I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to say and write and blog about, but just haven’t had the time to sit down and get my thoughts out about it all. This summer has been a crazy whirlwind and it has a lot to do with a big announcement (that you might have already seen on my Instagram a couple months ago):
This fall (or in less than a month now), I’ll be moving to Savannah, Georgia to attend graduate school at the Savannah College of Art & Design in their Fibers department. (!!!)
Attending SCAD has been a dream of mine for a long time and it seems I’ve been on quite the adventure to get there. I first toured SCAD (the Atlanta campus) my junior year of high school and completely fell in love with it. I didn’t end up going there for undergrad because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study and I got a scholarship to Tulane. It wasn’t until I had moved to New Orleans and was part of the way into my study at Tulane that I realized I wanted to study graphic/pattern/textile design. I was frustrated that Tulane didn’t have a program for that and for a while I looked into transferring to SCAD or RISD, but I had already started a life in New Orleans and had an amazing scholarship to Tulane. I kept telling myself to just make it through and one day I could go to graduate school at SCAD to study design.
My senior year at Tulane, Drew and I took a weekend trip to Savannah to tour the Savannah SCAD campus and see the Fibers building and get a better idea of what I could study there and what I needed to do to make that happen. I left disappointed, because although I loved SCAD, the information I was given was a little disheartening. Because my undergrad degree was in English and Studio Art (Painting concentration), I was told I would have difficulties having the background info I needed to pursue a graduate degree in fibers/textile design. I was so overwhelmed at that time in my life (I had just gotten married, was having a really tough senior year of college, was crippled with the debt we already owed on Drew’s school, and had unresolved health issues – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) that I just gave up on my SCAD dream. I was convinced I’d never have the money to go or the ability to get into the program without an undergrad degree in textiles.
I graduated from Tulane and started working in graphic design and enjoyed that just fine for a while, but I kept being pulled into the world of pattern and textile design. I was so inspired by what my favorite designers were doing and I wanted to have more creative freedom in my career (I love graphic design but also find it very artistically limiting). I was really inspired by Bonnie Christine (one of my favorite textile designers for quilting cottons who has an undergrad degree in business and taught herself Adobe Illustrator and surface pattern design via online tutorials and now is a very successful fabric designer). I followed along with Bonnie’s journey and was inspired to learn as much as I could on my own. I didn’t need grad school, I’d just teach myself! I had already worked in graphic design for several years at that point, so I knew Photoshop and InDesign well and the very basics of Illustrator. So I started taking online surface pattern design courses, attended Quilt Market, did a textile design workshop in NYC with Anna Maria Horner and Heather Ross, met all the designers of Cotton & Steel at another workshop and learned to quilt. I got to the point in my journey that I knew the basics and what I needed to do to move forward, but working full time I didn’t have the extra time to work on developing my signature style and to create the pattern portfolio I wanted to.
Last fall, as we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel of our debt pay-off plan approaching, Drew and I started to seriously talk about what was next for our lives. Over the past few years, I had always imagined that after paying off our debt, I’d finally be free to switch jobs, buy a house, and have kids. I wanted to work in textile design, but it was taking such a long time to get there with only being able to put in such a small amount of time towards that dream in the evenings and weekends. And after working a full-time job all day, I wasn’t always excited to get home and spend more time in front of a computer screen designing patterns. I did actually try to apply to some dream jobs with the small portfolio of work that I had created so far and was sad but not surprised when I never heard anything back. I started thinking two things: 1. that I didn’t want to have kids until I at least had my foot further in the door of the textile design world and 2. that if I was actually going to make it happen, I needed to quit my full-time job and focus fully on creating patterns and building a portfolio of work. This was when the idea of grad school came back into my life once again. Once we were debt free and didn’t have to rely as much on my income, I wanted to pour myself into making my dreams happen, but I was worried about doing that on my own. I was worried I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to make progress fast enough, about my mental health sitting at home alone all day making patterns, and I started to realize that making it into the textile world wasn’t only a beautiful portfolio, but it relied a lot on connections and although I had done a great job in the past year of making connections in the world of quilting cottons, I really needed the connections that SCAD could give me to appeal to my dream employers. I started to feel that to move my career forward, grad school seemed like the right option for me. (A special thanks to Kelsey from Pinegate Road for sharing her own SCAD story with me!)
So long story short, I started the application process to SCAD last fall. I told myself not to overthink it, to just apply and see what happened. If it didn’t work out this time, then it wasn’t meant to be. I submitted my initial application in November, reached out to a couple of my Tulane professors for recommendations and had my transcripts sent over in December, spent the entire month of January designing my fibers-specific portfolio and writing the written parts of the application, and submitted everything on February 1. I was told it typically only takes a couple weeks to hear back about their decision and at the same time I would be notified if I was awarded any academic or portfolio related scholarships. February and March were a weird flux period in which I had no idea which direction my life was about to go. It took almost two months before they got back to me, right before we left to go to Europe in April. It was worth the wait though (and all the effort I’d put into learning design on my own!), not only was I accepted as a graduate student in their Fibers department, but I was awarded one of the highest amounts of academic/portfolio based scholarships that they offer! (enough to cover about 30% of my tuition cost).
So eight years after first touring SCAD for undergrad and four years after touring it again for grad school, it is finally happening! It has been a long time coming, but I’m so happy with the way things have worked out. For me personally, the timing is really great. Looking back, I’m so grateful for the way our lives have been shaped by being in New Orleans and I think Tulane was exactly where I was supposed to be for undergrad, as frustrating and difficult as that time was. I think I needed the the last three years out of school to get over that stressful experience and look forward to being back in school again. I also think it is so essential how much I’ve evolved as an artist and designer in the last few years that I’m really excited to do grad school at SCAD now that I have a better idea of where I want it to take me and what I want to make of it. I’m so ready for a new adventure and I’m so glad I’m jumping in and doing this now, because I feel like if I waited any longer, Drew and I would be into the buy a house/start a family part of our lives, and it would be so much harder to make this work.
Speaking of Drew, even though I said the timing for me was really great, the timing for him to pick up and move somewhere else is not so great. He got a promotion at work the week before I found out I got accepted to SCAD. He is now the Director of Information Technology at all four ISL campuses, something he has worked hard for several years for. I’m so proud of him and the work that he does. He really loves his job and where he works and wants to have more time to be the IT Director before moving on. So things will be a little crazy for us for the next year or so! Drew will be staying in New Orleans a bit longer for work while I move to Savannah to start my program. Not ideal, but I think that we will be able to make it work just fine. It gives me the opportunity to really pour myself into my work and make the most of my time at SCAD and gives him the ability to work in a job he loves with a title he’s worked hard for. After being together for almost ten years, we rely a lot on each other and I think it will even be good for us to spend some time being a little more independent and appreciative of the time we have together and the things we do for each other. And with SCAD being on the quarter system with big breaks between quarters and Drew working in a school with a lot of breaks, we’ll still be seeing a lot of each other.
And since I know some of you may be thinking, “Grad school? But you just paid off your debt! Are you going into more debt!?” The answer to that is that no, we don’t plan to. We’ve continued to live on a minimal budget, and without any debt (no credit card, car, or student loan payments), we’ve been able to save up a pretty good amount of money pretty quickly with us both working (all the money we would have put towards our debt pay off has been going into savings for my tuition). The scholarship that I got from SCAD also helps a lot, as does the raise that came with Drew’s promotion. Our plan is to be able to pay for my school as I go. It is a little tricky with us now paying for housing in two separate cities, but we are making it work (and will be eating a lot of rice and beans yet again for the next while). We may have no money to spend on anything else, but we are chasing our dreams!
We’ve already paid the tuition for my first quarter, I have less than two weeks left at work, just three weeks left of living in New Orleans before I move to Savannah, and just a month before school starts. Things are getting very crazy, but also very exciting around here!
More to come of my adventures at SCAD!
Congratulations Caitlin! What an awesome adventure! Best of luck, you will do great! 🙂
Aww, thanks!!! (my secret blog cheerleader!)
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