Professor-Inspired Fashion Design Student Service Project Benefits Riley’s Patients: News at IU: Indiana University
Winski and more than 40 other students from three classes in the fashion design program learned how their skills translate into community service with a hands-on project to benefit patients at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis. They made reversible tote bags and pillow covers for the kids for two weeks.
“Seeing it all together in the end made me proud of my classmates because we accomplished a lot in such a short time,” said Winski, a fashion design student from Chesterton, Indiana.
The students made 70 tote bags and 38 pillow covers in October, and they were delivered on January 28 to the Riley Cheer Guild, which comforts and comforts patients and caregivers. In the spring semester, a new class of 17 students made 18 tote bags and 18 pillow covers for Riley.
The idea for the service-learning project grew out of the personal experience of Bo Choi, visiting professor in fashion design. She spent about five months at Riley in 2021, where her infant son, Teddy, was being treated for a rare type of leukemia that has a low survival rate: juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.
Teddy, whose health has improved, was at Riley from May until September 10. To help Choi deal with this stressful and emotional time, Riley’s art therapist and Cheer Guild member Emily Allbery suggested she try art therapy. Choi said that not only was the art therapy helpful, but it sparked the idea for the service-learning project.
Teachers at Eskenazi School have tried to incorporate service-learning over the years, said Deb Christiansen, the school’s executive director of academics. the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning connected the school to Middle Way House in Bloomington – which helps those who have been victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – for its first service-learning opportunity a few years ago. Choi, Christiansen and Lori Friethe field co-coordinator for fashion design, thought helping Riley’s children seemed like another good opportunity for students, Christiansen said.
The trio brainstormed to find items that would meet Riley’s needs and give their students experience in engineering design, construction and production. Materials for the tote bags and pillow covers were funded by an IU teaching grant ServeDesign Center. During the October project period, teaching assistants such as Thomas Emoff cut the fabric and organized and prepared the cotton canvas, cotton sheet, and polyester batting, coordinating colors and prints. Additional preparatory work included two classes of making embroidered embellishments.
Emoff, a fashion design student from Florida, participated in the Middle Way House service-learning project in his second year, so he understood the importance of the Riley Project and how it could benefit students as well as young people. patients.
“It’s the idea of support and giving in society, and doing something for someone is an act of service,” he said.
The project was also a good example of the close studio culture between faculty and students in the fashion design program, Emoff said.
“That moment when everyone was in the studio for a whole week with a common goal, it was really nice, it was very happy,” he added.
Christiansen, Choi and Frye taught the students how to make the tote bags and pillow covers, and were on hand for troubleshooting. Students had two to three class periods over a week to make at least one tote bag and one pillow cover. The items featured designs and embroidery of animals, flowers, cartoon characters, hearts, and other images and words.
The students were genuinely engaged in the work, Christiansen said.
“They were excited to see comprehensive and useful products that could also make a difference to a child’s visit and Riley experience,” she added.
Akshaya Singhal, a junior international student from Bahrain majoring in fashion design, said she was excited to do something for children, as well as supporting Choi and Teddy. She said the project was also relaxing because it wasn’t for a grade but for a good cause.
“It was the most fun,” she said. “We were all in the studio. We were all building, we were all doing things together that would bring joy and smiles to the kids.”
Singhal made three tote bags and two pillow covers, one of which was a collaboration with Winski. She said the project taught her new skills, such as embroidery and construction processes that differ from what she uses with clothing.
Sophomore Jack Koceja said this project’s connection to Choi and his son has given fashion design students valuable perspective. He also had a personal connection to the project: a friend who was a patient at Riley at the same time Teddy was there.
Koceja, a Bloomington, Indiana native who has an interest in sustainable fashion, said she learned about the general construction of a tote bag and how flat pieces of fabric interact to create a 3D object. More importantly, he added, the project made him think about the emotional impact that making something can have on a person.
“The fact that we used happy, happy cartoons and fabrics was really important for the kids,” Koceja said. “I made a tote bag with sharks. A 5 year old, maybe his favorite thing in the world is sharks. You never know if the only Power Rangers tote bag you have done is going to make a child happy.”