Principles of Design

I doubt that one of the people with the biggest influences on me would even remember my name.

Study the basic concepts of figure, ground, line, contrast, pattern, proportion, color, symmetry, movement, unity, and balance. Students learn the principles of two- and three-dimensional design and develop language to analyze product design, plate presentations, decoration, and packaging on visual, tactile, and conceptual levels.

In 2004, I was quite young, yet already three years into my culinary career, and already terribly jaded. I had an associates degree in culinary arts, and had worked in several restaurants of varying quality, back of the house, front of the house, a little bit of everything. And I was accepted to what is probably still considered “the Harvard of culinary schools” into the baking and pastry program.

I had started out my culinary career as wanting to pursue the savory side, and that the sweet side was all wedding cakes, bread, and bakeries – nothing I was interested in. It was midway through my associates degree that I fell in love with pastry. With pastry, you could make anything you wanted utilizing several fundamental ingredients – namely sugar, butter, eggs, flour. And suddenly it was like my world opened. With savory food, you were tied to ingredients and keeping those ingredients recognizable. Who would want to eat a chicken thigh that looks like a flower? Baking did not have aesthetic limits.

Boom.

Which is how I found my way to The Culinary Institute of America, and specifically to Bruce Ostwald’s Principles of Design class, the first college level art class I ever took. Sure, the curriculum was based around food, creating plates that would have interesting textures and colors, as well as incorporating different complementary flavors and temperatures. But at the heart of this class was design – art. Visuals. Contrast. Texture. Negative space. Color. Movement. So while I was trying my hardest to continue cramming knowledge about food into my brain, my heart was learning something else – creativity. Expressing myself through a variety of mediums.

 

The problem was, sugar and chocolate couldn’t hold my interest. I was too interested in people, and when you make food, you have essentially no contact with the people you’re making it for.

Less than two years later that I returned to school, and this time I was aiming for art history. I had picked up some culinary French, and I had always had an interest in architecture, so art history made sense.

Until it didn’t.

At 22, I had just spent five years working towards a career that I really enjoyed, but that felt somewhat lacking in the practicality department – the restaurant world is very difficult to have a family in, and making a living wage seemed downright impossible – I had the best culinary school in the country on my resume and was only able to command $9/hour with no benefits. What sort of career could a bachelor’s degree in art history give me? On top of that, I felt like an anomaly – my peers were just graduating with their four year degrees, and I was already well on my way to being career changer.

So while the practical side of me chose something that was somewhat more useful – a bachelor’s in psychology is applicable in a variety in positions, though not exactly a career jump starter – I used everything in the rest of my background’s arsenal, including my interest in my father’s long time career, to gain enough momentum to create another career for myself. Which, over the years, I have turned into my day job.

And then there is the creative side, which you see here, where the spark that was discovered through Mr. Ostwald’s design class has been a glowing ember and has turned into a bonfire. Only, it’s in jewelry, rather than food. Because I can work one on one with my clients, and hopefully create something that they hold dear for years, or even generations, to come.

My most memorable piece in my principles of design class was mixed media on blue background, with diamonds cut from magazine ads exploding outwards. I should have known.

 

Advertisements

Art of Any Medium

Sometimes you lose your drive and your inspiration. I’ve been so stressed out with everything, moving and selling our house that I’ve just been blah in every aspect of my life, except for sleeping. Yesterday my husband and daughter went to work and gave me some peace and quiet. I told myself that I wouldn’t do any chores and forced myself to try to relax and get with the program. Let me deviate for a bit.

IMG_3171 IMG_3176

About a week ago, I won a print of a beautiful asscher cut diamond painting done by Angie Crabtree. Part of winning that particular contest was that she would name it after me. You can check out “Elle” here: Angie Crabtree

 

Now, I’d been following Angie around instagram for a bit, admiring her diamond painting work. She has recently gotten several inquiries asking if she would do a gemstone photograph, and she replied that she would. But she wanted a straight on high resolution photo to paint from. So I decided today was the day to challenge myself to try to get a straight on photo of a gem that was high resolution and good enough to paint from. Short story, I did not achieve my goal, but did get some nice photos anyway.

IMG_3181

Still feeling rather blah, I sat down on my couch and turned on Netflix. I’ve mentioned before that I was a pastry chef, and I was incredibly serious about it. I went to culinary school with the mindset that I would be a savory chef, and leave that sissy pastry stuff to people who couldn’t hack it in a real kitchen. Then I started baking and pastry classes, and it was all over. I was entranced by the artistry of pastry and the fact that I felt as though I was completely unencumbered by the mediums, after all, I could take flour, sugar and butter and transform it into anything, rather than trying to mold a chicken breast into something else that didn’t make sense. Later, I would learn that that wasn’t exactly the case, but I was already too in love with the art and specific science of pastry. So I flicked through several suggested shows, and I see something called “Chef’s Table”, and figure “Why the hell not?”

IMG_3180

 

I want to thank Massimo Bottura for lifting me out of my funk and reminding me of my passion for the beautiful, for pushing boundaries, and questioning traditions. And making me remember that some of the best creations come from accidents.

IMG_3172

 

I feel better now.