The Material Topics Symposium has been a production of Metal Design MFA students within the School of Art and Design within East Carolina University since 2009. It was initially founded by Laura Wood and has been organized in past years by Kat Cole, Laritza Garcia, Marissa Saneholtz, Danielle James, Alison Bailey and Sarah Loch-Test, Barbara McFadyen and Hosanna Rubio, Holly Roddenbery and Joanne Lang, Adam Atkinson and Nadia Massoud, among others.
In recent years, we have gained the experience of Graphic Design MFA student Kayla Clark, and recruited the ECU Printmaking Guild to help us hand-print our famous t-shirts, including Printmaking MFA students Claire White and Young-jae Kim.
Our efforts to create a dynamic and inclusive symposium have been generously funded in part over the years by the Grey Gallery, the College of Fine Arts and Communications via Dean Chris Buddo, and the School of Art and Design via Director Kate Bukoski, in addition to generous donations from The Nicholson Foundation.
Initially, we invited students and faculty from only seven universities. Now, we host students and faculty from over 45 institutions ranging from California to Florida. Our 200+ attendees are beginners, hobbyists, sculptors, professional jewelers and metal artists, and current and retired faculty members. Presenters/lecturers are not repeated, and they are nominated and voted on by members of the ECU Metals Guild, then chosen by the incoming committee.
We have a history of bringing in workshop presenters and lecturers who are blazing new trails in the craft fields. Almost all the artists we invite have some tie to the metalsmithing field, but have sometimes branched out to sculpture or other craft fields. We also are bringing in more curators, collectors, and gallery owners to discuss their views on contemporary art and craft, in particular where it intersects with adornment and metalsmithing.
Another part of our mission with this symposium is we want to bring an affordable symposium to the south-east. Students are on tight budgets, so we feed you along with your registration. A closing party is part of our community building at the end; it is important that we allow artists –student, faculty, or otherwise– a place and time to mingle and let loose!
Carolina Sephra Reyes
Master of Fine Arts Candidate in Metal Design
Carolina Sephra Reyes is a metalsmith, studio artist, and graduate student currently living in Greenville, North Carolina and is working on an MFA in Metals Design from East Carolina University. Her work has been shown at the Yuma Art Symposium in Arizona and at art galleries in Nacogdoches, TX, Las Cruces, NM and Greenville, NC. Her current work deals with the native cacti life in Southern New Mexico where she grew up, and integrating the imagery and metaphorical survival techniques into her current environments. When she’s not in the studio, she is either working on her herbalism studies or leveling up her Skyrim character.
Carolyn A Buss
Social Media and Marketing Chair
3nd Year Metal Design Graduate Student
Carolyn is from Seattle and received her BFA in Studio Art from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA in 2012, studying under Keith Lewis. After graduating, she worked as the Jewelry Lab Manager at Edmonds Community College for two years, then moved to Portland, OR to begin working on her production line, and start applying to graduate schools. She chose ECU for the opportunity to organize a symposium, study abroad in Italy with Linda Darty, and work closely with the metals faculty at ECU. Carolyn’s husband Garrett is a science fiction writer moonlighting as a software developer for University Advancement at ECU, and their fluffy, black cat’s name is Senator MacMeowfur.