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The Drive And The Rivers That Feed It


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#1 Stephen Robison

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 07:51 PM

The drive is of the utmost importance and this is what keeps us going down the path.
STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

http://stiffyguss.blogspot.com/
http://liquidceramics.blogspot.com/
http://teapotspitchers.blogspot.com/
http://woodkilns.blogspot.com/
http://jomonhaniwa.blogspot.com/
http://stephensrobison.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.co...ffpottery/sets/

CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at

http://www.flickr.co...57623735313670/

#2 Stephen Robison

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 12:30 PM

The rivers that feed our drives flow from both our teachers who we have direct contact with and even more important our vicarious teachers from both history and contemporary ceramics, art, philosophy and other sources. As many students learn we can go against the flow and with the flow. As a life long learner I feel both directions get us from one point to another. This may seem cliche but the destination is really not as important as the journey. One reality I have found is you can build your mental muscles going both ways.

As the forum Moderator I wanted to start off by putting my Teaching philosophy and artist statement down so members could see where I am coming from.

Teaching Philosophy by Stephen Robison

My aim is to direct students toward problem solving through creative research and critical discourse. Since there rarely is only one solution, I do not adhere to any single standard of style or content in my teaching; but strive to provide a wide base of information to encourage students to become free thinkers and find their own way of expressing ideas within the media. I urge ceramics majors to expose themselves to other disciplines inside and outside of art to help build on their visual and conceptual framework. Students are also encouraged to do their own research by visiting; artists' studios, museums, shows, the library, and attending workshops, conferences, and other organized field trips. I try and get at least one organized such event to happen each semester, for instance taking a group of students to a NCECA conference.

Teaching ceramics also requires structured assignments based around specific techniques (with formal, esthetic and conceptual outcomes), and technical projects or classes related to kiln building, glaze calculation and materials and effects. Technical projects and classes also need to address the safe use and handling of materials and equipment. I use frequent demonstrations, slide lectures, kiln building and glaze calculation projects, health and safety lectures on equipment and materials, reading assignments on philosophy and techniques, actual objects from my own collection and through museum and studio visits, and textbooks to instill part of that knowledge. I demonstrate techniques within hand building, mold making and throwing and relate the techniques to both contemporary and historical clay work. This opens up avenues to work with anatomical, architectural, natural form and utilitarian concepts. It also allows students the individual freedom to fully express themselves in both the sculptural and utilitarian aspects of ceramics on and off the wheel. Students are taught the technical skills and given the information necessary to form a foundation from which to make their own decisions about esthetics, concept and their preferable technique. In a recent article titled “Teaching After the End”, in the Fall 2005 issue of Art Journal, Daniel Joseph Martinez had been talking with David Levi Strauss about the continuing relevance of Joseph Beuys. He said that Beuys did not say, “ ‘ learn how to cut a piece of wood first.’ He said, ‘have an idea first.’ Once you’ve got an idea, the rest is simple.” I believe this to a degree and feel that with all the skill in the world you can become excellent at the crafting of an object, but without a strong concept you cannot craft an excellent piece. I also believe craft is not always a part of art. The idea of the piece, however, is not always the starting point. And a very important part of teaching which I beg to differ is not “simple” are the techniques that need to be learned. Through the execution of certain skills or techniques, one can develop an idea or concept. I believe that teaching someone how work with the clay on and off the wheel can be a springboard for a student to develop ideas. When they learn how to manipulate a material, they can then understand what can be done with that material. Within this philosophy a work ethic can also be instilled and a student can learn that nothing is more beneficial than the actual act of working with clay.

When students are exposed to what has been done with clay from contemporary artists such as Marilyn Levine’s work and other trompe l’oeil artists to the work of historical pots and sculpture and what is being done presently with installation, utilitarian, figurative and architectonic work, they are then exposed to the full scope of ceramics. They then have the capacity to develop ideas in any direction because they realize there is an unlimited potential with the media from scale to surface to color to concept. That is the initial direction I coax my students towards to find ideas, I do stress the most important question the student needs to ask when making their work is why they are creating it.

Regular sessions encouraging critical dialog about art, craft, philosophy, history, and current issues help students to create their own conceptual basis. Students must learn how to write an artist statement, resume, and learn how to document their work. Advanced students give presentations on contemporary artists that help them to express aesthetic ideas in both the spoken and written world. In this research they are exposed to several media such as Keynote or PowerPoint and most recently Podcasting their work. Advanced students are also expected to have goals set for entering shows and getting exposure to their work outside of academia. In this pursuit the advance student learns documentation, presentation and how to create a digital portfolio and areas on the web where they can archive that portfolio.




I also address professional options. Students are challenged with discussions about what they want to do with their degree; these topics start to enter my lectures around the beginning of the students’ third year. I help them determine what they need to prepare for graduate school application and other options such as residencies, workshops and apprenticeships to further the evolution of their work. When working with MFA students’ goals, I also direct them toward artist residency programs and apprenticeships but also help them put together a clean well-read job application. This kind of mentoring along with my dedication to each student’s development as artists, demonstrates my genuine concern for the future of each individual. I do not, however, have any sort of idealist notion that each individual student is driven enough to make it as a practitioner of the arts within the realm of education or the professional world of art.

I believe that my goal as an educator is to be a conduit of information for students to tap. With that said it is my responsibility to not only keep up on my own research as it pertains to my investigation into ceramics but also possible avenues that may help me direct students down their own road. My research and production of my own work and a constant show record; along with setting an example with a strong work ethic are also definitely major teaching tools. Students need to know that they need to be seriously dedicated and set goals for their careers as artists if they are to be successful.



Artist Statement
Stephen Robison

In my work I focus on vessel formats as platforms for utilitarian, conceptual and spatial investigations. I continue to have a focus on the strictly utilitarian. However, over the last few years one concept that has dominated my work incorporates forms and surfaces related to diatoms and viruses. This work is still meant to function as containers, pouring vessels or drinking vessels, but some of that function may be sacrificed for form and concept. Tactile considerations are still of importance in the utilitarian based work. However, form, surface and concept are my primary focus in this work. The forms and surfaces of some viruses and diatoms have been a great source for abstraction. What viruses can do for or do to our world is fascinating and frightening to me. Genetic virology is not always going to be understood by the viewer, but I don’t find that to be crucial for the work to be appreciated.

My direction in both sculpture and utilitarian ceramics both feed one another. Historical and contemporary use of visual language and utilitarian objects are two main sources for my research. Working within the context of sculpture along with the utility of ceramics allows me to communicate more than purely the use of the object and working outside of purely sculptural considerations I have the addition of utility and an intimate contact between the audience and the piece.

Objects of use and domesticity have a common language, which a large and diverse audience can appreciate and relate to. This may be the initial draw to my work but appreciation of the concepts and esthetics may seep into the viewer after further investigation. The sense of humanity that a well thought out handmade object can obtain is not found in objects that can be purchased at Wall Mart or produced by the machines of industry. Thoughts about the user of objects are often negated for practical reasons such as economic, shipping or durability, and this results in objects that have no life or value of their own but fit very well into our disposable society. Furthermore, the content that use to be in objects of utility has turned to nothing more then trite or kitch reflections of hallmark holiday tributes. I have a firm belief in the connection of the mind to the hand and the hand to the media. Like the lips to a read, technology can not replace or even come close to the sensitivity that the artists has with his or her material. A major intent of mine is to create tactile qualities in these objects that offer an intimate relationship with the user and provide the objects with an inherent value that gives them a life of their own. I cannot do this without my touch playing a part in the creation of the object. Generating a pleasurable and possibly a reflective experience when being used and viewed creates new challenges with each object made. Visual balance by using proportional perspectives, physical balance within the weight and pivot points of the piece along with tactile qualities are issues I address to achieve these goals.

Ultimately, I want my utilitarian objects to be used. This objective is for both my virus pieces and my strictly utilitarian work. With work that is firmly based in utility I still want an esthetic to prevail and at times I want conceptual concerns to also be inherent. It is almost more difficult to work within those restraints of a utilitarian piece because they are just that, restraints. Calligraphic work and textiles influence much of my utilitarian work. Using brushwork with slips and terra sigillata and the use of repetitive marks like a stitching pattern are reflective in much of my strictly utilitarian work.

Purely sculptural work for me still has parameters, so there are sort of rules when I work in that direction. I set those rules based not on an already prescribed vocabulary in the vernacular of the ceramic vessel, such as handle spout, foot, body, belly or neck. However parameters are still set by some prescribe formats that I have mentioned. For instance when I work with the landscape format I set a primarily horizontal restriction. In recent virus landscapes I have not gone to far out of the horizontal mode. In some that are still in the drawing stage I have worked out more vertical focal points. In an installation I am planning, one of the parameters will be the space it will be contained in. I like the word parameters rather then restrictions, it sounds more like a guideline not a set of exacting rules. In my work I do allow quite a bit of intuition and evolution to occur in the making of the piece, the firing of the piece and or reductive work or additive work after the first firing.



Technical Considerations

Presently I am working with porcelain and stoneware clay bodies. I am using a variety of techniques using slips, under glazes, terra sigillata, glazes and atmospheric effects to achieve my surfaces. I am primarily working with high fire temperatures and using some low temp techniques on top of the high fire surfaces and sometimes using sandblasting to achieve a surface. I have also returned to soda firing and wood firing, having just finished building a new wood kiln and finishing up a new soda kiln. The kiln quite often is the means to the end and using certain types of firing such as soda, salt and wood firing adds subtleties to the surface of the forms. I also have a slight problem with addiction to process and wood firing does have a slight hold on me, but I use the glaze and firing technique that best works with what I want the final outcome of the piece to be.

Building techniques are on and off the wheel. I use throwing, altering forms, slump molding, molds and other additive and subtractive techniques.
STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

http://stiffyguss.blogspot.com/
http://liquidceramics.blogspot.com/
http://teapotspitchers.blogspot.com/
http://woodkilns.blogspot.com/
http://jomonhaniwa.blogspot.com/
http://stephensrobison.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.co...ffpottery/sets/

CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at

http://www.flickr.co...57623735313670/

#3 tidewtergirl

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 11:36 AM

After reading your introduction I am excited about this website.....it's just what I have needed to build my artist heart and abilities upon. I am going to pass the word!! Pam Coastal Clay Guild of North Carolina

#4 P. Sig

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 11:14 AM

As a High School Art Teacher, I believe my students are the river that that flows into the college programs. Your philosophy is inspiring and a goal to aspire to.

#5 Stephen Robison

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Posted 03 April 2010 - 07:53 PM

After reading your introduction I am excited about this website.....it's just what I have needed to build my artist heart and abilities upon. I am going to pass the word!! Pam Coastal Clay Guild of North Carolina


Pam! I miss NC. Thanks for the comment. Keep up the good work.
STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

http://stiffyguss.blogspot.com/
http://liquidceramics.blogspot.com/
http://teapotspitchers.blogspot.com/
http://woodkilns.blogspot.com/
http://jomonhaniwa.blogspot.com/
http://stephensrobison.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.co...ffpottery/sets/

CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at

http://www.flickr.co...57623735313670/

#6 Stephen Robison

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Posted 03 April 2010 - 08:03 PM

As a High School Art Teacher, I believe my students are the river that that flows into the college programs. Your philosophy is inspiring and a goal to aspire to.



So true SO TRUE! As our keynote speaker at NCECA said the other day and as we have all known k-12 is the most important job out there. The fresh artesian wells that flow from your efforts are the sources. I also again look at all of our students and what nourishes us also. In their own way own students feed us and keep our lakes young and alive. I learn so much from my students and sometimes it is even about art. Usually my favorite bits of knowledge I get are about new music.

Every k-12 teacher out there is to be honored. I want to propose that NCECA takes one or two of the teacher honors awards and send them to these dedicated teachers.
STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

http://stiffyguss.blogspot.com/
http://liquidceramics.blogspot.com/
http://teapotspitchers.blogspot.com/
http://woodkilns.blogspot.com/
http://jomonhaniwa.blogspot.com/
http://stephensrobison.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.co...ffpottery/sets/

CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at

http://www.flickr.co...57623735313670/

#7 pyroteacher

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 09:05 AM

The rivers that feed our drives flow from both our teachers who we have direct contact with and even more important our vicarious teachers from both history and contemporary ceramics, art, philosophy and other sources. As many students learn we can go against the flow and with the flow. As a life long learner I feel both directions get us from one point to another. This may seem cliche but the destination is really not as important as the journey. One reality I have found is you can build your mental muscles going both ways.

As the forum Moderator I wanted to start off by putting my Teaching philosophy and artist statement down so members could see where I am coming from.

Teaching Philosophy by Stephen Robison

My aim is to direct students toward problem solving through creative research and critical discourse. Since there rarely is only one solution, I do not adhere to any single standard of style or content in my teaching; but strive to provide a wide base of information to encourage students to become free thinkers and find their own way of expressing ideas within the media. I urge ceramics majors to expose themselves to other disciplines inside and outside of art to help build on their visual and conceptual framework. Students are also encouraged to do their own research by visiting; artists' studios, museums, shows, the library, and attending workshops, conferences, and other organized field trips. I try and get at least one organized such event to happen each semester, for instance taking a group of students to a NCECA conference.

Teaching ceramics also requires structured assignments based around specific techniques (with formal, esthetic and conceptual outcomes), and technical projects or classes related to kiln building, glaze calculation and materials and effects. Technical projects and classes also need to address the safe use and handling of materials and equipment. I use frequent demonstrations, slide lectures, kiln building and glaze calculation projects, health and safety lectures on equipment and materials, reading assignments on philosophy and techniques, actual objects from my own collection and through museum and studio visits, and textbooks to instill part of that knowledge. I demonstrate techniques within hand building, mold making and throwing and relate the techniques to both contemporary and historical clay work. This opens up avenues to work with anatomical, architectural, natural form and utilitarian concepts. It also allows students the individual freedom to fully express themselves in both the sculptural and utilitarian aspects of ceramics on and off the wheel. Students are taught the technical skills and given the information necessary to form a foundation from which to make their own decisions about esthetics, concept and their preferable technique. In a recent article titled “Teaching After the End”, in the Fall 2005 issue of Art Journal, Daniel Joseph Martinez had been talking with David Levi Strauss about the continuing relevance of Joseph Beuys. He said that Beuys did not say, “ ‘ learn how to cut a piece of wood first.’ He said, ‘have an idea first.’ Once you’ve got an idea, the rest is simple.” I believe this to a degree and feel that with all the skill in the world you can become excellent at the crafting of an object, but without a strong concept you cannot craft an excellent piece. I also believe craft is not always a part of art. The idea of the piece, however, is not always the starting point. And a very important part of teaching which I beg to differ is not “simple” are the techniques that need to be learned. Through the execution of certain skills or techniques, one can develop an idea or concept. I believe that teaching someone how work with the clay on and off the wheel can be a springboard for a student to develop ideas. When they learn how to manipulate a material, they can then understand what can be done with that material. Within this philosophy a work ethic can also be instilled and a student can learn that nothing is more beneficial than the actual act of working with clay.

When students are exposed to what has been done with clay from contemporary artists such as Marilyn Levine’s work and other trompe l’oeil artists to the work of historical pots and sculpture and what is being done presently with installation, utilitarian, figurative and architectonic work, they are then exposed to the full scope of ceramics. They then have the capacity to develop ideas in any direction because they realize there is an unlimited potential with the media from scale to surface to color to concept. That is the initial direction I coax my students towards to find ideas, I do stress the most important question the student needs to ask when making their work is why they are creating it.

Regular sessions encouraging critical dialog about art, craft, philosophy, history, and current issues help students to create their own conceptual basis. Students must learn how to write an artist statement, resume, and learn how to document their work. Advanced students give presentations on contemporary artists that help them to express aesthetic ideas in both the spoken and written world. In this research they are exposed to several media such as Keynote or PowerPoint and most recently Podcasting their work. Advanced students are also expected to have goals set for entering shows and getting exposure to their work outside of academia. In this pursuit the advance student learns documentation, presentation and how to create a digital portfolio and areas on the web where they can archive that portfolio.




I also address professional options. Students are challenged with discussions about what they want to do with their degree; these topics start to enter my lectures around the beginning of the students’ third year. I help them determine what they need to prepare for graduate school application and other options such as residencies, workshops and apprenticeships to further the evolution of their work. When working with MFA students’ goals, I also direct them toward artist residency programs and apprenticeships but also help them put together a clean well-read job application. This kind of mentoring along with my dedication to each student’s development as artists, demonstrates my genuine concern for the future of each individual. I do not, however, have any sort of idealist notion that each individual student is driven enough to make it as a practitioner of the arts within the realm of education or the professional world of art.

I believe that my goal as an educator is to be a conduit of information for students to tap. With that said it is my responsibility to not only keep up on my own research as it pertains to my investigation into ceramics but also possible avenues that may help me direct students down their own road. My research and production of my own work and a constant show record; along with setting an example with a strong work ethic are also definitely major teaching tools. Students need to know that they need to be seriously dedicated and set goals for their careers as artists if they are to be successful.



Artist Statement
Stephen Robison

In my work I focus on vessel formats as platforms for utilitarian, conceptual and spatial investigations. I continue to have a focus on the strictly utilitarian. However, over the last few years one concept that has dominated my work incorporates forms and surfaces related to diatoms and viruses. This work is still meant to function as containers, pouring vessels or drinking vessels, but some of that function may be sacrificed for form and concept. Tactile considerations are still of importance in the utilitarian based work. However, form, surface and concept are my primary focus in this work. The forms and surfaces of some viruses and diatoms have been a great source for abstraction. What viruses can do for or do to our world is fascinating and frightening to me. Genetic virology is not always going to be understood by the viewer, but I don’t find that to be crucial for the work to be appreciated.

My direction in both sculpture and utilitarian ceramics both feed one another. Historical and contemporary use of visual language and utilitarian objects are two main sources for my research. Working within the context of sculpture along with the utility of ceramics allows me to communicate more than purely the use of the object and working outside of purely sculptural considerations I have the addition of utility and an intimate contact between the audience and the piece.

Objects of use and domesticity have a common language, which a large and diverse audience can appreciate and relate to. This may be the initial draw to my work but appreciation of the concepts and esthetics may seep into the viewer after further investigation. The sense of humanity that a well thought out handmade object can obtain is not found in objects that can be purchased at Wall Mart or produced by the machines of industry. Thoughts about the user of objects are often negated for practical reasons such as economic, shipping or durability, and this results in objects that have no life or value of their own but fit very well into our disposable society. Furthermore, the content that use to be in objects of utility has turned to nothing more then trite or kitch reflections of hallmark holiday tributes. I have a firm belief in the connection of the mind to the hand and the hand to the media. Like the lips to a read, technology can not replace or even come close to the sensitivity that the artists has with his or her material. A major intent of mine is to create tactile qualities in these objects that offer an intimate relationship with the user and provide the objects with an inherent value that gives them a life of their own. I cannot do this without my touch playing a part in the creation of the object. Generating a pleasurable and possibly a reflective experience when being used and viewed creates new challenges with each object made. Visual balance by using proportional perspectives, physical balance within the weight and pivot points of the piece along with tactile qualities are issues I address to achieve these goals.

Ultimately, I want my utilitarian objects to be used. This objective is for both my virus pieces and my strictly utilitarian work. With work that is firmly based in utility I still want an esthetic to prevail and at times I want conceptual concerns to also be inherent. It is almost more difficult to work within those restraints of a utilitarian piece because they are just that, restraints. Calligraphic work and textiles influence much of my utilitarian work. Using brushwork with slips and terra sigillata and the use of repetitive marks like a stitching pattern are reflective in much of my strictly utilitarian work.

Purely sculptural work for me still has parameters, so there are sort of rules when I work in that direction. I set those rules based not on an already prescribed vocabulary in the vernacular of the ceramic vessel, such as handle spout, foot, body, belly or neck. However parameters are still set by some prescribe formats that I have mentioned. For instance when I work with the landscape format I set a primarily horizontal restriction. In recent virus landscapes I have not gone to far out of the horizontal mode. In some that are still in the drawing stage I have worked out more vertical focal points. In an installation I am planning, one of the parameters will be the space it will be contained in. I like the word parameters rather then restrictions, it sounds more like a guideline not a set of exacting rules. In my work I do allow quite a bit of intuition and evolution to occur in the making of the piece, the firing of the piece and or reductive work or additive work after the first firing.



Technical Considerations

Presently I am working with porcelain and stoneware clay bodies. I am using a variety of techniques using slips, under glazes, terra sigillata, glazes and atmospheric effects to achieve my surfaces. I am primarily working with high fire temperatures and using some low temp techniques on top of the high fire surfaces and sometimes using sandblasting to achieve a surface. I have also returned to soda firing and wood firing, having just finished building a new wood kiln and finishing up a new soda kiln. The kiln quite often is the means to the end and using certain types of firing such as soda, salt and wood firing adds subtleties to the surface of the forms. I also have a slight problem with addiction to process and wood firing does have a slight hold on me, but I use the glaze and firing technique that best works with what I want the final outcome of the piece to be.

Building techniques are on and off the wheel. I use throwing, altering forms, slump molding, molds and other additive and subtractive techniques.


Old potters never die, they just slip away....

#8 pyroteacher

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 10:03 AM

Clay students know when their high school art teachers are real and when they are faking it. When a student successfully centers a 5" cylinder for the first time to pass the skills test in Intro to Ceramics; when a Ceramics 2 student makes three 5" high and 3" wide cylinders in one class period to pass the skills test; when a student completes their lidded teapot and all the parts fit--- good times, these!!
However, some days...like the day I stabbed my hand with a needle tool intentionally buried in the new clay to hurt someone....the day I found my favorite wood-fired coffee mug buried in a slip bucket (SCREW YOU Ms. Waters!)....the day I looked up at the wall behind the ware shelves and saw clay wads thrown up there, which directly followed on the heels of my talk about the health reasons for avoiding dust....these days weaken the spirit.
Some days I go home from school so exhausted, having completely fallen out of love with clay. On these days, if I can muster the strength to drag myself to my studio and get out the clay, the love and passion for my medium returns and my frustration dissipates.



Old potters never die, they just slip away....




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