Meet Three Otis Extension Instructors from Labs and Shops

Faculty, News | April 25, 2024 | BY Anna Raya

Woman welding metal

One of the advantages of taking a class at Otis Extension is having access to the labs and shops on campus. Filled with state of the art equipment, these creative hubs—including a ceramics studio, photography lab, 3D-printing model shop, lighting studio, and other facilities—allow students to explore their ideas through making. Otis Extension offers several hands-on classes that take place in these maker spaces, including woodworking, sewing, metal sculpture, photography, printmaking, and screenprinting. The instructors are working artists and designers who are skilled at teaching creative people of all skill levels. 

As part of our ongoing series profiling Otis Extension instructors, here are three you will find in Otis’s labs and shops, teaching their craft to students eager to work with their hands, learn new skills, experiment, and create.

Andrew Armstrong, Wood and Metal Shop

Labs and shops at otis

Armstrong teaches woodworking classes that are popular among would-be carpenters. Classes are held in the 5,300-square-foot Wood and Metal Shop, where students learn the basics of woodworking as well as safe practices on the shop’s large industrial-grade equipment. Through demonstrations and hands-on training, students can learn how to select and mill lumber, make basic wood joints, use various Japanese and European hand tools, and more. Usually at the end of Armstrong’s classes, after lots of sawing, sanding, and drilling, each student has designed and constructed their own unique object. 

In addition to teaching with Otis Extension, Armstrong is the Director of Technical Support Services at Otis College, managing the several labs and shops located throughout campus. He also designed the Metal and Wood Shop in 2015. He is a practicing artist and designer, consultant, and master fabricator. He graduated from Otis with both BFA and MFA degrees in Fine Arts (classes of 2000 and 2002).  

Orly Ruaimi, Wood and Metal Shop

“My classes are best suited for enthusiastic beginners but also those wanting to hone their woodworking skills. I offer a balanced mix of planning and improvisation thanks to the in-person, hands-on nature of the classes. I like to start with skills-based exercises and then a personal project, followed by a round robin share/critique with classmates. Several of my students have gone on to develop boutique-style furniture and product businesses. For me, one of the best parts of teaching the class is the general outcome of having students get past their fears of the equipment—it is part skill-building and part character-building. I love following each student through their journey of learning and making.”

Metal and woodshop

Ruaimi teaches metal sculpting classes, also held in the Wood and Metal shop, giving students the opportunity to create steel sculptures using the specialty equipment there. Students learn the visual and physical properties of metal and various welding procedures—including gas, arc, and plasma cutting—as well as shaping and fabricating, tools, and techniques.

An interdisciplinary artist, Ruaimi received MFA degrees in Metal Arts and Studio Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and has exhibited her work in such venues as the de Young Museum, Diego Rivera Gallery, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, The San Francisco Mint, Facebook Headquarters, New Mexico State University, and Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University. Currently, she is creating a new body of work consisting of steel sculptures exploring female body parts as food. She has over a decade of experience working with metals, making art, and curating exhibitions. 

“My students usually are composed of professionals in other fields who are interested in learning a new skill or are already building things with other materials and want to learn how to work with metal. Some also are art students who need a more detailed welding class to gain the skills to make their art. What I enjoy most about teaching Otis Extension is that my students are very passionate and eager to learn and are very dedicated.”

Kupchick is a mainstay at Otis College, having worked and taught in the Laboratory Press  for over 13 years. She began her career in advertising in New York after receiving her BFA in Advertising + Illustration at ArtCenter College of Design. Eventually, she found her way back to Los Angeles and took a letterpress workshop at her alma mater. She was hooked on printmaking. In addition to teaching printmaking at Otis College—both BFA and Extension classes—she teaches at Bookarts L.A. and the International Printing Museum.

Janet Kupchick, Laboratory Press

Lab press staff

Much of what Kupchick teaches at Otis Extension involves type and letterforms. “Coming from an advertising career, I am always thinking about the benefit to the end user. In this case, it is the student,” she says. “Lab Press classes offer skills acquisition, fun, visual discernment, fun, and going home with a printed deliverable. Students learn the various aspects of printmaking—what things are called and how they work—and then start setting up and proofing wood type.”

The Lab Press has four Vandercook proof presses and a comprehensive collection of wood and metal type. “Students can plan their designs/prints and then experiment and print on the press, working with different colors, overlays, and ways of distributing type. We ‘make, do, look, revise, and repeat.’ Time on press is the meat and fun of class-time and we review our work as we go,” Kupchick says, adding that letterpress printing complements graphic design work. “It’s the immersive real deal when it comes to understanding type and how to balance beauty and message. What I love about teaching in the Lab Press is that each student brings a unique expectation, so in the process of creation there always emerges something I never expected or thought about. I love my students’ curiosity and willingness to do some hard work.”

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