Design Camp: Kids' art going to work!

When his parents picked him up Sunday evening at the end of Design Camp weekend, our youngest camper started to cry. Because he didn’t want to leave!


If this is any measure of success, (and frankly, we think it is) Fresh Artists’ Design Camp for kids knocked it outta the park! This year’s partnership with Crate & Barrel’s children’s brand, The Land of Nod (LON), facilitated by acclaimed designer Kimberly Ellen Hall – brought together 11 artistically talented Philadelphia public school kids from from 5th to 9th grade, for a weekend of drawing, painting, instruction and gentle critiques, tasty snacks, pizza, funky stick-on mustaches to wear and lots of plain old garden-variety fun! As with all Fresh Artists Design Camps in the past, a small number of youngsters are invited to come to our studio to make art for a specific purpose – and that purpose is always philanthropic – “Great art, doing good.” October’s  Design Camp brought kids together to develop designs which will become part of a Fresh Artists textile collection for the Land of Nod – the ultimate result of which will generate funds for Fresh Artists’ delivery art supplies and innovative art programs to schools in need.


Seeing success through others’ eyes


As 14 year-old Coumba told us, “We’re meeting new people. We’re all from different schools so you get to learn new stuff about different people.”


Their “teacher” for the day was Kimberly Hall, who designs for LON and who also teaches graduate school at Maryland Institute College of Art. Her gentle encouragement allowed kids to work independently while at the same time seeing themselves as part of a real design collaborative. It was a new idea for the kids and they took to it immediately.


Kim had never taught children this age and was pleased with the energy in the room.


“It was really great to see one of the kids direct the students and look at someone else’s work and say – you should try this or you should do that,” she said.  “And even see the other kids say – Can I do what that guy’s doing? And they really feed off each other’s work in a way that . . . . I think sometimes the other kids I teach, the big kids, they forget that they can do this.”


While on the surface the day appeared to be about learning to work with new art materials while listening to cool playlists on the boom box, the weekend had a serious intent, as well.


Seana Strawn, LON’s Director of Merchandising, Product Development and Product Design, and her colleague Stefanie Ricciardi, product manager for Soft Goods (bedding, curtains, soft goods, apparel), came to look for designs that will work on their line of products for children. The idea was simple: kids designing for kids.


As Stefanie explained, “When we sit down and we try to think of new products and how to design them, we try to imagine – what do the kids want? Because at the end of the day it’s the kids telling their parents what their interests are and aesthetically what they want their room to be. Kids have an opinion.”


So what better designers for kids products than . . . kids?!


Two jam-packed days


On Day Two of Design Camp, Fresh Artist young designers made decisions about which drawings looked like “hero” designs and which could complement those dominant “hero” images as secondary designs and repetitive patterns used on sheets and bedding. The kids got the concept immediately and worked in teams to select complementary designs, just as professionals do at LON.


Seana Strawn said that one of their motivations for Design Camp, influenced in part by FA’s Cool Jobs concept, was to demonstrate to teens that people do this for a living.


“There is a whole gamut of jobs within the creative field that you can do and make a good living,” she said. “Those jobs are out there.”


The kids were taken through every aspect of soft-goods’ product development and manufacturing, and learned about real jobs people had to produce the products. They participated in brainstorming concepts, making tons of sketches, then watched Fresh Artists staff scan their artwork at high resolution, print their art on the new Sawgrass 25” Virtuoso printer with professional ErgoSoft RIP software, and apply the designs to Fisher Fabric with a 25” heat press. Their last step was to actively participate in the manufacturing of throw pillows, each adorned with their own artwork. The kids loved stuffing their pillows as seamstress Roxanne Szalejko sewed them up!

The last part of Design Camp was a circle of quiet reflection with Kim Hall and the LOD staff. Each child was individually acknowledged by admiring a unique strength or talent the professionals observed over the intensive two-day workshop.  Tying the experience to real-life jobs in the creative economy, Amber beamed when they saw her illustrating children’s books as an adult, Anissa – as an art director, and everyone agreed Eli’s illustrations would surely become New Yorker cartoons!


Stefanie and Seana were joined by LON photographer Dave, and videographer Richard, who documented the entire experience. LON will keep the group updated over the next months as they select the final artwork, assemble the final assortment for production, and Skype with us during the printing and fabrication process. This two-day collaboration between Fresh Artists and Land of Nod will ultimately lead to a collection of children’s products that the company will introduce in January of 2018. Being part of the official launch of their Collection will be the cherry on this delicious sundae of design and service to others.  Look what kids can do when given the opportunity!


A huge thanks to all our donors:


In addition to the enormous support and collaboration given to Fresh Artists by Land of Nod, we are grateful for generous technical support and donations of essential equipment and supplies from the following Friends of Fresh Artists:


Equipment for Sublimation Printing:

Sawgrass Technologies - Vik Patel, gift of new 25” Virtuoso 628 Sublimation printer, inks, on-site set-up and training for Fresh Artists staff

ErgoSoft - Rob Nute, RIP software, heat press and on-site training in color profiling

Fisher Fabrics – Scott Fisher, sample rolls of sublimation fabrics for rapid prototyping
Mutoh America – Brian Phipps, gift of Mutoh Kona digital Cutter for making decals and stickers
Specialty Graphics Imaging Association - Ford Bowers, for SGIA strong partnership support


Art supplies for Workshop:
A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts - Elena Piperno, special art supplies

Pacon Corporation – Keith Keller, watercolor paper

Sakura of America – Peter Ouyang and Julia Reed, KOI watercolor pens, watercolors, Sax Arts & Crafts – Sheri Yerges, special art supplies, oil pastels and Micro drawing pens


Gifts for Design Camp kids:
Clarion Books, Houghton MifflinArt & Max by David Weisner– illustrated storybook about making art and the exploration of art materials
Land of Nod – fun, silly toys and goodies

Merion Art & Repro – Joe Lyons, gift bags filled with art supplies