Monday, March 9, 2009


I just finished reading Scott Cooper's most recent post and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you don't follow his blog you should head on over there and give it a read. I find his posts to be much more thought out than most blogs and at times philosophical. I try to stay away from that stuff here-not that it doesn't interest me, it really does, but because philosophy tends to spark debate and I don't know that this blog is the best forum for that. I like to think of my blog as a neutral environment, though I'm not always successful with that.

Here is something Scott wrote in response to a book that he has just read: "It showed that the elite students at the school were always among the group who had logged the most hours of practice, and that the quality of the students went down in direct correlation to their total lifetime hours of practice with their instrument. That part makes intuitive sense, and lays the groundwork for the argument that doing the hard work of practice and repetition is a pre-requisite for success, and that this is vastly more significant than "innate talent."

I thought this was brilliant and perfectly timed for me to read. I recently had a discussion with a group of students in the art dept. who were complaining about having to come in outside of class to finish some assignments. I was a bit shocked at this attitude to say the least. I once told a student that I was sorry his education was getting in the way of his social life(sarcasm), haha. When I pull out my soapbox I tend to get harsh but there are times it's appropriate: When you are a student, particularly an art student, you have to use every moment you have to hone your skills, after all that is what you are here for. If you're not spending 3-4 times the amount of time you spend in class on your work you are wasting your time and the departments. Students who do just enough will never make it as artists, period. If you get to the point where you say "eh, it's good enough" then you need to pack up your stuff and go find your passion somewhere else, you don't need to waste everyones time with mediocrity and indifference.

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but it gets the point across. The only reason I am where I am and can do what I do is because I spent more time as a student in the art studios than I did at home. I spent every available moment working on pots. When I was in my other classes I was sketching pots in my notebooks. I believe that if that drive isn't there from early on then chances are that it won't ever be there. If you don't have it you'll never be able to go it on your own. It takes a HUGE amount of drive and self-discipline to work as an artist on your own. Even with the drive it is rare to make a living as an artist. I have several friends who spent as much time in the art studio as I did, they have the ability to do it on their own as well but sometimes the need to have a stable income and support your family has to come first. Hopefully they'll get back into making soon.

Why am I writing this here? Well, I have several students that read this blog and I know there are many from other institutions who do as well and I feel it is the best advice I can give someone who is still in school. This is a very simplistic overview of my beliefs about art education but feel free to agree or disagree with me if you like.

In other news I've gone as far as I can with the treadle wheel right now. It turns out that the lumber that was sold to me was still a little green in the middle. I let it sit inside for a few days to acclimate and noticed a couple pieces were a little moist when I was drilling out the mortises. I was short a couple pieces because they sold me one piece of lumber that was the wrong species last time(not their fault, it was stacked in with the right stuff and looked the same rough) so I went to pick up another piece this morning and commented on the wetness and the guy says: "oh yeah, this stuff is still a little green, it still needs a couple months of air drying." You think they could've informed me of that last time? What lumberyard stacks the wet wood in with the dry stuff and doesn't tell you? Oh well, hopefully I didn't just make a pretty pile of firewood. I bought a bunch extra this time in case I have to remake any of the parts. I stacked the new stuff and weighted it down in the kiln room as it seems to get about 100-110 degrees in there when firing, but I imagine it will still be awhile before it's ready to work with. I have all the pieces I already made stacked and hopefully they'll remain in good shape.

Don't worry, that kiln directly next to it doesn't work!


Anonymous said...

hey brandon, checked out scott's blog, he's got some good posts... as far as your post about students and work, i'm not a teacher but many of my school buddies ended up teaching art in universities and i won't get into it on a comment but the ones that have taught for 20 years or so definitely see a trend that is mirrored in your comments.

Judy Shreve said...

It's not just students that need to stay focussed -- I find with my fellow potters - it's the ones that just get out & work everyday that have the most success. It certainly is difficult supporting yourself with just pots!

I read & enjoy Scott's blog as well.

Sorry to hear of your treadle delay - good idea to use your kiln room as a lumber drying room too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brandon,
Thanks for your comments and the link to my blog.

Despite your best intentions, I think this post got philosophical pretty quick -- nothing brings it out faster than teaching! I encourage you to let 'er rip more often and spark some debates. A blog might just be the best place for it, and I think it's a good way to get to the really interesting ideas.

Great treadle wheel photos!

Anonymous said...

preach it brother, tell those students how it is. we probrably spent what at least 40hrs a week in the ceramics room? practice makes perfect.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brandon:

I loved your post, and wish I had spent more time in college honing my craft. I appreciate your honesty and candor, and most of all, I LOVE YOUR POTTERY! Anywho, your dad sent me the link to your blog, and just thought I would add my two cents!

Ryan Gibbons

Anonymous said...

This is very good advice and some that is rarely touched on. I think students are tempted to think that because studio classes don't require studying, no outside work is required. I concur that practice and hard work can typically outweigh most "natural talent."

Also determination, or lack thereof, is why most of the people I went to school with, myself included, aren't workind artists/craftspeople.

Paul Jessop said...

Spot on Brandon .
I was always first in and last out when I was at college and never missed a day. I too had to get a real job as they say and support my family, and only now that they are all grown up have I been able to return full time to my Love of Pottery.
Youv'e got to have the desire to work at it or your in the wrong job.