RIT glass group takes enlightening trip to Scotland

Group of 5 students pose for photo

David Schnuckel

The RIT crew in Scotland. From left to right: Jesus Olivero, David Schnuckel, Jasper Signer, Alex Demmerle and Jieun Yoon.

David Schnuckel, a lecturer in the School for American Crafts’ glass program, recently led three College of Art and Design alumni and a current CAD student overseas for a nine-day art conference that encompassed discussion, demonstrations and ample studio time.

RIT glass (BFA) graduates Alex Demmerle (2014), Jesus Olivero (2015) and Jasper Signer (2013) and RIT glass MFA candidate Jieun Yoon (2018) took part in “New Eyes, New Colors,” held Aug. 1-10 at North Lands Creative Glass in the village of Lybster in Caithness, Scotland. Run by independent artist-educator Jane Bruce, the international student symposium revolved around the central theme of “home,” with Caithness’s scenic environment and tradition serving as inspiration for the artists to think of their roots from a new perspective.

Current students and graduates of various institutions worked with and received lectures from respected artist-educators. Students, alumni and faculty also came from Alberta College of Art and Design, Montana State University and Pratt Institute.

Schnuckel said he gave a brief artist talk during a presentation of his work. Most of his interaction with the participants, though, was through one-on-one chats about their overall thoughts of what’s working and what’s not for them as artists, and the potential direction of their work. He also suggested opportunities they should take advantage of to trigger further discovery.

According to Schnuckel, the symposium acted as a small residency that allowed all involved to “consider the context of ‘place’ when a stranger in the Highlands,” a region of Scotland where the seminar took place.

“It forces us to creatively connect or identify with our surroundings by finding an entry point in the area's geography, weather, people, culture and/or history to develop new ideas and influence new approaches to our work,” Schnuckel said. “It's a remarkable opportunity — as well as a remarkable challenge — to tap into and rely on our artistic intuition.”

Man at work doing glass things
Jasper Signer at work at North Lands Creative Glass.

The group exchanges of ideas, studio use and field trips to important sites in Caithness — home to rich history and gorgeous views of the North Sea — were designed to advance all of the artists, who also had the benefit of meeting new people and connecting with them.

“To be able to activate their own creative interests and engage in projects related to their own sensibilities, questions and curiosities was something they claimed was a much-needed boost,” Schnuckel said of the RIT artists.

Students gather around sketches
Symposium attendees

As an instructor, Schnuckel found it exciting to see small transformations in each artist take place throughout the nine days. He said their working procedures changed as they grew more comfortable with their surroundings and the area became less foreign.

“To point those magical moments out along the way and to provide further perspective on what they're doing during the symposium that could be of value in their long-term practice is not only fulfilling, but one of the best parts of being an educator,” Schnuckel said.

The symposium provided an arena for participants to discover new ideas, and to refine them for use in future work. They also had access to around-the-clock conversation and camaraderie with a talented group of artists.

The field trips were a crucial component of the symposium, according to Schnuckel. The Lybster and Latheronwhell harbours, Dunbeath Strath, Whaligoe Steps and a boat ride that delivered charming looks at coastal cliffs, castles, sea caves and wildlife were some of the adventures on the travel itinerary, each one possessing splendor and inspiring the artists.

Person sitting on bech overlooking lush green fields and the sea
The views were "quite stunning," according to David Schnuckel

“Quite stunning” is how Schnuckel described the sights. 

“Aside from the obvious spectacles that these places hold visually,” Schnuckel said, “they tend to introduce exciting thoughts about things like time, light, the atmosphere and the elements, and human ritual in regards to ‘place’ — all of which could be used for artistic purposes in a wide variety of ways.”

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