This past April, students from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design donated their work to the Society for Contemporary Craft’s Out of Hand Auction. Out of Hand: Remix raised nearly $100,000 and will go towards funding the Society for Contemporary Craft’s annual operating budget which supports free exhibitions, art education workshops, and community programming throughout the year.
Since 1971, the Society for Contemporary Craft has been committed to providing access to the arts and encouraging creativity and positive self-expression. They offer free admission to their location in Pittsburgh’s Strip District in order to make their exhibitions available to a wide audience and aim to make education and outreach programs that take art into communities that might not otherwise have access.
The participating students from the School of Design’s Experimental Form class were Alex Palatucci, Selena Norman, Mary Tsai, Katie Herzog, Kyle Lee, Piers Mrkusic, Conner Harden, Grace Cha, Yvette Lee, Heidi Chung, Hilary Lai, and teaching assistant Jesse Klein.
“In our class, each student designs three objects - one they will keep, one to give away as a gift and one to sell,” said Associate Professor and Director of the First year Program Mark Baskinger. “The point of the project is to develop a type of ‘production art’ whether that is jewelry, decorative object, or functional object that will go out into the world and exist on its own.”
“The SCC auction was a lot of fun,” said Katie Herzog, a first-year MDes student. “It was great to talk with local artists and patrons of the arts in a relaxed setting. I don't often have the opportunity to see a design all the way from concept to sale, so that was an exciting experience.”
Herzog’s object was an experimental twist on a traditional mortar and pestle, which successfully sold at the auction.
“Given that my focus is in Interaction Design, I wanted to play with a familiar utilitarian form and redefine its relationship with the user,” said Herzog.
For Mary Tsai, another first-year MDes student, her experience at the auction and in the Experimental Form course spoke towards the power objects can have.
“I come from an architecture background and have done woodworking as a hobby for the last few years so I'm really interested in materiality and understanding how objects can influence their users,” said Tsai. “I think that it's crucial to consider sustainability in products with so many mass-produced objects going into the world so this Experimental Form class starts to address the importance of knowing your material and its significance in our environments.”
Tsai’s piece was a walnut wood box laminated with acrylic, complete with hidden compartments that could be removed so that the user could hide things inside. It was purchased so quickly at the auction that Tsai also sold a duplicate box that she brought to display on the CMU table at the auction.
“Experimental Form has been a great learning experience for me,” said Herzog. “Coming from an architectural background and moving forward in my career, it's important to me that I can work between physical and digital media. This semester has encouraged me to develop a greater sensitivity towards physical form and pushed me to further question the status quo in the design of everyday objects. “
“I think Experimental Form does a really good job introducing the importance of sustainable thinking to the undergraduates, who then take that knowledge and design thinking with them as they graduate,” added Tsai.
The Experimental Form Studio looks broadly at the discipline of industrial design with an emphasis on creating new paradigms for interactive objects. This course encourages an exploratory study of physical objects and artifacts and provides a creative and intellectual forum to re-imagine our relationship with objects.