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will this math stuff please stop!

updated thu 31 oct 96


Maggie McMahon on tue 15 oct 96

Come on guys - give it a rest! I'm reminded of my first days struggling
with learning how to throw..(26 years ago) Someone told me that "Real
Potters" didn't throw with a sponge and they didn't use bats for anything
but I struggled without a sponge. Then I took a workshop with
Hui Ka Kwong who was a wonderful potter and teacher who incidentally threw
with a sponge and later befriended Tom Reece who grossed 60,000 one year
throwing each pot, lid and spout on a bat. People can set up studios
without knowing jack about glaze chemistry (purchaced clay, glazes bought
by the gallon, electric kilns) and more power to them.
Obviously if one is getting paid to teach they have a responsibility to
impart information and have information worth imparting.
While one could argue that a university education is incomplete without
math or a foreign language - it smacks of a very narrow definition of
"education". UT-Chattanooga has a "honors program". These people can do
math, they can do French, they know how to ace a paper or an exam but many
have a very tough time in studio classes. The fact that they could "redo"
a studio problem and not get an "A" just blows their mind. They are
considered brilliant - but many have not learned to access their right
brain. Knowledge itself is finite - learning to think offers infinite
possibilities. Do these students leave with a better education than
students who have struggled to learn how to express themselves in writing
but are on their way to becoming wonderful artists (visual expression)?
When I hear "must", "should", or any other absolute, a red flag goes up.
Let some excel in math/science without fear that they will be considered
"less than" because they can't throw a beautiful pot. Oh you know what,
they already do! So when is being an artist enough? I'm very grateful for
those on the list who work in clay and have a lot of technical information
that they are willing to share. But where is it written that real potters
have to be experts in glaze chemistry, kiln building or spelling?

Katherine Villyard on wed 16 oct 96

On Tue, 15 Oct 1996, Maggie McMahon wrote:

> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> But where is it written that real potters
> have to be experts in glaze chemistry, kiln building or spelling?

It isn't, and they don't. Knowing math helps ME in ceramics, which
doesn't mean knowing math would help someone else in ceramics. I don't
think you have to be interested in glaze chemistry or kiln building at
all, as long as you can buy clay and glazes or follow a recipe you're
fine. The photographer Cindy Sherman is totally disinterested in film
processing and sends her photos out to be processed, I hear--is she not a
"real" photographer? I hope not, I love her work! :) I'm just a little
snitty :) when people imply that artistic people are "incapable" of math
because creativity and math are mutually exclusive. Some artistic people
have a good math background or high math aptitude, and some do not. As
long as your lack of math does not impede what you want to do in art or
life (i.e., people running their own business have to do icky nasty tax
forms :) and balance their books whether they're artistic or not), you
obviously know "enough" math.

My involvement in this thread comes when people want college degree plans,
etc., to not require math because "creative people can't do math." I
object to this as much as I object to "don't make athletes do math because
athletic people can't do math." I think it's insulting to creative people
just as it is to athletic people, and "not fair" to some non-artistic
non-athletic Joe or Jane Blow who wants a college degree but is scared of
math. Why are we deserving of special treatment when they are not? It's
not a matter of one being valued over the other, as far as I'm concerned,
it's a matter of asking for special favors because our (very valuable,
IMHO) special ability "precludes" other abilities, which is untrue (IMHO
again). Joe or Jane might be a brilliant writer or a brilliant future
foreign language translator who curls up in the fetal position when
confronted with Trigonometry, but the English department or Foreign
Language department and the university in general won't be very
sympathetic. A friend of mine once asked a University to "waive" the math
requirements for a computer science degree because he was dyslexic and
"couldn't do math." (He was literally told that in high school and
excused from all math courses, which makes me angry. They handicapped his
college career!) The computer science department, which requires a math
minor, laughed him out of the building. He eventually dropped out of
college even though he is a bright young man and good with computers. I
don't blame the university, I blame his high school.

I don't think there is an either/or OR a both/and relationship between
math/science and art. The reason I argued for math and science being
useful in Ceramics earlier is because Ceramics has a very technical side
(painting does not, usually) that you can choose to involve yourself in or
not. If you're a major glaze geek :) the easiest model for understanding
what is going on is the Chemistry model. This does not mean this is the
only model--glazes were made before modern chemistry--it just means that
it is the most efficient model. Without it you can use trial, error, and
observation (just like the ancients did) and get lovely results, but it
will probably take a little more time to develop new glazes or solve
problems. Or you can ask a pal or ClayArt. :) Or stick to purchased
glazes and other people's glaze recipes--why reinvent what already exists
unless that interests you? As we computer people like to say, "Don't
reinvent the wheel."

I once had a painter scratch his head at me and tell me he would NEVER
consider grinding his own pigments for paint,

Katherine the Art Chick