While some college students are using the summer to relax, there are professors at Tennessee Tech University who are extending their passion for their subject beyond the classroom and the academic year. Kimberly Winkle, director of the School of Art, Craft & Design at Tech, has been spending her summer months both teaching and continuing to learn from other artists.
“In my current position, I do a lot of office work, so my time in the studio with students during the academic year is limited,” she said. “So, the summer is really a good time for me to sort of scratch that itch and engage with the broader craft community. It helps me stay on top of and become aware of different approaches to running a craft school and a craft program.”
During the academic year, Winkle can typically be found at Tech’s Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville. This summer, however, she has taken her expertise around the United States. She kicked off the season by teaching a five-day woodturning class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in Washington state. Her students were all adults and ranged in skill from experts to complete beginners.
“My favorite students are those who are brand new because they haven't learned bad habits yet,” Winkle laughed. “And when it’s something new, it’s like magic to them.”
After that workshop, she had just a five-day break back home before she set out for Portland, Oregon, to participate in an artists’ collaboration called Frogwood Collaboration. The creatives who attend the five-day event combined their collective knowledge and skills to make pieces that reflected a little bit of each individual artist. The artists who participate come from all over the world. Once everyone’s projects are complete, the pieces are auctioned off to help fund the next event and to fund scholarships for emerging makers.
“There are no rules. There's no instruction. It's all about communication, negotiation and collaboration,” Winkle said. “The works that are created are quite innovative. A lot of times they show the style or the aesthetic of the maker, but in a different way. What often happens is the artists I partner with encourage me to go down a creative path that I wouldn't have gone by myself, and that helps me realize new potential in my own work when I get back to my own studio practice.”
Next, Winkle headed to costal Maine to teach another workshop. This two-week workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts challenged participants to bring one or two special objects about the size of a fist which will inspire the shape of a box they each create.
“The goal is to create a box wherein there's a relationship between the shape of the box and the contents inside,” she explained. “They have to think about how shape and color and form can be a conveyor of content.”
Winkle’s last stop before the beginning of the fall semester will be at Peters Valley School of Crafts in New Jersey late this month. She will again be leading a five-day wood turning class. This one is in the Delaware Water Gap on national park land.
Though Winkle has gotten to share her love of art with people all over the United States this summer, her excursions are far from just a vacation. The classes require plenty of preparation and materials, and the teaching portion itself can go on from the early morning hours until long into the night. However, it is all worth it to Winkle.
“It scratches that itch to get out and about and to have dedicated studio time, and to share my techniques with people which all work to support and grow the greater craft community,” she said.
Winkle earned her bachelor’s of fine arts degree in ceramics from the University of Oklahoma and her master’s of fine arts degree in furniture design from San Diego State University. When she came to Tennessee Tech in 2002, she had only planned to stay for one year as part of the artist in residence program. Now, 22 years later, she is still at the Appalachian Craft Center.
“The Craft Center is unique in that it's a wonderful facility in a pristine, beautiful location, but also the type of craft education that we that we offer is different compared to a lot of other craft programs across the nation. I think one thing that sets us apart is our focus on material understanding and technique. We empower students by showing them that by understanding material and process they can make anything that they imagine.”
For more information about the Appalachian Center for Craft, visit https://www.tntech.edu/fine-arts/craftcenter/.