Winter “tabula rasa”

The glistening white snow in Ithaca inspires me to think of Winter as a season that encourages us to begin our days as “tabula rasa,” as blank slates. Every day we have an opportunity to start over. If we did not like aspects of the day before, we have the chance to make the next day better. I wonder if other people interpret the snow with a similar meaning.

I began to notice aspects of nature on campus that may interrupt perceptions of “tabula rasa.” I observed trees creating distinct silhouettes with branches going in all directions, I observed the spots of grass that peaked through the snow as it melted, and I observed the Winter foliage. Verdant plants leer over the white snow and make a strong presence with their stark difference in texture and color compared to the snow. These plants stand out as survivors of the cold and as persistent members of our communities. Below is an image of a plant behind Uris Hall.

winter plant

The image of this plant encouraged me to think of the idea of beginning on a blank slate and using the existing as inspiration for a fashion design. Beginning from a blank slate can be difficult because there can be too many choices in silhouettes, styles, and colors. Below is my blank slate, my starting point.


I decided to draw inspiration directly from the photograph of the Winter foliage. I manipulated the image to form a circular shape with a white halo and repeated the image throughout her body. I played with the angle and size of the image to suggest movement in the dress below. With the idea of “movement,” I hope to suggest that nature makes adjustments to itself as there are shifts from “tabula rasa” mornings to sunny afternoons that reveal the grasses and concrete underneath.

leaf beautyThis is an experimental fashion design that is meant to reflect Winter beauty that may not be typically noticed. Although it would be wonderful to actually create this garment, I would never use parts of nature for fashion. The leaves would only survive so long in a heat or air conditioned building and would readily begin to brown as part of biodegradation. I imagine that by the time I finish the entire garment, it would look like it is ready to become a “nutrient” for the earth and return to the soil. This design with the use of the leaves depicted in the photograph would be ephemeral, and the leaves have a much greater chance of being appreciated as part of their native plant. By extracting parts of nature for our own use as designers, we limit nature’s ability to begin “tabula rasa” days.

Even though we do not see landscapes with blank sheets of snow every single day, we have a notion that everyday we begin fresh and new, as if there is a “tabula rasa.” Why do we have the right to take the “tabula rasa” opportunity from parts of nature that are enduring parts of our community? Do we have that right? Does it depend on what we consider equal to ourselves and our hierarchal structure of significance?

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