Zoe Wilson, '19, learned to set new goals for herself when it was quiet on the Albion College campus last summer.
A psychology and art major, Wilson stayed on campus after the women's lacrosse season ended to work on sculpture – a different form of art to her – funded by the college's Foundation for Undergraduate Research Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA).
"I originally went into FURSCA thinking I was going to throw a lot," Wilson said of her love of creating mugs and bowls on the pottery wheel. "My ceramics professor Lynne Chytilo wanted to challenge me and build some other skills up.
"I did not have any experience sculpting, at all," she added. "It was definitely a big challenge, mentally. I had to get used to not being good at something again. I love the challenge of learning something new. That's why I started playing lacrosse in the first place because I had never played before and wanted to be challenged.
"It was a totally different way of thinking about using the clay," she continued. "With throwing it was the same repetitive movements. You can do a lot with throwing but you are limited to (creating) a certain cylinder shape on the wheel. There are no boundaries with sculpture. You can pretty much make whatever you can imagine. It was about finding out what I wanted to make and what my imagination brought to me. It was challenging to have all this freedom, but finding something I was passionate about to make for eight hours a day.
"This summer gave me a lot of time to self reflect for the first time," she concluded. "It's not like I was alone this summer because I had a studio mate in Ellery Ekleberry, she's a fifth-year senior, and I learned a lot from her, but there were times when I was off doing my own thing. I learned a lot about myself as an artist and as a person. I started to realize there are parts of me that need to continue to grow. As an artist, I learned that I can continue to push myself and that when I accomplish a goal – like become a successful thrower – I need to set another goal. There's more to my art than just one thing."
FURSCA allowed Wilson the opportunity to focus solely on art for the first time, adding that creative activity becomes a challenge when she is engaged with lacrosse. "In season it's high lacrosse, high school, low artist," she says.
At the beginning of the summer, Chytillo encouraged Wilson to create anything, as long as it did not involve throwing. As Wilson became more confident, she would take her sketch pad on walks in nature or while out shopping to capture anything she found visually interesting and those drawings became the starting point for new pieces.
Wilson is hoping to complete three pieces and she expects they will be on display during the college's Elkin Isaac Student Research Symposium and the art department's senior exhibition during the spring semester.
"I never felt rushed during the 10 weeks for FURSCA," Wilson said. "I fired all of my sculptures and I am glazing them now. I guess you could say the summer carried over into the semester.
"The summer would not have been the same without the support from Lynne and Ellery," she added. "They gave me a lot of constructive criticism. They did not hold my hand during the process, but they pushed me, supported me when I was frustrated and allowed me to talk through my ideas. They have been awesome mentors.
"I understand the physics involved in sculpting," she continued. "There is a point when you can't build on it until it dries out a little bit. At first I tried to fly through it and it would be so wet it would collapse. I understand now you can't rush it. I haven't perfected sculpting, but I'm much better than May.
"I'm proud of anything I make, even if it's not good or doesn't look good because from each piece I learn new information about myself and the medium I'm using," she finished. "I love throwing, but I want to keep exploring the sculpture world. I think I can find a better balance between the two this semester, like have throwing be almost like a reward or incentive to finish my sculptures."
Wilson arrived at Albion as a biochemistry major who believed a career as a physician assistant was her calling. She changed her major as a sophomore and is looking for a path to combine art therapy or teaching and coaching.
"Art therapy is using different mediums to help people with things they are struggling with, whether it is mental or physical," she said. "I love working with people and I love art so being able to use both of my passions works out perfectly. But I've also been thinking about becoming a ceramics teacher in a high school so I can coach a sport which is another one of my passions. It would be awesome to combine all of those into one job.
"I haven't fully decided which route I would like to go and I love having options," she added. "I think what sounds the most appealing for me is to teach art while also being able to coach. Just dropping the sports world since I have played for so long would be tough. I played almost every sport growing up. I was big into basketball and volleyball in high school, and in college basketball and lacrosse. (Coaching) would most likely be basketball, but I would be open to other sports, too."
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