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F&M Senior Sculpts House from the Ground Up

While sculpture isn't unusual for art majors, senior Lauren Proffitt might just be the first Franklin & Marshall College student to build a home from scratch.

"I wanted to try something that was outside of my typical field of studies," said Proffitt, a studio art major from Lancaster.

Using a Marshall Fellow grant, Proffitt attended two workshops last summer focused on natural building materials. She first traveled to This Cob House in Tennessee for a class focused on building homes with cob, a structural mixture of clay, sand and straw used to build walls.

"Cob has been used for centuries as a reliable, sustainable and beautiful construction method," Proffitt said. "I was excited about the sculptural capabilities as well as building a house."

A second workshop brought Profitt to the Mud Dauber School in North Carolina to learn about natural plasters, application methods and homemade recipes for paints — such as limewash, milk paint and wheat paste — that are typically used in cob homes.

A self-described "humanities person," Proffitt didn't want a degree in studio art. That changed when she arrived on campus.

"When I got here, I saw how it could connect to all these other things that I was doing," said Proffitt, who also has pursued projects in American studies and film.

Proffitt's Marshall grant research highlighted the intersection of biology, anthropology and art.

"It was really cool to learn about the origin of buildings and human involvement with nature," she said. "It's really easy to get disconnected from your roots just in day-to-day life. It's not easy to be connected with nature unless you're in it."

What's next for the aspiring artist?

After graduation, Proffitt will work at Pilchuck Glass School, an international glass art education center nestled in the foothills of Washington's Cascade Mountains.

"I wanted to get out into the world and get some more hands-on experience. But I also wanted to work on the artistic side of things because that's where my heart is," she said.

"I wanted to try something that was outside of my typical field of studies."

– Lauren Proffitt

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