I teach from a craft perspective, emphasizing material and object-based exploration. This approach allows students to engage with craft objects as objets-d'art challenging conventions and garnering professional recognition, functional commodities, or somewhere in between. It is critical to a sustainable practice that students are trained for success in both kinds of work. Though I do not prioritize a specific path, I teach students to hold themselves to a high standard in all approaches to metalwork, both traditional and contemporary; practical and artistic.
In my curriculum foundational content stresses technical and quantifiable criteria, which nurtures the student's comfort with process, equipment, and materials. Later projects challenge students to refine their technique, but emphasize design and concept development. Advanced students propose their own assignments to explore their personal interests and goals. While I have specific objectives for each project, I tailor them to the needs of the class and individuals. This flexible approach keeps students of disparate skill levels and interests engaged, and is a key element of my teaching strategy. Group and personal critiques are regularly conducted to build student's ability to formally analyze, discuss, and provide feedback to their peers. All students are urged to explore beyond their first idea, and push beyond their comfort level.
The fundamental purpose of a classroom is as a workspace with equipment, but it must also be a refuge from the quotidian where students can focus on their growth as makers, and a supportive environment where it is safe to take the risks that are so critical to innovation. It is where the students learn about material, but also where they discover an individual approach as a maker, and overcome their circumstances to manifest the work they are driven to produce. As an educator, establishing this environment is a starting point. But it is not enough to meet the student's immediate needs of developing technical ability, design sensibilities and a critical, and offering the space to experiment and grow. The classroom experience must also prepare the students for the unknown future. My goal is to foster adaptability to an ever-changing environment, to challenge students with new ideas, emphasize creative problem-solving skills, and provide the underpinnings for a lifetime of professional growth. It is important to give students technical instruction, but what will sustain them through their career is learning to ask questions that a teacher cannot answer for them.
My own metalsmithing practice is crucial to my teaching. I produce different lines of work intended for gallery exhibitions, private commissions, and limited production work, as well as regularly offering workshops at craft institutions. Putting my work and myself in front of a fresh audience in various arenas keeps my practice relevant, deepens my understanding of metalwork, and sets an important example for students.