Professor Jessica Calderwood of UW Oshkosh, a successful artist, revealed her past and passions behind what inspires her and her work.
Calderwood’s interesting perspective on teaching and life has influenced campus in an artistic way.
Q: Where are you from and when did you start doing the art you do?
I am from Cleveland, Ohio originally. I have always worked in art in some fashion since my first memory.
I went to Cleveland Institute of Art for enameling in 1998. Since then I have lived in/taught in Phoenix, Arizona [and] then came here.
I balance making work, exhibiting it and sharing with students.
Q: When did you start at Oshkosh and what brought you here?
2008. That’s when I came here and the hiring brought me here. If you are part of academia, you go where the job opportunity is. You do not think about geography first, you think about where you can get a job. It is backwards in a sense.
Q: What specifically do you do here?
I am an art professor. I teach 3-D design, a 100-level class. I teach in my preferred area of art, metals: a sort of introduction course to metalsmithing and jewelry.
Q: What, if any, obstacles do you run into with your line of work?
Many. I think that from a teacher standpoint, working with students and trying to get students to focus on the quality of their experience or their studies is my biggest obstacle.
The biggest difference between here and where I have taught before is that there are kids with part-time jobs or even two part-time jobs to take up most of their time, plus taking on full credit loads.
It is an unhealthy culture of work and credit load mantra, it is about experience and learning things instead of putting blinders on.
I am always trying to advise students to scale back and prioritize well. I haven’t been very successful; it is an ongoing battle.
Q: What inspires you the most?
I would probably say that I am really inspired by my environment and daily activities.
Artists are fed by what is happening around them on a daily basis. Some are more literal than others.
Q: What exactly does art mean to you?
In terms of importance in my life, I am an artist and a maker first. Everything else comes second, third and fourth.
To be a really effective teacher, you have to think that way. You have to be passionate about your field with rigorous research in order to be a good teacher.
Art is what wakes me up in the morning—that and my one-year-old.
Q: What projects are you working on now?
Right now, I am trying to finish some pins for a gallery. I have a lot of shows that are either up or have deadlines that are coming up.
I also have a lot of wearables, jewelry, larger scale sculptures and some paintings.
I am really doing a floral fiction body of work. That is using traditional floral language, Victorian language of flowers.
Each certain bouquet had a particular meaning for the giver and the receiver.
I am using the female figure along with the bouquets to bring them to life and tell a story.
It has been something I have been working on for a number of years and am really enjoying.
I do exhibits in both galleries for profit and for nonprofit, just educational purposes, like the one I have right now in Boston.