Thressa Willett


MFA Student

Major: Textile & Fashion Design

Graduation Year: 2016

Artist Statement:

Facing the problem of ubiquitous cultural associations, Thressa Willett found liberation from the limiting aspects of the female body when she shifted her focus from fashion design to abstract object-sculpture. By removing the body from subject matter, it became easier to navigate intention. To avoid the pitfalls of female objectification, she found that she could critique the problem by subverting the problem— by objectifying objects.

With a passion for architecture, her schematic renderings come to life in a playful dance between systems and humanities. Inverting the associations of domesticity, the artist critiques the ideals of femininity by using the classically female-discipline of sewing construction. With a builder mentality, she designs schematics, drafts patterns, and approaches assembly with needle and thread. This systematic process yields an emotional plea for humanity. Each empathetic sculpture is a result of hard logic. Her hybridized discipline of textile construction and sculpture is both conceptual and self-reflexive; not only does it communicate a need for social change, but it subverts convention through its very existence.


Intensely shy and introverted as a child, Thressa Willett spent most of her time in a world of fantasy, building and designing elaborate playlands. In her earlier years, playtime interests ranged from the likes of building blocks, Legos, and Lincoln logs. She designed colorful paper doll clothes and created intricate topological routes for matchbox cars. In her later years, more culturally accepted interests for girls took hold. Although never interested in baby dolls, Thressa did become passionate about the Barbie doll. She’d make them unique clothes from strangely crafted scraps, cut and dyed their hair, and ditched the Mattel dream house for wildly improvised miniature interiors. Her headless Malibu Ken doll was essentially the village idiot in every scenario—headless not by guillotine, but a design flaw on Mattel’s part. At first radical, later even-handed, a feminist was born.

After countless hard lessons learned from adulthood, Thressa turned back to academia to find her way. This priceless journey has taught her so much about the world and herself. Gaining courage to embrace her voice through the MFA program in studio arts, she writes and designs for sisterhood and community. Thressa aims to expose damaging cultural edicts though explorations of fashion, soft sculpture, and creative writing.