Sunday, March 10, 2013

Craft & Classes

Right now, I'm trying to fulfill my love of reading and learning while growing in this craft I have such unbridled passion for.  So, right now I'm living in Boston and taking continuing education night/weekend classes at MassArt, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and the North Bennet Street School. 

Bladesmithing, JD Smith:  This might be the only general bladesmithing class offered at any college, and let me tell you, it teaches you how to make a knife.  My techniques have been revolutionized by the teacher, JD Smith, a technical master and tower of experience.  While his personal style is not what I am interested in making, I am getting an incredible amount from him and this class, emphasizing craft's transcendence of individual into community that I so love.  Especially with MassArt's superior equipment and well-kept facilities, I can proceed with confidence and continue to challenge myself in myriad new ways.  I have quite a lot of standards and ideas I intend to bring back to the Hampshire College shop when I return there.  It's also fantastic to be surrounded with enthusiastic young bladesmiths who want to do very different things than I do art-wise, but who I can connect with over materials and tools.  Likewise, I'm very glad that my skills and confidence have increased such that I see my more lofty conceptual art-sword goals realizing in the near future.  You can see my progress on the album "In Progress" on my Photobucket page, which I've provided a link to, but will be blogging about eventually.

Billet being folded to 350 layers

Above billet in the form of an unfinished project

Folk Art, Folk Craft, and Material Culture, Tim Correll:  I love this class.  We've been talking about what separates folk objects from art objects, specific folk traditions that outline those differences, and spending some objective time on those traditions themselves.  Recently, our readings have been on traditions of whalers' scrimshaw, the use of newspaper as wallpaper in Appalachian mountain houses, and fashions in Puritan gravestone head decorations (death's heads, cherubs, everything in between).  We've also done a little conceptual reading, like an article called "Why We Need Things" by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi.  This is my first art history class, and I'm really enjoying it.  
Puritan mortuary ring - so awesome!
School of the Museum of Fine Arts:
Chasing and Repousse, Linda Kindler-Priest: This class started out a little frustrating but my mind has opened to it.  It's possibly the most meditative and slow-moving of my classes, requiring a great deal of attention to detail, and my growth in it is slow but sure.  I'm beginning to see the vast range of textures and movement that can be achieved with chisels on annealed copper.  The ability to apply them with control is coming slower, but I've been enjoying it in that painful craft way.  My coolest piece so far has been in response to the thematic parameter of "movement"-- I made a miniature landscape of a river moving through a mountainous area.  Hopefully I fully finish it, but there are in-progress pictures of it in the Jewelry and Woodworking album on my Photobucket as well. 

Miniature copper mountain/riverscape exploring texture and movement

North Bennet Street School:
Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking, Sam Chase:  As far as classes introducing new things goes, this might be my favorite class and the one that I have made the most progress in.  It so utterly fulfilling to tune my chisels and hand-plane to perfect sharpness, flat and square, taking care to make sure they don't make a single impression they're not supposed to.  With a well-tuned steel tool, some woods are no match for me.  Others are trickier adversaries.  I can bend it to my will in many ways, but not willingly.  I still must beware of grain direction, tear-out, and cutting myself.  It's safe to say that this class is thrilling; the emotional highs and lows of this new material and working environment is unique.  The school itself is beautiful.  I could not have imagined the many uses of my few tools, and I find myself picking up the skills and mindset quickly.  Again, pictures on the Photobucket!

Lethally sharp 1" wood chisel

The most beautiful 5th floor of the school in Boston's North End

Gratifying noises, smells, and the bone-knowing feeling of a good shaving
 Extra-curricularly, I have been writing a bit of conceptual stuff I'd like to upgrade into essays, such as the nature of swords as symbols as well as objects. Stay tuned for that as it become more refined!

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