Making to Ornament


Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

visual arts, architecture
computer studies
feminist theory, consciousness studies

Ornament struggles to serve its ancient purpose, which is to bring order and produce cosmos out of chaos.
--Bloomer, The Nature of Ornament: Rhythm and Metamorphosis in Architecture

This program centers on making – the coming together of ideas, materials, hands and tools to create things, and on ornament – the characteristics that give distinctive meaning and form to what we make.  We will investigate these two processes, making and ornamenting, in 2D and 3D studio practices, ranging from the traditional crafts of wood and metal work, to computer aided design and 3D printing, including retro tech practices in between. We will consider how things we make—plain or adorned—shape and are shaped by mental as well as material, cultural as well as natural landscapes.  We will pay attention to access to making and to the meaning of ornament, particularly within the contexts of race, class, gender, global capitalism and ecological degradation.

During winter quarter each student will choose to do creative work in one of three interrelated studios, one focused on wood and metal working practices, one focused on solid modeling for 3D printing, or a third focused on retro tech—handmade plus digital mashups--including 3D printing and a low tech making process of student choice. The studios may diverge in addressing how forms, patterns, techniques, and technologies of ornamentation complement making processes, though all three will emphasize the responsive and responsible use of tools and materials in sustainable ways.  Studio work in the first part of winter quarter will prepare students to work collaboratively on small group projects in the second half that challenge students to integrate these components of making:  structural elements, connectors, and skin/shell/envelope, as well as materiality, ornamentation, and the hand as a mental organ of motoricity. Small group projects will be a primary focus of our assessment and evaluation practices. Intensive studio work and small group projects will lead to opportunities for research and individual creative projects spring quarter.  To support and augment studio work, we will actively engage in scholarly research and writing, seminar reading and reflection, lecture workshops, and field trips.  Students interested in field study including apprenticeships and participant-observation regarding making and ornamentation practices are encouraged to contact faculty Sarah Williams ( ) as soon as possible to develop an in-program ILC.

During Spring quarter students will work in one of two 3D making studios: one focused on hands-on means of working with metals and other materials, and one focused on digital modeling for 3D printing using CAD and parametric software tools. Additionally, students from each studio will collaborate to explore using 3D printing in conjunction with sand casting in aluminum to create small ornamented forms. Both studios will emphasize the potentials and constraints of their materials and the processes by which creative work honors those materials. In the second half of the quarter, students will have an opportunity to choose a traditional or contemporary means of making and ornamenting, which they will document and demonstrate for their peers. This will be an opportunity for substantive individual work within the program's themes. We will pay special attention to contemporary environmental art and artists, and to the potential of natural and sustainable systems to generate both form and ornament.

Students in this program will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and satisfactions of being makers, and of the uses of ornament to enhance objects.  They will develop skills in drawing, design, and the use of tools and materials (both low-tech and high-tech), and abilities in expressive, expository, and reflective thinking, speaking and writing. In addition to instructional texts and short articles, book possibilities include:  The Thinking Hand  (Pallasmaa),  The Language of Ornament  (Trilling),  Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity  (Picon), Bits of Life: Feminism at the Intersections of Media, Bioscience, and Technology  (Smelik and Lykke), Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art, and Architecture ( Ingold ), To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet (Weintraub), The Nature of Ornament: Rhythm and Metamorphosis in Architecture (Bloomer).

The program is a follow-up to the fall quarter program Making Meaning Matter and is intended for anyone seriously interested in making as thoughtful engagement with the material world.


Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

visual and environmental arts, cultural studies, architecture and art education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online:

Required Fees

$50 per quarter for entrance fees and studio supplies.


Date Revision
February 25th, 2015 This program will accept new spring enrollment with signature. The description has been updated.
November 24th, 2014 The description has been updated.
November 18th, 2014 Title change (formerly The Nature of Ornament: Chaos, Code, Cosmos).
November 7th, 2014 This program no longer requires Special Expenses.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 69


Signature Required

Students joining this program will be distributed into three studios: wood and metal working practices led by Bob Leverich, solid modeling for 3D printing led by Arlen Speights, and retro tech led by Sarah Williams. Students must contact the faculty leading their preferred studio and will be notified of placement within 48 hours.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20140
So - Sr (16 credits): 20141

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students joining this program will work in one of two 3D studios: one focused on hands-on means of working with metals and other materials led by Bob Leverich or one focused on one focused on digital modeling for 3D printing using CAD and parametric software tools led by Arlen Speights. Students must contact the faculty leading their preferred studio.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30081
So - Sr (16 credits): 30082

Go to to register for this program.

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