It has become clear that for many rising creators, being held to one area just doesn't work for many of them, and sometimes isn't as satisfying as they thought. --- Its the reason why you see so many artists taking up different styles and genres, getting their work to the masses in as many forms as possible while expanding their own creativity in areas they might not have explored prior, ultimately giving the public more local art to check out and choose from in the longrun.
One of the best examples of this in Utah is Cindy Bithell, one of the creative force behind Dubsy Design, where she's been producing items in architecture, fashion, design and even filmmaking. In a short period of time she's gotten her brand out to the masses, even sparking national interest along the way, and exploring multiple territories at once that few artists pursue. Today we chat with Bithell about her career and the projects she's been working on, and a look at where she's headed. (All photos courtesy of Dubsy Design.)
Gavin: Hey Cindy! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Cindy: I’ll be celebrating ten years of living in SLC this coming August... hard to believe! I moved here after graduating high school in Ridgecrest, California. I came to Utah to escape to the mountains and also swim on the U of U Swim team. I swam my freshman year and then traded in my suit for architecture school at the U of U College of Architecture and Planning. I received my both BA and MA of Architecture from the U. After Graduating in 2010, I moved to Bluff where I worked for the non profit Design Build Bluff. I spent three years in Bluff helping design and build houses on the Utah Navajo Reservation. Just over a year ago, I moved back to SLC and now work at Prescott Muir Architects. In my free time I am pursuing my own design projects under the brand Dubsy Design.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some early influences on you?
Cindy: I grew up always wanted to create something whether it was a craft out of Highlight magazine or it was ‘designing’ my barbie house out of our coffee table or book shelves. My mother was seamstress and sewed costumes for the local ballet and also custom dresses for special occasions. I remember spending hours with her in her sewing room creating my own little projects along side. whatever I could get my hands on, I would make anything and everything. I have her to thank for teaching me sew.
Gavin: You received your degree from the University of Utah in Architecture, what made you choose the U and moving from California to Utah?
Cindy: There were a number of factors that lead me to Utah. The first was to swim on the U of U swimming team, the second was to escape from the desert to the mountains and third was to pursue architecture at a university in the mountains.
Gavin: What was your time like at the college and going through their program, especially during Design Build Bluff?
Cindy: All I can say that architecture school was a good time. My first taste of design/build architecture came my first year in the architecture program. The assignment was to build an installation in the school. We based our design concept off the ideas of Burning Man. While in grad school I participated as a student in DesignBuildBluff (DBB). This was a major turning point for me in my design experience. While in grad school, I imagined myself working at a high end firm doing high end work (big dreams). DBB humbled me as a designer and student. I learned the process of design while also understanding the components that go into the actual construction process... a lesson rarely learned early on in the architecture field. Bluff, Utah was the most amazing little town. I was fortunate to be hired out of grad school as an intern. I spent the next three years as intern and then the programs director of operations. In total I worked on eight houses. DBB helped me find my own passion for the design process. To this day, I am very much less of a sketcher and more of a doer. I definitely learn and evolve my designs through diving in and working through my mistakes as I go.
Gavin: What was the catalyst that made you want to pursue your own creative business?
Cindy: It is hard to find your identity as designer in architecture, especially starting out intern level. You rarely make impactive design decisions. The scale of designing and constructing architecture is so large and a timely process. It was important to me to continue developing my personal designs on a smaller scale. Not to mention in a town the size of Bluff, there isn’t whole lot to do. I found myself sewing and building things in my free time. Adding to all this, my best friend, also a designer, started her own business and encouraged me to do the same.
Gavin: How was it for you starting out and where did the name Dubsy Design come from?
Cindy: I met my spouse, Cortland, while interning in Bluff. We lived in Bluff together and pursued some side projects with the program’s general contractor. This gave us the opportunity to start our own small business. Finding a brand is hard and especially a name! Cortland and I made it simple equation. Cindy + Cortland = C+C = Double C = Dubsy. We wanted to marry our passions, his being film, mine being fashion, and together, our love for architecture.
Gavin: On the artistic side, what was it about graphic design that stuck with you and made you want to branch out beyond just architecture?
Cindy: Cortland’s received his undergrad degree in film and always had a passion to work in film. Together, we saw ourselves as architects of just about anything and everything. The experience of designing and constructing houses opened our eyes to what an architect really is. To us, being an architect is being a designer of life and its opportunities. While in Bluff we were isolated. The closest grocery store was a 30 minute drive. You learn to appreciate things better and live a life of minimalism. There was no cable, hardly any cell service, no bars, heat came by propane... amenities were not unlimited. This encouraged us to become self sufficient and rely on our own abilities.
Gavin: How do you approach a new project like that and what personal criteria do you try to incorporate into every design to keep it fresh and innovative?
Cindy: My inspiration comes from the freedom in design itself and the ability to imaging an idea, sketch it out, and construct it. I comes down to you and the material your working with. Together you deciding what moves to make. Each step forward influences the next step. It is important to listen to the material and take inspiration from its qualities. I work predominately with the use of a laser cutter to produce my graphics and pieces. The laser cutter technology allows me to manipulated textiles and test different material properties.
Gavin: What got you interested in fashion and what was it like tackling that new field with the skills you already had?
Cindy: Nearly everything we own today is made in China or outside the USA. This was a big turn off to myself as a consumer. The "fast fashion" movement is getting out of control. The idea of making my own products and being self sufficient intrigued me, "why buy something when you could make it." Also, I love to sew! Sewing is quite similar to construction, but on a much smaller scale. I found relief in the process. I started out by sewing personal apparel and then transitioned into handbags. As a hat lover, I branched out into hats and recently began toying with high fashion clothing design.
Gavin: What was it like for you designing your first line or items and what was the public reaction like?
Cindy: Designing my first line was pure euphoria! Seeing ideas I’ve only envisioned come to life was exciting. It was as though they were characters in my life story. My debut was at Craft Lake City last august. This was an amazing event to be part of and see the community respond. To that day no one had really seen my designs. It didn’t matter if someone bought a piece or not, it was just fun to talk about the designs and process and see what caught peoples eyes.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new piece, from concept to final product?
Cindy: At the times the process is simple and at times it is difficult. You hope to create pieces never seen before, but that is like creating the color purple with without red... impossible. As a designer, I believe that form follows function. If I have a function, then I can find a unique way to communicate the design solution. I love hand bags because their function is simple... to hold things. I think to myself 'how many ways can you contain or hold something'. My favorite materials are leather, wood, steel. This is where my influence in construction comes to play. While I love sewing, I also like to work hard objects and tools like saws, grinders , welders... any tool really.
Gavin: Considering fashion has a little more leanway, do you tend to play with your designs a lot while you create them or do you treat it like you would architecture and stick to the original concept?
Cindy: It really depends on the design. My design process is much like design/build, which is really design, build, design, rebuild, design, design, rebuild. My design process seems to parallel the way I live my life... one thing leads to the next, and at times, you get carried away, but in the end, you are humbled by the outcome. It is the ‘happy accidents’ that often lead to greater design. Mistakes always make something stronger and better... it’s the best way to design. If you cannot let go of concept and make mistakes, then you lose opportunity.
Gavin: You recently were a part of the RAWards, what was that experience like for you and what did you take away from the event?
Cindy: This was truly a fortunate opportunity. I've always dreamed of doing a runway show but never knew exactly how. It was motivating to see your products under the lighting and music completely animated and alive. Even greater than the show itself was the amount of collaboration. I was paired with a Stylist and MUA ,and together, we created the look for the show. I had never worked with hair and make-up so it was good lesson in the industry. Needless to say... I found my calling. Participating in RAWards makes me want to take part in any type of runway and even create my own event for like artists. I made great contacts in the community that have already brought great things to fruition.
Gavin: More recently you've branched into filmmaking. What pushed you to explore that genre?
Cindy: From the very start, we new we wanted to create film, fashion and architecture. Creating a film involves a dynamic combination of design skills. You literally start with a black canvas and a story concept. From there you design the characters, costumes, production, set design. There is really no limit to what you can do as long as it fits with the story line.
Gavin: How did you get involved with Chasing Moonflowers and what was your time like working on that project?
Cindy: Chasing Moonflowers is an original short film by Dubsy Design. Cortland wrote and directed the film while I designed the costumes and make-up. Together we designed the sets and props. This project was probably one of the most intense experiences I’ve had to date. We shot the film in four days over fall break of 2012, half of which was filmed in the middle of the night. For most of the crew, this was our first film ever. We had a first time a first time director and all first time actors. We basically went for it!
Gavin: Are you looking at doing anything new on the film side yet or are you careful on the projects you choose?
Cindy: We are open to anything... something always leads to something. Right?!
Gavin: How has it been for you having a hand in so many different projects and gaining so much exposure in so little time?
Cindy: It is really surprising to receive so much exposure. I am extremely thankful! I am thankful that people appreciate design and the process. I appreciate the world of collaboration. Nothing is one man show. My experience has shown me that the world works in a give and take way, what you give to the world you will get in return. Anything is possible, and the only way to find out is by doing. To be honest, it is plain exciting! Dubsy's goals are to create a living by doing what we love. With that said, my mind is rarely free from the thought of design. Every movie I see, song I hear, article I read, breeds new design ideas... the only problem is I cannot spit them out as fast I think them up!
Gavin: Considering how you've already grown your brand into three different areas, are you looking to expand further into other fields or keeping it at this pace for a while?
Cindy: I think fashion, film and architecture are big enough already. I'm really looking to grown through collaboration. I love working with others and bringing creative people together. One of my visions is to create a design co-op that rallies different fields of designers together to create a community.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Cindy: I look forward to another opportunity to participate in Craft Lake City as well as more fashion and more short films. Oh yeah and a guerrilla style runway show! Keep your eyes peeled...
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Cindy: We just uploaded a new video showcasing a collaboration of creative talents. It includes my fashion photo shoot debut along side my best friend, Haley Costomiris of FABparlor, Tori Plant (MUA), Sunnie Rushton (HAIR) and of course Eric Harker (photography). Cortland took the opportunity to create a short film about our first photo shoot. We want to thank you, Gavin, for hearing us out and listening to our story! A few other thanks go out to Ron of Green Ant for hooking us up with furniture for the photo shoot, my mother for teaching me to sew, Cort’s family for helping us bring Chasing Moonflowers to life and of course SLC for being a supportive community.
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