Materials Days take Bard Graduate Center students to makers’ studios all over the city for hands-on experience. Recent visits have included glassblowing, bookmaking, letterpress printing, and jewelry making. After attending a silver ring-making workshop at Brooklyn Metal Works and a letterpress workshop at the Arm Letterpress, PhD student Michael Assis offered the following reflection:

1 of 4
Silver Ring-making Workshop at Brooklyn Metal Works
Silver Ring-making Workshop at Brooklyn Metal Works
Material Day Workshop 2018 at the Arm Letterpress
Material Day Workshop Spring 2018 at the Arm Letterpress

Johannes Gutenberg, traditionally known as the inventor of the printing press, began his professional career as a goldsmith. During spring 2018, MA and PhD students engaged with both media in hands-on Materials Days workshops. The first of these was a silver ring-making workshop, at Brooklyn Metal Works, in which students learned how to fabricate their own rings using traditional jewelry techniques. The second was a letterpress workshop, at the Arm Letterpress, in which students printed their own designs using a Vandercook printing press.

The recent years have seen a surge in academic writings that acknowledge the intrinsic relationship between making and knowing, which has been a staple at Bard Graduate Center. The meaning of materials and the processes that involved their manipulation are often not straightforward when mediated through the sources, both textual and material, that are available to us today. The appreciation of making as a means of generating knowledge does not only apply to figures of earlier historic periods, it allows us researchers today to get closer to a contemporary comprehension of the physical and technical processes that guided intellectuals and craftsmen. Craft (or making) can become a means of investigating history no less than of investigating nature.

Hands-on engagement has the potential to expose new avenues of thought and understanding. These MaterialsDays have certainly encouraged me to think differently about my research interests concerning Italian renaissance goldsmithing and metalwork. The fine metalwork that is involved in letterpress and the inextricable processes of imprinting that are involved in jewelry-making were made much more evident through my participation in these days. Consequently, the understanding that these arts, and many others, are linked through practice and theory alike was elucidated through the workshops. That Johannes Gutenberg, for instance, began his professional career as a goldsmith is now immensely clearer, and poses more questions for us as researchers regarding the underlying relationships between the various arts.

—Michael Assis, PhD student