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Qotw: What Is The Best And/or The Worst Advice You Ever Received About Ceramics?

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Pres    896

Hi folks, 

 

Yesterday, RonSa posted, just when I was running out of questions in the pool,  the following question: What is the best and/or the worst advice you ever received about ceramics?

 

I have to say, that over the years. . . . trying to think back. . . .that I have never received any advice on my pottery that I took as advice. Let me be more specific in saying that I have not had honest advice about my pottery, but often words that would have been more sniping from someone who did not have my best interests in mind. Sometimes jealousy, or poor disposition can bring out the worst in the way of advice and thoughts.

 

Most of the changes in my approach to pottery have come not from advice of other people, but from solid research. I began pottery as many did in college, and was spoiled by stoneware. I had seen the low fire cast ware that my mom and dad had been involved with in Hawaii, and they had enjoyed doing it. When we moved to next station there was not the same opportunity for doing the ceramic. I really was not into the cast ware, and didn't care for its fragile feel. Stoneware was where I wanted to go, but I did not think I could deal with a gas fired kiln in the small town where I lived, either in an apartment or in a house. So I researched electric kilns, and ^10 firing.. . . this in 1974, finding that the kiln firings for consistent firings at cone 10 was problematic with the technology at the time. So I started looking for lower fire clays coming to ^6. I was teaching in a HS at that time, using earthenware. Hated it, it was a white body, that had no plasticity and little feel for throwing. I tried switching to a red body, that was a little better. I also found that part of the white bodies problem was talc. I then tried a ^6 stoneware, loved it. Tried it with the kids that were throwing the earthenware, they wanted to know why we weren't  using that all the time. Next year we did. I guess, that other than college. . . I was mostly in a vacuum as there were few around that were doing pottery, so I had to find my own way.

 

 

best,

Pres

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GEP    863

Best advice:

 

I started out in a recreational community center studio, where they gave instruction to beginners but beyond that we were on our own. The first time I ever got the opportunity to learn from a really great potter who was also a great teacher, Nan Rothwell, I'd say that weekend workshop was one big piece of good advice. I was past the beginner stage and thought I was pretty good. She had an attitude about quality that I had never perceived before, and I realized I had a long way to go. I left there with a new perspective and never looked back.

 

 

Worst advice:

 

How to choose? There's been so much.

 

All the people who have said "you should add some color to your work."

 

All the alpha-types who say "cone 6 isn't serious," especially those whose cone 10 lifestyles are entirely subsidized by somebody else. Don't get me wrong, I've met plenty of cone 10 folks who do not have this attitude. But the alpha-types are out there.

 

The ones who say "you need someone to help you" when they really mean "I'd like to co-opt your already succesful business."

 

"You aren't getting any younger" i.e. shouldn't you be looking for a husband instead of working all the time?

 

And then there's the silly stuff from people who have never run a business, such as "if you change the name of your graphics studio to "graphic design and pottery" you could deduct your pottery expenses from your taxes" even though I had been deducting clay expenses for years, and the name doesn't matter to the IRS. I know these people mean well, but this is the type of thing that makes you think "perhaps I have outgrown my friend group. My life has gone in a direction where I cannot relate to them anymore, and they can't relate to me."

Edited by GEP

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Min    777

Best advice:

Make lots and lots of pots, fill up your shelves, stack them to the rafters, in boxes in the basement and under the bed, everywhere. Then go and make some more.

In other words, it takes one heck of a lot of practice.

 

Worst advice:

 

Not really advice but a comment that grates me the most is when I hear something along the lines of “must be nice making a living with your hobbyâ€

Edited by Min

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RonSa    188

The best and worst advice can be summed up in two words that I've heard often here and they are, "It Depends."

 

Joking aside, I've received a lot of good advice from this forum and because of it I've learned a lot. I listen to advice (not just in ceramics) then add it to what I already know and hopefully... but not always... come up with what I like to think is my own.

 

The best advice I received was from an art teacher back in my school days and I've applied to my life, my business, and to my artistic side.

 

She said, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, everything you do will not be a masterpiece and if you keep at it you will accomplish some true gems in what you do. So don't give up."

Edited by RonSa

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Worst advice:

You should just keep pottery as a hobby, because you can't *really* make a living as an artist.

(As if I couldn't figure out how to run a business. I just came off a week where I grossed more than I've ever made at any job I've ever worked for someone else.)

 

Best advise:

Keep making, regardless of whether or not it pays. Make for your own reasons, and not someone else's.

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The best and worst advice can be summed up in two words that I've heard often here and they are, "It Depends."

 

Joking aside, I've received a lot of good advice from this forum and because of it I've learned a lot. I listen to advice (not just in ceramics) then add it to what I already know and hopefully... but not always... come up with what I like to think is my own.

 

The best advice I received was from an art teacher back in my school days and I've applied to my life, my business, and to my artistic side.

 

She said, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, everything you do will not be a masterpiece and if you keep at it you will accomplish some true gems in what you do. So don't give up."

 

It depends is the best advice  :D or maybe Test, test, test...

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glazenerd    816

Well, now that the sun is almost shining again. Midnight occurred at 1:18pm.

 

I started and worked alone for the first seven years of my pottery journey. So I never received any advice, stepped in many potholes, with successes sprinkled in here and there. So who needs the world.s tallest roller coaster; firing crystalline is a ride in and of itself.

 

My advice: enjoy the journey wherever it may lead you.

 

Nerd

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RonSa    188

(As if I couldn't figure out how to run a business. I just came off a week where I grossed more than I've ever made at any job I've ever worked for someone else.)

 

Congrats

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Benzine    609

Best Advice:  I can't really pinpoint anything specific, but I had a great college instructor, who was a perfect combination of knowledgeable, patient and skillful.

 

Worst Advice:  Once again, nothing specific, just the "Sniping" Pres mentioned.  "Ew, you signed (Put your name on) that?!!!

"You aren't getting any younger" i.e. shouldn't you be looking for a husband instead of working all the time?
 

 

Just say you are like a fine wine or whiskey, you only improve with age.

 

 

Not really advice but a comment that grates me the most is when I hear something along the lines of “must be nice making a living with your hobbyâ€

 

No, it's nice making a living with my *Passion*...

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Judith B    52

Not being a professional potter yet, I haven't had encountered that many people who were judgmental or condescending. My work isn't out there enough yet for this.

 

 

My first teacher (I was an intern with her) taught me a lot about keeping a space clean, tidying up at the end of everyday. At first I was wondering what was the point of putting everything away since you'd need the next day. But this has stayed with me and now I really like this routine of cleaning and keeping the space visually uncluttered. I thought she was a little perfectionist about that but this had a huge influence on me.

 

Edit: also reading on this forum some years ago about people smashing their failed pots gave me courage to be more selective before the firing, which I think really improved que quality of my work. (thank you all!)

 

Bad advice, I can't recall any, there are things to learn from any kind of advice. People's preconceived ideas and judgments are something else but I tend to have a very short memory for that kind of things ^^

Edited by Judith B

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Pres    896

Best Advice:  I can't really pinpoint anything specific, but I had a great college instructor, who was a perfect combination of knowledgeable, patient and skillful.

 

Worst Advice:  Once again, nothing specific, just the "Sniping" Pres mentioned.  "Ew, you signed (Put your name on) that?!!!

"You aren't getting any younger" i.e. shouldn't you be looking for a husband instead of working all the time?

 

 

Just say you are like a fine wine or whiskey, you only improve with age.

 

 

Not really advice but a comment that grates me the most is when I hear something along the lines of “must be nice making a living with your hobbyâ€

 

No, it's nice making a living with my *Passion*...

Know of an old shop teacher that used to tell the students: Find something you love doing, and you'll never have to work at all in your life. Pretty good advice to me, and I have also told my kids, and my students, and now my granddaughter the same thing.

 

 

best,

Pres

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Pres    896

Hi folks, 

 

Yesterday, RonSa posted, just when I was running out of questions in the pool,  the following question: What is the best and/or the worst advice you ever received about ceramics?

 

I have to say, that over the years. . . . trying to think back. . . .that I have never received any advice on my pottery that I took as advice. Let me be more specific in saying that I have not had honest advice about my pottery, but often words that would have been more sniping from someone who did not have my best interests in mind. Sometimes jealousy, or poor disposition can bring out the worst in the way of advice and thoughts.

 

Most of the changes in my approach to pottery have come not from advice of other people, but from solid research. I began pottery as many did in college, and was spoiled by stoneware. I had seen the low fire cast ware that my mom and dad had been involved with in Hawaii, and they had enjoyed doing it. When we moved to next station there was not the same opportunity for doing the ceramic. I really was not into the cast ware, and didn't care for its fragile feel. Stoneware was where I wanted to go, but I did not think I could deal with a gas fired kiln in the small town where I lived, either in an apartment or in a house. So I researched electric kilns, and ^10 firing.. . . this in 1974, finding that the kiln firings for consistent firings at cone 10 was problematic with the technology at the time. So I started looking for lower fire clays coming to ^6. I was teaching in a HS at that time, using earthenware. Hated it, it was a white body, that had no plasticity and little feel for throwing. I tried switching to a red body, that was a little better. I also found that part of the white bodies problem was talc. I then tried a ^6 stoneware, loved it. Tried it with the kids that were throwing the earthenware, they wanted to know why we weren't  using that all the time. Next year we did. I guess, that other than college. . . I was mostly in a vacuum as there were few around that were doing pottery, so I had to find my own way.

 

 

best,

Pres

Instead of editing the above post, I will make my apologies here.  thinking back to two years ago, I was making good pots, but had not been satisfied with the static perfectly centered way they were turning out. I came to the forum with some question about loosening up, and had quite a bit of good advice here about just that, by starting not completely centered, or by changing the form with some sort of off centered-ness before shaping, or running a rib through the form to change it before shaping. There were other suggestions, that I may not remember presently, but they all pointed me to some of the mug forms, teapot forms, and other forms that I have been doing recently. Much of this advice came from the forum, and much in particular from John Baymore. Old dogs, can learn new tricks, and advice from the forum has always been helpful to me, so yes good advice, not much bad. My apologies.

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Denice    243

The best advice I ever got was from Rick St.John, he was my teacher in my first throwing class. He was explaining to the class that we could glaze three pieces for the semester and that was only because he needs something to grade.  He said we were at the stage where we shouldn't keep anything, we should pick carefully because a archeologist could find that piece of pottery in a dig a 1000 years from now.  Do we really want our name scratched in the bottom of that beginners piece for eternity.  I got really good at recycling pots before they got fired.  We only needed one good pot to turn in for a assignment so that is what I kept.   Denice

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... best advice:  "That's nice, now make a hundred just like it".
 
 
 
... worst advice: "That's nice, now make a hundred just like it".
 
I started on the hundred mugs as advised.  After about 40 or so I became very bored as each mug looked just like every other mug and boredom is a signal for me to move on to something different. 
 
 
Seriously,
The advice that has been the most helpful was:
 
"Pay attention to what you are ACTUALLY doing, not what you THINK you are doing; then you will learn what to do next time".
 
 
There is a difference, and when you finally realize what you are actually doing, you will have reliable data supporting your efforts to make changes; otherwise you are just engaged in wishful thinking while making a mess. 
 
The advice came when I was trying to throw cylinders but was making bowls.  Multiple times I focused on pulling the wall of the cylinder straight up; every time it produced a conical bowl - even when I used a straight rib on one side as I pulled the clay upwards.  I tried again, and realized even though I was pulling the wall straight, it was straight to my eyes, and since my eyes were located on one side of the wheel the form was an open cone, not a vertical cylinder.  The solution was to place my eyes in the correct place and the walls came out correct too.  Later I learned to look at the side of the pot on the side of the wheel away from my hands to watch the clay move into the form I wanted.
 
 
lt

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Judith B    52

 The solution was to place my eyes in the correct place and the walls came out correct too.  Later I learned to look at the side of the pot on the side of the wheel away from my hands to watch the clay move into the form I wanted.

Just out of curiosity, do you use a mirror to throw now, so that you can see the shape you're making?

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Judith asked:

 

  Just out of curiosity, do you use a mirror to throw now, so that you can see the shape you're making?

 

No.  Tried that - sort of - and concluded it required too much mental overhead. 
 
The side opposite the position you are using to manipulate  the clay is the least distorted from the final form, the sector you are manipulating is the most distorted.  The sectors between the most and the least distorted are just distorted.  Some clay bodies are extremely elastic - porcelain for instance - others are not very elastic.  I just use the area least distorted and go with it.  

lt

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Chris Campbell    1,083

Great question ... because at the time you are actually getting the advice, it's impossible to tell whether it is garbage or gold.

 

Ok .. so some is obvious in that others are coming from their perceptions, their ideas. Good for them, but not universal truths.

 

Others are the worst because of 'Who They Are' ... you think they know what they are talking about ... but ... they too are only talking from their own viewpoint of what works for them.

 

The best are those elusive diamonds you pull from a long time of listening ... someone says something that connects. Something that rings so true. They often do not even know they are sharing this intense moment of connection and people around you don't even notice.

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Kellykopp    24

Best advice...."Kelly, do you want this kiln back?  I don't need it anymore and you REALLY SHOULD get back into your clay"......

Worst advice...can't remember getting any "advice" that hasn't panned out.  My resumed clay journey has fulfilled my heart and soul.  Happiness is mine when I am in my studio, even if the project I'm working on doesn't come out the way I planned or wanted, it is easy to "try, try, again" when I am working with my heart's desire.  

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TallTayl    6

Worst advice: follow "my" way of making pottery. Ignore all those YouTube and Facebook types of people.

 

Best advice: find methods, tools and techniques that work well for me and ignore the above.

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LeeU    328

Best advice:  Keep on truckin'

 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit-

Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

 

Life is strange with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a fellow turns about

When he might have won had he stuck it out.

Don't give up though the pace seems slow -

You may succeed with another blow.

 

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man;

Often the struggler has given up

When he might have captured the victor's cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

 

Success is failure turned inside out -

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It might be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -

It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

 

Worst advice: "Art is not therapy-look elsewhere."

Edited by LeeU

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LeeU    328

By the way---talk about computerizing Big Brother--the correct word in the first line of the second stanza in the poem is "q" "u" "e" "e" "r", not "strange". Whatever spelling/grammar system is in the background trolling for perceived offensive language, or politically incorrect expression, won't let the word appear...it substitutes 5 #####s. 

 

Next day:  Thanks for the  info, RonSa. 

Edited by LeeU

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RonSa    188

Lee, that's the forum's software that is censoring the word, not a spelling/grammar system. Its meant to keep the forum "civil" even when the context of the word is not meant to harm..

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Joseph F    865

This has been a very good QoTW. Probably one of my favorites. 

 

I haven't received much advice on ceramics besides the questions I ask here. 

 

However the best advice I haven't received but found on out my own was: After unloading a kiln load, don't immediately hammer something that didn't turn out exactly how you intended. It is frustrating at first and you just want to move on, but sometimes it can end up being marvelous when you run into it later with new eyes.

 

Worst advice I ever received: Make it in blue, people like blue. 

Edited by Joseph F

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Chilly    329

Worst advice:  You can't...........

 

Best advice:  test, test, test

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