Claire Gear Joins Shelburne Craft School as Executive Director | Visual Art | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Claire Gear Joins Shelburne Craft School as Executive Director

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Claire Gear - COURTESY OF CLAIRE GEAR
  • Courtesy Of Claire Gear
  • Claire Gear

Claire Gear, whose father was a woodworker, grew up surrounded by craft. "I studied design, space, people and materials ever since I was very young," she said.

A love for making and building isn't the only thing she has in common with her father: He was also an executive director in the nonprofit world.

Next month, Gear, 35, will officially assume her position as executive director of the Shelburne Craft School, taking over from Sage Tucker-Ketcham.

Tucker-Ketcham, who is stepping down after almost eight years at the helm, has left the organization in a "very good position," wrote board president David Webster in an email. He said the board is confident that Gear will undertake a "seamless transition, and that she has the skills to develop and implement new initiatives."

While the board "has reverence" for the school's mission, its members also "realize that we have a responsibility to look ahead and to augment our core curriculum," Webster added.

Gear, an architect by training, grew up in upstate New York. Prior to joining the craft school, she was executive director of Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield.

At a time when individuals have grown dependent on computers and mobile devices, Gear believes that the craft school plays an important role in helping children and adults experience the joys of hands-on creating. Seven Days caught up with her to learn more about her work and plans for the 73-year-old school.

SEVEN DAYS: Tell us a little about your background and how you got your start in the industry.

CLAIRE GEAR: As a child, [I was always] a builder, maker, designer and crafter. I felt like [architecture] was the career path for me and followed a pretty traditional path to gain my architectural license. I worked professionally for about 10 years in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Norway, France, New York and moved to Vermont about seven years ago.

I worked professionally as an architect on high-performance and passive-house buildings that were focused on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making our buildings very energy efficient. I [also] helped manage my husband's sports-medicine and chiropractic business and learned that I really love being in a leadership role.

I decided to make a transition over to leading a mission-driven organization at Yestermorrow that was focused on architecture, design and building as an integrative and iterative process.

When the opportunity arose to hold a relatively similar position in a mission-driven nonprofit organization in my home community of Shelburne, I jumped at that opportunity. I knew Sage and several members of the board and very much respected the mission and the impact that the Shelburne Craft School was having and has had on this community.

SD: How did your overseas sojourns influence your work as an architect and passive-house designer?

CG: [The experience] gives me a deep respect for travel and for meeting new people and exploring new mediums and to just keep learning. Working abroad and living in different states, cities and communities of 500 to 5 million can bring a real appreciation for the people and customs. It makes me appreciate Vermont and the community in Shelburne even more, because it's such a supportive, creative and hyper-local place.

SD: What are your goals for the craft school?

CG: I'm looking forward to being immersed in the community of Shelburne and learning the deep history of this school from current and past students, instructors and community members. [I'm also] really looking forward to expanding our reach through our donor base [and] being able to offer more curriculum in visual arts, clay, metal and glass.

We have a historic campus. That is an ongoing project to keep up-to-date and renovated, so I'm looking forward to fundraising around that effort and continuing to improve our beautiful campus. I'm looking forward to building our scholarship and financial aid capabilities so we can reach more students of all ages and all demographics.

SD: Did Sage offer any words of wisdom?

CG: We really see it as a passing of the torch. Sage and I were able to spend quite a bit of time together in the past month, with her giving lessons learned and really showing me the way the school operates but also empowering me to look at it with fresh eyes.

SD: Do you miss being an architect and designer since moving into leadership positions?

CG: What I was drawn to in architecture was making with craft and with people, not necessarily a building. Although it looks different [from] drafting, sketching and creating a building, a lot of the pieces and the components of being in a not-for-profit organization are focused on craft and making. It's very, very similar to being an architect.

In my time transitioning away from more traditional architectural practice into nonprofit leadership, I have to say, I haven't missed architecture proper. I still execute the training and the reasons I got into it every day. I will use [my passive-house design] training to continue to make improvements to our historic campus and our building. All that training and everything that brought me to this point is still with me.

The original print version of this article was headlined "New Shelburne Craft School Director Aims to Expand Curriculum"

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