This book was created by students in the winter 2021 course, HON211: The Politics and Practice of Making: Art as a Tool for Creating Change, taught by Teaching Professor Timea Tihanyi, School of Art + Art History + Design. This class, as all Honors courses at the University of Washington, offers an interdisciplinary approach to the course topic through research, practice, and discourse.

Twenty students from a wide variety of majors, including the sciences, humanities, health and medicine, as well as engineering, architecture, and design comprised our vibrant and engaged learning community. We started the quarter by imaginary visits to two important art schools, the German Bauhaus (1919-1933) and the Black Mountain College, located near Asheville, North Carolina (1933-1957). The students co-created participatory collaborative exercises based on the experiential learning principles developed by and practiced at these schools.

Throughout the course, we considered craft and art not as nouns, but as verbs, related the practiced maker’s hand to the process aided by technological tools, and focused on the language of the materials, and the personal, cultural, historical narratives that they help to reveal. We contemplated how individual threads hold fabric together and transform that, and how individual narratives coalesce into larger histories that signify and bind together communities.  We strived to explore and understand both the historical past and the innovative present and future by specifically focusing on needlework (sewing, embroidery, and quilts) during the 1920 and ‘30s (women suffrage movement), the 1970s and ‘80s (second-wave feminism and queer rights movements, and the HIV/AIDS crisis), and in the present. We also considered how new technologies, such as parametric design and 3D printing, introduce new paradigms for solving problems, designing, producing, and using objects. Of course, the effect of technology was inescapable for us in our remote-learning Zoom classroom too, as it was for billions around the world during this global pandemic.

We made two projects. One, using needlework techniques and textile processes to tell a personal story of Waiting, and a second one, using Computer Aided Design (CAD) to create a Time Capsule which would be opened one hundred years from now. Throughout the quarter, the students researched a Bauhaus or Black Mountain College artist they had picked with the goal of reflecting on the artist’s work, biography, creative process, and ideas about making by drawing parallels to those of their own.

In the following chapters, the students present their reflections. Individually, the essays and letters addressed to each historical artist are full of valuable information and great insights. Collectively, they are also a thoughtful and honest document of the moment: us, wrestling with the realignment of past, present, and future of why and how to make, how to find freedom within tradition, and how to reimagine a more conscientious making practice for ourselves and a more meaningful life for our objects.

 

Land Acknowledgment

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations. As students and faculty, we also recognize the need to express our gratitude to past, present, and future generations of Indigenous peoples for their ongoing stewardship of the land and waters.

 

Many thanks to UW Open Education librarian Lauren Ray for providing the class with guidance on the use of Pressbooks, and to Fine and Performing Arts librarian Madison Sullivan for the excellent research resources.

March 17, 2021

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Make Work Use Art by Timea Tihanyi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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