Designer finds style, even in ketchup

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Once you see the jacket created by Amy Ursiny, you may never look at a Heinz ketchup packet the same way.

The design was part of a portfolio that won the 18-year-old Avonworth High School senior from Ohio Township a Gold Key in the fashion category of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

“I could tell she had a lot of creativity and was the kind of student who would think a lot about what she wanted to make before she created it,” says Kerri Villani, Avonworth studio art teacher, who has taught Ursiny since seventh grade. “She sees things in a great way.”

The Heinz packets are made from printed plastic and foil sheets that are eventually cut and filled. A former Heinz employee had some ends of sheets that he gave to Villani for her art classes.

Villani was saving the ketchup-packet sheets for the right person. After seeing Ursiny's fashion ability, she decided Ursiny was perfect for it.

Ursiny also made a ketchup clutch and embellished the jacket with Heinz's famous pickle pins. The coat was part of a diverse portfolio that included a bubble gum-wrapper dress, a velveteen gown and a peacock feather and gold piece.

Ursiny and other winners will take part in an awards ceremony at LaRoche College later this month.

“I entered things I was unsure of, and they ended up winning,” she says. “You never know what judges might think. You're always your own worst critic.”

Ursiny is mostly self-taught. Her passion for sewing came from her grandmother, Lillian Young, who taught her the basics. They made potholders. She still asks Young for design advice.

Ursiny enjoys designing costumes and has helped create apparel for the school's play.

“Her ideas are very out of the box,” says graphic-arts teacher Gabrielle Nicely. “She is very unique and she pushes the envelope. She has always wanted to try new things.”

Ursiny finds inspiration from everyday happenings, such as the idea she got for the prom gown she created. She fashioned a black full-length gown with a zipper all the way around that, when unzipped, turns it into a cocktail-length dress perfect for dancing. The dress is lined and made of velveteen and chiffon with hand-sewn rhinestones.

“I had bought a dress for prom the year before, and it was a pretty dress, except when I went to dance in it, I couldn't move well in it,” says Ursiny. “So I decided to make a dress that was both functional and fashionable.”

Ursiny does a lot of research before making one stitch. She plans to study fashion in college and hasn't decided where, but has been accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“I take a lot of inspiration from different time periods and alternative fashions,” Ursiny says. “A lot of my more formal designs were inspired by the '50s. While a lot of my more everyday-wear designs are inspired by '70s punk-rock look and the many fashions worn at the Harajuku (Japan) train station.”

She also is influenced by Tim Gunn of Lifetime's “Project Runway” and artist Andy Warhol.

“I absolutely hate wasting things, so re-purposing things or ‘upcycling' things, as it's known in the crafting world, is what I love to do the most,” Ursiny says. “One of my favorite things that I've upcycled has to be my mother's old bridesmaid dress.”

Ursiny was part of a runway show in September at the third annual Pittsburgh Fashion Week. She also showed seven pieces at a school fashion show.

When Pittsburgh Fashion Week executive director Miyoshi Anderson first viewed Ursiny's designs, she was instantly intrigued.

“Amy's label/wrapper pieces were the items that impressed me the most,” Anderson says. “Looking at the precision in her work as a young talent, I said, she needs to be seen,” Anderson says. “Once I saw some of her convertible items, as well, it actually stopped me in my tracks. I think she can be an inspiration and an addition to our strengthening industry.”

Ursiny is not sure of her next step in terms of where her fashion style will take her. She says she enjoys the costume side of design.

“I like to experiment with fashion,” she says. “I don't like boring fashion. I love sewing and making clothing. I love being in the art room. I wouldn't want it any other way.”

She is creating a dress for sophomore Katie Abramowich. Abramowich bid on having Ursiny custom-make a dress at a silent auction during the school's junior class fashion show.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awa rds, presented by New York-based nonprofit the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is the longest-running most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in the U.S. and the largest source of scholarships for young artists and writers. Teens in grades 7 through 12 can apply in 28 categories of art and writing for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published. Details:

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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