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fwd: fw: re: academic and not so much

updated thu 13 oct 05


mel jacobson on tue 11 oct 05

>Not sure if I sent this already -- if I did, sorry.
>Thank You.
>-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
>To: Clayart
>Subject: Re: Academic and not so much
>Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 05:01:18 +0000
>Wow Kelly -- you did have a lot to say! But all interesting and relevant=20
>and makes us artists think a little more. Well, for me at least. Yes, your=
>husband did direct you to the right place!
>Studio potters and academic potters. I have a BA from University of=20
>Vermont in Studio Art and psychology and I was fortunate enough to study=20
>art in Italy where I lived for 4 months and yes where I first made my clay=
>pot on the wheel -- and fell in love (I have yet to find a man who can=20
>compete w my love for clay!) But anyway, I did receive some academics --=20
>finished my degree at UVM advancing in ceramics to reach my thesis on=20
>throwing. I rarely ever think of the experience and what I did not learn=20
>academically since my teacher sat in his office 98.9% of the time. So for=
>me no focused BFA, no focused MFA.
>So I just went on treading the clay area independently -- invested in a=20
>wheel and $200 electric kiln. And that was about 8 years ago. If someone=20
>asks me who my teacher was -- all I can reply is that I've taught myself.=
>My hands developing my skills and practicing the craft and ultimately=20
>creating my own art. I just seem to zoom along on this isolated beach area=
>here in NJ -- no contact w other potters. No critiques. And=
>I think I'm a happy camper. For my teaching I have sought out workshops by=
>Peter Callas here in NJ to Rudy in NY and NC to Paul Soldner in NC and=20
>Cape Cod and Don Reitz in NC. Learning from the masters has just primarily=
>interested me. So I guess some how I have had some academic teaching for=20
>undergraduate at a university and as a studio potter by seeking out the=20
>masters to absorb everything they have to say independently -- but what it=
>come down to within these past years is me plugging away sitting at my=20
>potter's wheel day after day in my "garage studio." (Yes it gets cold in=20
>the winter.)
>So basically all I have is babbled on about myself and just havent reached=
>an answer as to what path is "better." (Bear with me -- I think I'm coming=
>to a conclusion...)
>I guess what I think all this jargon leads me to express is -- regardless=
>of outside influence and opportunities that are available or that you seek=
>out -- Well, I think it just comes down the the person, the potter, the=20
>artist. Who that person is -- their personality as well as their skills --=
>their diligence, the perseverence, their discipline, the ability to=20
>improve and practice and improve.
>Now I guess you can believe that I really am on an isolated island=20
>(peninsula) here in the desolate New Jersey shore since I've gone on and on=
>So I guess it comes down to the person and how well they express their art=
>and develop their skills -- yes it is 2005 and in additional to production=
>pottery I have also been making contemporary abstract expressive art -- do=
>people like it? probably not. It's not beautiful. So they like the=20
>beautiful vase or bowl or plate. So I create these "messes" of art just=20
>well for myself - for my own enjoyment. Most people laugh and dont get it=
>and it doesnt interest anyone. Will they ever apprecaite or be interested=
>in my life and trials and tribulations which just some how safely=20
>transcribed into my "messes" of art? I doubt it. But I do it for me and=20
>that makes me fulfilled.
>So Kelly am I getting anywhere? Maybe me as an example and as a result=20
>what I think is the deciding factor regardless of acadamia or studio -- I=
>think it just comes down to the individual artist, crafter, person.=20
>Perhaps just a look at the art will answer the question -- letting the art=
>speak of who that person is and what they've accomplished and where they=20
>are on their individual path. As peter callas once said to me "dont fall=20
>off the path.." I'm still on and going and moving forward...
>-barbara arner
>Barbara Arner
>330 Bay Lane
>Mantoloking, New Jersey
>908 447 2826
>-------------- Original message --------------
> > It occurs to me that after attending a lot of workshops, I find myself
> > learning way more than what is being demonstrated by the presenters.
> >
> > I was blathering at length about this last night, and hubby suggested I
> > write about it on clayart. I would love to suppose he values our on-line
> > exchange of ideas here, but I rather suspect he was eyeing the clock and
> > thinking how early he had to get up for work ;0)
> >
> > And anyway, I would have to tread very lightly to make the kind of
> > generalizations I was making aloud. Perhaps worth the effort, anyway.
> >
> > Over the years I have come to recognize patterns in workshop presenters.
> > I am especially interested in the difference between studio potters and
> > academic potters.
> >
> > They say that when the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat
> > everything like it's a nail; it's interesting to see how different
> > potters teach from their different vantage points, and the assumptions
> > they make about who potters are in general.
> >
> > I don't mean the kind of attitude stuff that has ruffled feathers here
> > in the past -- y'know, "academics are snobs and elitists, and studio
> > potters are artless sellouts..."
> >
> > But in week long workshops or one day sessions, weekend gigs and NCECA
> > demos, magazines or any venue where I can see the potter, work and
> > context in one place, I am making observations that -- maybe long
> > obvious to others -- are new to me.
> >
> > Where you work -- and where your living comes from -- determines what
> > you make. How much of it, as Tony C. points out, but also how big it is,
> > how detailed, how time consuming, how traditional or cerebral, popular
> > or puzzling.
> >
> > I don't just mean that people's regional impressions are expressed in
> > their work. I mean that I would be more likely to make sculptural work
> > on a large scale, and go through more layers of trial and error, if I
> > had a car kiln, a big clay mixer and a student to wedge and recycle for
> > me.
> >
> > I would have a wider palette of glazes to choose from if I had a glaze
> > tech and huge glaze bins, a spray booth and somebody else mixing my
> > tests. If I didn't have to nickel-dime my cobalt and mason stains.
> >
> > I would be more likely to value personal expression and narrative vision
> > if I didn't have to worry about what would sell in the street. And if I
> > had a paycheck and bennies, I would never learn to make the boring
> > repetitious little pots that sell like hotcakes.
> >
> > Academic potters, when they talk about pricing and self promotion, seem
> > to share a few perspectives in common. One is, "Price your work low, let
> > it go be used somewhere, make new work" -- which seems to address the
> > grad students or relative beginners who price as if they were Voulkous.
> > (Meanwhile studio potters are saying, "Don't undercut potters trying to
> > make a living! Just because you can afford to consider it a hobby
> > doesn't give you the right to undervalue pottery in the public eye by
> > pricing like it's a garage sale!"
> >
> > Another academic theme seems to be, "Self promotion and marketing are a
> > way to sell work not worthy of its position, and we should be above
> > prostituting ourselves for something as common as money." Again, an
> > attitude possible for those who are well fed by another hand. Studio
> > potters often see two parts of the same equation: the pots you make to
> > pay the bills/feed your kids, and the pots you make to bring you
> > joy/feed your soul. Or there are the potters who have successfully
> > negotiated that old formula: sell 1000 ten dollar pots a year, or 10
> > thousand dollar pots.
> >
> > I do not mean to imply judgement, here. I know profs are not making a
> > ton of money, for the most part, and work hard to earn what they are
> > making -- often are stuck reliving their beginner-potter-student days
> > over and over (like that groundhog day movie) with a changing array of
> > younger, more energetic students. I am not sure I would be able to do
> > that job. Even my little bit of teaching at the guild drains some of the
> > energy that would otherwise be channelled into my own studio.
> >
> > I also know that many of our famous artists and composers were not
> > ditchdiggers and rag pickers, but grew up in relative luxury, were
> > educated formally, and thus were able to give the world the gift of
> > their creativity.
> >
> > I know some of the most interesting work I am seeing these days is
> > coming from academics whose jobs allow them to focus on, read about,
> > write about what they are doing and why, and who are surrounded by
> > students with the same focus. How could they NOT move farther, faster,
> > than those of us who steal hours and energy from other jobs/roles to be
> > in the studio?
> >
> > When studio potters act like cash flow is the only yardstick of success,
> > they are wrong. But when clay profs assume that the most talented kids
> > will go bfa/mfa and become famous/cm covers/profs one day, and that the
> > rest are "just hobbyists" or will fade away... well, they are wrong too.
> > I have attended workshops by potters who make a living at potting. They
> > are often without a BFA/MFA to their names, and maybe it is because I am
> > in that same camp that I often appreciate their balance between dreaming
> > and logic, extravagance and frugality, imagination and practicality.
> >
> > There are things I may never know if I don't pursue the bfa/mfa road,
> > and at this stage in my life that's probably how it will be. But there
> > are also things no university program can teach, things I have learned
> > from potters who have worked, often in solitude, year after year, making
> > and making and making. Things their own hands taught them.
> >
> > Like how this pot can be beautiful, yet time-efficient. How it can be
> > well crafted, yet artful, yet easily reproducible, yet marketable. While
> > I love to hear an academic potter like Julia Galloway asking questions
> > like, "Where in your body do you experience this pot?", the potters
> > whose voices echo in my studio and in my head years later are those who
> > shared their "light bulb" moments -- every repeated step of the way,
> > from centering to trimming to board to kiln to glaze to ez-up or website
> > or gallery or pot-shop. This tip, trick, tool; this bucket, twist, this
> > ritual born of intention and practice.
> >
> > Which is not to say I would pick one workshop over another based on
> > whether the potter came from a big university teaching gig or from the
> > patch of woods on the riverside where the wood smoke rises from a hand
> > made kiln. Potters differ more from one to another than they do by
> > "category". And I can think of a handful of potters on clayart who are
> > really, truly in touch with both the academic and the
> > production/marketability issues.
> >
> > The measure of a potter as a workshop presenter, in my view, has more to
> > do with the heart than the head.
> >
> > If you are passionate about what you do --
> > if you talk to a room full of potters with respect, as your peers and
> > not your students --
> > if you keep moving forward, breaking new ground with your work --
> > if you know that the way you twist a cutoff wire can mean as much as
> > what inspired your thesis show --
> > if you can tell a good story and laugh at yourself once in a while --
> >
> > Then I'll pay to sit on a hard metal chair for two days and drink grey
> > coffee just to watch you make pots, when I should be home making my own.
> > Yours
> > Kelly in Ohio... looking forward to seeing a couple of clayarters at
> > mel's workshop in Perrysburg on the 21st/22nd. I will be going straight
> > from the workshop Friday evening to my annual campout with half a dozen
> > wonderful women friends, in a lovely tent site along the Maumee river.
> > Always in October, always good fall color, noisy V's of migrating geese,
> > late night smoky campfire and the kinds of stories/secrets/jokes we
> > would never tell anywhere else. And always I sleep in the bright red,
> > Civil war style wool "union suit" with the button flap in the back. And
> > always somebody takes my picture crawling out of my tent in the morning,
> > disheveled and smelling of woodsmoke. Only this time I am going to brush
> > my teeth, grab some campfire coffee and head back to mel's workshop, day
> > two. Who wants to sit by me? :0)
> >
> >
> >
> >=20
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