Nora Arrieta has joined our community this year as a one-year teaching fellow in Ceramics. She teaches two introductory courses, Handbuilding and Sculpture, and Wheelworking. She also assists with the afternoon ceramics program and serves as a dorm parent in Bushnell.
Arrieta is a German citizen from Berlin. She studied sculpture at Weissensee Academy of Art in Berlin, Germany, and after that was a postgraduate master’s student at the University of Fine Arts in Dresden, Germany where she had the opportunity to enjoy a semester abroad as a visiting artist at Syracuse University’s Ceramic Art Department. It was at Syracuse that she learned about Alfred University’s excellence in ceramics, and as her chosen field, she wanted to study more about its technology and rich history, globally, but also specifically in the U.S. This led to her to the decision to refine her portfolio, apply, and pursue a master’s in ceramics at Alfred. She received her MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University in May 2019.
When she is not teaching in the studio, Nora is free to work on her own projects, which allows students to see her at work and question her techniques and style. Nora’s current works are functional objects that she combines with sculptural elements. She uses various daily life objects as symbols in her humorous compositions. “I use a great deal of imagery and pop culture in my work. It has been fun to share with my students, and in so doing begin to create a common language between us.” This is her first time teaching high school students, as she taught undergrads at Alfred.
On a recent visit to her Handbuilding and Sculpture class, Arrieta explained that she has involved students in a cultural exploration of Moche pottery, Peruvian ceremonial vessels that bear animal or human spirits and are richly decorated with imagery. Her father is from Peru, which was the basis for her interest in this sort of art. Before this major undertaking in the introductory trimester course, the class did some pinch pots and coil pots to learn a few helpful techniques. Building a hollow vessel is complex, and these techniques are commonly used to build all sorts of vessels and sculptures. To get an idea of the variety of these ancient Peruvian vessels, she shared images from the Artstore, an online subscription database we have access to at Tabor and asked each student to choose a Moche object to model their pot from. As they considered the imagery and/or spirits to grace their vessels, Arrieta asked them to think carefully about the meaning behind their choices and describe the pot in a final artist’s statement. The statement is to explain how they incorporated the cultural references they learned into their work, as well as describe the different ways their imagery might be interpreted.
With so many parts to the project, including research, sketching, writing, building the pot, then decorating it by painting with underglaze, there are a variety of skills required. Arrieta has been impressed with our students’ attention and tenacity in the project. “The students are very engaged, even though it is a hard task to learn everything together: history, culture, technique, and then apply it to one’s own creation. I hope it will be satisfying for them to see it through to the end.” She commented that college-level students have more experience to draw from as they express abstract forms or describe the imagery in their art, while at Tabor it is refreshing to see the students drawing more directly from nature or life. “This is a difficult project for beginning students. I realized as I began teaching it that it might be hard for them to maintain their focus throughout the project, but the students are doing very well!”
So far, Arrieta is not only enjoying teaching at our school by the sea; she shared, “I love the studio, the students and the campus along the ocean. It is a lovely place to work and create. I am very happy to be here at Tabor!”
And we too are happy to have her! It is an invaluable experience to have a practicing artist live and work among us, and we hope to continue this model in the future. Welcome, Nora!