Jump to content

Stephen Robison

Member Since 29 Mar 2010
Offline Last Active Oct 21 2015 08:57 PM

#50900 Ceramic Certificate Programs

Posted by Stephen Robison on 24 January 2014 - 02:58 PM

Post Bac degrees are decent, but an MA might also be a route. MFA requires as you said more investment in time and money and are also quite competitive. Residencies are good route too, but again are usually fairly competitive. As far as apprenticeships they vary quite extensively, but can also be a great experience. Taking workshops in the summer is also a fantastic way to grow, as they are often times directed at specific techniques in building, throwing and/or firing. I would not discount Community Colleges, many have fantastic people teaching at them. In WA state where I teach there are two in particular that are fantastic, one is Tacoma Community College and the Other I believe is at Shoreline CC. Doing some research into the work that they do can be fairly telling to their expertise in a certain direction you may be interested in going. For instance the person who is at Tacoma CC is amazing at wood firing and the instructor at Shoreline CC does some amazing work with black slip on white porcelain. Look at El Diablo Valley College on the edge of San Franciso, they have two full time ceramics instructors. Both GREAT, the two there are really great. Mendocino is good too! The idea of a certificate is not quite as relevant as just growing and learning. An AA degree is not needed, but building a good portfolio is and an AA degree or certificate may be a good way to continue your growth. There is no one path to growth. The main thing growth takes is your individual drive, work ethic and a day to day investigation into research that will drive growth in your ideas and your technical ability.  It is not always a book on ceramics, it may be a book on genetic virology and the imagery under the microscope, (thats one of my influences). DVD's and videos from Ceramics Daily, Youtube videos and many other great resources are available to you that were not available to previous generations such as mine. But libraries also are still an amazing source for research, not everything is online or digital! It is a blast, so have fun! 

#49532 New Trend In Education?

Posted by Stephen Robison on 06 January 2014 - 01:30 PM

PS there are plenty of political blogs out there so when you feel the need for discourse in that arena please seek them out. Thanks John for getting the post edited to be more relative to our agenda at  Ceramic Arts Daily. Yes politics most certainly does fit into the education topic, but our mission here is to expand on knowledge directly related to Ceramics.


Lets talk about the positive issues around our own learning and if we are teachers what our students accomplish and how we get our points across. 


What is the best way to get a student to focus and find their own voice?? Are we just conglomerations of appropriated imagery and the knowledge that we have been exposed or exposed ourselves to? Is there a reinvention of the wheel or are we using it to move down the road? Are the sights that we see in our journey in clay that much different than the previous generations that traveled a similar path. How did the previous generations influence how we see our path? What scenery did they shed light on? Is it a spout, a handle, a lid, a belly, a shoulder, an expression on a face, a texture or a firing technique or....



If its politics someone wants to talk about, put in your work like Richard Notkin's amazing work or Picasso's Guernica. Yes education in our country is looked at very differently by our two parties. But again we are specifically talking here about education in the fantastic world of CERAMICS. And what an incredible and diverse world it is! 


Go get your hands in the clay! Thats what I am going to do! 


#49530 New Trend In Education?

Posted by Stephen Robison on 06 January 2014 - 01:13 PM

This is for education in ceramics. Of course everything is connected but this almost doesn't seem like the appropriate place for this discussion. This is almost like a bunch of old people shouting at clouds. "Oh the problem with kids today" ... "I used to walk ten miles to school and back"... "oh yeah I had to lick the lake clean".. Monty Python .. 


So yes students have become slightly less engaged, but I find my students to generally want to learn and be challenged. ###### we are talking about CLAY! It is so awesome! Along with that challenge I find it important not to dictate outcomes fully. To me the challenge in introductory classes is to pass on some technical skills and introduce them to formal and conceptual issues in art. Are they going to make great work, no but if they leave me understanding what it takes to make great work then I have succeeded. Of course there is maybe around 10% who leave without a clue.  In intermediate and advanced coursework it is more about something Kirk Mangus taught me, and that is to "give them enough rope to pull them out of the ###### they are stuck in or to hang themselves".  Of course structure is very important also. If you let your students even look at their dam "smart" phones during class then you are doing something wrong.


I have colleagues who complain about students all the time and of course there is the seriously humorous one or two every quarter that I also complain or laugh about. But in 20 years of teaching I have not seen a huge change. And I remember what kind of student I was! They are a raw product and you introduce exciting material to them and it molds them as much as you do.  Getting most students excited about clay is easy for me and as they get excited the work ethic builds and builds. 

#48868 Liability Release Form

Posted by Stephen Robison on 29 December 2013 - 08:28 PM

I was once told by a lawyer that having them sign a form is really not going cover you. Somehow they don't hold up in court, maybe she was wrong but I trust she may not be.   I think an umbrella policy might be best. We are only open to the public 2 times a year. But if you are teaching there is also liability as far as how you teach them. If you don't cover all the safety with the materials and tools you could be liable as not teaching them proper safe procedures. For instance a copy of MSDS sheets may need to be employed and I know there are some funny things said here but I had a student get scalped by using a blunger and she had not tied her hair back properly. The size of the chunk of hair that came out left an inch plus area where I guess hair will not grow now. That was years ago at a university, so even though she was properly trained and had signed a sheet telling her of all the possibilities around power tools where it explicitly talked of tiring hair back and no jewelry along with eye protection and basics around respirators for clay and glaze chemicals, her parents still were going to sue the university. Now, if you are just teaching some basic throwing and not letting them around certain tools and you don't have dust hazards and ventilation issues in your studio are all taken care of, them???? I would seriously think about finding a lawyer who likes pots or does pro bono. CREF may also offer some good ideas and maybe cheaper prices??? Good Luck and Happy New Year!

#40590 Teaching Creativity?

Posted by Stephen Robison on 10 August 2013 - 08:54 AM

When we make something we are creating and therefore we are creative. Is it originality or the individuals take on something that we are talking about? It doesn't make a difference if we are talking about a cup, or a figure or an abstract form, these are only some of the starting points when we set off to make something. We are makers in our discipline. We are are all influenced by what we see and we are all conglomerations of what we are exposed to and what we expose ourselves to.  As we appropriate something we have seen and use it as a spring board for what we create we are being creative. Where we take it is relative to whether we are just being redundant of what we are starting with, however we are still being creative even if it be redundant or the objects be reiterations.  Again whether you start with the figure or a teapot, you are starting with something that you have some visual and some technical knowledge of, how well does the artists know anatomy and is that important to what they want to express with said figurative piece, and how well does the crafts person know ergonomics and the basic physical applications of how a spout functions and where it should be placed to function or is the teapot more of a vessel for formal dialog or expressing something and not really about the utility of the vessel at all. For instance I have a Brad Schwieger teapot that is certainly not about pouring tea and I have a few Clary illian teapots that certainly are about pouring. The figure is a very old form humans have used to express something and or represent something, the teapot is a fairly new vessel in the history of utilitarian pottery, but it serves a specific purpose of utility and to reinvent the wheel in terms of the objects function is sort of silly. But to use either the figure, a utilitarian vessel, abstract form or representational objects as our modes of expression we should be thinking about what we want to express. I don't believe in talent or creativity as something someone has or doesn't have. These are things that are obtained through practice and research and a constant work ethic. And again we are a conglomeration of visual and technical information and as we appropriate bits and pieces of our knowledge and put them together to make an object we are being creative. Adding more bits to our library of visual and technical knowledge is a great goal and as lifelong learners we can make more and more objects to add to this beautiful and ever growing world. 

#36370 A weird spot

Posted by Stephen Robison on 03 June 2013 - 11:11 AM

I sugest transfer to a University that has a good program if you are serious about this. It isn't the only route but is one of the best.

#36369 Developing new MFA program

Posted by Stephen Robison on 03 June 2013 - 11:05 AM

Is there a question here?

#2545 A Student’S Guide To Building An Esthetic Foundation

Posted by Stephen Robison on 14 September 2010 - 11:06 AM

I think it is a good idea to challenge students right of the bat. I put this together as a way for them to start to think about why they are creating something.

A Student’s Guide to Buildingan Esthetic Foundation

The expansion of your conception of what contemporary art and craft are and are not, will be the beginning of your foundation on esthetics and philosophies. In my classes, I ask you to look beyond commercialism to find your own visual voice. With that in mind, there are certain ideologies and objects that are inappropriate directions of study and research in my classes. Not to say there is no place in the world for these types of generic expression; there certainly is, but not in a college level class. Watered down, overtly commercial i.e. tourist trade, cookiecutter art or Kraft objects are unacceptable. Examples that fall into these categories include ash-trays,pot pouri burners, teddy bears, hearts, big beer mugs that say bet ya can’t on them, bongs, pipes, piggy banks, religious orother club-oriented iconography, light houses and sea gulls. This is only a short list and I do reserve the right to include other examples if they come up. Reasoning for certain esthetic rules lie in the fact that to learn about the art and craft of ceramics or any other media, you must look beyond the blatantly obvious. My classes are not about creating a product; they are about learning skills to create, building a conceptual direction and about learning to see. Searching for an individual voice through historical and contemporary reference points outsideof commercialism will be your main objective in my classes.

Whether you build on a visual voice that is directed towards a socio-political agendaor based on ideals of beauty, your visual voice begins with your investigation into the almost inexhaustible accomplishments of the past and the present. Your individual voice builds as an amalgamation of historical and contemporary work and grows with your understanding of both. Your audible voice grew by learning to speak through your mom, dad and other voices,you then furthered your education by learning to read and finally thinking more for yourself. I hope that even theway you speak and think continues to grow. Remember, a major aspect of learning is acquiring a taste that you may presently want to spit out or won’t even try and being open to new ideologies that presently you may not understand.

If you allow yourself to taste things that may be too sweet, too bitter, too ugly or incomprehensible to you now, you may open your mind to flavors that will make your mouth (or mind) water later. Everyone has disliked some food as a child and now loves it because they have learned the subtleties, textures or nutrition of that taste. The same direction can be taken when learning a visual (or musical) language if you listen to music or look at art more in depth and try to see or hear what it is saying you will expand your horizons and see the bigger picture. For instance there are probably quite a few songs you listen to and really like but you don’t know what the lyrics are. Once you figure out what the lyrics are sometimes you say to your self, “Wow what a stupid song”. In turn there are probably some songs you don’t like for some reason but what they are singing about you may totally be in agreement with. We all start out somewhat sophomoric atfirst, just making meaningless noise in music or marks in art, and then start to build dexterity through practice and knowledge of the tools. Just like the gibberish (gib·ber·ish n.spoken or written language perceived as incomprehensible, and probably not worth comprehending) of a toddler. It is after more and more exposure to the historical and contemporary use of the media that you will begin to see beyond the obvious. Looking at art and listening to music becomes like reading; if you don’t open your mind to what is out there you just become a mocking bird and never learn to sing with your own voice.

As an educator it is my goal to make you realize you have a voice, train it a little, get you to practice a lot, and then you can sing solo or join a band. I intentionally rely on analogies to help you relate to this ideology as it relates to any field ofstudy; creativity is important in every discipline. We call areas of study, disciplines because that is what it takes. I really don’t believe that one is born with talent; I believe one acquires it if they want to or if they have a nurturing environment that allows them to. I will try to make the environment as nurturing as possible for those who have the discipline and work ethic it takes to learn and not just play around and have fun. Learning should be fun also so I will try and make it so. However you are paying for this education and if you do not want to get your moneys worth that is more your decision then mine. Show up to class and do the 6 hours a week of homework and I guarantee you will be on your way to being what ever you want to be. It is a creative approach to growth and knowledge that makes any student successful and always above average. So not only showing up and doing the assignments but also going to the extra steps of studying the material will reward you greatly in the end. If you are in the class to obtain a grade and get credit then you may be in the wrong class. If you are in the class to learn about art and how art imitates life and how clay touches your life then I am excited to get to know you and help you along the way.

#254 Nceca 2010 Philadelphia

Posted by Stephen Robison on 06 April 2010 - 11:11 AM

As the education moderator I figure maybe I should give some feedback on NCECA. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts just concluded on April 3rd with from what I hear a fantastic closing speech from Malcolm Davis. I was not lucky enough to stay for that or one of the other great events, The Emerging Artists Lecture.

Some of my students were lucky enough to stay so I can vicariously report on the last day. From the conference catalog Malcolm Davis is quoted as saying, “As I travel about the land, giving workshops, I am continually touched and amazed by the journeys that have brought people to clay and how this humble material from the earth has transformed their lives into the unexpected. I will focus on clay, not as an art form, nor as a vehicle for self-expression, but as a material that has the power to transform the human spirit. Whether potter or sculptor, maker or user, collector or critic, it is the clay that we have in common and that brings us together into a community. Clay is the reason that we are all here today; Clay has given each of us a Journey of Transformation.” Some great thoughts that I hear were expanded upon with great wit and humor.

The Emerging Artists Every year is a highlight of the conference. They are usulay some of the best up and coming artists in our media and their fresh views are often times very enlightening to the students and professionals who attend the conference.

The last few years of fantastic artists can be seen at http://nceca.net/app...esults/emerging

This years line up was; Martha Grover, Nidhi Jalan, John Oles, D.H. Rosen, Amanda Salov and Christina West.

Martha Grover’s work is based in utility and has soft and subtle surfaces. As one form nestles inside another her work exhibits undulation that brings the work to life without any static qualities.


Nidhi Jalan uses an amorphic figural direction along with a mode of installation that addresses the human condition.


John Oles is a utilitarianist whose tea bowls seem to command the viewer to touch them, fondle them and caress them. As they almost seem to take on many aspects of the figure they again also call the figure to interact.


D.H. Rosen uses a connection between the fonts and numbers in the digital world in conjunction with form related to fertility to create instillations. The work speaks of movement and repetitive design though both the surface work on the sperm and the directional texture they create on the wall.


Amanda Salov is an artist who creates small-scale work that uses color, form and textures that appeal to our senses in an almost culinary way. Some of the work, like the “Dripping Sweetness”, is almost painfully sweet with its yellow icing like quality. Some forms melt into one another and the ideas of time and transition are captured in a given moment.


Christina West is working with figural concepts that pull us in their monotone or limited color surfaces. Limited color pallets create a striking emotion response and allow her figures to command full attention in the minimal spaces they inhabit. They are caught in time during an action that never seems to be directly read.


The work of these ceramic artists and potters will certainly need to be followed.

So starting out at the end of the conference and talking about just these two events there of course is the Keynote in the begging and all the meat in-between. I want to first talk about the keynote speaker Mrs. Terry Gross. http://nceca.net/sta..._presenters.php

I have been listening to Fresh Air, NPR’s weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, with this most distinguished, articulate and amazing host for quite some time. It was a real pleasure to hear her talk about her interview style and get to know her on a more personal level. It is hard to really pull her keynote into being very relevant to our discipline of ceramics. However the ideas and content that many in the discipline work into their work certainly relates to ideals of human rights, politics and other issues that come up during her interviews. Her insightful probing into the diverse people she has interviewed gives her listeners knowledge that adds to our day-to-day view and understanding of politics, sexuality, and music.

The speaker before Mrs. Gross was the Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Michael Nutter. Mayor Nutter gave a fantastic welcome speech that was filled with great insight into the history and contemporary place that ceramics has on “The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection”.

It was great also to have one of my professors in Graduate School, Mr. Bunny McBride, receive an Excellence in Teaching Award.

As the year passes between one conference to the next we always lose some of our friends. The family members we lost this year was, Jeff Carlick 
Ruth Duckworth
Bacia Edelman
1925 – 2009
Maurice Grossman
1927 – 2010
Otto Heino
1915 – 2009

Thomas Rohr
1964 – 2009

Matthias Ostermann
1951 – 2009
Frances Senska 
1914 – 2009
David Stannard
1925 – 2000. People in the field of ceramics who didn’t know them need to research their work and think about what they all gave to us.

NCECA Honors Awards went to Richard Shaw and Matthias Osterman. Two major players in our field. Richard had his banjo and was jamming during the conference.

The lectures in between the opening and the closing were the real meat of the conference. Some lectures were not up to par, but all in all there was a great line up. The best lecture I attended was Chris Staley’s called, “The Wisdom of Touching Clay”.

Another great lecture was, “Key Texts in Twentieth-Century Ceramic Criticism”, with panelists: Ezra Shales, Glen Brown, Garth Clark and Jenni Sorkin.

Since this forum is on education I should also bring up a great panel discussion called, Emerging Faculty. The Emerging Faculty panel was a fantastic group or faculty with the high energy and excitement you could see in Jake Allee’s presentation to the insightful teaching ideologies of Brian Harper. Moderator Al Holen talked on great collaborative projects that brought students together in a communal direction while Shannon Sullivan brought up great strategies in her teaching. All panelists brought up great usage of technology in their pedagogy. I feel as though I will need to add a separate entry in this forum to discuss further this panels knowledge on teaching.

There is no way to sum up any of the lectures I attended unless I spend a few days writing. There are so many other panels and lectures that I should mention. If there is a major critism I have of NCECA conferences is they are not long enough and many times you have to chose between lectures that are at the same time. I some times play musical chairs and go from one lecture to another. If you went to the conference then you know what I mean. If you didn’t or I should say have never attended an NCECA then you need to. Next year is in Tampa and the following year it will be in Seattle. Both will prove to be a GREAT time.

The other events like demonstrations are also a top event for education. This years demonstrators were; figurative artist Judith Fox, utilitarianist Matthew Metz, utilitarianist Kari Radasch, and the incredible still life artist Richard Shaw. During their demonstrations these artists all gave great insight into not only their work but also to ceramics and life itself. These types of learning are incredible eye openers and give students who experience quite a few ah ha moments in such a short time.

I have been going to NCECA for 20 plus years and the education is rooted in all of the above along with the shows and the parties that one attends. There were an abundance of those this year also. By far the best two parties were the West Virginia Party and the one with Junior and the Alaska gang jamming in Brad and Kathy’s room until 3:00am plus. Yep, you learn a lot at a party! For instance Templeton Rye is fantastic!

The shows were fantastic. The Hermaphrodite Show at the Wexler Gallery was one of the best Figurative shows and the downstairs show of Adelaide Paul was also fantastic. http://www.wexlergal...com/wexler.html

The show at Snyderman Works Gallery, http://www.snyderman...ks/gallery.html , was also fantastic.

The three major NCECA shows were the National Invitational Exhibition, called Earth Matters, the National Student Juried Exhibition and the juried National K-12 Exhibition. All of which had some great work. The NCECA Gallery Expo was also a great collection of galleries from outside of Philadelphia and showed off some great work.

The Utilitarian venues that fell in the top category were in the hotel. Some of my top picks were the Sante Fe Clay LA Mesa http://www.santafeclay.com/gallery.htm
and The Art Stream Exhibition, http://www.art-stream.com/ .

The Clay Studio and some other venues showed some of the best of the utilitarianists also. The Clay Studio had some amazing work in many directions. Just like the lectures all in all there were certainly to many shows to see too and all had their merits.

One major reason I attend NCECA and this cannot be overstated is the friends you reconnect with and the new friends you make. This is certainly a mixed bag of people but we all have a passion for clay and that invigorated energy that fills you at the conference comes back to your studio and your classroom.

#184 Pottery Books

Posted by Stephen Robison on 03 April 2010 - 07:52 PM

I say keep your tax dollars and support in the local or as local community as you possibly can. Most books shops that are still operating will find any book you want (almost). You may pay a few bucks more than a discount place or a big internet seller. BUT the tax will stay in your community infrastructure and you will be helping some people keep their jobs and their business. Support local is my suggestion!!

#182 Great Project Gone Bad...

Posted by Stephen Robison on 03 April 2010 - 07:47 PM

Don't wet the paper! Tape it on to itself with a small piece of masking tape. Make sure the paper slides easy off the tube and then your ready to wrap clay, fix seam and get it off the tube before it starts shrinking to much. If you leave it to long it may constrict on the tube. Gently get it off the tube when you can and then let it set up a little if you desire to really hold the integrity of the cylinder, and then add a bottom or top or.... If you want to manipulate it by darting or other altering techniques you may actually do it right away. Have fun