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...iceship#Germany The Germans seem to think its possible to narrow the skill set down to a prescribed set of skills.