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Design


Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Group at a café in the Hague, The Netherlands. Jim Catel is at the far left. Photo by N.L. Castro.

: Photo by Natalia Ilyin.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Ricky Castro lost in a design exhibit. Photo by N.L. Castro.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Photo by N.L. Castro.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Photo by N.L. Castro.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Photo by N.L. Castro.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Photo by N.L. Castro.

Ilyin, Students, Alumni, Visit Holland

: Photo by N.L. Castro.

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Careful what you talk about in design professor Natalia Ilyin’s class; you could find yourself in The Netherlands touring design schools.

Imagine talking about Dutch design in your History of Visual Communications class one day and finding yourself putting together a trip to The Netherlands the next. If your professor is Natalia Ilyin, it can happen — and did. Clearly, in Natalia’s class, where the line between theory and practice is obviously razor-thin, the saying “talk is cheap” has no meaning. Only a couple of months after the subject came up in conversation, a group of three faculty members, seven students, and two alumni made the trip to The Netherlands, arriving on June 13. They returned on June 20. If this description sounds abrupt, know that the whole thing happened just that quickly, slowing down only for jet lag.

“This was in March,” Natalia reflects vaguely, clearly straining to reconstruct the break-neck course of events. “Fabulous group of students and they were really working their butts off. So, we were talking about the Dutch, and I had this idea that we should go to Holland. This was like in March. The school year ends in late April, so we didn’t have a lot of time.”

The conversation in class led to a second between Natalia and Cornish’s provost, Moira Scott Payne. “So I went up to Moira,” continues Natalia, “and typical Moira, she was totally positive about it. And she said, ‘If you can make this into a fact-finding mission about a relationship with one of the design schools, then certainly you can have some students go with you … The center of this would be creating a relationship with one of these Dutch institutions.’” In other words, Natalia and her class were from that moment deputized by the provost to scout out relationships with Dutch schools of design.

So that was that. Or nearly that, since certain questions of practicality arose in the process of putting the plan into action. “So we had to get it together really quickly,” continues Natalia. “This is where I got into a jam, because, blithely, I thought this was a great idea, but I completely forgot that the students are … you know … poor.” But Cornish emphasizes an entrepreneurial approach to problems: “Of course, they rose to the occasion. And they found a place to stay and did all kinds of work-arounds to find a way. They found this cheap flight from Vancouver that they all went up on the train to catch. It was like half the price.” Natalia’s History of Visual Communications class included Robert Baxter, Noelle Hoffmann, Renee Legaux, Melissa Martin, Emanii Owens, Spencer Shores, Jeremy WIckramasinghe, and Elise Moreno (‘14) who graduated before the trip. Alumnus Sydney Veltkamp (‘13) also came along.

So by June 13, they were in the Hague, which served as their home base for the trip. Along the way, the party gained two more faculty members, Jim Catel and Ricky Castro, late of the well-known design firm if/then. If you thought the preparation for the trip seemed a whirl of activity, be assured, the actual time in Holland was more so. The students and alumni were thrown right into it. “They were running like maniacs,” says Natalia. “We went to all these incredible studios, tours that Jim and Ricky set up. They did studio tours and I was forcing them to see Vermeers and Rembrandts. I was the heavy. But they loved it.”

The list of studios the group visited has got to impress, particularly since the total of number is equal to the number of days they were in Holland. Ricky Castro writes that they visited Atelier Carvalho Bernau (Kai Bernau and Susana Carvalho), LUST (Jeroen Barendse, Thomas Castro, and Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen), Catalog Tree (Daniel Gross, Joris Maltha), Typotheque (Peter Biľak), Team Thursday (Loes van Esch and Simone Trum), Underware (Akiem Helmling), and Jan van Toorn. As if this torrid pace was not enough, they also made three school visits, to KABK/Type and Media (Erik van Blokland), Werkplaats Typografie (Karel Martens), and ArtEZ (Thomas Castro).

Everywhere the group went, they found the Dutch very accommodating. “They welcomed us with open arms,” Natalia says. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re taking extra time, taking hours to show us all these different projects, every single one of them.” The students and alumni did not limit themselves to The Hague. “They went to Arnheim, they went to Rotterdam, they went, of course, to Amsterdam. And some of them went to Antwerp.  They saw a LOT in a week. A lot.”

But they did not forget their sworn duty to the provost. The group investigated three design schools. The one Natalia warmed to the most was the Koninkijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (KABK), Den Haag, or the Royal Academy of Visual Arts at The Hague. “The school that seemed the most like Cornish,” she says, “the one the students felt they most fit into, was the Royal Academy in the Hague. Not stuffy at all. They had stuff in the hall, just like Cornish — only people are speaking Dutch.” Natalia believes that a relationship with KABK will take hold, possibly leading to exchanges of students and faculty. She is in a good position to know what will work; along with her professorship at Cornish, Natalia has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Yale University, The Cooper Union, and the University of Washington.

“The low-down on the student side is that the relationships they made in Holland are now growing,” says Natalia, “because of Facebook and everything. They are continuing the relationships, and a number of them are hoping to intern in Holland next summer. … So — yay — it’s pretty exciting.”

Hearing about all this, the provost came to the conclusion that the mission was a great success. Moira Scott Payne was not content that laurels be rested upon nor that a moment be lost in pressing the advantage. Natalia says that “The first thing that Moira asked me when I came back was, ‘So, when are you going again?’”


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