Poetic art project affirms, 'Hope is the thing with feathers'
“I was so grateful to find one,” shared Sarah R. Yoder, coordinator of admissions operations. “They are beautiful!”
Such were the reactions to discovering “feathered friends” hidden in nooks and crannies, scattered across the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus. Crafted by students in Ceramics I and II classes taught by art faculty David A. and Deborah L. Stabley, 100 ceramic birds were recently “released,” stirring a flurry of excitement. The creations feature glossy, decorated fronts with more plain backsides etched with hopeful messages.
“The bird says ‘Be Happy’ and now sits on my windowsill at home,” Lincalis said. “Such a simple act of kindness that can bring a smile to someone on a bad day.”
Yoder said the message on the bird she found resonates with her: “Give thanks in the morning to start your day off right.”
She added, “I know these birds caused quite the buzz around campus. It surely made my day, and I was very excited to be one of the lucky ones to find one."
The project was conceived by the Stableys in early March as the global pandemic was marking its two-year anniversary and the war in Ukraine was in its early days. They believed a dash of hope – delivered on the wings of art – could lift spirits not only for the individuals finding the creations but also for the students making them.
“I decided to choose messages that have helped me find peace within myself and hopefully others can, as well,” said Alexis N. Youse, one of the students enrolled in Ceramics II. “My messages are ‘dream big’ and ‘live in harmony with nature.’ This project was definitely inspiring because working with ceramics, in general, is therapeutic for me, and the ability to share my art with others is a blessing. I hope the people who find my pieces will be inspired and find meaning within the pieces to help them in any aspect of their own lives.”
Youse, who is from Pottstown, earned an associate degree in baking & pastry arts in 2020 and has petitioned to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in applied management.
“The ceramic bird project made me feel proud to be part of such an inspiring idea!” enthused Autumn B. Williams, a graphic design student from Williamsport. “I found this project to be inspiring because mental health is very important. You never know what somebody could be going through, and by giving anyone an opportunity to find a beautifully decorated ceramic bird with a positive quote written on the back, you could turn somebody's day completely around. On my birds, I chose to write ‘Life is full of beauty, notice it’ and ‘Be free. Be true. Be you.’ I hope I made a positive impact on whoever has found my ceramic birds!”
Benson P. Weaver, an engineering design technology student from Lititz enrolled in Ceramics II, added: “I think the bird project is a fun way to brighten up somebody's day. It's always nice to be able to raise people's spirits, especially with all that's going on in the world today.”
Weaver, who has petitioned to graduate in May, chose to write these messages on the two birds he created: "Do all things with love” and "Life is tough, but so are you.”
One hope that the Stableys had was that finders might share their birds with others. That’s what happened to Judi L. Barr, senior accountant in Financial Operations, who received a ceramic bird from a friend who works in another office.
“It made my day!” Barr said, adding that she cried over the bird’s perfect-for-her message: “Better days are on their way.”
The Stableys thought the ceramic birds project was “a big success” and are already envisioning more ways of spreading joy through art on campus.
“We are hoping that the finders will enjoy the birds for a while and then put them out for others to find or give them to someone else,” David said. “The students really got into making the birds and hiding them around campus. Next time, we might think about making more birds or some other project that gets the students to think about how art can impact others in different ways.”
– Photos by Alexis M. Burrell, student photographer; Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor;
and various students of Deb Stabley (unless otherwise noted)
A beautiful bird (crafted by Dave Stabley himself) hides out in a natural setting.
Waiting to give someone a lift, this bird rests next to the Bush Campus Center elevator.
Sarah E. Booher, a civil engineering student from Orangeville, tucks one of her birds into the corner of an elevator.
Quietly waiting for a refreshing splash
Cleverly hidden amidst a colorful array of treats in the Wildcat Express
Sarah A. Hornberger, a business administration: banking & finance concentration student from Mifflinburg, stashes a bird in an informational display case.
In the ceramics lab, birds wait to “take flight.”
Dave Stabley (in orange) engages students.
A not-quite-invisible hand withdraws after fulfilling its stealthy mission.
Autumn B. Williams applies a shiny coat to her birds ...
... while the backsides were left unglossed.
A picture of steady concentration: Benson P. Weaver applies a criss-cross pattern to one of his creations.
Applying her baking & pastry art skills to ceramic art is evident in these in-progress creations by Alexis N. Youse.
Paints a’plenty are seen in this visual of Burrell, a graphic design student from Danville and a student photographer with Public Relations & Marketing.
Two birds by Dave Stabley are seen in the ceramics lab prior to their “release."
A novel hiding spot in the library stacks
Dacia James, a dental hygiene student from Williamsport, is all smiles as she and fellow ceramics students carry out their bird-hiding caper.
And some like wings and wonderment!
Alighting on a wood sculpture in The Madigan Library
Time to study?
The early bird gets the bookworm.
A feathered friend decorated with a dot medallion art “hit the spot” for Noelle B. Bloom, assistant director of dining services (who shared this photo). “This too shall pass” are the supportive words found on the back.