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Deborah L. Huelsbergen: The Visual Artist Who Created Mizzou’s Iconic Paisley

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University of Missouri’s Curator’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Deborah Huelsbergen is well known on campus, particularly in the School of Visual Studies. She teaches classes in graphic design and calligraphy/hand lettering and serves as faculty advisor for the Art and Art History First-Year Interest Group. Over her career she’s received awards including an MU Faculty Alumni Award, the Southeastern College Art Conference Award for Excellence in Teaching, a William T. Kemper Award for Outstanding Teaching, a Campus Writing Program Writing Intensive Teaching Excellence Award, the MU Excellence in Advising Award, the Woodhouse Award for Exceptional Achievements in Teaching, Research and Service, and the Excellence in Education Award. 

In early 2014, when the University of Missouri commissioned a signature Mizzou paisley in honor of its 175th anniversary, Huelsbergen immediately wanted to be a part of it. Taking lead on the design, she spent the summer researching the history of paisley, sketching patterns, and working out repetitive aspects of icons across campus. She designed two patterns; one predominantly black and another gold. You can currently find these designs on several pieces of apparel in the Mizzou Store on campus! Now on Mizzou’s 180th anniversary, we look back on what inspired this journey.

HLM: What inspired you to accept this commission? From where did you draw inspiration for the design itself?
DLH: When I was approached to see if I knew anyone who might like to do this, I immediately said, “Pick me! Pick me!” I love designing repeat patterns and could not wait to do this. I spent time looking at all the paisley designs I could find, in books, in the fabric store and online, and looking through the MU archives at various documents and images to see what looked like something I could abstract and use in the pattern. I was interested in the various Ms that have been used in the past and other decorative elements I could find. 

HLM: What is your favorite thing about the design?
DLH: Many people have mentioned that they enjoy the fact that it looks like a regular paisley from a distance but when you get up close you can see the Memorial Union and the Jesse Hall dome and things like that. I love repetition and it was fun to use elements like the columns and the dome in repeat to create abstract patterns. 

HLM: How long did it take you to complete the design?
DLH: Hmmm…I know I started sketching in earnest in May and once the sketches were done, I used the computer to design vectors of those sketches. The tedious part was then designing the various large pieces and getting those to work together well. It was extremely tedious but I love tedious. I believe I was done with it in August; having the summer was nice as it was the main thing I focused on. 

HLM: What are you most proud of in your career? What has been your most exciting experience?
DLH: Teaching amazing students who have gone on to do incredible things. Teaching is my passion. I love to create and to design but all that pales in comparison to the joy it brings me to be in a class. I have been blessed with being able to teach at MU for the past 23 years and have taught students whom I now consider friends. They are the ones changing the world of design and I am just there to cheerlead them along.

HLM: What advice would you give to the next generation of female creators?
DLH: Make the things. Enjoy making the things. Be kind to yourself and others. Be healthy so you can make more things. 

HLM: What’s next in store for you, moving forward?
DLH: Well, I am glad you asked! The paisley was a blast and I wanted to do something else fun and MU related so I did. I create mandalas on a daily basis but had an idea to do some in a MU theme. I recently finished a coloring book for MU that consists of mandalas that are made of abstracted architectural details from buildings on campus. It was, once again, extremely tedious (yeah!) and took much longer than the paisley. I have my fingers crossed that it will be in the MU bookstore for sale soon! 

HLM: What’s your favorite quote?
DLH: This changes often! But my current favorite, one that I use in my mandala class as a prompt is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle,” attributed to Plato.