Metalsmithing Departmental Philosophy
The starting point for the work within the department is a healthy mistrust of the idea that the creation of certain kinds of artistic objects requires the use of specific materials; and that the choice of materials is prescribed, or determined by tradition and artistic conventions. Of course, a thorough familiarity with established techniques, materials, and the traditions of making is a precondition for responsible artistic work within the field. The program is focused on questioning the meaning and value of such techniques and materials through the process and practice of making, i.e., an exploration of their significance and possibilities within the context of both current artistic trends and movements, and in relation to developments in the wider context of contemporary society.
Offering a wide range of available material and technical options, the studio of each student ideally functions as a research space, a laboratory, in which knowledge and curiosity jointly fuel the search for new possibilities of making, and for ways of expanding the boundaries of the field. Broadly international in outlook and orientation, the department is focused on innovation through tradition, urging students to move beyond their limitations. Through critiques and exchange within the department, as well through dialogue and interaction with international scholars, artists, and craftspeople, students are able to refine and extend their conceptual and technical talents and abilities. The department offers a research environment in which to move beyond traditional skills and techniques. Students are encouraged to explore ways in which they can act as innovators in the fields of art and craft.
Through individual challenge, exploration and development, the program offers each student the opportunity to develop a highly-distinctive approach to craft, a personal language, and a thorough awareness of current practices in the world of art and craft, as well an extensive professional network, and knowledge of the wider context in which to function as an independent artist.
The department is housed in a new 10,000-square- foot metalsmithing studio that includes more than fifteen120-square- foot individual studio spaces for each student that is complete with a bench and storage. A large common work area adjacent to the individual studios accommodates work related to drilling, brazing, enameling, sheet and wire rolling, pressing, vibratory finishing, layout work, wire drawing and shearing. A computer lab adjoins the student studios. It supports both PC and MAC platforms with software that includes AutoCAD, Rhino, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Office. A Nikon camera is also available in the department. A workshop for raising, forging and annealing non-ferrous metals offers an extensive selection of hammer, stake and anvil forms is also available in the department. This workshop also provides ample ventilation flow and a hooded area for hot patina work. An adjoining room for buffing includes two 14-inch polishing lathes and a six-inch polishing machine, all with dust collection. A large machine workshop supports an engine lathe, a vertical milling machine, a vertical bandsaw, and two drill presses. An appropriate selection of tooling for these machines is also included. The casting workshop has centrifugal, vacuum and gravity pour capacity. Investment casting is employed for smaller work while rammed sand is used for castings of up to five pounds. A 1000-square-foot forging and welding workshop includes two forging stations each with an anvil, vise and 25 and 50 pound power forging hammers respectively. A well-ventilated welding area supports TIG, MIG and stick electrode welding. Abrasive tools include a pedestal, disc and belt grinders. Additional support areas include a classroom for critiques and formal discussion as well as a kitchen with space to relax and prepare meals.
The department implements its philosophy by relying upon a multitude of resources and support systems. Students come to the Academy with a high degree of personal motivation, intent upon beginning their studio activity immediately. From this point, an individual course of study is formulated in consultation with the Artist-in-Residence. Students have access to their studios 24-hours-a-day, and the Artist-in-Residence maintains a studio and office adjacent to the student work facilities. The first year of study is generally experimental with students responding to the multiplicity of stimuli provided at the Academy. These stimuli include Cranbrook’s inspiring buildings and grounds, the rich community of students and faculty, and input provided by visiting artists and critics. In the second year, the course of study is less expansive and leads specifically to the formation of a written masters thesis and presentation of work in the Graduate Degree Exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum in the fourth term. Individual instruction and critique by the Artist-in-Residence is available as needed. Group critiques are planned in advance. Students are expected to submit their work for formal departmental critique three times a year. A weekly departmental meeting provides a forum for review and discussion of contemporary and historic metalwork supplemented by appropriate readings. The department organizes field trips to galleries, museums, artists studios, workshops, lectures and symposia related to the field.