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Guest HerbNorris

I have a secret!

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Guest HerbNorris

A response in an other thread prompts me to ask this question:

 

Should artists keep their working methods secret?

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Well, I learned from other potters who took the time to teach ... Thank goodness they did!

 

I teach workshops in coloring clay and my motto is that if I know the answer I will tell you. If I have a technique I will demo it. if I can help, I will.

Students are always emailing follow up questions and I answer as well as I can. Coloring clay is not as easy as it looks.

Let's face it ... I've been doing this for almost 25 years ... If I teach it and you can catch up with me before I've progressed to another level, then I am in the wrong business anyhow!.

 

 

Now for the other side of the coin.

If a potter works for ten years on a glaze combo that they finally get to fabulousness and it puts steady money in the Bank and food on the table ... And someone else feels they have the right to ask for the recipe and the timing ... Heck NO. I think they could give them the base glazes they started with and tell them to start working on it.

 

A lot of potters just want the answer ... Just tell me so I can do it ... But this never works out anyhow. Unless you put in the time, learn from your mistakes, learn from your kiln and your glazes ... You will never get the results anyhow ... even if they gave you all the info.

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I think we share as much as we can. I can think of two famous people who had good attitudes.

Paul Soldner used a stamp of his naval saying that no two are alike.

Patty Warashina says we must all be crazy to work in clay. It can be so humbling.

 

So, Herb, I think pretty much we do share.

Marcia

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Guest HerbNorris

Welcome back, Marcia, I noticed you haven't been around lately.

 

I agree, most people share, and I thought of folks on this forum who share, like you, and John Baymore, Chris, Lucille, and others, who DO share, at least as much as you can on a word based medium like this forum. It's a tremendous resource, and the sharing philosophy is something I guess I sometimes take for granted, and am reminded every so often that it may not be universal.

 

I think Chris made a good point that even if you were to explain everyhting down to teh last detail, it ultimatley depends on the individual, and what they make of it, how they run with it. I think if you explain a technique to ten people, six of them will think "Wow, that's interesting!", and it will end there. Of the remaining four, three might try it, and two will either not like it, or get discouraged and give up, so there might be one person that is really going to do anything with it. ( You Professors might have something to say about this!) So that is why I don't see any danger in revealing information.

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well Herb ... under the terms of No good deed goes unpunished ....

I know of people who got the formula / recipe / technique from a famous artist, the when their pots did not come out looking as good as theirs blamed / trashed the artist for "leaving something out".

 

Yes, they left out the part about needing thirty years experience!B)

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well Herb ... under the terms of No good deed goes unpunished ....

I know of people who got the formula / recipe / technique from a famous artist, the when their pots did not come out looking as good as theirs blamed / trashed the artist for "leaving something out".

 

Yes, they left out the part about needing thirty years experience!B)

 

 

As a teacher for many years, and a learner for many more, I have found that the secrets of one do not translate at all to another. The techniques and talents of one person and their "secrets" work for them because it is them. To use the same techniques for myself, will come out with a different result, because I am me! Makes things really fun!

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I love sharing what I know with others. I'm glad that all my hard hard work and experience can come together as knowledge that can be passed on. It just sucks when others do not recipricate it. I once took the time (a year and a half) to "mentor" a person new to clay. I asked that person for help in a different medium for which the person had many years experience, and in a round about way this person said no. So that kinda sucked. I know most people greatly appreciate help, so I try not to letthis one bad experience bias me.

 

I think poeple who are into clay are naturally into finding out the how things are made. More so than most mediums I've done. We are a technique, workshop, recipe crazy bunch. There's just simply too much to learn and not enough life times to learn it.

 

I lost my voice the first day of a three day confrence from explaining my process to so many people. Maybe next time I should have some kind of video or something, to give my voice a break!

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Welcome back, Marcia, I noticed you haven't been around lately.

 

I agree, most people share, and I thought of folks on this forum who share, like you, and John Baymore, Chris, Lucille, and others, who DO share, at least as much as you can on a word based medium like this forum. It's a tremendous resource, and the sharing philosophy is something I guess I sometimes take for granted, and am reminded every so often that it may not be universal.

 

I think Chris made a good point that even if you were to explain everyhting down to teh last detail, it ultimatley depends on the individual, and what they make of it, how they run with it. I think if you explain a technique to ten people, six of them will think "Wow, that's interesting!", and it will end there. Of the remaining four, three might try it, and two will either not like it, or get discouraged and give up, so there might be one person that is really going to do anything with it. ( You Professors might have something to say about this!) So that is why I don't see any danger in revealing information.

 

I have a really heavy teaching load and prepping for 20th Century Latino American Art History leaves me with very little time. I miss everyone on the forum!

Marcia

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well Herb ... under the terms of No good deed goes unpunished ....

I know of people who got the formula / recipe / technique from a famous artist, the when their pots did not come out looking as good as theirs blamed / trashed the artist for "leaving something out".

 

Yes, they left out the part about needing thirty years experience!B)

 

 

biggrin.gifbiggrin.gifbiggrin.gif

 

Those would be the ones always looking for that shortcut... not having the time nor patience for 'self-learning' or discovery through either study or experience.

 

---rick

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well Herb ... under the terms of No good deed goes unpunished ....

I know of people who got the formula / recipe / technique from a famous artist, the when their pots did not come out looking as good as theirs blamed / trashed the artist for "leaving something out".

 

Yes, they left out the part about needing thirty years experience!B)

 

 

biggrin.gifbiggrin.gifbiggrin.gif

 

Those would be the ones always looking for that shortcut... not having the time nor patience for 'self-learning' or discovery through either study or experience.

 

---rick

 

 

Either that or not knowing enough or taking time enough to work through the problem and get it to work on their own. Some people want the magic answer, not knowing how to apply it.

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It is almost silly to think there are secrets, although I know people in ceramics who think they have a secret or two. If you need a clay or glaze recipe you usually can find one. If you need help with learning a technique there is someone to teach you. Sharing ideas has certainly not been a tradition in our media or any material for that mater. In recent history you hear of people calling their glaze books their bibles and keeping them under lock and key. Historical representations of how important the knowledge of craft can be found in the fact that when war broke out the craftsmen were among the first to be taken prisoner, metal workers of course being the most important. But as technology has grown to where it is now we find much more open fields to pick the flowers we want in our bouquet. The fact is that it is not anyone’s thunder; we all have built our technical knowledge from the past and present. The thunder really lies in not how it is made or fired but why he or she made it. Some of the reasons we make work is also the same reason another person in ceramics or another media may make theirwork. There certainly are certain leaders in our field who have made some ofthe great strides in particular directions. Sure there certainly are leadersthat first seed the clouds in the many directions our media takes, but is it someone's thunder or is it a collective front. The front of utilitarianist's work is a fine example, with the ideas around tactile qualities, physical balance, ergonomics, the desire to create an intimate connection with the user and the object, and the variety of other concerns most utilitarian potters embrace are no ones to own. The content of the work also has several other ways to not be owned and formalist approaches to color line texture and composition on a piece also can be said to be open source influence. Although I like Brancusi's work I reject his words when he said he did not look at any other artists for influence, I think that is ludicrous because we do not live in a vacuum. Influence is all around us. Bob Dylan does not go home and listen to Bob Dylan. I do think when someone's work becomes somewhat redundant of their teachers or their influences the work becomes a watered down version of said influence or merely a cover tune. We do however have room for wedding bands and some cover tunes are done with a different voice and some times come out better than the originator of the words, like "All along The Watch Tower", Jimi in my opinion brought that song to a different level. Most people are an amalgamation of their teachers, their influences, their peers, along with their own personal research and desire to make the work they make. Most people who are not totally narcissistic know when they started making work they really were not making "Their" work, they may have felt a little ownership of an idea, but that even seems silly after a while. When you begin to make your work how do you know it is your work? Is it ever really exclusively your work or has it been and will it continueto be a collaborative process? So, I don't know are there secrets? Sure maybe. But I feel it is an honest approach when you make your work and strive to have your work continue to grow through the influence of what surrounds you and what you surround yourself with. You decide what you want to talk about and create and you do it. You do it with vim and vigor and a constant searching and researching. You love doing it and you not only have a desire to do it, but you would not be who you are unless you were creating something! Get that stuff between your fingers!

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Whenever I hear a remake of a Dylan song or a Beatles song it makes me cringe a little. I guess I am a purist. Nobody can do Mr. Tambourine Man like Dylan or Eleanor Rigby like the Beatles. I guess it’s not so much the sound as it is whose rendition you heard first.

 

The same applies to art, so many want to be the ‘first’ and therefore the ‘pacesetter’ or the ‘innovator’ of a style. But for many it is too early in the game they haven’t tested and failed enough.

 

However if someone wants a particular bit of knowledge it is not like in years past when information was scattered abroad; now obtaining information is easier than ever; though most information is still in books.

 

But really, we don’t have to give everything away and why should we?

 

"....neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you."

Matthew 7:6

 

This is very good advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Really, Jimi Hendrix makes you cringe when he did a Dylan song? There is a great album by Joan Bias that is all covers of Greg Brown songs, it is fantastic! I was in a punk rock band and we did a version of Here Comes the Sun. Now, I could see how that may make some one cringe but of course that was our goal. I guess being a purist is maybe not a great way to judge quality or the caliber or expression. Anyhow, the idea was also relevant to the fact that we all start somewhere and quite often it is trying to make what we see. Or in music what we hear. From twinkle twinkle to All Along the Watchtower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baez I know, but who is Greg Brown? Yes I prefer Dylan to Hendrix. But I do like Peter Paul and Mary's renditions of Dylan songs. Being a purist or enjoying the work of the original artist is not a bad thing, it is just a thing.

 

I have sat with the score and librettos of classical music compositions and when I listen to recordings of the pieces I determine if the piece was played according to the composer. I also decide if I like it or not. Sometimes I have to have the CD sometimes not. I use the original work as a gauge for other interpretations of the piece. I have fun, it is an exciting thing to do.

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I decided to give my perspective from the rookie/novice side of view. Chris is right, we all learned something from someone. I was given a 5 min demonstration, and told to come back when I got stuck. Which I have been doing for the past 20 years, although not always to the original instructor. I have found vast amount of knowledge in books and on the internet. I have attended a few workshops in our area to grow my skills, and watched countless hours of pottery content on Youtube. I have approached several potters via the internet after reading their book, article, watched their video or saw their work and asked questions. Some have answered, (Thanks Chris) others have not. If the potter decides not to answer my question, or give me partial answer, I do not think bad of them, I appreciate what help I am given.

 

For the 1st few years of selling my works, I maintained a secretive approach, gave the glossy overview. 2011 was the 4th year of selling pottery, and I changed to more of open policy very similar to Lucille. That I all have secrets, but I will answer any questions even the point blank ones. My answers will start basic, and get more detailed as you ask more questions. I agree with Stephen there are no secrets, and most of what what I do is from what I read or learned from someone else. I just play with it and make it my own. I do not like to create carbon copies.

 

I built a web site this year, and gave details and photo on the processes. I am still working on it in my spare time, Some of it is very generic, other are much more detailed. I get 7-15 visitors a day, which is not great, but you only can find by searching my name, it doesn't appear in search for pit firing, saggar firing, or anything else except my name. I have also increased traffic on Facebook, answering questions and helped a potter 1/2 way around the world do a foil saggar firing. I have enjoyed watch him and joy he gets from the pieces he does in this technique.

 

This is a choice each potter has to make on how much they want to share. Explaining how or why the colors appeared on the pit fired piece (to the best of my knowledge) has been a great selling tool, and have experienced people purchasing multiple pieces at once since they were fascinated by how it was created and couldn't wait to tell their friends. Everyone of these people when home with at least one business card, and a few have brought their friends for the second day of the festival! Our sales did double this last year, some of it was we started accepting credit cards, but some of it was people buying multiple and sending their friends to us after they heard about it.

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Haven't you all noticed that the one seeking advice, often doesn't know the question to ask? They start off very generic by pointing and asking, "How'd you do that?" It's only when thay can ask specific questions that you can be of help. They want a glaze (color) formula, and you share. However, they don't want to work in porcelain or fire above cone 5, so when the glaze is applied to red earthenware, they feel as though they've been played. The disappointment festers and because they didn't know to ask ALL the questions, you end up being the bad guy.

 

Those that are looking for a "quick fix" will soon realize that perspiration is required even when help is given. Those not willing to sweat, soon quit.

 

Over the years I've spent as an artist, I've found sculptors (in clay, wood, stone, bronze, ice, and Bondo) are willing to share/discuss any concept or technique for as long as you want. Potters are also a sharing group of people. I think people who work with their hands to create art can hardly wait to tell someone about a new technique or tool that has recently come into their lives. Forums like these are a direct result. Long may we share.

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well Herb ... under the terms of No good deed goes unpunished ....

I know of people who got the formula / recipe / technique from a famous artist, the when their pots did not come out looking as good as theirs blamed / trashed the artist for "leaving something out".

 

Yes, they left out the part about needing thirty years experience!B)

 

 

biggrin.gifbiggrin.gifbiggrin.gif

 

Those would be the ones always looking for that shortcut... not having the time nor patience for 'self-learning' or discovery through either study or experience.

 

---rick

 

 

Either that or not knowing enough or taking time enough to work through the problem and get it to work on their own. Some people want the magic answer, not knowing how to apply it.

 

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I am so very leary of those who want the quick fix, or instant gratification. When I returned to USA from the UK (Dianthus Ceramics off Henley Street oppo Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford upon Avon from 1986- 2003) in 2004 it took me at least 5 years to work out bodies, take my firing temps down from ^8/9 to ^6. I did not bleat or moan. I did ask on clayart listserve about some firing difficulties, but I was specific about my testing and results and needed ways forward. Ron Roy and John Hessleberth are Gods. I had to replace everything that plugged in to establish my new studio. I did it and have been enjoying personal successes such as Honorable Mention at ICF Mino, Japan 2011 which I just returned from at the weekend. Expect short shrift if you demand shortcuts for obvious queries. I just posted on another thread that everyone should have a reasonable ceramics library to consult. Kill your telly and the subscription fees and put the money saved into regularly acquiring some good reference books to serve your craft. I, too, have had to offer oblique but blunted answers for folks who've been pointedly insensitve and asked where, how, and how much? Those of you who have open-handed policies, there's a special place in potters' fields aka heaven for you. ;)

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I am so very leary of those who want the quick fix, or instant gratification. When I returned to USA from the UK (Dianthus Ceramics off Henley Street oppo Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford upon Avon from 1986- 2003) in 2004 it took me at least 5 years to work out bodies, take my firing temps down from ^8/9 to ^6. I did not bleat or moan. I did ask on clayart listserve about some firing difficulties, but I was specific about my testing and results and needed ways forward. Ron Roy and John Hessleberth are Gods. I had to replace everything that plugged in to establish my new studio. I did it and have been enjoying personal successes such as Honorable Mention at ICF Mino, Japan 2011 which I just returned from at the weekend. Expect short shrift if you demand shortcuts for obvious queries. I just posted on another thread that everyone should have a reasonable ceramics library to consult. Kill your telly and the subscription fees and put the money saved into regularly acquiring some good reference books to serve your craft. I, too, have had to offer oblique but blunted answers for folks who've been pointedly insensitve and asked where, how, and how much? Those of you who have open-handed policies, there's a special place in potters' fields aka heaven for you. ;)

 

 

Haven't been abroad much, but some of the books I have purchased here and in Europe use the European clays, and names for materials. It is a fun romp to try and find the equivalents and match things up. Tedious, but can be done.

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I think I’m not being fully understood, this is what I said in this Forum-

 

-“But really, we don’t have to give everything away and why should we?â€

 

-“We all have secrets about our work, things that need never be revealed.†But...if I am asked about a 'How to' and I can, I will answer.

 

-"....neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you."

Matthew 7:6. This is very good advice.â€

 

I don’t say give it all away, give what you want, keep what you want. If you have a secret nobody knows about it unless you say that you have one.

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Truth is .. You can't tell it all even if you tried. How do you explain what you know from your developed sixth sense?

Not ESP ... just knowing when the clay feels right, when your form is balanced, when it's time to carve or add more slip, when the glaze is dipped right, when you look through the peep hole and the color looks right, when you hear your wood kiln and know it needs more fuel.

You absorb this knowledge through the years without hardly feeling the change ... hardly know you have it until someone says stop! How did you do that? Then you try to find words to explain.

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I think this is a very touchy subject.

I was helped by people more experienced when I started, not so very long ago, and I help other newbies as a sort of karmic pay-back. If I see someone struggling and I can say or show something that will help, I just do. Seems right.

BUT, I have also had my good will shoved down my throat by a less experienced potter whom I caught pursuading one of my good customers to buy their piece instead of mine at an art fair where I shared my booth with them, to support them in their first show attempt. OUCH! So much for leaving the booth and going to pick up lunch for us both.dry.gif

 

Now, I will help people that are willing to give something, not necessarily pottery knowledge, back, and realize that share means go both ways.

Something I have noticed is that the very best potters seem to be the most sharing, and the newer folks are the most secretive, at least in my area. ???

Seems like if you are having great success, you shouldn't brag if your not willing to share, just in bad taste in my book.

If someone ASKS me about something I have worked long and hard on that has developed well, I thank them and say, "It took me a long time to work that out." and leave it at that.

Last time I came out with a set of work that I was really pleased with, that was the results of a year of trying and 2 $$$$ workshosp to develope skills, another 'sort of' potter in my area said I had taken "their" idea. ?????? Really??

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Truth is .. You can't tell it all even if you tried. How do you explain what you know from your developed sixth sense?

Not ESP ... just knowing when the clay feels right, when your form is balanced, when it's time to carve or add more slip, when the glaze is dipped right, when you look through the peep hole and the color looks right, when you hear your wood kiln and know it needs more fuel.

You absorb this knowledge through the years without hardly feeling the change ... hardly know you have it until someone says stop! How did you do that? Then you try to find words to explain.

 

 

I was throwing some platters the other day, thinking hard about my process. Here I wonder also how I would impart all of those nuances I get from the feel of the clay that dictates my finger motions, pressures and movements to a student? I have taught for quite a while, and always would let the student see demonstrations then work on their own for a while, then go back and try to correct the things they were missing, constantly making adjustments, constantly feeding them a little more as they were able to digest it. I knew when they could go further as I was right there seeing what was happening. How do you share that sort of information with someone you haven't even seen work or their work?

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