What began as an on-campus job in Emmanuel's student center transformed into a new career path for Jessie, one that brought her to Harvard University as a master's candidate in higher education administration.
On the cusp of her senior year at Emmanuel, studio art major Hannah Lynch '19 was awarded the Emmanuel College Travel Fellowship for Advanced Study, enabling her to travel to Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina for a two-week workshop focused on textiles.
While Lynch's time at Penland enabled her to delve even deeper into her craft, the experience, to her, represents even more. Taking the textiles course was a culmination of Lynch's journey to finding her medium, a process that began in the spring of her sophomore year. During that semester, Lynch said she remembers feeling strange that she had not yet decided on the medium through which she wanted to focus her art. Her father and brother are both artists—her dad a graphic designer and her brother a jeweler and metalsmith—and Lynch, too, wanted to have her niche.
Later that same spring, Lynch embarked on a travel course to Ireland, where she studied Irish art throughout Dublin and Cork. Upon arrival home, Lynch was tasked with creating a final project in response to the travel course; having examined weavings abroad, Lynch decided to try her hand at a 10x6 inch weaving—her first, but certainly not her last.
"I had been interesting in working with fibers, so this weaving ended up being very culminating, with both my trip and my medium."
Once she had found her medium, Lynch sought out ways to further develop her skills and technique—a search that led her to Penland School of Crafts.
Nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Penland is comprised of nearly 420 acres of grassy hills and sprawling fields. It provides a remote and meditative location in which creative minds can achieve absolute focus while they harness their craft in workshops specialized in books and paper, clay, drawing and painting, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking, textiles and wood. In her textiles-specific course, Lynch spent about 10 hours per day in the textiles studio, learning among artists whose ages ranged from 20 (Lynch, the youngest) to 78.
While intensive, Lynch's course was especially edifying and completely immersive. A major component of the textiles course—beyond learning techniques and methods—was a special focus on the raw materials used in the course. At Penland, the textiles course incorporates an organic cotton yarn, grown within the United States, as well as natural dyes extracted from plants. In her work, Lynch also pays special attention to the materials she uses to create her art, and plans to infuse these concepts into all of her work.
"This was a really big lesson on this trip for me, and it's something I want to focus on in my studio practice," Lynch said. "I'm really interested in transforming materials from seed to thread, and then to objects."
Moreover, Lynch simultaneously learned how to harvest plants to make the natural dyes she used in her course, going so far as learning how to grow and maintain her own dye garden.
"I want to stretch that relationship between people and materials, to facilitate the biography of their objects: where they come from and whether they are made ethically," Lynch said. "Plus, having the ability to create something from materials that I grew myself would be really wonderful."
During the application process for the travel fellowship, Lynch was asked to consider what her experience would bring back to Emmanuel College. For her, "it's the meditation on material, their origins, and how it makes us reconsider our consumption as well as our interactions with objects."
In addition to being able to apply her studio art coursework—especially in printmaking—it was equally important to Lynch that her crafting process and product are as made as sustainably and as ethically as possible.
"I want to draw people to consider who is making their clothing and objects, and what they're made out of, and what we can do with them," Lynch said. "I'm also interested in giving things second life, using scrap fabrics and other recycled materials."