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Apr 16, 2012 >> Behind the Scenes: SAIC’s Nick Cave and the Swarovski Windows

School of the Art Institute Fashion Design chair and professor Nick Cave gave new meaning to the phrase Flower Power when he mentored SAIC graduate students while creating a window display for Swarovski (as seen in Found!). We caught up with Nick during the Swarovski cocktail party to get a taste of the process.

Q: Spring is in bloom at Swarovsk! Where did the inspiration come from?
A: Well, just exactly that. The students came to the Swarovski Michigan Avenue boutique to have a meeting with the Swarovski team and hear about the inspiration behind the spring jewelry collection. So that’s what inspired them to approach the project from that perspective. To have a sort of sense of the spring bloom. But looking at the spring bloom the same way that Swarovski looks at design. How do you sort of create that innovation that still brings us into the framework of imagination, the fantastic, the sort of sensibility around accessories? I think that the students were looking at these foreign hybrids of sorts to create the final design.

Q: Flowers have long been a source of creative inspiration. Do you have any favorite Spring flowers that really inspire your art?
A: I don’t think I have a particular spring flower but what inspires me is the moment that I see the tulips peering out of the earth, and I think, “Spring is coming, and were finally getting through winter.” We all are looking for that one glimpse, that one moment, when we see spring bursting through. And then, of course, when all the trees are in bloom and it’s extraordinary. This window display design has that canopy with the flowers budding up.

Q: The million dollar question: How did you unite a team of graduate students all with different points of view to come to agreement on the design?
A: I decided to let them become fully responsible. At some point I have to pull back and allow them to understand how they are going to merge into the real world. But I was there to oversee. So what they did was create about five different ideas and discussed them with me. Then, the Swarovski team came to the school and they gave presentations. And from those presentations, they were able to come to a decision on the concept they felt was the strongest.

Q: You’re a master when it comes to mixing found and unconventional objects, how did you reinvent Swarovski crystals for embellishment?
A: A number of ways. One thing that the students did was pattern the fabric with photographs of the jewelry to create a sense of embellishment. Then they went in and embellished the design by allowing the petals to be a display area for the actual jewelry. They saturated the surface. Adorned it with jewelry. The stamen almost gives a sense of centralizing everything for the design.

Q: What are your favorite Chicago gems?
A: Blackbird and Avec—in terms of food. Broadway antiques—I love that. Just sort of going into neighborhoods and finding these hidden jewels.

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