Thoughts on the New Semester

So I just finished my first week of classes and I’m feeling…. alright I guess. Not exactly an enthusiastic response but, while I’m glad to be back and making progress again, I am feeling a little intimidated by the semester schedule for my Principles and Practice class. This class makes up most of my class hours, two full days and one half day.

Additionally I have two sort of standard lecture-based classes that together make up another whole day. I’m looking forward to both these classes! One is Understanding Textiles: Textile Technology which is, you guessed it, about the technology behind creating textiles. The other is Preventative Conservation which focuses on the skills and knowledge needed to maintain the condition of objects, collections etc, as well as protect them from further sources of harm.

Principles and Practice is now taking place in our newly renovated lab space which is extremely exciting and not without its’ growing pains. The heating is odd and something that I think needs to be re-evaluated. Our first-year student space is quite warm while the art history room is cold in comparison. I’m not sure how much this should be concerning us but once I finish Preventative Conservation I’ll let you know! Some things remain unpacked however this is probably for the best right now, since there are no second year students and the space is best utilized with some things still efficiently tucked away.

The last issue that concerns me is the absence of a place for us students to relax. I really feel this is important fro several reasons. The first is that work of this type is extremely tiring. I may spend a day sitting at my workbench not moving around much but the incredible level of concentration and attention to detail that is necessary to doing good work saps your energy at an incredible rate. Concentrating on the task at hand is extremely important and in order to maintain this concentration breaks need to be taken. You have to come up for air otherwise you won’t be able to do good work. This needs to happen physically outside of the lab space. Firstly, because the rules of good workroom practice don’t allow for the presence of food, even water, in the controlled space of the lab. Secondly, you can’t relax in the lab. You have to be aware at all times of the precious objects around you as well as the potential hazards. physically removing yourself from the space is an important step in taking a break. So right now we have been using the common room on the first floor however this apparently houses the International College (don’t ask me what that is I have no clue) whose members are still on their winter break. We’ll have to see how the dynamics change when they re-occupy the space.

It’s good to be in the lab, truly it is, but I’m feeling trepidatious and I’m not entirely sure why. Part of it might be that now it’s "the real deal" and real work can now begin on objects, but that should make me more eager. I am so ready to work and learn and hone my skills! Another big part of it is just the pace of the course. There are so many things to cover and looking at the schedule is daunting. I feel like there’s no room to breathe and I’m afraid of not being able to keep up intellectually. I want so very much to be able to rise to the challenge and to accomplish things in class and not disappoint my teachers, my parents, or myself. On the one hand it’s silly because I know I have some great skills that I am really confident in, but on the other hand I feel like the stakes are higher. This semester means something. It doesn’t feel like any of the class content is makeshift or temporary, as some things did last term. Consequently the work that we do feels more permanent.

It didn’t help that the first topic was photography which I knew absolutely nothing about! We had a crash course that covered basic theory behind taking pictures as well as a practical session where we took before treatment photographs of our objects. I do feel I learned a lot but I’m still feeling intimidated by it. It’s a topic that’s very alien to me. I found it really interested that the method for evaluating the success or failure of a particular exposure is not by looking at the image, apart from making sure it’s properly framed, but rather by evaluating the data collected through a histogram that displays the highlights and lowlights. This remains a standard that will be the same no matter what screen you see the image on or what print you examine. It’s important of course to then tailor the image for it’s intended use but, well, we haven’t covered that part yet.

I’ve already tried applying some of the principles I’ve learned when photographing some of my most recent sewing projects. I’ll post more about them later.

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