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The Useful Critique


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#41 GEP

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:33 PM

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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#42 Mark C.

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 09:41 PM

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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#43 Kohaku

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 10:43 PM

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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#44 yedrow

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 11:35 PM

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.

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#45 Frederik-W

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 07:40 AM

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.


#46 Pres

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 08:42 AM

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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#47 JBaymore

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 08:54 AM

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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#48 Mark C.

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 09:45 AM

another post mistake
ops
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#49 yedrow

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:10 AM

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.

#50 Chris Campbell

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:15 AM

> 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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#51 Dinah

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:07 PM

I've only read John Baymore's comment which I totally agree with. A forum is not the platform for a critique. Why would anyone think thus? It's impersonal; no body language nor nuance of tone of voice or ANY of the signalers we use in our daily lives when communicating with others. Just hark back to one's experience in various popular forums such as this one or ClayArts. We all know that if the snarky commentators were sat down in a circle and given the same topics to rerun, there would be hugely differing outcomes in speech patterns and aggression levels. And outcomes.

I just posted elsewhere about perhaps considering the capability of uploading/embedding video clips of, let's say for no more than 3 minutes, on these Forums, so that we can see the thickness of the glaze mix and how it pours off your hand, hear your explanations and queries before we all start weighing in with Best Practice.
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#52 trina

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:26 AM

Hi I totally agree, Its way too hard to express onself the way you would in person. Just think about those smiley symbols, If I actually lived in a world where people continually winked at me I'd probably be totally creeped out. Its kind the same thing..... T. ;)

#53 Kohaku

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 10:16 AM

I've only read John Baymore's comment which I totally agree with. A forum is not the platform for a critique. Why would anyone think thus?


Well- just to provide some context, I come to art by way of the sciences (I have a PhD in wildlife biology).

I'm very used to the peer review process- both formal (through submission of manuscripts) and less formal (through sharing developing publications with colleagues).

Much of this process takes place via online exchange. It can be very ruthless. I've had criticism that was painful to digest... and I've also had criticism that I considered (and still consider) fairly off-base. However, the process is invaluable to improving ones work. Even the poorly targeted critiques spur you to reconsider your work.

While I know that there are elements of art critique that are tactile, and that nuances of expression (and other subtleties) may be lost, it never occurred to me that exchanging feedback with art colleagues online might not be similarly useful. Obviously the prevailing opinion on these boards runs contrary to this notion... but I don't see why it's such an outlandish concept.
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#54 Pres

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 11:09 AM


I've only read John Baymore's comment which I totally agree with. A forum is not the platform for a critique. Why would anyone think thus?


Well- just to provide some context, I come to art by way of the sciences (I have a PhD in wildlife biology).

I'm very used to the peer review process- both formal (through submission of manuscripts) and less formal (through sharing developing publications with colleagues).

Much of this process takes place via online exchange. It can be very ruthless. I've had criticism that was painful to digest... and I've also had criticism that I considered (and still consider) fairly off-base. However, the process is invaluable to improving ones work. Even the poorly targeted critiques spur you to reconsider your work.

While I know that there are elements of art critique that are tactile, and that nuances of expression (and other subtleties) may be lost, it never occurred to me that exchanging feedback with art colleagues online might not be similarly useful. Obviously the prevailing opinion on these boards runs contrary to this notion... but I don't see why it's such an outlandish concept.


Hmmm! Seems to me that comparing the written word to a 3-D object is quite different. There are so many variances to take in to consideration. One of the biggest that strikes me is that a scientific thesis/paper/manuscript is bound by parameters of the thesis statement-the study is mapped out by the intent in the beginning statements. Where is the intent of a 3D object. The viewer may look at a thrown plate, and understand it as a functional or sculptural object, but often there is a blurring of the boundaries. A plate by Volkos does not equate to a plate by Glick. There may be similarities but the differences are much greater. So intent is an unknown, as is the weight, the texture, the feel. All of these things are really hard to judge by looking at a few photos. A while back I was looking at a series of mugs with pointed bottoms. they had to sit on a stand or be placed up side down when not being held. My original thought was how inconvenient, then I read the artists statement about being for people that always carried their coffee around with them-made sense. The feel of the mug in the hand was very comfortable, and drinking out of it was also pleasurable. These aspects were unknown until one use the mug.

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#55 Kohaku

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 11:24 AM



I've only read John Baymore's comment which I totally agree with. A forum is not the platform for a critique. Why would anyone think thus?


Well- just to provide some context, I come to art by way of the sciences (I have a PhD in wildlife biology).

I'm very used to the peer review process- both formal (through submission of manuscripts) and less formal (through sharing developing publications with colleagues).

Much of this process takes place via online exchange. It can be very ruthless. I've had criticism that was painful to digest... and I've also had criticism that I considered (and still consider) fairly off-base. However, the process is invaluable to improving ones work. Even the poorly targeted critiques spur you to reconsider your work.

While I know that there are elements of art critique that are tactile, and that nuances of expression (and other subtleties) may be lost, it never occurred to me that exchanging feedback with art colleagues online might not be similarly useful. Obviously the prevailing opinion on these boards runs contrary to this notion... but I don't see why it's such an outlandish concept.


Hmmm! Seems to me that comparing the written word to a 3-D object is quite different. There are so many variances to take in to consideration. One of the biggest that strikes me is that a scientific thesis/paper/manuscript is bound by parameters of the thesis statement-the study is mapped out by the intent in the beginning statements. Where is the intent of a 3D object. The viewer may look at a thrown plate, and understand it as a functional or sculptural object, but often there is a blurring of the boundaries. A plate by Volkos does not equate to a plate by Glick. There may be similarities but the differences are much greater. So intent is an unknown, as is the weight, the texture, the feel. All of these things are really hard to judge by looking at a few photos. A while back I was looking at a series of mugs with pointed bottoms. they had to sit on a stand or be placed up side down when not being held. My original thought was how inconvenient, then I read the artists statement about being for people that always carried their coffee around with them-made sense. The feel of the mug in the hand was very comfortable, and drinking out of it was also pleasurable. These aspects were unknown until one use the mug.


I agree that there are some real differences... and that aspects of 3-D art are probably impossible to critique at distance. Mind you- there are aspects of critiquing written work that don't translate well either- face to face is 'better' for that too.

Having said this... there are a number of aspects of ceramic work (form, surface treatment, etc.) that seem to be quite amenable to online critique. As an example, in a recent thread where I was soliciting ideas on throwing big, tall objects, a number of people had comments on a drum form that I posted (mostly related to line and weight- stuff that could be taken away from a photo). I found it to be very useful.

Not trying to beat a dead horse or anything!

Jus
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#56 JLowes

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 02:49 PM

So Kohaku,

Why not take it out of the forum? Say for instance form a group on Yahoo! or one of the other free places; and then invite folks to the group that you think would be knowledgable and amenable to the critique process. I enjoy and have experence in raku, so would be amenable to becoming a member of such a group, and from reading your ideas I expect that your opinions and observations could be valuable to me as well. As I understand it, the Yahoo groups can have a team of moderators so that duty could be shared, members felt to be genuine and with decorum can be given unmoderated status for their posts, and there are photos albums and file sharing capabilities built in.

I did such a thing in person in my area with three of my fellow potters and classmates from evening classes. Our idea was to physically meet with two pots each on a monthly interval for 2-3 hours and provide feedback on each others work. This has been a boon for each of us, and has increased our knowledge, our aesthetics and given us a trusted place to get feedback and advice. Understanding that you are somewhat isolated, the online group thing could be a close second.

I know of a well known potter who had a one year program where critique was provided via online video conference on a monthly basis with an in person kickoff at the beginning and an in person critique and gallery show at the end of the year. This was a compensated service offered by the potter, and also another alternative.

John

#57 Kohaku

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 02:56 PM

So Kohaku,

Why not take it out of the forum? Say for instance form a group on Yahoo! or one of the other free places; and then invite folks to the group that you think would be knowledgable and amenable to the critique process. I enjoy and have experence in raku, so would be amenable to becoming a member of such a group, and from reading your ideas I expect that your opinions and observations could be valuable to me as well. As I understand it, the Yahoo groups can have a team of moderators so that duty could be shared, members felt to be genuine and with decorum can be given unmoderated status for their posts, and there are photos albums and file sharing capabilities built in.

I did such a thing in person in my area with three of my fellow potters and classmates from evening classes. Our idea was to physically meet with two pots each on a monthly interval for 2-3 hours and provide feedback on each others work. This has been a boon for each of us, and has increased our knowledge, our aesthetics and given us a trusted place to get feedback and advice. Understanding that you are somewhat isolated, the online group thing could be a close second.

I know of a well known potter who had a one year program where critique was provided via online video conference on a monthly basis with an in person kickoff at the beginning and an in person critique and gallery show at the end of the year. This was a compensated service offered by the potter, and also another alternative.

John


John- I think that's a great idea. Give me a couple of days to look into options... and I'll follow up.
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#58 Diana Ferreira

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 11:30 AM

Does a critique need to be a 300 page volume?

At our studio I often get asked what I think of a new design or shape. Without thinking I will speak my mind. And more than most, after that thing that bugged me most is corrected, the work is 'better'. And speaking my mind is not a 3 hour diatribe about it either.

You guys take yourself way to seriously.

I have a friend who does fabulous work, but there is something lacking. And this past weekend after I saw a collection of some of her newer work, it hit me. Change your glaze. That is all that I will suggest to her. Sometimes that is all that is needed. But it will still be a good critique in my book.

And yes. One can (seriously, you can!) give a critique of value without touching a work. Is there balance in the work? 2 or 3 shots from different angles of a piece should give you enough insight to make an observation/critique. A clear well balanced photo should reveal most colours. A high res photo that is taken fairly close should reveal pinholes, poor attachment techniques etc.

just stop being so friggin serious! Speak your mind. You might think the work has merit, the next person think it is kak. And I think that this last sentence is the reason why most will not give critiques online - What if a peer considers the work they admire as poorly constructed? I suspect that all the 'I will not give a criticque-people' is scared to be outed by others online.
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#59 trina

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 12:35 PM

Does a critique need to be a 300 page volume?

At our studio I often get asked what I think of a new design or shape. Without thinking I will speak my mind. And more than most, after that thing that bugged me most is corrected, the work is 'better'. And speaking my mind is not a 3 hour diatribe about it either.

You guys take yourself way to seriously.

I have a friend who does fabulous work, but there is something lacking. And this past weekend after I saw a collection of some of her newer work, it hit me. Change your glaze. That is all that I will suggest to her. Sometimes that is all that is needed. But it will still be a good critique in my book.

And yes. One can (seriously, you can!) give a critique of value without touching a work. Is there balance in the work? 2 or 3 shots from different angles of a piece should give you enough insight to make an observation/critique. A clear well balanced photo should reveal most colours. A high res photo that is taken fairly close should reveal pinholes, poor attachment techniques etc.

just stop being so friggin serious! Speak your mind. You might think the work has merit, the next person think it is kak. And I think that this last sentence is the reason why most will not give critiques online - What if a peer considers the work they admire as poorly constructed? I suspect that all the 'I will not give a criticque-people' is scared to be outed by others online.


oh yah do i agree!

#60 JBaymore

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 02:55 PM

bump


John Baymore
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Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com




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