Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Nelly

Designation--"Master Potter"

Recommended Posts

Nelly    16
It seems like a good idea in theory, but like I've said to some of my colleagues, "How can I expect my students to master a concept/ skill, that I haven't even mastered?"

 

We (at least here in America) have a great trend running of de-valuing terms and standards. Everyone has to have a grandiose title. Everyone is a winner at everything. The concept of "mastery" used to imply a great depth of experience and knowledge in a given subject well beyond the pale. Now it simply tends to mean that someone can add 2+2 and come up with 4 (most of the time).

 

We now tend to teach to tests and score them with tightly defined "rubrics" breaking thngs into tinly little measureable discrete chunks. Unfortunately, we don't seem to teach people to THINK much anymore.

 

As this thread implies... the term "Master" has no real significance anymore.

 

best,

 

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

 

 

I very much agree John. Though I will say, administrators and educational "experts" do put emphasis on the higher orders of thinking, like analysis and synthesis. That's why art classes generally receive high marks in those areas. All we do is analyze and synthesize. Sadly, many of my students keep coming to me, to ask what they need to change, or whether or not they are finished. I try to put it back on them, by asking, if they have met the standard, of what I asked them to do? Many of them can't tell. They don't want to be wrong, and they are so used, to having a defined answer to every problem. I could go on and on on the subject, but I'm getting off topic enough.

 

 

They don't want to be wrong, and they are so used, to having a defined answer to every problem. I think you may have hit it on the head. Students any more don't understand that being wrong is not wrong. They are too afraid to fail, failure to them is a dead end. For us, failure is just another step in the process to approach what we are trying to do, and sometimes our failures are our greatest accomplishments.

 

 

And, in my opinion, much of that has to do, with the idea, that anything less than an "A", or perfect is a slap in the face. If you tell them, that something needs changes, or alterations, they get upset. They want want the quality grade, without the quality product, and no desire, to put the necessary work in, to achieve said quality product.

 

 

Dear All,

 

I must add to this education focused discussion. The "A" that you write about in the previous post is now in my opinion a type of commodity.

 

To acquire an "A" is not about learning something or having excelled in an area. It is about getting into the next level of education, to be able to apply for a job or I am guessing in the case of the arts such things as grants and internships. Thus, it becomes like a ticket.

 

Today's student wants that ticket bad. They envision a life where they are able to schedule their time on their own. A time schedule that will provide them with maximum money with minimum input. While admirable, it may not be a reality in the future. I am not certain this will be a reality in our current economic climate.

 

I do feel for teachers in the arts who must judge students against criteria set-out by their discipline or more likely the educational facility. I am sure there is an element of fear in offering an open, honest and growth enhancing critique of a students work. I mean, that is your job isn't it?? To get them to reach their potential through honest reflection on their work vis-a-vis the standards and potential for creativity.

 

So what am I saying?? I am saying think of an "A" as a commodity. This commodity is valued. Students see it as opening doors for them. Doors that often lead to higher education and yes, money.

 

At least this is the way those in education, in admittedly a different discipline than the arts, where I am conceptualize the "A."

 

 

Nelly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pres    896

Stephen,

 

That is an absolutely (if I might say it ;)src="http://ceramicartsdaily.org/community/public/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif"> ) "masterful" posting on the subject above. Articulate and clear.

 

I deliberately waited until I was 60 years old before scheduling a solo exhibition in Japan. That age is basically the point in Japan when a craftsperson is felt to possibly have acquired enough skills and experience to "know what he/she is doing". It is the beginning of your second time around the Zodiac cycle also...so is a "big deal"; you are conceptually re-born. I was very glad that I did so.

 

It is only in the past few years that I feel that I am finally getting a grip on this crazy craft...... and I have been working basically full time with clay since the mid-60's. And I too would not call myself a "Master" yet. The more I work and explore in this field...... the more I realize that there is to "master", and know, and to try. Sometimes it seems that the "goal posts" keep moving further and further away. But that is what keeps us involved, creative, and alive, isn't it?

 

The infinte truth of that old saying becomes clearer and clearer: "Clay is long. Life is short."

 

best,

 

 

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

 

 

Clay is humbling, for the beginner, and for he who pursues it for a lifetime. I think that today, there are very few masters if any. I base this on the times. In the past a master would work in one medium, in much of one direction, pursuing a narrow spectrum of that medium. Today, potters will often start out with earthenware and brushed on decoration in an oxidation environment, and move to porcelain with screen printed decoration in a reduction environment, and move on to something else. The technical options have increased, the understanding has increased, and the amount of information to be sifted through and mastered has really become mountainous. We discuss technology here would have been considered witchcraft in the 1500's. We use stains and encapsulated colors that never existed. Electric kilns-dark magic. Much of the basic science of clay and glaze, firing and kilns has remained the same, but would a Master of old recognize much of what we do today? I believe many of them would scoff at our lack of basic understanding clay as many of us would scoff at their lack of understanding our concerns for health.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris Campbell    1,087

"The technical options have increased, the understanding has increased, and the amount of information to be sifted through and mastered has really become mountainous."

 

This is so true. I skipped around for several years until I settled into colored clay ... I somewhat expected the focus to narrow but the exact opposite happened. There were so many more things I needed to know, to find out somehow ( since the data was scarce ), to test and test and test forever. I don't think I will ever "Master" it. My backyard is getting to be a great shard pile. : - )

 

Sadly, I see all too often people of all ages are afraid to fail. Afraid to get it wrong. I would like to suggest that along with that fear there can be a lot of JOY to be found in not quite knowing what you are doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Benzine    610

" We discuss technology here would have been considered witchcraft in the 1500's. We use stains and encapsulated colors that never existed. Electric kilns-dark magic. Much of the basic science of clay and glaze, firing and kilns has remained the same, but would a Master of old recognize much of what we do today? I believe many of them would scoff at our lack of basic understanding clay as many of us would scoff at their lack of understanding our concerns for health."

 

Don't forget the automatic potter's wheels, that are powered by a couple of trained chipmunks, hidden on the inside.

 

Nice Simpson's reference Chris. The show is indeed a fountain of wisdom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pres    896

" We discuss technology here would have been considered witchcraft in the 1500's. We use stains and encapsulated colors that never existed. Electric kilns-dark magic. Much of the basic science of clay and glaze, firing and kilns has remained the same, but would a Master of old recognize much of what we do today? I believe many of them would scoff at our lack of basic understanding clay as many of us would scoff at their lack of understanding our concerns for health."

 

Don't forget the automatic potter's wheels, that are powered by a couple of trained chipmunks, hidden on the inside.

 

Nice Simpson's reference Chris. The show is indeed a fountain of wisdom.

 

 

I used to tell the kids that "Can't can't do anything until Can't tries!".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DirtRoads    145

Bumping this topic up ..... this got me into some hot water!   About 2 months ago a customer asked me if I was a "master" potter and I laughed and said certainly not   And then they mentioned another potter (I had never heard of)  and asked me why they were a "master" potter and I told them there was no official designation, that it was purely a subjective title.   Yesterday that potter came in my studio showroom and told me I had no right to criticize their work and they were rightfully a "master" potter and I had no right to tell people they were not a "master".    I told them I had never seen any of their work and didn't criticize it, but I did say there was no official designation of "Master" potter.  Now, this is private property, get off it before I call the sheriff's dept and have you removed.

 

I scrambled back here and found this thread.    I really think this person is convinced they are a certified master potter.  I noticed in their credentials they even refer to themselves as such.  Do you see many potters calling themselves "master" potters?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BeckyH    42

In the world of professional cooking there are some industry organizations that hold tests for certification. So you can apply for and take the Master Chef test, and if you pass it you can call yourself a Master Chef. The test is grueling, takes three days to complete and I think really does a good job of making sure the applicant knows her stuff. There is a very high failure rate-most people who are now MCs took the test at least twice.

I could see a pottery organization putting together a similar process, but if nothing like it exists then the title is self awarded and so is just cute semantics. However, I can see journalists and critics using the term for people whose work is exceptional in their eyes, whether or not they (the writers) actually know anything about pottery. And once you've been called master potter, why would you not keep the title?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bciskepottery    925

So, why am I now thinking of a new side-line -- a take-off of the diploma mills:  for the mere fee of $150, I will confer upon you a certificate that recognizes you as a Master Potter.  Just send me a check, three photos of your work (so my staff of highly qualified pottery experts/minions can jury them), and I will send you your certificate, suitable for framing.  And, for only an additional $25, I will include a laminated wallet-size version of your Master of Pottery certificate so you can walk into any gallery on the street and show off your specialness.  But, act now -- this is a limited time offer only. 

 

Just wondering how long this Master Potter stewed before summoning the courage to travel to your studio. 

 

Recognition as a Master potter is a respect that is conferred by your peer's (not the media or event sponsors). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChenowethArts    461

So, why am I now thinking of a new side-line -- a take-off of the diploma mills:  for the mere fee of $150, I will confer upon you a certificate that recognizes you as a Master Potter.  Just send me a check, three photos of your work (so my staff of highly qualified pottery experts/minions can jury them), and I will send you your certificate, suitable for framing.  And, for only an additional $25, I will include a laminated wallet-size version of your Master of Pottery certificate so you can walk into any gallery on the street and show off your specialness.  But, act now -- this is a limited time offer only. 

 

 

I'm starting to like this diploma mill idea...it just needs a proper authoritative body to confer these awards. Something like The Professional Organization of Throwing Scholars (P.O.T.S. for short).

 

But there simply must be some options leading up to the Master designation ;).  I would propose the following certificate programs from POTS:

  • Slab-ulous Scholar
  • Wheel Wizzard
  • Vitreous Virtuoso
  • Kiln Kaiser
  • Vicegerent of Vessels
  • Guru of Goop
  • Slinger of Slip
  • Manipulator of Muck
  • Prodigious Purveyor of POTS

-Paul

Candidate for Guru of Goop

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marcia Selsor    1,301

I think there already are too many diploma mills and students who expect A's without doing the learning. As for the master potter title, there is no test and no governing body knighting one as a Master. I have a masters of Fine Arts degree but I can tell you that after 8 years of working in clay That even with the degree I was no Master. Now as I am approaching 50 years of working with clay and  I want to explore an idea, I can achieve a satisfaction happily, I do feel like I have mastered something .. But no crowning glory of a title of Master. Leave that to the National Treasures in Japan.
Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joseph F    865

If I was young wasn't married with kid, I would have loved to go and be an apprentice to an old master. I couldn't imagine anything more rewarding and terrifying at the same time.

 

I can imagine a master saying something like "to start, you will wedge clay for a year". 

 

I watched a show I really loved, a documentary called, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi". It is a fantastic documentary about a master sushi chef, who makes his apprentices cook rice for the first 2-5 years or something. I can't remember it now since I watched it so long ago, but it was a rather long time to make nothing but rice. They all made rice that long because to be trained under this master was a great accomplishment. 

 

In this documentary, people say when Jiro dies, there never will be as good of sushi in the world again. I think when people can make this kind of statement about your work, you can be considered a master. 

 

A lot of people equate master to years in the field. Where in truth the years you do something only mean as much as you attempt to accomplish in those years. If you make the same mug you made in year 2 of your career at year 30 with no real improvements, I wouldn't really say your a master at making mugs. 

 

@ DirtRoads: The story about the self proclaimed master coming into your studio is hilarious. 

 

Edit: It is interesting to think about how much we move around in our fields. It would be a good discussion to have about how narrow one could focus their work on. Could you narrow your work down to only certain forms? Down to firing only? Down to testing glazes only? I mean how far can you go down a narrow path. It would be interesting to be a potter who only made one form, but then how do you glaze that form? Do you only use so many glazes and continue to improve those glazes forever? So all your work looks the same forever. It's a tricky thing in pottery to figure out.

 

I could see oneself focusing on the form they enjoy the most and never changing out of that form. I mean you could spend a lifetime making the best mug ever. Have forms based on gender, how one holds a mug, hand size, finger size, what type of lip you think is best. Think about what you could charge for a mug if you became known as one of the best mug makers in the world. People could custom order their mugs to fit their hands and fingers exactly how they wanted. This sort of reminds me of my bison tools I ordered. He had me measure my hands for the tools, and man they fit nice.

 

You could figure the best clay for microwaves and thermal test for clay & thickness to hold temperatures the longest without being too thick, you could figure out glazes that are the best resistant to coffee and tea stains. Hell I could go on and on with ideas on what you could gain from mastering one form, and to think about that makes me think that is near impossible to become a master without a complete lifetime in the field always striving for improvement and never settling. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mark C.    1,800

I saw a potter at a show who went by the Worlds greatest Potter-make checks out to the worlds greatest Potter the sign said.

I could only get about 20 feet from booth as his ego was about that large. He now goes my another name for his business.

truse story on the name part.

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rayaldridge    276

Historians of the field please correct me, but isn't the standard masterpiece (in the sense of a guild-evaluated skill) for potters a good teapot?

 

One problem with that, I guess, is that I've read somewhere that some of Hamada's teapots dripped all over the table, and if he wasn't a Master, then no one is.

 

It's amazing how much ambiguity there is in every aspect of clay.

 

/I'm not a master, even though I can make a decent teapot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joseph F    865

I have been thinking about this for a while since reading this thread, and I really think that the people who mentioned master as an old guild system label is probably the most correct.

 

Even in a book I read a while back about mastery the author is huge on finding a "master" in your field and apprenticing under them. In the book he didn't define master by any standards that a person is able to check off on a check list. Most of the time he considered a master as a person who had done great things in the field and was able to pass on knowledge to a lesser apprentice, however he is clear to state that if you can't find one of those people, just anyone who has more information than you and can share that information can be your master. He even states in the book that once you have outgrown the master, it is time to find another master, meaning that he uses the term master as someone to teach you things in exchange for your labor or what ever you can provide.

 

So to a beginner, a potter of 10 years could be a master to the beginner if he worked under him to learn information from that potter. 

 

Just a thought...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JBaymore    1,432

I saw a potter at a show who went by the Worlds greatest Potter-make checks out to the worlds greatest Potter the sign said.

I could only get about 20 feet from booth as his ego was about that large. He now goes my another name for his business.

truse story on the name part.

Mark

 

 

That was George E. Ohr, right?  ;)

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JBaymore    1,432

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a must see film for makers.

 

I have a friend (and adult student of pottery at the college) who has recently eaten at Jiro's place.  He said it was worth every penny.

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TwinRocks    17

There is also a generalized theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill (which amounts to working full time for around 5 years).

 

"Worlds Greatest Potter" sounds a lot like "Worlds Greatest Dad": a cute pat on the head if it's on the side of your coffee cup, but rather cocky and silly to go around using it as a title....guess I am just not a fan of people who flaunt praise?

 

As for "master potter" or "master craftsman", that seems like a more reasonable degree of self applied labeling when appropriate: if you've been working in the craft for decades it would seem apt (unless you yourself feel such a claim is false). After all, in any skill there is a flood of novices, a smaller number of practiced craftspeople, and a handful that have reached a pinnacle of skill: even if the label isn't official, it seems worth designating your skill level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Benzine    610

Dirt Roads, that is a good story, especially when you really think about it.  The customer you talked to, had to go to the potter they spoke of.  Then that potter had to be upset enough, to come and find you.  Then, the most ridiculous part, they actually had to follow through with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DirtRoads    145

Nice bit of humor here.  Did cheer my mood somewhat on this topic.  But overall, I'm still taken aback at that person confronting me ... I wasn't even in the showroom ... my employee had to page me.   I did find out that the customer took lessons from that potter.  I've done some research on them and their work is okay and they have been doing it a long time but from what I can tell they do not sell very much.    Technique looked okay but the work lacked sales appeal IMO.  I've noticed some of the potters that give lessons in my general area use this title of "master".  I read in a potter's biography that they took lessons from a "master potter".    I've noticed this term used in some press releases about potters too.  Most of the potters that stop by here are very nice and interesting to talk to but a very few are resentful to see success and this person may have been one of them ... they did make an offhand comment about my work.  There were 2 customers browsing and loading up at the time and at least they said it to me outside of hearing range.  I feel I'm quite unpretentious about my ability as I tell everyone I've only been doing this since October 2010.   Going to post a cheerful topic now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JBaymore    1,432

DirtRoads,

 

There are a LOT of big egos in the art world.  Most potters are pretty laid back.... but some are "full of themselves".  Any time you "take a stand", you open yourself up to this kind of stuff. 

 

When someone else appends the "Master Potter" title to a person... that is a certain level of praise (with no real contemporary standards to back it up)..  Just "nice thoughts".  When someone starts appending that formal title to themselves........ "Warning Will Robinson.... warning!"   (only the old folks will get that one)

 

You have to let this garbage roll off your back.  Just go make more pots. :)

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rayaldridge    276

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is one of our oldest son's favorite moves, and I found it to be pretty profound as well.   As Becky said upthread, there actually is a Master Chef designation, though I only know about it because our oldest son just graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park, so I've been reading up on the high-end dining world.

 

I don't know if a similar test would even be possible for potters.  There is a lot of ambiguity about what makes great food, but it's nothing compared to the ambiguity of evaluating pottery for "greatness," whatever that is.  I've known a few potters who threw with great skill, but who made pots I'd never want to own.

 

It's complicated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LawPots    17

One way to put it, in old guild terms, is that a master potter is one who has mastered the craft (which is a near synonym of "secret") of pottery.  The people who master the secrets of pottery are a master potters.  Its not about how good the work is, its about whether you can make what you want to make.  The masterwork is proof that you know the secrets of pottery, and can put them into action.  Masterworks don't have to look good, they just prove that you know what you're doing. 

 

Its not really a subjective thing at all.  You could test it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JBaymore    1,432

Its not really a subjective thing at all.  You could test it. 

 

Absolutely..... but you'd need 1,000,000 years to get the pottery community to agree on what the test should include.  ;)

 

And at the moment... there is really no 'certifying body' like the Guilds of old.

 

Closest we come today is the granting of art degrees by colleges, I think.

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×