Alisa Liskin Clausen on wed 8 may 02
I expect to be blasted and that is all right.
Tonight I am babysitting my kiln for the second day in a row and do not =
expect to bisque fire until sometime tomorrow.
I am all for everyone trying out clay. I support the sharing of =
information so that everyone can come further on their ceramic journey. =
I respect those in the know and try to learn from them. I will most =
likely never learn it all. There is space for everyone and everyone can =
learn a little more.
With that little mantra, I will say that I am tired of people in charge =
of art classes who delve into clay with wild abandon, thinking it will =
all just work. What I would call a mistake or fault, they will call an =
I do not think it is especially funny for children to work 8 weeks on a =
project, for it to blow up in the kiln.
Our local museum's inspector had the wonderful inspiration to engage =
almost all of Aabenraa's schools, after-school institutions and the =
museum's own art classes, in a huge ceramic project. The participants =
are to go out from the theme "animals" and make figures out of =
terracotta for an outdoor exhibition at the museum in the middle of =
June. Good project. Very ambitious and gives a good social and =
cooperative atmosphere among the different institutions.
However, the people leading the groups are all painters. Some have been =
on evening classes in ceramics. Therefore, they are ceramists. All =
right. Now the kids have all built huge dogs, huge ducks, half meter =
long snakes and painted them with slips. The museum called and asked if =
I would come around and look at the work. It seems it is all cracking =
up and they need help. I said of course, and my hourly wage is 35.00 =
per hour, the same I earn from the other institutions that employ me =
for workshops. Oh, they had no money for that, they should hopefully =
just work it out themselves. Two weeks later. Please, please, please =
come and help us. The exhibition has been written up in the newpapers, =
the museum inspector should be in full glory for this wonderful =
initiative and bang, everything is cracking up. Oh, by the way, we have =
no kiln at the museum.
I picked up 60 snakes that were painted thickly with slips and not =
moved. All the drips stuck to the board where they were painting and =
the snakes cracked as the big slip drips pulled them apart. The ducks =
are a foot long and half as high and almost solid. Wish they were =
chocolate. The dogs are a foot high and sort of hollowed out. Left to =
dry, bang. They have cracks right up their chests.
I really, really want to help this project. I think it is a pity if the =
kids get nothing out of their work except the experience. Kids are =
better to results than we as adults can accept the learning curves in =
the process and not necessary a great result. I sat with each piece in =
my lap and hollowed out over 35 kilos of clay. I have been drying them =
in a kiln slowly reaching 200c over two days, all port holes open. When =
I entered my studio after the first day, it was a sauna. I could have =
had a day spa in there. =20
The bottom line is the people in charge are not really understanding =
what is wrong here. That they need more information about process and =
technical challenges when they "play with clay". I think that because =
the clay discipline is so vast, people who have been on night classes =
could well think that they have learned it all. No one who is not "in =
it" over a long period of time could ever imagine how many brick walls =
there are to rearrange the bricks in. In that way I understand that the =
instructors went into the project of course with the best intentions. =
But now that it is not working out so great, I wonder why they are still =
not understanding that there is something here to learn. So, I get =
frustrated. I wish I could magically show them a ceramic date line of =
their own personal growth over the next 10 years so that they could see =
there are still some unturned stones. As said, I will be really glad if =
I can rescue the work, but not really sure, as much of it is cracked =
before going in the kiln. I said next time we should really have me or =
another person with a technical background, formal or not, from the =
start of the process rather than at the end.
Now I have this off my chest. However, I have a few hours to go I am =
sure before I let that kiln go above 300c. If anyone has any tips on =
slow bisquing of thick wares, please send them to me. I plan on holding =
at 300c for 3 hours, slowly plugging up all but one port hole. Then, =
firing up from 300c at 80c per hour up to 600c, and then 100 per hour up =
to 1000c. I do not see any more steam leaving the port holes but I am =
assuming these works are still wet enough to explode if I go the tiniest =
degree to fast.
Otherwise, Denmark is showing all the signs of Spring. That makes us =
regards from Alisa in Denmark.
Marianne Lombardo on wed 8 may 02
It's too bad the people that were in charge of the art classes didn't have
to come over and sit with you, and work on attempting to rescue the
children's work. If they could only experience your frustration at this
time, it might help them understand. Especially the museum inspector.
Bless you for thinking of the children before anything else. Let us know
how it all works out.
Earl Brunner on thu 9 may 02
Yeah, we have a comic book (wannabe) artist here that works at the art
center, teaches "pottery" and in this sense I use the word loosely to
some of the kids in the court system here. Thinks he is perfectly
qualified to teach "ceramics".
It's never going to change if we clay people keep enabling these losers.
Potters end up the losers in the end.
Snail Scott on thu 9 may 02
At 08:50 PM 5/8/02 +0200, Alisa wrote:
>Our local museum's inspector had the wonderful inspiration to engage
almost all of Aabenraa's schools, after-school >institutions and the
museum's own art classes, in a huge ceramic project...
>However, the people leading the groups are all painters. Some have been
on evening classes in ceramics.
Yeah, painters are 'real' artists, after all. And anybody
can do clay, even little kids, so how tough can it be?
I got a call from a friend, who said that another friend
of his had just been hired to teach ceramics to 'at-risk'
youth. He was a painter - never picked up clay before. He
was trying to teach himself coil-building the day before
the classes were to begin - could I come over and help?
He had carefully rolled out these thin snaky coils - took
him all afternoon, I think. Then he piled them up atop one
another like a carefully rolled garden hose. When I got
there he was smearing wet hands all over the construction,
trying to get them to stick together instead of sliding
off the stack, and the problem was getting worse as it all
got slimier. It looked like progress to him, though,
because the cracks between the coils were gradually getting
filled up with slip.
I showed him how to smoosh a little clay from one coil to
the next, to stick them together, and he said, "Oh, I've
got it now, thanks." And then he cleaned up, having
learned all he needed to know about the process.
I hope his gang of delinquents didn't shoot him. I think.
KLeSueur@AOL.COM on thu 9 may 02
I applaud you willingness to help out with this crisis. But, given that no
good deed goes unpunished, when you are done firing and pieces don't look
like envisioned (or worse have fallen apart) the blame will all be yours. If
you had done things "right" everything would have been beautiful.
I wouldn't have touched this one with a ten foot pole. These people always
get the glory when someone else picks up the pieces, but never take
responsibilty for their own imcompetence.
Jon Pacini on thu 9 may 02
Alisa wrote--------I expect to be blasted and that is all right.
I know how you feel Alisa. Too many of the calls I get are from people
with no training in ceramics who get themselves into the same type of fix.
My read on this is that they feel anybody can "play" with clay. No formal
I would venture to estimate that I receive 3 calls on average, every
week, from distraught parents of kids who made an igloo or volcano or
sculpture of the family cat for a school project and of course, the piece is
Well, turns out they put the project on a piece of Formica, in front of
a fan to dry, because it was "due" tomorrow.
You want to encourage people to try clay so that our craft continues
to flourish, but boy, sometimes I wish there were a way to infuse 30 yrs
clay working experience into someone during a 15 min. phone conversation.
Maybe the "Vulcan Mind Meld" would help.
Laguna Clay Co
Wood Jeanne on fri 10 may 02
That painter's attitude is inexcusable IMHO.
It's been my experience "at-risk kids" have considered
themselves "failures" all their short lives. They may
be mad at the "teacher", but they will be angrier at
themselves for broken pots they will feel THEY messed
up because of their own ineptitude rather than the
instructor's. Another adult who let them down.
What's really awful is this is an area many could be
very successful in and feel great about. And maybe
because of their enjoyment of pottery some, or one,
would choose to stay late in the studio working
instead of going out and participating in destructive
Sorry, had to rant a bit.
Whose "at risk" classes haven't lost a pot or
sculpture this year to breakage (with the exception of
the kid who refused to slip 'n score).
> I got a call from a friend, who said that another
> of his had just been hired to teach ceramics to
> youth. He was a painter - never picked up clay
> before. He
> was trying to teach himself coil-building the day
> the classes were to begin - could I come over and
> He had carefully rolled out these thin snaky coils -
> him all afternoon, I think. Then he piled them up
> atop one
> another like a carefully rolled garden hose. When I
> there he was smearing wet hands all over the
> trying to get them to stick together instead of
> off the stack, and the problem was getting worse as
> it all
> got slimier. It looked like progress to him, though,
> because the cracks between the coils were gradually
> filled up with slip.
> I showed him how to smoosh a little clay from one
> coil to
> the next, to stick them together, and he said, "Oh,
> got it now, thanks." And then he cleaned up, having
> learned all he needed to know about the process.
> I hope his gang of delinquents didn't shoot him. I
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Lori Leary on fri 10 may 02
I have been following this thread, and feel compelled to share my similar
When I lived at Pawleys Island, I received a call from a local
painter/restaurateur of considerable talent. Seems that he participating in
a program sponsored by the Myrtle Beach newspaper and local museum. In this
program artists went to a local school and "led" students in projects over
several weeks that would be shown in a big exhibit at the museum and be the
subject of a big Sunday newspaper spread, and generate good PR, warm fuzzy
First of all, what about the school art teachers? I sort of felt it was a
slap in the face to the professional teachers to have the *artistes* to get
all the glory and good will for something that the regular teachers busted
their butts all through the year doing with very little recognition. But
that's not all. The whole thing was sort of a disaster. In my case, this
painter decided to do clay (only did it in elementary school himself). He
decided to have them slap on tons of very wet clay on a large paper mache
form. He wanted to make a 'world' and have the students handbuild angels to
join hands around it. He had consulted the local university ceramics
professor and some of her students, and was advised that there might be some
problems with this idea. He did it anyway, and then forgot to punch a hole
in the support to allow the air to escape. So when he called me, he had
this large thick heavy ball with a huge crack in it. He had approached the
university and some potters in the Myrtle Beach area for help. They said,
sorry bud, we can't fix that, and I'm not firing that. So he called me. I
had him go get some powdered sugar and some clay scraps. I showed him how
to mix together sugar and dryish clay in his hands. As the sugar melted,
the clay moistened up and we were able to patch it up with out any additions
of water. (Clayart tip from Tony Clennell, I think) I then fired it for
him...slooooowly....Funny, the patched part came through fine with some
cracking in the other side. I told him, that they would have to cold finish
it with acrylics, there was no way this was going to make it through another
firing. He patched it with putty, had the kids paint it. The newspaper pic
looked okay, I never saw the final result in person.
My payment? I made him promise to NOT mention my name and he offered me a
free dinner at his very expensive restaurant. Never made it to dinner. I
remember asking him why he chose clay. He said it seemed 'fun'.
Marianne Lombardo on fri 10 may 02
> had him go get some powdered sugar and some clay scraps. I showed him how
> to mix together sugar and dryish clay in his hands. As the sugar melted,
> the clay moistened up and we were able to patch it up with out any
> of water. (Clayart tip from Tony Clennell, I think) I then fired it for
Can you please elaborate on this? Did the sugar just melt by itself, or did
you heat it? How much powdered sugar vs. clay? I'd like to hear a bit more
about this tip.
Janet Kaiser on sat 11 may 02
When I was a student teacher at a comprehensive school up in Nelson &
Colne, Lancashire there was a class of mixed abilities and several
socially challenged kids. The class teacher wanted to fill me in on
who were the children to watch and exclude from clay classes if they
did not behave. I preferred not to know and the first session, I told
the whole class that each and every one of them had a clean slate
with me and they would have to prove there worth individually. At the
end of my six-week placement the "top of the class" student in my book
(judged on industry, application, courtesy, attention, co-operation,
helpfulness, tidiness, etc. etc.), turned out to be considered the
biggest problem child in the whole school by all the staff! Often
excluded (it was called "expelled" in those days) and already found
guilty of petty crimes both at school and in the community, it was
expected his would be a life of violence and crime, which was
apparently also his home background.
If only those six short weeks had been able to help re-establish him
in the eyes of the school... But no. It saddens me to this day, that
an exceptionally talented, articulate, gregarious and intelligent boy
was pigeon-holed from the start and would probably never be able to
kick the system. I was outraged to later hear that his "prize-winning"
clay work was deliberately broken by his teacher as "punishment" for a
misdemeanour. How cruel can adults be?
The Chapel of Art / Capel Celfyddyd
Home of The International Potters' Path
8 Marine Crescent : Criccieth : GB-Wales