Thursday, September 3, 2009


My ceramics 2 students have just finished making cylinders for the first week of class. I have them make cylinders just to get back in the groove of things. I also made an interesting discovery a couple semesters ago...instead of just making them do cylinders I had them explore volume, gesture and rim terminations while making the cylinders and I noticed that they were thinking so much about the latter that they didn't think too much about making cylinders and as a byproduct were making the intial cylinders like they'd been doing it for years. I like that.

The project that they are now starting is what I call variations of a form. They get to pick any utilitarian form and it must include either a trimmed foot or a pulled handle(making them learn multiple things at once!) They then have to do 15 variations on that form. The first few they can explore as broadly as they want but the last 10 must be smaller variations on one of the intial pieces. When they are done we will critique and the class will pick the most successful form and the student must repeat it production style at least 12 times(it's only ceramics 2.) After these initial assignments which to them feel like ceramics boot camp(you're in college, get over it) I've found that for the most part they are beginning to have the ability to really make anything that they want.

I only mention this because I've had a couple of emails from students in programs with professors who have no interest in teaching repetition skills and they ask me about developing those skills and I tell them that working in variations and then doing multiples is what worked for me and it's worked for my students. I still do it all the time, I don't do exact repetitions so much anymore because while that is a nice and necessary skill to have, it no longer holds much interest for me and the kind of work I do. When I'm working I generally make no less than 4 of a shape and as many as 24 in a run, each one just a little different. I use a pointer for plates and soup bowls mostly so they'll stack nicely if someone buys a set.

Here are some small 2# pitchers I made this evening. The progression is left to right. I actually made 12, the first 4 were OK, they certainly would've worked but sometimes I wonder if someone will come across it in a few hundred years and put it in a museum...that's enough for me to scrap the mediocre pieces. First photo far right is my favorite.

3# and 4# serving bowls...each a little different.
Well, that certainly was a ramble.


Sheridan Ray Pottery said...

Pots look great... I would also have to say that the pitcher in the first picture is my favorite as well.

Peter said...

It is good to hear that your students are actually obtaining some skills that give them a fighting chance of surviving as potters, and skills that may also make them better human beings as well! Great stuff. I'm enjoying the way that you are letting us into your classroom through the blog. Good to see your kick wheel in action too.
Best Wishes, P. said...

I'm glad you are blogging about pots again. You're like my long distance instructor. I have gotten more out of your "lessons" than from half the classes I have taken!