Making to Ornament


Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

visual arts, architecture
computer studies
feminist theory, consciousness studies

Ornament struggles to serve its ancient purpose, which is to bring order and produce cosmos out of chaos.
--Bloomer, The Nature of Ornament: Rhythm and Metamorphosis in Architecture

This program centers on  making  – the coming together of ideas, materials, hands and tools to create things, and on  ornament  – the characteristics that give distinctive meaning and form to what we make.  We will investigate these two processes, making and ornamenting, in 2D and 3D studio practices, ranging from the traditional crafts of wood and metal work, to computer aided design and 3D printing, including retro tech practices in between. We will consider how things we make—plain or adorned—shape and are shaped by mental as well as material, cultural as well as natural landscapes.  We will pay attention to access to making and to the meaning of ornament, particularly within the contexts of race, class, gender, global capitalism and ecological degradation.

During winter quarter each student will choose to do program creative work in one of three interrelated studios, one focused on wood and metal working practices, one focused on solid modeling for 3D printing, or a third focused on retro tech—handmade plus digital mashups--including 3D printing and a low tech making process of student choice. The studios may diverge in addressing how forms, patterns, techniques, and technologies of ornamentation complement making processes, though all three will emphasize the responsive and responsible use of tools and materials in sustainable ways.  Studio work in the first part of winter quarter will prepare students to work collaboratively on small group projects in the second half that challenge students to integrate these components of making:  structural elements, connectors, and skin/shell/envelope, as well as materiality, ornamentation, and the hand as a mental organ of motoricity. Small group projects will be a primary focus of our assessment and evaluation practices. Intensive studio work and small group projects will lead to opportunities for research and individual creative projects spring quarter.  To support and augment studio work, we will actively engage in scholarly research and writing, seminar reading and reflection, lecture workshops, and field trips.  Students interested in field study including apprenticeships and participant-observation regarding making and ornamentation practices are encouraged to contact faculty Sarah Williams ( ) as soon as possible to develop an in-program ILC.

Studentsin this program will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and satisfactions of being makers, and of the uses of ornament to enhance objects.  They will develop skills in drawing, design, and the use of tools and materials (both low-tech and high-tech), and abilities in expressive, expository, and reflective thinking, speaking and writing. Book possibilities include:  The Thinking Hand  (Pallasmaa),  The Language of Ornament  (Trilling),  Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity  (Picon), Bits of Life: Feminism at the Intersections of Media, Bioscience, and Technology  (Smelik and Lykke) and  Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art, and Architecture (Ingold).

The program is a follow-up to the fall quarter program  Making Meaning Matter and is intended for anyone seriously interested in making as thoughtful engagement with the material world.


Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

visual and environmental arts, cultural studies, architecture and art education.
Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$50 per quarter for entrance fees and studio supplies.


Date Revision
November 24th, 2014 The description has been updated.
November 18th, 2014 Title change (formerly The Nature of Ornament: Chaos, Code, Cosmos).
November 7th, 2014 This program no longer requires Special Expenses.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 69


Signature Required

Students joining this program will be distributed into three studios: wood and metal working practices led by Bob Leverich, solid modeling for 3D printing led by Arlen Speights, and retro tech led by Sarah Williams. Students must contact the faculty leading their preferred studio and will be notified of placement within 48 hours.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20140
So - Sr (16 credits): 20141

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30081
So - Sr (16 credits): 30082

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