Teaching again.

Modular block for printing designed in Autodesk Fusion 360, milled in acetal with brass press-fit threaded inserts and 2-56 machine screws.

I love teaching.  Bearing witness to the failures and successes of students, seeing them work through frustration to something new is exhilarating, and in fact, energizes me to be more present and engaged in my own studio practice.  I generally subscribe to Chuck Close’s philosophy on inspiration:

Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up

That said, I think that being involved in someone else’s learning and growth truly does inspire me.  It drives me to better my own skills, to hone my thoughts and words to be more clear and more present.  I am truly grateful for the gift that this represents.

I am thinking all of these thoughts because for this week my role at Anderson Ranch shifts from being the administrator of the sculpture studio (from the physical facility to the programming, supplies, and budgeting–I do most of that) to teaching a one-week course on the role of prototyping in art-making.  The class is one that I conceived of and am co-teaching with Carter Hopkins.  We are working with students to not only educate them about shop technologies like CNC mills, routers, plasma cutters, 3d printers, and laser cutters but also how to think through designing an object in a smart, efficient manner.  People who know me know that I love technology, I am fascinated by new things because I am insatiably curious about how they work.  In studio art, my experience has been that when artists discover a new technology, it can eclipse their vision and supplant existing technology or processes that may be better suited to their projects.  A great example of this has been watching multiple students at different institutions of higher learning cut rectangular shapes on a CNC router when a table saw sat dormant nearby.  So teaching this class that integrates contemporary rapid prototyping technology with traditional hand and shop tools has been rewarding and reassuring.  I have watched students work through the process of design and iteration, often employing a variety of tools and processes in concert with one another as they discover how to design not for a specific process, but for an end result. Seeing them realize that doing this without the expectation of working in a singular or limited mode can really inform the end product as well as their thinking throughout the process and about the object that comes from these things.  This kind of discovery is nothing short of magic, it has not ceased to hold my attention, and it continues to teach me things about my own studio practice and about myself as a maker.  The dynamic of a classroom environment where students and teachers are responding to one another’s knowledge, experience, and skillsets is electric.  This is a small part of why I believe in the institution of higher education, despite its foibles.  For now I am happy to be as involved as I am in education, and look forward to a time when teaching consumes my life more fully.

 

Modeled and tool-pathed by a student who prior to this class had never modeled in CAD or tool-pathed a CNC machine

 

2 Comments

    • michael

      Thanks Cynthia, that means a lot coming from you. I am working on the draft of an essay/article that will be posted here at some point that traces the lineage of my interest and belief in teaching through my own path in higher education–be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks.

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