Jump to content


Where Have You Learned About Pottery

Question of the week

  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1 Marcia Selsor

Marcia Selsor

    Professor Emerita, MSU-Billings

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 6,355 posts
  • LocationRed Lodge, Montana

Posted 12 May 2014 - 07:24 AM

What have been your most valuable learning experiences. Actually testing your own ideas? In school? at workshops? in books? the forum? you tube? CAD videos? Where have you come away with great learning experiences that pushed you forward?

Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita,Montana State University-Billings

#2 williamt


    Advanced beginner, maybe

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 66 posts
  • LocationSoutheastern US

Posted 12 May 2014 - 05:01 PM

Hi Marcia,
Probably testing my own ideas or collaborations. I really got started because I had a wheel and a friend had a kiln. We shared back and forth and learned by doing. I think having the ability to bounce things off each other was most helpful.

Also, I like to talk with other potters at art (craft) shows. If they have an interesting form or glaze I ask about the achievement.

Lee Tucker
Black Kitty Pottery

#3 PSC


    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 224 posts
  • LocationFlorida

Posted 13 May 2014 - 10:00 AM

In college i would watch my fellow students work. I watched them a lot. I was the studio assistant so i was welcome in any pottery class as i made glazes, loaded kilns and cleaned so i got to watch a lot of my fellow students while i flittered around the studio doing my tasks. I learned so many things on what not to do while observing. So i would say early on after teachers, i would put fellow students as my second most important source of learning, then books and mags...now i teach adults at a community school.

So now i would put my own experimentation first, then those past teachers, past fellow students, still reading those books and mags, online stuff, then my own students. The teacher never stops learning and students never stop teaching.

#4 Rebekah Krieger

Rebekah Krieger

    The extraordinary clay bender

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 786 posts
  • LocationWisconsin

Posted 13 May 2014 - 10:44 AM

I took an evening course at the art museum (5 weekly nights) and was taught with 1 throwing demonstration, 1 trimming demonstration, & 1 handle demo.  I consider myself self taught because I just obsess over the forums, youtube, and books.  I am in the gathering of ideas/techniques stage. Too early (2 years) to officially say that i have learned yet because i haven't been able to try all the techniques I have read about.  Since I am currently self taught, I don't know what I am supposed to learn.  That is the hard part. 


(so if anyone is willing to help me with my problem of not being able to pull up a wall higher than 9-10 inches, I would totally appreciate it) ;) 

~ Namaste ~


Home studio potter 


Shanel Pottery 






"To me the greatest thing is to live beauty in our daily life and to crowd every moment with things of beauty.  It is then, and then only that  the art of the people as a whole is endowed with it's richest significance.  For it's products are those made by great a many craftsmen for the mass of the people, and the moment this art declines the life of the nation  is removed far away from beauty.  So long as beauty abides in only in a few articles created by a few geniuses, the kingdom of beauty is nowhere near realization."                                                                                 - Bernard Leach 

#5 Up in Smoke Pottery

Up in Smoke Pottery

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 97 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, SD

Posted 13 May 2014 - 07:36 PM

I would have to say the critical launching point was after I attended an alternative firing workshop led by Charlie and Linda Riggs.  It really fueled my interest.  Prior to going i mainly did stoneware, had trouble finding a voice through the glazes that I agreed with.  I had always preferred my pots prior to being glazed, and 90% of the time disappointed with the outcome, technically it was fine, just not what I was hoping for as a finished product.  I'll admit most of this was my own inexperience and lack of self confidence in my work.  I was talked into attending the workshop and it opened my eyes to a whole new set of ideas, Afterwards I began playing on my own and really took to the alternative firings and naked pottery.  There were several other pivotal points along the way that have help me greatly either books, video, trial and error, this forum, and the man who gave me the 5 min lesson, much the way Rebekah had.  I will say it was the workshop that really propelled me forward in pottery.  I have gone back and done the same workshop several times, the last time was more for the fun of hanging out with the other potters.




Up in Smoke Pottery




#6 alabama


    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 431 posts
  • LocationSlapout

Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:29 PM


     I started in college where I majored in archaeology and minored in art.  I knew absolutely nothing about ceramics but was able to recognize it in the field school.  If you found something questionable, between a rock or sherd, you'd tap your front teeth.  My extent of pottery sherds was that sherds hurt less than rocks.

So back in 1990 I was told that I needed a senior research project and to choose 3 topics...1. European trade guns 2. lithics i.e. arrow heads and spear points

and 3. ceramics (because I knew we would not get to #3.)  So sitting across the table from the arch. dept head and advisor I was informed that 1 & 2 wouldn't work and that I should choose #3.  I felt the blood flow starting to leave my forehead going down past my face and neck.  Apparently my advisor could see it also, so he offered some calming words, "Hey, it's going to be ok!  I'll go get you some clay from the river, we'll make out a series of objectives.  You'll meet those objectives, write a paper and turn it in.  It will be an independent study and you can work on it on your own time."  I felt the drain slow down around the shoulders

So I said OK.  I started reading everything I could starting with "Sun Circles and Human Hands", Ceramics for the Archaeologist, Traditional Pottery of Paupau

New Guinea, and a Ceramics Monthly article about Traditional potters of the Ivory Coast.  Ethno-historian accounts from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century

were helpful even though some languge had changed and some reading between the lines were necessary.  The interviews weren't done between the women potters but their husbands and brothers.  Native languages were translated into French or Old English or some type of Mobilian Trade language so yes there

some things lost in translation.

     Since I didn't know how to make a bowl, I made test tiles, and later the test tiles became small bowls.  The advisors' schedule allowed him at the lab only on Fridays, so I made pottery from Sunday to Thursday and on Friday I fired everything together.  I did this every Friday.  I experimented with different tempers,(sand, shell, spanish moss, grog, etc), forms, decoration, fuels ( logs, sticks, grass, cane, manures, etc.) pigments (terra sigellatas, yellow, red, and black

iron oxides, and burnishing.  The more I did the easier it got.  I think I've made every mistake at least once.  It humbling to realize that a master potter in Alabama 1755 AD was a 10 year old Indian girl.

    I learned that there are two worlds of pottery.  The ancient and the modern.  If you keep them in their own worlds either is relatively easy.  If you combine

one with the other, it usually winds up as a disaster.  Ancient pottery by istself is very simple.  Theres only two types and only two sequences.  period.

Any success is your fault and any failures are your fault.  A good deal of principles of why things happen are in fire science books and believe it or not

some are in automotive repair particularly in the air conditioning section.   Between those two sciences you can just about explain the who, what, and why of primitive ancient pottery.

     Modern pottery is alot more complex because of the different variables.  You could actually write a book on modern Pottery. :) Maybe two :) :)

I just happen to know about them both and both worlds started for me in college.

See you all later.


#7 Marc McMillan

Marc McMillan

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 153 posts
  • LocationDublin, ca

Posted 20 May 2014 - 09:19 AM

Short story for me: failure. That's where I learned.
I'm a self- educated potter. Lots of books, videos, and critiques from my wonderful wife and other artists.
I often wonder where I would be if I had more formal education, but have loved the journey.

#8 Pres


    Retired Art Teacher

  • Moderators
  • 3,179 posts
  • LocationCentral, PA

Posted 20 May 2014 - 01:19 PM

I got my start at Mansfield State College, with a Ceramics 1 and 2. After getting a job, knowing I needed more studios, I took several Ceramics classes at Penn State. So I learned a lot of the basics in school. However, where did I learn most of what I really know and can do. . . by teaching for over 30 years of ceramics classes in HS. In the long run, I believe that a lot of my knowledge of ceramics comes from doing the wrong things and learning from them. Things like not checking a kiln every time I fire it, or not testing a new glaze, or putting kiln was on too thick, to firing ware too fast or too wet. All of it I have done wrong, but learned differently by either thinking it through or extensive research on why it did what it did. Cracks, lots of research, glazes same there, and all of the little bitty every day things that happen in a studio.  Good thing I am able to bounce back from some of these errors and not be so turned off, but in the end, I love clay! :rolleyes:

Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . . http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/

#9 Mudslinger Ceramics

Mudslinger Ceramics

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 159 posts
  • LocationSydney, Australia

Posted 20 May 2014 - 08:48 PM

THE most valuable time was my undergrad degree, I experimented with EVERYTHING I could think of!


I knew I would never have such a well equipped ceramics lab again so I sat there for hours and hours with books from the well resourced library and just tested and tried whatever process, techniques, material or clay or glaze recipie caught my interest. Our teachers were process not concept orientated so experimentation was really encouraged.....

 .....ended up with lumpy pots and many failures but have kept many recipies and techniques from that time that I still use today. While some students wanted to come out with a well developed body of work I wanted to come out with a well developed resource diary.


In my post grads I also took advantage of the ceramics labs but they were never as well resourced as my first college and these courses were more about concept or design.


I have not been as inspired again as in my undergrad. and money of course prevents me from having a ceramics lab like that again but that time remains fondly in my memory and many results still find use in my practice today.



Mudslinger Ceramics :   www.mudslingerceramics.net


'Don't worry about your originality. You couldn't get rid of it even if you wanted to.

It will stick with you and show up for better or for worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.'

                                                                              - Robert Henri

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users