Green Fields Country Day School graduate Julie Seltzer may be living in the Northeast on the fast track to success in the fashion world, but she credits northwest Tucson for her artistic vision.
"Tucson inspires me every time I start working," she said in a phone interview from Philadelphia, where the 22-year-old is working a design internship for Anthropologie.
Seltzer graduated from Green Fields Country Day School on North Camino de la Tierra in 2008, then from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
"It's so singular in its visual inspiration for artists," Seltzer said of this area. "I think it really is a unique part of my vision that came from there. A lot of artists from the Sonoran Desert have a very different viewpoint because they get to see natural beauty that's nowhere else in the world."
Seltzer, who was raised near Marana by her mother, Victoria, was named a Royal Society of Arts fellow April 27.
The London-based institution, founded in 1754, is dedicated to solving social challenges with practical solutions. Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Stephen Hawking and Nelson Mandela were all RSA fellows.
Seltzer was lauded for her fabric design, which was meant to be environmentally sustainable and was based on the designs of Charles and Ray Eames. It consisted of upholstery fabrics meant for home interiors.
Seltzer screen-printed the fabric and double-bonded it with cheesecloth to make it resistant to abrasion. She also coated it with beeswax and methylcellulose to keep it from absorbing liquid.
Seltzer said she designed the fabric to be more water-resistant than common upholsteries, without the need for protective chemicals, such as carcinogenic chlorofluorocarbons.
"It's really important for us to start moving toward more natural and less cancerous substances in our lives," she said.
The RSA distinction is just the latest award for Seltzer. In January she won a $5,000 Young Menswear Association Fashion Scholarship. She also won first place in the Stylesight Trend Forecasting Student Print/Graphics Competition. The contest granted her an internship at fashion technology company Stylesight London, which she declined.
As part of the RSA award, Seltzer received $1,000 and a design-oriented software package worth as much as $100,000.
Seltzer said Green Fields was a key player in her artistic development.
"Green Fields was probably the most important step toward becoming an artist and designer, because of its emphasis on the arts and creating the sense of the individual," she said.
Her former teachers reciprocate the fondness.
Bob Haskett, an English teacher and dean of faculty at Green Fields, said he expected Seltzer to succeed.
"She was the kind of person who I think everyone would recall had a twinkle in her, and really a boundless kind of creative energy," he said. "She was extremely gifted and very, very innovative."
Jane Buckman, who taught Seltzer in visual arts classes, said she was impressed with her vision and skill.
"She was always very energetic and ambitious, and she was prolific in her production of art and exploration of media," Buckman said. "I've never had any doubt that what she put her mind to she would accomplish. She's just that kind of person - outgoing and dynamic - and she lights up a room as she walks in."
Doors continue to open for Seltzer, who said she gets the sense her internship will lead to bigger things.
"I'm just finishing up my first week, and they already asked me to create prints for next summer," she said.
With graduation and the start of her internship, Seltzer said, she's hardly had time to put it into perspective.
"I'm excited about it," she said of the fellowship, "but I'm trying to keep moving forward."
To see Julie Seltzer's work, visit julieseltzer.com
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org