Teri McConnel Tavares

Teri McConnel Tavares

This is an industry of competition and it is important for them to understand that reality. Teri McConnel Tavares , Adjunct Faculty, Fashion Design , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I grew up watching the Muppet Show (the first one) and knew then that I wanted to make things – fun things – for a living. I was in 4-H at the time (junior high age), so I was already sewing and doing all sorts of crafts. I just knew that I would end up doing something out of the ordinary.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

My background and MFA are in costume design and technology and I have been sewing since I was about 6 years old. My professional work continues to be in costumes in numerous venues (theatre, film, themed entertainment) and covers everything from fabric dyeing and painting to draping. As a working professional, I am able to relate how I balance a full-time job as a costume shop manager, freelance work in theatre and part-time teaching at The Art Institute of California—San Diego to the students. I continue to grow my skills and keep an eye on what the market demands. Mine is not a static profession and you will soon be left behind if you don’t continue to grow and adapt your skills.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

My teaching/mentoring style is to be very honest and direct with my students. In lower division classes, where the content of the class is very specific, I challenge the students to be clean and neat in their work. They must learn to walk before they can run. It’s hard when everyone wants to put their stamp on a project, but learning the basics is essential to being able to explore later on. In upper division classes, I set looser parameters for projects and encourage the students to show their voice and aesthetic in the project. 
In all my classes, I am brutally honest when I critique the students. This is an industry of competition and it is important for them to understand that reality. I find that the students want to be pushed and challenged. Oh, and I am funny. Really.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

All of our students learn so much more when they are able to collaborate with others. It’s easy to do your own thing and be successful. Or think you are successful. That isn’t reality. Learning to be a part of something bigger than you is very illuminating. Communication is a key factor in any successful endeavor; collaborating is essential to learn effective communication. 

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

Be honest about your skills and the quality of your work. You must recognize when your work is good and when is it not so good. Self-critique is essential in any successful career.