Since 2018, staff at Student Craft have pushed for greater engagement with contemporary craft and design beyond what is possible in the production environment. College administration has supported staff, apprentices, and student managers in this endeavor by allocating time each year to the creation of a craft object which grows the individual’s skills and feeds their imagination. Makers are encouraged to take risks, experiment, and play. Personal expression is welcome. As these objects are created in the shared spaces of Student Craft’s workshops, each maker is inevitably informed by the other works being made around them. Conversations between makers both celebrate one another’s achievements and seek to address challenges as they arise. Despite their range of experiences, these makers support a collegial, encouraging space where creative expression and technical development are central goals shared by all.
Speculative Craft highlights these makers and their most-recently-produced objects, all of which demonstrate a deepening understanding of their craft and exemplifies what Student Craft values – the joy that comes from truly learning how to create. Whether it be a process, a technique, or working with a particular material, learning how to love something results in something remarkable, for the object and the maker.
Ancestral Altar / A Kind Reminder
Walnut, brass, gold paint
Personal and found ephemera
“...the home altar tradition seeks divine help in initiating, preserving, restoring, and protecting the vitality of all relationships.”
Kay Turner, Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars
A space created to honor loved ones lost and encourage a shift in cultural perceptions around death from one of fear, to one of ceremony and reminder of gratitude for our lives, and the lives that came before us.
Through experiencing the deaths of several people close to me, I began to form a relationship with death. And as death continued to visit over the years, I became increasingly interested in how we honor the lives of loved ones lost. How we honor what they did to make us who we are and honor the ways that they continue to show up in our lives.
So, in the way that every cycle of the sun is a reminder of the gift of life, let this piece be also a connection point with you and all of the people who have come before you, to make your very existence a possibility.
Chip & Dip
Steve Davis Rosenbaum
Director of Craft Education and Outreach
Maiolica and Terra Sigillata on Terracotta
Much of my pottery originates in the basic human joys of eating and cooking with all their overtones: fireside, nourishment, caring, and celebration. My pottery production focuses on making everyday dishes for cooking, dining, and decoration in contemporary homes.
Though my influences are varied, they are rooted in the studio potter and Mingei movements. These influences are the foundation of my philosophy of making. My design and pottery forms are intended to interact with the user through function, form, texture, and color. In using the pottery, one develops a relationship with each pot revealing its true beauty and meaning.
My current work continues my fascination and research of “combination pottery.” Over the past 40 years, I have developed a series of combination pottery based on specific functions and forms. The pottery represents an attempt to reboot ideas through the balance between glaze and clay surface.
Double Covered Jar
Steve Davis Rosenbaum
Director of Craft Education and Outreach
Maiolica and Terra Sigillata on Terracotta
Bricolage Brush Set
Tampico fiber, cherry wood, hemp, indigo dye, marigold dye, walnut dye, hibiscus dye, agate beads, metal seed beads, aluminum wire, sewing thread, epoxy
My vision for this project was to represent my journey in crafts through the incorporation of some of the things I’m most passionate about. I incorporated jewelry and suncatcher-making techniques, broom-making techniques, and my new-found interests in brush-making and woodworking. As these crafts are often not seen in unison, my goal was to create a project that portrays each different technique in a complimentary fashion. It was important to me that the brushes were dyed using natural materials. While the function of the brushes will not fade, the natural dye may lighten over time and represent the well-spent passing of time between this piece and its owner. This project allowed me to unite my passions into a collaborative piece and learn new skills that I cannot wait to keep practicing.
Going Back on my Raisin
Director of Broomcraft
Grape vine, broomcorn, nylon twine
When I was a young child, my father tried his green thumb at growing grapes. After over a decade of trying and not producing a single grape, he gave up and decided to repurpose the vineyard into a chicken coop. This piece of wood is the base to that grape vine. My dad gave it to me knowing I would, as he says, “make something interesting from it.” It sat in the broomshop for at least a year before it “spoke” to me. During the temperature changes of that year it developed the cracks and crevices you see today, which make the piece that much more interesting. So, in making the broom, I tried to mimic the twistiness of the grape vines but also the splits that, from what I can tell, are still opening and closing with each passing day.
Mysteries of the Universe
Director of Weaving
As an adolescent woman, my relationship with my body was impacted greatly by the way it was perceived by other people. The first time I remember my young body being sexualized by an adult, I felt a distinct and shocking loss of identity, control, and power over my beloved vessel. Like a running tear in a piece of cloth, the disconnection between my consciousness and my body felt uncontrollable. This piece investigates the dissociative state through the bars of color present on a TV screen with no signal. The imagery embedded in each bar represents the threads that connected me to my body as a young woman and the joys of girlhood.
The Great Grandchildren of Wee Willie Winkle
Manager, The Woodworking School at Pine Croft
Berea College Class of 2023
Cherry, maple, milk paint
I’ve made a couple of three-inch-tall tiny chairs in the past but they were too small to use actual joinery on. To get a better sense for my chair designs with joinery that mimics that of a life size chair I decided to try a couple half-scale models. Scaled models are often a part of the design process in furniture making to help with decision making for the final product design. It was not until I was near completing these chairs that I was informed of Student Craft’s history of making doll furniture like the Wee Willie Winkle chair. While doll furniture is made to hold the weight of a doll and therefore the simplest joinery is often used to save time, the traditional joinery of my chairs makes them able to support the weight of a person.
Director of Woodcraft
Cherry, milk paint, wool
This dovetailed cabinet on stand is made of figured Pennsylvania cherry. Since having moved from Pennsylvania to Berea, Kentucky, I’ve admired the hand work of my fellow Appalachian artists. This appreciation led me to carve the door panels. Laid out in a book match, the overlapping circles may hypnotize you if you’re not careful. The panels were hand shaped with carving gouges and the painted finish highlights the tool marks of a burgeoning woodcarver. The interior is fitted with four drawers and lined with wool. A catch-all bowl nests in the upper shelf.
Serpent on the Round
Director of Broomcraft
Cedar, honeysuckle vine, broomcorn, nylon twine
This piece of wood came from a broom handle expedition from our very own Berea College Forest. Under the twisted braid is a piece of honeysuckle that grew around the cedar handle. At one point, I considered making two separate brooms from the vine and handle, but I figured that since they grew together, they should stay together. I started by braiding the vine and then reintroduced it to the handle when the broom part was made. The exposed cedar was coated in Danish oil to show off its natural beauty. All in all, it was a fun project that took many turns, but in the end, it developed into one well rounded piece (puns intended).
Perspectives Coffee Table
Associate Vice President of Student Craft, Craft Education and Outreach
Systems and structures surround us in every aspect of our daily lives. These systems often encourage us to respond to problems and questions in repetitively predictable (and conservative) ways and have proven to be tremendous barriers to those forced to the margins of our society.
In a literal sense this table provided an opportunity to find a perspective outside of the standard 90-degree orientations that inform so much furniture and woodworking tool design. More importantly, I hope it serves as a reminder that for those of us privileged enough to stand near the center of our society, we need to find different perspectives and approaches to everyday situations to move our communities most effectively towards equity.
The walnut used in this table was salvaged from a storm-damaged tree within Berea College’s 9,000-acre sustainably managed forest. The remnant upholstery wool was generously donated to Student Craft by Maharam.
Director of Ceramics
Berea College class of 1990
Glazed mid-ranged porcelain, ash frames
My work focuses on the convergence between life and the functional objects we own. As a person enamored by the beautifully rugged geography of the mountains where I live, I fear the potential for long range environmental destruction through climate change and human overpopulation. I address these concerns in my artwork by using stressed ceramic surfaces and imagery. In recent work I have been using the ceramic tradition of plaster molds, making thick floating slip-cast rectangular tile forms to hang on the wall. On these tiles I’ve used simple layering techniques of cone six glazes and vinyl stencils, sandblasting those glazes to reveal a subsurface that provides sharply delineated linework contrasting with the surface texture. With this work I want to provide a picture plane to hang on the wall with a sense of decorative motion that challenges notions of stability, and serve as a reminder of a world in flux.
Hand-woven jacquard in cotton
Externality - [countable] (economics) a consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other people or things without this being reflected in market prices
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionary
Internalizing Externalities and Solutions within Boundaries are representations of an economic diagram developed by economist Kate Raworth. Internalizing Externalities
depicts the inner social boundaries with a different woven structure that represents the
basic needs of humanity. Solutions within Boundaries zooms out to depict both the
social and planetary boundaries. The interconnectedness of humanity and the environment is expressed through a woven structure. Everything we do affects everything around us. Just acknowledging that we are small threads in a bigger system helps us to see the bigger picture and how we can work and live together in a thriving world.
Solutions within Boundaries
Naturally dyed fabric, overdyed fabric scraps, found handwoven fabric
Ceramic, acrylic paint
I was born in Cherán Michoacán, Mexico. When I was 7, my family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Douglasville, Georgia. After graduating from Douglas County High School, I attended Berea College, majoring in studio art with a concentration in oil painting.
Over the past few years I have been trying to learn more about my culture and how to connect to it. These Devil Masks are something I remember vividly from my childhood. They are used in pastorelas (nativity plays) to portray Satan and his legion of demons in their plot to kidnap baby Jesus. They are traditionally hand-carved out of wood in Tocuaro, Michoacán. My goal with these masks was to participate in this crafting tradition and, through making them, connect myself to my people. This work is part of my process of healing my own cultural identity as someone who grew up away from my Mexican culture.
Berea College Class of 2019
Walnut and Sassafras
The Mountain Dulcimer is a traditional Appalachian instrument and this one incorporates the symbol of a fish to represent the Christian faith and the role it plays in service to others.
With one step to go, the stringing of the Dulcimer will make sweet music. However, I made the choice to not string it because there are few people who I have met outside of the Appalachian region who play the dulcimer. They instead hang them on the wall as a décor piece. This sparked an idea, why should I string it if it will not be used for its intended purpose? I take that thought with me and encourage you to do the same. Are we prepared to be used at our maximum potential or do we let ourselves and others hang unstrung on the wall?
Slip cast Ceramic
This work was inspired by my own journey as a young adult who is breaking from the patterns of my family and learning to exist on my own. The larger portion is mapped out almost like a quilt pattern, symbolizing generational bonds. Smaller sections of links, some taken directly from the main piece, can be understood as being taken away or added to the larger work. These smaller links represent the aspects of myself that I’ve come to remove from generational bonds. A lot of myself is reflected in this piece, from the inspiration behind it to the process of making it. Slip-casting ceramics is a methodical and detail-oriented procedure. I apply these methods to many aspects of my life which is why I chose this method of creation.
Student Manager - Weaving
Berea College class of 2023
Cotton, wool, linen
My dog’s name is Strawberry. She is my sweet little baby. This piece is inspired by her. My quilt embodies a sense of childishness with its cluttered design. I mixed youthful aesthetics with older quilting design traditions so it feels like something a grandmother would make with their grandchild. From the start I knew I wanted a border, strawberry appliques, and a certain color pallet. The quilting technique called improv quilting allowed me to design the finer details along the way. The stitches that hold the top, batting and backing together were chosen from preset patterns in the studio’s long arm quilting machine. I chose designs that mimic how I would have drawn as a child. The quilt represents the love I have for my dog and how much she means to me. Overall, it is an exploration of childhood.
Brianna Ward, Layne Piatt, Dawn Yoo
Included in this broom wall is work by three Broomcraft students, each bringing their own unique characteristics to broom making. Brianna is interested in experimenting with form and color using traditional broom making techniques to make new and unique variations. Layne’s approach is mathematical in nature. He plans out intricate patterns and uses weaving techniques to build that design onto the broom. Dawn is a skilled painter and has been using this skill to adorn broomsticks with paintings of the local flora of Kentucky, including paw-paws and natural dye plants that are used in the dyeing of broomcorn. After her handles are painted and lacquered a custom broomcorn composition is created for each individual broom.
The Bird Eated the Worm
Berea College Class of 2021
Berea College Class of 2023
Chenille, handwoven cloth, felt, glue, wire, papier-mâché, paper clay, pastel, acrylic paint
Silliness and seriousness exist in every situation, in different amounts. They are not opposites, nor mutually exclusive, nor is one better than the other. Absurdity is as necessary to life as breathing, and I hope everyone, one day, finds both just as easy.
“1. If you are not silly, it is vital you become silly.
2. If you are silly, you must stay silly.
3. If you used to be silly but have stopped, you must make all efforts to return to silliness.”
- Tumblr user foone
Grab a Broom (With Me)
Director of Apprenticeships
Ebonized and natural ash wood, broomcorn, tinned broom wire, epoxy,
Brooms are always present and rarely seen. To many, brooms have an interchangeable quality that allows them to hide in plain sight. Their classic, time-tested, and effective form enforces a broom’s utility and, in doing so, relegates them as simple, cheap tools for moving dirt. Just because something touches dirt doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated.
By tweaking forms and using traditional techniques where they would not normally be used, I have introduced asymmetry, negative space, and angular geometry where the broom would normally be smooth, dense, and even. Biomimicry is integrated as well, as it is in many traditional broom forms such as hawk tails and turkey wings, in this case from insects. The carved details on the broom handle are loosely based on patterns found on insect eggs and long, sharply bent angles of the broomcorn recall spider legs. The stand serves as a familial unifier, allowing the objects to hold hands.