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I am committed to teaching students the art of communication and am open minded as an educator. In the classroom, I impart studio methodology and technical skill, and give students direction, guiding them through intellectual and conceptual processes of personal expression and art making. Helping them specify what drives their intellectual pursuits will inform them of how they can most effectively express ideas in their creative pursuits. This requires my sensitivity, reception, and ability to comprehend their unique perceptions of the world; and the patience to guide them through the practice of making, learning, and developing new ways to convey their thoughts and personal beliefs through their art.

In my classes, students will learn how to think critically. Being productive in the studio and their openness to constructive feedback are important components of what will determine their intellectual and academic progression. Students will hone their talents and their technical abilities in my class, but they will also learn how to be shrewd and strategic thinkers. Through class discussions and verbal and written critiques, my students utilize the lexicon of art and design, exchanging constructive feedback with their peers. Under my tutelage, students will also develop the ability to be self-critical in a constructive manner towards their own work. Without challenge, there can be no growth, and it is important that students understand that failure is an inevitable part in the equation of achievement.

Mordant Crystals
Mordant Crystals

Jordan Graves

Crystals on Fabric, 2017

Cotton, Procion Dye, Borax Crystals, Framed in Wood


A student accidentally grow crystals from a chemical that is commonly used as a mordant for fabric in the dyeing process. In their mis-mixed color solution, they discovered its crystallizing effect. As their final project they completed a suite of several 18” x 12” framed, bunches of dyed, unrinsed, fabric. The crumpled fabric stuffed into each frame had crystals sporadically growing on the nooks and folds of the cloth. It was through their willingness to not re-mix their dye solution, and to embrace their mistake that that they were able to discover and exploit the results they achieved which is the epitome of how we can thrive from our artistic accidents.

Building strong relationships in class and helping students find a personal sense of belonging amongst their peers helps promote accomplishments. While strong theoretical teaching methods are essential, it is crucial to realize that relationships in the classroom are first and foremost human interactions, and that students will often learn just as much - or more - from their classmates as they do from their instructors. By providing students with individual attention through coaching and feedback, I connect with my students on a personal level. But I also avidly encourage them to communicate and work together as groups or pairs during class facilitating teamwork. Fostering these kinds of relationships and engaging in group activities cultivate a positive and productive chemistry in class, helping students understand the importance of collaborative thinking.

Each student is unique. While structured timelines and assignments throughout the duration of a class, are an effective approach to teaching and learning, all students learn in vastly different ways. Some may learn better from uninhibited assignments and fewer guidelines, while others might thrive from completing a project that embraces strict and stringent directions and deadlines. In this case my flexibility and openness as an instructor are important. Working with individual students to come up with successful resolutions to course work that, overall, facilitate student learning is the goal. This sensitivity to the uniqueness of each student distinguishes an educator as being effective, and this is what I strive towards as an instructor.

Learning that happens outside of the classroom is a vital experience for students. Trips to museums, cultural and geographical landmarks, and/or traveling nationally or abroad to experience different ways of life, all bolster creative learning. Exposure to a diversity of values, beliefs and cultures that exist across the globe and are irreplaceable, experiential lessons that cannot be learned inside the classroom, and can often be extremely cathartic and inspirational to students. Going to see current exhibitions, artists’ lectures and traveling when possible as a class are activities which I regularly encourage and take part in, and use as an approach to learning.

​As an educator I am a role model and a leader. As a practicing artist, I bring my expertise, technical knowledge, and my own uniqueness as a person to the classroom. I am eager to share my professional experiences with pupils through dialogue, conversation, or formal training, and invite them to see my work in person. It is my duty to set up circumstances for students that are conducive to learning, to be transparent about what I expect from them, and to be responsive to each person in class. While students should feel empowered and excited about their art making, it is equally as important to encourage them to think analytically about their own creative endeavors, helping them to make better choices as artists and members in society.

Marissa Shell

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