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favorite school assignments

updated tue 27 jan 98


WRapf on sat 24 jan 98

To all you potters out there that took pottery in High School. I've been a
pottery teacher for more than 25 years and wonder which
activities/assignments/or ceramic creative problems that you had were most
beneficial to your development as a ceramic artist, fun, or memorable. Would
you be willing to share these ideas so that pottery education in High school
can more significantly benefit the current generation and we can avoid the
simplistic "make a coil pot" type experience? What was the best aspect of
your high school experience in Clay?

Thanks in advance.

Bill Rapf
Amherst, NH

Paula Sibrack on sun 25 jan 98

Bill, As a high school ceramics instructor, as well as a producing potter, in
find a wealth of ideas and support at the NCECA annual conferences.
Specifically at the K-12 slide presentations and breakout sessions. If you
can manage to take part in the conference this year in Ft worth, you can see
first hand. If not, check the NCECA Journal which reports the contents of the
meetings. Also get a hold of the NCECA Assignment Books (mentioned here on
CLayart). I have included ideas that I use with my HS classes in both in
both volumns. Good luck. Paula Sibrack, in the woods of Sherman, CT

reene sherrill on sun 25 jan 98

While I didn't realize it at the time, and was actually quite upset at
times, I remember learning from my own endless mistakes. I don't credit my
teacher for wisely letting me experience and learn on my own. She was a dolt
and didn't know anything herself (sorry but it's quite true). After pulling
out that warped lid of that that much labored after casserole dish I found
(on my own) that it's best to fire them together. I would've preferred being
told that it's wise to clean the glaze off the rim of that SECOND casserole
to avoid a permanently stuck lid. And so on. I remember her having me THROW
AWAY glazes that crawled and shivered or melted and stuck to her shelves
because THEY WERE OLD.
I teach students myself now and can honestly say my first teacher only
taught me to rely on myself, look far and wide for knowledge and learn from
your mistakes. But I guess to answer your question, luckily I had a fellow
student who led many fun and adventurous raku firings. They were my favorite
as I was involved in the whole process. Not just coming into class to find
the piece I left the week before magically glazed and waiting on the shelf
(even though the lid WAS stuck)

STILL learning, in sunny Florida

Figred on sun 25 jan 98

In my first pottery class in college, my first assignment was to pick an
object. I choice a bird house, one friend chose a couch, another turtles,
another purses. We then had to make that object by coil, slap, pinch, and
hollow. After that assignment every project she assigned we were free to
chose from one of the 4 ways to make our piece. This assignment helped to
develop our skills and to guide us in which technique was best for us.

DTrytko357 on mon 26 jan 98

WOW Reene, your story about learning the hard way sure sounded like my story.
Other students would move or break my pots or my work would explode in the
kiln and the teacher would blame me. I had to learn the hard way, so now I
teach others the way I would have wanted to learn, not by their own mistakes,
but by learning the correct way FIRST. Then if they don't listen, they can
blame themselves, tho I haven't seen much of that in my studio. Oddly enough,
when I bought my own kiln and fired my own ware, and that of my students,
nothing exploded. Oh sure, I've had some disasters but they were my fault. I
guess I just wanted to let you know that your experence others have experenced
as well from all over. I'm glad to hear that you are teaching now.

Sincerely, Jane at


Dana Henson on mon 26 jan 98

I liked this assignment from my first clay class in college...we had to choose
a small object and enlarge it ten times. I chose a milk bone (for small dogs)
and discovered that by enlarging it that I had a number of technical problems
to solve. The clay milk bone is over 20" long and makes a very unusual wall
piece. I also learned that milk bones are designed by engineers. They are
mathematically exact. Incredible! I also remember one person made a Higgins
ink bottle---stopper and all. That was a complex project. I think that this
is a good assignment in the sense of discovering just how far you can go with
clay in terms of solving three-dimensional problems. Looking back, I wish that
I had made my milk bone project into some type of container. Student loans
haven't come in so this is my -2 cents worth!
Dana Henson