We recently sat down to interview our Kelowna Interior Design Department Head, Gisela Scholze. With over 25 years in the industry, she is quite the wealth of knowledge for her students, and has brought in many industry connections to her instructing, meaning that her students get the benefit of working on many real world projects before they graduate.
Listen in to our conversation!
Spotlight on Gisela Scholze
CAT: When did you first discover your interest in interior design?
Gisela: I was very young and what people would class as nerdy. I read an article about lighting and how it worked and that had me hooked. I got my hands on anything that had to do with lighting. I was very scientific as well early on, my full interest started in the seventh grade and I was in the stage of researching. I always did my research projects on interior design aspects. I was also always in art as well and really enjoyed that. I had two instructors come to my school from England for a year. They told me that, “you of all people should go into something that is very detailed, and you should look into interior design.” That is what really got me to move forward on the path I chose.
CAT: Why did you decide to become an career interior designer?
Gisela: I had a strong influence in high school from my teachers and I also needed to do something that incorporated art, math and science, which are difficult to mix. I went to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for a one day buddy system tour with a friend and I knew I was hooked. At first I wanted to do more of the architectural aspects of design, but soon realized it was too dry for me and moved towards the path of interior design.
CAT: In your experience, what kind of person makes an ideal Interior Designer?
Gisela: They have to have an inquisitive nature. If they are not curious about how things work and don’t have the need or desire to know for themselves, interior design can be difficult. They need to want to know how the world works, not just believe what somebody says. They also should have a want to make places better for people to work in or stay in. They need a realistic outlook.
CAT: How do you think interior design has changed over the last ten years?
Gisela: The big changes have been with the technology advances. When I started in the field everything was manually done and now almost everything is done using technology. Technical advancements have also advanced the work that can be done in the field. The skill sets of students develop more quickly because of technology. Another large change is sustainability initiatives. When I started in some firms they barely knew what sustainability was and I refused to work in a place with no sustainability action plan. I wanted recycling baskets in every room. Now everywhere is practicing sustainability.
CAT: Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey to this point in your life?
Gisela: I started thinking about interior design in grade 7 and started at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology right after high school. I finished high school a half a year early to go to NAIT as quickly as possible. Then, I went to BCIT and ended up teaching there years later. I also went to the University of Manitoba-I love to learn. After finishing my schooling I went to work in Vancouver firms and worked with both residential and commercial clients. I also never said no to any opportunity. I wanted to have the broadest knowledge base I could get, even if it meant not getting paid. I worked for the first EXPO in Vancouver, which was very cool. Everything I did was to gain experience because I have an undying passion for the field of interior design. After that I started my own practice, which went well. Now I am a teacher here!
CAT: Were there any people in your life or career that really made a difference to your career?
Gisela: My high school teacher, Sharon Service, made learning practical and fun. She created my curiosity and intrigue in life. Sherri Donghia was also influential to me through her amazing work and I admire her greatly. I have also worked with Arthur Erickson and Bob Ledingham, who have some of the most amazing work I’ve ever seen, they’re masters.
CAT: Have you worked with any people that could be classed as celebrities or of famous?
Gisela: I would class Arthur Erickson and Bob Ledingham as architectural celebrities for sure. I also had the chance to work for Jimmy Pattison on a yacht he previously owned, which Lady Diana and Prince Charles then used for their trip to the Canadian coast. That was really cool for me.
CAT: What have been the biggest highlights of your career so far?
Gisela: I really appreciate the small things, helping people through design. For example, I once worked with a pregnant lady who was close to her due date. She was having a terrible time at work because she was so tired and uncomfortable. I ordered her a chair that would help her comfort at work without telling her and when she got it the change in her was immediately noticeable. This made me realize that with only a small change you can seriously make a difference.
CAT: What has your experience been like here at the school and what is your favourite experience been here so far?
Gisela: There has been a lot of work involved in being here. I have built a program, which is very hard work, and tried to make the program like the real world. The classroom is less like a classroom and more like a studio. I try to create the classroom in a way that gets the students to experience the industry and show them the reality of what they are going into. This is an ongoing challenge, but definitely a worthwhile one.
The people have absolutely been my favourite part about being here! I love the environment that the students and instructors give. Everyone is great to be around and they make this a wonderful community to be part of.
CAT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Gisela: I have to say also that The Centre for Arts and Technology is a great place to go to school and I’m not just saying that because I work here. The staff and facilities are fantastic and make the experience great. Students constantly get help whenever it is needed from the guys in equipment room or from their teachers. The class sizes are small giving students a great opportunity to get a good relationship with their teachers. This really is a great place to get your education.
CAT: Thanks so much for meeting with us today Gisela!
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