By Sara Prier
Covered in hundreds of tiny, hand-placed sunflowers seeds, edged in feathers, in contrasting shades of white and black. The dess shines in the blinding lights of the stage, stealing the attention of the audience, holding their eyes captive.
Jessica Duschean poured hundreds of hours into her dress to show at Batavia’s annual Rock the Runway, a competition where aspiring artists and designers have a chance at designing a dress using unconventional materials.
“I started designing the dress two months before the Rock the Runway show, and I’m very glad I left all the time I did,” said Duschean. “I used over seven and a half pounds of seeds on the dress, I used at least 200 glue sticks to glue all of them on to the dress. It took me over 175 hours, with gathering materials, then constructing the mannequin and bodice, to even begin gluing seeds on.”
Duschean took first in the contest for her original materials and design and received a $350 scholarship. Other designers were extremely impressed by the dress, and how great it looked.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Jess spent the most amount of time working on her dress, and it showed,” said Hannah Slater, another designer in the competition. “She deserved to win. No question.”
Afterwards she entered more work into more contests. She received an honorable mention for a painting submitted to the University of Illinois ‘Discover Architecture’ Summer Program Scholarship (which had submissions from 17 states and 5 different countries), and received $100 towards the camp in scholarship funds. Also, she entered a written contest, describing why she wants to be an architect for a scholarship program, and won this, receiving $750 towards the camp. Some other competitions she has entered is the Scholastic Art and Writing Scholarship. There she received two gold keys and a silver key for her work. She already knows what she is going to do with all of her award money, too.
“With all my winnings, I’ve stored them away towards college in my bank account, and specifically for the University of Illinois ‘Discover Architecture Program.’ I’m putting my winnings for that scholarship towards that,” Duschean said.
Architecture has always been something Duschean has been passionate about. It’s something she loves learning about and is fascinated with. She enjoys it so much that she has considered it as a career choice.
“ I see myself in the future doing architecture,” said Duschean. “That is what I’m currently planning to go to college for, and have picked out the colleges to visit based on their architecture program.”
Her teachers have all been impressed with the work Jessica has been able to do. They consider her an extremely talented student and artist.
“Jessica is a student that dreams big,” said Dawn Zalkus, an art teacher at Batavia who oversaw the making of the dress in her class. “Sometimes her dreams swallow her, but she in the end claws her way out with a gorgeous piece of art in hand. She is the ideal student: she has talent and drive. Her work always pushes the physical boundaries of her chosen medium, and we are always testing the quote, ‘you don’t know what you are capable of until you try.’”
Even though she is won many contests, Jessica, like many artists, still critiques her own work.
“If I could change a part, I would change the front a little,” said Duschean when asked if she wished she could have changed any part of her dress. “I think, since I thought more about the back more, it was the best part, and I wish I could somehow make the front stand out more.”
Others artists are also impressed with what Jessica can do with the arts. They think it is amazing how skilled she is.
“I think that Jessica is an extremely talented artist, and that she deserved to win all of her contests,” said Alexandra Granger, an art student at BHS. “I am impressed with all of the detail she puts into her art, and the creativity she is capable of.”
Photography by: Andrea Schindlbecka