CRAFT AS VEHICLE FOR COMMUNITY: THE FACES OF ARROWMONT
In this series we introduce you to some of the faces of Arrowmont: students, instructors, staff, work- study students, volunteers, and donors. We explore the lasting value of the experiences and relationships that are created when individuals step out of their comfort zone and participate in the Arrowmont experience.
NETWORKING: BEYOND PROFESSIONAL JARGON
Networking is a word often used to describe making connections with the intention of professional advancement. However, last summer, I was reminded that it can be much more than that. Artists and Arrowmont instructors, Christine Zoller and Susan Brandeis’ Arrowmont Experience illustrates that with the right attitude, the networking opportunities that Arrowmont provides can yield life-long collaborations and friendships.
After 14 years in banking and loan investments, Christine Zoller decided to pursue a career in the arts. As a graduate student working towards her MFA, she had the opportunity to come to Arrowmont in the summer of 1994 as a studio assistant. Little did she know that summer would be one that would change her life.
At Arrowmont, Zoller had the opportunity to assist Susan Brandeis, artist and Professor of Art at North Carolina State University. The two bonded during that week-long workshop. Brandeis observed Zoller’s work ethic, rapport with students, and kind spirit. After their time at Arrowmont ended, Brandeis and Zoller kept in touch; sharing updates, congratulations, and artist feedback. Through their experience together at Arrowmont, Brandeis and Zoller became more than professional acquaintances. They became friends.
It was natural for Brandeis to inform Zoller of an opening textile position in the School of Art and Design at East Carolina University in 1995 and offer her recommendation. Brandeis was excited about the idea of having Zoller nearby. Christine Zoller received the job at ECU where she served as Associate Professor of Art for 24 years.
“Look, I am here because of Arrowmont.” – Christine Zoller
Since coming to Arrowmont as a studio assistant in 1994, Zoller has taught at Arrowmont over twenty times. It has become a very special place to her. She encourages her students to experience Arrowmont themselves. Zoller said of Arrowmont,
“I have taught at other places, but [Arrowmont] has always been home. I have been teaching here in some form or another for over 25 years. Every time I come here, it’s like coming home. When I talk to my students and other people about coming to Arrowmont that is the message I try to get out to them. It’s just so much more than the class. This place gets in your blood.”
Zoller and Brandeis credit Arrowmont with fostering the right environment that initiated their professional and personal relationship. At Arrowmont, they connected with one another and discovered that they had shared interest in moving the textile field forward. Brandeis said of their relationship,
“We both have this ongoing interest in sharing and taking a legacy forward. You know we come from many thousands of years of textile makers and I am always real aware that I am a link in a chain going forward. I want to share what I have with young people.”
Through their relationship Brandeis and Zoller have collaborated on other projects in their field. They have taught workshops together at other craft schools and worked together on university projects as university neighbors. They also get together each year for the Southeast Fibers Educators Association that Brandeis founded 15 years ago as a way to share fiber colleagues in an encouraging setting similar to Arrowmont’s atmosphere. Brandeis said of the environment at Arrowmont,
“It is noncompetitive. Academia is competitive. Yes, it may be competitive with yourself [in workshops] because you want to improve but it is not competitive with other people. I think that is what is at the root of this; it is a noncompetitive atmosphere.”
At Arrowmont, networking provides opportunities for people of like-minds to be challenged and grow creatively by engaging people outside of their medium. With workshops offered in various disciplines; from fiber to wood-turning, students have access to a large number of people from all over the world across media. Brandeis described two of her students in her “Stitching as Drawing” workshop. One a ceramicist and one a photographer; neither had held a needle before. Yet they were investigating, “looking at a new world and trying to think about the connections….that’s the kind of thing that keeps craft in general alive.” Brandeis continued,
“Take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves around you……the human side of [networking] is even more important. Not just connecting with you because you can do something for me, but because I see in you this view of the world that I share and yet some other things that I don’t quite and I’m curious about [them].”
“Don’t always sit at the same table at dinner… You will find kindred spirits outside of your discipline.” – Susan Brandeis
Zoller expressed a similar sentiment as an instructor at Arrowmont,
“You come away with new thoughts and ideas from the people you are teaching. It’s a back and forth….It keeps me interested in what I am doing and keeps me going.”
Many hands make light work. Differences are made by working together with those who also see the big picture through an effort that is people-centered rather than self-centered; supportive rather than competitive. As the deadline for early registration for the 2019 National Workshop season approaches, consider signing up for a class. You never know who you will meet at Arrowmont and how you will impact each other’s lives.
Visit https://www.arrowmont.org/workshops-classes/workshops/ for more information on workshops and sign-up today. Early registration for 2019 National Workshops closes February 1, 2019.