With the recent wildfires that have affected the Arrowmont School of Art and Craft campus and the larger community of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we wanted to share some thoughts and memories of just how special Arrowmont is to all of us here at Objective Clay. To help Arrowmont recover, Please follow this link and support their rebuild effort.
An experience at Arrowmont that stands out for me is the unique creative opportunity provided by the Surface Forum – I had a chance to attend back in January of 2015. As a full time ceramic artist, it’s often hard to carve out space for experiment and play. But for those ten days, I was surrounded by peers and mentors all doing just that. Beyond the personal exploration, there were some lovely collaborations that evolved during our time in the studio together – one I particularly enjoyed was with David Kring. The pairing of my lighter imagery with his darker figures was fun, humorous, and eye opening. Creative opportunities like those provided by the Surface Forum don’t come along very often. I’m incredibly grateful to Arrowmont for their deep commitment to a nurturing space where people (at all stages!) can continue to develop and refine their craft.
When I learned of the fire that was threatening the Arrowmont Campus, I couldn’t help reflect about the time I spent there and how if the campus was lost how many wonderful future experiences for the ceramic and arts community would be lost. It is sometimes impossible to notice the moments that upon reflection will be significant in one’s life. I can remember more than once in my times at Arrowmont over the last 5 years, thinking “Wow! This is a moment to remember.” Within our community there are not many times we can come together creatively. For me Arrowmont has been a place to teach people, mentor folks up and coming and find creative connections that have been unique to my time at Arrowmont. I count myself so blessed to have met so many amazingly creative people at Arrowmont that have become confidants, advisors and the best of friends.
Arrowmont is profoundly important to the history and future of craft education in America. My love and appreciation for the place, the people, and the creative space that Arrowmont provides runs deep. I feel profoundly connected to the community and part of something much bigger than myself. Arrowmont helped shape the artist I am today, and by supporting the school you can give others that same opportunity.
A. Blair Clemo
Arrowmont has had such a strong impact for me as an artist and an educator because it engages the craft community is so many ways.
Arrowmont connects us through craft. My first experience there connected me to an amazing group of potters through the Utilitarian Clay Conference VI. We went on to form this collective, Objective Clay, and my peers here have become some of the most important voices to me in the field the last few years.
Arrowmont provides a platform to share new ideas. In 2015, my colleague Jason Hackett and I installed a two-person exhibition in the Wolpert Gallery. The conversations leading up to that show were some of the most critical and challenging I have had since graduate school. This is in part due to the type of place Arrowmont is; a place to think deeply about craft and our individual connection to it, a place to both honor and challenge the history of making by hand.
Arrowmont enriches my experience as an educator. I taught a one-week intensive in 2014 and was struck by how quickly my class came together to help educate eachother. I had a broad range of students, from a full-time tenured clay professor to a fiber artist who had never touched clay before. Engaging with such a broad range of experience and concerns really stretched my thinking as an educator, and the community that sprung from student helping eachother along was really inspirational. I took a serious lesson from that and always try to encourage a classroom where everyone works together, to push eachother forward.
I have had the great fortune to visit the Arrowmont campus numerous times. One of my top stays came this past summer when I taught a one week workshop (August 7-13). My class was firing on all cylinders. They were an energetic bunch, eager to learn and push themselves into unchartered territory. They were openly exchanging ideas with each other from day one. This, I firmly believe is one of the most important attributes of a successful class, when the students learn as much from each other as from the instructor. After all, it's all about the group dynamic. I didn't have any traditional students in my class except for my assistant. Most were established potters that were seeking change. Some were teachers, one was a budding potter with a lot of talent and ambition. They were all gems.
I have taught in a variety of settings and am the most comfortable exchanging ideas at places like Arrowmont. The speed and the intensity of a one or two week course is unparalleled in nourishing the creative spirit. Furthermore, Arrowmont's campus with its numerous communal spaces encourages meaningful conversations and builds lasting friendships. I had never spent much time in Hughes Hall until this summer. Every day at 5 o'clock, my class hosted "happy hour" on the porch. It was a way for us to decompress from the studio before heading to dinner. To me, this was an essential part of our exceptional group dynamic. Being outside the classroom environment in a casual setting helped us grow closer. I will remember my time with my August 2016 students fondly and look forward to the new and improved version of Hughes Hall.
Please join us in helping Arrowmont rebuild. It is a vital part of our global arts and crafts community.