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The Making of Our Cover

UNLV alumna blings out a commemorative graduation cap for the cover of UNLV Magazine.

People  |  Nov 29, 2017  |  By Cate Weeks
Editor's Note: 

For UNLV Magazine’s fall issue, we needed a special cover to celebrate our 60th anniversary. We also happened to have a story on professor Sheila Bock's research on the trend of decorated graduation caps. So we turned to one of our own — artist Tara Eck — for help creating a cover that captured both.

Tara Eck’s foray into fashion design was a fluke. In 2013, she’d picked up a bland pair of Toms at a warehouse sale, took out her Sharpies, and turned the sneakers into her canvas. 

For a three-day theme cruise with the band 311, she did a special black-light reactive pair for her husband. Her social media posts led to requests for custom designs, and she soon launched Hipster Gypsy Designs through Facebook and Instagram.

But creating the designs with her detailed stipple work and crystals can take up to a week. And as a Clark County School District teacher at the time, she could only kick out a half dozen pairs a week.

“As an art teacher, it’s hard to find the energy to create for yourself because you’re focused on helping kids find their own passions,” she said. She stopped taking orders until this fall, when her husband’s job relocated the couple to Minnesota. She’s now put her 13-year teaching career on hold to build up Hipster Gypsy along with clientele as a LulaRoe stylist.

We spotted Eck’s work with crystals on a custom graduation cap she created in 2016, when one of her former high school students, Molly Hamby, graduated with her master’s degree in social work from UNLV.

“It was pretty special to have a student come back and ask me to be part of her graduation that way — to know I made a difference to her,” she said. “As a teacher, that means everything to us. But then to have my own university ask — that made me proud as an artist.”