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Art School, Real life experiece, College?


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#1 J M

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 07:32 AM

Hello,

I am 40 yrs. of age, sold my L.A. home, left a prosperous career, moved back to the midwest and fell in love with clay. I am currently in my third semester of ceramics (at a community college) and have found a new passion in life.

I have applied to Kansas City Art Institute and am awaiting a response. I would like to learn as much as I can and gain a better understanding of pottery forms and function.

I have the time and money to dedicate myself to this passion. For the past ten months my full time job is basically working with clay in the ceramic studio.

I am just trying to figure out what direction people take. If I get accepted to KCAI I would probably go in there as a sophmore and it costs $30,000 a year (sure I will get some scholarships, but still expensive), I will come out of there with a great education and a piece of paper that would allow me to attempt to pursue teaching positions. I am told how great KCAI is (I know people who have graduated from there and are currently attending also), but is an education worth $90.000. I already have two B.A.s and I would answer No to that question. But hey, if it is the best place, so be it.

Can one with a limited ceramic background, who has two B.A.s in the arts go right into a decent MFA program? Would I want to? Or do I really want to get the B.F.A. in order to get into a better M.F.A. program?

Ok. So going the above routes, #1 would give me more experience and knowledge of clay. I would also have a piece of paper that would let me teach (is teaching my end goal? Not necessarily, but it could always be an option).

Are there other options? Can someone newer to ceramics, but who has the time to devote, the willingness to learn, knowledge in other fields (cinematagraphy, radio/televison, photography) be of use to a potter and get an education through some type of internship program? Unpaid of course. I have met a couple of potters who are great at what they do but don't have a clue as how to market themselves on the internet, shoot videos, make DVDs, properly photograph their work... so though my knowledge is less on the ceramics end, it is vast on other ends.

I can easily afford to by equipment and make my own studio, but then I do not have any interaction with others to learn from.

My end goal is to become more educated in clay and learn to become a decent potter. Whether have a degree to teach is not the end game, it just opens another door(though it may be a tough one to get into).

Any help is appreciated.

Thanks.

#2 Chris Campbell

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:02 PM

You are in the fortunate position of having time, money and good health ... so that part is excellent.
You have a set of abilities that could be very valuable to an experienced potter ... Marketing & Photography.
Sounds like a situation made for barter!

Do you want to spend three years in school or three years in a working pottery learning everything about making pots?
I have seen adult potters go back to school for the MFA and end up no better or further ahead at the end of it and no teaching jobs available.

What type of pottery interests you? What potter would you love to work for? There are excellent potters who regularly take on apprentices. There are workshop type schools that take on apprentices for months or a year. If you have the time and the funds head out to Seattle for NCECA next week ... You will be able to talk to 50 or so reps from these schools and you might find an answer talking to some of the thousands of potters who will be there. If you do, stop by the Potters Council booth and say Hi!

Chris Campbell
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#3 Mark C.

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:15 PM

As a Functional full time potter I'm not sure I have any answers .
I do suggest that teaching jobs no matter what paper you have are few and far between. (MFA or any other papers). Go the teacher route only if teaching is in your heart
That said if learning pottery making is what you need at heart I'd go the route of apprentice/ceramics school etc.

For me a late start in life would be plan B.
The other thing is what do you want to be on the other side of all this -one who can make a few nice pots but work for $ doing something else or are you considering a life of selling pots?
The latter is very hard.
Mark
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#4 phill

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:29 PM

Don't go to grad school. Get an apprenticeship. You learn everything you need to know, everything you want to know, and no fluff.

#5 Stephen Robison

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 01:39 PM

Some of these comments I feel are great. To say grad school is fluff is coming from a misunderstanding of what grad school is or can be to the individual. You need to decide what your want. No one can say what the best route is. I feel an apprentice position is fantastic for your growth but often teaches you what that individual has to offer in his or her own business model and sometimes restricted to their esthetic. So to say it is everything YOU need to know or want to know is far off from the truth. The truth that you are an individual and I am not sure if you would dig making someone else's pots for a few years. I did it and I found it greatly rewarding, but the knowledge is nothing compared to what I gained in grad school.

Another direction is to look at the top people out there who are teaching at places like, Arrowmont, Penland, Appalachian Center for Crafts, Haystack, Anderson Ranch, The Bray..... and if you have the money take a bunch of workshops directed towards what you feel would benefit your direction. It could be like instensive study courses dirrected at specific techniques and esthetics that turn you on.

Dependent on the direction and strength of your portfolio Grad School can be an option without having gone through a BFA program. Tons of people have been very very successful going that route. Charity Davis is one such success story, if you do not know her work look her up. Charity received her undergraduate degree in Library Science I believe and then received her MFA in ceramics. When I was at the University of Iowa receiving my MFA I had several colleagues that did not have their undergraduate degree in art.

So do you need to get your BFA? No. Would it benefit you? Yes!

You have quite the luxury of being able to make this decision with a mature head. The main thing is to be realistic about your outcomes. Which ever direction you go, do remember the potters life is certainly a frugal one. I have many friends out there who make a nice living as potters. It can be done. It is physically demanding and at the same time physically rewarding. It is tough work out in the garden but the rewards of your fruit are very nourishing to both you and the world you share them with. Good luck!
STEPHEN ROBISON
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA

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

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#6 JBaymore

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 02:33 PM

Vey well said, Stephen.

best,

..................john
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#7 phill

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 06:22 PM

Some of these comments I feel are great. To say grad school is fluff is coming from a misunderstanding of what grad school is or can be to the individual. You need to decide what your want.


yes i agree. grad school isn't fluff. but if you are not wanting to learn other things like art history, then those parts are fluff. thanks for clarifying. i agree.

#8 TJR

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 07:07 PM

J.M.
You have some great opportunities, but also some tough decisions to make. I did it all. I went to art school. I apprenticed at two potteries in Great Britain, I worked as a ceramic technician, and I have an M.F.A. from Alfred. Kansas city is a great school, and I know a lot of great teachers who went there. Doug Casebeer, who runs Anderson Ranch went to Kansas city and Alfred.When I graduated from Alfred, I applied to 117 art schools for a teaching job. I was 27 when I graduated. I did not even get a sniff. Graduate school is not a walk in the park. I learned a lot, but they did not just hand me a degree. I had to work for it.I am a thrower, and I make functional pots. I learned to throw from apprenticing.
Apprentice=skill in acquiring the skills you want
Grad school =aesthetics, art criticism,not necessarily a line to a job.
I saw the writing on the wall. I chose not to be a full time potter, and I liked to teach. I have been teaching high school art for 26 years.I am 58. I have a fabulous studio with heat in the floor[hydronic]. I make pots all the time. I make what I want to, and sell everything I make.
You have to decide what suits your personality. You can also change your mind.I have no regrets about my choices.
TJR.

#9 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:33 AM

I agree that grad school is not a line to a job. There are many ways to learn ceramics and at your age you may have less tolerance for the contemporary school environment. Kansas City Art Inst. is a great place as are some other pure art schools. I got my training at the Phila. University of the Arts with Bill Daley. It was one of 6 sister Professional Art schools: Phila.College of Art, Maryland Art Institute, KCAI, Californiia School of Arts and Crafts, Pratt, and Chicago I believe. I am finishing a year of academic teaching  after a break of 6 years after a one year sabbatical replacement job and after retiring from 25 years of university teaching in 2000 and I will never teach in academics again. I have found the classroom to have changed to kids working with headsets on (try talking to them) , constant texting in lecture classes and lack of responsibility to even show up on time with them missing demos and slide shows (digital). I prefer teaching workshops to interested people. So be careful where you plan to go. As a student you can reap a tremendous amount and with your maturity, I am sure you understand the value of the educational opportunity. As George Bernard Shaw said and I paraphrase " too bad youth is wasted on the young". I see young students really throwing away their chance at learning from classes they have paid for. It is a huge waste. It is a pity really. So good luck with your new endeavor. I think workshops at places like Penland, Appalachia Center for Crafts, or even overseas like Simon Leach in Spain or La Meridiana in Italy, might really offer a wider variety than a degree program. just a thought.

Marcia

#10 teardrop

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:58 AM

I hear ya about "youth" and texting/distractions/etc....sorta....

but don't get too lofty. Things are changing. You can "attend" a seminar (pick up skills/techniques) by many of the famous potters without leaving home via youtube and other technological breakthroughs that just weren't available when 'we' olders were in school/class. No..you don't rub elbows or shake their hand...nor can you name-drop that you were in their midst (and yes..their brilliance rubbed off, can't you see that?) but the instruction/intent is still there....often in a more fluid form because the offering lacks interruption via questions/etc. and delves entirely with the subject matter at hand.

My late son taught himself to blow glass via youtube vids. It was amazing. Gave me a whole new perspective on how things work >now< vs. >the old days< and how....while we don't get all of the 'technology"....the "kids" do....and just because we don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't viable.

After losing one who was smarter than I am....in a >>>much<<< shorter timespan.... I don't knock "youth".....I celebrate it....texting and all.

teardrop



Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Dr. Seuss US author & illustrator (1904 - 1991)

#11 GEP

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 09:11 AM

JM,

My path through clay has not involved any college classes, but I still think I got an excellent and well-rounded education. While working full-time in another career, I used a community center for a studio while taking myself to workshops whenever possible. The benefits to this approach were that I pursued the specific areas of interest that I wanted, rather than someone else's curriculum. And I'm pretty sure I spent a small fraction of the money. Then again, I am a very independent-minded person, and self-motivated, and I had an education and long career as a graphic designer, therefore I had a firm grasp of my aesthetic values. I'm not sure this program would work for someone who needs more structure or direction.

I think two things are really important for learning, and these things are independent of whether you go to college, take workshops, become an apprentice, whatever. First, find a good teacher or teachers. If I had to do it all again, I would spend less time, especially early on, trying to figure things out myself. Just groping in the dark. Good teachers can turn the light on. Second, make sure your program includes lots of time with yourself PRACTICING. No substitute for repetition and practice.

I'm afraid I agree with Marcia about undergraduate students. I've taught college design classes to both undergrads and adults. Working with adults is so much better, in terms of the learning environment. I don't want to judge the kids too hard, I was that age once, but they seemed more concerned with their social lives and with fashion. It wasn't that bad, but still, if you are 40 years old, you will find it annoying. I would seek out classes where your classmates are adults too.

Good luck!

Mea
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#12 Stephen Robison

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 10:15 AM

If a student in my class has ear buds in I ask them to leave and they are marked absent. Since I tell them I will do this no one wears ear buds. If their cell phone rings or if they are text messaging they also will be marked absent. After 6 absent marks they are withdrawn from my class. If they have everything spelled out and the rules are clear cut the class room is still a great environment of peer learning, group discussions and leadership and direction from me involving everything from content building, technique demonstrations, history and contemporary issues relevant to art and ceramics and of course fun. Lets not forget that when students are really turned on to this media it is a crap load of fun. The hard work that builds their work ethic and character at the same time is what will keep me in the class room until I am at least 70! The new challenges in each new generation also give rise to excitement and inspiration in my own endeavors. The positive side of this and I would say the soon to come generations of students is they have more and more tools like technology that help them do better and better work that my generation did. Look at the growth of in our field and the ease of obtaining knowledge from you tube and other web based tools. It is a very exciting and yes again challenging time to be involved in clay and to be in academia. My professors taught in the glory days. No one had to worry about student outcome assessment, grading rubrics, peers visiting their class room to assess their teaching, economic viability of their program, and all kinds of other crap that is part of the now. Some of this is certainly a pain in the ass but understanding the outcomes on an analytical mode is sometimes helpful. Tools in student assessment such as minute papers are invaluable for my understanding and confidence that they are receiving the information I believe they are receiving. After a demonstration I can give my students 5 minutes to write down the 4 or 8 major points of that demo or lecture. If more than half the class got it then I am doing my job. If two got half of the main points, then I better reinforce the other half in a short reiteration of the demo or lecture. Simple new tools like this make it better for students and the work you get them to make. Rubrics are great for students outcome and understanding of their assignment before they even get their hands in the clay. When they know one of the parameters they will be graded on is to get the dam canvas texture off the piece and concentrate on the finished quality of their edges and bottoms, they then focus on those details. So I digress,,, Students certainly have changed and some of it is for the worse and some is for the better, but all in all teaching is changing too. You can't just come in like so many of the greatest professors use to do and have them mix clay and then just do demonstrations and expect much out of them. As a professor today you need to use blogs, hyper links to major museums and image libraries and you tubes in your syllabi, along with all our old traditional teaching techniques like formal lectures, demonstrations and certainly personal attention and hands on learning. One thing I still believe is that the student who is going to do it has the drive to do it but I have also seen that I can instill that drive and excitement in them. Ceramics is the best dam material that anyone can dream of working with and what is being and has been created with it is inspiring to anyone. Exposing them to it is the key. Sergei Isupov, Bob Brady, Viola Frey, Patti Warashina, Doug Jeck, Joeseph Seigenthaler and Jomon Figures, Anasazi Bowls and Warren and Leach and Hamada's, Ron Myers, Linda Arbuckle, Chuck Hindes, MAckenzie Smith's bowls, Marilyn Levine, Sylvia Hyman, Richard Shaw, AHHHHHH Leon, Dick Notkin and Yixing teapots. The list of excitement would fill pages and pages... So lets drink a toast to the greats and the soon to be greats. Toshiko will be missed, Viola will be missed, Ruth will be missed, Pope will be missed, Pete will be missed, Paul will be missed, Malcolm will be missed.. and so many others I had the honor to meet. But look what they gave us and left behind. Sorry for the tangent but it connects. Art history is not fluff, there is no fluff in an undergrad or a grad degree. I believe in a liberal arts education. History for instance informs our present and future, the foundations like drawing and 2d and 3d design are just that, "foundations". Building a solid building needs a solid foundation. Spoken like a true academic, yes that is true.
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/
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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

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#13 AmeriSwede

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:07 PM

......History for instance informs our present and future, the foundations like drawing and 2d and 3d design are just that, "foundations". Building a solid building needs a solid foundation. Spoken like a true academic, yes that is true.


WOW, Stephen, wish you'd been among my list of instructors decades back.!


All you said speaks to me with the manner in which I found my educational process so rewarding and enriching. With that attitude, I wish many more successful years in your teaching career.... not directly for you (as I feel you will maintain the enjoyment) but more so for the myriad of students yet to be influenced.Posted Image


------Rick



Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it. (Fernand Leger
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#14 GEP

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 05:41 PM

Stephen, I feel the need to expand on what I said. I don't want to undermine the value of a college curriculum for an undergrad. When I studied design as an undergrad, I learned all of those important fundamentals ... 2d and 3d design, drawing, art history, etc. This is why I didn't need them later when I was pursuing my interest in clay.

The person who wrote the original question is 40, and has already had a creative career. I'm guessing this person is well-versed in the fundamentals too. I'm hoping that sharing my experiences will be useful to someone in that situation, since it sounds a lot like mine.

As for my experiences with teaching undergrads, maybe I portrayed them too harshly. They worked hard and some of them were really bright. But working with adults is much different, I found I could teach things on a different level to adults, because their perspective and attitudes were so much more mature. I think a 40 year old would prefer to learn with other adults.

So, JM, what do you think of all the advice you've gotten?

Mea
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#15 Stephen Robison

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:31 PM

Stephen, I feel the need to expand on what I said. I don't want to undermine the value of a college curriculum for an undergrad. When I studied design as an undergrad, I learned all of those important fundamentals ... 2d and 3d design, drawing, art history, etc. This is why I didn't need them later when I was pursuing my interest in clay.

The person who wrote the original question is 40, and has already had a creative career. I'm guessing this person is well-versed in the fundamentals too. I'm hoping that sharing my experiences will be useful to someone in that situation, since it sounds a lot like mine.

As for my experiences with teaching undergrads, maybe I portrayed them too harshly. They worked hard and some of them were really bright. But working with adults is much different, I found I could teach things on a different level to adults, because their perspective and attitudes were so much more mature. I think a 40 year old would prefer to learn with other adults.

So, JM, what do you think of all the advice you've gotten?

Mea


I love the non alternative students for the main reason that they really really are thirsty for knowledge. I have two right now that have taken classes aloing side the traditional age students for two years now and they really up the ante. Hear what your saying. These two gals enjoy the kids! I did have a guy a while back that was an older student who just came in and wanted to tell all the students and myself what he knew about clay and the world. Oh yes and he knew everything!!! Needless to say I did not sign his slip the next time he asked to join my class. Sorry sir we are full! But seriously I do hear what your saying and it is a bit trying on the nerves at times. The idea that they can't go out a buy a few nice brushes or some tool for class but they have no problem drinking that same amount of cash every Friday! Oh in my day!!! I did the same sort of crap I am sure. I had a walkman. But no cell phones or computers for that matter!
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/

#16 neilestrick

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:50 AM

I've always thought of undergrad and grad school as two very different beings. In undergrad you try a million different things with the clay, every type of firing you can think of, etc. You're all over the place, just gathering information and skill. In grad school you focus down to a very specific idea, aesthetic and technique to produce a body of work that you hopefully then start producing and selling after graduation. To say that either is fluff or unnecessary is wrong in my opinion. If OP already has the undergrad foundations, then by all mean try for grad school. But if the skills aren't there yet, then it will be necessary to spend some time building the skills to create a portfolio that will get you into grad school.

In my opinion, the benefit of the school system over the apprentice route is that the school system will typically give you access to more materials, equipment, techniques and people than being an apprentice. The apprentice route is nice in that you don't have to deal with other classes, like art history and such. However, those classes can definitely be an asset to your ceramics education. Is an education in ceramics worth $30,000 a year. Heck no! Unless you've got the money laying around and don't need it for anything else. There are a ton of state schools with excellent programs that cost far less.
Neil Estrick
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