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QotW:When, where, what, or who influenced you to begin your journey into pottery? If you care to share: what was it exactly about pottery that drew your interest?

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Glazenerd posed the following series of questions in the QotW pool. I am posting both of them as they seem to be very related: 

When, where, what, or who influenced you to begin your journey into pottery? 

If you care to share: what was it exactly about pottery that drew your interest?

In answer to this area of interest, I can really remember it like yesterday. . . Mansfield, PA, Mansfield State College, Art Ed department, Ceramics I, with Stanley Zuchowski. I had done a hand built slab box in an earlier crafts class, and had signed up for a Summer class thinking that I would fill one of my elective class credits and move on. Little did I know that the feel of the clay moving through my fingers, and the challenge of the wheel, control of the clay and movement to make a form would keep me interested for the rest of my life. I was enthralled by the teacher's understanding of the clay and the large forms he was able to make, but in the long run came to realize there was so much more to it than that. I had never really had any experience with the potters wheel until then, and no experience with clay other than the occasional grade school project that might have lasted an hour if that.

Best,

Pres

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My love of clay started when I was 12,  I had a art teacher that thought I was artistic and was a big supporter.  One day she gave every one a ball of clay and told us to make anything we wanted.  Everyone else smashed out awful ashtrays,  my folks didn't believe in smoking.   I had been reading a book on Egypt and decided to make a Egyptian cat pendant for a necklace.  When I touched the clay I fell in love with it and the pendant was so beautiful  I knew clay was magic and I could make anything I wanted with it.  A few years later I was in high school where I could take a pottery class.  Great teacher,  I did a lot of hand building over the next three years.  Never got to throw on the wheel,  we only had one wheel and the teacher would pick a boy to teach  throwing to.   He didn't consider girls strong enough to throw.   I have tried many many different types of art but I always go back to clay.      Denice

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I fell in love with clay when I was four years old, in kindergarten.  Thank you, Mrs. Owen .

We had a three day rotation in which one third of the class worked in clay, one third in paint, and one third built with blocks.

What appeals to my now in clay is not that different from what appealed to me then. It was how the clay felt in my hands, that it was plastic, that the form was three dimensional rather than two dimensional, and that the potential forms were limitless.

The act of shaping drew me much more than decorating. 

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I was in a high end antique store in Williamsburg, Va. In 2007 admiring a Dresden vase. On the next table was a vase with floret looking shapes that caught my attention. The clerk had no idea what kind of glaze it was. I spent almost an entire year searching for a similar glaze: then one day I typed in " crystal glaze", because that was the appearance of it to me. The first website was William Melstrom from Texas; lo and behold I had been looking at crystalline glaze. I had no prior experience with or interest for that matter in pottery, although I did help my wife glaze bisq ware some 20 years prior. 

After doing some research, I ordered the kilns, rollers, and sundry items required to make this speciality glaze. So I jumped into the rabbit hole from the outset, and here I am ten years later. I noticed early on that crystals formed differently on different clay bodies; although I made no changes in recipe. Those differences lead to extensive research over the last five years trying to understand why. And now I know why.....

Tom

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33 minutes ago, glazenerd said:

I was in a high end antique store in Williamsburg, Va. In 2007 admiring a Dresden vase. On the next table was a vase with floret looking shapes that caught my attention. The clerk had no idea what kind of glaze it was. I spent almost an entire year searching for a similar glaze: then one day I typed in " crystal glaze", because that was the appearance of it to me. The first website was William Melstrom from Texas; lo and behold I had been looking at crystalline glaze. I had no prior experience with or interest for that matter in pottery, although I did help my wife glaze bisq ware some 20 years prior. 

After doing some research, I ordered the kilns, rollers, and sundry items required to make this speciality glaze. So I jumped into the rabbit hole from the outset, and here I am ten years later. I noticed early on that crystals formed differently on different clay bodies; although I made no changes in recipe. Those differences lead to extensive research over the last five years trying to understand why. And now I know why.....

Tom

Sounds more like an journey of self-punishment.  I thank you for your sacrifice though, I've learned more than a little from your explorations posted here on the forums.

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In 1975 I wanted to escape 2 years as a Political Science major. My buddy was an art major in pottery. I took Ceramics 101 and 102 but was not consumed by it. In 1979, after cutting half my Left thumb off, I took Ceramics 101 and 102 at the local community college while the thumb healed. Again not consumed by it.

Next time to stick my hands in clay is in 2008. I audited Ceramics 101 just to see if it held my interest. OK I get consumed, however kidney cancer surgery in 2013 knocks me out of pottery for awhile. Try to get back into it but R hip and L knee bone on bone is too much pain. Get both totally replaced in 2015. 

Since 2016 I have been consumed by clay, glazes and making. No pain and 70 pounds lighter, I am hitting it hard and loving it. 

The kidney cancer was a wake up call. I figured if I were ever going to do anything in pottery it better be now. Now at 64 years old some days I feel like a puppy, spry and full of life and ideas, then some days like an old dog - both mentally and physically. 

I read something that says professionals don't wait around for inspiration, they just get on with making. That pretty well sums it up. Just get on with the making...

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I had taken art classes beginning at age 11 in 1960. During the 6 years of Saturday classes downtown , I was exposed to great museums including the Pennsylvania University Museum with a great archeology college and the Philadelphia  Museum of Art, The Rodin Museum, Natural History Museum, etc.   Once in Art school at the Philadelphia University of the Arts ( formerly Phila. College of Art, formerly before that The Phila. Museum College of Art) I majored in Industrial Design after the Freshman Foundation core. My elective in Ceramics changed that. I too, like Pres, found the touch of clay and was hooked. My teacher, Bill Daley, was great in  getting us involved in firing, clay mixing , hand building. We attended a workshop with Paul Soldner at a local Art Center, built a kiln in the snow and fired. Afterwards we built a raku kiln on the "campus" in downtown Phila. Paula Winokur was brought in to teach us how to throw. The rest is history. I feel blessed to have had such a great exposure to the Arts and specifically in Clay.

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I was always exposed to ceramics from kindergarten on through college.  Didn't have money for a wheel, kiln, clay, etc until my mid 30s where I am now.  My recent inspiration was my neighbor who is a metal and woodworking artist, I told him I used to really enjoy ceramics and he said I should just do it.  So I did.

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Just now, liambesaw said:

Sounds more like an journey of self-punishment.  I thank you for your sacrifice though, I've learned more than a little from your explorations posted here on the forums.

Liam:

it might sound that way so perhaps I should add: I had no interest until my order arrived and I was hooked. Secondly, much has to do with my thirst to learn new things ( within limits.)  I read dictionaries for leisure, I find them much more interesting than novels. Except of course for the old stuff..Steinbeck,Dickens, and Harper Lee. 

So far the responses have been interesting insights.

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9 minutes ago, glazenerd said:

Liam:

it might sound that way so perhaps I should add: I had no interest until my order arrived and I was hooked. Secondly, much has to do with my thirst to learn new things ( within limits.)  I read dictionaries for leisure, I find them much more interesting than novels. Except of course for the old stuff..Steinbeck,Dickens, and Harper Lee. 

So far the responses have been interesting insights.

I was being sarcastic, but I'm the same way. Natural curiousity is one of the greatest teachers.

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Just now, liambesaw said:

I was being sarcastic, but I'm the same way. Natural curiousity is one of the greatest teachers.

My wife bought me a ceramic plaque decades ago: " Blessed are the curious, for they shall find adventures."

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My neighbour was an artist and I used to sit for hours watching him paint on weekend mornings. That was a pretty young age for me - likely 8 or 9.  He was also a sculptor. I remember trying to make things similar to his work with our back yard mud - wonder if he noticed?

The school system I was in (public) invested  in art education. We were always on field trips across the river to the Detroit Institute of Arts or Cranbrook or on a train up to Stratford or something! Most people have no idea what a great area & incubator for art the Detroit area was - thank God they saved the DIA when Detroit went bust. A visit to a dorm in Berkeley brought a lot of early childhood memories back to me as they had a big Diego Rivera mural on the wall  and I hadn't thought about those days in a long time.  Good teachers and good administrators brought those events to fruition for kids in those days. Another art gallery next to our high school had a Rodin exhibit( one of many good shows)  while I was there. My daughter tells me we lived in a bubble- both economically and for education - likely c/o the auto industry , so that a middle class lifestyle was able to take in all of these things. (Some of the other memorable field trips included a trip to the River Rouge plant, with a cat-walk over the glass sheets on a roller -red hot! Don't think that would get by the lawyers now days :)) 

Didn't actually take ceramics until high school and I loved it materially & aesthetically.  I think the early age art exposure was important to appreciate the forms that could be made and I still look at articles & books from that era for inspiration .

Edited by terrim8

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I made a squirrel and a spoonholder sometime before 3rd grade. Then, in my twenties, returning to JC, I watched George Geyer on our first day throw a classical Greek vase about 18" tall with grace and economy of motion on a Lockerbee kickwheel in a trice (a technical term meaning I was too bewitched to keep track of time).

Still bewitched.

I saw that vase's archetype about 12 years later in the Athens Museum - breathtaking, and even taller. 

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It took me till the last year of high school to decide that I was going to be a physiotherapist, because that was the thing that I thought could stand enough, and also seemed to have enough of a degree behind it to make my folks happy. But I needed to go back to school to get extra science classes to do it. So I took a 4th year of high school despite the fact that I already had more than enough credits to graduate with.  Not relishing the idea of a steady diet of science classes for a year, I decided to take art as stress relief as well, because I’d already worked my way through Drama and as much Band as I wanted. 

The art classes were “structured” so that grades 10-12 were all in the same room at the same time. The first day, we were shown where all the truly amazing variety of a supplies were, told that x number of projects were due by xx date, and shown the binder of projects we could choose from. The stereo was in the corner (no playing Korn or Lorena Mackennet), and told that certain older students were resources for specific areas, because they were good with those materials. The teacher Mrs Watrin was available for all kinds of assistance, and brought in local artists occasionally to give demos and talks.  

I hadn’t taken art as an option before because I was no good at drawing, and I thought that’s all Art was (heh). There was a potters wheel in the art room, and lots of clay, and the glazes were mixed by the resource students from recipes in a binder. I tried making a few sculptures that were pretty fun. I found a recipe for “thixotropic clay” that behaved a bit like that cornstarch goop that solidifies when it’s held still and is liquid while in motion, and I loved the science behind it. I tried the potters wheel, and even though I sucked, I felt like I found something that made sense to me. We did raku firings, and that was pretty much it. There was no going back after that. I wound up dropping the last physics courses and taking the last 2 art options instead so I could make more clay things, and applied to ACAD instead of the U of A. I still needed the degree for the parents. 

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Tis article was in the Billings gazette promoting a few local potters. There are many more in the immediate area. https://billingsgazette.com/entertainment/community/a-livelihood-in-clay-local-potters-carve-out-space-to/article_54a9e213-721a-53dc-bcf4-b418cab194e2.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share 
BTW my husband is home for the holidays teleworking. He retires in 279 days.The article makes it sound like I left him in Texas. What comes across in the articles are common ideas of the versatility and satisfaction we find in the clay and our sense of community, curiosity, and joy. Happy Holidays everyone.

 

Marcia

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The pottery scene from "Ghost"...I was fascinated by what she was doing with the clay on the tall vase, and when it collapsed, the total sensuousness of handling the wet clay... At that point I said to my wife, "Someday I'm going to do that" That was 28 years ago. I was 43,  Having grown up on the mean streets of NYC, I had never seen a potter's wheel, never touched clay. Then about 10 years ago, I was remodeling a bathroom for an 87 year old ceramist. She was still holding classes and teach 4H kids how to pour, fire and finish molded pieces. We got to talking about ceramics and she showed me the first mug she had ever made more than 50 years prior.  As we continued the conversations over the week that I had worked for her, she encouraged me to take a Learning Exchange class at our local ceramics supplier, Alpha Fired Arts in Sacramento. She also gave me an, old, tired kiln (she had another newer kiln) that she wanted to get out of her workspace.

I took that class and got hooked. Since then I've taken Ceramics 1, 2, and Raku classes at a local JC, was given my CI wheel by a friend who found it in a barn on a piece of property he just bought; Bought a newer used ^10 kiln which will never see ^10; sold the old kiln; remodeled a studio apartment I own into my own studio and have finally been making a little money to support my habit. 

I would say that what interested me most about ceramics is the malleability of clay and the myriad forms it can be shaped into. The possibilities are endless and I feel that I am just starting my journey...

JohnnyK

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I cannot wait until ghost is gone in all customers memories-Its been a sore spot with unrealistic pottery talk in my booth for decades.The romance of pottery-ya right-getting dirty-living heavy things- sure it romantic

Johnny we have a different take on that.I cannot count the comments on that move years ago but they are now very much fading.

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8 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

I cannot wait until ghost is gone in all customers memories-Its been a sore spot with unrealistic pottery talk in my booth for decades.The romance of pottery-ya right-getting dirty-living heavy things- sure it romantic

Johnny we have a different take on that.I cannot count the comments on that move years ago but they are now very much fading.

I think, Mark, that only practicing potters took exception to Demi's "throwing." Making pots is still romanticized in a lot of commercials today because - it really looks magical when you do it. Really, what was it about pottery that caught your imagination? Why did you start in this back-breaking field (assuming you didn't know about the drawbacks when you began)?

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44 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

I cannot wait until ghost is gone in all customers memories-Its been a sore spot with unrealistic pottery talk in my booth for decades.The romance of pottery-ya right-getting dirty-living heavy things- sure it romantic

Johnny we have a different take on that.I cannot count the comments on that move years ago but they are now very much fading.

100% agree, it gets downright creepy sometimes. No, I don't want to be checked out after telling someone what I do for a living and they make the Ghost comment. Creepy creepy creepy!!!!!

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Rae

I see the drug ads with pottery as a hobby thats mainstream these days.I'm going to pass on any comment as I was taught to be quiet if you had nothing nice to say.I do not believe in magic so that must be it.

I was introduced to clay in high school-well sort of. Back in my day we had a dress code and it was not to have long hair or sideburns extended. Well that did not fly with me so I spent lots of time in the deans office in late 11th grade discussing hair length and side burns-Thinking back on this its just insane. sort story now- My mother was in the teaching system and suggested I check out the continuation school taught at the Business and technology  junior collage campus-I did and I finished high school early there(my 12th grade) as you could work as much as you wanted. Here they had a small clay studio that was used during the day sessions when I was there. Since I was not a troubled discipline problem (b average all thru school)I could work in there with a friend.

Hence I was exposed to clay then. My friend suggested we take some private night  lessons taught by a potter in nearby Seal Beach at the same time so we did.My family was mostly all teachers and art was a common theme in our home.Before graduating I was taking flying lessons and stopped after soloing and spent my savings on a wheel and was throwing at home. I moved to the Northern part of the state (from Long Beach)to go to Junior collage  to study forestry and art then on to Humboldt state to finish my art degree. I landed at the JC in the right time as they where building kilns as it was new school. I knew how to throw and learned kiln building-went on the HSU and learned glaze making and ALL other aspects of ceramics from recent Alfred graduates who where all new hires and very much on fire to teach what they learned from the greats.I was at the right places at the right times it turned out. Went full time in 1976 the year of graduating from there. I never left my area of education (still a sleepy spot in this busy state)I bought some property in 73 and started building kilns while in school-still here 45 years later.

I caught the clay bug without realizing it-never viewed this as a job or thought of it as work or a living until late 30s.

I went thru some very tough $ years first 10 years then it slowly took off. The rest is history.

 

Looking back you could say growing long hair and side burns got me into clay.

PS: they dropped the dress code two years after I graduated .

 

Edited by Mark C.

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