Engineering Innovation

It’s been such a long time since we have posted here on the blog! It wasn’t due to inactivity but quite the opposite. We have been so busy. This time of year is always a little crazed for us as we are applying for residencies, grants, beginning new projects and finalizing past projects. Our latest venture is one that has taken up an enormous amount of our energy and focus recently and its one that we are especially proud of. The project was inspired by the Arctic Circle residency trip that Shandra was awarded; a residency that took her, along with 16 other artists and scientists, to the Arctic Circle aboard a sailing vessel. During that residency, she was fortunate to have a chance to visit the Svalbard Seed Vault – a storage facility for the world’s plant seeds that safeguards these seeds in the event of a catastrophic event, such as war, famine or a climate disaster.  All of us here at the studio were very interested in this aspect of the residency, when we first heard that it was a part of the trip, and knew it would be an influential force in our upcoming endeavors.  It was early in the year, as we prepared for Shandra to go to the Arctic that Shandra and I, alongside our PSU Art Department intern Hannah Smith, began developing “Engineering the Glass Seed” as a curriculum. The purpose of the curriculum was to spark ideas in children through the integration of art and science and encourage out of the box thinking to promote innovation in solving global problems. We had been focusing much of our attention and energy on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) initiatives over the course of the last year and this particular project was the perfect marriage of the philosophies embraced by STEAM.


It was with this idea that the studio, with the help of our editorial director, Rachael Ferranti, applied for and was awarded the Bicentennial Swedish-American Exchange Fund Scholarship. The scholarship is designed to provide an opportunity for those in a position to influence public opinion and contribute to the development of their society to make a two to four week study trip to Sweden. Squam River Studios’ winning proposal was centered around the idea of teaching our seed curriculum internationally, nationally and locally. The international aspect would be taught in Boda Glasbruk, Sweden, home of world renowned glass museum The Glass Factory and the national platform for the workshop would be at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington; a leading center for the promotion of American Studio Glass. Locally, the curriculum was taught at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering earlier this year.

This past week has seen the fulfillment of the international aspect of this project; Shani is in Boda Glasbruk teaching the curriculum.  Kimberly Anderson Ritchie, Assistant Professor and Printmaking Program Coordinator at Plymouth State accompanied Shandra to Sweden. Professor Ritchie’s involvement in this project is supported by Plymouth State University and she will be collaboratively teaching with Mrs. McLane, as well as leading the printmaking portion of the workshop.

This is such an exciting time for Shani and all of us here at SRS. I wanted to be sure to share this experience with others and so I asked Shani and Kimberly to keep a photo journal. The following photos and writings are from that journal.

Shani’s Travel Journal – Boda Glasbruk, Sweden

September 29, 2015

Kimberly Anderson Ritchie and I have arrived and are preparing for class. As many of you may remember, I / SRS was the recipient of the Swedish American Fund Grant. I have taken the funds to bring the curriculum I designed, “Engineering the Glass Seed”, based on the STEAM initiative to teach at The Glass Factory in Boda Glasbruk. The factory is Scandinavia’s largest contemporary art museum and hot shop. I have been working on the importance of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, its relation to the world, and environment for some time now. Thus, my trip to the Arctic this past summer. Last week I posted that the seed vault had taken its first withdrawal in history due to the situation in Syria Civil War. Today, I was informed that the students that will be attending the class are 16-19 year old refugees from all destinations. I am honored to be working in such a historical glass community, and to be given the chance to work with youngsters that will share their insight through art.

September 30, 2015

Today we started class and what a lovely group of students. We had one small obstacle….not one of them spoke English. Once we got started, it’s amazing how creation is a universal language. First we did contour line drawings inspired by patterns in nature and then translated those patterns into 3 dimensional forms. Many of the students took the project to another level and wanted to do more sculptural work. Plaster molds were poured and we are ready for tomorrow!

October 4, 2015

Another great day at The Glass Factory! We extruded clay from molds, tinted glass, and loaded for firing. This is a two part firing process and will take a few days before they are ready to come out of kiln. Later in the afternoon, Tillie (the hot shop artist in residence), did a demo on basic glass blowing techniques and shapes. I am happy to see that the students get to try a number of techniques in hope that one will excite them!

Exposing students to more tools and techniques in glass. Viteography (printing from glass matrix), and engraving/enamleling on scrap glass found in the factory.


That’s all for now – but stay tuned. The next stop for our curriculum is Seattle/Tacoma at the acclaimed Museum of Glass. I will be accompanying Shani and we will meet up with our former intern Hannah. SRS has definitely found its direction and we are looking forward to the next chapter.

Until next time!
Creative Director
























Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.