Pilchuck inspiring me beyond glass

August 5, 2011

I had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the class I’ll be co-teaching online in a few weeks. It’s a “Program Planning” course (LRNT 503) from the Royal Roads University MALAT cohort (MA in Learning and Technology).

I am still bursting with ideas from Pilchuck, and although the LRNT503 course is not at all about glass I believe that my experience at Pilchuck has given me new ideas for ways to address its goals.

At Pilchuck, Bruce Mau referred to technology and said “now we can do anything, what will we do?”

He encouraged the Pilchuck group to consciously design our lives and our environments. A perfect thought for the MALAT students I am working with, who will be designing online educational environments. Bruce Mau, a big BIG picture designer, gave me a renewed understanding of the scale of design principles. It’s something I want to share as I teach this year.

For instance, the intersection of arts and science can be made more explicit as an educational goal. “Massive change” for education. “The Third Teacher”  — interactions for learning. Kids interact with adults, peers and their environment — as program planners, the group I’m teaching will be making decisions about learning environments and should spend time reflecting on how these shape the learning experience.

Also, collaborative learning is something that Royal Roads has always emphasized, and it was beautiful to see it in action at Pilchuck. In my session with the MALAT group I described Pilchuck’s environment of artistic collaboration and hopefully made it clear that the same creative energy can be applied throughout the MALAT program. Students will work together to solve problems, create a set of online resources that will stay with them long after the course is completed and, most importantly, they will begin to think about plans that can be implemented in their real life workplaces.

I ended my discussion by considering Bruce Mau’s statement that “sacrifice won’t work”. As humans, we won’t stop loving travel, communication, playing, making art and so on, so we will continue to consume things. That means in order to be sustainable we have to make smart things more compelling than stupid things. And that’s a design problem!


When I wrote this on the board I saw many of the class members smiling. I hope a seed has been planted!


“Life is just a bowl of Chihuly.”

July 7, 2011

“Life is just a bowl of Chihuly’s.”

There is a strong rule about no graffiti here at Pilchuck, but I *did* see the above quote written discretely on a bathroom door and I have to admit, it made me smile. It completely sums up this place!

Glass, creativity, natural beauty and, last night, an amazing presentation by Bruce Mau that started with the premise “now we can do anything, what will we do?” His bent is the designed life. He spoke of design as the place where the intersection of arts and science (intelligent/beautiful, smart/sexy) can happen. Things that used to be together but got torn apart. And he’s completely into massive change for education (wrote a book called “The Third Teacher” that I have to get hold of.

He described public institutions using public money to select who will get educated. And on the planet, post-secondary is at 1% — a shocking statistic.

And Bruce Mau simply brims with overwhelming optimism (providing we actually get to the next phase – he’s obviously smart enough to recognize the potential peril). He told of a favourite thought about the 20th century, that, in spite of wars, etc., it was the first time that we “dared to imagine the welfare of the whole human race”. I think it’s true. When before was there even a chance for awareness of who else was on this planet? And then he told of a young group of students who told him that the whole of humanity wasn’t enough — it should be all of life. Well, that’s a goal for the 21st century!

He says “sacrifice won’t work”. We won’t stop loving travel, communication, playing, making art and so on, so we will continue to consume things. That means in order to be sustainable we have to make smart things more compelling than stupid things. And that’s a design problem!

I feel sort of giddy to think that “designer” is in my job title. Fellow-instructional-designers-at-my-place-of-employment… you’re going to be hearing me talk about this for quite some time!


Oh, and yesterday I learned about the work of my classmates (amazing stuff), learned to cut glass in two wonderful new ways (if you’re into thick glass, and have never seen a breaker bar, it’s time to discover this amazing tool), learned about sawing glass, saw coldworking techniques that amazed me, had a tour of a metal/wood shop that would make my son think he was in heaven, crafted a little glass fireplace that will be part of my video project, saw that printmaking can be done with etched glass, watched videos that used only a light source moving across a still image to create an amazing feeling of animation — it goes on! Oh and glue! GLUE! Even experts get frustrated when gluing glass. Hextal, Loctite — I’m learning techniques like the razor-blade-as-squeegie.

Can you guess what I'm making?