June 15, 2013
By: Steven Tippin
As you walk through the doors to the Craft wing at Sheridan College, there is definitely a familiarity sense of the past. It is like being transported back in time to when you were a student there and reminded of those good ol’ days.
For many graduates, Sheridan is the place that set our lives in a different direction. Some of us met our best friends there, our husbands or wives there (some of us even met our ex-husbands and ex-wives there) and many of us began a very different kind of relationship there; one with glass.
Many things are still there to remind us of those magical days enrolled at Sheridan. To give you some context, I started the program in 2005 and graduated in 2008 – and I realize that for some of you this seems very recent, but after talking to a few of the students currently enrolled, they think that 2008 was a lifetime ago; perhaps they are right. It definitely has been enough time for many changes to take place within the program. Here are six major changes that I noticed:
Sheridan introduces Artist in Residence program
The most recent change to Sheridan’s Glass department was the addition of an artist residency program, which grants two artists full use of the studio, two blowslots, storage, and the title Artist in Residence (AiR). The program started in January 2013 and was filled by two professional artists, Patrick Fisher and Steven Tippin (yours truly). It is a fantastic opportunity for both the AiRs to utilize the fully equipped studio and for the students that get to pick a professional artist’s brain about anything they wonder about. Being the AiR also offers a unique vantage point to see the school through different eyes and to see that many things have evolved within the department.
One of the first things that I experienced during my first week as the AiR was the massive collaborative project known as SHED. The first week of the winter semester the students from all four craft departments (Glass, Ceramics, Furniture and Textiles) were arranged into groups and challenged to make original lighting solutions, from planning to production, in one week. It allowed students to experience the other studios and work with completely foreign materials and tools with a common goal. Needless to say, it was frantic but the results were inspired, original and extremely varied. What more could be expected from such an incredible environment? Please see Ron Vincent’s SHED article found in this issue.
Changes to structure of program
The biggest change that I noticed is to the structure of the program. Just as when I was enrolled, students spend the first year of the three-year program learning the basics of each area of the glass department. However, now students in second-year can select a major and minor from within those different areas (coldworking, hotshop, kilnworking, flameworking or sandcasting).
Choosing one area over another does not limit students to only those studios but it does give them greater access and priority in their selected areas. For instance, a hotshop major has two four-hour blowslots where the non-major students only have one scheduled slot. This allows the students to focus more on what they feel best suits them, allows better access to those selected areas and also ensures that resources are better directed to those who want them. Back in my day, the gloryholes seemed to be on nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week; but now, in an era of ecological responsibility, the hotshop closes every day at midnight and is not lit up on Sunday.
“Koen-cepts” development class
The other major change to the structure is the concept development class that anchors the program and allows students to further develop whatever they are working on, even in other glass classes. This “Koen-cepts” class (as it is referred to by the students due to it being taught by department head, Koen Vanderstukken) is the main source of artistic concept development that balances the technical instruction of the other classes.
Glass lathe and electroplate
Sheridan College now has a glass lathe in the flameworking room that allows students to flamework boro tubes and rods with a torch while the machine spins at a constant speed. No more sore wrists! It also allows for much larger and precise torch work than if done by hand alone.
Did you have a chance to electroplate while you studied at Sheridan? Nope, nether did I. Now those lucky students have access to an electroplating station to bond glass and metal at a molecular level. How cool is that? Silvia Taylor, a recent graduate of the program, used the electroplater to develop a successful new body of work and has been awarded a GAAC project grant to set up her own electroplater in her studio to continue her glass and copper alchemy.
There has been a hot casting and sandcasting area for as long as I can remember at Sheridan. It is a day tank (different from the continuous melt furnace used for glass blowing) that has a curious deep blue colour due to it being fed recycled colour. All of the trimmed lips and failed overlays that would otherwise be destined for the trash now are used in the hot casting furnace. This is a fantastic way to save the cost of new glass, ensure ecological responsibility and also gives a very cool colour to be able to cast with.
The faculty and staff have changed slightly since I was a student in 2008, although there are still familiar faces too.
Jason Cornish is still the studio technologist and he ensures the studio runs as perfectly as ever and is still the foundation that makes the program possible.
Koen Vanderstukken is still the department head, inspiring the students to see the world of art and not just the world of glass while constantly pushing his students to critically think and react, sharpening both their skills and thoughts.
Brad Sherwood is still leading the way in the flameworking studio and can make any tool, mounting hardware or problem-solve any predicament that you find yourself in.
Lucy Rousel stills teaches the students about Glass History with a kindness and understanding that exemplifies her personality.
Andy Kuntz is still inspiring the glassblowers to not let simple problems such as not having an assistant in the hotshop get in the way of great glassmaking. Andy teaches to self-punty, work smart and honest but Andy is also now instructing in the cold working and engraving area of the studio.
Sally McCubbin replaced Blaise Campbell and inspires her glassblowing students to be great both technically at the bench and also in the development of the design before they start working there.
Orion Arger teaches the techniques of the kilnworking to students and encourages experimentation, observation and diligent record-keeping of each firing to use as guides for future firings.
Paula Vandermey made the sandcasting area one of the coolest places to work in by pushing her students to experiment and enjoy the procedure that yields the results.
Changes bring opportunities
It was a fantastic semester working alongside the faculty and students at Sheridan College as the Artist in Residence. It brought back so many great memories of days gone by but also made me wish that I had all of the opportunities that the current students have. A lot has changed and all of the changes are for the better. Keep up the good work Sheridan. I cannot wait to see what changes will come next.
Steven Tippin is a glassmaker in Ontario that simply could not turn down an opportunity as great as returning to Sheridan College to be the Artist in Residence for four months. He is also the Ontario representative for GAAC as well as its new President. www.steventippin.com