PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
And now introductions to my host, the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, specifically the Department of Fine Arts and Design, even more specifically, the Traditional Stonework and Jewelry Department.
I know, it is quite a mouthful.
The University is a split campus, spread out over several locations in Imatra and Lappeenranta, a town about 30 km southeast of Imatra. The two month residency that I had the summer of 2011 was in Lappeenranta at the Galerie Rantapaja studios. It was one of the satellite work spaces of the Jewelry Department, that is, unfortunately, no longer in operation. Within the city of Imatra, the Department of Fine Arts and Design has two campuses, one houses the sculpture facilities and is located just behind Kartano, where I have been staying. I don't know if it is historically related to Kartano's past as a well-off farmer's manor house, but it is fondly referred to as the Cow Barn. You can see why...I spend most of my time on the other campus where the Jewelry Department is housed, closer to the city center. It is in a building that used to be a high school and has a formal, stately beauty to the facade. It feels like it might have a longer history, I think, someone mentioned that it might have once been a hospital. Right next door is a school for younger children so sometimes you walk outside into a sea of brightly colored giggling children. It can be quite a shock! Inside, it is your typical art school, with abandoned sculptures and drawings lining the hallways and endless doors into classrooms, computer rooms, offices, tool rooms and storage. The drawing classes are held in a large room that feels like an old dining hall with a beautiful floral motif painted around the room. The class is working on a project that starts with a drawing from a skeleton, then from plaster sculptures of musculature, then a live model, which is a project I never did in school and sounds like a challenge. The skeletons and musculature pieces are beautiful and I had to include a picture of them. I only took one life drawing class in school and we always worked from nude models, so I haven't seen these plaster forms before.
Naturally, the high point of the school is the Metalsmithing Studio, at least for a traveling metalsmith. The studios are excellent! I mentioned before that the official title of the department is, ready, Department of Traditional Stonework and Jewelry and the equipment reflects the importance that stoneworking plays in the history of the area and in the heart of the department. But before we got to the tools, first the layout of the general working space.
The studio space is large, with individual work spaces for 20 students, and these fantastic central benches designed to save space but able to accommodate eight students each. So...add that up. There are enough work spaces for 36 students! It is a great space, with large windows and lots of light, at least when the sun is shining.
I really love these octagonal benches...so logical! It gives the students a place to do dirty work like sawing and soldering (above: Finnish students Maisa and Elisa, with instructor Tarja Tuupanen in the background) and leaves them their nice white desk space to think, layout and do research. (Below: Alix from Belgium-left and Robin from Ireland-right; Tanya from Ireland). Each of the students has very different working methods and materials. I hope to get a chance to speak to each of them in the next week to give you an idea of what they are working on, but the material variety is impressive: rubber bands, granite, doll parts, plaster, hematite, plastic. The equipment, as I mentioned, is important to the students ability to experiment with materials not typical, at least historically, utilized by the jewelry field. One machine room is full of grinding wheels, dual spindle carving machines, drills, with drawers full of gorgeous diamond bits, that are capable of working with everything from granite to glass to limestone to porcelain. (Below: Finnish student Lulu)There is another room for cutting all materials: wood, glass, stones of all kinds, metal. There many different pieces of equipment but this one is the most impressive...check out the huge piece of granite that this student is able to work with! (Below: Japanese student Yoriko)To keep everyone moving during the long hours of studio time, there is the necessary kitchen area that comes fully equipped with an espresso machine. I definitely didn't have one of those in school. Next to the kitchen is the conference area, where I will be giving an artist lecture on Monday Oct 22. Which, of course you should all come to hear! I've begun interviewing students and hope to get a chance to talk to each of them before the symposium begins. If you have specific questions you are curious about, please let me know. There is an interesting array of international students here, as you can see from the photos today, so there should be a variety of perspectives on the field of contemporary jewelry. The one question I will be sure to ask is what brought them to study in Finland. Obviously, the studio is amazing but I have a feeling that there is more to it than that.
It would be great to hear you interview the students, learn about their backgrounds and what brought them to Finland. Particularly WHY they are there, what they want to accomplish.
If at all possible, please include an image or two of their work as well. Thanks a million!!
Love your blog!