crossing my fingers that it all works out... :)

Alissa - the Big Sis said...

OMG!!! I am so completely over-the-moon proud of you! Whoda thunk my baby sis and her "Here, read this cartoon. It's soooo funny!" would land a spot in a most prestigious art school! Congratulations!

deee said...

love the sketch! you've been keeping secrets...

Gina said...

You have been keeping secrets! Congratulations! And I am thrilled that you know Murakami and The Wind Up Bird Chronicles.

ps word verification: subtle (no lie)