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Chris Campbell

The Useful Critique

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yedrow    8

I would love to have my work critiqued, I've never had that done beyond people choosing to or to not buy a piece. That being said, I'm kind of dubious as to how this would actually happen in a forum setting, based on past experience in forums.

 

A real critique would mean real work, at least some real work. Most forum activity is leisurely in my experience. It is also easy to poison the well. Some people have observations, and some have opinions, they aren't the same thing. And, there are different focuses like pottery or sculpture and different aesthetics/styles that don't necessarily cross over or interpret into another style well. Compound that with the fact that art is emergent and may not be scrutable in one instant as the thing it will become in a few years. What if you, the mentor, tell someone to not do a thing that will "make" their work years later? How invested are people in online forums in the success of people they will never meet?

 

There are points to be made about any given person's work. To be of any value they would have to be specific. For instance, a simple jar can have nice lines, or a good ratio of height to width, or appropriate surface, and such. But you can't really get far off the trail without getting stuck in quicksand. For instance, a great bit of advice for people wanting to sell pots is to make them bigger, brighter, and wider (can't make it right make it big, can't make it big make it red/blue). But artistically that is a dead end and I suspect commercially it is ultimately a dead end too. So, do you tell someone to starve for ten to twenty years and then make good stuff? Or, do you tell them to fast-track themselves into a dead end set of difficult to break habits? Maybe the person really only wants to know how to make a mug that sells. How then can you tell if a critique has value from person to person?

 

There is certainly value in a good critique. But it isn't like a good weld. One person may make a good critique and then make a bad critique using the same standards. Multiple critiques would probably be helpful since they could be averaged out. I think a 'practice' jury or something to that effect with volunteer judges that convien when there are at least a dozen or so might work. Perhaps any given forum member might submit one piece of work a month and other forum members could critique it. I was once a member of a writing group where you earned the privilege of viewing your reviews by reviewing other people's work. Perhaps something like that could be instituted. If I had thirty reviews I could take the top five and the bottom five, discard them, and get some meaningful input from the middle.

 

Joel Fink, senior craftsman, Silver Dollar City.

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OffCenter    82

I would love to have my work critiqued, I've never had that done beyond people choosing to or to not buy a piece. That being said, I'm kind of dubious as to how this would actually happen in a forum setting, based on past experience in forums.

 

A real critique would mean real work, at least some real work. Most forum activity is leisurely in my experience. It is also easy to poison the well. Some people have observations, and some have opinions, they aren't the same thing. And, there are different focuses like pottery or sculpture and different aesthetics/styles that don't necessarily cross over or interpret into another style well. Compound that with the fact that art is emergent and may not be scrutable in one instant as the thing it will become in a few years. What if you, the mentor, tell someone to not do a thing that will "make" their work years later? How invested are people in online forums in the success of people they will never meet?

 

There are points to be made about any given person's work. To be of any value they would have to be specific. For instance, a simple jar can have nice lines, or a good ratio of height to width, or appropriate surface, and such. But you can't really get far off the trail without getting stuck in quicksand. For instance, a great bit of advice for people wanting to sell pots is to make them bigger, brighter, and wider (can't make it right make it big, can't make it big make it red/blue). But artistically that is a dead end and I suspect commercially it is ultimately a dead end too. So, do you tell someone to starve for ten to twenty years and then make good stuff? Or, do you tell them to fast-track themselves into a dead end set of difficult to break habits? Maybe the person really only wants to know how to make a mug that sells. How then can you tell if a critique has value from person to person?

 

There is certainly value in a good critique. But it isn't like a good weld. One person may make a good critique and then make a bad critique using the same standards. Multiple critiques would probably be helpful since they could be averaged out. I think a 'practice' jury or something to that effect with volunteer judges that convien when there are at least a dozen or so might work. Perhaps any given forum member might submit one piece of work a month and other forum members could critique it. I was once a member of a writing group where you earned the privilege of viewing your reviews by reviewing other people's work. Perhaps something like that could be instituted. If I had thirty reviews I could take the top five and the bottom five, discard them, and get some meaningful input from the middle.

 

Joel Fink, senior craftsman, Silver Dollar City.

 

 

I don't think this is a good place for in-depth critiques like the back in forth that takes place at a university. Instead, if people posted pics of their pots on their profile page and people interested in critiques took the time to check out those pics and offered comments (light critiques), that would probably work. Also, this way you know how much weight to put on a comment. For example, if someone makes critical comments then you check out their profile gallery and they don't have anything there or it is god-awful crap, then you know to ignore their comments or maybe even be relieved that they don't like your stuff. On the other hand if you're impressed, you should pay attention to what they say and tell them what you think of their pots. And, if you don't like the idea of criticizing someone's work, you could just not comment on work that you don't like but let someone who's work you do like know it.

 

Jim

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Chris Campbell    1,088

Well, here's an idea ... we could open a topic titled "Critiques offered". Anyone who was willing to critique someone else's work would post an image of their own work so the person who wanted a critique could choose the person whose work resembled the goal they are aiming for. They could send them a personal message via the forum with the image they wanted judged. This way there would be some element of willingness to judge and willingness to hear. Granted we could not hold the piece or try to use it or worry about judging something from a bad photo ... but the two way willingness might lead to success.

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yedrow    8

I like Chris' idea (and work). I think it might also be a good idea to separate art from production. I think the idea should be as it was in the writer's group; to improve the chances of success of the artist. We have several experienced artists and academics as well as several successful on-the-ground production people. Critiques geared to getting the ceramicist gainfully employed are likely the only ones that will matter in the long run. How can we improve the success of our members? What common tricks-of-the-trade can be provided in a critique format to help new ceramicists (and old ones) to understand what is expected of them by their viewing audience.

 

Joel.

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Kohaku    22

^^ I agree. I'm too much of a newb to want to launch a topic like this... but I will actively participate if it gets activated.

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JBaymore    1,432

To throw a critiquing thought out.......

 

In my class critique sessions (the goal is to get STUDENTS talking in a productive manner) the phrase "I like" (or the usual variations like ... I love), is banished from being said.

 

Effective critiquing is not supposed to be about what personally one likes or dislikes.

 

best,

 

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

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Cass    5

...and by the same token, comments can't be taken too personally...this is a stumbling block for many.

 

your work is not you...interestingly, people sometimes get the most upset when told something they had already thought themselves, but were hoping no one would notice

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Pres    896

...and by the same token, comments can't be taken too personally...this is a stumbling block for many.

 

your work is not you...interestingly, people sometimes get the most upset when told something they had already thought themselves, but were hoping no one would notice

 

 

All too often a good critique is not something that just happens. People learn to give and accept. When I first started taking classes in college, I had never had anyone else comment on any of my work other than isn't that pretty or nice etc. My first critiques of drawings and painting were needless to say-devastating. However, it was in an environment where everyone but the prof was getting hit. At the end of the first semester not such a big deal. When I started critiquing student work, I remembered how I felt that first year. Tough, and yet I realized that I had had lots of critique training by being involved in the college critiques, so doing it for the high school kids went the same way. In the end they too came to understand the importance and yet the impersonal piece of work vs person. When dealing with online posts I believe that the same atmosphere does not exist, and that when pertaining to honest opinion what should be cream is only water.

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Chantay    101

I am excited to see this topic discussed. I have been an artist for over 20 years. But my previous experience is all in 2d format, new to pottery. I have participated in other online art forums where critiques where offered. It was a waste of time, post after post of useless dribble. With the talented and highly educated (years!) persons on this forum I look forward to posting some pics of my work. I know there are a lot of people on this forum that are adament about higher education. Well, I am taking a college ceramics class and it was a huge waste of money. I have learned so much more simply from reading this blog.

 

-chantay

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Frederik-W    23

To Wahine/Chantay:

 

I sympathise with you if you received "dribble" instead of critique.

 

However I disagree with you if you think that "talented and highly educated persons" are more entitled to provide critique, and are above "dribble".

It smacks of snobbery.

I have read plenty of art reviews where higly educated "critics" provide nothing more than dribble, only difference is that they dress it up in academic pretense.

The fact that someone produces beautiful pieces of art, does not necessarily make him an art critic.

The fact that someone with experience and technique can give you good practical advice does not make him any better in terms of providing an opinion on aesthetics. You can make a very good pot and it might have little aesthetic appeal.

 

Art history is full of examples of talented artists who were not appreciated at the time by the critics and the people who were supposed to know.

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Chris Campbell    1,088

Sorry, but the two posts above prove why it doesn't work online ... Someone posts an honest take on what happened on another forum and someone else takes offense at a small part of it. It is impossible to post an honest but maybe not "NICE" opinion.

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yedrow    8

Hmm, "In The Gallery," by Dire Straits pretty much sums up my trust in relying on narrow sources for artistic opinion.

Harry made a bareback rider proud and free upon a horse

And a fine coal miner for the NCB that was

A fallen Angel, Jesus on the cross

A skating ballerina, you should have seen her do the skater's waltz

Some people have got to paint and draw

Harry had to work in clay and stone

Like the waves coming to the shore it was in his blood and in his bones

He was ignored by all the trendy boys in London yes and in Leeds

He might as well have been making toys or strings of beads

He couldn't be, no he couldn't be In the gallery, no no, in the gallery

And then you get an artist says he doesn't want to paint at all

He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on the wall

The birds of a feather all the phonies and all of the fakes

While the dealers they get together

And they decide who gets the breaks

And who's going to be, who's going to be In the gallery, in the gallery

No lies he wouldn't compromise, no junk, no string

And all the lies we subsidize that just don't mean a thing, thing

I've got to say he passed away in obscurity

And now all the vultures, they're coming down from the tree

He's going to be, yea he's going to beIn the ga-gal-galleryGal, in the gallery

Harry made a bareback rider

And a fine coal miner

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Kohaku    22

So- I certainly recognize the reservations... but I'm still intrigued by the possibility of an online critique group- especially in light of my comparative isolation in the Idaho gulag.

 

Here's what I'd like to try...

 

I'm interested in pulling together a group of people who are interested in one fairly specific sub-set of ceramic endeavor- 'functional raku'. (The creation of raku objects that fulfill a targeted purpose- and manage to transcend the limitations of raku, such as porosity, leaching of oxides, comparative fragility, etc.). Objects that can fall into this category (with careful design) include (but are not limited to) drums, lanterns, urns, planters, fountains (note- the last two probably require some integration of raku and hi-fire components).

 

Here's how I'd propose this would work...

 

1) One member of the critique group serves as an informal moderator, and keeps a list of participating members

2) Objects for critique submitted to the gallery, with notification of the moderator

3) When an object is posted, the critique group is notified via PM

4) Critiques shared via PM

5) additional images shared via PM as needed for clarification

6) No more than one object submitted per month per group member

7) People who participate agree (obviously) not to be antagonistic or vicious... but participants also agree to retain a thick skin and not argue about critique (requests for clarification are OK). Non-compliant participants are removed from the group.

 

Can I get some feedback from the senior members as to whether it would be OK to try this (or suggestions for improving the system)? If people are on board with me trying this, I'll post a separate thread in this forum...

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Chantay    101

Frederik-W, and all,

 

However I disagree with you if you think that "talented and highly educated persons" are more entitled to provide critique, and are above "dribble".

 

 

There are many ways I could have stated my feelings on this topic, obviously I need to elucidate. When I stated that I felt that the persons attending to this forum were, 'talented and highly educated,' I was attempting to express my deep sense of respect for the many people here. I find the persons here exceedinly well versed on the subject of ceramics/pottery. I believe that knowledge extends to all areas of the art and buisness. I believe, 'highly educated,' persons includes both academia education along with the self educated. The persons on this site have a great apitude for the making of ceramics along with a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of the subject that is astounding. Because I know the aforementioned information, I feel that when asking for input on my work I would receive useful and valuable responses.

 

 

Chris, You can't mother the world. If your old enough to post on this forum, your old enough to sort through the information and deal with it approprietly, IMHO.

The generosity of the persons here with their time is astonishing.

 

 

-chantay

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GEP    863

Here's another aspect that bothers me a liitle ... I wonder if those who are interested in online critiques really understand the time and energy it takes to give a meaningful critique. And that it takes a lot of work from both sides to make a meaningful critique. It seems too easy to post some photos and ask for feedback. I bet those of you who have meaningful sources of feedback in your life will agree that it was not easy to arrive at that situation.

 

Someone asked why aren't there more people signed up to be Potters Council mentors? For me, it's because I am already mentoring 20 students at a time in my local world. And it's not free. The students pay tuition, and I get paid a salary. And still they need to work their butts off to get my attention. And sometimes it's exhausting for me. If I were to sign up as a Potters Council mentor, I would only mentor local potters. Partly because I want to see the work in person. But mostly because the mentee would have to thoroughly clean my studio floor, then vacuum my house, then mow my lawn, so that he/she would make up for the time I spent with them. I am being completely serious.

 

Not too long ago, an aspiring potter emailed me asking for a critique. She said she lived in western North Carolina. She knew some local potters, but that none of them had been able to give her any direction. That just didn't make sense to me. I concluded that either 1) there was some reason why the other potters weren't taking her seriously, or 2) she wasn't hearing what she wanted to hear, so she was fishing around online to hear something positive. But besides the fact that she couldn't find useful feedback in North frickin' Carolina, her email overall had the tone of someone who didn't understand the value of what she was asking for. I politely declined to critique her work. But I did take the time to answer a technical question she had asked. Did she reply to say thank you? Of course not.

 

The subject of trust has been mentioned here. Trust takes a lot of work from both parties. Are there forum members here whom I've never met but whose opinions matter to me? Absolutely.

 

So here's what I think you should do if you want a critique ... just ask for one! If your request sounds like "Lookie lookie! Praise me!" then you probably won't get any meaningful responses, but since that's not what you wanted, fine.

 

OR if you ask for a critique in a such a way that serious potters will take you seriously, you will probably get lots of meaningful responses. I think there are plenty of people here who can handle this.

 

Edit: I didn't mean to suggest that anyone needs to offer to mow anyone else's lawn. I mean that if you ask for feedback in a way that shows that you appreciate the value of what you're asking for, that you will take the comments seriously, good and bad. And that you know you can't pick who the feedback comes from... everyone is welcome to comment, or refrain from commenting... because this is one of the limitations of doing this on a public forum .... etc etc ... then I think there are lots if people here (including me sometimes) who will critique your work.

 

Mea

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Mark C.    1,808

I do not think this is remotely possible in an online environment at least to have real meaning.

 

The nature of of critiqueis as John mentioned on page one is a mentee /mentor relationship and this is just not possible on this site as one does not know really know who each other is and one is not accountable like one feels in person.

 

Yes I have spoken to few here on the phone and mailed out plans to some but on the whole we are really strangers.

 

The relationship is builton connections which are better suited to in person or at least over the phoneand skype (which is looking at one another). .

 

Now I’m not speaking as agreen horn here but as a mentor and for me the past 8 months I have spentmentoring so I have some depth is what critiquing takes as my mentee needed that as one of their needs-It takes one on one (skype in my case) and time- asa full time potter guy it takes time and commitment which for me (time my most preciouscommodity) is my choice to give.

 

It took a long time to match me with a mentee as I have a set of needs just as a mentee does and we both need to have these met. (I do not want to get into this to much as it’sour stuff)

 

No easy task for someone to do -match up these needs.

 

Why would any workingpotter commit to this you ask?

 

I had Wrist surgery last winter and could not do studio work and had time to commit to this, as it’s important to me to share. The other is I have a lifetime of working ceramic professional experience to share some insights to others. No need to step off the cliff if I already have and can stop you from that and have you step aside to keep on the path. I have been able to pass some of this via my posts and alot more one on one to my mentee.

 

In ceramics there are many ways to get to the same end and some work better than others-much of this is learned over time and the school of hard knocks ,testing (like oh I fired to fast and mywork /cones blew up). This is why the relationship is key in mentoring-That’s not something that is fostered in this online venue here very well.

 

This all takes time. My mentee and I have met even though we live in different countries and we have seen each others work so we can exchange ideas on whatever aspects that come up-this is a hard nut to crack with just an online photo and some typed words so for me I do not think its possible here.

 

As far as being a mentor if you have some time and a desire to help others go for it-It’s the same deal as teaching as far as what comes back your way.

 

It’s a commitment to a larger whole or a better clay world whatever or however floats your boat.

 

Mark Cortright

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Kohaku    22

Well... that's pretty definitive. I certainly respect the rationale that several people have laid down here, and hope I haven't been pushing at this question too hard!

 

Having said that... Mea... I'd vacuum your house and mow your lawn any day of the week :P... (or help mop up after Sandy). Heck... I clean my own studio space compulsively, so someone else might as well reap the benefit. Too bad the Idaho-Maryland commute is a little stretched out...

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yedrow    8

Chris, I'm glad we both like that song, perhaps that means there is hope for me yet. When I said "narrow sources" I was making a general statement. I think that first an artist has to be true to his/her own internal aesthetic. When considering the aesthetics of others I'm of the opinion that one is well served by drawing from contradictory sources if both (or more) are skilled and talented. I see the song as being about the idea that only painters are artists. I see art in the motion of a cat stalking its prey, a 3d event. More art in fact than humans too often can muster since it is true motion, and not motion based on our expectations of the reaction of an audience. By narrow I guess I mean the pigeonholing we do to ourselves when we depend too much on the expectations of others for our inspiration.

 

I am the leaf. It is the world that is in motion.

 

Joel.

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Frederik-W    23

I question the dichotomy between a "useful", "good" or "meaningful" critique and the implied other types of meaningless critique (whatever that may be).

 

I also question the assumption that a critique demands time and effort.

 

A simple to-the-point comment or honest opinion can be profoundly significant and can be enough to give an artist the direction he/she needs.

 

Imagine a potter who struggle for years to find out why her pottery is not valued, and people are loath to comment (like so many of you), or people beat around the bush. One day someone who sees her work on her profile gallery makes the comment: "You are very creative with your form, but your glaze turns your work into kitch". One accurate, honest comment, albeit a bit brutal. That might be exactly what she wants to hear, it might be enough for her to start focussing on her glaze. It might give her the direction she needs, changing her life as an artist. Life is full of stories of people who suddenly saw the light in their careers, love-life etc after one simple but accurate comment, often by a stranger.

 

I also reject the assumption that all "meaningful" critiques need some kind of ongoing relationship/involvement/time or are of the mentor/student type. That is the way you usually learn a craft, but in terms of aesthetics we can give someone very good feedback without such involvement. E.g. When you exhibit your work it will be judged immediately and harshly, by all kinds of people and as an artist you need to appreciate all such opinions.

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Pres    896

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:

 

 

Heck folks, if you ever see something that I post(pic or comment) and you want to make comment but not in public, just send me a message. I'm a big boy and take criticism in the tone it is given. Personally I haven't read a post here that I don't give credence to. Thank goodness Potters Council is not in politics!

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JBaymore    1,432
I know there are a lot of people on this forum that are adament about higher education. Well, I am taking a college ceramics class and it was a huge waste of money. I have learned so much more simply from reading this blog.

 

I could say that "I ate at a restaurant once and the food there was terrible." Would I then conclude that when eating at all restaurants the food is terrible? Are there places that you pay to to eat that have bad food? Yup. There are also great places to eat.

 

I could also have the situation where I want to have Indian food, but I walk into a Chinese restaurant to eat. Then I am totally disappointed with the food because I did not get the nice Indian curry that I wanted. My fault for chosing the wrong venue. I needed to define my desires more closely and then match up the venue with the deisred outcome.

 

 

best,

 

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

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yedrow    8

A helpful comment doesn't take work. An actual critique though should mean the critiquer had observed the piece, analyzed the compositional integrity of it (relationship between different elements: form, surface, color, functional usability, etc)., and compared it to contemporary work and if possible historical work. That is work. That being said, I suspect that helpful comments are much more likely to happen in a forum. I however would much prefer critiques.

 

The thing that holds me back on 'critiquing' other's work isn't drawing the ire of the artist, it is the risk of alienating the community by appearing to pick on someone.

 

Joel.

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Chris Campbell    1,088

> By narrow I guess I mean the pigeonholing we do to ourselves ....

 

Wow ... This short phrase from Joel has really got me thinking about how we pigeonhole ourselves, never mind what others might do. A good critique is meant to loosen those ties and let in some options rather than just lead you to another slot. Which in my mind makes trust and experience even more important.

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