Past Program

RISD in Rome: Form, Leather, Color and Craft

This travel course at RISD's site in Rome will immerse you into new surroundings, and introduce you to the concepts of "form" and "color" by manipulating "leather" in combination with found objects.

Through working with vegetable-tanned leather as "craft", and by using hand tools and pigments, students will create forms based upon their collected impressions and experiences. The new context of Rome, as well as the visits to Venice Biennale, craftsmen in Murano and Burano Islands, and upscale Tuscan tanneries, will connect students to the past – and future - of leathercraft, by learning ancient skills of making – combined with their own skill-sets and aspirations/interests.

Please Note: RISD has announced the cancellation of RISD Global Summer Studios 2020. Read more.


Global Summer Studios
  • Rome, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Florence, Italy
Summer 2020

Course Dates: Jun 28, 2020 — Jul 19, 2020

Open to RISD students, Brown University students, non-RISD students

2.5 GPA required. Non-RISD participants see eligibility requirements below.

  • Leather
  • Craft
  • Materials Research
Academic Credits
  • Industrial Design
Course Numbers
  • ID-1544-01

Includes tuition, accommodation, studio space, transportation, field trips, entrance fees, group meals and international travel health insurance.

ID studio
Providence, RI, USA

About this Travel Course

Course Description

The primary material will be vegetable-tanned leather for its unique properties; it lends itself to tactile explorations of materials and techniques such as dyeing, wet-molding, etching, compression, stretching, folding, shaping. It can be soft and pliable – or hard and rigid. However, students are welcome and encouraged to explore alternative and additional materials throughout the process (=FOUND OBJECTS as a reminder of “MOMENTS in TIME”).

Course Objective

  • Basic sewing techniques for hand-sewing “LEATHER” objects, examining different seams and stitches by learning how to work with the hand-tools on hand
  • Exploring surface techniques for vegetable tanned leather. In particular painting and dyeing.
  • How is “LEATHER” made? Learning through experiencing the process.
  • Basic pattern making skills for “FORM” to develop prototypes/ideas/objects by applying the skills acquired.
  • Exploration of “COLOR” – plant-based pigments and it’s possibilities for leather and other materials.
  • What is “handmade” in comparison to “cottage industry” and “industrial manufacturing” – the evolution of making - the allure of the object made by hand. Understanding the revival of the “CRAFT”/MAKERS-Movement.

Learning Outcomes

Following the course-objectives we will explore, research and produce a variety of objects that can grow into many directions by applying the techniques learnt in this course - incorporating the student’s individual knowledge. The objects can be footwear related. Experimentation, exploration and applying manifold techniques such as: (and not limited to)

  • Apply surface manipulation (embroidery, inlay/overlay, painting/dyeing, image transfer technique, casein dyeing, light influence on veg tan surface etc.)
  • Experimenting with the material “vegetable tanned leather” (wet-molding, folding etc.)
  • Incorporating “found objects” (per their own imagination – reminders of “moments in time”)
  • Research and explore “sketching” techniques – in pen … and paper (mock-up’s)
  • Document Work Process in sketches and notes – Workbook will also be on view for critique

The goal of this course is not a perfect single object, but rather a series of explorations to expand upon their personal skills, playfully gaining knowledge, sparking their curiosity to dance outside of their comfort zone. Aiming for a wide range of experiments, learning and exploring as many techniques as possible, creating as many samples and prototypes as students can.

For Final Presentation: Show process “book” for your projects, sketches/material explorations etc. as well as the final Projects.


To participate in RISD Global Summer Studios, all students are required to stay in RISD- provided housing for the duration of the course. Students live and work at the RISD site in Rome, Palazzetto Cenci, a 16th-century building in the historic center, where RISD has housed its European Honors Program (EHP) since 1960. Dorms are double occupancy with shared bathrooms, kitchens and laundry. The Cenci also includes several spacious studios, computer facilities, a library and a lecture hall/exhibition gallery. During field trips, students will also be provided with shared accommodation.


RISD Students

If your current cumulative GPA is 2.5 or above, you are eligible for registration. If your current cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, you must first contact the Registrar at to seek exception to this academic policy.

Non-RISD Participants

If you are a college student currently enrolled in another art/design college or institution around the world, or a professional practicing in the field, you are eligible for registration. We will collect a recommendation/support form from your institution/workplace.

In order to register for RISD Global summer studies, you are expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) as all coursework and critique is delivered in English.

Attendance Policy

Global Summer Studios are three weeks long and take place in June/July, and you are required to attend all program activities scheduled during the travel course. RISD Global Summer Studios comply with RISD class attendance policy. In case of unexcused or multiple absences, you may be removed from the course, given a grade of “W" (withdrawal) or a grade of “F” (fail).

Withdrawal Policy

Requesting to withdraw from a RISD off-campus global learning program, including RISD Global Summer Studios, prior to the start of the course is highly discouraged and requires a formal process outlined in the RISD course withdrawal policy. It is not possible for a student to drop a RISD Global Summer Studios travel course via the standard Add/Drop process after it has commenced. In the case of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances (and only after students have spoken with the faculty lead and RISD Global for approval to withdraw from the program), students should be aware that no refund will be issued.

More Info

In order to reserve a seat, a non-refundable deposit of $1,500 is required at time of application submittal. Students will have 30 days from the date of their deposit to submit full payment. Students that fail to make full payment by their deadline will forfeit their $1,500 deposit and their seat in the course. New application submissions starting April 1 are not eligible to make a deposit and must make full payment by April 12, 2020.

All RISD students enrolled in RISD and other full degree schools/universities are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in Global Summer Studios. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for all RISD students. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course.

In cases where summer travel courses and studios do not reach full capacity, the course may be cancelled after the last day of registration. As such, all students are advised not to purchase flights for participation in Global Summer Studios courses until the course is confirmed to run starting April 13, 2020.

Apply to Global Summer Studios

For summer 2021, RISD Global is offering 4 creative and culturally immersive art and design courses, all taught virtually for 3 weeks between June 7 – 25.

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