She's never been to the circus before. So when Mary Pool was at home last summer, trying to think of design ideas for this year's senior fashion design thesis class, her mom reminded her that she always loved animal crackers as a kid.

She's never been to the circus before. So when Mary Pool was at home last summer, trying to think of design ideas for this year's senior fashion design thesis class, her mom reminded her that she always loved animal crackers as a kid.

Turns out food is a fun and fitting inspiration for fashion.

Pool's garments are full-of-tulle interpretations of circus snacks like popcorn and cotton candy, along with a set of party dresses drawn from the same inspiration.

The popcorn dress' corset was one of her biggest challenges. She did research, but didn't know anyone directly who had experience making them. "After I started doing it, I thought, this is actually pretty fun," Pool said. "It's not as hard as it looks."

She came to CCAD in 2003 knowing she wanted to study art, but not too sure of anything beyond that. She started as an illustration major and then switched to fine arts - a "passion" - before settling on fashion design, which she considered more of a challenge.

"I wanted to learn something that I didn't know how to do, and I did not have sewing skills or anything before I came here," said Pool, who grew up in Bellefontaine.

And after graduating, Pool plans to move to Nashville with a friend she met at CCAD. The two hope to eventually open a boutique to showcase their fashions and other handmade lines. Pool intends to look into costume work once she gets there, she said, "since Nashville is a big plethora of things - with music and movies."

How would you describe your collection? Whimsical, bright and eccentric

What designers do you admire most? Christian Dior, Betsey Johnson and Tim Burton

What's your favorite part of the design process? Sketching and, much later, doing the finishing details

What was the hardest part of this collection? Interpreting the theme

What's your favorite part of a circus? The costumes