April 11, 2018 Graphic Design Student Rediscovers Creativity at Arrowmont

Note: This story first appeared on the School of Art’s website.

Student and teacher pose
Rachel Gorman, a senior graphic design student from Knoxville, shares an account of her summer experience at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts.

After my junior year, I was feeling defeated and unsure. My creative juices were drained, and I felt like I wasn’t making anything worth showing anymore. I headed to the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts on a scholarship awarded by the UT School of Art, and spent a week of my summer sharing studio space with a 73-year-old woman named Joyce. Joyce is the spunkiest artist and overall awesome person I’d ever met. She was enthusiastic and jumped head-first into everything she did. She inspired me, and helped me learn that that I will never be too old to learn a new medium and that I should never, ever, stop doing what I love.

While I was on the Arrowmont campus, I had three roommates. I shared a space with three other college students on scholarship through their universities. Each one of us was attending a different workshop. Between the four of us, we had a wood turner, a jewelry maker, a textile artist, and myself, a printmaker. Arrowmont offers a wide range of disciplines and these were just a few. Arrowmont also hosts classes in clay, metals, photography, woodworking, and glasswork. Each workshop is unique and is taught by phenomenal artists.

As a graphic design student, I wanted to work with my hands, get out of Illustrator and InDesign, and try something new. Stuart Kestenbaum and Susan Webster crafted a wonderful workshop for Arrowmont. Working together, Stuart uses poetry and Susan uses printmaking to create pieces that combine words and imagery. Each day began with reading poems and ended with a writing prompt to spark our next piece. In between our writing sessions, Susan taught us gelatin plate printing. Susan’s technique includes the layering of inks, addition of textures, and subtracting pigments from the plate. This produces a print with depth and a certain level of complexity. I couldn’t take everything in at first glance, but the longer I studied the print, the more I discovered.

The marriage of words and images comes after the prints are complete. Susan and Stuart’s joint process is unlike anything I’d ever seen. When Susan is done with a print, she hands it to Stuart and walks out of the room. Stuart then studies the piece and uses a variety of methods to write on the piece. They have no collaboration between the two sides of their method. Stuart doesn’t influence the art and Susan doesn’t influence the words. What comes out the other side is a piece that neither of them could have imagined.

During the workshop I attempted my own version of their method. I started to feel that a print wasn’t complete until I added words to the piece. Instead of planning my prints around phrases I wanted to use, I tried surprising myself. After I finished printing, I’d go through my stacks and pull my favorites. Then I’d take one and just look at it. Without planning, I’d pick up a pen, grab my stamps, or go to the typewriter and just start writing. I didn’t plan out the words or do a rough sketch. I just went for it…and it felt great.

Arrowmont is an environment that fosters creativity and learning. The grounds are full of rolling hills and secluded spots, and as soon as I walked into the printmaking studio, I felt at home. While on campus, I completely forgot that the tourist-filled Gatlinburg streets were a mere 100 yards away. It was a week of inspiration, challenges, and encouragement. Arrowmont taught me to try new things, get my hands dirty, and keep learning. I came out of the week a better artist and with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the next semester.

I still keep in touch with Joyce and the other women in the printmaking workshop. Believe it or not, we have an Instagram group message and I’ll even receive the occasional piece of snail mail. The week I spent at Arrowmont was the highlight of my summer.

Display table with printed items, buckets

About Arrowmont
Originally Pi Beta Phi Settlement School, Arrowmont was founded in 1912 to educate rural Appalachians in manual arts and crafts. The school began a partnership with the University of Tennessee in 1943 and offered the first of its signature summer workshops in 1945, with about 50 students enrolled. Today, Arrowmont hosts hundreds of artists in all different walks of life throughout the year. While the courses in the 1940s were taught by UT faculty, workshops are now taught by renowned artists from all over the world.

About the Arrowmont Scholarship
Every year the School of Art hosts Undergraduate Scholarship Day, inviting students to pin up their work for selection by faculty for various awards, one of which is the Arrowmont Scholarship. Selected students receive $500 from Arrowmont and $500 from the School of Art, completely covering their fees, materials fees, housing, and meals for a week-long workshop at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. Rachel also received a $50 gift certificate to purchase additional supplies at the Arrowmont store. The Arrowmont Scholarship is awarded to students who show commitment to their personal artistic goals.