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Applied Arts Covers the Full Spectrum

Arts department presents arts & crafts workshops out of the classroom

By STEPHANIE GALL, ’14
The Wellesley News
February 16, 2011

The most diverse collection of experimental artwork in America can be found upon the quintessential family fridge. Finger-painted watercolors, alphabet magnet sculptures, a photo gallery of Junior’s science expo—it’s all there on the conveniently magnetic surface. Such a proud display of glitter and glue rarely carries on into college life and its tiny cube fridges, but a dorm room can always use some handmade color. The ongoing Applied Arts Series offered on Saturdays provides an opportunity for the Wellesley community to learn a wide variety of crafts and experiment artistically to make more mature versions of the old refrigerator art.

The theme of each event changes from week to week. Recent mediums included papermaking, pinhole cameras, bead weaving and calligraphy. “You can easily make time for it and it’s free,” said Alina Zalucki ’13, who has attended numerous workshops and keeps a list of them on her calendar. The program is available to Wellesley alumni, faculty and staff in addition to current students.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

“It’s about creating community and that’s really essential,” said Professor Clara Lieu, program coordinator of the Applied Arts Series. “A big part of [the series] is spreading the art department so that it permeates the other areas.”

The classes provide a chance for participants to try a new art form not often found in a traditional classroom setting. When planning the programs, Lieu focuses on subjects that aren’t offered in Wellesley courses and brings in instructors from all around the Boston area to teach. These workshops also provide those who can’t fit studio art classes into their schedules with a chance to use the art department’s resources. And unlike the actual classes, none of the Applied Arts projects are ever graded.

“They’re a great way to de-stress,” Zalucki said. It’s wonderful to “get your feet wet and do something new.”

Individuality and exploration are both highly encouraged in the workshops. The instructors show the basics of the craft and answer questions, but participants interpret the project in any way they wish. “It’s wonderful to be there and absorb new things and not have the pressure to finish something or to have it look good,” Lieu said. The creative process is stress-free and purely for enjoyment.

On Feb. 12, tucked back in the Book Arts lab, an assemblage of women gathered around to watch a brief demonstration of letter-pressing. The workshop, led by Book Arts Program Director Katherine Ruffin, was titled “Valentine’s Day Letter Presses” and, in keeping with the Valentine’s Day spirit, morsels of Valentine’s Day candy were arranged on a long tabletop. The instructional portion of the session didn’t last long, and soon everyone was milling about the room attending to their own projects. The women helped each other work the Vandercook Print Press and picked out wood and metal type for their own messages.

Ruffin said she loves how people take risks. “They sign up for things they’ve never done before and explore.” Even experienced artists find new ways to challenge themselves. Lieu rarely has time to try something new just for the sake of experiment, so the classes bring her a feeling of refreshment.

Robot Sculpture Workshop

In the next workshop, participants will create their own textiles. The workshop can be completed as part one of a two part series called “Bags and Purses” which allows students, if they wish, to use the fabrics made from the fabric-making workshop for their bag or purse.

“If you do something in one of these workshops,” Zalucki pointed out, “you can put it on your desk or on your wall and then you can look at it and be proud of what you did.”

She glanced around her room as she said this, pointing out examples of the projects she has made. The Applied Arts series provides a broad range of topics to interested, sophisticated artists already in the studio five days a week and to those still finger-painting their way onto the fridge.

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