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QotW is What, How or When did you become interested enough in ceramics to decide that you would be making pieces some way the rest of your life?


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Hi folks, haven't seen a new posting in the pool so once more. . . I will pose a question.

I had some experience with clay when in elementary school (abysmal), then my parents did some poured ceramics where they cleaned the greenware, painted the bisque and had bragging rights. It was fun for them, and I was sorry they couldn't continue it, but from base to base there were different family opportunities. High School, no ceramics nothing at all that I can recall.  Then after 3 years at a community college in Williamsport, Pa undeclared I was approved for acceptance into Art Ed. I had had some HS art courses, never to excel, just in the middle of the pack. I really went because my girl friend had transferred into Mansfield for El Ed. Art Ed seemed to fit, and she encouraged me to try it as I had always done her posters for her preliminary work at Williamsport. She started a semester before me, and I started with a multimedia class taught by the ceramics professor, Stanley Zuchowski. Big man, strong as a bull, and very opinionated. However, we did one ceramics based slab construction that was to be a cube 6" to a side. I ended up doing mine with nothing more than a stain, and used a found object as the stamp. Turned out it was a metal door hook. At any rate, it was very successful and quite the opposite of abysmal. This success encouraged me to take Ceramics in the Summer session. I worked tirelessly trying to soak up as much as I could to succeed in the class, and was bitten by the bug. Rest is history.

My question for the QotW is What, How or When did you become interested enough in ceramics to decide that you would be making pieces some way the rest of your life? Notice I don't say pots in order to leave it open.

 

best,

Pres

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In California around the 3rd to 5th grade elementary school we studied the missions that dot California from Mexico to just north of the Golden gate a piece. Those missionary's spread them out to a days walk between missions. They (white men ) settled the territory 1st in a big way. Working or torturing (believe what you may)  the Indians who had always lived here.

From that  history we made small pinch pots like the Indians did as well as cardboard missions. That pot I still have a white body low fire pieve with cobalt on it.

This did not get me thinking ah ceramics thats for me.

The next was seeing my older brothers ceramic two foot owl he made in high school . Still have it somewhere?

That did not do it for me but later when I got the bug was high school at a place that I could with a friend make pots . We both liked it so much we took private night  throwing lessons in Seal beach for some months. That was in 69 if I recall.I bought a Brent wheel from Robert Brent at that time-he was just starting out as well.

I went to JC in 1971  and then I already could throw pots (not well) They where building kilns and just starting a new campus so I landed at the right time to build kilns make pots and so on.

I built a catenary arch kiln at my rental where I lived and made a throwing studio lean to off the back-soon I need a bigger place.-1st kiln the inspector ever saw-he lit a match looking for leaks (wow even then I thought that was a bit off)

I bought a house in 73 with a small loan from my mother and immediately turned a one car shack into a studio and built a kiln.The gas Company ran a 1,000 foot main to house for free -kinder times back then (since then they have made a small fortune selling me gas at commercial rates.)

Within a few years I transfered over to Humboldt state-1973-and there some new hires from Alfreds where teaching glaze and clay making. I sponged that up. They had a salt kiln-right time for learning that as well.  They where on fire with recent clay  learning from the greats at Alfreds.They taught mold  making ,low fire ,high fire ,hand building-I soaked it all in and then some. I got a work study job at school pot shop-made glazes-fired kilns -cleaned the place -ground shelves-built kilns. I took it all in 24/7 for 5 years straight . I lived and breathed clay  while chasing  an art paper degree .After graduation with said Art degree I was making pots at home . I was 22-by then I was selling them anywhere I could find in our county. 12 years slipped by. My mother asked me at age 35 what I was going to be doing with my life in terms of work. I had never thought about it as I was paying the mortgage and eating with pottery money never thought it as a  living then.-it just all worked. Never considered much else -like other work-sure i picked up some stray jobs to help along the way but clay was the way as it felt great. Later in life in my 40s I realized I was a potter and that was my path and livelyhood. Along the way I worked as an electrician as my best friend had a electrical contractin g business and needed help on big jobs where I learned on the job-same dael with a plumber friend he tought me and hired me a bit a swell all during my slower winter times with clay .Same with diving and clay I could help out doing commercial dive work with some dive contractor friends but only if it worked with show schedule. Then another 20 years slipped by again with pots.

I will say those other skills really helped to make kilns and studio and homes and I suggest all the other skills for any potter these days .Runing gas pipe or wiring kilns -all good stuff to know.

All my life I m the guy who wants to know HOW IT WORKS-that worked well for me.

So for me I never had an ahah moment clay slowly did its magic on me and really until age 35 when my mother asked I had not considered it a job or the rest of my life. Looking backing I think I was 17 when clay got me. From that moment on it was like breathing air-I never had a chance. Today I feel like clay got me not the other way round.

Clay has been very good to me and as a sit here doing exercises on my hand that just had a bone removed in thumb due to overuse clay also has been hard on me. Its a mixed bag really. Killer on the body on the scale I choose to pursue but mind and spirt  its been very good indeed..

Need to check my kiln fires now

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I know this will rile @Mark C. and some of the other potters, but for me it was the movie "Ghost" and not so much for Demi Moore but what she was doing with the clay...I thought at the time that it looked pretty cool what she was doing  and that someday, when I retired,  I would be doing that. It was the act of slapping  a shapeless blob of clay onto a wheel and turning it into something useful. Each movie after that which had a throwing scene added fuel to the little fire until I did a remodeling job for an 87 year old ceramist (not a potter). While we were talking in her kitchen one day, I noticed a couple of funky mugs that she had on a shelf and she mentioned that those were the first pieces that she had made many decades before. She suggested that I take a Learning Exchange class at our local pottery supplier Alpha Fired Arts. She also asked if I might be interested in an old Cress kiln that she had wanted to get rid of because she had a newer kiln that she wanted to start using. Got it for free if I would just haul it off...which I did.

I then signed up for the Beginning Pottery class which would last for 6 weeks, meeting on Thursday evenings with full studio access as long as the store was open. Since I was still working full time, I was only able to do extra time for a couple of hours each Saturday.  Well, the instructor said he only expected us to finish 4 pieces during the class and was absolutely blown away when I produced more than 20. Part of the inspiration to continue was while I was working those Saturday mornings, I was sitting side by side with professionals who rented access to the studio space, equipment and kilns on site.

Not too long after that, a friend of mine asked me if I would be interested in borrowing a CI wheel that he found in a barn on a piece of property that he had just bought. He said that I could keep it for as long as I wanted. I just had to clean the dirt and black widows off it. He dropped it off but it didn't have a splash guard. I ultimately fabricated my own, which turned out to be better than the original design. Then I started taking classes at a local Junior College where I increased my learning of the basics and expanded my skills, getting an A in both Ceramics I & II. All of the work that I did at Sierra College was ^10 but my kiln was only a ^6 kiln, and a tired one at that, so the work I did at home was almost all low fire. I did do a few manual ^6 firings, but decided that manual firings were not for me so I sprung for an Orton controller. With that in place the firings became a lot easier. Then I came across a Cress ^10, little used kiln that  the owner who said she was a potter, but was moving and her new place didn't have the space for her kiln, decided to give up her hobby. I got the kiln for $500, but along with the kiln, I had to take what was 300 pounds of boxed dried clay. (It's surprising how much lighter the bricks are when they are dry!) Some were ^6 and some were ^06, but most were red clay, all of which is still stacked in my garage. As time progressed, the old kiln started to fade and would only fire to ^1 so I wound up selling it  and a kickwheel to someone who just wanted to do low fire work.

My wife and I took advantage of an opportunity to buy the property next door to ours which had a house, a large carport, a small studio apartment,  and 3/4 acre of bare ground, all of which needed a lot of work. We fixed the house and the carport and rented that, and told the renter that the studio apartment would be mine and that I was making it my pottery studio. He was OK with the plan and I fixed it up to suit my needs. I've since taken a Raku class at Sierra College and have been working at making and selling enough stuff to pay for the habit. The hardest part is  working the land, part of which I turned into a farm, and spending time producing pottery. Right now, the farm is more profitable than the pottery and takes up most of my time since Spring has sprung  and I'm prepping the ground for my new crop, but the plan is to take a break now and then to build some inventory so I can set up a booth at the local farmer's market and sell pots there where I would get more public exposure than at my small farmstand, 

So, I've been at making pottery for more than 10 years, more so since I retired from the remodeling business 3 years ago and it looks like I'll be doing it for a long time to come. Who knows...maybe I'll still be throwing when I become a "Ghost"? :ph34r::D

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John

I have nothing against that movie (I watched that scene recently and only that scene as the move does not interest me)-a few points she did not throw that pot on the wheel-its all a set  up and any potter can see that so for me thats a falsehood  and thats the premise take away  for me. After being a potter for (now nearly 50 years now ) when that film came out that whole scene was told to me so many times I just never wanted to hear about it again. I never liked the entire film yet along the fake scene .Now it been so long ago I only hear about every few years.

I have done the on the beach love scene as well as the clay mess love scene in real life with lovers as a youngster so none of this was new to me when the film came out.

I'm glad someone actually took a clay class because of it-but let me add you are the 1st person that I have heard that actually happened to. Its the romance that folks recall.

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21 minutes ago, Min said:

One females take on this...It's not so much that the scene in Ghost was staged, it's a movie and it's expected. What does bother me about it is when some random guy at a market gives me a pervy look and asks something along the lines if I make pots like that. ick! 

Goes both ways, I get it from men and women.  It's uncomfortable for me, so I try to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible too by pretending I know nothing about the movie and have them explain the scene.  Works pretty good.

I accidentally watched the movie when I was a kid, I thought it was gonna be scary, but it was just dumb.

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The first time I worked with clay I was 12 years old,  the teacher told us we could make anything we wanted with the ball of clay she had given us.    I made a small Egyptian Cat pendant while the other kids smashed out ash trays.   My teacher hung my necklace in the schools trophy display for the rest of the year.  When she did that I knew that clay was magical,  I could make anything I wanted with it.   I  couldn't wait until I got to high school and take ceramic classes.    Denice

 

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I don't know, when I watched Ghost years ago with my wife it was all about the nutsy stuff with the coin and all, but when we were at the scene with the potters wheel I kept telling her how fake it was, and the piece on the faux hump with her running her hands up and down with no intent kind of ruined it for her. However, she laughed about it as she had taken ceramics with me in college for on semester. All in all, I figure if they had really wanted to get suggestive they would have done a handle pulling scene instead. Glad they didn't, as it was always a little awkward when doing a demonstration in front of a bunch of HS kids. I never could take the way my prof in college did it, taking the most suggestive approach, and asking the best handle pulling girls out after the group effort. Oh well, some things are best left on the shelf.

 

best,

Pres

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I’m very glad my college profs chose to acknowledge that handle pulling looks extremely suggestive before the demo and encouraged us all to get it out of our systems beforehand. And then proceeded to be very professional from there forward. And did NOT make any passes at anyone exhibiting talent in that area. That’s really gross.

I had one guy make a comment to me (in front of his girlfriend, no less!!) about Ghost. I gave him some really hard, uncomfortable wordless eye contact until he backed out of my booth, suddenly less sure of his amusement value. I remember watching the movie as a teen and thinking that the pottery thing was clearly set up for the actors, but that the point was the romance, not the clay. Being a teenage girl at the time, I appreciated the romance part.

Getting back to the original question, I didn’t find clay until my last year of high school. It’s a bit romantic, but not in a weird way.

I took an extra year of high school because I was late in deciding what I wanted to do afterwards. I had tentatively decided on physiotherapy, because it sounded as likely as anything else, and I didn’t really relish the notion of an office job. I was taking a bunch of additional science classes so I could set myself up for the best possible success there, given that I’m not athletic. I hadn’t taken any art classes up to that point because I’d chosen band and drama as electives, and I was told I needed to round things out by taking sewing and typing. Also, I have never bee particularly good at drawing, so I didn’t think I’d be any good at art. But with a full course load of science, I needed something fun in there, so I signed up for Art 10 (grade 10 level art). My school was experimenting with the quarter system at the time, so the experience was pretty immersive, because you only had 2 classes at a time but you were in them for half the day. Not great for Bio or Physics, but ideal for Art, and I wound up taking 20 and 30 level too. They were also playing around with a more self-directed model that year, so couple that with a well stocked art room, a teacher who was a practicing artist herself and who believed in fostering creativity and the idea that “artist” was a legitimate profession; lots of local artists brought in to do regular demos and talks (including a handful of potters), doing a job shadow with a local potter, raku firings as often as we could get the stuff together for it...and I fell in love with clay. At the spring Open House  tour to ACA (now Alberta University for the Arts), I remember going through the clay studio, and thinking that it felt like Home. I came home from school that day and before even taking my shoes off, I announced to my parents that I was going to art school instead. Their response was “My day was fine, thanks for asking.”

 

 

 

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There are thought in the US, that extending HS to include another or two more years may be useful. History of Education followed the need for higher and higher levels of learning as we moved out of colonization through industrialization. It may be time for some form of HS or post HS public education.

 

best,

Pres

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I went to basically a trade school for my college education in commercial arts. I used to walk home from school to save money  everyday and happened to walk by a ceramic studio.
Had taken plenty of pottery classes in high school and had a passing interest in it. For old time sake I thought and signed up for a class at the art studio on a whim. 
Within 2 weeks I was going to the studio after school around 7pm and walking out at 5am to the sounds of birds chirping (and unfortunately missed more than a couple of classes) 
You know that saying "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why"? Well, not to be too dramatic but ceramics just checked all the boxes for me.. What was mysterious turned into acquired knowledge, what was technically impossible became possibilities as I progressed. And progression led to ability to envision new ideas. And I still can't bear to go a day without clay on my hands..

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