July 2022 Student Craft Staff Exhibit at Lexington’s Parachute Factory
In 2021, Berea College made a commitment to provide a special opportunity for Student Craft staff and visiting apprentices to explore their individual artistic interests during the year to nurture their own creativity as skilled artisans. This show, and subsequent digital archive, presents the results of that commitment as well as the work of Justin Skeens, Berea’s director of digital storytelling (and long-time Student Craft photographer), and two of our early apprentices, Chris True and Stella Welsh, who completed their submissions after their time in the Apprenticeship Program.
- Aaron Beale
- Chris Robbins
- Chris True
- Emerson Croft
- Erin Miller
- Hunter Elliott
- Jedidiah Radosevich
- Justin Skeens
- Paskalini Savopoulos-Wilkins
- Philip Wiggs
- Rob Spiece
- Stella Welsh
- Steve Davis-Rosenbaum
- Thea Zwier
- Trey Gehring
Sales of these pieces contributed to supporting the wonderful work of the Parachute Factory and the educational mission of Berea College.
Hall Science Table
Recycled Sugar Maple, Polymerized Linseed Oil and Beeswax, 2022
This table’s design was inspired by several specific intentions, but the earliest was the desire to use 100 percent recycled wood our staff and students salvaged from the Hall Science Building before it was razed to clear the way for the College’s new Technology Building. Legs and stretchers, for example, are laminations of thin maple strips re-sawn from backsplashes and lab tables. The top is made of lab tables sawn apart and rejoined. In this way, I hope to offer support for Berea’s Great Commitment #7: Supportive and Sustainable Living.
The curved form of the base was inspired by working for Chairmaker Brian Boggs, the opportunity that brought me to Berea over 20 years ago. So much of woodworking is informed by cabinet making tradition, even down to the way tools are designed and made. With this project, I wanted to honor that education and share strategies and techniques with our students about how to form consistent curves and plot and execute joinery on curved surfaces outside of the standard 90-degree orientation. These techniques are standard and essential to traditional Appalachian Chairmaking techniques, and Brian’s career and the education I received from him celebrate these techniques and their application in more modernist contemporary furniture. In this way, I hope to offer support for Great Commitment #8: Serving Appalachia.
While relying on traditional technique, I intended a more modernist aesthetic form. Heavily influenced by the Internationalist Designers of the early to mid-20th century (Eero Saarinen in particular), I hoped to convey to our students an alternative style to colonial or revivalist traditions that have trapped so much of craft. In this way, I hope to offer support for Great Commitment #5: The Kinship of All People.
Wood, broomcorn, nylon string, cotton cordage, 2022
As a lifetime scholar of broom making, I am constantly studying other broom makers work, learning new techniques and trying to push the envelope as to what is possible with the often-overlooked everyday broom. This piece is another step in taking brooms out of the closet and making them the works of art they deserve to be. I started with a handle harvested from the Berea College Forest whose artful moss and shape caught my eye. Then I crafted the broom by braiding each of the outside pieces and then quartering the stalks at the tops of those pieces and braiding them again. The result to me looks like a birdcage housing the internal layers of the broom. It was a great exercise in patience and dexterity and during the process I often thought my mind had flown the coop!
Wood, broomcorn, wire, resin, Tampico fiber, acrylic paint, 2022
Some of my earliest memories were spending time with my grandfather in his wood shop, he made church steeples in his spare time. Most of which are still standing today. It was instilled in me at a very young age that working with your hands was one of the most rewarding things you could do.
For the last 20+ years broom making has been my life. What started a hobby became my career so when looking for hobbies to ease my mind at night, I fell in love with miniatures. This piece combines my love of broom making with my love of miniatures while at the same honoring my past with my grandfather and providing a glimpse into my possible future of one day sharing my craft with a grandchild of my own. All the miniature pieces were drawn in CAD, 3D printed, and then painted. The advertisements on the walls are subtle tributes to friends and fellow artists who have inspired me in some way along my career.
(Pieces from L to R), Lidded Cherry Box, “Maple” Hollow Form, Cherry Hollow Form, Capstone
Walnut and maple, 2021
These four pieces are part of a series in my exploration of vessels and hollow forms. Not knowing where I wanted to go with it, I chose to start small. The small, lidded cherry box was the first piece, this allowed me to play with the idea of form as it related to the handle flowing with the rest of the piece. The second form was the “maple” piece with the flared rim. This was the first truly hollow piece in the series. The third piece and the final small piece in the series was the cherry hollow form. The opening in the top of this form was smaller making the hollowing slightly more difficult. The final piece in the series was the lidded “maple” hollow form on a stand. This piece brought all the aspects I was exploring throughout the series together into one “Capstone” piece.
I have placed maple in quotations because that’s what I believe it to be. One of the things about turning is that it allows you to use up scrap or salvaged pieces of material and turn them into wonderful pieces of art. The “maple” was salvaged from the construction site of a building that was being constructed on the campus of Berea College. The cherry was saved from a family members tree and has what I believe to be either carpenter ant holes or worm holes which give it lots of character.
Emerson Ash Croft
Cotton fabric, cotton thread, cotton and polyester quilt batting, 2022
“. . . We can be only by becoming, and we can become only in relating.”
In the introduction to his book Christianity and Other Religions: Problem and Promise, Paul Knitter makes a case for religious pluralism – the peaceful coexistence of multiple, potentially contradicting religions – as an instrument for greater unity and worldly understanding. He uses the metaphor of a telescope looking at the night sky, in which you look out to the expanse of spiritual truth through the lens of your religious perspective. You can see a great deal, but not anywhere near a complete picture. If you want to put a star map together, you must look through other people’s telescopes. To look through other people’s telescopes, you have to engage them in genuine dialogue with the intention of common understanding, not conversion. Through these conversations, we can piece together where our different perspectives fit together and how they relate – this is the relating through which we become, by which we be.
I find value in extending the metaphor beyond religion to advocate for dialogue between different groups about all things. Rather than the night sky representing religious truth, it represents the truth of all that is. In my version of this analogy, the star map we put together is fluid and perpetually incomplete. We are constantly adding, removing, replacing, and rearranging constellations as our perspectives and understandings of others’ perspectives change throughout the course of our lives.
Taking pieces and putting them together to form a cohesive whole is quilting, and so the medium lends itself well to telling this story. This quilt consists of 12 different star blocks – 12 different people’s perspectives on what a star looks like, shared through community and conversation, to form a star map. The quilt is all black for three reasons: First, to obfuscate the star patterns so that you must pay close attention to find the shapes within each block. Second, by removing any color indications that influence how you perceive the stars, everyone is going to see each star differently, form their own connections, and create their own perspective. Third, reducing the visual components of the quilt allows the focus to be on the process of the making, rather than what is made. The gridded quilting disappears at a distance, but up close is reminiscent of the coordinate system used to locate and identify different stars out in space. There are no borders between each block so that different shapes and patterns can be identified where two or more blocks meet. It is bound the same way a cropped photo can be framed. There is no border around the outside of the quilt because this quilt is and can only be an excerpt – there are always more stars to be made, more perspectives to learn, and a more cohesive whole to put together.
Morus alba 1-16
Silk, cotton, 2022
My work explores the intimacy and fragility of the human relationship with cloth and our tenuous understanding of where it comes from and how it arrives to us. As an educator, guiding students toward the realization that cloth encompasses their lives from birth to death helps keep me close to that epiphany. I have worked with textiles in some capacity for all of my professional life, with particular reverence for that which was discarded or no longer deemed useful.
This body of work honors a past self with the gift of time and intuition. When weaving, I primarily rely on the systems and constraints of the medium as boundaries to focus my thoughts and energy in a navigable direction. When quilting, I choose to work with fabrics that have already known a life of some sort before they arrive to me. These quilts were developed using silks that made their way to me through many hands, who’s individual histories have been lost to time and travel. Their pattern, texture, wear, and character inform the design and piecing process. Their diminutive size allowed for an investigative playfulness; the building of a relationship and understanding with each quilt as I worked through its form.
Trochanter Broom with Stand
Hunter L.V. Elliott
Broom: Broomcorn, tin wire, carved Osage orange nail, hemp chord, red oak, glue
Stand: red maple, red oak, Danish oil, walnut pigment, walnut oil, glue, 2022
A main component of my work is allowing material within a piece to be visible. I like to show my process and let the materials speak for themselves. Within most full-sized brooms, many internal components are invisible from the outside. Much goes into the construction of the deceivingly complicated object that is hidden from the user to produce a simple, effective, and functional form. In making this work, I challenged myself to create a broom that pushes the boundaries of what is physically possible with the natural materials traditionally used to make brooms, all while making a striking yet functional piece.
By combining different construction tactics that I’ve adapted from commonly used designs in American and Japanese broom making, this broom stands full of intricate details. Its grand scale is broken up by windows of negative space that give the form room to breathe, but also demonstrate the immense tension that the broomcorn was subjected to in order to achieve the bends and pulls that make the shape. From the front view, it resembles a flat plane, with vertical and horizontal arms that weave over and under each other, conjuring an anthropomorphic, insect-like condition. This inspired the title for the piece, Trochanter, referring to the joints in spider’s legs. From the sides, this view is made even more clear by the alternating joints of each bundle, lacing then cascading groundward. Even the innermost core of the broom, an area that is never seen on a Western style broom, can be seen through the edges of the central portion of broomcorn. This broom is unique in the amount of texture it has from every angle. There is hard and soft geometry to be seen regardless of the perspective it is seen from.
The broom is bundled and finished in wire, and that wire is finished with a nail, hand carved from Osage heartwood, one of the hardest and most rot resistant woods in North America – unlike the oak handle, which exhibits decay and holes from boring beetles. All the wood featured in the piece was sustainably sourced from the Berea College Forest and campus. The stand which holds the broom is made from red maple, an invasive species in this region. Removal of these saplings was a service to the land by allowing the understory to receive more light and giving slower-growing flora the opportunity to thrive. The symbolic act of using this invasive tree to uphold a rotted limb of an oak subverts this relationship. The stand is stained using walnut pigment, harvested from walnuts from the Berea campus and mixed with a walnut oil base.
Brooms hold a special place within humanity. They exist everywhere that humans exist in one form or another, and every population has their own approach to the craft. Brooms appear as symbols in political campaigns and cartoons, as ceremonial objects, as good omens in some cases and bad omens in others. They are thought to strengthen, hurt, or even prevent relationships altogether depending on their use.
They have their own etiquette that shifts regionally- when to use them, how to store them, and why. Brooms and their spiritual attributions encapsulate the creation of meaning. That meaning assigned to an inanimate object is reflective of one’s culture, experience, and geographical location. It can seem arbitrary and at times contradictory. Why should something that comes in contact with dirt have a central role in ceremony?
The British anthropologist Mary Douglas made famous the phrase “Dirt is matter out of place.” This assertion gives agency to the common derogatory term dirt. Suddenly, dirt isn’t waste, but rather simply material – substance without social connotation. A common theme within many cultures in relation to brooms is their ability to clean, physically, but also spiritually. If Douglas’s perspective shift is applied to these cultural connotations, the broom as a tool to usher away bad luck and to attract good luck makes much more sense. Recognizing that an object means different things in different places erases those superficial contradictions. The broom becomes a neutral vessel. It is a tool capable of exerting force and intention in the direction one chooses. The “matter” either moved or held in this case could be luck, energy, a relationship, a connection to one’s environment, or any other meaning.
From a secular perspective, to acknowledge intention, and act in that direction could be a personal ceremony or meditation. I made this broom with environmental concerns and artistic forms in mind – that is my meditation. It allowed me to reflect, and to distill my intentions. It allowed me to create a form and ascribe meaning to it. It allowed me to move some theoretical matter of my own.
The Science Building Dulcimer
Recycled Pine and Walnut, 2022
Perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of work I have experienced was a Homer Ledford dulcimer made from a Poplar Church Pew. The process I took from experiencing his piece is something I strive to develop in my life and work – to observe something that is ordinary and find the beauty and usefulness in what could come. When the opportunity came for me to use 80 hours for the student craft show, I came back to the object of that experience.
I had the opportunity to use forgotten materials for this project, similar to the Ledford dulcimer. To make the sound board I used part of a pine support beam from the recently demolished Hall Science building on Berea College’s campus. For the back and sides, I found some walnut that had been in storage for 20 years. Honoring the design tradition of dulcimer makers, I used hearts for the top row of sound holes and put my own spin, and Christian identity on the dulcimer, with the cross shaped sound holes for the lower portion.
Woven Wooden Quilt of Ideas
Jedidiah Radosevich assisted by Gwendolin Conley
Cherry, Maple, Mahogany, and Walnut, 2022
For this project I mentally dissected a barn quilt square into smaller patterns til I ended with a triangle as the smallest shape. One challenge of the project was to go with what looked pleasing and to not think on the functionality or stability of the wood. As Gwen and I worked, we would talk over different aspects we could go with as the quilt work continued forward. This piece is the result of our conversations of waiting/pushing for the piece to show us the next design step.
Can You Hear the Color Bars?
Zenith Television, DVD player, Ale 8 One Crate, Antique wooden stand, 2017-2022
Ray Bradbury feared a dystopian society. In his prophetic Fahrenheit 451, we are drawn to screens, faces on the wall manipulating us into how we should function as people. We scorched the written stories.
Today, I’m the person producing the images for the face on the wall.
But did Bradbury consider moving images could be burnt away as well? I spent six years in the broadcast news industry, with every story having a six o’clock expiration date. Have you seen an archive room in a larger market news station? Picture a neglected storage unit with the garden maze from The Shining built with cardboard boxes full of Sharpied labels. My stories are lost in a number of those closets across the Ohio Valley.
As a crafter who deals with the typical struggles of an artist, that added layer of loss – that my work may be lost forever within a recycled Grippos potato chip box bound to a dimly lit storage closet – began to hurt my creative soul. I left broadcast news to avoid expirations.
Queue the dominance of social media where every story must be thirty seconds or less; after a few likes, it vanishes into oblivion. Not even a storage closet, now a server, somewhere in the world. How does one preserve a visual craft? How do you save a story for the next listener?
Many films of crafters and artists are lost; we will never see or hear them again. The art of documentary is becoming lost and murky. My piece is not answering how to save the art or the stories. The stories shown here may be lost as well, after all, these films did not perform well on social media when first posted. I present them today on a 1970’s Zenith television to see what it would have looked like if these were presented during a time in which we consumed media differently. I wonder if my work would have been enjoyed and watched then more intently then.
Spirit of a Stick Witch
Branches, twigs, preserved moss, glazed and painted clay, hand-dyed Tampico fiber, wire, linen, and poly thread, 2022
This piece originally started as an attempt to capture and express broom craft through the elements (earth, air, fire, water,) and slowly morphed into something of a self-portrait, while still capturing the elements in a completely different way. My time as an apprentice in Berea’s Student Craft program allowed me to hone my skillset in my chosen medium (broomcraft), while also giving me access to so much more. The use of the Ceramics studio and the Wood shop led me to reimagine what this piece could be. While most of this piece was made by me there was much collaborative effort with my fellow colleagues Hunter Elliott (guidance, and execution of the canopy armature) and Thea Zweir (Ceramics technique and firing process).
The branches were harvested from a fallen tree and assembled individually around an armature of wood collected from windfall after a winter storm. Earth, air and water are represented in both the life and death of these natural offerings. Hanging from the barren canopy is an array of ceramic leaves and tiny handcrafted brooms. Each leaf is made of clay, pulled and formed by hand to give shape and movement as you might see in the woods as Autumn leaves fall and begin to carpet the ground. Each one slightly different from the next. All four elements are present with the ceramic leaves earthen clay, shaped with water, air dried before being kiln fired, locking them in their delicate forms suspended as if falling from the branches above. The tiny brooms are tied with traditional broomcraft techniques, using hand dyed Tampico fiber in Autumnal tones, on twigs collected as I walked through campus daily. These tiny brooms also represent all four elements earth air and water in their cultivation, as well as water and heat “fire” in the dying process.
If you stand back, you may see only a barren canopy with falling leaves and twigs, but as you get closer individual details will begin to reveal themselves. This piece ultimately captured all 5 elements earth, air, fire, water, and Spirit. This piece collectively represents who I am as a person and artist as well as the spirit of my process and work.
Earthenware and Stoneware clay, various slips and glazes, epoxy, metal, 2022
The Wheelbarrow series reflects two of my interests: water and functional objects symbolic of hard physical labor. Often when I explore the rivers and creeks of eastern Kentucky, I feel I am wading through a tangible living wilderness, far from cares and responsibility of work and family. While wandering the rough confines and confluences of wild water, I sense a deep kinship and spiritual connection to the purported wilderness surrounding me.
This escape from responsibility is at best, illusory.
On one of these excursions, I came across an old RCA television, sunk deep in the muck of the river. To me, this presented a jarring yet beautifully visual image. I saw in this image evidence of people, lives lived upstream. The TV screen doesn’t broadcast now but creates reflection of the lush beauty surrounding it. Its delicate interior electronics impacted with water, microbes and soil, creating a new biosphere hopefully capable of supporting life.
The wheelbarrow is a tool used for carting heavy loads of dirt with ease. In this tool I see apt metaphor for the river working, carrying water, fish, and fragments of lives through the mountains.
Walnut, patterned glass, 2022
This parquetry panels of the Patchwork cabinet are made up of 576 individual squares of quarter-sawn walnut. Each piece is joined to the next with the grain orientation flipped, creating a contrast in the reflective qualities of the grain structure. The case is joined with through dovetails and supported by gently curved legs. Patterned glass echoes the parquetry panels.
Inspiration was drawn from the broad culture of craft here in Berea – mainly the mysteries of the weaving studio that neighbors the woodshop. This piece is my take on quilting in wood.
This piece serves to support Commitment #4: The Dignity of All Labor. My work is a labor of love from the very start. From selecting materials to applying a finish, each step is considered and weighed with an end goal of creating something unique. It was my pleasure to make this cabinet along with the students of Student Craft and to take them on a journey of mental and manual problem solving that culminates in a satisfying conclusion. Piecing 576 squares together is taxing on the fingers and the mind, but the result shows those efforts clearly.
Kentucky Spirits Cabinet
Rob Spiece, Hunter Elliott
Cherry, brass, cotton chord, basket reed, 2022
This dovetailed cabinet in curly cherry frames a book-match of cherry on the arched door panels. A single drawer runs on wood runners. The door and drawer pulls were woven with reed and cotton cord for a splash of tactile contrast.
This piece is offered to support Commitment #6: to create a democratic community dedicated to education and gender equality. With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade recently, individual freedom of choice is under attack.
Profits from the sale of this cabinet will be donated to the Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN). The Kentucky Health Justice Network builds the power of Kentuckians to achieve reproductive justice. Its mission is supported through direct support, education and outreach.
Its work is guided by a reproductive justice framework, developed by women and people of color. KHJN believes reproductive rights are human rights, and that all people should be able to decide if, when, and how to parent.
Knitted mitered squares: wool, acrylic, cotton, silk, mohair, 2022
Like many children growing up in Appalachia, I was taught not to waste. To clean my plate at dinner time, to use the very last drops out of shampoo and dish soap and ketchup bottles. To keep my church clothes clean and to wear my play clothes until they were falling apart. But even then, those play clothes weren’t released to the landfill – they were turned into cleaning rags and dog bedding and quilt scraps. I learned to love scheming with my mom to repurpose things for function, but also for art.
Much like the scrappy crazy quilts of my Appalachian heritage this knitted wardrobe scarf is made of cast-off bits of other projects. Baby hats, socks, mittens, and wash cloths are all uniquely represented in the squares of this piece. When I look at these squares dancing together, I see strength in women’s resilience to poverty and hope that even the smallest unwanted leftovers can contribute to a beautiful cohesive unit.
All my pottery is thrown on the potter’s wheel and altered using hand-building techniques. The clay is a specially formulated red earthenware (also referred to as terracotta). Maiolica pottery refers to a process where an opaque white glaze is applied over red earthenware (terracotta) and decorated with colored stains. The word Maiolica refers to a historical style and technique that dates back to the 9th century and is unique for its colorful decoration. After being bisqued (or first fired), the pottery is coated with the maiolica glaze and decorated with colored stains. During the firing, the stains melt into the glaze resulting in colorfully designed pottery. The pottery is fired in an electric kiln to approximately 1955 o F.
My pottery is made for daily use in the home and garden, and glazes are food safe and lead-free. I sign my work “DARO,” an abbreviation for Davis-Rosenbaum.
Thea M. Zwier
15 ceramic teacups, woven mop yarn, stains: coffee, dirt, henna, hibiscus, iron oxide, peppermint, turmeric Electric tea kettle and hot water, 2022
How much can you hold?
In your cupped hands, before the water starts streaming through your fingers.
Pour out your cup, your cup runneth over
8 oz. How much is a cup?
11 to 15.5 cups. How much water is in the human body?
We are not stoppered vessels. We are of limited capacity
How much can the clouds hold before they drop-
How much can you hold before you drop.
And all that passes through you, causes a stain
Pour out. Mop it up. The earth is parched
We cry over spilt…
how much spills, drops, leaks. It all does
Recommended 11.5 to 15.5 cups of water a day
14’ 3” x 3’ 7” Dimensions of a shroud
84” x 28” x 23” Dimensions of a coffin
Are clouds ever born? Or are they just. Never in one form, always changing
I’m always changing.
I do not feel the ground move beneath my feet because I am used to it;
because I no longer pay
attention to it; because I ignore it; because it never does.
Fill up. Let go. Leak. lay down. return.
Sometimes you need to wait for the rain to fall to even know what the question is.
Locus Coeruleus, 7 Pitchers
Thea M. Zwier
7 soda fired, ceramic pitchers, cobalt stain, 2022
Where is my worth?
Does it lie in my utility, my usefulness
Does it lie in my capacity, my ability to hold
Does it lie in my beauty, my pleasingness to your eye
Does it lie in my matter? I’m my material, my chemicals, my bones.
Where is my worth?
I lean my worth up against these things, stack it on top of my utility, capacity, beauty and pleasingness; and there it all crumbles.
split into pieces, I look for it
I held all the water I could in my capacity and porosity, until I had to drop it,
pour it out to the waiting patience below
I am put back together, my scars highlighted, embellished in blue, in air and iron,
in communion, travel and trade
I have made myself in care and put back together the same
Not all the pieces fit back into place as they were
I will never be the same; time and use demand
Where was my worth before
and where is it again
Mint and Steel
Deflected double weave is a complex structure that can be executed on a relatively simple loom. In developing the design, it was important to me to create something complex and unique that still used the tools and techniques that have been at Berea College Student Craft for decades. Apprenticing in the program, I developed a bond with the looms and other equipment as I repaired, wrangled, and reconditioned them. These tools are often simple in form, yet elegantly effective at their job. Tools are an extension of the craftsperson’s hand and intent. All artisan objects bear the marks and memories of the tools that shaped them. In the spirit of the production weaving skills that I learned in my time with Berea Student Craft, Mint and Steel is a functional item, a square scarf, cut from yardage. Weaving yardage was a unique experience, having a background in weaving unique singular art objects. The scarf is the result of a complex give and take between myself and the loom, the threads and my intent. It serves as a memorial to the relationships I formed with the people, processes, and tools at Berea Student Craft.