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the state of the art degree (laughing inside)

updated mon 5 jun 00


Alex Solla on fri 2 jun 00

As I read Vince's retort without bothering to read the
previous posts (why bother? this stuff comes up again
and again and again.)... I was struck by Vince's
earnestness. Now anyone who knows Vince is well aware
of his strong opinions... never mind that they are
opinions based on his rather amazing life and his vast
wealth of knowledge. To that end, I offer a brief

Story: Ten years ago I met Vince for the first time. I
was new to pots, had only fired electric kilns, and
was new to college and looking for a place to make
pots. Assuming I knew something I walked into the
studio. I went in the wrong door apparently because I
walked right into a dark hall filled with kilns and
there was Vince, down near the floor, working on the
burners of this obstinate Alpine updaft. With fire
bellowing out the ports and through the cracks in the
door and this ROAR that I'd never heard before... I
was in awe. Vince politely asked a few questions,
suggested a fellow grad and so I soon found myself
spending my days in Munson Annex...for the next three
and half years.

Somewhere in there I came to realize that Vince was
the real Troll Under the Bridge. You had to know the
password to gain access to the knowledge. Early on the
first summer I was there Vince helped prepare me for
my first solo cone 10 firing. He suggested a recipe
for a claybody and then passed on some of the glazes
he had found very reliable in his production studio.
After the kiln cooled and was opened, I felt my heart
fall to my feet. Instead of Christmas it was like a
nightmare. All the pots were bloated and blistered or
slumping. Seems that even with all the best intention
inthe world, white recycle can have low-fire talc
recycle in it and boy does it make a great body flux.
I was so thrown that I blamed everything on Vince. His
response was to tell me to go make more pots and to
make a fresh batch of mud but to not worry about all
the things that went wrong. Another firing later and
Christmas came late.

Before Vince left to teach in Fargo (didnt even know
people really WENT to Fargo)....he had his MFA show.
In the few months I had known him I had never seen
much of his work. For any of you who havent seen
Vince's clay marquetry...avail yourselves to his
articles in CM. AMAZING! Upclose...even better. You
dont even realize you are dealing with clay at first.
Also happened to be the first time I saw Vince in a
suit. Quite a change!
Before Vince left, I gave him a richly carved pot I
had raku/pit fired. He had inspired a few of us
non-UMASS students to get together for firings with
great results! When I offered it to him I asked him if
he thought I would ever be able to make a living with
my pottery. His reply has kept burning inside me
since: if you make what you enjoy making, it will
always sell.

In the years I have known Vince I have never taken a
class from him, yet I have always been a student of
his. I guess it could be said that not every student
needs a classroom to learn.

Vince believes in higher education. He is part of the
system and I feel, is one of those who has raised the
bar for all the rest.

Perhaps some would say this is too much a pedestal to
put Vince on, but I would counter that more people
should be admired, openly. Everyone needs mentors and
role models.

End of story.

-Alex Solla

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Lori Leary on sat 3 jun 00

What a great story! Thanks for sharing it with the list. Vince IS
quite amazing....That's why he's coming back next year to do another
(his third) workshop for us here in South Carolina. With all that he
knows, we could have him back every year and still learn new things.

About the state of the art degree thread:
As a potter with an undergraduate degree in nursing, I have been
following this thread closely. A BSN is considered to be the entry
level professional degree in nursing, much as the BFA is in the art
While I was in in school, there was always someone griping: "Why are we
taking this management, sociology, statistics (whatever) class? We will
never use it." or "I'm not getting to do anything(ie clinical
procedures) during my clinical rotations, this is useless!" (Usually the
same people saying both things) I always thought these folks were a bit
ridiculous. ANYTHING you can learn is useful. Working as a nurse, I
was able to draw on just about everything I learned in school...not just
the clinical knowledge, but knowledge that allowed me to look at the BIG
PICTURE. Social, cultural, historical, and situational factors affect
the health care needs of people. I had to learn how to speak and listen
effectively, to know when patients and families were ready to learn and
to know when they just needed someone to LISTEN and not try to solve
their problems for them.

My point? (and I do have one) Even though I am no longer practicing as
a nurse, I still use just about everything I learned in nursing school
in my current role as a potter/teacher/community arts advocate.

And as Vince says, your education is what you make of it. If you are
not happy with how things are going, well, get off your ass and do
something about it.

BTW, I plan to go back to what I have to do and learn what I
need to learn so that I can enter an MFA program....and keep on
I can hardly wait.

Lori L.
Pawleys Island, S.C. USA