NMU Senior Tim Kruger has long been interested in woodworking, particularly furniture design. But “an epiphany” during a woodturning class led by Professor Jason Schneider convinced him to hone in on his true passion: teaching. Kruger was inspired to apply for a summer workshop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colo., and received a scholarship to attend. Schneider also returned to “the Ranch,” where he had worked for a decade before joining NMU’s faculty, to teach two summer workshops.
Kruger’s scholarship covered his tuition; NMU matched the award with funds to cover travel and lodging expenses. He wrote about the potential professional and educational benefits he anticipated from the experience in his application and earned a spot in a furniture upholstery workshop led by Tina Ortman. In addition to learning new techniques, Kruger gained an understanding of the physical abilities of an upholsterer.
“It allowed me to create more realistic sketches and streamlining my entire creative process,” he said. “This experience opened up so much in terms of how I think about construction of pieces, and how I wrap my head around design problems in the process.”
Schneider taught turning with cardboard—one of his specialties—and cabinetmaking. During his 10 years as studio coordinator at the Ranch, he led workshops, assisted with residency and visiting artist programs and created work of his own. He said the “transformative experience” for instructors and students creates a semblance of family, with an emphasis on the process rather than the product.
“We focus on the information and the experience it will fuel for years to come, rather than just a single piece,” he explained. “You come out excited and overwhelmed by the experience, knowledge and connections you’ve made.”
Anderson Ranch hosts up to 140 artists who lead workshops each summer in eight creative categories: furniture design and woodworking; photography and news media; painting and drawing; ceramics; sculpture; woodturning; digital fabrication; and printmaking. The classes are small and intimate, Schneider said, and the community is very interconnected.
“You walk through one studio for, say, ceramics to get to the dining area. There is a lot of opportunity to connect with people. There is a very spiritual aspect to it,” he added. “You walk away with this very intense creative experience and you meet someone else who is experiencing the same energy.”
Both student and professor agree the experience is “greater than the sum of its parts.” Kruger can add it to his portfolio. He also has served as vice president of the Art Students’ League; president and founder of The Timber Conglomerates; and honorary member of the Metal Benders, Ceramics Collective, International Swaps and Derivatives Association, and the Furniture Society.