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RISD Student Wins a Windgate

RISD Student Wins a Windgate

Like objects you’d find among shipwrecked ruins on the ocean floor, the teapots, cups and vesselsRebecca Manson 11 CR creates instantly recall artifacts from a gilded age – broken, moldy and crushed, but also sculpted into a gorgeous state of decay. They are solid, and at the same time, ghostly.

In April Manson learned that she is one of 10 students nationwide selected for a 2011 Windgate Fellowship. Funded by the Windgate Charitable Trust, the $15,000 award recognizes graduating seniors who have excelled in the world of craft – through their work in ceramics, book arts, fiber, glass, metals, mixed media, sculpture, textiles or wood. This year – one of the most competitive in the award’s six-year history – 94 applicants from 73 schools competed for the 10 awards.

An international jury convened by the University of North Carolina’sCenter for Craft, Creativity and Design selects the grant winners each year. According to the center, students are chosen on the basis of artistic merit and their potential to make a significant contribution to the advancement of their field.

The fellowship will enable Manson to conduct research at the Meissen and Dresden porcelain factories in Germany, and spend two months as a summer artist-in-residence atCeramics-Berlin. When she returns to the US in the fall, she will spend a year as a post-baccalaureate student at California State University, Long Beach, with the award supporting living and materials expenses. Manson also plans to volunteer to teach art to middle-school students in the Los Angeles area, building on her work with kids through the Providence After-School Alliance.

“In a lot of ways Rebecca typifies the best characteristics of a RISD student – this hunger to learn that goes beyond just the classroom and the studio experience to the wider world,” saysKevin Jankowski 88 IL, interim director of theCareer Center, whom Manson credits with guiding her through the highly competitive process. More than a dozen RISD students applied internally for two slots to represent RISD for the national prize.

The body of work Manson submitted reflects a student not just immersed in her discipline, but pushing its boundaries, Jankowski says. “Anyone looking at her work can see this incredible ability to take tradition and reconfigure it into these remarkable pieces. Her belief in her role as a creative individual and as an artist is what makes her so exciting.”

Right now, Manson is keen on making objects that are much less precious than teacups – like power tools, for example. She has also begun executing pieces far larger in scale. Where her studio was once filled with pieces that could be held by hand, it’s now filled with hundreds of pounds of clay that will go into a single piece.

“I have a tendency to make objects in the same scale that they’re naturally found: My teapots are regular teapot-size, my chairs are the size of real chairs,” she says. “And that interests me because it kind of invites the user to question an object’s utility. But there is a different set of problems you have to solve when you’re working at such a large scale, and it requires you to use your body in a completely different way. And right now I’m attracted to the problems that come with that.”

Manson says she almost missed the early-morning phone call from the Windgate jury informing her of her win. “They called me really unexpectedly, when I was sleeping,” she says. “I almost never pick up the phone then, and I thought, I have no idea who this is but I’ll just pick it up. And then I hear, ‘This is so-and-so from the Windgate Foundation! You’ve been unanimously chosen!’ I actually didn’t tell anyone for a week, because I didn’t believe it.”