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Feed Your Interests: Faculty Spotlight on Tanya Crane


Professor of the Practice Tanya Crane is busier than ever. Her studio is within her home. So, even when she’s away from SMFA, you will find her at work in a personal practice centered around a range of specialized enamel techniques.

At SMFA, her home is the Metals studio. Crane has taught courses in 3D Foundations, open studio courses, and a number of specialized concept-driven courses, such as a ceramics course entitled, Social and Functional Politics of the Table.

When we think of metal, many of us may think of metallic hues such as gold, silver, bronze, and copper. In all of her courses, Crane emphasizes “color as content.” Enamel is a colored, powdered glass that can be used in conjunction with metals, presenting a range of exciting and colorful possibilities for metal workers, jewelers, sculptors, and ceramicists, amongst others.

Crane’s work straddles the lines between art and craft. Aside from her teaching at SMFA, she is also an educator and working artist at a number of craft-based institutions including Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, and Haystack Mountain School, where she serves on the Board of Trustees. In these spaces, she focuses on making art through craft, specifically her own specialized enamel techniques.

“Black people are underrepresented in art and craft,” says Crane. As one of few female professors of color in Metals in the country, Crane noted that she has been asked to lecture at a number of universities and museums to share her expertise and perspective.

Crane is in the midst of preparing for upcoming shows including Holding Space: Contemporary Enameled Vessels at the Springfield Museum of Art and a show at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Her work is being shown and sold at such a rate that she “can’t make it fast enough.”

She feels her own bustling creating practice is energized by her interactions with students at SMFA. She appreciates that many of her students are new to the world of metalsmithing and jewelry and therefore, they have a fresh perspective.

“Their focus is away from more precious materials. They are more interested in upcycled, recycled, and sustainable materials. The planet is most important for them because they have long futures. It’s exciting,” she shares.

Her interest in sustainability extends to her work at SMFA outside of teaching. She is the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee with Lauren Kimball-Brown, Assistant Manager of the SMFA Library. Establishing health and safety practices, both for individual students and the environment as a whole is a major priority for Crane. She encourages students to make a habit of first assessing if they are able to use recycled materials for their projects, such as from the Carte Util recycling center. There is also a scrap metal recycling bin in the classroom which helps with avoiding needless waste and helps students avoid unnecessary costs. Crane was also able to totally eliminate the most harmful chemicals in the Metals studio. Keeping those chemicals out of the school’s plumbing systems helps keep the nearby Charles River less polluted.

Crane graduated from two traditional programs in metalsmithing. She appreciates the interdisciplinary approach of SMFA, most notably during Review Boards.

“I see work from a range of disciplines that are working with multiple concepts, in a spectrum. I can see a work that speaks about adornment, and the body, but also speaks about how the body moves through the world. This could be accomplished through performance, sculpture, figure painting, or a book.”

On advice for SMFA students, she shared, “Take classes that will feed your interests. Follow your interests.”

Header image courtesy of Tanya Crane

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