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TOOLS FOR THOUGHT

Rhode Island School of Design

2010


photo

name department

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Critical thinking and critical making have always been the hallmarks of a RISD education — something we all take serious pride in. As a community of artists and designers, the modes of communication and processes at RISD are categorically distinctive, blessedly chaotic and continually inspiring. In an effort to understand the RISD way of thinking through making, I asked faculty members (and non-faculty members): What is your preferred tool for thought? I was delighted when carefully packaged objects and photographs began to appear in my office, with brief descriptions of how the tools get used. What began as a four-month passion project soon after I arrived at RISD is now collected in this visual index that documents a remarkably wide range of specimens that represent equally varied ways of thinking. From the mundane to the ephemeral, from the visual to the auditory, from objects that require action to those that promote contemplation, this collection of “tools for thought” are in many cases more than objects, they are extensions of the mind and the body — fundamental to the creative process. These tools encourage me to think of how Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences are represented and valued at RISD: the spatial, the musical, the linguistic, the bodily-kinesthetic, and the logical-mathematical among them. All find expression in both disciplinary rigor as well as the broad experiences unique to RISD’s culture. As we engage in the important work of planning for RISD’s future, I thought it timely to celebrate these intelligences — how they inform our thinking and making and shape our life as a creative community. If RISD is to create the justifiable case for creativity in the world, then we might return to Howard Gardner who counsels: “It is of the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences and all of the combinations of intelligences. We are all so different largely because we have different combinations of intelligences. If we recognize this, I think we will have at least a better chance of dealing appropriately with the many problems that we face in the world.” We are almost there. John Maeda

TOOLS FOR THOUGHT

Rhode Island School of Design

2010


09

Prof. Bardt

Architecture

11

Prof. Berwick

Glass

13

Prof. Byrne

English

15

Prof. Campbell

History of Art + Visual Culture

17

Prof. Caserta

Graphic Design

19

Prof. Cavicchi

History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

21

Prof. Collins

Textiles

23

Mr. Crayfish

Nature Lab

25

Prof. De Pace

Architecture

27

Prof. Driscoll

Sculpture

29

Prof. Drury

Illustration

31

Prof. Dunnigan

Furniture Design

33

Prof. Feld

Architecture

35

Prof. Ferreira

Printmaking

37

Prof. Fontana

Industrial Design

39

Prof. Frazer

Painting

41

Prof. Gourlay

English

43

Prof. Horii

Foundation Studies

45

Prof. Lee

English

47

Prof. Leski

Architecture

49

Mr. Martinez

Archives

51

Prof. Merola

English

53

Prof. Moore

Foundation Studies

55

Prof. Myer

Sculpture

57

Prof. O’Neill

Film/Animation/Video

59

Prof. Prewitt

History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

61

Prof. Quigley

Jewelry & Metalsmithing

63

Prof. Saito

History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

65

Prof. Sandler

History of Art + Visual Culture

67

Prof. Shefrin

Provost

69

Prof. Sherman

English

71

Prof. Somerson

Furniture Design

73

Prof. Walker

Furniture Design

75

Prof. Willier

Illustration

77

Prof. Windels

Furniture Design

Page

Name

Department

Table of Contents


Prof. Bardt Architecture

9

“My tools for thought are contingent, transient and expedient. Sometimes I reach into my pocket and I find it filled with a cluster of pens. The next day they’re all gone. When I walk through the city each day between RISD and my office, my thoughts are shaped by and through this context and the team of people I work with, as much as by the various implements I have at my disposal.”


Prof. Berwick Glass

11

“Shadows, like glass, have the ability to embody absence and presence simultaneously. They are created by light and its absence. I use shadows as material, as tool, and as concept. When I use glass, it is most often in the form of cast glass that is generated through a laborious process of mold making. In mold making, light is cast across the surface of an object so that shadows will reveal any undercuts. Therefore, the shadow is both a conceptual tool and a practical tool. It facilitates my preoccupation with themes of loss while also facilitating the making, shaping, and thinking of glass.�


Prof. Byrne English

13

“My principal writing tool is a small 3½ in (W) X 5½ Clairefontaine clothbound hard-cover notebook, which comes in a range of bright-colored covers. I like these notebooks because they are compact, fit in a back pocket, feel good in the hand, are easy to find (even deep in the recesses of a RISD bag) are durable, & delight the eye. I fill about one a month. I’ve been using them for 4–5 years, so I have lots. I always have this notebook nearby & try to use it for ideas rather than to-do lists & anxieties about money ...”


Prof. Campbell History of Art + Visual Culture

15

“Each time I look at this work it evokes the Yoruba philosophy structured on the Ifa divination text quoted above. Ori is the deity of the head, metaphor for human personality, and the votive symbol of individual destiny and identity, representing the selective choice made at the point of birth according to Yoruba ontological belief.�


Prof. Caserta Graphic Design

17

“The typewriter sits somewhere between handwriting and computer output – somewhat efficient, somewhat human – error-prone and full of personality. There are no true defaults. You choose the page margins, you decide line breaks, you check your own spelling. It shows errors, both its own, and yours.”


Prof. Cavicchi History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

19

“My research and teaching interests are captured in the red-vinyl grooves of this 12- inch LP. It’s a record – when the technology of recording was first introduced, it was valued primarily as a memory tool, similar to a diary. It enables recreation – any listener can re-create a specific moment in time, again and again. It’s a form of recreation – we derive pleasure from re-creating.”


Prof. Collins Textiles

21

“Yarn is my tool of thought because it is like three-dimensional, multi-faceted paint. It holds color, and possesses specific material properties that give it character and allow it to do things when used to build fabrics and forms. Each yarn has its own distinct identity and personality, and is capable of becoming a limitless range of things. Yarn represents unlimited potential to me, and often yarns speak to me and tell me what they want to become.�


Mr. Crayfish Nature Lab

23

“Why use a can opener when you could use a crayfish cadaver instead? The eternal questions of form versus function are immediately inspired by discovering nature’s own laboratory – our earth.”


Prof. De Pace Architecture

25

“While warping our brains around the construction of a complex spatial problem, the string is a tangible and succinct tool that can explicitly connect our command of projection drawing to geometry without much translation. The string is infinitely pliable and circuitous, yet when made taut is measurable and exact. It can easily transcribe an arc, scale a distance between two points and with a weighted end and earth’s gravity, it provides the absolute vertical needed to evaluate all things against it….”


Prof. Driscoll Sculpture

27

“My 3M glue gun is a fast tool, which allows me to ‘draw’ with recycled plastic, harvested from water bottles on their way to the recycle or waste transfer station. I can improvise and work quickly, mocking sculptures up so that I can see them and determine what needs revision,or strengthening with cold connections. Depending on the size of the structure, the glue gun is either one of many attaching methods used..or the only one.”


Prof. Drury Illustration

29

“The body’s surface in life – or frozen in plaster or snapshot – affords the sensual particulars of form, triggering memory and association: the foundation of expression ...”


Prof. Dunnigan Furniture Design

31

“The shorter they are, the more important they are.�


Prof. Feld Architecture

33

“My tools are quite basic, little drawings and little writings.�


Prof. Ferreira Printmaking

35

“A screen contains a history – they collect the stains from past stencils, random ghost images, the memories of old work. Sometimes I think I’d have been better off framing the screen rather than the print.”


Prof. Fontana Industrial Design

37

“I’ve always loved this tool because I could work directly from a 3D object and transfer that information to 2D. When I saw a beautiful curve or shape, I could lay the flexible curve on it, shape the curve to the form, and then transfer the form onto paper. I’ve always been fascinated by geometry and by what constitutes beauty. It was easier for me to dissect and understand the geometry of the 3D forms I like on paper - it helps me understand how to draw the things I like to see in form.”


Prof. Frazer Painting

39

“Thinking about this request and avoiding the most obvious tools like brush and painting knife, etc. It seems that the most fundamental tools for me would be my hands. Years ago, John Canaday, for his Metropolitan Lectures on Art, wrote, “A painting is a layer of pigments applied to a surface. It is an arrangement of shapes and colors. It is a projection of the personality of the person who painted it, a statement of the philosophy of the age that produced it and it can have a meaning beyond anything concerned with one person or only one period of time.” This clear and simple statement is the best answer to the question, “What is painting?” that I have ever read and the physical realization of this form is dependent on our hands.”


Prof. Gourlay English

41

“My paleography students cut reed pens from tube cane and other cane-like things such as the plastic tubes in fancy popsicles. We use them to produce and analyze the largest pen-written letters in the spectrum we cover -- those used in giant choir books that were meant to be read by the entire choir at once. I have a leaf from a 17th century Spanish psalter that I bring to class when we study these letters. Twenty years ago I found a monk writing in almost exactly the same script for a ‘No Smoking/No Fume’ sign at a little church in New Mexico -- he was using a reed pen that he said was older than he was.”


Prof. Horii Foundation Studies

43

“I introduce into a process the act of thinking and experimenting with opposites. This includes forcing extreme contrasts of everything from concept to physical form – advocating not just reversal and inversion (which imply 2-dimensional dynamics) but also conceptualizing and often fabricating ‘inside-out’ (which is a more appropriate metaphor for 3-D).”


Prof. Lee English

45

“As a teenager, I once read that Proust dressed up in full-on evening clothes to write. This is how I feel about thinking to write ... my body has to feel properly formal, which for me means comfortable and breathing in a tissuethin thing that has lived with some other being before I found it.�


Prof. Leski Architecture

47

“I use hand–drawn axonometric sketches, done typically with a black ink pen, more than any other tool. Because an axonometric preserves some measured information, it allows me to think through geometry, while it gives a view of a kind from a single direction; AND, if done as a transparent sketch, allows one to see the WHOLE.”


Mr. Martinez Archives

49

“Histories encompass more than a handful of individual or singular events. The file folder reminds us that any specific subject has its place yet relates to so many others within the extensive file cabinet, i.e. continuum, of any collective and cumulative history.�


Prof. Merola English

51

“My primary tool is my brain and all the pathways/possibilities for insight created by years and years of reading. But, since that’s not something we can photograph easily, I think a pile of books is a good stand-in. I would also consider close attention/close reading/peeling back the surface of things as one of my tools.”


Prof. Moore Foundation Studies

53

“The cheaper they are, the better.”


Prof. Myer Sculpture

55

“My most used tool would probably be my picture library which is really a personal resource, started over 30 years ago—it’s pictures of anything I find that interests me categorized in thousands of files in eight drawers and still growing.”


Prof. O’Neill Film/Animation/ Video

57

“This image is of an Italian–designed 16mm film splicer...it is the tool I used to cut the workprint and soundtracks for several documentary films I produced... the diagonal blade (with the red tape on it) is held down as I used the vertical blade to cut both picture and sound. It is a nicely designed piece of equipment which takes some maintenance and cleaning...it is the mechanical part of the most important conceptual part of filmmaking: the editing. It has a gruesome name: Guillotine.”


Prof. Prewitt History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

59

“As far as tools go, I use my brain to plan my research and teaching. I use a computer to prepare lessons, search for relevant articles, create surveys, analyze data, etc.�


Prof. Quigley Jewelry & Metalsmithing

61

“This tool (self-made from a coat hanger) functions as a soldering pick. Withstanding the heat of the flame to direct the flow of solder, the tool becomes an extension of my hand. The length of the pick was originally much longer; after repeated use, it has grown shorter...it has a life.�


Prof. Saito History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

63

“I use these and other packagings for talking about Japanese aesthetic sensibilities as well as the environmental ramifications of excess.�


Prof. Sandler History of Art + Visual Culture

65

“I write about urban space, and my best ideas come when I am walking in the city. Meandering intuitively, or purposefully pursuing fieldwork triggers my thought process, sparks insights, and often yields unexpected discoveries.�


Prof. Shefrin Provost

67

“Tools carry many states of being – are different states of being. This Japanese brush is meant to be sharpened and uses itself up over time as it gets used. This pencil is made from a special metal and sharpens itself as it gets used without ever getting used up. And a pair of eyes that you can hold in your hands.”


Prof. Sherman English

69

“This old clipboard (and a stack of recycled papers) is the object I think with. I’ve been using the clean side of used printer paper for decades, starting way back when what we now call “green” was known as “ecological.” I like the way it embodies the idea that writing always has some relationship to other writing, yet the unruled space I face allows musing without preconditions and the freedom to diagram or make connections when a flashpoint appears. Also, the ideas feel much more engaged and much more present to my mind if I write them out by hand rather than on a computer. They have a palpable quality that word processing just can’t match.”


Prof. Somerson Furniture Design

71

“Sometimes the tools have their own personalities that contribute to the development of ideas in the work.�


Prof. Walker Furniture Design

73

“These surfboards are my immediate connection to the natural world, a connection made through my own design and hands, and one that allows me to immerse myself in the elements, in a place where I have to be observant, patient, forward–looking and continually adjusting my footing to navigate changing circumstances.�


Prof. Willier Illustration

75

“The better to see you with.”


Prof. Windels Furniture Design

77

“I test ideas three-dimensionally with the help of simple tools to see if they are valid.�


Book design by Jae Jeon, MFA 2010 Graphic Design / jaejeon.com Edited by Mara Hermano, Asst. Director of Planning and Research Typeface: ITC Franklin Gothic Std / 6 x 9 inches / print-on-demand


Tools for Thought