Professor Martinelle, THE Fashion Tech Professor

(Professor Betty Martinelle's Photo: Her on the right)

I’ve only known Professor Martinelle for about seven weeks, but I can honestly say she’s the most kindhearted person I’ve met. Apart from instructing students with making garments, she makes sure her students know that she is there for them outside of the classroom.

I wanted to get to know her better so I asked her several questions…

Where did you grow up and when did you realize you were interested in fashion?

M: "I grew up in the northern Catskill Mountains of New York in a tiny town.  I was 9 years old when fashion entered my life. My fourth grade teacher read a book to the class over the course of a few days called The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Author), Louis Slobodkin (Illustrator).  I couldn't get it out of my head.  At the same time I discovered a comic book called Millie the Model. (I was forbidden to read comic books by my parents, so of course, I hid it under my mattress and took it with me to school each day.) There were paper dolls of the three main characters in the comic book, that I would trace over  (when my schoolwork was done and my teacher wasn't looking) and design all sorts of outfits to which I added tabs so I could "dress" my models.  I finally did get caught, but my teacher didn't punish me.  She just told me to be sure to take art classes whenever it was available to me.  I created like that for the next few years, but I also started to do a lot of hand sewing."

"I received my first Barbie doll from my parents when I was in 5th grade.  Having lived through WWII in Hungary, my Father explained that my parents would not pay for "doll clothes".  If I was to dress my doll, I would have to make the clothes.  That was my impetus to create a wardrobe for Barbie of over 200 pieces, all made by hand.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend who had an older sister who taught me how to use patterns, put them together, and embellish them. By the time I was 13 my parents bought me my first sewing machine and I made my first "real" garments."

"I want to mention that although I have this early connection with fashion, the people I admired most were my teachers.  With few exceptions, they all have been the most influential people in my life and it's really my connection to them that has shaped me."

Where did you go to college and how was your college experience?

M: "My first two years at William Smith College, were very tough on a personal level. I had earned a scholarship and my grades were good, but I was truly overwhelmed.  Going to an art school was not acceptable to my family.  Looking back, I think I was a combination of homesick and unable to focus on where I wanted to go.  At the end of my sophomore year I withdrew and went to NYC (which I loved, loved) to find a job.  Over the next two years, I worked full time as an administrative assistant to the vice president of a very large menswear company and attended FIT full time as well. (I was paying for it, so my family couldn't object too strenuously.) I would work for many years in the industry and not go back to school until 1998 to receive a Bachelor's in Primary Education from Dowling College, and a Masters of Instructional Technology from Bridgewater State University. If there is anything I have learned, it is that I am a lifetime student as well as a teacher." 

Pertaining to the fashion industry, what have you worked as/who have you worked for before coming to SCAD?

M: "In the industry, I have held positions the ranged from, assistant designer and designer at at a private label and sportswear company, 1st patternmaker at a missy top company, 1st patternmaker and production patternmaker at a missy suit company, senior technical designer at Casual Corner Group, senior technical designer at Talbots, senior sales support specialist at Gerber Technology, and  senior technical designer at TJX Companies.  In between, I have worked as a substitute elementary teacher and have had  my own digital patternmaking business."

Out of all the jobs you had before teaching at SCAD which was your favorite and why?

M: "I loved, loved, loved working for Gerber Technology because every project was different and because I became an expert at utilizing 10 or so different types of software used in the sewn goods industry. That meant I was involved with not only fashion, but aeronautics, upholstery, composites, etc.  It was also a company that encouraged travel and I did so with some of the most remarkable people in the business.  Even though I look back on this with some fondness, nothing (and I mean nothing) compares to teaching!"

While working in the industry what is one obstacle that you had to overcome?  

M: "When I entered the industry, it was a very male-dominated business.  You might work your way up to "designer", but mainly someone had to "die" and you had to be in the right place at the right time to fill in.   Starting out, there were were few female patternmakers, no female graders, markers, production supervisors to aspire to.  Even the related businesses such as transportation were all male dominated.  Outside of design, the only female jobs were as sample hands or operators.  It took "years" to reach senior levels."

What made you want to become a professor and teach at SCAD?  

M: "They say things come full circle.  In my heart, I have always been a teacher.  Over the years I have been drawn to it repeatedly, but not able to make the transition.  I think I spent the previous years surviving, raising a family, etc. It was the journey I was meant to travel to get here."  

How has being a professor here reshaped your life in a positive way?  

M: "Because I am able to walk in the front door of Eckburg everyday and share what I have lived , I feel very blessed.  I have never felt more fulfilled or energized by the people that now shape my daily life."  

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with your students?

M: "Do what you love and you will not work a day in your life."

Outside of teaching, what is the best part of your day?  

M: "Going home and talking to my sons and my friends. Baking on the weekends. Movies."

What’s an interesting fact about you?  

M: "I speak Hungarian (not as well as I should, but I'm working on it. French, too.)"

Knowing Professor Martinelle a lot more now, this makes me appreciate having her as an instructor even more. I respect her in every way/shape/form there is. I'm excited to learn more from her in the future during the rest of this quarter. Learning about sewing, and life as a whole.