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Maker Retreats

These two-week retreats provide artists and makers with a special opportunity to explore materials and technologies. Each studio workshop focuses on one area and is expertly led by an acclaimed artist who demonstrates techniques, provides feedback, and inspires creative thinking. The program consists of intensive and focused studio work, demonstrations, discussion, and critique. Participants focus on their creative work, develop new ideas, and hone their skills. Open to all levels; students select one area of emphasis. Please see program offerings below. Participants spend 5 days / week for two weeks working in the studio with guidance from artist mentors.

Program Descriptions for 2018

  • Alternating Clay Bodies & Deconstructing Ceramic Surfaces with Brad Miller
    This special program explores unusual and imaginative ways to alter ceramic works. Participants begin with a basic clay form and end with a unique, expressive piece. We start with basic hand building techniques to create clay wares. Focus is on methods of altering clay bodies using a wide range of additives. We will also mix and layer with techniques for altering wet clay surfaces. Students will learn about post-fired surface treatments including sanding, grinding, and polishing techniques and approaches for post-fire assembling and wall mounting options. The results are exciting new options of working clay making this course ideal for anyone who wants to apply new perspectives to their craft. The workshop will use oxidation firing with both cone 06 red earthenware and whiteware.
  • Fiber Art: Weaving and Dyeing with Meredith Strauss
    Participants will explore the potential of both contemporary and traditional design though off-loom weaving techniques. Utilizing simple hand-held looms and tools, various yarns, cloth strips and other materials, attendees are encouraged to experiment with color and texture to create a myriad of surface patterns. Principals of dyeing yarns and fabric will also be included in this immersive workshop to encourage freedom of experimentation. Historical reference presentations and inspirational lectures will be given throughout the workshop. A materials fee of $25 is required for dyes and sample fabrics to be provided by the instructor. 
  • Jewelry Design Workshop with Susan Beningfield
    In this workshop, attendees develop and refine their own jewelry design process through close personal feedback and instruction. While learning jewelry making skills at the jewelry bench, participants focus on fabrication using sheet and wire, including riveting, soldering and stone setting. Program includes a broad set of practical skills for both beginning and intermediate level jewelry makers. The workshop will include lectures and instruction from at least two additional instructors. The basic tool kit required for this workshop can be purchased on day one and should be about $200 per person.  You need only purchase the tools you don't already have.  Material costs will vary depending on the metal selected and size of the pieces created. Sheet and wire in copper or silver will be available for purchase as well.
  • Shoe Design with Chris Francis
    Join Chris Francis to learn how to make shoes by hand, using simple tools and traditional techniques. Designed as an introduction to shoemaking, participants learn the structural mechanics of making a heeled shoe from pattern to finish. Covered skills include: measuring a last; creating a mathematically correct pattern; using industrial sewing machines to assemble uppers from raw leather; hand dyeing or painting of shoes; and attaching heels and soles. Sewing experience is required. Basic tools and custom lasts will be provided for a materials fee of $250.

Dates and Fees

Retreats will take place from June 11 through June 22, 2018, at Otis College of Art and Design. There is a $20 registration fee (participants must register by this date to be considered for financial support). Enrollment is limited to 12 per emphasis, and is on a space available basis. The final deadline for applications is May 1, 2018.

The fee to attend the retreat is $1,675. In addition to the registration fee, Fiber Art and Jewelry Design have a mandatory materials fee that is collected on the first day of the program. Please email for payment details regarding the $250 materials fee for Shoe Design. Residence Hall room and board for the two-week period may be available for an additional fee. Notifications will be sent out via email in early March. A $350 deposit is required within two weeks to secure your place in the retreat after notifications go out, with the full balance due mid-May.

Mentor Artists 

Jo Lauria, Program Director

LauriaJo Lauria is a curator, writer, educator, and museum consultant specializing in design and decorative arts. Formerly she held the position of assistant curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Lauria is the organizer of several national touring exhibitions as well as numerous museum-based surveys of craft, design, and decorative arts. Most recently, she organized two design exhibitions for 2015 and 2016, one showcasing the exquisite ceramics of Ralph Bacerra for Otis College of Art and Design (LA), and the other featuring the visionary architecture of William F. Cody for the Architecture and Design Museum (LA). Ongoing, she has consulted with museums and private clients on acquisitions for their permanent collections and/or portfolios. Additionally, for the last five years Lauria has served as Mentor Faculty at Otis College of Art and Design.

Brad Miller, Alternating Clay Bodies & Deconstructing Ceramic Surfaces 

Brad MillerBrad Miller received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Oregon, Eugene. Using wood, ceramics, and paper for both their physical and conceptual properties, Miller is interested in capturing organic systems through the creation of abstract representations. Miller has had solo exhibitions at Harvey Meadows Gallery, Aspen, CO; Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Los Angeles, CA; Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Margo Jacobsen Gallery, Portland, OR; Bellas Artes, Santa Fe, NM; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; and Campo S. Angelo, Venice, Italy. Group exhibitions include Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA; Houston Center for Crafts, Houston, TX; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; Pasadena City College Art Gallery, Pasadena, CA; and Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1994). His work is included in the collection of Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Meredith Strauss, Fiber Art: Weaving and Dyeing

Meredith StraussMeredith Strauss: Building upon 40 years of weaving and dyeing experience, Los Angeles based artist Meredith Strauss is currently a textiles instructor at El Camino College. She has created a body of large-scale off-loom pieces that are placed in numerous corporate and private collections, and has exhibited internationally. In addition to teaching, most recently in Bangkok, Thailand, Meredith produces a line of Shibori scarves and caftans sold in boutiques around the United States and abroad. The most recent exhibition of her work was at the 10th International Shibori Symposium Exhibition, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Susan Beningfield, Jewelry Design Workshop

Susan BeningfieldMs. Beningfield is an architect and design of fine jewelry. She launched her company in 2009, producing custom made jewelry that is unmistakably sculptural, reflecting her years of practice as a design architect and her fascination with natural lines and sensual forms and her view of space as a material which shapes the object. Her South African upbringing imbued in her a love of nature and a clear preference for creating bold and elegant design work. She also teaches 3D Digital Design in Otis College's Product Design program.

Chris Francis, Shoe Design

Chris FrancisChris Francis is a Los Angeles based shoe designer and maker whose designs bridge both the fashion and art world. Francis operates almost entirely through handcrafting: he creates contemporary objects by use of twentieth-century techniques and simple hand tools. Cultural inspiration, humor, color, and a versatile range of materials are all characteristic of Francis’ work as well as strong silhouette, sharp lines, and simplicity. He often describes his creations as wearable art and fashionable architecture. Francis’ unique approach to shoemaking merges tradition with the open-minded exploration of materials and modern ideas, expanding the concept of the shoe into territory unrestricted by the market. Shoes designed by Francis are worn regularly by celebrities and musicians, and have been featured in publications such as Vogue Magazine, Metropolis, and Ornament Magazine. He has exhibited at Palm Springs Art Museum, Architecture and Design Museum (Los Angeles), and has held solo exhibitions at the Craft and Folk Art Museum and Museum of Art and History (Lancaster).


The program is open to anyone. 

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