[Clayart] University ceramic programs, teachers, wet clay, and the good old days

Deborah Thuman debthuman at zianet.com
Sat Jul 2 16:13:55 EDT 2016

I would not recommend NM State University to anyone who wanted to study art. The art building is the antique gym converted badly. Wherever you are and wherever you want to go, you can’t get there from here. There are no restrooms on the 2nd floor. To get to the 2nd floor from the door by the parking lot, you have to climb stairs. The elevator is on the other side of the building. The building is a toxic waste dump. 

The football program gets first dibs on the money, education is an afterthought, and art comes way after the afterthought. The new budget friendly (and how this got past the union I do not know) policy is as follows: new hires - no retiree health insurance; no one working less than 75% of full time will get any benefits. Translation: ain’t no one gonna be hired who will work more than 29 hours a week. Teachers are being hired as adjuncts so there are no benefits and the pay is minimal. How many great teachers do you think are going to be looking for work at NMSU? 

The ceramics program used to consist of a full time instructor and an adjunct. I took classes from both and appreciated that I was learning from successful clay artists. But….. I had to ask to learn how to fire the kilns. Kiln firing is not part of the program even for majors. Only grad students, myself, Jim and another student ever fired the kilns. Aside from my preference for firing gas, I never had to reserve a gas kiln as I would have had to do with any of the electric kilns. Only myself and one other student ever fired the gas kilns. Jim fired the raku kiln a couple times. 

Although I asked several times, I couldn’t find anyone who knows where the main shutoff for the gas is. If there had been a problem while I was firing one of the Olsen kilns, I would have had to walk to the back of the kiln to shut off the gas. As for the Blauuw, personally I detest that kiln. I like to think I have control over firing so I prefer a fully manual kiln. The shut off for the Blauuw could be gotten to if you were skinny. The Blauuw, which is inside the building, was placed about 18” from the side wall and I’ve no idea how far from the back wall. The shutoff is in the corner between the side wall and the back wall. The flame path on that kiln took up 1/3 of the kiln. 

The three Olsen kilns are outside on a covered patio. One kiln is used for storage. I strongly suspect now that I’m no longer taking classes, the kiln I used is now storage. 

After the adjunct was cut - budget issues and money couldn’t be taken from the football team - and the full time instructor retired, an interim teacher was hired. This man is a gifted teacher. He wasn’t hired as the permanent teacher. The permanent teacher, who left at the end of the spring semester, hated teaching and made sure every student knew that. She allowed plaster to be used, poured, carved in the studio. Apparently she thought the plaster room was for something else. Probably storage. She thought it was just fine to roll a huge table into the hall leading from the studio to the restroom. I hope I taught the other students a few new words that day. 

Carving clay. My advice would be to carve the clay when it’s leather hard. It’s easier to carve clay then and the dust issue is minimal. I carve at leather hard, then the next day use a soft rib to remove the clay boogers. 

Every semester, some dumb ass would put low fire clay into a high fire load. Guess who the dumb ass was who mislabeled her clay and on Thursday melted a pot all over the bottom shelf - ruining two really nice pieces in the process. At least I didn’t ruin anyone else’s work. But I did fire a whole lot closer to ^6 - might have gone a smidge over on the top shelf and I did get the kiln to fire evenly. In desperation, I tried lowering the gas. Darned if that didn’t even things out. That’s another reason why I keep a kiln log. 

The good old days: As I recall them, they included polio, small pox, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and women being paid less - way less - than men. The good new days aren’t perfect, but they are an improvement over the good old days. 

Deb Thuman
debthuman at zianet.com <mailto:debthuman at zianet.com>
https://debthumanblog.wordpress.com <https://debthumanblog.wordpress.com/>
I’m not what happened to me. I’m what I chose to become. 

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