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process vs.

updated sat 31 may 97


John Jensen on sat 10 may 97

I work with a bunch of elementary kids age 7 to 12 once a week for an hour
and a half. Most have worked with clay before. In a six week session, one
class is devoted to glazing, one to working on the wheel and four to hand
building stuff. One of those classes is usually devoted to making some sort
of animal from a elephant, a rabbit, an owl, a squirrel. One
class will be completely free. The other two classes will be oriented
around a forming method...coils or slabs usually. Kids free to reject the
project at hand if they have good idea of their own. A lot of these kids
want to spend a lot of time cutting up the clay, rolling it, smashing it,
throwing it, and so forth without ever getting around to making anything.
Part of this seems to be a reaction to their insecurity with the whole
process, but another part seems to be a natural pleasure in just
manipulating the material. I feel a certain pressure to make sure these kids
have something to show to their parents: The parents are paying for the
course and want some assurance that something is happening, the kids like to
show off what they made to their parents. In the end, I resolve that my
primary responsibility is to the kids... I try to gently herd them in the
direction of making something, while letting them get a bit wild with the
materials if they want to.

There is usually one kid, sometimes two, who focuses on the task assigned,
asks for help when needed, deals with frustration and gets over it, and
generally seems to get a lot out of the situation. There is usually one
kid, or sometimes two, who seems indifferent to the assignment and would
rather tell jokes or throw claywads. Inevitably all the kids are intensely
interested in one another, and each makes a big effort to be known and
recognized by the others.

One outstanding aspect of this class is that it is after school, so the kids
are pretty much ready to play and not too interested in highly diciplined

John Jensen, Mudbug Pottery, Annapolis

Carolyn Broadwell on wed 14 may 97

I face the same problem with students at the community college level;
they want to make and KEEP! And I want them to learn to critique and
discern the best of a group of pieces and to select and only fire and
keep that. (It can be argued that kilns use a finite resource, so there
is some environmental philosophy in this too.)

The analogy I give my students is that ceramics is a skill like learning
to play a musical instrument or learning a new sport. At first you
practice; you don't record your exercises or give a recital, or enter a
competitive sporting event until you have achieved an adequate level of
skill; then you keep practicing and working on from there. I have a
friend who is working with lots of children, and she really uses this
idea in publicizing her classes to the administrations and parents who
are paying. They make lots and lots of stuff, but only keep the best out
of the lot. She helps them decide what will fire best (she salts it),
but they choose what means the most to them. Sort of like life; learning
to make decisions in a positive way.

Sherry mcDonald Stewart on wed 14 may 97

Carolyn, i have watched kids from classes dump their work because they
don't want to appear to think well of it. I always encourage taking
work home, putting it on a shelf or someplace to display it, if a
drawing, hang it on the wall, and give yourself time to ,"come to terms
with it." I don't want them to be too hasty, SOme people take longer
than others to become objective. I think this way works fairly well, in
my experience. Sher

Sherry mcDonald Stewart on thu 15 may 97

Caroyyn, Also, when I was teaching adult cont. and when I was in school
, we fired everything, and I think that I learned a lot about glazes
this way. The pot might not have been good, but maybe what someone did
glazing was really would be hard for me to tell people not to
fire something. Bad pots are good glaze tests. Course I guess the land
fills might be filling up with bad pots!

sandra m benscoter on fri 16 may 97


Wasn't it Hamada who said something to the effect that, "there may be bad
paintings, but never a bad pot. It can always be used for something."