A photo of a woman wearing safety goggles and holding a blow torch while wearing a stylish top, a necklace, and earrings.
Hope Ollivant was inspired to pursue new interests during her time as a student in the VCU School of the Arts. (Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Class of 2024: Hope Ollivant found artistic expression in many forms

Craft/material studies major blended art, fashion, journalism and entrepreneurial spirit during her VCU experience.

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Hope Ollivant planned to major in fashion, but her journey through Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts took on a different look during her freshman year.

Her exposure to its metal and ceramics studios, and her enjoyment of the art foundation course, prompted the Northern Virginia native to embrace new interests, particularly jewelry and sculpture and craft. Serving as a VCUarts tour guide that year also gave her plenty of opportunity to imagine the possibilities.

“They have so much equipment,” Ollivant said of the metals studios, which also highlighted creativity and personalization. “You get to see all the students’ work – and you get a bench your senior year.”

But when the COVID-19 pandemic sent VCU students home, Ollivant knew that remote learning would not be a good fit for her new craft/material studies major.

“You have to have the facilities to be a jeweler. You have to have the torch and the bench,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Ollivant took a yearlong leave and served as a nanny for a family – and, simultaneously, created jewelry on her own and developed her entrepreneurial sense.

“That year it was all baroque-style pearl necklaces and bracelets,” she said. “They’re very simple designs. I was just looking to sell and learn” – and, after that gap year, return to class with renewed appreciation of what VCU could offer. Her sophomore year helped her refine her personal style and her technical skill in craft/material studies.

“It’s about becoming a craftsperson and a fine artist, but a fine artist who does things right,” Ollivant said of her coursework, which touched on metal as well as glass and clay.

Ollivant’s craftsmanship, entrepreneurial spirit and ongoing interest in fashion came together when, on a winter study-abroad trip to the University of the Arts London she connected with a fashion student there, Clementine Baldo, who included Ollivant’s jewelry at the London College of Fashion Graduate      showcase during London Fashion Week.

A photo of a woman standing in front of a table holding a up. On the table is a brass vase full of lilies, two magazines, and a white statue of two hands put together like they're praying.
Hope Ollivant said her coursework at VCU was “about becoming a craftsperson and a fine artist, but a fine artist who does things right.” (Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

And in February of this year, Ollivant enjoyed her first solo show at The Anderson, the on-campus gallery of VCUarts. From jewelry to digitally fabricated posters, the show featured a range of her art – in medium, style and size – that collectively conveyed a story.

“It was mostly about connection between family, friends, partners – and also a lot of exaggeration of symbols and icons, exaggerating the inescapable influence of media and pop culture on our human connection and emotion and culture,” Ollivant said, noting that imagery from animation powerhouse “The Simpsons” and its quirky family has a starring role.

“I have a really big family. I have six siblings,” she said. “So I’ve always been very interested in figuring people out and trying to navigate those relationships. That has influenced my work a lot.”

Beyond the studio, one constant in Ollivant’s VCU experience has been Ink, the student-run digital alternative magazine that highlights art, music, culture and fashion. She served initially as a stylist, then senior fashion director and, by junior year, editor in chief, a role she retained as a senior.

“It’s definitely my favorite thing about going to school here,” Ollivant said. “It is a professional learning experience. There’s nothing like it. There’s nowhere else where I could learn what I’m learning and get the experience that I’m getting on a professional level like this and get to be surrounded by my friends and amazing creatives every single day.”

With graduation near, Ollivant now envisions working as a professional stylist or in a fashion environment for a company or magazine, while continuing to create and sell her jewelry and clay art.

“I feel like I found the perfect path for me,” Ollivant said of her VCU journey. “If you look, there’s all these really niche things you can do to get exactly where you’re going. I just worked hard and kept looking for my people, and I found them.”