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thoughts from the editor

above: Arrow Rug by Katie Stout 12 FD

Getting Started I F I T WEREN’ T FO R MY DOG, Pi, I would probably never give in, put on my sneakers and start out on another run. Yes, my father ran marathons, my mother competed in many a Senior Olympics and there’s still enough sisu in most second-generation Finns that we’re prone to semimasochistic behavior like running, cross-country skiing and beating ourselves with branches while sweating our brains clear in a 220° sauna. But think about it: If you run or work out or just have trouble getting out of bed, chances are your brain plays games with you about getting started. “I’m too tired.” “It’s too hot.” “That sore throat could mean I’m getting sick.” “I don’t have time.” Every time my brain presents excuses before running, I eventually give in to the brighteyed border collie staring me down, nosing his leash, practically opening the latch on the front door so that we can get going already. A lot of us—especially as we age—seem to avoid starting anything new or untried or potentially difficult. Whether it’s a tough conversation, a new relationship, a project, a different line of inquiry—a life—starting requires an act of will and a willingness to act. Often, it’s a matter of resolving to “reignite the little spark,” as Carrie Bloomston 94 PT writes in this issue’s LISTEN essay (page 4). On the other hand, if you’re like a lot of artists, designers and generally expansive thinkers, starting may feel like a natural part of the creative process, something that happens almost against your will. You have a creative itch or surge of curiosity that’s so overwhelming you just have to give in and make that thing you’ve got in your head. So you start the process.

Responses to this issue welcomed at

This issue of XYZ is full of stories, anecdotes and examples of alumni starting up, starting out, starting over and starting fresh—like spring itself. The LOOK section (10–19) focuses on recent graduates just starting practices, alumni starting arts communities around the country, startup businesses now reaching their stride, new starts afforded by financial recognition—and several other variations on the theme. In the features section, you’ll find examples of alumni starting something from nothing but a good idea and a willingness to take risks. The lead story on Tellart (28–37) focuses on an interesting startup that’s going strong 15 years after Matt Cottam BID 00 and Nick Scappaticci 00 ID first resolved to build a business around a field that didn’t yet exist. Though they founded it when they were very young, they not only beat the odds against failure, but are enjoying the work now more than ever and employ 25 people—half of them fellow alumni—in three cities. Elsewhere in this issue Greg Kanaan 02 FAV, a filmmaker-turned-lawyer, writes about restarting his career (58); Shepard Fairey 92 IL offers some good advice about starting out (62–63); Elaine Longtemps 63 IL explains her false starts with finding the right materials (66); Victo Ngai 10 IL shares her insights about getting started as a freelancer (85); and illustrator Jennifer Orkin-Lewis 81 TX shows examples of a self-imposed challenge she began recently as a way to keep loose and experiment with new techniques (96–97). In the end, while you may need a nudge from an eager border collie—or a friend, mentor, collaborator, rival, family member—the best part about starting is discovering where it takes you.

editor’s message by

Liisa Silander

RISD XYZ Spring/Summer 2015  

Rhode Island School of Design alumni magazine

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