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ART 355 A: Materials In Context For Interdisciplinary Practice

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Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 2:20pm
ART 207
Timea Tihanyi
Timea Tihanyi

Syllabus Description:

Art 355: Materials in Context for Interdisciplinary Practice: SOFT SCULPTURE

Course Syllabus

TTH 11:30-2:20 Room: ART216

Instructor: Timea Tihanyi


Office: Art 328J      Office hours: by appointment


Go to Week-by-week schedule

Go to printable syllabus syllabus355_soft-sc_WIN2016.pdf


Course Description

The brief version:

This is an interdisciplinary studio course, consisting of a series of studio assignments of soft sculpture, which are primarily 3D applications of soft/malleable sculptural materials, such as fibers and plastics. Ideas taken from these forms can also be further developed into 2D or time-based media. Class time will be spent on technical demonstrations, studio work-time, project consultations, and critiques. Please expect to commit a reasonable amount of studio time/week outside of class for completing assignments.


The long version:

What is a class in Soft-Sculpture about?

This interdisciplinary studio course focuses on exploring the meanings, uses, and visual/sculptural potentials of both traditional and innovative new materials. We will be experimenting with both natural (wool, paper pulp) and man-made synthetic materials (rubbers and resins) as well as with fabrics and mixed-media for sculptural purposes.

What are the assignments? What are we going to learn?

We begin the quarter with a series of exercises that delve into the textural and formal qualities offered by fabrics. This helps us to establish a visual vocabulary and learn some techniques for constructing fabrics, such as hand-sewing, machine sewing and a few embroidery stitches. 

This will be followed by several weeks of explorations in felting (with natural wool). We will learn several techniques for felting, and design and develop a large wearable sculptural head-ornament (first main assignment).

The class then will broaden its scope to consider sculptural forms based on armatures and molds. This exploration is open to a wide-range materials based on the student's own interest, for example paper pulp, wax, synthetics.

The final assignment uses a combination of these materials and techniques and may take the form of 2D, 3D or time-based media. In this assignment, students are asked to consider both the physical properties of materials as well as their interconnected meanings when presented in context: personal,social, political, scientific, sculptural, art historical, etc.


Demonstrations will cover various techniques, such as hand and machine sewing; wool felting; working with paper fibers on sculptural armatures; and mold-making and casting processes for synthetic materials. Using the laser cutter and the CMC router in connection with digital 3D design are additional possibilities to explore.

Experimentation with traditional making methods and inventive novel processes is desired, in order to understand and redefine the forms, material qualities, functions and roles these objects can take.

You will expand the scope of your skills and concepts while working on a variety of assignments. 

Consultation and demos on unfamiliar materials and techniques are always available upon your request.

Roll up your sleeve and bring your curiosity!


Course Objectives

  • Gain experience with a variety of natural and synthetic materials. Broaden your skill set with different techniques of construction.
  • Further your understanding of sculptural concepts, formal elements of 2D, 3D, 4D constructions, and their relationship in space and time.
  • Broaden your understanding of how materials function in various contexts and how these interactions between context material and meaning play a role in forming our tactile environment and contemporary visual culture.
  • Gain familiarity with major contemporary art movements and their representatives. • Develop projects for your portfolio.
  • Most importantly: Challenge yourself! Strive to fresh ideas! Be creative.



Your final grade will be determined by the following:

  • 40%: Participation and Preparedness (critiques, in-class projects, class discussions)

                Professional manner (turning in projects on time, individual effort, commitment, progress)

  • 60%: Assignments (2 smaller exercises and 2 main projects). Quality of these projects based on the following criteria:

       -        thought process,

       -        design,

       -        craft,

       -        development,

-      experimentation.


  • Assignment scoring on Canvas is a form of written feed-back on the various aspects of the project.

It is important that you consult the rubric to see which criteria (which areas) need more attention, and thus, improvement, and which are those that have been most successful. Scoring on a criterium usually has 3 tiers: Tier 1: most complete and successful in that aspect, Tier 2: together in fundamental aspects but has some other significant issues and Tier 3: missing many significant aspects. So, on a criterium that is scored for 1 point, 1 means "well solved"; 0.5 means "most significant aspects are resolved but has other important issues to still resolve"; and 0 means "need significantly more resolution, even in the fundamentals".


  • Ignore the total scores posted by Canvas as it is a statistical value produced by a computer. Since the School of Art does not use any form of standardized score-to-grade conversion, the points earned are meant to be advisory as for your progress. Points earned on assignments will be added together and weighted by your investment and development shown throughout the quarter as demonstrated by your work and participation.
  • Grade inquiries are not conducted via email. If in doubt, schedule an appointment to discuss with the instructor. While your concerns are always respected and valued, the grade on any given assignment is not a subject of debate. Please read assessment criteria and evaluation carefully before making any inquiry. Assignment grading rubric is available when the assignment is posted. Please consult it before working on the assignment to make sure that you are focusing on the correct aspects of the project.



  1. Participate in building an environment of learning and experimentation where:
  • experimentation is the main aim, taking risks and challenging conventions is preferred;
  • safe to “fail”, safe to ask questions and to debate issues;
  • positive and critical feedback is offered in a supportive spirit;
  • all participants are attentive and respectful of each other.
  1. Class begins and ends at the appointed time unless otherwise scheduled. Arrive on time and prepared to discuss your project’s progress.
  1. Be responsible for your own successful completion of the course. This means to:
  • Keep an open attitude. Experiment, challenge yourself and strive for new ideas.
  • Attend all sessions and complete all assignments on time. Participation in class work time, discussions, and critiques is required and an important part of your course experience (and grade).
  • If sudden illness, emergency or random act of nature should prevent you from attending class, contact me ( IN ADVANCE of your absence.
  • If you take an absence you are responsible for following up with a classmate, making sure that you are not missing any important information and staying up-to-speed with the rest of the class.
  • All projects must be completed and presented on time. Late projects will not be accepted.
  1. This course prepares you for real-life studio practice. You are expected to take your own work seriously and to be organized and conscientious in planning and managing project work time.
  2. Most projects are just not practical to do at home. Take advantage of the classroom as your shared studio space for the duration of the quarter. You have access to the room outside of the scheduled class times. Wherever you work, always leave your work area clean. Observe safety, traffic flow, and maintenance rules when working in public spaces outside of the classroom. Attain permission from the main office (rm. 102) before installing your project. LEAVE NO TRACE policy applies!

Move out all materials, tools and projects from the classroom by the last class meeting.

6. Absolutely NO cell phone calls are to be taken or made during class. Turn off and put away all cell phones and digital equipment for the entire duration of class.

7. If you have any questions, concerns regarding the class or need extra help, talk to me ASAP.


Last day of meeting during FINALS WEEK (scheduled final exam): Wed. March 16th 4:30-7pm in art207


Note: If you need access to specialized equipment, other than the woodshop or the SOACC, arrange in advance with the respective program/studio. For example, if you want to do some welding as part of your project, you need to have previous experience with the equipment and arrange with the technician/faculty in the sculpture program. Upper level studio courses and independent study projects taken concurrently with art360 provide a good opportunity for doing what you want, in the facility that you need, at a professional level.


Art Resources 

Research     - SOA Library (1st floor)

Equipment   - checkout laptops and data projectors:

SOA Media Center (basement)

Classroom Support Services: STF Equipment (Kane Hall or reserve online:

- video and digital cameras, tripods:

                 SOA Computing Center (2nd floor)

Woodshop   - SOA Woodshop (1st floor) Note: You’ll be checked out on the equipment before you are allowed to use it on your own. Contact: John Martin

Digital 3D lab (basement) contact: Taylor Newman


Equal Opportunity

The School of Art reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran in accordance with UW policy and applicable federal and state statutes and regulations. 

Disability Accommodation

If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY) or

If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodation, please present the letter to me on the first day of class so we can discuss the accommodations you might need. 

Participation Policy

Absences from class prevent participation and may negatively affect grades.

If you miss class due to illness or emergencies immediately notify your instructor and insure that all missed assignments and exams are completed.  


Plagiarism is defined as using in your own work the creations, ideas, words, inventions, or work of someone else without formally acknowledging them through the use of quotation marks, footnotes, bibliography, or other reference.

Please check with your instructor if you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism.

Instances of plagiarism will be referred to the Vice Provost/Special Asst to the President for Student Relations and may lead to disciplinary action.


Suggested reading:

Richard Sennett, The craftsman New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Additional text sources will be discussed in class. 


Catalog Description: 
Focuses on exploring the meanings, uses, and visual/sculptural potentials of both traditional and innovative new materials, both natural and man-made.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:01pm