Sunday, March 2, 2014

last week was a busy one

My two 3D Design classes scrambled to get their cardboard molds built for the big plaster pouring.  Plaster pouring day is probably my favorite day of the spring semester.  If you've done this project, you know how much I enjoy it.  If not, let's just say that I've built some great surprises into this project and some of those surprises are apparent on this day.  It's also the day that brings the students together into a much more tight family unit.  At Lander, we pride ourselves on our Art Family and the plaster pouring really forces people to work together in ways they've never imagined before.

It starts out innocent enough.  The black plastic and neatly stacked bags of plaster are the calm before the storm.  Only 5 minutes elapsed between the image above and the image below.

 Each student gets a chance to get nice and dirty by sticking their arm in the mixing bucket to mix the plaster.  Some hate it and have to be forced to do it.  Others volunteer to mix a second time.  

 And once the plaster starts flowing into the forms (and back out of the forms) the apprehension the students feel begins to melt away.  The fear turns to panic as their forms usually leak at least a little.  The panic turns to dismay as they realize they only have two hands and they cant do this by themselves.  Then as everyone else jumps in to assist in damage control, the dismay turns to a strange giddy sort of laughter as they see that this whole thing is way beyond their control.  That's Olivia, Molly, Preston, Devin, Megan, Braden, Drinkwater and Da'mycha all working together in the image above.

 The next day brought in the other class and everything followed according to my evil plan.  In the top right of the photo above you'll notice Caitlin who came in to spectate after suffering through this ordeal last spring.  

 Some of these got a little messy, even by plaster day standards.

 It's always fun to see how much the compositions change, even before the cardboard mold comes off.  It's also fun to see how the students try to deal with the mess.  Many listened to my instructions and opted for old, crappy clothes.  Some ditched their shoes and barefooted it.  

 Dom went a bit further and wore latex gloves, surgical mask, lab coat and homemade paper shoes.

 My job is to assess each situation and keep the plaster flowing in a timely manner.  I usually hover just over the heads of the people trying to stop the trickle of plaster as it finds it way out of the molds.  It's really nice to see people helping each other.  It's also sometimes nice to accidentally splash plaster on the nice people below.

And of course, I stop and take photos of the fun as it happens.  Between cursing me and my project ideas, the students are usually good humored enough to smile for the camera.  That's Liza, Dara, Sebastian, Kayla, Tasha, James, Dom, Marie, Ashley and Ramey in the photo above.

 After a couple of hours of the mess and chaos, it's nice to get the room back in order again.  I like to see them working together, but I love to see them cleaning.  Cleaning is the best.

After plaster pouring day there's often a nice weekend to let everyone gather their wits again before removing the cardboard forms and seeing what they actually have to work with.  The apprehension builds again.  Then the panic, dismay and giddy laughter.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

 After scrubbing all the plaster off of my head, ears, eye lids and hands, I got up just before dawn on Friday and put my life in the hands of the Cessquatch.  I don't exactly live near campus and since I needed to travel with Cessquatch and Mia (Queen of Sculpture) to the SC State Museum for College Art Day, they picked me up for a crazy carpool with Rhonda the Honda (Cessquatch's car).  Actually, they debated for a few days over whether or not they could stand me for the trip and finally drew up a contract to make me behave myself before they consented to pick me up on the way.

Cessquatch (Brandy) actually drives pretty well and got us through Columbia morning traffic safely and about 5 minutes early.  We got our table set up and practiced smiling.

 A couple of big groups of students came through along with some individual families.  I think everyone came by our table and got some of our supercool giveaways.  We had cool cups and sketchbooks with the new Lander Visual Art logo and even the other colleges were coming by to get free things and take our postcards.

 Paul Matheny (the tiny dude at the podium) put this whole thing together and arranged to have a presentation by a great local design firm along with two Skype interviews with other art professionals.  That's Im Chan Skyping in on the big screen with Paul.  I had a couple of drawing classes with Im at Winthrop while I was in grad school.  Paul is also a Winthrop grad.

 I guess you know I'm not exactly the most professional person to send to something like this.  Sitting at a table is not where I excel as a human.  I get bored easy and that's usually when I try to find ways to entertain myself.  Whatever professional persona I've managed to maintain up to that point drains away quickly.  During the first museum tour the students vanished and it was mostly just the college students and faculty hanging around.  I stacked a couple of cups up and Cessquatch and Mia provoked me to build it taller.  Actually the whole thing was their idea.  They get all the blame.  I stopped after a bit to take a photo in case it fell.  

 Like the great art students they are, they had to build their own.  They put my business cards to good use.

 Then I stood in my chair to reach the tower of cups again.  At this point, the other colleges were cheering us on and clapping.  When I couldn't reach any higher, I declared it finished and it still didn't fall.  The student groups came back in and the tower drew them over to pick up more information about where the crazy fun people go to school.  Paul decided not to kick us out and even suggested that each college could build some sort of installation for College Day next year.  

 Since we were in Columbia, we had to try to see Anne, one of our recent graduates.  After the ladies yelled at the backseat driver a little, we killed some time at a Starbucks talking about art theory and modern sculptural practices until Anne got off work and met us at Pawleys Front Porch.  Turns out this was her last shift at her old college job.  She just got hired as a designer at a Lexington design company.  Congratulations to her!  Anne, Cessquatch and Mia all traveled to Italy together last summer so they're pretty tight.

 Our people know how to eat.  After those great big burgers for an early dinner, the next stop had to be Krispy Kreme.  We trudged through tailgating traffic and we rejoiced when we saw the "Hot Now" sign lit up on the horizon.  Watching the fried bread rings transformed into hot glazed doughnuts is nothing short of a religious experience.  *If you look closely you'll see a few mis-formed doughnuts.  We wondered what happens to those doughnuts.  Do the employees get to eat them?  Is that a perk of the job?  Is there a quality control inspector at each location who weights 900 pounds?  Then we decided we wanted that job.  We like food way too much.  Or perhaps we had spent way too much time together at that point and were delirious.

The drive home was interesting.  Cessquatch was sleepy so Mia decided that this crazy "music" was the solution for keeping her alert.  Some of the sounds I heard from the speakers and some of the dancing I saw in the car will certainly haunt me all the days of my life.  I can not speak of these things.  There are no words.

I started the day telling them I needed to be home before dark so I could run without falling down, running into trees or being mauled by deer.  I reminded them several times and yet, somehow, they dropped me off well after dark and left me to take my chances in the shadows.  Thanks to them, this was my view while I ran.  

Seriously, Lander has the best people.  Administrators, staff, faculty, students...everyone around makes this the best place to work.  Brandy and Mia represented our department perfectly and I honestly think the other art departments were jealous.  Everyone can teach you something and allow you to earn a degree, but at Lander you'll be a part of something really great that exists just beyond what you can explain or touch.  There's a magic here and if you get to be a part of it, you're just a lucky, lucky soul.  And if you don't believe me, come see.  

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