As an artist from rural Appalachia, I take the lessons I’ve learned from socioeconomic hardship as an opportunity to explore innovation in materials and embrace uncertainty. The reuse of unconventional materials dictates the process used and the narrative that is told. I witnessed members of my rural community salvage discarded objects when an item needed repaired or mended. Rather than being purchased new, an item would be repurposed out of necessity and thrift. By allowing the object to dictate my way of making I am continually exploring a variety of sculpture processes such as welding, soldering, mold making, sewing, and woodworking depending on the project. I choose to adapt to the object and highlight its readymade quality rather than force it into a new form.
As an educator, this way of making allows me to share nontraditional materials and how they can be used in standard sculpting practices. While my personal affinity is towards found objects, I challenge my students to think sustainably to encourage social awareness on current issues and to create a positive environmental impact. This is important to me because it allows there to be a conversation about the inherent value or lack of value that a found object might have, while still teaching traditional techniques. Thus, opening the door for students to generate conversations about classism, perception, bias, sustainability, and craft. These conversations are key to my classroom and artistic practice. My goal is for my students to feel equally empowered by how they differ from their peers and learn how they can use these differences to generate a dialogue to connect with others. Personally, I have found empowerment by embracing my Appalachian identity and the stigma attributed to that region which is why I encourage my students to do the same.
The ability to work with one’s hands is a skill I want my students to feel confident in after my class. Growing up on a farm this has always been second nature to me. I have quickly realized that this is not the same for everyone. I have noticed how empowered students feel after using a power tool correctly for the first time, casting their first object, or connecting their first weld. I want that confidence to remain after they leave my classroom. Though these skills were often taught where I was raised, it was the innovative ways that the skills were used that highlighted the determination and originality of the individual. I aim to educate my students to look past limitations, so that they can see opportunity within their own personal struggles and embrace their power as an artist.
How to use a rivet gun
Part 1 of the Waste Mold process
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