Brown|RISD Dual Degree
Urban Studies / Sculpture
On making progress
A conversation with seniors Matthew and Ariana
Ariana I think one way to be resourceful at RISD is to take what you can from your own major but also kind of push at the walls of the others. It’s not, like—there’s no central headquarters where all the good things at RISD happen, you know?
Matthew [laughter] Yeah.
Ariana They happen in the studios, they happen in common spaces at 3:00 in the morning when people are talking. They happen when you run into someone on the street that you haven’t seen in a couple of months. All those moments are ones I’ve really tried to prioritize, especially this year as I become more comfortable in my own discipline, in Sculpture.
Matthew I think it's good to remind yourself to take one foot out of the picture. Industrial Design is kind of like a buffet. You pick out very specific dishes. I try to shift around a little bit—I have always been fascinated by furniture, so I’ve taken two or three Furniture classes now. For me, I feel like it’s very important to make sense of the things I’m exploring. And then, in my own way, ask: How do I apply that?
Ariana Sculpture is just...in general you have to be pretty scrappy. I think I’ve become a lot more confident in on-the-spot problem solving. Like, oh shit, something really horrible just happened to my project. It’s just the material that I tried to use this time didn’t work. That happens in Sculpture all the time. And that was something that used to freak me out. In Foundation year, when something like that happened, I’d automatically blame myself—like, What could I have done better? Why didn’t I prevent this? Now I’ve accepted it as a normal part of life.
Matthew Yeah, I think that the process of discovery is kind of laden with failures...oh, failures.
Ariana I also think RISD has given me the confidence to believe that if I do something long enough, or with enough thought and enough effort, I'll find reason and purpose in it.
Matthew I’m actually starting to buy the idea that failure is just a way for you to get to somewhere else. I think someone said that if you’re not failing it means you’re not trying hard enough. Or you’re not...you’re being too comfortable. And that’s what I’ve come to acknowledge as learning. I feel like learning really happens when you’re between being comfortable and being very uncomfortable. The more you push yourself into discomfort, the steeper the learning curve, the faster you can learn something.
Ariana Yeah, I think I'm at the point where I’m uncomfortable if I haven’t kind of drastically failed in a couple of weeks. Like, I should probably start a different project, or I should, you know, do something weird. Right now, I’m in that boat. I’ve been making these architectural forms with cardboard molds all semester, because it’s been really productive—I can make a lot of them and recombine them in different ways once they’re made. So it’s kind of just like building blocks, like a Lego system. And it was amazing that my professor let me do that, follow one idea for so long. But now, at this final push, I’m getting really uncomfortable, because they’ve been well received...people like them, they’re pleasant to interact with. I must be doing something wrong. I haven’t had a catastrophe—nothing’s broken, nothing’s made me, like, deeply unhappy. I need to inject some new variable into my process now, because I feel like I’m sitting too comfortably with it. And I don’t think that’s necessarily an unhealthy or compulsive behavior, I just think that’s something that RISD does challenge you to think about.
Matthew Yeah. I think no matter what discipline you’re in, it’s this idea of exploration, like, where does your current point lead you? If you succeed or you fail, whatever...but, what’s next? I feel like we’re always about what’s next, like everything we do is always in progress.
Ariana It’s never finished.
Matthew It’s never finished, it’s always in progress. Another way to look at it is that it’s always a bridge to something else. You know, a means to an end, and never an end in itself. Which is pretty interesting and somewhat refreshing, I think.