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ISP Presentations Part I

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Today we had the first half of our Independent Study Project presentations! Our students have spent close to five and a half weeks working away at their ISPs. We finally got to hear and see (!) what the students had been doing everyday when they walked, biked or auto-ed their way to their workshops and classrooms.

“You can’t have beauty without love.” JJ’s pottery teacher apparently said this to him at ten minute intervals through the duration of his ISP. I remember dropping JJ off to his teacher’s home on the first day and thinking what an incredible opportunity he had. The garden was full of clay sculptures, pots and masks, some almost blending into the greenery.

JJ brought in some of the work he had created and explained his process and all the techniques he had learned. He also brought us some clay so we could make some creations of our own. He suggested we all make animals, the first assignment his own teacher had given him. We each made one and then JJ judged which he thought was the best. Rachel’s amazing elephant won the competition. At the end he smashed all our creations to teach us a lesson about impermanence. This may or may not have been suggested by this here instructor 🙂

Cecelia’s ISP was silk weaving and before she shared more about the actual practice that she had learned, she said, “We often take for granted the clothes we have at our disposal and aren’t always thinking about where they came from and who made them.” We were treated to a wonderful history of silk weaving in India, when power looms took over and the impact this had and continues to have on traditional handloom weavers like Cecelia’s teacher, SalimJi, who was actually at the presentation!

She also discussed the threat that education poses to the weaving industry. SalimJi’s nephews are all educated, some have PhDs and are not at all interested in the silk weaving industry, which leaves you to wonder whether this generation of weavers is our last.

Cecelia highlighted some very important dynamics in the silk weaving world. Banarasi weavers are almost always Muslim men and their clientele are predominantly Hindu women. Even the shop keepers that weavers sell to are Hindus, creating an imbalance of power that is easy to ignore, but important to pay attention to.

PS- Cecelia’s final project was of course incredible, but she wants it to be a surprise for the special ones at home.

With her blocks of stones and tools laid out before her, Callie looked every bit the professional we would soon see she was.

We seldom give much thought to amount of work a finished product really took. And so Callie had incredible progress photos of some of her work so we could see the progression from a block of stone to insanely beautiful candle holder.

Callie told us what each of the tools do and how tedious a process it sometimes is to chip away at a block of stone for hours and hours. Her expectations for what this ISP entailed were different, but she was pleased at how much she had ended up enjoying herself. She even plans to take some tools and stone home to continue this new talent of hers. Every teacher’s dream come true 🙂

Rach spent countless hours in a tiny room at the back of AgamJi’s jewellery shop. Melting silver, hammering it out and moulding it into magic. We were lucky enough to see what she had made,  but were also treated to some progress shots of her latest piece. It was clear that she had advanced at her craft 🙂

Rach’s favourite day to do her ISP was Sunday because the shopfront was closed and they would get more uninterrupted time to work and talk. We now know that AgamJi loves dogs and Adele and gossips with Rach about which of his workers was late that day- a testament to how close a relationship students have with their ISP mentors beyond just the crafts that they are learning.

At some point while working Rach made a mistake and AgamJi said to her, “Fix what you made ugly.” Honest teachers make good teachers, right?

Our hearts are warm knowing that JJ, Cecelia, Callie and Rach had such meaningful ISP experiences.

We can’t wait to hear all about Dani, Rachel and Sophie’s ISPs tomorrow!

JJ with one of his creations.
Cecelia and SalimJi outside his workshop. Please do take note of the serious side eye.
Callie with her favourite stone carving tool!
How happy does Rach look with the ring that she made?