Vince Pitelka on wed 7 apr 04
> My humble opinion as a self taught potter who has been making a full time
> living as a potter for almost twenty years is that if you really have to
> college to learn basic skills you are either a very slow learner, can't
> excessively lack motivation. I mean give me a break- basic pottery skills
> ain't that tough. Business, finance, art , and a long term commitment- now
> another story.
Your humble opinion and the fact that you taught yourself pottery are both
respected and appreciated, but otherwise you misrepresent the purpose and
significance of learning pottery in college. University education should be
seen as life enrichment first and career training second, although the two
are really indistinguishable, because life enrichment will always enable you
to better select and fulfill a career.
Basic skills? Is that what you think we teach? In completion of a BFA
degree my students become very adept at kilns and firing process, including
low fire, high fire, oxidation, reduction, raku, salt, soda, wood, and even
bonfiring. They become adept at pinch, coil, slab construction, and the
wheel. They learn all of the dampware decorating techniques. They learn to
design, formulate, mix, and use all kinds of claybodies, terra sigillatas,
slips and engobes, and glazes. They receive a thorough overview of ceramic
history from the Paleolithic to the present. Covering all of this
thoroughly is essential, in order to give them the best possible platform
from which to launch personal style and direction. I wish there was more
time for marketing, business practice, etc. I do include some of that, and
when I have a student who specifically wants to become a professional
potter, I give them extra coaching in those areas. I was a full-time potter
for ten years before I went to grad school, so I am comfortable with that
Studying art in a good university program supercharges the learning curve
far beyond what is possibly be when you are making a living at your work.
As I am sure you know, one of the greatest challenges for the full-time
self-supporting potter is to keep doing "R&D," so that your work doesn't get
stagnant and your market doesn't get saturated. Just making the work that
you already know how to do and that seems to sell well often consumes your
time. Lots of potters choose to attend a workshop or two every year to
ensure that new information is always coming in. Others get out to lots of
gallery shows and museums every year.
So, with that challenge in mind, starting out your career with as much
information as possible is obviously a great advantage. As I always tell my
students, it is what you DON'T know that holds you back. When you have
already experienced some process, skill, or piece of equipment, it is much
easier to face it later on, which prepares you for the risk-taking that is
essential to healthy evolution of style and direction in your work.
Paul, I am not saying that you should have done it this way, because you
obviously did well on your own. But please do not imply that others should
necessarily do the same.
Best wishes -
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111
Paul Gerhold on wed 7 apr 04
My humble opinion as a self taught potter who has been making a full time
living as a potter for almost twenty years is that if you really have to go to
college to learn basic skills you are either a very slow learner, can't read, or
excessively lack motivation. I mean give me a break- basic pottery skills
ain't that tough. Business, finance, art , and a long term commitment- now that's
Lee Love on thu 8 apr 04
Paul Gerhold wrote:
>/My humble opinion as a self taught potter who has been making a full time
>living as a potter for almost twenty years is that if you really have to go to
>college to learn basic skills you are either a very slow learner/
You know Paul, I believe the strength of a good studio arts program is
not craft skill, but rather, developing an aesthetic ability. It is
more about art than craft.
I did learn the basics in a studio arts program. I
only took 3 extension classes over the course of 3 semesters. I
didn't appreciate what I learned there until I had been in my
apprenticeship for several months. The facilities were great. I
could not have put one together at even a fraction of the
capabilities. Northern Clay Center was similarly equipped and a great
place to further my technical knowledge, craft skill and aesthetic ability.
Here is an interesting story. Maybe it illustrates the fact
that the level of skill mastery, in some part, is dependent upon the
standards you set for yourself:
A fellow came to study at my teachers workshop here in Japan, on
a scholarship from Europe. He spent his first 6 months in Kyushu
learning Japanese with folks from China and then spent a couple months
at my teacher's workshop. He have been potting for over twenty years
and had many apprentices he taught in his own workshop. After
throwing yunomi for about 5 weeks at the workshop, (he had to throw
thousands before any were acceptable to the Foreman, just getting his
last ones approved in time to go in the firing), we broke from our
studio chores to fire the noborigama. After the firing, and after
being allowed to make some of his own work, the Foreman told us both to
get back to making Sensei's work When my friend asked the Foreman
what he should make, he told him to make the same yunomi. I saw my
friend turn beet red. As soon as the Foreman was out of site, he
came over to me and asked me "How long did you have to make yunomi?"
I said, "About 18 months." He couldn't believe it and the next day
asked Sensei if he could study noborigama building with the Master kiln
builder. Because he was on a scholarship, Sensei said it would be
fine, "Do what you'd like." He helped build a new noborigama next to
Shoji Hamada's old pottery grounds.
The yunomi met my friend's standards, but not the Foreman's.
If he could have stayed at it little longer, I believe he would have
realized that his eye's ability to discern the difference between the
two standards had a chance to grow.
Lee in Mashiko
Surf with Lee: http://hachiko.com