Jeff Campana on sat 25 nov 00
I guess I caught this thread a bit late but i would like to make a few comments.
I was in the very first NCECA k-12 show, 1998 in Dallas. It was greatly rewarding
and to this day one of the highlights of my life. However i found it greatly
disturbing that anyone would accept students having no control over firing, glaze,
and clay body as a given.
This is only this way because teachers out there make it this way. I'm sure many
out there are unfamiliar with the great work Randy Becker is doing in Verona, WI.
I was his student during High School and owe him a great deal. He works
tirelessly to get the studio to college level, in fact the high school studio is
better equipped than MANY colleges out there. Advanced students are responsible
-Exploring different firing methods including: ^10 ox., ^10 gas reduction, raku,
wood, salt, lowfire and pitfiring. And yes, the school has access to all of those
kilns, the wood and salt belonging to Randy.
In addition to seeing the products of these firing processes, students are
encouraged to participate in the actual firings. I left HS with a firm
understanding of how reduction works and how to do it. Students have the freedom
to explore any feasible glazes, and clay bodies. Simply shrugging off the fact
that most High School students are deprived of the full process of ceramics will
not do. If we accept that handicap as a given, then we will never progress past
In addition to all of that stuff listed above, students have a christmas pottery
sale to raise money for visiting artists who hvae included: Peter Hayes, Winthrop
Byer, David Dahlquist, and most recently Don Reitz to name a few. Also, a major
ceramic collector, Mr. Bindley, shows his collection annually in the High School
Gallery. This show includes almost all important artists of the late 20th
century, from Beatrice Wood to Hans Coper to newer artists like Richard Notkin,
Instead of merely accepting the fact that most HS students have to use glaze out
of a can and have no control over anything, teachers need to work to change that.
Even if the funds are not there, and the studio is not well equipped, there's no
reason the students can't load the kilns, or try to mix different glazes. There
are so many things that can be taught with minimal supplies. Stocking the bare
bones amount of glaze materials can open a world of possibilities. Ian Currie's
book on the Grid method could be utilized to teach HS students the basic
principles of glaze chemistry. Students could learn the unity fromula, which is a
lot simpler than some of the this they learn in other classes. These are some
things that would excite them. It is for this reason that the Ceramics program at
Verona High School has grown to require to ceramics teachers in addition to the
other art staff. There is always ways to expand, and grow, and teachers should
realize that, and act upon it.
Hoping for change,
> Thanks, Vince for the statement of support for K-12 ceramics students and
> their hard work and creativity despite lack of control of firing, glazes and
> clay body. I have had high school ceramics students involved in the K-12
> National show since it's start. The show has been juried by some mighty fine
> (celebrity) potters, who have recognized the accomplishments of these
> students, as have the crowds at NCECA who have come to view the show.
> Yesterday I received copies of the AMACO student teapot poster in the mail.
> Eleven of my advanced ceramics students had work accepted into this national
> poster contest. The requirement was that AMACO or brent products be used in
> the construction. Some of the students used ready made glazes and some mixed
> them. The distinction in not clear from the poster. But today past students
> are returning from college and art schools to visit and pick up their
> posters. All are very pleased with being recognized, and clearly many are on
> their way to being their own potters, completely in control of the components
> they use. In the mean time, they feel pretty good about themselves and
> continue to study. Rambling here at school, Paula Sibrack Marian, (New
> Milford HIgh school) Sherman, CT
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vince pitelka on sat 25 nov 00
> Instead of merely accepting the fact that most HS students have to use
> of a can and have no control over anything, teachers need to work to
> Even if the funds are not there, and the studio is not well equipped,
> reason the students can't load the kilns, or try to mix different glazes.
> are so many things that can be taught with minimal supplies. Stocking the
> bones amount of glaze materials can open a world of possibilities.
You are so fortunate to have had such an exceptional ceramics experience at
the high-school level. There are other high-school ceramics teachers
equally committed, with good support from the school administration, but
they are rare. Jim Logan at Amherst High School in Massachusetts is one of
them. His school has given him the support to build up an extraordinary
ceramics program, and he is able to involve his students in glaze
formulation and firing processes.
But unfortunately, what you suggest above is unrealistic for most high
school programs. It is an unfortunate reality that the art facilities in
most schools are overused and undersupplied, and if the students get any
ceramics experience at all it is something to be proud of. The only way
such programs can work at all is for the teacher or assistants to do all the
clay and glaze mixing and the firing. That's the way Mel's program
operated, and his students were obviously very fortunate.
I am uncomfortable that your message above essentially demeans the work of
students in such programs (where they have no experience with clay and glaze
formulation and with firing their work), and that this work is somehow less
worthy of being shown. I wish everyone who is excited about clay could have
the high school ceramics experience that you had. That would be fantastic,
and we should do what we can to work towards that dream. But in the mean
time, we need to do everything possible to encourage our students and give
them the best possible art experience at every age. That includes showing
their work whenever possible, in reward for their creativity and
Remember that the most important things we want to accomplish in art at the
high school level are to raise the level of enthusiasm for art among the
students, to exercise their creativity and craftsmanship, and to teach them
a vocabulary of art and design so that they can communicate about art. When
considering the broad spectrum of visual art experience at the high school
level, the formulation of clays and glazes and firing of kilns are not very
important at all. The students who get excited about clay and want to
pursue it will learn these things at the college level.
Best wishes -
Home - firstname.lastname@example.org
Work - email@example.com
615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
cHuCk on sun 26 nov 00
> Verona High School has grown to require to ceramics teachers in addition
>to the other art staff. There is always ways to expand, and grow, and
>should realize that, and act upon it.
In an ideal world no doubt. Where I teach they do not hire new teachers. My
classes just get bigger. My biggest class is 30. They are good people and
all want to be in the my classes.(elective) But it is better if I keep
track of glazes and
firing. In such an enviornment it would be a disaster to have many hands
But your enthusiasum is infectious and your ideas nobel. While they are not
practical in many secondary artrooms in average public schools you might as
well shoot for the sky.
However, do not neglect the other aspects of an art teachers job.
Technical expertise is not a panacea. A good glaze will not save a bad pot.
Go get 'em man!