Helene Renard 

I joined the interior design program in the Fall of 2008. I have a strong conviction in the value of first-hand experience, and a passion for working with materials. Two areas of focus in my work are monotype print making and working with industrial felt to create work at a variety of scales, from object to garment to room scale. I currently share these principles with students in studio courses, in a Building Systems lecture course, and in a professional elective focused on creating environments with industrial felt.

An excerpt from a position paper I presented at the 97th Annual ACSA conference in Portland summarizes my pedagogical philosophy:

“The joy of teaching is the possibility of sharing the creative endeavor with others. Each student brings their unique, distinct point of view, adding value and richness to the learning environment. Parameters and standards of excellence, along with the room to take risks and learn from mistakes, are crucial to a productive evolution of the creative self. Manual skill-building, critical thinking and teamwork are the three final elements that I put forward as vital to the education of future design professionals, if they are to become mentally agile members of a society that will be able to embrace the challenges of the future.”

My professional education began at the Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, where I had the privilege of working with a number of well-recognized and accomplished architects and artists. After graduation, my ventures into practice took me to Vienna, Austria, and Phoenix, AZ, where I worked as an architect and exhibiting artist for 15 years. After practicing for a number of years, I continued my training at the Cranbrook Academy of Art’s architecture department, working with Peter Lynch. During my graduate studies, I was introduced by a classmate to industrial felt, and thus began my fascination with the material qualities of felt.

This semester, the felt seminar is in its sixth generation as "Felt Frontiers." The students have access to sewing and printing equipment in the FabLab and another smaller workroom, which houses an industrial sewing machine and serger. As in previous years, the class structure includes student research projects, hands-on workshops, an exhibit of a group design project, and independent projects that support their work in design studios. This course focused on material inquiry acts as a cross-disciplinary platform for all design majors within the school, and offers opportunities for collaboration and expanding the design education into areas outside the parameters of the required curriculum.