Natural Ambition

How does this award-winning student illustrate her ideas?

Karina Rodriguez, 18, Gold Medal, Fashion. Images courtesy of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winners of 2021.

How does Karina use materials to support her ideas?

Karina Rodriguez dreams of creating upcycled clothing. “Most fabrics include plastic, which is hard to recycle,” she says. Karina, 18, is on her way 

to making that dream a reality. This year she is studying fashion design at Parsons School of Design in New York City. 

Where did you get your idea for this collection?

I was inspired by a leaf’s exoskeleton. Normally when people think of the beauty of nature, they think of greenery. I wanted to challenge that thinking. I decided to design something beautiful using the delicate veins left behind when leaves decay.  

How did your idea evolve from there? 

I chose a color palette of neutral browns and burgundy tones to mimic the colors of fall when leaves change color and decay. I also selected organic materials for the fabric swatches, like hemp and spider silk, which are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. 

How did you create your work? 

I collected all the materials I wanted to use in the mood board on the left. Using those materials as inspiration, I made 25 preliminary pencil sketches to get my ideas flowing. I selected and drew four final designs using markers and pen. I cut them out and rearranged the elements until I found a composition that felt right. I kept the background simple and spaced the elements carefully to emphasize the variety of shapes and textures. Then I glued everything in place. 

What did you want viewers to walk away with?

I wanted viewers to think about nature and how paying attention to little details that normally go unnoticed, like the veins on a decaying leaf, can lead to a beautiful concept.

Do you have advice for aspiring artists like yourself?

Look closely at things in your day-to-day life. Inspiration is all around you if you are open to seeing beauty in the ordinary.

Karina Rodriguez won a Gold Medal for her design in the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

To find out more about this program, visit artandwriting.org