New York-based fiber artist Natalie Stopka demonstrates a technique  in her online workshop Fabric Marbling 101.
New York-based fiber artist Natalie Stopka demonstrates a technique in her online workshop Fabric Marbling 101. Photo: Ron Stevens

Miami's first all-virtual CraftSummer program drew students from around the globe

CraftSummer Online Live “succeeded beyond my best hope,” director Ron Stevens said

By Susan Meikle, university news and communications


Artist Lisa Johnson demonstrates for students in her Cold Connections and Tension Settings for Jewelry workshop.

Miami University’s CraftSummer program celebrated its 44th year with an all-virtual program. For the first time, students from around the globe — including Europe, Japan and across the United States — were able to participate in the “studio” workshops, due to the online format, said Ron Stevens, director of CraftSummer.

Previously, most students enrolled for the typical week-long in-studio experience came from around southwest Ohio.

The program offers students a variety of workshops that can be taken for graduate or continuing education credits — or just for fun.

Glassblowing, bronze casting, letterpress printing and metalworking are some of the workshops offered in previous years. Transitioning the program to digital instruction was “challenging, as you would expect,” Stevens said.

“For this first attempt we evaluated what seemed would be most likely to have the least significant roadblocks. Next was finding the right instructors,” he said.

Having met many artists through his 20 years as CraftSummer director, Stevens drew on those contacts and “made a lot of phone calls, had many conversations and came up with a group of classes and instructors that seemed promising.”

The instructors were excited at the possibilities too, Stevens said.  Together they created a schedule and delivery process for the virtual studio workshops that provided much of the same experience as the in-person workshops: small class sizes, live interactive demonstrations and individual instructor attention.


Virtual group critique of a fabric marbling project.

New York-based artist Natalie Stopka taught Fabric Marbling 101 in a format with class meetings every other day for two hours over a two-week period. She scheduled live drop-in lab times where the students could ask questions, work with her individually and get feedback.

Workshops included virtual group and individual critiques and reviews as well as a final critique.

“Every class succeeded beyond my best hope,” Stevens said. “Of course, there were some kinks, but we were able to work through them pretty quickly.”

Students also appreciated the format. Lindsay Gustafson, a visual arts teacher at Kettering Middle School, took “Prints & The New Power Generation: Pressless Printing” with Billy Simms (Miami MFA ‘17). “I loved the online class; I loved the pacing, the number of meetings and the expectations of time to put in on projects was reasonable.  Online critiques with other artists was rewarding as well,” she said.

Pandemic or not, Stevens said he would like the virtual format to become a regular part of CraftSummer. “I think it will be a great addition and even benefit the face-to-face aspect,” he said.

CraftSummer’s winter weekend workshops will likely also become online classes, allowing more people to participate because they won’t have the added cost or time of travel just for a weekend class, Stevens said.

CraftSummer 2020 Online Live workshops that were held July 8-Aug. 14:

Jewelry workshop detail.

  • Characters: Letterforms and Visual Storytelling, with Erin Beckloff, assistant professor of art/communication design at Miami.
  • The Business of Art: Making Money with your Passion, with Todd Stuart, director of arts management and entrepreneurship at Miami.
  • Prints & The New Power Generation: Pressless Printing, with Billy Simms, (Miami MFA’17).
  • Cold Connections and Tension Settings for Jewelry, with Lisa Johnson (Miami “ 04), director of jewelry and textiles at the Lighthouse Art Center in Tequesta, Florida.
  • Fabric Marbling 101, with New York-based fiber artist Natalie Stopka.
  • Creative Explorations: Pushing Your Photographic Boundaries, with Massachusetts-based photographer Julia Cumes.