By Debra Kate Schafer
The past year has been difficult for everyone, but especially for creatives. With few outlets to express themselves and an even smaller amount of places to look to for inspiration, many students found themselves in a bind. But a handful of the College’s most artistic students were able to push through by turning to their lifelong hobbies, the music they listened to and even their classes for inspiration.
Jordan Kadish, a junior psychology major, is one student whose creative endeavors spawned an entire business. After admiring the beautiful things in life and dabbling in arts and crafts, she began the journey of selling and sharing her work. One of her first steps toward that was the College’s annual Arter’s Market, in which she took part prior to the pandemic.
“I loved being able to sell my work to people face-to-face while on campus,” Kadish said. “The interpersonal connection I got from participating in the Arter’s Market and hearing first hand what people thought about my work was a very valuable experience for me.”
The pandemic gave her an “excuse” to take her art to the next level by starting a business.
“Constructing my business page from scratch gave me a lot of creative freedom in not only the art I created, but the style and aesthetic of the business as a whole,” she said. “It has also allowed me to reach a much larger audience, with my following being primarily other small business owners from all over the world, rather than just being able to reach a college campus.”
The transition from being a student on campus to being a student off-campus was a grueling one for much of the student population. The thought of adding a passion project onto that can be quite daunting.
The College’s classes and communities have shaped the lives of many students. This is something sophomore communications major, Bella Trucco, can attest to. Based on a class she took, the timing of the pandemic and an appreciation for having complete control over her art, she looked to Redbubble — an online marketplace for independent artists to sell their creations.
“I took a drawing course at TCNJ in the spring of 2020, and it was such a big source of inspiration for me,” Trucco said. “The class really furthered my interest in typography and composition and made me think critically about the idea of ‘messy’ designs being just as beautiful and worthy of appreciation as ‘perfect’ designs. This inspired me to feel less anxious about producing work that doesn’t meet my own standards because, at the end of the day, it’s all just for fun and for creative practice.”
The Internet has played a large role with students sharing their creative crafts and art appreciation. Whether it’s starting a business on Instagram or turning to a global marketplace for production, the Web allows independence to flourish.
Grace Reynoso has also used the Internet to her advantage. The junior communications major posts her latest makeup designs to Instagram – something she, too, began mid-pandemic.
“I have always had a love for beauty and putting looks together,” said Reynoso. “One of my earliest memories was doing my mom’s makeup when I was little and narrating every step to her.”
In high school, she would get up at 5 a.m. to do her makeup routine. She was also asked to do a few of her friend’s makeup for their proms.
“Those requests definitely gave me some reassurance that I wasn’t terrible because they were trusting me,” Reynoso said.
Publicizing something you are proud of can be hard because of the critiques that can come with it, but Reynoso learned firsthand that it’s worth taking that step.
“I toyed with the idea of starting a makeup account when I first got to TCNJ, but held back out of fear,” said Reynoso. “Because the Internet is so vast, anyone can see your stuff. On top of that, it’s never guaranteed that people will have positive reactions. Once I accepted the fact that not everyone will like or believe in you, I started enjoying putting my account together. It can be daunting, but posting is oddly freeing.”
As College students try to navigate higher education and the real world, having creative outlets to express themselves became a key source of both joy and inspiration for these students.
Kadish’s favorite creations thus far branch outside of the handmade jewelry aspect of her business.
“My personal favorite pieces to make are my embroidery designs based on lyrics by some of my favorite artists,” said Kadish. “A few months ago, I embroidered a design inspired by Harry Styles’ ‘Light’s Up’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘August,’ which remain my favorites because every time I look at them it reminds me of artists I admire!”
Reynoso also enjoys when her art gets even more of a chance to showcase her own personality, interests, and values. Since creating her account, she has been exposed to many abstract looks. Seeing those looks inspires her to step out of her comfort zone.
“I also love how the abstract style can be a reflection of how the artist feels,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of looks with messages relating to social injustices and I think that is an incredible way to educate. It shows how words aren’t the only way to communicate, and the boundaries of what you can create are limitless.”
Trucco also likes to use her designs as a way to talk about the issues she is passionate about.
“I also love creating designs that feel unrefined and arts-and-crafty. With this in mind, I think my favorite of my designs would be this Keith Haring-inspired gun control tote bag,” said Trucco. “The original illustration was done as a sketch on white sketch paper with acrylic paint and black sharpie, but I photographed it and edited it in Photoshop to be Redbubble ready.”
All three students believe that there is truth in the fact that many people have been exploring creative outlets as a way to feel sane, inspired and in control over the past year.
“In the darkest months, putting together looks brought me joy and release,” Reynoso said. “Creating granted me that sense of control the whole world had seemed to have lost all at once. To be able to immerse myself in my expression not only helped me mentally, but I began to develop a portfolio that I was proud of.”