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Oil Paining by Jeanne Sanford, Age 11
Oil Paining by Jeanne Sanford, age 11, 1930

Like most eight year olds, Jean wasn't sure what she wanted to do when she grew up. She had chosen music, following in her mother's footsteps, except that she wanted to become a violinist. She had been taking lessons for two years, faithfully practicing. As her creative talents matured she became more curious about other arts as well. She wanted to paint, and liked drawing in general, and especially sketching clothes. She asked if she might take art lessons from a young artist nearby. Her mother wouldn't allow her to take both. She made her choose between the violin and art lessons. That was the moment that Jean Duff made up her mind, permanently.
Jeanne decided to become a designer at the age of 10*. First she made clothes for paper dolls and comic strip characters. Later she was designing and making her own clothes when most other girls were just learning to sew.
(*Although she really did love design, a small part of that decision was influenced by the hard economic times. She thought being a designer would be more financially sound. It was 1929, and the depression affected everyone--even the thoughts of children.)

By this time in Jeanne's life she was taking her art studies very seriously. She had taken some oil and watercolor painting lessons from the local artist, but she inherited her father's ambitious nature and was ready for more. Jeanne would now be able to take life-sketching classes on Saturdays at the Pittsburgh Art Institute (which was located on Smithfield St. at 6th Ave. at that time). When Mt. Lebanon High School closed each summer she went to the Institute every day and took all the courses it offered in fashion art. Jeanne dreamed of going to college for fashion design, but no such curriculum, as she wanted, was available.

"If I had it to do over again now," Jeanne says, "I'd be able to do that. I think the Rhode Island School of Design, for example, now gives exactly the sort of thing I wanted--a good well-rounded education plus training in design. That's the kind of education I think designers ought to have. You can't be a good designer unless you're a well-rounded person." --Excerpt from Young Faces in Fashion by Beryl Williams.

The Pittsburgh Art Institute, however, was just inaugurating a new one-year course in designing, and Jeanne finally decided to take it rather than attend a college where she could obtain little or no training in her chosen field.

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