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QotW: What mentor/mentee experiences have others had with regard to throwing?

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Hulk recently posted in the QotW pool: 

Still curious what mentor/mentee experiences others have had with regard to throwing?

Hulk adds to this question by stating: I started at the local JC Ceramic lab, where short demonstration introduces skills required for upcoming assignments, then practice. From there, anyone struggling and/or having questions and/or asking for help would get some one on one or small group. I as (still am) ok with that. I have/am learning by practice, making mistakes, and observing others. Isn't it interesting what we see when observing others - particularly what we didn't see earlier? ...aha!

For myself (Pres), even though I thoroughly believe that learning to throw is much like learning how to ride a bike; I believe that good practice can be taught, reinforced, and improved upon with the aid of an experienced teacher.

First to cover my beginning statement, much of life depends on what is referred to as a priori knowledge that is pre existing knowledge to help learn something. However, riding a bike is something that you really don't have a lot of pre learning to help you out. Much the same when working on the wheel. The coordination of using the foot pedal, you can relate to the gas pedal on the car as it makes things go faster. but how do you learn the right pressure to move the clay, to center it, to brace yourself for greater strength/pressure on the clay, or how to gauge the thickness of the walls or the depth of the floor? All of this must be learned by viewing others, practice, practice and. .. . well you get the idea. In the beginning a good demonstrator/ teacher is paramount to understanding the steps in the process, the general body positions, the positions of the arms, hands and finger, and the speed appropriate for the stage of the throwing at hand. Only practice will really allow you to approximate the steps demonstrated and end up successfully.

My last sentence of the opening paragraph states that a good teacher observing can make good improvement on what is already learned. I have seen many adults taking an adult ceramics class that I taught in the Winters at the HS where I taught, and where I still help out.  Many of these folks are art teachers, or had ceramics in HS, college or both. All too many times they have developed weak habits when throwing, that as an experienced thrower I can help them to correct, improve upon and by doing so allow them to throw larger amounts of clay with greater confidence and experiment with forms they would have never been able to accomplish before even though the desire was there.


 So to return to the original question from Hulk: 

What mentor/mentee experiences have others had with regard to throwing?



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I took private lessons in 1969 to learn to throw. It was in Seal Beach Ca. I was in high school and I did it as a suggestion from a friend`as we had wheel access at scholl but no instructor . So we signed up for a night class and threw on 5 different wheels-3 were power and two kick wheels.I do not recall how many months we did this maybe 3-4 months. That same year I bought a wheel for home and within 6 months moved away to collage where I had more training in throwing. I guess about 4 instructors in total for throwing skills. I think it took me about 6-8 years to master it really. I thought I mastered it in 4 yrs  but looking back that was not the case especially handles.

Edited by Mark C.
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From what I remember I was introduced to wheel throwing in 3rd grade, and had ceramics class for part of the year for every year from 3rd to 7th grade, and then took 2 years (6 courses) at community college.  But I pretty much forgot everything between then and when I bought my wheel 2 years ago.  Been slowly reteaching myself with the help of you guys here and YouTube since.  I'm fairly autodidact so when I am interested in something i am driven to learn everything about it.  Doesn't always translate to skill though.

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My high school only had one wheel,   my teacher would pick a boy to teaching throwing too.  He didn't think girls were strong enough to throw.   When I went to college to get a degree in clay  I needed to take three semesters in throwing.   Rick St.John was my first throwing teacher,  he was very patient and drilled the basics into our brain.   My second teacher was more into teaching us how to recycle,  make clay and cleaning,  very little throwing.   My third teacher was a mountain of a man and  would throw a 25 lb block of clay in minutes,   he gave my class a few helpful hints but mostly we followed a throw and cut schedule.   I decided to concentrate on hand building  when I had completed my throwing requirements.   Who knows I may have stayed with throwing if I had a mentor.   I have been rebuilding my brain/hand  connections since I bought a used wheel.   Marc found it for me and convinced me that getting rid of my kick wheel and going electric was the best way to retrain.   He was right,  maybe he is my mentor.    Denice


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Autodidact, that's a new word for me, thanks!

Ah'm believing that my throwing is improving some; mainly it is studying others' work (and my own) and observing others (YouTube, mostly) that guides my focus on what to try, what needs improving, etc.

There are very structured approaches to skill building for some disciplines, and some of these very structured approaches actually work well - recall, for those of you who had the experience, the tedium and pain of a full semester of keyboarding (formerly "typing")! If you came out rocking sixty or more words a minute (even thirty, ha), it was worth it, right? ...especially for those who spend/spent years running a keyboard (like me!). Are there many self taught keyboarders rocking sixty wpm? Compare/contrast the teaching of reading  (there is current analysis of widespread failure in the teaching of reading, btw), where the better structured approaches ease those who struggle up to full speed ahead, and the poorer structured approaches cripple.

...and that is my point; for those who are a "natural" the approach/method/strategy may not be as important. For those who struggle, a progressive, structured, flexible/varied approach can make all the difference in terms of achieving mastery, overcoming ineffective (bad) habits, etc. This point comes from my experience in the teaching of and training in swimming, from basic skill only through competition at highest levels and all in-a between. I did not see (and still don't see) much really good swimming instruction, and what is good isn't varied - it's good for a fraction of the audience, at best.

I'm not expecting to find a throwing mentor, however, will try to keep an open mind!

Before returning to school, I worked in the painting trade (having turned my back on teaching). I'd learned to spray airless and conventional; I was very good at it, and don't mind saying so, lol! ...wasn't much of a brush and roll guy though, not until I worked with someone who could really go, AND put me on a program to build the skills. There's a lot to handling paint tools that most of the world has no clue about. So I was a good sprayer, but my mentor helped me become a master, and also a good brush and roll as well. I was lucky, eh? ...same guy set up an intervention which lead to me going back to school for CS, changed my life, thanks Ron.

There are good mentors out there...

Any road, thanks for the responses!

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7 hours ago, Hulk said:

I'm not expecting to find a throwing mentor, however, will try to keep an open mind!

   @Hulk, don't know if this is something you might be interested in but  there is a mentorship program available for free if you are current member of ICAN.  Listing of current mentors.  Mentors and mentees can get in touch via email, phone, skype or in person. I know of one lovely man who is a member of this forum who mentored a woman from my area. I know it meant the world to her before she passed away to have this connection.

Edited by Min
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