Breaking the rules is harder than it seems

This is Ed Dolinger, one of the instructors at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts in Floyd, VA. He is teaching a class called "Assemblages" which to my mind is a wicked misnomer. In my mind, the course should be subtitled, "Learn a whole new way of looking at design."

Yes, the class develops the ability to create assemblages of found objects, but in order to do this and get something out of the class, one has to throw away lots of "now I’m supposed tos" and even discard one’s usual proclivity to create order out of chaos.

Creating assemblages is much harder than it looks. I spent several hours in the classroom shooting photos and this class opened me to entirely new ideas about the creative process. After years of product design, I thought I was pretty grounded in the basics of creating "new stuff" out of "old stuff". Ed’s course was an eye opener.

Ed manages to guide his students through mental barriers and confusions without imposing his ideas on their creative activity. He introduces the idea of letting found objects and their characteristics drive the design process and then moves on from there to aspects of design I’d never considered.

Even though I was only there to observe and take photos, Ed’s words and the creative activity of the students began to change some long-held ideas for me.

Watching this mean looking bluebird emerge from a collection of metal and wood scraps and the jawbone of a small animal was enough to inspire me to think about creating assemblages of my own.

I know for a certainty that I will never look at a rusty metal object or a broken piece of paneling in the same way again.

The Jacksonville Center offers courses in many media and their highly motivated instructors bring out the best in students. It is an incredibly supportive environment in which to rekindle your interest in the arts or to achieve a new plateau of proficiency. Check out their website at

If you get a chance to take a course from Ed Dolinger, don’t pass up the opportunity.

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