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Berkshire Creative Director Helena Fruscio explains how the challenge began.

Design Challenge Pops With Creativity

By Tammy DanielsStaff Reports
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Heather Rose, winner of the first Berkshire Creative Challenge, looks through catalogs with Interprint design director Peter Garlington.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Graphic artist Heather Rose was experimenting with corn kernels for a new design when the idea popped into her head: Pop it.

It wasn't a eureka moment, said Rose, a Monument Mountain Regional High graduate, but her inspiration won her the very first Berkshire Creative Challenge. And means her popcorn motif may well end up on a wall — or a floor or a table — in the near future.

The design was selected from among submissions from 18 area designers and artists for use by Interprint, North America's leading decorative laminate printer. Rose and four other designers were recognized at Interprint on Wednesday for their creative work.

The challenge grew out of a study done in 2007, the Berkshire Creative Economy Report, that outlined goals for forging connections between the Berkshires' industrial and creative aspects. It wasn't until this past summer that the Creative Challenge took form, with Interprint leaders stepping in right from the beginning, said Helena Fruscio, director of Berkshire Creative.

"This is mostly about connecting local manufacturers with local creative talent and utilizing the creativity that lives here in the Berkshires," she said. "The initiative that came out of the report was 'Design It Here; Make It Here.'"

Rose's popcorn graphic in basic black.
This first round was so successful, the company is considering ways to continue those connections on its own, said Interprint Managing Director William M. Hines Jr.

The company wasn't sure what would it would be getting when the first applications began rolling in in August. Some 39 local artists applied, more than expected, and 21 were asked to attend an orientation at the massive laminate printing plant on the south edge of Pittsfild. 

"This could serve as an example for other manufacturers to also work with Berkshire Creative to leverage and really tap into that wealth this area has," said Hines. "We search the world for ideas and sometimes it's the case of the best ideas being in the Berkshires."

While the goal is to make the challenge open to any manufacturing business, each company has its own unique needs and requirements. For Interprint, it's a matter of keeping astride of decorating trends as they develop because of the long process from original design to printing and sale.

"Designs are extermely loaded with pattern today — color, texture," said the retiring Judy Wolgast on her last day as design director. Interprint has to find complementary patterns — generic solutions — that not only don't overwhelm the rest of the interior design materials but also hold up over time. In other words, no fads.

Sculptor John Stritch tells how he got involved in the challenge as fellow Jennifer Clark listens. Below, Cate Hunter, retiring design director Judy Wolgast and Thomas Hoadley.
"I was thinking about what to do," said Rose, senior designer at Studio Two in Lenox. "I wanted it to be something with dimension, so I had feathers, I had rocks, I had just the corn kernels. I was shooting it on black paper and I thought — maybe I should pop it."

The material's contrast, definition and versatility in terms of graphic reduction and coloring, on top of Rose's camera-ready preparation work, made it the most viable for inclusion in the Interprint catalog, said Peter Garlington, the company's newly promoted design director.

"A kernel of popcorn is kind of an iconic thing everybody can identify with," said Wolgast, noting "it strikes that little emotional tug."

Three designs by ceramist and painter Thomas Hoadly were selected for further development; designs by Jennifer Clark, John Stritch and Cate Hunter were given honorable mention for works that may become catalysts for new designs. Interprint will purchase the rights to the designs it ends up developing.

"I found it to be very useful because it gave me structure within which to go forward with work I'd already been thinking of doing but hadn't because I have so many other things I'm doing," said Clark, who operates a graphic design studio in Great Barrington. "And for fun."

Fruscio said two more companies have lined up for challenges next year, possibly one in the spring and one in the fall, but she's keeping mum on the participants. Nancy Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Berkshire Creative Economy Council, deemed this first challenge a success in linking the two sides of the Berkshires' innovative economies. "It's a small step but really a big concept," she said.

"This was such a great experience to be able to flex my design muscle in another arena," said Rose. "And to kind of be validated at the same time is great — sweeet!"

Companies interested in participating in a challenge can contact Fruscio at 413-822-8324 or  Find out more about the challenge here.
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