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Pres

Qotw: What Single Caveat Was Passed To You Or Would You Pass On To A Newbie?

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When in college, I had shifted majors a couple of times. When I came to Ceramics, I was stricken by the feel of the clay, the sense of accomplishment, and the sensuous engagement I found working in the studio. For the really first time I felt a. . . .knack. I wanted to learn everything, immerse myself in the whole thing with nothing else and became frustrated when I couldn't throw that form or create what I perceived.For a long time I depressed myself with this driven need. Then one day I realized that I should not worry about the now, but enjoy the journey to the then. Some things I will never master, it not being in me, but I have things that I can and should hang on to those, and find help on the few I do not master. In the end, I guess you should enjoy the journey with the clay day to day, it will sustain you.

 

 

 

 

 

best,

Pres

vinks and GiselleNo5 like this

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I spent the first 6-7 years working and learning isolated from the pottery world: with purposeful intent. So many passed on knowledge, having read perhaps nearly a thousand plus articles on clay and glaze. I joined this forum in Dec. 2015, and met Ron Roy in KC in March 2016: my first real exposure to other potters, and the first person I would assign the title: mentor.

 

What would I pass on?   Part of me says nothing: the journey of exploration and learning has been the biggest joy in my experience. I like to figure out the jigsaw puzzles of life on my own: a common trait among potters.

 

What would I pass on?  The other part of me says FREEDOM!  Freedom to explore, freedom to learn and discover, freedom of expression, freedom to make epic mistakes, and the freedom to have those "aha" moments. Freedom to figure out your preconceived ideas were partly right and partly wrong. Freedom to sit your sights very high, and the freedom to temper those expectations. Freedom to do things wrong in the process of learning how to do things right. Freedom to push the boundaries, and the freedom to realize some boundaries cannot be pushed. Freedom to accept or reject the opinions formed about you. Potters are well known for their forming techniques: which at times extend past clay.

The biggest freedom however comes when you realize every other potter has the same freedoms you do: that your freedoms do not mean more or less.The final freedom comes when you give up the need to control.

 

Nerd

 

Nerd

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When I first started taking pottery classes, the teachers in that studio preached "don't get emotionally attached to your pots." They were trying to convey the amount of failure that students should expect. I never bought into this. When I became a teacher, I met students who had been taught the same thing, and I said "No, you should care. It should hurt when something fails. It doesn't kill you. It makes you learn and it makes you better. It makes the successes even more meaningful."

florence w and flowerdry like this

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Perfection is the enemy of done.

Less is most of the time more.

Go big or go home.

Who says I cant do that with this? Watch this #%$&*8 @(*&^%!!! . Believe in yourself have faith and confidence and try try again.

Lesson for me

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I tell newbies two things. 

 

1. Don't be afraid to "ruin" pots with decoration. Beginner pots are wonky and so are beginner decorations. So do you want beginner decoration on beginner pots or beginner decoration on the nice pots you'll be able to make in a year? 

 

2. Each time you make or fire, take a step back from the idea that the pot is a piece of you and look at it objectively. It's equally important to note what you DO LIKE and what you DO NOT LIKE about the pot. Each time a pot comes out differently than you planned because you tried something new, you come closer to your goal. You have eliminated one more way that does NOT work. As long as you try new things you will eventually hit on the technique that gives you what you want. If you give up in discouragement you will definitely not get what you want. 

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I had to look up what a caveat is, to be sure. I always thought it meant "an exception". But no, it means a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations-a caution or admonition. So, while many caveats were passed on to me (I think of my dad always saying "Don't let your wants hurt you." Or my mother warning me that my face was going to "freeze like that" because she thought I was frowning all the time. Later a good dentist explained the structural issues with my mouth/teeth/jaw that caused that affect.

 

Anyway, I never found much value, or even truth, in most of the caveats that have come my way, and none that had anything to do with ceramics per se. The closest was something my sculpture instructor said, " Never let your story be more interesting than your art." 

 

One that I might pass on to a newbie is best summed up as "It will crack, it will collapse, you will drop it, it will explode--clean it up and move on."  

 

Now that I have thought about it, though, I have to add that I did not agree with said instructor. I have always felt that our stories are what make our art interesting, even if the work appears to be far removed from the external and internal fe of the artist. I suspect what he meant was that you shouldn't have to explain it into being of interest-it should speak for itself, and that I can agree with. 

 

glazenerd, vinks, Pres and 2 others like this

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Pertaining to pit fired pottery, my archaeology professor said there wasn't any historic accounts or archaeological evidence of a pit used for pottery manufacturing.

 

There was one graduate student, Michael Hanson, who had some experience in primitive pottery. He said from the get go, 1. air bubbles are not the cause of spalling. 2. Once the vessel is leather hard, it can be dried as fast as you want without warping. 3. This is what a sintered pot looks like, and once its sintered, it can be fired as fast as you want without any worry of spalling/exploding.

 

As for wheel thrown pottery, my instructor said to always pull handles and make more than you need then pick the best ones. For cups and mugs, trim the rim so that the bottom lip has a place to fit. Consider how wide the opening is, not too narrow and not too wide! If the openings are too wide, you can't see over the cup while drinking and people can sneak up on you! (Maybe that issue led to the invention of clear glass cups? :) ) We were told to go home and measure the openings of the cups in our cabinets. Most were 3 1/2 to 4 inches.

Consider how high the handle is attached on the cup. If the handle is higher than the rim, your thumb will poke your eye out while drinking.

 

Our pottery instructor would sometimes have potters visit and demonstrate. One was a former production potter. He said to always have an example of what you're throwing nearby for reference. The reference could be a sketch, photo, or actual vessel. He said he'd be instructed to throw 3-4 hundred Rebekah pitchers, and thru fatigue or boredom, the pitchers would morph into something else around the 125th pitcher without a reference.

 

 

 

See ya,

Alabama

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i still remember the 16 year old who came to my studio back in the 1970s as part of a group.  she needed lots of instruction to make a simple cylinder around a soup can.  she did it well and when i suggested a lid she wanted to do that, too.  she cut a simple circle of clay of the diameter needed and a smaller one to hold it in place.  when she stuck the smaller circle onto the larger one, she put it off-center and almost screamed " I've RUINED IT!"  

 

i looked at what happened and agreed, "yes you have ruined it.  it is really awful.   but the clay forgives you.  try again", wadded up the lid and handed it to her.

 

i'll never forget the look on her face.

Pres, glazenerd and vinks like this

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Our pottery instructor would sometimes have potters visit and demonstrate. One was a former production potter. He said to always have an example of what you're throwing nearby for reference. The reference could be a sketch, photo, or actual vessel. He said he'd be instructed to throw 3-4 hundred Rebekah pitchers, and thru fatigue or boredom, the pitchers would morph into something else around the 125th pitcher without a reference.

 

 

This made me laugh, imagining a tidy row of pitchers in order of when they were thrown, gradually becoming caricatures of the original design. I've thrown a pot from memory, absolutely SURE that I was making it just like another pot, only to find upon comparing them that they were completely different! 

 

Now my habit of snagging items from my house (or others' houses with permission of course ;)) and bringing them into my studio to look at and emulate aspects of the design doesn't seem as weird! 

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