Dinosaur workshop in Mongolia
In August 2013, I was invited by Oyungerei Tsedevdamba, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Mongolian Government along with the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs (ISMD), to teach a workshop on how to build a scientifically accurate, three-dimensional sculpture of a Velociraptor to a class of 18 artists. The workshop was a ten-day program and the results were impressive. Due to the time restrictions, we were only able to sculpt a head and neck. The students ranged from accomplished artists to art professors in a local college to museum preparators, all of whom had very little experience with paleontological reconstructions.
Personally, the experience was one of culture shock, jetlag, and a love of a new culture. Part of the culture shock came from the lack of availability of some of the basic materials needed to make these sculptures. Mornings were spent hunting down materials we would need for that day's lesson, followed by teaching until almost 8:00 or 9:00 at night. I did bring all of the specialized materials with me, but thought we could find most of the basics, like metal, wood, plaster, styrofoam, and glues. Not so.
The students' skill levels and adaptability for new materials was truly inspirational, and although we used a translator, there were still many lessons that were taught by "hands-on" techniques or by sign language. This in combination with the warmth and generosity of their culture made me fall in love with Mongolia and reminded me that art really is a universal language.