Lillian "Maura" Stewart

Treat every project as a portfolio piece. Lillian "Maura" Stewart , Fashion Instructor
, The Art Institute of Raleigh–Durham, a campus of South University

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I think I knew from a very early age that I’d like to create for a living. Living near the beach as a child, I connected with the ocean and nature and the unknown, my greatest source of inspiration. I spent a lot of time playing in my own imagined worlds, and developed a love of all things fantastical and supernatural.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I use my experience and real-world knowledge to help guide students toward their goals. I stress the importance of critical thinking, and encourage them to think about what kind of careers they want. Also, I think it’s really important to expose each new generation of fashion students to the latest technologies.

How would you describe your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I prefer studio teaching in a creative environment. I do a class demonstration first, then have the students work on mastering the techniques individually. I give each student one-on-one feedback and help as needed, but I think letting them make mistakes helps them learn to be better artists.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

It’s important that students work together with others in school—just as they will in the workplace. Students with different sets of skills can help each other and push each other to be exceptional creative professionals.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Treat every project as a portfolio piece, and put forth your best creative effort. Never forget how important an excellent portfolio is for your career.