Awesome Alligator Adventures
|May 29, 2014||Posted by Nicole under Agriculture, Behind the Scenes, Events, Farms, Seafood|
I can say with a straight face that I work with some reptiles. The Seafood Marketing Bureau hosts a group called FAME – the Florida Alligator Marketing and Education Committee which is comprised of alligator farmers, trappers and other industry representatives. This year they decided to form a partnership with The Savannah College of Art and Design, also known as SCAD, to encourage up and coming design students to explore an exotic material they might not have worked with before- Florida alligator leather.
The plan was to choose six students in the SCAD Accessory Design Program to participate in a design contest where each student would receive two alligator leather hides of a lower grade- typically called 3’s and 4’s. They would produce a collection of three accessory pieces utilizing the buttons and scars on the skin into their designs- to work with any blemishes and defects and incorporate them into their finished pieces, instead of hiding them.
The first goal was to give the contestants a “crash course” on all things alligator. We started by taking them, along with two professors, on a tour of central Florida. First stop was Brooks Brothers Commercial Alligator Farm in Christmas, Florida. Shane and Hoho Brooks own the processing facility and it is one of the largest commercial alligator farms in the state. They raise over 10,000 alligators annually and sell the skins to tanneries and the meat to local restaurants. The students were willing, (actually eager!) to see an alligator being processed. We knew we had a dedicated group at that point!
Next stop was Sebring Custom Tanning- the only tannery currently operating in the state of Florida. Dave Travers, along with his son Fraser and daughter Christie showed all aspects of their tanning business. Students got to touch and feel hides and learn important things to consider when attempting to cut and sew pieces. They left with some basic knowledge to start thinking about their designs and two alligator skins a piece to work with.
Gatorama is one of the few remaining original Florida roadside attractions, so it was a perfect choice for our final destination. Tons of gators and crocs call Gatorama home along with Allen and Patty Register, the owners. The Registers are fifth and sixth generation Floridians who love sharing their farm with thousands of visitors each year. On the tour, the students got to see an alligator feeding and those who dared could even hold a live alligator! Patty served up gator bites and gator gumbo which was enjoyed by all.
Upon returning home to Savannah, the students had about three weeks to plan, design and complete their accessory collection for the competition. They cut and stitched the elements and the finished products included purses, handbags, clutches, shoes, a hat and even jewelry. Contestants included a process book to illustrate what their motivation had been when coming up with the designs. The FAME group judged the collections and a winner was selected based on the overall best collection, and the best use of the alligator leather.
The finished pieces were featured at an art gala in Savannah during SCAD Fashion Week 2014 held on May 16. The students were recognized for their exceptional efforts working with alligator leather. To the contestant’s surprise, they each got to keep one of the handbags they designed. The competition was well received by all and will continue next year. Congratulations to our winner Mary Baker, and to all the contestants on a job well done. We would like to thank Professors Michelle Quick and Marcell Mrsán for facilitating this project.