Oberlin Center for Convergence (StudiOC)

Knowing through Making: Past, Present, Future

In labs facilitated by expert craftspeople, we will recreate historical recipes and study contemporary techniques in hybrid technologies. Reflecting on what we come to know through making (about ourselves and others) we will examine ethical challenges inherent in making, including sharing and appropriating knowledge we learn from indigenous makers. 

Christina Neilson.

Christina Neilson
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

Abby Aresty.

Abby Aresty
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

Knowing Through Making: Past, Present, Future

Offered Spring 2022

This learning community examines the historical, contemporary, and potential future significance of applied craft practice and material-based inquiry in humanistic, artistic, and scientific disciplines. In applied labs facilitated by expert craftspeople, we will recreate historical recipes, study contemporary techniques in hybrid technologies, experiment, imagine, and innovate.  We will use making as a tool for critical inquiry: as we engage in historical and contemporary making practices, our learning community will come together to reflect on how making is a form of knowledge and on what we come to know through making (about ourselves and others). We will examine the ethical challenges inherent in the practices of making and in the sharing and appropriation of knowledge produced through making. We will consider our responsibilities as investigators (makers and historians) and envision ethical, effective approaches for sharing ideas, processes, and outcomes as makers and curators. As we experiment with and imagine creative applications for cutting-edge technologies, we will look to the past to inform our approach. We will consider not only the affordances and possibilities of new technologies but also ethical implications, envisioning a future approach to craft that is socially just and environmentally sustainable. 


Course instructors for this learning community are Associate Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History Christina Neilson, and Technical Director and Lecturer Abby Aresty.


Christina Neilson, Instructor

ARTH 295OC Ingenious Making in the Early Modern World

Meets Tuesday and Thursday, 11AM - 12:15 PM; 4 credit hours; enrollment 15 

This course will explore what it meant to make things and work with materials, including featherwork, imitation gems, color making, and metal casting, in Europe and colonial Latin America between around 1350 and 1650. We will follow historical descriptions and recipes to reconstruct methods of making, and learn from expert practitioners, including indigenous makers. We will consider how a wide range of practitioners developed hands-on knowledge in workshops, laboratories, marketplaces, gardens, etc. and we will explore how making was and is a form of knowledge, how there are different systems of knowledge, and the intersections between art making and science. Field trips required. Prerequisites & Notes: 100-level course in art history recommended but not required.

Abby Aresty, Instructor

TIMARA 345OC Mixed Media Circuits: Design, Fabrication, Inquiry

Meets Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-10:45 AM; 4 credit hours; enrollment 15

In this course we use traditional handicraft and contemporary technologies to create bespoke mixed media circuits for diverse creative applications including wearables, performance, improvisation, and installation. Students will build DIY switches and sensors, textile and pulp-based actuators and displays, and embed or affix circuits on homegrown and custom-built substrates. We will engage in critical making, using the design and fabrication process to foster critical inquiry and facilitate discourse on what it means to make.