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teachers and teaching ; was: ash glaze -micro-crystal - controlled

updated fri 30 apr 04


Lee Love on fri 30 apr 04

cooling - fact check please

Ron Roy wrote:

>It's not as simple as that Lee - another test of a good teacher is they
>should know what they are talking about. BS only gets you part of the way.

Of course, the main test in pottery is that the teacher
makes good pots. Talking the talk is one thing, but making
aesthetically successful pots is walking the walk. It is pitiful to
see people criticizing great potters and great works of art by diddling
around with technical "angels on a pinhead."

If the potter's work is good, then you know what they have to
share is not BS. Like I said previously, you can learn specifics from
a technician, but when that is only what you are learning you have to be
aware of it. These limitations are especially important for folks
new to the craft to know, if they don't want to be stuck in the mediocre.

Of course, there is also a vast range of technical
information open to us. There has never been a time when so much
knowledge is available to us. Some of it won't plug into glaze
calculation software, but it doesn't mean it is not of any value.
Sometimes we can learn from what they did 80 years ago. There just
isn't "One True Way." Not everybody has to do it the same way as me.

>The other half of the problem is that potters - for the most part have
>decided not to understand the technical aspects of their craft.

This really isn't true. You need to get to know more
potters. If you are open minded, there is much to learn from them.
This especially seems true amongst wood firers. Here is a quote
related to humility from my late teacher and why it is important::

""We can say that practice has two aspects: to constantly seek Truth
and to go into the human world.

"If you want to be a pianist, devote yourself to studying and practicing
the piano. This is the mind that seeks Truth. But though you may
eventually reach a lofty stage as a musician, it is not good enough. You
have to descend into the human world as well. Your life, your presence,
your personality must touch people's hearts directly. This means you
have to go beyond being a pianist.

"It is relatively easy to teach people to be musicians, but it is not so
easy to teach them how to go beyond being a musician. If you would teach
this to others, your mind must be based on compassion. When you teach,
you have to pierce the human heart and take away the flag of ego. So
your compassion must extend beyond the words you use. Then your
penetrating words will teach and not injure."
--Dainin Katagiri Roshi"

To me, the great thing about pottery and what got me interested
in it, is that there are so many skills and processes involved in making
pots. You can focus on any number of different aspects.

>So how do you know who knows what they are talking about?

Simple: look at their work. But something I have learned
over the years, is that you have to go by what the teacher does and not
necessarily by what he says. Working next to a teacher, you can pick
up things by "osmosis."

>There are some teachers who do understand all this - things are getting
>better - John Baymores post on the subject for instance - he understands.

Yes, Just because John has won a few
competitions doesn't mean he doesn't know what he is talking about.
:-) He is a great guy.

One more quote, this one from Hamada. It applies to both
technical and traditional information:

"To return to mingei (folkcraft), the problem is how does the
individual artist today approach folkcraft. Of course the answer is that
he should look after his character first. The problem of his own
character must come foremost. With one's intellect, with one's mind, one
can understand what tradition means. The folk art formula may be fed
though the mind and through the intellect. But in work, what comes out
must come out through one's own fingertips, one's own hands, otherwise
it is no work at all.... Because Yanagi was a critic and dealt in words,
he used the term "beauty" a great deal to express what he was trying to
say. In my case, being a workman, I do not feel any lack by not using
that word.... Beauty is not in the head or in the heart, but in the

- Shoji Hamada

Lee in Mashiko, Japan