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ISU College of Design students design head scarves for Strands of Strength

April 26, 2016


AMES, Iowa — Scarf designs by two Iowa State University College of Design students have been selected for production by Strands of Strength, a nonprofit organization that provides free wigs and head scarves to low-income Iowa women who lose their hair during cancer treatment.

"Energy of Life" by Mitzi Alexander, junior in design.

"Energy of Life" by design junior Mitzi Alexander, Nevada, and "Adrift" by integrated visual arts graduate student Tina Rice, Ames, will be printed by custom printing company DPI and distributed by Strands of Strength. The students will be recognized at a fundraising luncheon for the organization Wednesday, May 11, at the Glen Oaks Country Club in Des Moines.

"Adrift" by Tina Rice, graduate student in integrated visual arts.

Alexander and Rice created the winning selections as part of a service-learning project in the spring 2016 Digital Textile Design studio course taught by Teresa Paschke, professor of art and visual culture. Students in this studio have developed 36-inch-square scarf designs for Strands of Strength—founded by ISU interior design alumna and breast cancer survivor Deb Pulver—for the past four years. Each year, two designs are chosen, printed on silk and distributed to Iowa women undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment.

This year, 14 students majoring in architecture, design, graphic design, integrated studio arts, integrated visual arts and interior design each developed three different designs for consideration. Their work had to incorporate the 2016 Pantone Color(s) of the Year—"Rose Quartz" and "Serenity"—and reflect the theme, "Joyful," Paschke said.

"For design inspiration, I used watercolor texture paintings because of the delicate brush strokes and the ability of watercolor paint to be transparent, allowing the background to shine through and illuminate the design," Alexander said.

"I found that independently the strokes may appear peaceful, but when the patterns were combined they took on a dynamic energy. This is what led to the name of my piece, 'Energy of Life.' It represents to me the delicacy and energetic power of life."

Rice's winning design was inspired by a haiku she wrote: "My mind is adrift / As I read the newspaper / Color fills the page." She is "drawn to brighter colors," so she incorporated several into her design along with both "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity," she said.

"I based all of my designs on scarves I would want to wear if I were undergoing chemotherapy. I enjoyed the idea that my designs would have a cheerful influence on those who received them," Rice said.

As she developed her scarf designs, Alexander, too, "reflected on the life changes of women fighting cancer. It was especially meaningful to know that Iowa women with cancer can feel supported through the gift of Strands of Strength and through my design work," Alexander said.

Pulver received a Bachelor of Arts in interior design from Iowa State in 1981.

Deb Pulver, Strands of Strength, (515) 240-5843,
Mitzi Alexander, Design, (515) 203-6029,
Tina Rice, Integrated Visual Arts, (515) 231-7440,
Teresa Paschke, Art and Visual Culture, (515) 294-1656,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,