Jump to content


Teaching Ceramics to Adults

  • Please log in to reply
46 replies to this topic

#41 PSC


    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 244 posts
  • LocationFlorida

Posted 30 March 2014 - 01:55 PM

Open studio isn't for beginners or even people trying to 'get back into it' after a long hiatus. Open studio should be for practice and perfecting, not teacher led but teacher floats from student to student as needed. Structured class is for learning the basics, new skills, teacher led and directed. There is also lab time which is for practicing the basics where often the teacher is not present, and directed study which is project based with a goal in mind that teacher and student touch base often to help the student achieve the goal.

I have done private lessons but only with those that have taken classes before or have more experience. They actually have been more like mini-directed studies, like can you come over and help me figure out how to make this(and there is a specific form they want to explore).

#42 potterbeth


    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 55 posts
  • LocationWilliamsburg, VA

Posted 02 April 2014 - 01:46 PM

Individual private lessons are tough when you have a student who just doesn't get how much practice is required, so you have to remind them...sometimes constantly...until they understand. Try relating it to your own path in the medium, and see the paragraph below re: beginning wheel. Remember, a student spending 2 hours a WEEK on the wheel will progress more slowly than one spending 2 hours a DAY. Also, different people learn in different ways. Many people respond well when I put my hands on top of theirs to demonstrate proper position or pressure or pace of movement.


I've taught adults (and kids) in arts/rec centers for almost 20 years. Most of the classes are mixed skill, and we have many returning students. Intermediate students are the most likely to slip through the cracks in this setting. So, after basics, I try to gear more demonstrations to them while working with advanced students on a case by case basis. These classes are very different than the university courses I've taught, both in their content and in the nature of the students and their motivation for taking the class.


At the beginning of each session, students introduce themselves including info on their clay experience and goals for the class. Each class "syllabus" revolves around this information, so no two classes are exactly the same. I know this sounds like idiocy, but it keeps things interesting!


For both throwing and handbuilding, we discuss the properties of clay and how to exploit those properties through handling, construction, finishing, and attention to detail while considering how that all comes together to inform and support the artist's personal aesthetic.


For beginning wheel students: I ask them how long it has been since they've learned something that requires development of muscle memory, then to consider how long it took them to become proficient at such an activity (typing, playing a musical instrument, riding a bike, playing golf/tennis, etc.). I like to use the analogy of playing a piano: you're dealing with a new medium (musical notes/clay) and a new tool (piano/wheel) while you're training your muscles to create the desired end product (beautiful music/beautiful pot). Even though we can hear the music/see the pot we want, it takes practice to achieve the desired result, and we do not all advance at the same pace. Then, we discuss realistic goals.



#43 sbwertz



  • Members
  • Pip
  • 2 posts

Posted 03 May 2017 - 10:03 PM

My name is Sharon Wertz and I work as a volunteer at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Phoenix, Arizona.  We have a very active ceramics program at the center, but this year we lost our very talented instructor and friend to a brain tumor. 


We have volunteers who can do most of the work in the ceramics, but no one who can do a pour.  I am looking for someone in the Phoenix area who would be willing to come over and teach our volunteers to do a pour.  We have hundreds of molds, and we know how to fire them, but no one really knows how to do a pour.  We have two large kilns.  I am not a ceramics person....I teach wood turning, but I am sighted and can use the computer so I volunteered to see if I could find someone to help us.


Any help would be appreciated.  We can't afford to buy greenware....we are totally supported by donations, so we really need to have someone teach us this necessary skill


Thank you in advance for your help


Sharon Wertz, ACBVI, Phoenix.

#44 Chilly


    those who know, teach

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 983 posts
  • LocationLangdon Hills, Essex, UK

Posted 05 May 2017 - 08:38 PM


Any help would be appreciated.  We can't afford to buy greenware....we are totally supported by donations, so we really need to have someone teach us this necessary skill


Thank you in advance for your help


Sharon Wertz, ACBVI, Phoenix.


Hi Sharon, welcome to CAD forums, and good on you for volunteering.


I'm too far to away come and help, but slip-casting (pouring) is (to me) the easiest job in the studio.


Like everything though, you will need to test, test, test and make good notes.


  • Start with a two-piece mould.  Apply mould straps so mould cannot openup.
  • Using a soft brush, make sure there is nothing inside, no dust, old clay, spiders nests........
  • Stir your bucket of slip thoroughly for several minutes.  If it's been hanging around for a while you might want to sieve it.
  • Using a plastic jug with an open-bottomed handle scoop up some slip.
  • Pour the slip into the mould until it is full to the very top.
  • Hang the jug on the rim of the bucket, so it drips back into the bucket.
  • Set a minute-timer for 10 minutes.  I use 10 for earthenware, 20 for stoneware slip, but this differs depending on heat and humidity.
  • Meanwhile, find a pair of flat sticks or an old fridge shelf and place over top of bucket, to hold upturned mould.
  • When timer goes off, use a plastic tool to cut a small v-shape (10mm by 10mm max) from the setting slip in the pour hole so you can see the thickness of the cast.
  • Re-set timer for more if needed.
  • Pour slip from mould back into bucket.
  • Leave mould upturned on sticks until slip stops running out.
  • Leave upside down, or right way up for several hours (again this depends on humidity), until you can see the clay start to shrink away from the mould.
  • Use thin end of plastic tool (lucy tool - http://www.cromartie...85_800x479.jp)  to remove clay from the pour hole.  This action is a bit like scraping round a bowl with a spatula to remove all the cake mix.
  • Undo mould straps. Place mould on side with seam horizontal.  
  • Use thick end of plastic (lucy) tool to gently prise the two halves of mould apart, then lift top half of mould away from bottom half.
  • Allow to dry a bit more, then carefully remove "pot" from mould.
  • Put the mould back together, with mould straps and leave in a dry, airy place for <>24 hours before re-using (depending on, yes, you've guessed, the humidity.
  • Place pot on thick piece of foam and fettle (clean up the seams etc) when leatherhard.

Wash, rinse, spin, repeat


The really difficult bits are deciding how long to leave the slip in the mould, and knowing when to open the mould, and the physical size and weight of some of the moulds.


Not enough/too much time = too thin or too thick castings.  Opening the mould too soon usually results in tearing the pot apart as it is still sticking to parts of the mould.  Leaving too long for a simple vase, say, might not be a problem, but for a complex figurine, the shrinkage can pull the pot apart.


You can allow any boo-boos to dry completely and then throw them back in the slip bucket, or start a new bucket and add water.


You can add (I recall) up to one third recycled, dry slip to a bucket of new slip without too much problem.  More than that and you need to read this article: http://www.ceramicin...ul-slip-castingand then this one: https://static1.squa... Procedures.pdf.  It's a bit heavy going, but doable.



Good luck   :)  




#45 sbwertz



  • Members
  • Pip
  • 2 posts

Posted 06 May 2017 - 12:58 PM

It is my understanding that they have a slip pump of some sort.  I will take some pictures on Tuesday and maybe someone can identify the equipment we have.


In Phoenix, humidity is not much of an issue...about 7 percent most of the time!  Even during the monsoon, the AC drys the air.  I will send this URL to Lonnie, who is much more knowledgeable about the ceramics than I am.  Hopefully we can find someone local who can come over and walk us through the process.  Our "second in command" volunteer had to go out of town for a family emergency, and won't be back for several months, so we are pretty much dead in the water right at the moment.  Maybe they can do some hand pours with your instructions.  Our current volunteers have never even seen a pour done. 


Can you possibly send a URL for a good online video?  I found one, but their molds are very different from ours...they were one piece.  Ours are all two piece, I think.  This program has been going for almost 30 years.  They have lots of equipment that has been donated over the years, but just no one right now that knows how to use it.  Lonnie knows how to fire items in the kiln after they are painted and glazed.  But we have always made our own greenware, and don't have funds to buy greenware.  (I hope I am using the correct terms here!  I am a complete ceramics novice.  Our woodturning project was in a corner of the ceramics room for a year so I picked up a bit of knowledge from osmosis!)


Thank you so much for responding.  Like I said, I am going to turn this over to Lonnie and he will be much more knowledgeable. 



#46 tbaa



  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 29 posts

Posted 05 August 2017 - 10:53 AM

The July/August 2012 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated includes an Instructors File article by Claire O'Connor on classroom strategies that work when teaching ceramics to adult students (post college). We want to extend the conversation beyond the magazine, so, if you're a teacher who works with adults, or you're an adult who is taking ceramics classes, please share your ideas on what has worked best for you when teaching/ learning about techniques, aesthetics, and how to convey your ideas in clay by posting them in this thread.

I came here looking for possible instructors, but this is just to share my thoughts on why I think teaching skills are important.  Good instruction takes away a lot of the uncertainty when you're learning.  Many clay/pottery classes are very 'try your hand at throwing' ..... you'll get the hang of it. Easier said than done.   Four years ago I committed to pottery and set up a studio at home.  the clay was the first challenge.  My experience with an instructor a few years ago, made a huge difference to my centering and throwing skills.  Marc Mancuso, who I took some one on one classes with in Boston, was extremely helpful in explaining what needs to done to that lump of clay, where to apply pressure etc.  I dont wrestle with the clay anymore. Then I got a lot of input about clay bodies etc here on CAD.  Also very carefully considered and well articulated.  Clay body issues resolved.

 My experience with a glazing workshop in India was dismal.  I learned nothing - not about materials, not about how some of these interact, and nothing about firing. Marc was great with glazes as well, but the materials and conditions and fuel are all different here. I have books, I've been on line and gotten a lot of advice. From some very experienced people.  All helpful, but the materials and conditions remained a problem.  I finally found a ceramicist who is knowledgeable about the materials and their chemistry, and helped me develop my first base glazes. Explained some of the nuances of firing, and helped me test a batch of glazes.  I have learnt a lot, and though I have yet to fire these new glazes, I am prepared to do it with more confidence.  The biggest problem turned out to be one of the feldspars - 

I recently tried to set up a small course for beginner potters at my home in the Himalayas, and had to call it off.  The instructor I found is a very talented ceramicist, but unorganized, and without any "lesson plan".  I know pottery cant be a rigidly timed or instructed class, but yes, strong teaching skills are a good thing!   

#47 Phwriter11



  • Members
  • Pip
  • 1 posts

Posted 10 August 2017 - 04:49 AM

Very informative topic about Teaching Ceramics to Adults. Soon I will be 50, and I think it is time to learn a new hobby. Ceramic Arts Daily community has a great forum of learning from experienced artists, art  educators and enthusiasts. I'm looking forward to learn more.

2 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 2 guests, 0 anonymous users