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Chris Campbell

The Useful Critique

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Chris Campbell    1,088

In another thread there has been a lot of rancor over issues of 'critiques' of another's work ... who is to judge whether work is good or lacking?

 

Well, we all know there are plenty of people who are more than qualified to give almost any potter a USEFUL critique of their work. Also, there are those who can take the critique as a statement about their WORK and not them, and others who cannot.

 

BUT ... my question lies in whether this can ever be done on a public forum.

 

A good critique is a collaboration. You choose a person you admire or whose work or credentials show they know what they are talking about. You don't choose your fans. I just don't believe it is useful to get one from strangers whose credentials and ability for giving good evaluations of work are totally unknown.

 

A good critique is a gift that you should be thankful for. Letting your work be critiqued honestly leads to good places if you choose people who don’t always agree with you. A good critique is NOT a personal attack, its a comment on the work. Having a flaw pointed out does not mean you did a bad job, it just points out what someone else sees. If you want to learn, you look for what they saw and go from there. A good critique is a collaboration.

 

I choose the people I ask to critique my work because I know they know pottery and will talk about the work ... it has nothing to do with me as a person. "I love it" is totally useless to me. "I like the idea but you need more personal content" is useful. "I know where you were headed but you missed here" is useful.

 

So what do you think? Is there any real value to an online critique whether it is good, bad or whatever?:unsure:

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JBaymore    1,432

I feel that about the first component of any truly effective critique dialog, which is a mentor / mentee relationship, is bi-directional trust. I think such a relatiionship is almost impossible to really develop in the online forum environment. This is exacerbated when "handles" are used instead of full real names.

 

best,

 

..................john

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OffCenter    82

"So what do you think? Is there any real value to an online critique whether it is good, bad or whatever?:unsure:"

 

Sure there is. It would be easy to do on this forum because each person has a gallery section in their profile with an invitation to comment and even rate pots. I think the rating or anything that can be done anonymously should be dropped. For those of us who work alone, a little feedback from other potters would be valuable. I ignore anyone who doesn't post pics in their gallery. For those who do, it is easy for me as a potter to decide if their feedback is worth anything or not. It's no exaggeration when I say I prefer negative feedback from people who make pots that in my not so humble opinion suck.

 

But, I have to come down on the side of those who don't think it would work. First of all, if this forum were a magazine it would be "Pottery Making Illustrated" not "Ceramics Monthly". Most of the people here are more concerned with how high to bisque or how to sell than with esthetics. Others are of the opinion that any comment other than fawning praise is out of line, making this forum seem more like a Tupperware party than a pottery forum. And then there's the openness of this forum which generally a good thing but not good for serious critiques and anonymity which pretty much drives a stake through the heart of online critiquing.

 

Jim

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

good points, Jim. I taught for several decades and critiques are a requirement of the job. It is mandatory to grade students based on their achievements.

Critiques help them improve. I have never brought a student to tears. I have seen this done by other teachers..not in ceramics though.

Clay is very technically challenging and help along the way can help the maker overcome many of these challenges.

Improving forms, directing study towards a vein of interest demonstrated in their work..etc. Critiques are meant to further one's development.

 

People and egos seem to over react to criticism even if it is meant to be helpful and this venue has a multitude of levels of professionalism. Many people are working in school situations or learning in art centers both of which are great venues.

I remember once, a now friend asked a forum to critique her photos of her new work.

I mentioned some crumbs on the backdrop which she had not even noticed. This was meant as helpful and she appreciated it. The crumbs greatly detracted from viewing the very nice piece.

I was the only one to mention this. Everyone else said great pot...blah blah blah...but the criticism was about the photo of the pot and how to make it work.

 

Marcia

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GEP    863

I remember in the early days of this forum, someone posted photos of their work and said "look what I did" and one of the early moderators or administrators responded "please don't do that," explaining that this forum was for information exchange and not for show-and-tell. Am I the only one who remembers that?

 

Mea

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Mark C.    1,805

I feel its just to easy for a critique to go sidewaysonline. There are many factors for this and most have been discussed already.The too many cooks is the one that will unravel it most often.

 

My 2cents

 

Mark

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GEP    863

My thoughts on Chris' question ...

 

I have noticed that I got some nice compliments on my gallery photos, and while I never take a compliment for granted, I also think they have relatively little value compared to the "judges" I need to impress in my real world (juries, customers, gallery buyers, etc). But then again, I did not specifically ask for feedback on this forum, therefore the notes were left spontaneously by people who were inspired to do that. I'm sure there were many others who looked and thought "yuck" but didn't leave a note because didn't feel the need to.

 

On the other hand, I believe there are some on this forum for whom real-world feedback is hard to come by. Because they live in a remote area, or there aren't other potters where they live. And for them, getting feedback from the forum could be, relatively speaking, very valuable. But anyone who wants feedback needs to specifically ask for it, otherwise it probably won't be constructive. And, anyone who asks for feedback should be prepared to hear the good and the bad. When someone is just fishing for praise, then reacting badly when they hear something negative, that is a real downer for the forum.

 

I also think that feedback should be asked for and given by using one's gallery and NOT within the forum. It's much easier to scroll through photos in a gallery, and leave comments that are specifically for one photo. In the forum it's much harder to view an attachment, sometimes they are four times larger than my screen. And the comments are not as well organized.

 

Mea

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Idaho Potter    62

Okay, I should have read all new entries before posting a comment. The one I posted on "IF YOU MAKE A PRODUCT" also fits here. I like critiques--good or bad, but not indifferent. The only thing I'd like to see that would make it a better experience is for people not to take the words personally. For Heaven's sake, there are probably few of us who post here who actually know each other personally, so why whine and call them personal attacks when it's the pottery that's being discussed? If you take comments personally, you need to check your reactions to life in general.

 

A critique given in the forum is as valid to a rejection card in a juried show. Whoever made the comment here on the forum gives you some feedback so that perhaps (if you consider it a valid comment) you can make improvements to your work. A rejection card is just that--a big fat NO. A reason is seldom given, therefore it becomes a blank solid wall, no room for improvement. Different judge/jury, maybe a different outcome. Same here, only the feedback is pretty immediate. I like that.

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Frederik-W    23

While it is true that not all opinions are a critique, your ideas smack of snobbery and elitism.

 

You are saying that a "useful critique" is only by "qualified" people who e.g. "know pottery" and whom "I choose" and who "know what they are talking about".

Other comments are not good or "useful". "I love it" is totally useless to me".

 

Pity on us poor plebs who express our feelings by saying we love someone's pottery. It's not good enough - It is not a critique, and especially not a "useful" one.

Maybe it is better if we shut up, unless we qualify and have been selected to "collaborate" ?.

 

Does the history of art not give you examples where those who were supposed to be in the "know" got it completely wrong ?

 

The most endearing thing anyone can say about my efforts would be "I love it". It comes from the heart.

I don't care who it comes from or what they know about pottery.

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Chris Campbell    1,088

I'm sorry you misunderstood my post ... I was addressing the topic of "critique" ... not feelings or opinions.

 

"I love it" is a feeling. "I don't like it" is a feeling. "This was a waste of clay" is an opinion. You are entitled to have them ... positives are certainly lovely to hear ... but they don't help me grow as an artist.

 

Feelings and opinions should be set aside as much as possible for a valuable critique.

 

Who I ask for critique has nothing to do with snobbery or elitism ... It has to do with wanting an "educated eye" and an honest voice.

 

I reject the notion that all opinions are equal and everyone can give me the input I need to get to the next step. I ask these people knowing I probably won't enjoy the experience but like all medicine, it is good for me.

 

I'm not who you might think I am ... No BFA, no MFA ... Just 25 years of community schools and selected workshops. So elite snobbery is a little out of the range of my CV.

 

But ... I make it a point to ask the best people I know to critique my work .... and it has made a huge difference. I also make a point of letting them know what progress I make even if it is three or four years afterwards. I keep their e-mails and read them again and again until the message finally clicks in.

 

I'm sorry you are judging my post on an emotional level ... Another reason why online critiques in forums and from strangers does not work so well.

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Frederik-W    23

I feel that about the first component of any truly effective critique dialog, which is a mentor / mentee relationship, is bi-directional trust. I think such a relatiionship is almost impossible to really develop in the online forum environment. This is exacerbated when "handles" are used instead of full real names.

 

 

I assume your comments apply to yourself as well:

Then according to your criteria it is "almost impossible" for us to qualify for "truly effective critique dialog" of your work in the gallery,

because we certainly do not match your criteria.

I assume you are in such a mentee/mentor relationship for critique on your own work?

May I ask why do you put your work in the gallery - i.e. what type of comments do you want ?

With such requirements you surely sound prejudiced against critical comments of someones work in the gallery, including your own work.

And I see you have even more requirements, since this is but the first component.

 

I think we do not have to be someone's mentor to criticize their work. It might be effective in some arrangements, but it is certainly not necessary.

Sometimes the exact opposite is needed between the artist and the critic, e.g. distance. Distance can fascilitate objectivity.

No artist is above the critical opinions of the (anonymous) members of the general public.

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Frederik-W    23

I'm sorry you misunderstood my post ... I was addressing the topic of "critique" ... not feelings or opinions.

 

 

For what it's worth, I do like your work, especially your sense of colour. Also the fact that you bring out a social conscience in your work.

That's my opinion or feeling. Sorry, can't think of any criticism at the moment.

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Chris Campbell    1,088

For what it's worth, I do like your work, especially your sense of colour. Also the fact that you bring out a social conscience in your work.

That's my opinion or feeling. Sorry, can't think of any criticism at the moment.

 

 

Actually, that is good to hear. :)

Three years ago both my critiques gave me points for technique and color but were distressed by the lack of content. It was ... "So you can do it really well, now do something with it". I'm getting there.

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JBaymore    1,432

I feel that about the first component of any truly effective critique dialog, which is a mentor / mentee relationship, is bi-directional trust. I think such a relatiionship is almost impossible to really develop in the online forum environment. This is exacerbated when "handles" are used instead of full real names.

 

 

I assume your comments apply to yourself as well:

Then according to your criteria it is "almost impossible" for us to qualify for "truly effective critique dialog" of your work in the gallery,

because we certainly do not match your criteria.

I assume you are in such a mentee/mentor relationship for critique on your own work?

May I ask why do you put your work in the gallery - i.e. what type of comments do you want ?

With such requirements you surely sound prejudiced against critical comments of someones work in the gallery, including your own work.

And I see you have even more requirements, since this is but the first component.

 

I think we do not have to be someone's mentor to criticize their work. It might be effective in some arrangements, but it is certainly not necessary.

Sometimes the exact opposite is needed between the artist and the critic, e.g. distance. Distance can fascilitate objectivity.

No artist is above the critical opinions of the (anonymous) members of the general public.

 

 

Of course it applies to myself as well.

 

Yes, you are correct, I feel the critique value of this kind of location is minimal at best.

 

Yes, I have many people both here in the USA and in Japan whom I view as mentors and as people with whom I have the relationship to help me to develop my work with good productive feedback, whether that be descriptive feedback or prescriptive feedback. "I love it" of course warms the cockles of the heart, and "I hate it" of course can sting a lot. And it is really NICE when people say "I love your work" and I DO appreciate that greatly.... as everyone likely would. But as "constructive critical discourse".... such comments (loves or hates) mean nothing in the development of one's work.

 

I put my work in the gallery to share it visually with whomever wishes to view it. I put it there for marketing reasons. The images are there. The forum is there. It "is". Nothing more .... nothing less.

 

I note here that I totally agree with Chris's statement:

I reject the notion that all opinions are equal and everyone can give me the input I need to get to the next step.

 

She also also pretty nicely sums up the nature of a good critique in her postings.

 

To reiterate....... I said "I feel that about the first component of any truly effective critique dialog, which is a mentor / mentee relationship, is bi-directional trust. I think such a relatiionship is almost impossible to really develop in the online forum environment. This is exacerbated when "handles" are used instead of full real names."

 

Nothing I wrote said anything about being above the critical opinions of the members of the general public....meaning that they should not be allowed to comment. The general public can say/think whatever it wants about anyones efforts at anything. I can then choose what of that feedback is actually useful to me. If you wish to call that "elieitist " or "snobbish".... then I am so labeled as such.

 

My statement was, as an educator, about developing an "effective critique dialog" for really developing someone's work.

 

A core educational standard for developing a truly effective eduational outcome is a trust relationship. Online that is a HARD thing to develop. Not impossible... but close to that.

 

best,

 

......................john

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Idaho Potter    62

Another way that makes online critiques difficult is that we don't get to handle the object in question. We are all looking at the surface of a piece of pottery and we all know that's just the beginning of the basis for commentary. We can see form and finish but not much beyond that. Until we handle the piece--lift it to check out the heftiness, run our fingers over the bottom--we can't possibly give a full critique.

 

I think here on these forums, most of us try to be objective, but our starting points in any discussion differ widely. Have you had a bad day, will that color your comments? Have you been going through a personal crisis that will affect your choice of words? If you want a critique of your work, are you ready for ALL comments? What are you looking for in a critique? How much value are you willing to attach to a critique given here on the forums?

 

Any critiques made on these forums are opinions and/or educated guesses. Take them as they are offered--freely. If they help make you a better potter, great! If they are barbed or more of a comment on you rather than the pottery, ignore them.

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Kohaku    22

On the other hand, I believe there are some on this forum for whom real-world feedback is hard to come by. Because they live in a remote area, or there aren't other potters where they live. And for them, getting feedback from the forum could be, relatively speaking, very valuable. But anyone who wants feedback needs to specifically ask for it, otherwise it probably won't be constructive. And, anyone who asks for feedback should be prepared to hear the good and the bad. When someone is just fishing for praise, then reacting badly when they hear something negative, that is a real downer for the forum.

 

 

Part of the problem may be that criticism- especially of the negative type- is generally leavened by the nuances of face-to-face communication... but this is impossible in an online venue. You have to be pretty thick skinned.

 

Having said this- the preceding paragraph describes my situation pretty closely (living out in bumbleputz Idaho). There are a few potters in my community, but most are working under a very different aesthetic. I'm pretty thirsty for a healthy dose of criticism. I posted a couple of images in another thread (on tall forms) and the candidness of some commentary was very refreshing and helpful.

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Cass    5

hey that could be a good thing! a forum section where you put your stuff in for comment...i think for the most part people would be nice, hopefully sincere.... and if they are not, a mod can spank 'em

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Kohaku    22

hey that could be a good thing! a forum section where you put your stuff in for comment...i think for the most part people would be nice, hopefully sincere.... and if they are not, a mod can spank 'em

 

 

I really like the idea. Personally, I don't see much evidence on this forum of maliciousness... and even the most scathing feedback can be useful if you field it in the right spirit.

 

The one problem I could forsee would relate to volume of posts. If people posted too many images, or materials that were too repetitive, it could crash to a halt pretty fast.

 

Maybe the thing to do would be to create a sticky thread, in which people could link to an image in their gallery, and be specific about what kind of feedback they were looking for? Er... um... maybe this exists already? <does the newbie shuffle and slinks off into the wings>

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Chris Campbell    1,088

hey that could be a good thing! a forum section where you put your stuff in for comment...i think for the most part people would be nice, hopefully sincere.... and if they are not, a mod can spank 'em

 

 

See, there's the catch ... A built in desire for everyone to be nice ... So, what if you think the piece is clunky, badly designed or poorly glazed? Is there any nice way of saying this? Or do the negative opinions need to stay silent in order not to be "spanked". I truly wish there was a way of doing this ....

How about ... If you want to post an image you have to agree not to kill the messenger??

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JBaymore    1,432
See, there's the catch ... A built in desire for everyone to be nice ... So, what if you think the piece is clunky, badly designed or poorly glazed? Is there any nice way of saying this? Or do the negative opinions need to stay silent in order not to be "spanked". I truly wish there was a way of doing this ....

How about ... If you want to post an image you have to agree not to kill the messenger??

 

 

Go Chris!

 

If everyone reads back through the whole thread you can see how this discussion has developed and reached this point. Chris is again making the most salient point about the whole problem with this concept.

 

Sometimes "being nice" MEANS saying that the particular piece is very unsuccessful. Doing it in a way that is as tactful as possible, but saying it nonetheless. To NOT say what should be said is doing them a disservice. It is not being nice to them. It is actually being deceptive.

 

In fact with some people (very infrequently) you have to say it in pretty darn blunt terms sometimes for them to "get it". Subtelty with that kind of person doesn't work well.

 

I (and all other faculty members I know) spend a lot of time building trust with students exactly SO that you can give them input (both reinforcing and more negative) and they will take it in, digest it, and act upon the feedback. How I handle the first critique of the year with a freshman class of intro students is VERY different from how I handle the last critique of the year with that same group. How I handle a critique with the senior ceramics majors whom I've known (and most importantly, who have known ME) for 4 years is VERY different for even that last critique with the intro freshman.

 

Trust and relationship matters.

 

So I am back to the "trust thing" I mentioned above in other posts. To do this in an online environment is very difficult because of the lack of trust building that must go on before a really meaningful critique dialog can exist. The same kinds of issues exist when you submit slides (what are they... I should say "images") for a juried exhibition and you sometimes get the (highly rare) feeback from the juror. It is a "critique" but it is not all that deeply effective.

 

("Who the hell is PotMan743 and what does he know about good claywork anyway.")

 

If you are in an isolated location and looking for good feedback on your work, at the least go take some extended workshops occasionally. Or if you are a Potters Council member (hint , hint), get involved in the mentoring program available to members...... where you can get matched up with an experiened person and can build a long term trust building relationship. THAT would likely be far more useful to you.

 

best,

 

.........................john

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Kohaku    22
If you are in an isolated location and looking for good feedback on your work, at the least go take some extended workshops occasionally. Or if you are a Potters Council member (hint , hint), get involved in the mentoring program available to members...... where you can get matched up with an experiened person and can build a long term trust building relationship. THAT would likely be far more useful to you.

 

best,

 

.........................john

 

 

Option #1 is something I'm looking into.

 

As for the mentoring option... I did sign up... but no match.

 

I do understand your point about trust, though. Personally, I think that online critique could be useful, even if levels of candor and balance were inconsistent... but I've got a pretty thick skin...

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Edith Marie    1
If you are in an isolated location and looking for good feedback on your work, at the least go take some extended workshops occasionally. Or if you are a Potters Council member (hint , hint), get involved in the mentoring program available to members...... where you can get matched up with an experiened person and can build a long term trust building relationship. THAT would likely be far more useful to you.

 

best,

 

.........................john

 

 

Option #1 is something I'm looking into.

 

As for the mentoring option... I did sign up... but no match.

 

I do understand your point about trust, though. Personally, I think that online critique could be useful, even if levels of candor and balance were inconsistent... but I've got a pretty thick skin...

 

 

 

Hello everyone,

My head hurts from reading everyone’s opinion and rebuttals. First I would like to add, the Mentor/Mentee program is an excellent idea, there are Mentees waiting for Mentors, where are all the Mentors? Second, who on this forum is a Mentor, if you aren’t a Mentor, why not? Being a Mentor is a place to critique, encourage, enjoy, and share some of your knowledge with a Mentee. Think about this, once a Mentee now a Mentor, is an excellent outlet for new Mentors, but first advance members should step up to the plate and be a Mentor…..I am also waiting for a Mentor, let’s see it has been six months now…..still waiting…..and lastly, something my mom would say to us girls growing up….â€It is not what you say, it is how you say itâ€.

 

By the way, "Duckie" is my nickname not a "handle"......just saying.....

 

Edie.

 

 

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Idaho Potter    62

I have signed on as a mentor, but haven't been partnered with a mentee, as yet. You mentees--have you been offered a partnership and turned it down for some reason? If you are an advanced member sign on as a mentor so you can share your expertise. If you have an MFA or if your diploma is from the school of Hard Knocks and Many years, you are needed. Share what you know.

 

Most of the time, people want the TRUTH, not a sugar-coated opinion. One of my summer high school mentee produces beautiful looking vessels, but are not suitable for knowledgeable buyers because they are lethal weapons with a rough foot. He doesn't like turning/trimming--considers it a waste of time. His regular school-year teacher and I have both told him that the only way to move forward is to learn all aspects of pottery. His knowledge of glazes is superior to mine (I buy commercial glazes) and his work looks fantastic in photos, but that's not enough to get him to the next level.

 

This is where I think a critique breaks down. Unless work can be handled, no critique can be complete. Enough! I have stated all this before.

 

Suffice it to say that most critiques on these forums are casual and limited. Most are given with a good heart and a willingness to see others succeed. As John says, the basis of critique has to be TRUST. If images are submitted, we all (including Newbies) can respond to shape, glaze finish, perhaps photographic skill (which I sadly lack), and anecdotal incidents from our own history. Beyond that, you need someone on a more personal basis.

 

Shirley

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