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QotW: Which "newbie question" has most confused/confounded you?

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Liambesaw recently posted in the QotW pool: Which "newbie question" has most confused/confounded you? 

Oh to remember the days as a teacher, and hear so many questions, and so many frustrated students. There were times that I would give a simple answer to many question, be a Yes, or a No. Other times I would often be required to give a step by step demonstration that would answer many of the questions that needed answering, and after 20 or so demonstrations of the same process or idea, would leave little need for questions, as they had been answered. Then there were times when in the middle of a project the student would ask for where to go from here, and I would give them three alternative answers to the question. They would ask why I couldn't give one, simple answer was that if I only gave one, when the project was done with so many single answers on my part the concept for the project would be mine.

However, There were questions that really had no answer that would satisfy the student. Why can't you just show me how to throw well enough that I can do it. Tell me how much pressure to apply?  Should I use my thumb and fingers like you do? How do I know the difference in the thicknesses when I can't see them, but only feel them? How do you expect me to learn something by closing my eyes, I have to see? I could go on, but most of you have been on at least one side of this coin and many of you on both sides. For me, pottery especially the wheel, is sensual, it is like learning how to pet a cat or dog, touch a lover, or enjoy feeling a piece of fine sculpture, it is in the touch, the sense of it, without the eyes. To teach this is impossible, to learn this is as individual as of each us. It cannot be taught, only learned, guided, and learned some more.

At the same time the clay shapes us as much we shape it. Early on, we may aspire to large pieces or grandiose ideas. Do we have the strength even if we have the skill. . . .no. So as we learn we build muscle, potters have muscles in places that many don't, the wrists, the forearms, the edges of the palms, and other places. At the same time we have learned to judge thicknesses and weights both visually and tactfully, and often using both senses together. Easy answers? NO! Hard learned skills, and answers, with often individually different understanding of the clay?

So the next time you are confounded think back to the day when you may of asked that newbie question.

Again, QotW: Which "newbie question" has most confused/confounded you? 

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It's maybe not a student question but a customer one, usually from someone who isn't familiar with clay: "How long does/did it take you to make that?"

While I do have my stock answers to this question worked out, I find it's still difficult to give a s atisfactory answer without sounding either arrogant or too obscure. Most people when they ask this are trying to figure out the value of my work, how hard it is to do, and how pottery in general differs from a mug you buy at a big box store. If I slaved for hours, that must be where all the money goes, right? I believe that education is important, so I'll take a few minutes with these folks, even though it likely won't result in a sale today.  But it might later.  I try and explain that the individual piece breakdown isn't always a very practical analysis, and depends on a lot of things. ('It depends.' heh.) I describe a bit of my work cycle, the wating times, multiple firings and the batch nature of making pots. I tell them it can take years to build skill, to learn firing techniques and the glaze chemistry. I explain that more experienced potters usually spend less time making any one item than a novice does.

With any luck, what I describe to these folks is at least interesting to them.

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My fellow demonstrator transformed a lump into a vase for a group of observers. First question, "How did you get it hollow?"

( A patient answer here could create a new newbie.)

Zeiner proceeded to make another. 

 

The question, "How long will it take?" is easy to answer with "Wait and see," "That depends," and "Take notes." But it's the hardest part to learn about clay, for lots of students - "Patience!"

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