Rabun Lends Illustrative Experience to Interior Design Dictionary

Professor Julie Rabun examines two of more than 1200 original drawings she drew by hand for The Anglicized and Illustrated Dictionary of Interior Design. The drawing on the left represents an Arthur Mackmurdo ebonized carved chair and the one on the right shows architect Frank Gehry’s powerplay chair, created from laminated strips of maple that have been shaped and woven.

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One should be particular when asking Professor Julie Rabun questions about the Renaissance. The coordinator of Carson-Newman’s graphic design emphasis, Rabun can discuss the period in terms of its art and its effects on pretty much everything since, or she might choose to explain the age’s architecture in like detail. And she could support either approach with evidence gathered from having lived in Europe.

Her five year, dual degree undergraduate education at the Rhode Island School of Design garnered bachelor’s degrees in both fine arts and architecture, which she bolstered with two years of study and work in Italy and Slovakia. Other international experience includes an internship with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, travel from Scotland to Egypt and Portugal to Estonia, as well as a half-year of high school in Jordan, which included travel to other countries in the region. She speaks English, says her Italian needs” two or three days in country” for fluency, and “is familiar” with French, Spanish, Slovak and Polish.

The West Hills resident’s remarkable background also includes architectural work, interning with an engineering firm, designing posters, advertising, and cover art for CDs, plus 15 years as a professional ice-skating instructor and judge. She not only understands the Renaissance, she lives it.

The last decade or so has included starting a family with husband Michael Bobo, raising their children Grace and Aaron, connecting deeply with C-N students and developing courses. She has planned and led several Earth Day projects, fulfilled committee assignments, and taught hundreds of students. Another constant is something that 11-year-old Grace has never not known – THE BOOK.

The Anglicized and Illustrated Dictionary of Interior Design is even more impressive than its title, in large part thanks to 1200 black ink-on-paper, original drawings, all of which Rabun produced. From abacus – “The block that forms the uppermost member of the capital of a column” – to ziggurat – “An ancient large Mesopotamian pyramid temple -- Rabun’s hand-drawn images cover architecture, art, design, furniture, as well as items such as kinds of table feet, the detailed parts of a chair, columns and wall moldings.

Her work supports the definitions of two academics, her mother Dr. Josette Rabun, an interior design professor emerita at the University of Tennessee, and Catherine Kendall, of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. She produced approximately 1500 total, but space limited the number used.

Intended as a tool for interior designers, the art professor says she and her collaborators hope the work becomes a go-to resource for professionals, students and amateurs. Beyond standard design elements, the trio included technical terms, including matters related to electrical work, plumbing and engineering.

She accomplished the mammoth tasks a little at a time, spending a few to perhaps 30 minutes on less involved images, and as much as a couple or more hours on others. She also worked on other books during the decade of the dictionary’s development, including work for a series chronicling ghost stories from the Carolinas.

She has worked with the dictionary’s publisher, Pearson Education, to produce an application for mobile devices. “I have learned a lot about developing apps, like buckets – the categories used that include dates, period, furniture types, interior elements, and things like that,” she said.

The intricacies of an Italian Renaissance hall originally sketched on part of a standard sheet of paper might be difficult for a layperson to imagine, but seem to be old hat for the professor. “Well, it’s not a big deal, but I don’t have to think about it.”

The routine approach may account for what seems to be the architectural equivalent of perfect pitch; she does not use a straight edge since “a ruler takes too much time.”

Those who take her classes admit to what could be described as unmitigated awe.

“Watching Julie draw is something that more people need to experience,” asserted Todd Turpin, C-N social media director and former Rabun student. “Her ability to draw a straight line is unbelievable; it seems as though her arm has a biological T-square.”