The miniature working model of A.T.'s bamboo chair
A model of my final bamboo piece

Never in a million years did I think I’d be taking another art class—especially not in college. I took my first one in third grade, and I remember two things about it: struggling with every assignment and learning that I never shook the inability to color (or paint, for that matter) inside any kind of line. After that experience, I pledged to my 8-year-old self that I would avoid every art class for as long as possible.

Fast forward to the first semester of my sophomore year and guess who decides to minor in Architectural Studies? Now, granted, before I declared the minor, I had already done the research to conclude that I wouldn’t be able to avoid taking at least one art class, so I knew what I was in for. During course registration for the spring semester, I decided to sign up for the Concepts in Three Dimensions art class. Even after reading the course description I still had no clue what this class would be like, so I just hoped for the best.

On the first day of classes, a.k.a. “let’s go over the syllabus” day, we did just that, went over the syllabus. Then my professor, Greg Bailey, told us our first project was going to involve working with bamboo. We would have to build three structures that would support a brick 12 inches in the air. My first thought was, “That’ll be fun, I’ve never worked with (or even seen) bamboo!” He then showed us how to use power tools like the drill, band saws and sanding table and said that we could also use glue and twine. After that I thought, “Oh boy. This is gonna be a tough one.” We transported huge stalks of bamboo into the classroom studio and began claiming and cutting.

Long story short, I struggled. I sketched three designs before I started working, so of course I thought it would be smooth sailing from there. I gathered the bamboo I wanted. I sawed, drilled, glued and tied, and I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted. None of the designs I had drawn were working, no matter how much glue or twine I used. Needless to say, I felt pretty stuck. I was worried that I wouldn’t even have one structure for presentation day and all of the memories of third-grade art class started coming back to reaffirm my belief that I wasn’t “good at art.” The night before presentation day, I started gluing and tying together all the uneven, random pieces I had garnered over the previous few days to ensure I had something to present the next day. Luckily, I was able to create two structures that supported the brick higher than 12 inches and didn’t completely fail. That wasn’t it, though.

Our final project for the bamboo unit was to build a bamboo chair or chair-like structure. The whole purpose of building the three structures was to familiarize ourselves with bamboo and understand its abilities. So the class after presentation day we again found ourselves carrying more bamboo into the studio to build our chairs. At this point, I figured that I was capable of doing anything in the class and deserved to be in it. Professor Bailey was also encouraging and told me not only that I could and would finish, but that he believed in me. So immediately, I built a model of what I wanted my final chair to look like.

After talking with Professor Bailey about different ideas and strengthening techniques, I began constructing the final product. Surprisingly, this part of the project was easy and even more enjoyable. I didn’t run into any major obstacles, was ready for presentation day, and was happy with the final product. This project proved to me that I shouldn’t limit myself or rule out what I’m capable of before even making an attempt. Art is subjective, beautiful, expressive and, most importantly, encouraging. Everyone is capable of being an artist. By letting go of my inhibitions and by learning from a great professor, I finally felt that I was good at art. 

The final result:

A.T.'s bamboo chair