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ego stomping teachers

updated tue 8 mar 05


primalmommy on mon 7 mar 05

There has to be a way to do both, challenge and assess the student's
work and not crush those who are still at the dog dish stahe.

Here's how I have worked it out in my situation. I have both adult and
kid classes at the potter's guild. The adults range from pretty decent
potters working up the nerve to apply for guild membership, to art
teachers, to rank beginners/hobbyists enjoying the night out and
thrilled with every dorky thing they make.

I have found that the level of thrill fades after a few sessions,
because the beginners are watching better potters make better pots and
really want to get there. I have two right now who had never touched
clay a year ago, and now have scrounged wheels (and one bought a kiln)
to work at home. They went from happily making dog dishes to wringing me
for information: Firing? Glazes? Clay bodies? etc.

I make it clear in the beginning of the session that I will tailor my
teaching to their needs. I always do a demo and those up for a challenge
will try the form. Those who ask get critiques. Those not brave enough
for critiques listen to what I tell other potters, and apply it to their
own work.

As for the kids, the parents pay big bucks and want lots of trinkets for
the relatives, and want the kids to have a good esteem-building
experience. The students (usually teenaged girls) who start to ask for
critique, or self critique, or put pots in the slop bucket because they
"don't look right", usually are on the way to private lessons at my own
studio. Those are one-on-one sessions where they cut a lot of pots in
half. They thow a series, pick the best, chuck the rest, then throw from
the good one. But I make it clear from the beginning that this is not a
'make a bunch of pots for grandma" class-- this is an "improve your
skills and test yourself" class.

One of the best things that comes out of private sessions is that kids
(or adults) who have started to know a good pot from a bad one have to
come up with ways to explain why. If you have to choose the best and
worsrt in a series, I ask you to explain why. Even in my group classes
at the guild, the best day is next week, where we put allthe finished
pots out to pack, they choose their best and "most disappointing", and
set them out for group discussion (w/ pizza and brownies.) Sometimes the
kids have an amazing grasp of what makes a dorky pot dorky.

The thing I am unhappy about with teaching these classes, besides the
cubic yards of butt-ugly pots I am adding to the ecosphere for the next
few thousand years, is that we do all our making in the first 8 weeks
and glazing at the end. There doesn't seem to be that connection
betwqeen form and surface decoration that comes when you have the
ongoing cycle of make-bisque-glaze-fire while making more. I am thinking
of copying Polly Ann Martin's idea, and setting up bisqued pots on a
pedestal, and using a slide projector to project glazes onto them.

Kelly in Ohio
p.s. squirrel note: when I was doing my masters in Folklore at U of
Oregon (thesis topic: rodeos, tractor pulls and timber carnivals) I hit
a squirrel while headed for my campsite in logging country. I tossed in
in the bronco, and when I got to the remote site, brain tanned it,
stuffed the head with moss, and stretched the hide over a t-shaped cross
of twigs at the end of a long branch. I stuck one end into the ground so
that the hide was spread eagled over the campfire smoke. The heat made
it bob up and down in a pretty spooky way. So when my cajun buddy
Thibodeau came by with his fiddle on his way home from town, he hiked up
the trail and came upon this scene in the dark - me underlit by the
spooky campfire, the disembodied flying squirrel levitating over the
flames... Now, Thibodoeau was a superstitious cajun to begin with, and
didn't make the connection between my folklore studies and the odd
trinkets and artifacts I had around the house -- he half suspected I had
some kind of mojo workin'. He later told me he stood in the woods for
five minutes before he decided I was not conjuring haints, and got up
the nerve to come play fiddle by my fire.

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