HERRON: How do your teaching approaches inspire or challenge Herron students to push the limits of their creations?

NORDGULEN: Students work their way through a number of concepts, materials, and processes to learn what kind of art is important to them. One student might work in the foundry to cast bronze or weld steel, another might use fabric and a sewing machine, and another might work in the woodshop. Each student is encouraged to discover ideas and interests and materials which are meaningful to them and to explore the kind of work that will allow them to pursue their own interests. In this way, each student discovers their identity as an artist and finds a personal way of working with their chosen materials.

HERRON: How important are mentorship and peer-to-peer social connections as students develop their own creative voices?

NORDGULEN: I have always believed that students and teachers come together on common ground in the classroom. The problems and questions students work with are the same problems and questions I work with for my projects at my studio. The only difference between students and teachers is time and experience. Students have great opportunities to learn from teachers and each other, and teachers can often learn from their students. And when my students graduate, I think of them as colleagues; we are all artists working together.

HERRON: What hobbies inspire or recharge your artistic practice?

NORDGULEN: Somehow, I don't think I have ever had time for a hobby, but perhaps some of my research activities could be seen as hobby activity. For instance, I have studied how to make birch-bark canoes in order to figure out how to make a sculptural lifejacket form and also some canoe forms for art.

Also, I began to study honeybees because of my interest in environmental issues. Bees are incredible builders and as you watch them work, you learn a great deal about weather patterns, daily temperature, when trees and plants come into bloom, how nectar is gathered and honeycomb is made. I made a "sculptural" structure for the beehive, placed it in a park, and I kept bees for about ten years until I finally passed the beekeeping duties along to others.

I think my next hobby will be to expand my research of solar energy systems and try to incorporate those systems into some art.