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QotW:What is the value of formal education in developing Ceramic skills?

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Yappy, while I agree that those who are poor do not have an equal opportunity for higher education today, I think that not all folks that had the good fortune to earn a degree are bad because of their good fortune.  Rather it is the artists, gallery owners, sometimes collectors who only value the piece of paper and do not accept those who learn their craft through different channels .  This type of condescension reflects on their personal issues and their insecurities and not education.  

I was fortunate to attend college in the mid 70's with scholarships and grants (that would not begin to cover the costs these days).  To please my family, I took art classes but did not major.  My experience was a series of very condescending art teachers that belittled whatever we did.  I was never able to afford to go back to college again....needed to keep the roof over head and eat.   But I still had the fire....even without the degree...worked with textiles.  Never gave up thinking about art as a career.

Fast forward to 2001...I moved to Winston-Salem, NC....they have a community art school, Sawtooth...they teach ceramics.  I was able to take some classes to learn basic techniques, asks questions, pursue some of my own ideas...and ask more questions.  Everyone I worked with was willing to help anyone move along on their artistic journey.  So I would call this art education invaluable.  Informal only if that means no degrees offered but the education is key to my basic understanding of the craft.   Now it is up to me the learn the nuances...find my voice....listen to other potters ...and not worry about the piece of paper.  

 

 

 

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I was rejected at a show because I didn't have a bachelors degree.    It was a local show,  I had gotten my work put on slides just like the instructions in the application.   When I was paying the fee and they were looking over my application.   I was told I shouldn't bother applying I didn't have a degree so I wouldn't be taken very seriously.  I took my $25 and went home.   I attended the show later and found very few local artist included in the show.    Denice

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This is an interesting topic, people on both sides of the debate with very strong points of view. Just a friendly reminder that even though we may agree to disagree we need to avoid being disagreeable. Lets keep the tone civil so the discussion may continue.

Thank you.

 

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My partner is the educated potter at Rasa Clay Works - I am but her assistant, but my background in architecture and cinematography gives me some insight I may be able to share here.

 In todays world, everyone is very empowered. We have social media to receive love as artists, and easy access. We collect likes as meaning. The newbie cinematographers are very excited! But they don't have the knowledge and experience - yet. Enthusiasm is worth so much in the arts - it can propel one to learn at speeds that can bypass MFA's! But what always bothers the oldtimers & the educated is entitlement. One cannot be at the end in the beginning! If the newbie is open to learning, they prime that pump the oldtimer has - and are a joy to share with. If they are competitive and feel they are amazing, well - it breeds contempt.

The part that should always be remembered is one doesn't know what they don't know, and the one with experience can see it as plain as day. If thats not humbling, I don't know what is! So be respectful to all the people who worked hard for their degrees and have devoted their life to their art. Learn from them. Be inspired by them - and appreciative of anything they are willing to offer. 

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On 10/6/2018 at 3:01 PM, yappystudent said:

I have no interest in being whipped into line to serve the machine. Surrendering creativity, free will, self-fulfillment, If that's what you enjoy dig in, there's plenty to go around if you want to waste a ton of cash and years of your life. Luckily, school is no longer necessary and is getting less so over time. I think this is awesome! 

A quote that expresses what I'm trying to say better than I can, from "A Language Older than Words" by Derrick Jensen: Through the process of schooling, each fresh child is attenuated, muted, molded, made- like aluminum -malleable yet durable, and so prepared to compete in society, and ultimately to lead this society where it so obviously is headed. (the entire book is about the collapse of the environment and what we've lost as human beings thanks to societal psychosis) -schooling as it presently exists, like science before it and religion before that is necessary to the continuation of our culture and to the spawning of a new species of human, ever more submissive to authority, every more pliant, prepared, by thirteen years of sitting and receiving, sitting and regurgitating, sitting and waiting for the end, prepared for the rest of their lives to toil, to propagate, to never make waves, and to live each day with never an original thought nor even a shred of hope. 

 

 

I think that what you get out of school is what you put into it. I know several people who came out of the same programs as me with little to show for it, and others who came out ready to take on the world. I found college and grad school to be a place of a million possibilities. It's where I learned to make pots, and where I learned a ton of technical knowledge that set me on the path toward a career in ceramics. In college and grad school I had far more clay and glaze materials available for testing than I could ever have in my private studio. I had kilns of every type available. I had the knowledge of dozens of other students who had come from other programs. There was no surrendering of free will, self-fulfillment, or creativity. In fact I would say there is far more creativity because a college program has far more resources and knowledge available, which allow you to work in directions you wouldn't be able to do on your own, or didn't even know existed. I had teachers that demanded and supported creativity and experimentation. If I didn't show up to the weekly critiques with something creative I was in trouble. In ceramics, and any art, lack of knowledge and technical skill are stifling. The more you know, the greater the possibilities. And all the non-art classes that I took? Those come in very handy too. Calculus, sociology, biology, writing, Spanish, music, economics, etc. They are all helpful to me as a business owner, husband, parent, and teacher. You can't live in an art bubble.

A college program also has a much faster learning curve, because there is a schedule that must be followed in order to get the grade. You either practice and learn the skill, or your grade suffers. An art center program doesn't have that kind of schedule, so the learning curve is much, much slower. Are you really 'wasting tons of cash and years of your life' if you get more skills in half the time? The whole purpose of an MFA program is to create a body of work that can then be produced and sold when you get out of school. I don't see how that is a waste of time or money.

It's not any cheaper to learn to make pots at an art center than at a college. Say you take a class at a local art center or studio and it costs $150 a month (which is a little low in many places), that's $1800 a year if you go all year. In that class, you're going to learn, at most, 1/2 of what you would in a decent college program (if even that). I know this because I teach community classes. When people only come into the studio once or twice a week,  it takes a lot longer to learn the skills, and the resources aren't there to provide a really comprehensive ceramics education. So if you do the math, you'd need to go 2 years, $3600, to get the equivalent education of one year of a college program. Add in the cost of clay, and in many studios also the cost of glazing and firing, and it's even more. And you probably don't get to load and fire the kilns, or mix glazes, or have formal critiques, or have the variety of kilns and raw materials available to you. Full time tuition at UW Whitewater for residents is $7,692. That's for 4 or more classes, so no more than $1923 a year per class.

Yes, there are some college art programs that are very expensive, but you don't have to go to those. I went to  state schools that were quite inexpensive at the time, and got a better education than my friends that went to the expensive schools. But I also worked really hard to make sure I got a good education. It wasn't just handed to me. I took advantage of all that was available to me and made sure I wasn't leaving anything out. I spent 40+ hours per week in the studio from day one, 70 hours a week in grad school. I helped our lab tech with all of his maintenance jobs. I learned how to fire every kiln. I built kilns. I ran thousands of glaze tests. Not all schools are the same, not all schools are good, and not all schools are a good fit for every person. You have to do your research and figure out what's best for you. I'm sorry if you've had a bad experience with formal education, but to say that all college is bad is inaccurate.

 

 

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On 10/9/2018 at 11:16 AM, Denice said:

I was rejected at a show because I didn't have a bachelors degree.    It was a local show,  I had gotten my work put on slides just like the instructions in the application.   When I was paying the fee and they were looking over my application.   I was told I shouldn't bother applying I didn't have a degree so I wouldn't be taken very seriously.  I took my $25 and went home.   I attended the show later and found very few local artist included in the show.    Denice

Sorry to hear of you rejection Denice. There is a lot of bitterness out there over this sort of thing. I once entered three watercolors in a local juried show in the 80's, as I do watercolor. I had all three rejected, some great stuff on my part. Later on I was hanging the student show for the same Arts festival. I had three of the juried show organizers come to see me about hanging my work in the show even after rejection! It seemed the juror rejected anything that had a colored mat on it. My three matted and framed pieces were rejected for colored mats! I told them that I was sorry that they had the problem, but that a rejection was a rejection, and they were invalidating the juror decisions. Others would not be asked to hang, why me. . . just because I was working at hanging the student show! At any rate, lesson learned, and the rep of the juror went down the tube. NO, I did not hang my work.

 

best,

Pres

 

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I avoid juried groups and exhibits and try not to succumb to doing local art shows. It's just not for me. I was exposed to the "art scene" in NYC and VA and there is nothing about the whole milieu that I care for, especially the lifestyle that can come with it in some places, if one gets caught up in that. 

The most valuable learning I got from  my formal education (a state school) in ceramics was being taught the necessity and practice of critical thinking, and vetting for myself any assertions before buying into something, (like the mass mis-perception that Picasso is a great and revolutionary artist-sorry, couldn't resist). The first time I heard an excellent art history presentation on what was beyond the surface in a 15th century painting, where the fly on the pretty piece of fruit was actually a socio-economic commentary on the deterioration of the culture at the time, I realized that art is often about more than "what you see is what you get " or what I like or don't like--that formal education about art--making it, understanding it,  and appreciating it--is important.  

When I learned how to center and throw, I also learned about the great potters throughout the centuries, and clay artists working with non-functional objects.  This was amazing to me, and without the BFA degree program I doubt I'd ever be enlightened about the depth of possibilities for making things of clay and other materials, or the impact of art on the world. That is not to say that probably a high percentage of the learning could be acquired outside of a formal educational process, with free lectures, Youtube videos, decent local studio classes, local guilds etc. , and maybe easier to handle cost-wise , assuming there is a drive to make self-education a priority.  I often say something is not either-or, it is yes-and, and I thin k the viewpoints in this thread fit that perfectly--great discussion! 

3 hours after I wrote the above, this popped up on my FB feed: ""The true purpose of arts education is not necessarily to create more professional dancers or artists. It's to create more complete human beings who are critical thinkers, who have curious minds, who can lead productive lives." -- Kelly Pollock

Edited by LeeU

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On 10/9/2018 at 10:16 AM, Denice said:

I was rejected at a show because I didn't have a bachelors degree.    It was a local show,  I had gotten my work put on slides just like the instructions in the application.   When I was paying the fee and they were looking over my application.   I was told I shouldn't bother applying I didn't have a degree so I wouldn't be taken very seriously.  I took my $25 and went home.   I attended the show later and found very few local artist included in the show.    Denice

Well that's awful. Sounds like some jerks were running that show.

186 hours here. Yeah that's a bit high for an eventual BS. At UT Austin in the 80's I had a good time with the freedom to take anything that I thought sounded interesting. One upper-division class 'Poverty and Politics in the Soviet Union ' stands out as amusing, made an A. Failed a couple of classes though (art history being one) because my world ended when a romance ended and I couldn't be troubled to go to classes for the better part of a term. Hey if you can go to college, go, it's worth the effort and it  will change you in profound ways. If you can't then just jump in and as GEP says put together your own program.  I've said it before, $500 will buy all the used equipment you need to get started in your own studio or join a local studio.

Nature will take its course and pottery will consume you or it won't. With the Internet, local CC and community classes, workshops and forums like this ALL of the information it readily available to go as far as you want. Me, I think hours put in is the biggest deciding factor. Successes and failures add up and solving problems makes you better. Don't pay attention to years, but hours in a condensed time frame. The potter that puts in a 1000 hours in a year is probably advancing faster than one who is putting in the same 1000 hours over three years. A full timer is probably doing 2500-3000 hours a year so they really get in sync with their process and so much becomes effortless and failures drop to a low manageable percentage.      

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Yappy, I do not think you are an upstart. I responded because my observation about who usually raises this topic across the many venues where I have seen it raised is inconsistent with your conjecture that it is elites reassuring themselves of the value of their credentials. I thought sharing my observation, indeed the sharing of different observations and experiences, is exactly what I forum like this is for. Offering an alternative observation is not, I think, disrespectful. No disrespect was intended.

I am sorry your teacher is absent. Unless she had an excellent reason, it is very irresponsible.  The only time I was absent in my many years of teaching was when my father died. And I am sorry that whoever handled the firing in her place mistook your wet vessel for kiln ready.

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When I retired, I had over 350 sick days saved up. We got 10 a year. I could not stand to be out of class as too many things would go wrong. . . .pots drying out, joins not completed well, build up of dirt in the room, lots of make up paper work and other things. It also seemed that coming back you had to work 3 days for one day out putting in more overtime working to correct the problems that a sub not trained in art would create. Best to work through a cold, the flu, or other things. Good thing I never got anything major. Broke my ankle walking into the building on snow covered ice on an inservice day. 6 weeks of non walking cast, 6 weeks of walking cast, and worst of all 6 weeks of therapy. My right foot, so I could not drive had to get a ride to work every day, and proud to say I never missed a day even though my classes were on two different floors. No being out was not an option.

 

best,

Pres

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fwiw, my post to qotw has more t'do with "what is art" (and what is not art) than value of formal education; all good tho', carry on!

Th' topics weave together, surely.

 

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On 10/7/2018 at 1:16 PM, yappystudent said:

This thread is a mutual admiration society of "haves". 

This makes you sound disgruntled, as though you would seek the credentials if you felt or were empowered thus. personally I have no art papers nor have ever been limited due to that. Still, those who committed and have gone that route often have insights worth learning from. Just as those of us who have learned via mentors and self learning also have insights to share. The main concept is to not close off to learning regardless of it avenue. Imo

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that's the rub. There are plenty of people that have things they didn't particularly do much to be able to have it but a degree? Everyone I know that has a degree worked their a$$es off to get it and many have forever student loan payments to pay for at least some of it.  Just don't see how it has anything to do with elitism. Now most people are proud of the accomplishment and all have some college war stories but that's cronyism not elitismB)  

Edited by Stephen

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