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in the grip of the giffen

updated mon 12 jul 99


David Hendley on tue 6 jul 99

Just a reminder to all you off-center grippers, and, more importantly,
pottery beginners who may wonder what all the fuss is about:
There are lots of us out here who lead wonderful pottery lives
and are totally fulfilled without owning a bag-full of slider arms,
bars, and attachments.
With a little practice, there are techniques that will allow you
rapidly center and trim any sort of thrown shape.
And, as I've said before (sorry, it's the teacher in me), I do not think
the grip is appropriate for beginners. Just as children must learn
multiplication and division before they rely on calculators to do
arithmetic, pottery students should learn to trim pots without an
automatic centering device before they use one regularly.

Don't get me wrong; I'm delighted if you think your work is vastly
improved by owning a Giffen Grip.
But, contrary to recent advertising, this tool is nowhere near as
important in a pottery studio as a wheel or a kiln.
And, judging from the number of people who are saying they
have problems getting it to work properly, I wonder if it simplifies
or actually complicates life in the pottery shop.

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

Michael McDowell on fri 9 jul 99

John Baymore and David Hendley, give it a rest guys. I think that you are
going way overboard in your disparagement of the Giffen Grip. I applaud your
skill and resourcefulness in accomplishing your trimming in other, more time
honored ways, but this tool is widely used and celebrated by many potters, not
all of whom have been seriously inhibited in their development for it's use. I
would agree that the grip has a limited range of use, but so does every other
approach to trimming. Certainly it is important for any student of pottery to
learn several of these approaches in order to have the creative freedom of
choice of the most appropriate method for any given piece or series of pieces.
To teach only the use of the Grip for trimming pots would be as poor a choice
as to teach only the use of the wheel for forming them.

Just because you are satisfied with the set of approaches you use, and it
doesn't include the grip, that's insufficient reason to be gettin' uppity
about it, I think. Why don't you just let the rest of us bumble alone in our
own ways, without enduring this kind of snobbery. You are both cool guys, I
know. What is this? The Summer Snits?

Michael McDowell
Whatcom County, WA USA

Joyce Lee on sun 11 jul 99

Some of us needed the Giffen grip more as novices, and now that we don't
quite fit that category (unless we're maybe "experienced" novices) we no
longer use it. That's where I fit in. I resented it when our community
college teacher, following the 60s philosophies apparently, "hid" the
grip so that students could "learn" first to tap on center correctly
BEFORE using it. I didn't mind for me; I just bought one and used it at
home. That's one of the advantages of coming into youth of old age in
the 90s ... hackneyed though it is, "Just Do It" isn't a bad way to go.
BUT I did resent it for the young students who needed to get on with it;
who were not necessarily going to make clay a life's work; who had other
classes with which to deal ... AND jobs ... AND relationships to
maintain ... AND, I hope, a little time just to be young&silly. Does it
really make sense to hold back a tool that will help the first-timer
move ahead? I know a very successful pottery teacher who told me in
confidence that she spent YEARS learning to tap on center ... said she
was always pleased with her pots until she trimmed them ... then
disaster struck. She became an exemplary handbuilder. Wouldn't it have
been nice if she'd had a grip, and could have fully developed both
handbuilding and throwing skills??? So students sometimes abuse tools?
What's new? Do we remove pencils, computers, books etc etc etc because
some students don't have the same priorities we have? Isn't it the
teachers' job to deal with such classroom management needs? Or is the
teacher's "real field" art ... not teaching? Does teaching just provide
the wherewithal to produce art? If so, perhaps we'd do the nation and
ourselves, most definitely ourselves, a favor by just leaving our
pseudo-field of teaching ... getting out ... finding something else we
love in order to get the money we need. Some Clayarters ARE both active
artists/artisans AND profoundly influential teachers ... it can be done
... but not by everybody. THAT teacher absolutely has enough
inside-shine to t-e-a-c-h regardless of which tools he chooses to allow
students to use, or not to use. My concern is for the students of the
teacher who has yet to develop her own shining qualities, in whatever
field, whether they be in teaching or arting, and "hides" the damn
grip, because she read it on Clayart!

In the Mojave recalling that being able to offer compassion and kindness
were the "nice" by-products of working in an American high school. BUT
the printout on my wall said, "Every teacher that you 'nicely,'
'kindly,' 'compassionately' allow to continue in the classroom ...
knowing that teaching is not her gig ... because she is such a 'decent
person' ... and because being 'liked' is such a warm feeling ... could
spend the next 25 years NOT teaching, cheating and maybe even harming,
our kids, and growing bitter in the process." Every year some wit would
pencil in, "peeing in your pants is a warm feeling, too. Keep up the
good work." One out of 2,000's not bad.