2003 Essay | Making Our Mark

2003 Essay | Making Our Mark

Making Our Mark

By Gillian Davies


Hui-Mei Pan
Self-Portrait, 2001
hair crystal, silver

The Savannah College of Art and Design is pleased to debut Making Our Mark at SOFA CHICAGO 2003. This exhibition explores the dynamic creativity of the renowned international arts community at the College by showcasing the work of multi-faceted students, faculty, and alumni. This October, when SOFA CHICAGO is marking its tenth anniversary, the Savannah College of Art and Design will likewise be celebrating an important milestone—twenty-five years of successfully preparing students for careers in the visual and performing arts, design, the building arts, and the history of art and architecture. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to SOFA CHICAGO, and also sincerely thank Bonnie Kubasta, Dean of the School of Design, our esteemed faculty and Professor Sandra Blain of the University Of Tennessee School of Art who curated Making Our Mark.

Paula S. Wallace, President
Savannah College of Art and Design

Making Our Mark demonstrates a mastery of technique, craft, patience, originality, and resolved virtuosity. Gold, glass, acrylic, exotic and domestic veneers, aluminum, stainless steel, polished rebar, sterling silver, cotton, plastic, nylon fabric, and found objects such as watch parts, tin litho, and snow globes are the raw materials from which these works are constructed. Brought into being through welding, rolling, lamination, embellishment, dyeing, soldering, thermoforming, joining, bleaching, polishing, brushing, and burnishing, the significance of handwork is heightened in the context of our increasingly digital reality. Design strategies and methodologies employ or are enhanced by the ability to program, model, visualize, and animate through electronic design applications.

Kathy Waite
Candy Dish, 1999
sterling silver

For 25 years the Savannah College of Art and Design has provided students with the opportunities to engage in meaningful dynamic dialogues with their faculty, visiting artists and, maybe most importantly, with other talented student artists/designers from around the world. At times, college guests have remarked on their delight in the array of creativity represented in the studios and classrooms across campus. “SCAD is a wonderful example that I use many times as an affirmant environment. There is so much happening here on so many levels at all times,” said Tal Danai, president and founder of Artlink@Sotheby’s. “There is such a level of dedication here by faculty and staff and students, but it starts with the faculty: that is welcomed and rare.” The character of this unique institution to embrace innovation is enhanced by a diversity of talent, sensitivity to material and process, and respect for history and tradition. There is a willingness to pursue advanced integrated technologies while at the same time maintaining the integrity and importance of the hand in process.

SOFA expositions have recognized and given validity to the critical conversation between materiality, physicality, and issues of functionality in each of its past 10 years. This dialogue is enriched by the range of disciplines practiced at SCAD. Such reexamination of object-use resists tradition and brings inherited definitions and differences to the surface. The function of these objects arises from distinct personal priorities and inclinations: a wall cabinet, coffee table, rings, candy dish, multifunctional furniture, eyeglasses, even an ossuary. Objects such as these appearing in the SCAD exhibition at SOFA CHICAGO, are important communicators of the changing location and meaning of design. The reflexivity of identity that lies within the biographical meaning of any object is formed through culturally perceived relationships.

The work in this exhibition embodies potent responses from across cultural boundaries. The creators find aesthetic value in relation to specific cultural experiences. The metal work of Pei-Jung Chen (MFA Metals and Jewelry 2002), heavily influenced by the ideologies of Buddhism, explores intangible feelings and reflected desires. Chen says of her work, “Our society can be peaceful if people continue to cultivate themselves and think about others. My work acts as a bridge to communicate with people and as a reminder for people to respect themselves. The mind alone creates everything. Decisionmaking, for better or worse is in our hands.” This process maintains the vitality of the object through the achievement of a global meaning that is found simultaneously within the specificity of the object’s use.


Kristi Sword
Untitled #3, 2003
silver, glass, plastic

Intuitive recognitions and individual cognitive responses are empowered through transmission to others. Professor Jay Song (MFA Metals and Jewelry, 1999) says, “My work is based on personal relationships that I have experienced. The pieces express my beliefs that everything exists for a reason and that those reasons are often related or interconnected.” Each artist contributes a unique history and aesthetic to the discussion and process of making art.

With knowledge and experience of different cultures, the artist gains a deeper insight to re-interpret vernacular forms and ideologies with a widened perspective. “The transformation from food to designed object involves the process of abstraction while striving to remind the viewer of its source,” says Nopmanee Supspoontornkul (MFA Furniture Design candidate), demonstrating respect for concepts mirroring human experience. This diversity also helps to unlock the familiar errors of cultural experience that can be associated with objects and their use.

A positive embrace of the possibilities of innovation characterizes the spirit of inquiry. The availability of fused deposition modeling and computer numeric controlled machinery provides expanded possibilities of design without replacing the satisfaction of hand fabrication. A cabinet by Kern Maass (MFA Furniture Design 2003) demonstrates this by blending traditional forms, in the use of dovetail joinery, with current technology of CAD modeling and the application of CNC machinery to realize this piece. The artist comments, “Art to me is the process of creating. Therefore making what I design is just as important, if not more so, than the idea itself.” He tests his command of technical means through use of new materials, manipulation of established materials in new ways, or adaptation of a fabrication method.

Knowledge of traditional material and technique is combined with new technology to show evidence of preceding generations and acknowledge history through process. Savannah College of Art and Design Fibers Chair Pamela Wiley explores the importance of craft and suggests that its source holds the origins of family and community. Wiley’s intention of preserving craft is based in her belief that its legacy can easily be lost in the overwhelming deluge of available options. The transference of these skills carries with it the personal narrative and investment in the continuation of an on-going history. “Information is Not Knowledge” references historic form as a yoyo quilt. It emphasizes the concept of frugality, while presenting an irony of fabrication by employing computer digitized text.

In a world of increasingly non-material and conceptual work, materially produced objects that were traditionally found within the domestic spaces of human experience can be profound signifiers of a cultural and aesthetic language which increase our ability and desire to perceive the physical ways of learning and comprehension. Objects expand our humanity and counterbalance the ephemeral realms of spirit and digital domain.

Gillian Davies is Professor of Interior Design at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Published in conjunction with the special exhibit Making Our Mark: Work from the Savannah College of Art and Design presented at SOFA CHICAGO 2003 by SCAD.

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