Erin Cora Turner received two BFAs from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in Jewelry & Metalsmithing and Photography in 2013. She is now in her third year at University of North Texas working toward her MFA in Metalsmithing & Jewelry. Erin's website: http://www.erincora.com/
Tell us about your work.
My current body of work relates to the artisanry and trade skills of my home region of Scranton, PA, and the gender roles associated with the each trade. Utilizing materials produced and used in the area such as coal, lace, steel and cement, I combine elements of the decorative and industrial into wearable and sculptural objects. I use predominately enamel, steel, silver, copper, cement, lace, and coal. I fabricate a majority of the work, with some mold making and resin casting.
What were the major reasons you decided to attend an MFA program?
In the fall of 2012 I traveled from Edinboro, PA, to Chicago, IL, with a group of Edinboro metals students to see the SOFA Chicago exhibits and talks. I was dumbfounded by the amazing gathering of craft objects. I compared my own work to the work there and found myself disheartened – in a few months, when I was to graduate from Edinboro, these artists would be my competition for my livelihood and I was nowhere near ready. After a long trek back to the hotel room in a poor choice of shoes I decided that grad school had to be the next step.
What were the major factors that led you to choose the MFA program you’re currently attending?
I started by researching every single MFA program in the US. I categorized them by region, number of professors, professors’ disciplines, length of the program, facilities, and tuition. I narrowed it down to four schools based on faculty, tuition, and the fact that they were three-year programs. I ended up choosing UNT because of the faculty, past student work, and location.
What is your best piece of advice for applicants when choosing a program?
If you can afford it, visit prospective programs. Get in contact with current students or recent alumni – they know their programs better than any others.
Describe a typical day in your life as an MFA student.
Currently, I teach two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I essentially write off those days as non-production days so I can focus on my students. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have regular classes I attend during the day, so in the mornings and evenings I work in the studio. Friday through Sunday I am in the studio as much as I can be, but I sometimes take half of Friday to do laundry and grocery shopping or to grade my students’ work. My days typically start at 8am and finish at 10pm.
What do you enjoy most about being an MFA student? What is your greatest struggle?
The aspect of being an MFA student I enjoy most would be that the faculty encourage and assist with the weird pieces I want to make. They let me make whatever I want so long as I can argue and prove it relates to my body of work.
The greatest struggle is balancing teaching duties with the yearning to be in the studio. Putting off studio time to grade student work isn’t my ideal choice of how to spend my time but it’s a requirement.
What is your best piece of financial advice for potential and/or current MFA students?
Save and budget. Do so in whatever manner you please, but do it well and keep tabs of it. Also, learn to cook. Pack your lunches and dinners. Eat out sparingly.
What are your career plans following grad school? How do you feel your degree has helped facilitate your plans?
I am in the process of opening a fine craft gallery and studio here in Denton, TX. Dallas-Fort Worth Metoplex is lacking in craft-oriented spaces. Without moving here I would have never explored the idea of opening a gallery, nor would I have met the UNT faculty – Ana, James and Harlan. They are all so exceptionally supportive and helpful.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to assist prospective and current MFA students?
In your first year, don’t expect to make the best body of work of your life. Experiment, play, and learn. You’re in a new location with new people and new experiences. Your first year is terrifying but so amazing to have the time to experiment.
If you want a community, a space, the time, and the structure, then grad school may definitely be an avenue to consider.