Marvin, age 18

This is the story of Marvin, an eighteen-year-old student in the studio of Pam Ehrenreich in Baltimore, Maryland. Their experience in the TAB studio, completing a 3D AP College Board portfolio, enabled them to develop a sustained investigation around a meaningful topic and have the inquiry skills to plan, experiment, and revise as their portfolio progressed and evolved.

Marvin’s main inspiration comes in playing and experimenting with materials, and they prefer to use found materials often discarded by others. Marvin connects material experimentation with highly developed research skills in order to envision ideas. Their work process led to the discovery of historical costumes and body adornment of the female figure.

The first piece in Marvin’s portfolio manipulates both materials and artistic form to suggest a figure inspired by Venus of Willendorf. The use of color blocking and the texture of the bubblewrap further investigates the idea of adornment.

Recycled art piece of a person

Marvin then researched Shakespearean styles and silhouettes, creating sculptural forms to adorn the body. Marvin created a design plan communicating the silhouette and use of tested paper sculpture techniques. They persisted through multiple attempts to capture light and shadow within the paper folds, and the design came to fruition. Working through the process of creating the paper dress helped to build Marvin’s confidence in constructing a sculptural garment that could be used to adorn a human figure.

High school student work on art

Using the knowledge and techniques gained from creating the paper dress artwork, Marvin researched pattern making and tailoring. During the research phase, they became interested in architecture and how architectural principles might translate into a wearable piece of art. After multiple experiments and revisions, Marvin decided to use meal kit delivery bags and foil for the fabric. The parts were threaded together using various gauge wires. Marvin’s sustained investigation allowed them to create a portfolio based on a personally developed essential question, culminating in their ability to independently work through the artistic studio process.

High school student's plan in sketching and experimenting
High school student's artwork

Marvin’s sustained investigation written response:

The question that guided my sustained investigation throughout was this: How does body adornment reflect our experiences, and what kind of story can be inferred just from looking at wearable art? My ideas of body adornment have been transformed through my art making journey. My sustained investigation started off with research of historical figures and the kind of message they conveyed through their clothing. My first ideas involved adorning full figures with mixed-media embellishments. Through research and experimentation my ideas were transformed to be about telling a story through the lens of the wearable art I was making. I did research on how designers interpret themes of class, history, and the avant-garde through the silhouettes they create. I engaged with art in ways that I never had before, such as using recyclable materials as fabric for pattern pieces and experimenting with various methods of attachment. For my paper sculpture piece, I experimented with various types of paper to find the right thickness, and with folding and shaping the paper to create form. I am glad I chose not to sacrifice quality for time because the details define my portfolio and I’m proud of it.

High school student's fashion design