Wearable Watercolor: Royal Talens Visit Adds Color to Integrative Fashion Studio Project

by Wennie Huang

In Integrative Studio 2: Fashion, the semester is organized around five Bridge projects where students relate writing and reflection on visual culture and personal experience in their Seminar class with material research and fashion-inflected prototyping through studio practice, which is often collaborative.

We began this semester with an emphasis on sustainability; students deconstructed two garments, then reconstructed one garment using the pattern from the other. For this Bridge 2 project, students conducted research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s special exhibition on jewelry, then were asked to create their own jewelry based in part on particular methodologies seen in the exhibition artifacts, but with a budget of $0. They had to use recycled, repurposed, and found or free materials for the entire project.

The first phase of the of the project commenced with research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Phase 1: Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cultural Research – What is Jewelry?

In the second week of the Spring 2019 semester, on February 4, First Year students in [Language Supported] Integrative Studio 2: Fashion met for class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s special exhibition: Jewelry: The Body Transformed to research the history, function, and forms of jewelry from around the world. Following completing a handout with sketches, students selected three examples and posted their findings in their Learning Portfolios.

Phase 2: Ecoline Liquid Watercolor Introduction

Materials Research Part 1 – What are Pigments? What is Watercolor? 

In the third week of the semester and the second phase of the project, Jeff Olson, Art Education Director at Royal Talens North America, a branch of Royal Talens, a Dutch company which has produced pigment-based art materials for over 100 years, visited our classroom, introducing a wonderful Powerpoint presentation on the history, composition and applications of the watercolor medium. The Royal Talens Art Education program provides resources to artists and educators that engage, inform and inspire artistic experimentation and expression as well as provide demonstrations, workshops and on-campus lectures. Royal Talens also featured the visit in their online newsletter.



Phase 3:  Ecoline in Action

Materials Research Part 2 – How can Watercolor and Jewelry Intersect?

On February 25, I gave the students a quick demonstration on applying the liquid watercolors, using items such as brushes, credit cards, and string and then shared my expanded pack of Ecoline watercolors to add to theirs, as I had also received a sample of 10 liquid watercolor jars courtesy of Royal Talens.

Following this, students spent about 20 minutes experimenting with the medium on their own:



Then, students were paired together and spent another 20 minutes creating quick jewelry designs using only materials that were leftover from previous projects or repurposed.

Below are a few of the students’ quick designs from Phase 3:



Phase 4: Ecoline and Jewelry

Prototypes for Bridge Project 2 – What is Jewelry Worth?

On March 11, students then bought in their completed Bridge 2 projects, where there were two requirements:

(1) Spend $0 on this project; use only leftover, found, or repurposed materials to make your jewelry / object of adornment

(2) Incorporate Ecoline Watercolor into the jewelry

Below is a selection of some of the final outcomes:


Ryu Noguchi, Knuckle Rings


Bella Wang, Fur headdress


Donna Chi, Hand Covering


Kangqi Zou, Double-Pendant Necklace


Erica He, Flower Necklace


Justina Tan, Blue & Purple


Echo (Xiaowei) Jiang, Earrings


Gabriella (Sang A) Park, Earrings


Amber Qiu, Super Vision


Joly Lin, Divided


Victoria Luo, Glasses with flowers


Minjae Kim, armure de bras


Phase 5: Sketching with Ecoline

Research Sketches on Fabric and Materials

In the courses I teach, I overlap projects a bit to make a chain-like structure, so that previous projects influence subsequent projects. Therefore, while completing Bridge Project 2, in March, students were also conducting research for Bridge Project 3. I had assigned them to see independently the Museum at FIT’s exhibition, Fabric in Fashion. As a requirement, they had to make a couple of fashion sketches as part of their research, using the Ecoline watercolor pens which were samples from Royal Talens.

The following are a few of their fashion sketches using the Ecoline markers & watercolor:





What was really amazing was how influential the initial watercolor experimentation continued to be. Students continued to rely on their Ecoline watercolors to complete finished drawings for the subsequent Bridge projects, and some have continued to use the watercolors in their final Bridge 4 & 5 projects:

Even though I have been teaching both watercolor painting as well as sewing and model-making for well over a decade, I never thought to integrate pigment with prototypes. When Jeff Olson initially suggested introducing liquid watercolors to Parsons students taking Integrative Studio 2: Fashion, I was really uncertain how the watercolor medium would overlap with our fashion-inflected studio projects. It turns out I didn’t have to find a solution, I just had to make it a project requirement. I credit these Parsons First Year students with finding innovative ways to integrate the watercolor pigment into their projects, and beyond, and the open-minded generosity of Jeff and his team at Royal Talens North America for making their products accessible to the next generation of artists and designers!