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Nelly

Designation--"Master Potter"

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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

Sadly, I don't think so ... I have spoken to 'graduates' of ceramics/fine arts programs who had not received any glaze education and were discouraged from making utilitarian ware. How complete was that 'education'?

 

My definition of Master would have to include ...

Education in the history of pottery as well as all aspects of process

Years afterwards spent improving both skills and knowledge base

Years of sharing and teaching to move the craft forward.

... And probably never being vain enough to call yourself 'Master'

TJR and Joseph F like this

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Now that I think about it, if I were to devise a test (which is a really fun thought exercise) a Master Potter is someone who should be capable of the following:

 

1. Identifying and making a clay body suitable for functional ware from natural materials - i.e. can find a useful clay without having to buy it. 

- They should be able to identify workable plastic clays in the ground.  They should know how to test those clays for workability and firing temperature.  They should be able to differentiate between an earthenware clay and stoneware clay, and fire clay (for firebricks).  They should know what sort of geology to look for in a natural landscape to find a useful clay. 

 

2. Identifying and making a functional glaze from natural materials that makes a pot impervious, and is an extension of a decorative style - i.e. can find, or knows which natural materials for a glaze at the temperature they want to fire at.

- Knows how to process and mix those materials into a glaze. 

- They should know how to test a glaze for function and durability.

- They should know how to create color in a glaze or slip   

 

3. Can build a kiln to fire their work, starting from natural materials

- knows how to make bricks, lay out a kiln, and build a useful kiln.  This may include an electric kiln (see below) 

 

4. Can fire a kiln to temperature, from natural materials (wood, coal, animal or crude oil). 

 

5. Can form pots at least the size of a decent large cook-pot either handbuilding, wheel, or molded.  I think the size question here may be optional, but the forming method must demonstrate the capability of forming useful pots with an even thickness.  I believe that the pot should be sellable, not dangerous, and suitable for the use for which it is designed. I.e. teapots need to be able to make tea, mugs hold water without leaking, baking dishes bake, and crocks ferment food.   

 

I am not going to require a master potter to be a blacksmith or a miner, but the master potter needs to know what is needed in terms of metal, minerals, and shaped wood to make a finished pot.  Likewise, the master potter can work with electricity, but the master potter should know how to make an electric kiln, if the potter does not know how to make another type of kiln. 

 

So, a master potter needs to be able to teach the next generation of potters what they must know to make pots.  A master potter must know: Making clay, making glaze, making pots, making a kiln, firing a kiln.  Its cheating to say you have mastery of the craft if you buy your clay from someone else, but can't make it.  Or buy you kiln from someone else, but don't know how to make your own. Ideally a master potter should have some ability over all the forming techniques, but I don't think that mastery really requires everyone to throw on a wheel, when I see plenty of handbuilt and coiled pots that are just as good or better than a wheel thrown pot. 

 

An MFA is something else.  It's not a master potter - its a master's in the fine art of ceramics.  To me, this just isn't the same.  That's why history isn't on my list.  It's why years of teaching or learning really aren't on the list.  It would take years to learn these skills as a practical matter, but its not about how long you've done these things - its about whether you learned them in the first place.

 

BTW - does anyone on this list have experience with the German potteries?  I read an interview where a German potter said that he could not take apprentices in Germany, because he had never served an apprenticeship and been certified as a journeyman or master. The same rules didn't keep him from selling his pots, though, so not the same as the medieval guilds.  This article covers some of the structure of the German apprentice system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprenticeship#Germany The Germans seem to think its possible to narrow the skill set down to a prescribed set of skills.

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I've been thinking about this one for a couple of days.

Chris hit the nail on the head. If you have to say that you are a Master, then you are not one.

If you have a sign over your display that says;"Master Potter, or Worlds Greatest Potter", then you are not.

In thinking of past masters at NCECA, I would definitely include Don Reitz and Val Cushing.

Looking at that video of the Robin Hopper talk, I would definitely include him.

You do not have to be dead, or be male to acquire the designation of Master.

You need the respect of your peers.

You definitely would have had to give something back to the medium, as in books, lectures, shows of your work.

TJR.

Pres, Chris Campbell and Cathie64 like this

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To be clear, Chris, I was not saying that college degrees WERE the equivalent...... far from it........ but they are currently the formal "accrediting bodies" that we have that even touch the field.

 

I think that if the college programs were able to be something like the 7 to 11 year typical apprenticeship programs...... they might be able to truly "do the job".  But in our society... that does not value art...... and in which education is absurdly expensive...... wouldn;t work.

 

Back in the 60's many BFA programs were 5 year curriculums instead of the typical 4 year BA....... that ended fast.

 

best,

 

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

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John, I wouldn't say that our society doesn't value Art.  They just value other things more.  And furthermore, in many cases, they value things, they don't actually realize are Art, or exist because of Art/ Artists.  

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Obviously, we need Congress to enact the "No Potter Left Behind Act".

Sadly, by the time such a bill would make it through the meat grinder of the legislative process it might be "No Slop Bucket Left Unfilled" :)

(I'm sorry, my cynicism is showing...the 'act' would more likely read "Nothing Left But the Potter's Behind").

-Paul :rolleyes:

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Worse act to ever hit the school system imo. That said, I think the term master of something is dying off and now refers to master degrees. Such as, you have a masters in economics. I hardly ever hear anyone say master anymore, except old crafts people like ourselves.

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I remember when I was little and my grandparents lived in Florida they used to send me birthday cards and gifts addressed to Master Paul Rankin. I guess it was the formality of the times but I earned that title well before I knew how to do anything.

 

Paul

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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

But, Ohr really was a Master Potter, don't you think? With all the criteria we can agree on? An exception, though, like Cellini, who also just knew he was a Master - their bragging rankles, but their skills can't be denied.

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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

But, Ohr really was a Master Potter, don't you think? With all the criteria we can agree on? An exception, though, like Cellini, who also just knew he was a Master - their bragging rankles, but their skills can't be denied.

 

 

Indeed he was but I don't find him bragging. I think it was more of striking out against "establishment ceramics" than boastfulness. You have to remember, he travelled around to check out whomever he could so he knew he was in fact the best (although that wouldn't be realized for a long time). IMO it was more of a expression of frustration more than anything else. What is a "master potter"? IMO that is a title only other potters can hang on an individual (George excluded). Only other artist can designate who is an artist (which goes completely against George during his time) so there is no cut-and-dried answer. I've always said a "master" is not someone who brings out the best in themselves at "whatever"; they can also bring out the best in others as well.

 

I am "the potter"  I am today directly because of George Ohr (I was formerly a metal guy)......and that happened AFTER I was married to potter and doing production work for her for 13 years.......and the guy has been dead almost 100 years.....

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Having read all four pages, let me try to assemble a list of qualifications. Most of which I am assimilating from other trades as applicable:

 

1. 25 years experience ( not including apprenticeship or school). Problem being, clay has so many niches. So would it be 25 years of throwing, hand building, slip, molds, etc. If you spent years studying glazes- does that make you a glaze master? Slab master? sorry... morticians already have that title.

 

2. In order to be a master plumber, electrician, or carpenter: an extensive test is required. Has the pottery industry devised such a standard of testing?

 

Pottery is such a broad and inclusive term because it incorporates all methods of forming, all types and methods of glazing, and all methods of firing. Being rather new here, it is apparent that some have the background, training, experience, and working knowledge to have that title assigned. Art also becomes a contested term: does it mean the stunning beauty of the finished work, or the skill required to make it? I have come to believe that it is not the modern advances in the tools, equipment, and materials used to make pottery that has caused the diminished view towards this art form. As a society, recent generations view art on their 3-5" screens, or through other social mediums such as Pinterest. To experience art, you have to stand in front of it, view it from all its aspects, touch it, and form either an emotional attraction or repulsion to the piece. That will never happen sitting in front of monitor.

 

ART REQUIRES AN APPRECIATION- and appreciation has become a lost art.

 

Nerd

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