Profile: Peter Salera

Where are you from? Why did you pick Jefferson (PhilaU)?

I’m from Temple, New Hampshire. It’s a tiny town of about 1,200 people in southern New Hampshire. It’s basically a village, in the colonial New England sense – it has a town green that people used to graze their cows and horses on, and there’s a graveyard with graves that date back to 1776. It’s an absolutely beautiful place, and I am in love with the area I grew up in. I think I’m one of the only people at PhilaU from New Hampshire. I had kind of a messy college application process when I was a senior in high school. I only applied to a few schools, then I applied to a few more very close to the spring deadlines. PhilaU ended up being one of the ones I got into, and it had the best financial aid, so I chose it. It was more so a financial decision than anything else, but I’m glad I made it after all.

How did you get into studying TMT with a concentration is sustainability?

I watched a TED talk and it changed my life. It was called “Grow your own clothes” by Suzanne Lee. She’s this posh British woman who is a fashion designer, and in the talk she explains how she partnered with a biologist and found a way to grow textile materials from the yeast and bacteria culture used to make kombucha. It was a totally revolutionary way of making sustainable, biodegradable, beautiful clothing, and I got super interested in it. I also LOVE kombucha and brew it myself. So, I saw that and realized I should study textiles instead of fashion merchandising – which was boring me to death – so I switched majors and decided to study textiles and sustainability.

What has been your favorite course you’ve taken at Jefferson?

Hmm, either my intro to sustainability course, or advanced weft knitting. In the intro to sustainability course I learned a ton about sustainable development, the paradigms of the modern sustainability movement, and a lot about environmental issues in general. I had an amazing professor. In Advanced Weft I learned how to use the electronic knitting machine and it made me fall in love with knitting. I LOVE the Shima. Seriously, love that thing. I really took to knitting more so than I thought and now I’m hooked on it.

Favorite project you’ve done?

I got to do a project for Weave Tech II where I researched embroidered fabrics from the Balkan region. I got to look at historic textiles at the design center with the curator – who is super cool- and then make a 3-piece jacquard collection responding to it. It was creative and research-based, and I had total freedom to do what I wanted. I made some things I am proud of, which is odd for me because usually when I make things I end up hating them soon after. I also got to stab and shred one of my fabrics as it was talking about the wars of the Balkan region. I ended up cutting myself by accident, and then I bled onto the fabric, which heightened the effect of what I was trying to achieve. It was so fun.

What courses did you take while abroad?

There’s no study abroad for TMT students, so I took a bunch of sustainability courses there. I took a class in sustainable development in northern Europe, Life Cycle Assessment, Environmental Philosophy (which was AMAZING), Danish, a class on Impressionism, and a gender and sexuality course.

Where all did you travel while abroad?

Some of the courses I took had study tours built in, so I did a bunch of travel with classes. In my Impressionism class we went to Paris for 4 days to go to Musee D’Orsay and other places in Paris. It was amazing to learn about the works in class, and then go see the originals hanging in the museum. That trip was probably the best four days of my life. In my sustainability course we went to southern Sweden for 3 days. We stayed at a hostel in the woods and went hiking on a mountain in the snow, which was gorgeous. We also went to Hamburg and Berlin, Germany for 5 days, which was also super cool. I went to Stockholm in my gender and sexuality class over the summer, which was also incredible. My birthday was during that week, so I celebrated my 21st in Stockholm, which was absolutely unreal. I went to London, Prague, Barcelona, Brussels, Iceland, and Marseille on my own. I worked on a farm in a village in the south of France for 3 weeks with a friend. Ok, wow, I feel really bougie for saying all that.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I am hoping to go to graduate school, most likely abroad in Europe. I learned an incredible amount while I was abroad, and I feel that my entire life and self changed in the time I was there. It made me realize that there is a much larger world beyond what I know, and beyond the United States, and I want to be a part of that – to travel and experience more, and interact with and learn from people from all over the world. There’s also a lot of opportunity to do the type of research and textile work I want to do abroad, specifically in London. I realize that there is so much left to learn and study, and I am at a point in life right now where I want to soak everything up, and learn all that I can. I also recently discovered that I want to explore textiles in a more creative, design-based sense than what I have studied, and going on to further study is a good place to explore that. I can’t see myself just leaving school and getting a job in textiles and being happy and okay with it. I need more knowledge and more tools to be able to become a designer and researcher and be able to help the world and create in the way that I hope to.

What is your dream job?

Ah heck that changes all the time! I have no idea. Well I sorta do, but I’m sure it will change. I just want to be a designer and a researcher working with organizations and institutions who are innovating in textiles – working with grown materials, thinking about how textiles can exist outside of the capitalist economy, how they can be used to create social justice and sustainable community development. I want to be around thinkers, academics, and creative people, working on design projects and trying to make the future a better place.

What’s something you wish people knew about textiles?

Ah man, there’s so much to know! THEY’RE SO DANG COOL!!! And they’re literally everywhere. I also wish people just knew more about textiles. I tell people I study textiles and sometimes people don’t even know what that word means. Smh.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Oh gawd. YOU ARE SO YOUNG AND NIEVE!!! I would also say to keep doing everything you’re doing, because it all works out, and it all happens for a reason. I fully believe that now. I would also tell myself that it will all get better, and happiness will be there eventually. And I would say to be free, be confident, do whatever you want to do, even if you don’t know you want to do it. Being a freshman is a great time to just go crazy and explore everything because you have no idea what the heck is even going on in the short or the long term, so you might as well take advantage of that and just go with the chaos, and create some of your own. I wish I did more of that.