Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Callused Fingers, Lack of Sleep and an Undeniable Urge to Tell People to Take a Shower

Also known as my first week of art school.

The callused fingers and lack of sleep I was anticipating. Pretty much comes with the territory when you are a metals major and have 8am classes.

What *has* been a surprise is how freaking DIRTY some of my classmates look. The worst part? With a few exceptions, most of these kids appear to be going for this look deliberately. It's all part of the hipster façade, I suppose, but the stained California Raisins sweatshirt plus filthy neon 80's-style sneakers plus holey leggings plus a carefully tilted, grease-stained trucker hat atop a femullet* is just too much in my book.

Then again, my book is ancient in young-person terms and I am admittedly out of touch with many of the current fashion trends, bands, superfoods and technology.

So...enough about fashion or the lack thereof. Additional impressions from my first week at school:

- Tuition is insanely expensive, but I really feel I'm getting value for my money. Teachers seem excellent, class sizes are small (no more than 20 students in any of my classes), studios are well-equipped, there are tons of on-campus resources for students, and the level of performance expected from students is quite high.

- Speaking of performance, school is turning out to be much more work than I'd anticipated. For each hour I'm in a studio class, I spend one hour outside class working on homework or projects. This is completely normal. Thankfully I am good at time management, otherwise I think I'd be on the brink of an anxiety attack right now.

- Aside from wanting to give some of them a good scrubbing, most of my fellow students seem very nice. There is a good mix of ages (I'm not the oldest, thankfully), backgrounds, nationalities, and prior artistic experience. Everyone seems decently motivated to participte in class and excel at our assignments. There is no stigma associated with striving to do well, as can be the case in other academic environments. Nobody is labeled a nerd, and the overachievers simply win the admiration of the rest of the class when they turn in exquisitely made pieces.

- I've learned a lot in one week. I learned to solder (4 different ways!), learned to saw metal, learned to use a gigantic torch with an oxygen hose attached, learned how to put a rice paper skin on a wire structure, and learned how to do contour drawings.

- Even in art school, teachers can make or break a class. I was very apprehensive about taking Drawing I because I have no formal experience, but it's turned out to be one of my favorite classes. The teacher is excellent - she's funny, encouraging and inspiring. She sent my anxiety packing the first day, and I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished in class thus far.

- The downsides, other than the super expensive tuition: lots of expensive supplies to purchase for each class; tons of things to lug around every day (drawing easel, tool box, sketch books, etc.) and no locker access for freshmen from what I've understood; no real lounge on campus, although we are near tons of shops and restaurants; very few drinking fountains (I hate buying water) and cold classrooms. In all, no serious complaints, especially given all the positive things the school has to offer.

I'll check in again around midterms to see what, if anything, has changed about my impressions. The bottom line? I'm really happy I decided to go to art school and become a full-time jeweler.

* The femullet is a term coined in honor of this girl at school who has deliberately cut her hair short on the crown, but rocks a forehead full of curly bangs and a swath of long, greasy hair down her back. She obviously thinks this is a great look, because mullets don't just happen, especially to women. I am practicing restraint not to use my shop scissors to give her an unsolicited trim while we work on our wire sculptures.


nola said...

Not only are you "old" but you lived in Africa. It was very eye-opening to me to be living on a Liberian refugee camp with a small group of Europeans/USAers, because war refugees pretty much always outdressed and outshined us. We of comparatively limitless means always looked scruffy and dirty in comparison. I'm presuming Mozambique is similar with the value placed on clean, neat appearance?

Glad you're having such good learning experiences!

Baldwin said...

Back in the day a friend's son got a mullet haircut a'la Billy Ray Cyrus. Upon first sight of it his little sister exclaimed "Achy-Breaky-Mistaky!"

Ali la Loca said...

~Nola - I think just about the entire world is dressier and more spiffed up than the casual-loving citizens of the US. I'd say Brazil tops the list (at least in my scope of experiences) in terms of placing value on cleanliness (multiple showers per day are a social norm), always looking pulled together (the extreme being matchy-matchy outfits), and taking great pride in having one's nails manicured, hair done and clothes freshly ironed.

Mozambique is certainly not far, however there is one interesting cultural difference I noticed while living there. People wear clothes that are so full of holes sometimes there is more negative space than fabric. Nobody goes shirtless, or at least not that I observed over the course of nearly 5 years. People will wear a shirt until it literally disintegrates, whereas in Brazil it's pretty common to see men shirtless, especially in the summer, while practicing sports, or in beach areas.

~Baldwin - At least the mistaky grows back at some point...

JC said...

Ali dearest, there's so much I want to comment but will say just one thing. The femullet is also knowns as 'Spanish Hair'. If you asked my sister to describe SH, I can almost guarantee she would give you the femullet. The young cool kids (and not so young, or cool, for that) of modern Spain all seem to rock these awful variations on the mullet theme, with great delight... Perhaps it's some kind of rebellion after enduring neat Bryclreemed side-partings favoured during Franco's regime...?!
Hope to catch up soooon. xx

nola said...

Ah, and don't forget the casual-loving Western Europeans - young Germans and English can (and do) underdress me any day - and that's no small feat! :) Plus with my regular shower habits, I was cleaner than anybody I met in living in Germany for a year and a half.

Ali la Loca said...

~JC - I would *love* to hear your sister describe Spanish Hair. Really. I think it would make my year. Perhaps she can send you pictures to bring when you visit us in Casa Cali??

~Nola - I guess one might call it the Great Brotherhood of Casual. I think Australia might be vying for membership...

Marie said...

You're so lucky! I'm sure you'll do great.
I've also gone back to school, but it's distance learning (so I can't tell you if French hipsters are dirty too!), much easier I think.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Could we please please talk about what's going on with male hipster haircuts all of a sudden? What's up with that combo wind-tunnel/combover look going on these days? And the ends that culminates in these almost farrah fawcett waves.


ps: your perspective was much appreciated, ali.