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mfa or no mfa?this comment is for jeff

updated sat 31 aug 02


Donn Buchfinck on thu 29 aug 02

I turned on my email and this is the first message I opened. Lucky me.
I want to say, Jeff Longtin, you are confused in so many ways.
Just by writing what you did in your post you prove the need for people to go
thru that experience.

I have been thinking about school and the experiences I had in school, and I
think that is what school is about, there is the education you get, the
knowledge, but then there is the experience.
Jeff, you swallowed your foot all the way.
I will get back to myself, but let us talk about contemporary ceramics, say
from the 1950's on.
Lets see, who to start with, Peter Volcos. He had his MFA, then he taught,
you might have heard of some his students, Paul Soldner, John Mason, Ron
Nagle, I even think Jun Keneko was one also.
Then lets talk about, Daniel Rhodes, he wrote clay and glazes for the potter.
How about Karen Karnes, Robert Turner, Ted Randal, Ken Ferguson, my old
teacher. Victor Babu,
These people went to Alfred.
Then there is George Timock, and the students of Richard Devore from

Then we get the next wave, the students of these people, and then the
students of the students.

I want to let you know, I can tackle just about any ceramic related problem,
and not because I received my BFA from the Kansas city art institute, but
because in grad school, that environment let those undergrad experiences come
into play and be used.
I can work in low fire mid range to high fire, reduction and oxidation. I can
build kilns and rebuild electric kilns, fire anything built; I have built and
fired wood kilns. I can make plaster molds and do production slip casting.
Bronze casting, welding, woodworking, figurative sculpture, photography,
these are things I can do and grad school let me see that I could do them, It
gave me the opportunity.
I am a potter but also I paint, large abstract paintings, works on paper, I
make metal sculpture, and large totem wood figurative work. I sell my stuff.
I don't have to ask people what they like, I'm good enough to make what I
like and people seem to like it. I think grad school helped in that a
I'm in books for my ceramics and national shows.
And on the potters' wheel I can pretty much out throw anyone, not just for
speed but for beautiful shapes. I don't have seconds, I throw them away or
melt them down. My teapots work. And I understand glaze calc. And If I don't
have the answer, I can admit it to myself and I know who to call. And you
know what else, I learn something new everyday.

It jumpstarts you, and lets be clear, Great teachers, people who are in the
zone with their own work, that energy is contagious, you get to see and feel
that it can be done.

Funny it's always the people who don't have the MFA who say, "you don't need
I think people who make stupid comments should at least let us see the stuff
they are making so we can judge for ourselves.
Like I say, if you talk to talk, you better be able to walk the walk.

Donn Buchfinck
Penn State University MFA 1995
KCAI 1990
Chris Staley, chair,
he went to Alfred

Jeff Longtin on thu 29 aug 02

Dear Donn,
My apologies if I hurt your feelings. I only intended to annoy and irratate.

And no I don't think grad school is a waste of time overall. If you want to
go on and become a teacher I think it would be very useful. My comments,
however, were intended to respond to the suggestion that grad school (and
grad school alone) makes you a better artist/potter. As I said in the post I,
for one, think life is a better teacher.

I so often find it disappointing that so many discredit the experience of
"selling" your work as somehow corrupting of your artistic integrity. To me
the market (whatever "market" you put your work into) is the greatest
artistic/creative challenge of all!

"Gee, do I do it this way to pay the bills...or do I do it that way, and
maybe NOT find market support, and maybe not pay a few bills?"


"Do I do it this way, find an audience, but, rather than allow that to
restrict me as an artist, instead maybe I can ever so gently move my audience
with me as I change, as I grow, as an artist, and as an individual?"

I think these "pressures" are far more helpful in helping us develop our
artistic vision than any grad program.

So often I meet artists/potters who express disdain for the public/disdain
for selling their work directly. The old "They just make stupid comments!"
comment is often expressed by these people. I think to myself "Don't you WANT
the public to interact with your work? Don't you WANT the public to
communicate with you through your work?" If so, then I think we, as
artists/potters owe it to our audience to listen to their "stupid" comments
whatever they are.

I view it rather simply, if people are making stupid comments about an
artists work...maybe that artist is making stupid work.

And so my vehemance about LIFE being a better teacher...for those who want to
be artists anyway.

Take care
Jeff Longtin

Janet Kaiser on fri 30 aug 02

>I view it rather simply, if people are making stupid comments about an
>artists work...maybe that artist is making stupid work.

The best example of an artist I can think of to illustrate this point, is
Vincent van Gogh. George Ohr does not count, because he did sell his

Anyway, was Vincent's work stupid and should he have changed because
everyone said it was stupid? I am glad he did not, but then all he had his
brother to support him. What happens to those who do not have that support?

Janet Kaiser

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