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clay and college

updated sat 23 mar 02


mel jacobson on fri 22 mar 02

one thing that i would like to make clear. college and clay
do mix.

there are many majors, at any college or university
that are not meant to be `job training`.

just think if you majored in:
Russian Poetry
The study of Snow Monkeys

are you trained to go on the job market?
think not.

but, you are trained in thinking, learning, being
an adult.

most college clay programs are not job oriented, and
they should not be. it is not vocational training.

i have a dear friend that majored in latin, now he is
a librarian and conservator. very bright fellow.

my son, mark, had a degree in industrial design. he
graduated at the time the cad computer program began.
he did not have a job three years later. he became an alarm
specialist. he had a college degree.

basket weaving and clay were big jokes a few years back.
that has not left us. there is a perception that we played
in college and dorked around. it is up to us as professional
teachers of clay, and makers of clay to destroy that myth.
we should not perpetuate it.

it is up to us as potters to educate our public and buyers
as much as possible. create dignity.

i do several things:
i show customers my kiln, talk about 2400 degrees F.
i show them kaowool and talk of space shuttle tiles.
i take a small torch, have them hold it against their
hand and light the torch...turn it red on one side, cold
on the other. they are amazed.
talk in simple ways of the chemistry of clay and glaze.

i have done this thousands of times over the last 40
years. it really impresses folks. they have a new understanding.
that is why i like to sell from my studio.
most of my regular customers understand what i do.
they respect that.
i teach clay, all the time. (sharlene, at times, has to whack
me with a stick, `hush about clay`.)

but, our job is education. full time potters must educate all the
time. bring dignity to your craft. your customers, at least
should respect what you do.

many people out there in the world, want to do something
with `their hands`. they hate working at the bank. in so
many ways we find jealousy at work. they think they are
busting their butts, and we are playing. (in some ways that
is true. take the words joy, fulfillment, pleasure, satisfaction,
to what we do. not many can say that about their work.)

if you want to make a profit at your work, you have to hustle.
and, hustle all the time. it is not a game, it is very hard work.
some of you have a goal to be famous, well you had better get
after it...time is a wasting. but, what are you going to do after
you have that big another one? many die the day
after the `big show`. `what the hell do i do now?`

working with clay is about working with clay. find your own
way...what do you want?

for many of you, it is an avocation, a love. don't mix that up
with being a full time production potter, they are different
animals, doing different things. it is impossible to compare
the two. that is often, how very serious posts on this list
get bashed. the receiver of the information does not have
a clue what is being talked about. it does not mean, in any
way, that working five hours a week is not important. it is
very important to the person that is doing that work. but,
to compare that to a person that is working 70 hours a week
in clay, and making a sole living is not easy.

to be a full time production potter you sure as hell do not
have to go to college. it may even waste your time learning
about production. but, it sure is nice to have that degree.
it is a good thing. many want it. and so be it. if you want
it, it sure is important to study around, find a program that
fits. many do not fit at all. they are a waste of your time and
money. it would be better to study latin.

well, anyway. we must educate. we must get together
as potters and share knowledge. we have a great deal
of work to do. it takes all of us to do that.
all of us.

Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S.A.
web site:

Michele Williams on fri 22 mar 02

Lemme add another course to the Mel's list, just for laughs.

Would you be ready for the job market after studying cultural sexuality?
I've always wondered what that market would be!

Michele Williams

Kurt Wild on fri 22 mar 02

At 04:56 AM 3/22/02 -0600, Mel wrote: is up to us as potters to educate our public and buyers
>as much as possible. create dignity...............
>.... show customers my kiln...... our job is education. full time potters
>must educate all the
>time. bring dignity to your craft. your customers, at least
>should respect what you do.............

Just spent two hours with a couple doing just that - discussed my process,
looked at the kiln, took them in the house showed them (and talked about)
my collection of pots. They left with a bit more knowledge of ceramics and
two pots of mine - a satisfied and happy couple.


Kurt Wild
1000 E. Cascade
River Falls, WI 54022
phone: 715-425-5715
web site:
most current work:

Lee Love on sat 23 mar 02

I only took 3 semesters of clay classes at the UofMN. I really didn't
appreciate what I learned there until I came here to study. Here in Japan,
the strength is on tradition and craftskil. Studio Arts focus is on
creativity and innovation. I think both are essential for the studio potter.
I also value my time having studio space at Northern Clay Center. It was
really great to have daily contact with so many different people of differing
skills, back grounds and influences.

"Trading intuition and creativity for something that sells isn't a good
If one's work never provides economic security, at least one has the
of doing what feels right. Money can't buy that."

Willem Gebben
Quote from Ceramics Monthly Comment
September 1990

Lee in Mashiko

"The lyfe so short, the craft so long to learne." - Chaucer -
| Lee Love ^/(o\| Practice before theory. |
| |\o)/v - Sotetsu Yanagi - |
"All weaves one fabric; all things give
Power unto all things to work and live." - Goethe -