Tuesday, September 17, 2013


This week, my sabbatical officially starts. I am not teaching at YVCC this quarter, but instead am working in my home studio, exploring a relatively new direction with my work (sorry, if you've been reading a while it may not seem all that new), and doing some writing. I have been meaning, for some time, to post about what my aims are for my sabbatical. My official sabbatical proposal was 5 pages long, and I don't expect anyone wants to read all of that, so I have here included an edited version of the proposal. The timeline has changed a little since my first proposal, so I cut out the specifics, but my goals are pretty much the same as they were meant to be.

summer "sabbatical" work

Sabbatical Proposal
I have three objectives for my sabbatical time. I plan to extend my studio practice, developing a body of work that addresses issues of media integration and technological or man-made support of biological forms. I plan to create this body of work to show as a group in an installation setting both in a traditional art gallery and in a less traditional gallery setting.  I plan to use some of this time to write and develop an article for publication that discusses my integration of technology and mechanics into my sculpture and art making processes.

This past summer I was invited to participate in something called the SRAM pART project. This project was a fundraiser for world bicycle relief. Artists were given a box of bicycle parts and were asked to incorporate the bike parts into their artworks. The works were then auctioned as a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief. The bike parts project came at a fitting time for me as I had already determined that I wanted to spend my summer studio time concentrating on the problem of incorporating different media into my work. I had been easing into this incorporation for some time and the impetus reaches back to my graduate experience and was urged along by questions from my students.

SRAM pART Project 2012: "SRAM Supported Botany"

Students often ask me about incorporating other media into their work. Ceramics students are generally interested in what happens to metal or glass when it is included in a piece during firing. Since glaze includes glass-forming silica, students make the assumption that glass can be used in clay, but shrinkage and fit prevent regular glass from adhering permanently and safely to raw clay alone. Students also ask regularly about planning for and adding non-ceramic elements into ceramic forms after firing. Clay shrinks during firing so measurements need to be adjusted to incorporate unfired elements such as handles, attachments and inclusions that will be added later. I am able to help them understand shrinkage rates, but I have more limited experience including less regular elements after firing.
This past summer I was spent some time test firing non-ceramic elements to determine shrinkage and fit, but I was not able to experiment with firing non-ceramic elements as intentional inclusions in ceramic structures. Through the SRAM pART project, I was able to experiment more extensively with non-ceramic inclusions added after firing. I executed three bike part pieces, one of which I donated to the project, the other two I kept. 

I have an exhibition lined up for January 2014 at the Esvelt Gallery at Columbia Basin Community College. This venue is an unconventional gallery space that will be an interesting and challenging space to utilize. However, I would like to develop this show for installation in a more accessible space with a larger audience. I would like to spend some of my sabbatical time finding and arranging for a show in such a space. My plans at this time are for the exhibition to be family friendly, encouraging visitors to interact with the work directly.

"SRAM Gears"

I also plan to write about my work during this sabbatical experience. I feel that the SRAM pART project in general and my mixed media work in particular is interesting and worth expanding on in a more formal venue. I have been keeping a blog about my studio practice, my teaching and my thoughts on both. I believe it is time to expand my writing into a more professional and accessible venue.

The writing process, writing about one’s own work and one’s own process, is something I try to encourage in my highest level students. I have required my independent students to blog about their work, write artist statements and discuss their work verbally. I always encourage critique discussions for all my clay and design students because they discover something about their work by putting their visual ideas into words and presenting them.

I write about my work and my process on my blog and encourage students to use the blog as a supplemental resource. I discover new ideas about my work and my approach by writing and I think it is healthy for their artistic and intellectual development for students to see me do this and try similar approaches in their own work.

The next step is for students to see their instructor write a more formal account of a more formal process. I still have students tell me about seeing my Faculty Lecture because it is a new way for students to see and learn from their instructors. 

"Big SRAM"

The entire project, from the conception and execution of the work to the written account of the process and ideas will provide students and the campus at large with a view of art as problem-solving. I believe that art which tackles technical and engineering problems beyond the standard throwing and forming, and artistic and conceptual problems beyond the pretty and functional, gives students a new way to think about what art can be.

I have long viewed art as a framework and grounding for exploring information from other disciplines. I understood chemistry better when I applied it to glaze formulation and testing. I see my students go through the same cognitive process when they recognize and explain the glaze recipe they are testing in chemical terms from another class.

I try to give my students a grounding in physics as they learn about ceramic shrinkage rates and the firing process. I see them return to me with information from their math and geology classes. The technical aims of this project are further explorations of those interdisciplinary connections that I can then share with my students to enhance their art and academic experience.

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