In the Classroom with Virginia San Fratello

Clay Constructs: 3D Printing for Sustainability with Virginia San Fratello

In August 2023, DATMA invited San Francisco based architect and designer,Virginia San Fratello, to New Bedford to teach local educators and students how to push the boundaries of 3D printing using readily available tools and earthen material. The hands-on workshop empowered participants to learn sustainable building and construction practices, in turn, helping to create a more equitable future through design, art, and technology.

Participants were tasked to design and paste extrude with clay to create ceramic architectural models that came together to form a sustainable concept for a city of the future built of earth and clay. Educators and students learned how to use Emerging Objects’ 3D-printing Potterware software to design and print their own vessels and building models.

This program was free to all participants, and made possible by the Mass Cultural Council of New Bedford and the many generous individuals who have contributed to the Roger Mandle Legacy Education Fund.

This mural is a featured exhibit in DATMA’s program series entitled, Shelter 2023, and is DATMA’s first semi-permanent installation. Under the guidance of DATMA’s Artist Mentor and STEAM educators at New Bedford High School, the 3D Wall Mural gave students the confidence to use design and technology tools expanding their range of problem solving methods. These young pioneers worked directly with the artist to help guide the content and participate in the fabrication of this new cultural placemaking indicator for the 30,000+ daily cars that pass through the bridge each day.



Outcomes & Impact

  • Provided hands-on creating where community educators and students learn from and practice as artists and designers
  • Explored solutions in affordable, sustainable, and ecological construction, and the potentials of 3D printing
  • Introduced new technologies to educators and students who will continue to share their knowledge and experience around these 21st century skills and new mediums

“As an educator who sees building technology like 3D printing as an essential tool for students to understand I have searched for a way to straddle the STEM-STEAM divide at my institution. We have the tools but lack the direction to integrate them successfully as anything but novel. This workshop has changed that and I plan to use Potterware with my students right away.”

— Tricia Smith, Educator and Department Chair, Tabor Academy (9-12th grade

“I will take this knowledge to my own studio practice and with students who are interested in digital ceramics and learning about the potentials of the material. Many people might not know you can print with clay, and it’s great to find ways of making the technology more accessible.”

— Jasmine Gutbrod, Teaching Fellow, Rhode Island School of Design


12 Regional Educators — representing; UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island School of Design, New Bedford Research & Robotics, Tabor Academy (9-12), Falmouth High School, Brown-RISD Master of Arts in Design Engineering, Cambridge Hackspace, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, AS220 non-profit community arts organization

9 Middle School Students – Our Sisters’ School (6-8th grade)

Thank you to our Academic Advisors for this program: Tobey Eugenio, Our Sisters’ School, and Fallon Navaroo, UMass Dartmouth CVPA