vince pitelka on wed 16 jan 02
> One thing I've noticed in talking to and dealing with potters who are
> "art school" graduates is their appalling lack of knowledge about clay,
> glaze and refractories.
Forgive me, but this is an absurd generalization. I'm sure you have based
it on a thorough study.
It is true that there are some teachers who are very about teaching the
technical stuff, but there are MANY who do a very thorough job in this
regard, and I would be happy to name some if you are looking for one.
It is not often that I suggest we MOVE ON regarding a particular thread on
Clayart, and in fact I often speak out against it when someone else says we
should move on. But regarding all this university bashing, so many of the
recent anti-academic posts have been profoundly seeped in personal
frustration and sour grapes, and little is being accomplished. I say move
on to something more worthwhile.
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
Home - firstname.lastname@example.org
Work - email@example.com
615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803
Paul Taylor on sat 19 jan 02
Dear Vince and all.
I think we have aired our views enough as well but it seems impossible
to move on in our intrenched positions with out a call for evidence and
'that' we certainly can not get.
I have appreciated your posts because unlike others you have been loyal
to your colleges but have had the sense not to totally reject the criticism
as un founded. Rather than reject the subject could we not move on to some
constructive ideas especially concerning the educational system in general
or as this post will unfold some particular problem that exists in education
one that I have evidence for. I would hope to get some honest feed back
from my fellow educators not more defensive entrenchment and I told you so's
from disgruntled potters.
As you know I am only just qualified to teach what is a post graduate
course , some what between school and collage . It is designed for older
people to get back into education and younger people to put a portfolio
together for art collage. This is a synopsis of my module that the
education authority print as part of the marking regime . The full module
can be read on you will have to down load it but it is very small so its no
hassle. http://www.ncva.ie the module is Level 2 Ceramics A20214.
I feel a little uncomfortable blowing the whistle, because I feel that
what is happening in my module happens in every collage in every country;
and just because my lot (the NCVA ) have had the courage to make it public
domain it would be unfair to pillory them when their fault is general - but
you can only be the judge of that.
Historical Appreciation :- Wide range of historical material accumulated,
historical and contemporary use of clay clearly understood, extensive study
of glazes and finishes undertaken.
Research :- Extensive exploration of the properties an characteristics of
clay evident , appropriate experiments carried out with clay and the firing
process , effect of heat of heat on clay and glazes clearly understood
Techniques :- 2D ideas translated into 3D form excellently interpreted,
correct procedures followed when packing a kiln, High level of skill
demonstrated for a range of the following clay forming techniques/ coiling/
slab- building/ slip -casting/ mouldmaking / tilemaking / throwing, creative
application and skill shown with a range of surface decorative treatments,
safe and effective use of tools and equipment.
On the surface it seems a well put together syllabus. Until I tell you
that the students have two and a half hours a week of 36 week academic year
(minus work experience and exams) to do it ; and this is only sixty percent
of the course, the rest of the marks are for the project. So that the rest
of us can get their heads round the time; this is the equivalent of three
weeks allowing for a six hour day. I will repeat
'three' weeks to learn much of which took me twenty years (as described in
So you can see that who ever put together this (Module) Syllabus together
lives in cloud cookoo land and obviously has no idea about ceramics.
I have inquired of others and they all say their modules are the same ,
compleat flights of fancy - given the time they have with the students.
We have an Irish solution to the problem in that every body just ignores
the printed module and does the best they can, leaving the faceless bean
counters alone in their fantasy world - they get vexed and cross if poked
It's not the courses them selves alone we are worried about. Do the
teachers believe that their students are masters if they do there is no need
to go on - give them a few awards and join the fiction with a glossy CV.
I expect most tutors have a realistic idea of the standard so why can
we not be a little more realistic and not insult the dictionary, and people
like me who have worked diligently for thirty years, by using hyperbola in
To be fair to the administrators and tutors they are only reflecting the
sort of hype that surrounds every aspect of our lives.
Vince is right in his observation that this is an unhealthy argument .
Especially for him because he is fighting for craftsmanship. Craftsmanship
has been robed of its art status and relegated to a second class persuit.
Honesty in our qualifications would just be giving in. We need to hype our
degree courses just to stay up there with the fine art and other courses,
which are indulgences of stupidity beyond our understanding.
In our society honesty is poor and modesty starves maybe we need more Hype
not less .
But this is the rub: Do the students believe that they have accomplished
all that is in the module and do employers and the collages that accept my
students also believe that my students can do all; or are they
differentiating and just make their course more wonderful even more
splendifferous to catch the student fees. Of course the university have to
give out masters degrees to people who are obviously not 'masters' to keep
What is the dynamic that keeps this all going? How much moneys was spent
in writing and coordinating these fictitious modules.
My cozy idealistic world as a studio potter is just as full of 'it' .
Badly made is synonomous with hand made and you can go to a craft shop to
see pots lacking in every thing that craftsmanship stands for; selling at
the same price as the well made. Our craft council thinks more of product
development than skilled work, but again it has to survive. You can go to a
craft demonstration and be embarrassed by the inaptitude of the
demonstrator. No one would be rude enough to comment but all the
professional throwers are exchanging questioning glances. I embarrass myself
with the air of self importance modern marketing demands.
So after all that there is nothing that can be done. Except that I hope
education establishments do not start believing their own propaganda . Keep
the MFA as good marketing and get lots of tutors in from all aspects of
ceramics, sculptors, art/potters, industrial potters the lot; and make the
teaching qualification open to other potters by exam and assessment.
A friend of mine (i will not embarrass him by a name) has built up a
course in the local collage. He has worked hard and diligently with a great
enthusiasm. Yet he can never be given a full time position because he has
not got the right qualifications to teach the course he built up. I suspect
every year his job has to be put out for tender and every year potters are
being rejected after making their presentation because the collage is just
going through some administrative pantomime. No one dare say any thing just
incase the collage follow through on the lunacy and sack him only to employ
a collage graduate with only four years in collage and an award .
So I think this debate will have to continue - whether we like it or not.
Regards Paul Taylor
PS I am fifty today and no longer Immortal.
> It is true that there are some teachers who are very about teaching the
> technical stuff, but there are MANY who do a very thorough job in this
> regard, and I would be happy to name some if you are looking for one.
> It is not often that I suggest we MOVE ON regarding a particular thread on
> Clayart, and in fact I often speak out against it when someone else says we
> should move on. But regarding all this university bashing, so many of the
> recent anti-academic posts have been profoundly seeped in personal
> frustration and sour grapes, and little is being accomplished. I say move
> on to something more worthwhile.
> - Vince
> Vince Pitelka
> Appalachian Center for Crafts
> Tennessee Technological University
> 1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
> Home - firstname.lastname@example.org
> Work - email@example.com
> 615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803