Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts/Dandelion Spring Farm



My name is Elizabeth Langyher and I am a Junior Ceramics major. As a sophomore, I began exploring agriculture and its relationship with ceramic art forms in my studio classes. I became very interested in planters and the process of seeding and transplanting sprouts due to my experience with growing and maintaining a large garden at home for the past several years. At the same time I was investigating this, the head of my department, David East, was putting together a ceramic studio/organic farm internship that would explore food, clay, studio work, and an opportunity to learn about organic farming.
The two organizations, Watershed and Dandelion Farms, are direct neighbors and this proximity was the inspiration for the internship. Watershed is an organization that aims to give artists an opportunity to work in a communal studio and have the freedom and means to make their work. Dandelion Farms is owned by Beth Schiller and is a MOFGA certified organic farm that promotes community and a healthy farm to table lifestyle.
            After hearing about the opportunity, I thought it would be perfect for me and would provide experience and insight into agriculture that would feed into my studio practice. I applied with a resume, cover letter, essay, and portfolio and was given a tentative acceptance several weeks later. I was later given a final interview by Watershed’s studio manager, Reeder Fahnestock , who was also my direct supervisor, and officially accepted as one of two interns for a three week session. I was able to fund the trip through the Meyerhoff Internship Fellowship.

            As an intern, I worked as a studio assistant for Watershed, performing the same duties as the summer studio staff. These duties ranged from grounds keeping to making clay to reorganizing and relabeling dry materials to checking in with resident artists and making sure that the studio is working for them. On the Farm, I was also inducted into the staff and into the regular schedule of the day, working with the apprentices daily on every part of the farming process. I regularly harvested crops as well as seeded and transplanted them. I also participated in creating structures to protect the plants from harsh weather and bug infestations. Of the whole experience I have to say that I am proud of being able to keep up with the staff in both organizations, but specifically at the farm. It was relentless, hard work and I walked away feeling very satisfied with myself for rising up to that challenge.


            Above all, I left the internship with a wealth of knowledge. From interacting with the residents, about 15 artists from all over the country, I gained insight into life as an artist after school that I felt was very important to learn directly. Learning about their career paths was very helpful, as was hearing about the career history of the farm apprentices and the opportunities there. While I still maintain very loose career goals, I feel that this experience has simply expanded my horizons. For example, I never would have seen myself wanting to farm and now I want to explore this line of work after school. As a student, I intend to further explore the connection between food and ceramics, using the new vocabulary that I’m gained from this experience, and I am very grateful to have participated in this internship for this clarified focus. 

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