Action and stillness and endless inspiration at the Savannah College of Art and Design

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SCAD boasts an array of impressive alums, excellent teachers, and a conscientious work ethic

On a given Monday morning, accessory designers at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) never know what materials to expect at their workstations. Aspiring jewelry designers regularly use unusual materials, anything from hardened beetles’ wings to recycled glass bottles. As the only university in the United States to offer students the full spectrum of accreditation in accessory design from a Bachelor of Fine Arts to a Master of Fine Arts, SCAD takes its distinction seriously.

A Brief History

Founded in 1978, the college began its notable trek into excellence with dual goals of offering students an “excellent arts education and effective career preparation.” The institution is student-centered; it prides itself on keeping class sizes small. Now the college has campuses across the world in Atlanta, Hong Kong, France (Lacoste), and of course, Savannah, Georgia.When the college began offering students degrees in jewelry accessory design, students clamored into its halls. The founder of the accessory design department is professor Shana Hall, who came to SCAD in 2006

Trademark excellent instruction by Professor Hall and other notable teachers has produced a long list of impressive alumni among different disciplines. Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Matt Davies and Pulitzer nominee in photography Sheila Springsteen are just a few, as well as photographer John Michael Fulton, whose work in the fashion industry garnered him special recognition with Vogue. Alumni Benjamin Smith has released the sparkling, white-gold Lineage collection, which displayed at the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia. Jewelry artist Liaung Chung Yen left SCAD with an “Outstanding Graduate Achievement Award.” Today Yen’s work stars at Taboo Studio, a contemporary art studio in San Diego, California.

A Student’s Perspective

I recently had the opportunity to chat with one of Hall’s graduates, Elyse Marie. The 2010 graduate completed her experience with a B.F.A and a renewed passion for jewelry art.

What makes the Savannah College of Art and Design stand out? I chose SCAD because of its diverse range of focuses and its fantastic scholarships. Plus, the accessories program was a major draw. It was a minor when I started SCAD, but I knew that having that extra skill set would make me more desirable in the fashion industry post-college.

What was your experience like at SCAD? It was fabulous, quirky, and weird. Savannah is a strange yet hauntingly beautiful city. SCAD has taken the rich history of the city and preserved it into something breathtaking and beautiful. They’ve taken hold of the rich dichotomy of Savannah and it provides endless inspiration for artists; there is action and stillness, new growth and old culture. They also have continued Savannah’s tradition of being incredibly diverse by attracting students from every state in the U.S. and every country in the world. All of this makes for an incredibly rich and inspiring artistic experience that you really can’t find anywhere else.

What was it like perfecting your craft with Shana Hall? Shana is an awe-inspiring mentor and a wonderful teacher. She knows how to relate to her students and truly connect with them in a way that many professors never achieve. She is not only a talented designer, but also a gifted educator. She is both tough and hilarious, expecting her students to put 110% in effort into every design and piece we created. She would drive you to constantly improve, grow, search for new design ideas and find the perfect balance of form and function.

Is there a particular creative statement that Hall imparts to her students? Balance, balance, balance! Don’t over-design, and don’t overthink. Never be lazy, but don’t overwork it or you will end up with just too much going on, and it will be both unappealing and dysfunctional. And always sketch more.

What’s your big takeaway from your time at SCAD? Shana Hall and the program she designed for the department not only teaches you all of the design facets for a job later, but also teaches you about sourcing, networking, and actually constructing products.

Tell me a little more about yourself. Fashion and making things have been my passion since I was a young girl. I grew up in a very progressive home where creativity, exploration, and experiencing the outdoors were all highly encouraged. My parents took my brother and I camping and to museums and parks rather than on the standard Disneyland vacations. I didn’t have cable TV until we got high-speed Internet, (while I was) in high school. All of this made for an intriguing merge with my interest in fashion design, and is what led me to pursue a degree in accessories design.

With SCAD’s reputation firmly planted in the jewelry arena, prospective students from around the world continue to seek tutelage from one of the world’s most illustrious schools.

-September 2012