I believe creativity can be taught. When I teach 3D Design, I not only introduce students to important formal concepts, but also encourage the growth of their creative problem solving. For example, I introduce them to lateral thinking using games and exercises developed by Edward de Bono. These activities help them see that creative problem solving skills can be improved with practice, just like drawing skills.
If I had to name one guiding principal in my pedagogy, it would be this: Hospitality is essential to classroom learning. Educationalist and social scientist, Parker Palmer, writes about “the courage to teach.” In his book of the same title, he describes how important it is for teachers to create an atmosphere of “hospitality to ideas”. In my experience, when this is present, students become more receptive to taking risks in their work, developing both their problem solving and hand skills more quickly. Modeling hospitality is my responsibility. Trust is the path. Acceptance and encouragement guide the way. Understanding this approach and continually trying to implement it has been a major contributing factor to my success as a teacher. Student reviews often include references to my encouragement and enthusiasm for idea. Whether it is 3D, Ceramics, Glass or a liberal arts requirement survey course – I use my natural enthusiasm for learning to direct the way I teach.
My focus on hospitality extends to embracing different cultural backgrounds. I try to be respectful and tolerant of different lifestyles, in humility and openness, seeing variety as something to be celebrated and a natural characteristic of life.
From my own experiences as a young artist and designer in Europe and the USA, I learned that interactions with experienced professionals, teachers and practitioners are priceless. Consequently, I designed the glass program at Anderson to include a required professional semester internship. My students have benefited greatly from working with dozens of well-known artists, studios, museums and art centers all over the US and as far away as New Zealand. These experiences often lead to future employment. My network includes several established British ceramic artists whom I studied with. One summer, I was able to arrange for one of my ceramic students to study with Seth Cardew, whose work is known internationally. A few years ago, I arranged an internship for one of my students at the John Michael Kohler Art Center. She returned to work there after her graduation and became lead coordinator for visiting artists.
Students have also learned from working along side me. My professional practice serves my teaching and I involve students whenever I can. I seek out challenging professional projects, which have an educational mission. The Crystal Arch Project, for the city of Anderson, is a good example, where the broader community, (including students) was directly involved in making a monument that celebrated its stories past and present.
I am energized by my classes and by working with others. Teamwork is central to my teaching and my artwork. I have co-developed and co-taught many courses at A.U. and the vast majority of my professional work is the result of creative collaboration. Including others ideas in the development and execution of projects is an essential part of my pedagogy. By valuing others contributions in my teaching and my professional work, I demonstrate the importance of team solutions and model the benefits of sharing ideas.
The broad scope of my professional work is a result of my training and interest in functioning as an artist/craftsperson, (making gallery pieces), as a designer (for hand glass factories) and as a public artist (working on architectural commissions). I see each of these activities as essential elements of my identity.
In contrast to my commercial work, my gallery work draws from my response to nature and a personal dialog with the material, it is often contemplative in content. After the busyness of team meetings and public art projects, I often yearn for this quiet work and the centering of my hands and my heart.
In 1996 I formed Studio 4, a partnership with three AU glass graduates. As a team we designed and built a gallery and studio in downtown Anderson. The project was funded by a $50,000 dollar grant I wrote and secured from the city’s Department of Economic Development. Studio 4 completed two major out door glass sculpture projects, and launched a full range of work for hot glass studio production.
My research and artistic production rely on academic enquiry and practical experimentation. For example, my research for the Aperio series involved x-raying shells at a local hospital. Academic research for studio work has included Taoism, The Tea Ceremony, and a study of the Fibonacci sequence as it relates to naturally occurring form.
I have completed seven public sculpture projects in the last fifteen years. From Helios, a seventeen-foot solid stacked glass sculpture that was built with the help of over a dozen students, to Between Infinite Stars…, a twenty square foot ceiling installation that was developed and installed with a team of 5 former students.
Advocating for Art and Community
My educational mission includes enriching the cultural life of my community.
I have a strong record of advocating the arts within the university and local community. I have promoted the art of glassmaking to communities in Indiana by demonstrating glassmaking and giving public lectures at festivals, museums and art centers. I’ve involved my glass students in these activities as well, hosting weekly glass blowing demonstrations with them in the university studio since 2000.
Since 2012, I have hosted “Clay Fridays” in our department. From 1.00 through 5.00 any AU student can explore working with clay. These have broadened the culture of our department, demonstrated hospitality and have often helped recruit new students.
Over the last 12 months I have spearheaded a departmental proposal for a “Crafts in Community” major. The proposal included the support of city economic development representatives and was presented by our department to curriculum committee for approval. Sadly, due to radical restructuring at AU that includes phasing out all 3D studios, this proposal will not be adopted.
I am an energetic educator who invests his life in students and encourages them to grow as whole persons. I do this by modeling the joy of exploration, invention and hard work. I try to promote self-understanding as well as skills, and lead students towards being well-rounded individuals who are able to research, and write as well as create art. I promote thinking critically and reflectively in all aspects of my classes, and last, but not least, I am focused on being a good example for my students.