years end and start again

Shiny name on things: it

As you can see, i finally received my thesis document, bound and published, since my last posting. I still haven’t read it yet. I feel like I should though. It’s getting far enough out that I’m not wrapped up in it any more. That means I can pass sober judgement on it. I am honestly afraid to read it and realize how dumb it sounds. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because next semester, starting 5 days from now, I will be teaching a thesis writing class called “Senior Synthesis”. The BFA thesis is obviously different, but I’ve been thinking about how glad I really am that we had to produce this document. A lot of graduate programs don’t have such an involved thesis. On the one hand, I’m excited to help students put into words, what they are doing in the studio and researching at home. On the other, I’m terrified by the fact that there is an epidemic of poor writing skills and the ability to formulate a coherent sentence is rare. Even still, it seems as though MECA students are required to explain themselves to a degree that a lot of students are not. I think this requirement serves as both a final academic lesson, and a cathartic close to their undergraduate studies.

Speaking of endings, the end of this past semester has come and gone of course, and just like that, it’s time for a new one. I think this is a good opportunity to reflect on my first semester as a full time teacher. This whole move and change seemed to happen so suddenly, and then the semester had begun, and midterm grades were due, and final crits were happening, and now here is spring semester. Honestly, the transition seems to have happened relatively smoothly considering the circumstances. One thing leads into the next I suppose. It is not a lie: teaching can in fact be rewarding… and frustrating… and enraging… and really fun. I’m finding, just like in graduate school, that I am at my best when I have a very full plate, and I’m doing my best to keep it that way.

We are hosting this year’s Furniture Society Conference in June which is a lot of work, but it is really fun putting together the programming and event stuff with the host committee members. We got to plan this show at the Portland Public Library, which should be really cool. The idea is that people propose collaborative projects with a person or people at varying career points. I am looking forward to the work that comes in for this.

This of course brings me to the sense of dread that is hanging over everything for me right now. OK, maybe that is a little dramatic. The problem is, being around all this art, and involved in show preparations and planning is making me feel like I need to be working. This is a problem because I am having trouble starting a project right now. Graduate school built and built to this crescendo of making and writing and discussing, and now, on the other side of that experience, I am finding it difficult to take the first forward step. It is strange to think that, after all that, I could literally make whatever I want. I know that is a good thing, but the first step is the hardest. What do I keep exploring and what do I abandon. For example, I probably need to stop building work that takes several truckloads just to move one piece. Also, do I want to make work that people can buy? that might be nice. School affords you the time and space to create for the sake of exploration, but it also narrows your focus in order to develop a coherent body or work in a relatively short period of time. It is both liberating and paralyzing to think that now I could keep doing what I was, or start building loveseats.

I’m going to use the mention of furniture to veer away from this rambling monologue and talk about The beginning furniture class I taught this Fall semester. here are some shots form our critique…

Rob

Rob

Rob

Liz

Liz

Liz

Will

Rangely

Rangely

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Nick

Nick

Amalia

one of Amalia

Devin

Devin

Jake

Jake

jake

so there you have it: the fruits of my first beginning furniture class as a college professor. A really good bunch of first tables. A couple of these students had worked with wood on some level before, but none on the fine furniture scale or degree. we had a great crit with good feedback and several of these students are coming back for more next semester. that’s what I like to see. This was a great class. I haven’t yet worked through the pictures form the Major’s studio crit. that will have to be for another post. I am going to make an effort to post more… you know, in the new year… so maybe next time.

Until then, here are these…

you know what to do with that loiter.

New year

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “years end and start again

  1. it only seemed right to call you out! nice tables professor. hope you guys are doing well and enjoying the snow!!

    • adamjohnmanley

      Thanks. Good catch. How’s the thesis treating you?

      Adam John Manley

      Assistant professor, Furniture Design and Woodworking

      Maine College of Art

      amanley@meca.edu adamjohnmanley.com adamjohnmanley.wordpress.com

  2. Jim O'Keefe

    Were the students all given the same project criteria? Was it simply “Build a table.”? I don’t think you can keep doing what you were doing because you don’t have that built-in audience anymore. You’re in a new environment and you have to do work that responds to that. Previously you had to respond to the requirements of the program you were in and that’s gone now. So who is your audience now? And who is your professional community? You might do well to reach out to others in your situation who are teaching and trying to stay creative and see what they have to say. From my perspective I wouldn’t try to establish your next artistic direction at this point. I would just do some playful things, small in scale, to establish an inertia of personal work within your schedule, if that makes any sense.

    • adamjohnmanley

      Jim,
      I know I know, I have to keep telling myself that. I am actually allowed to do whatever I want. There is this little voice that tells me that I’m still proving myself to the same ends, but of course I’m done with that. I really just need the time and headspace to move forward. thanks for the encouragement.
      The assignment was to make a solid wood table including at least one outside material or found object. Hence the Lego, bonsai, leather, books (a particularly strong example) and print materials. They were pretty strong for first wood projects. They had an entire semester, but they are all very busy students, many with different majors already, so it is a good scale assignment.

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