[Clayart] throwing, a discipline/story

Vince Pitelka vpitelka at dtccom.net
Sat Oct 15 09:53:16 EDT 2016

I had a student in North Dakota named Grant Herzog who was a decent potter at the time he graduated, and was accepted for a one-year apprenticeship with Richard Bresnahan in the pottery at St. John's University outside Minneapolis.  Bresnahan was trained through a long-term apprenticeship in Japan, but Grant's apprenticeship was only one year and he started right in on the wheel.  It sounds very similar to Mel's apprenticeship in Japan.  

Upon settling into the pottery, Bresnahan told Grant to make fifty tea bowls.  Grant finished those in short order and was quite pleased with himself until Bresnahan came over and proceeded to pluck out one tea bowl after another, dropping them into a rolling scrap bin.  He stopped with only one left, and said, "There, now that's a decent tea bowl.  Make a thousand just like it."  So, over a matter of days Grant made a thousand, with Richard coming by frequently and plucking out ones that didn't meet his standards and dropping them in the scrap bin.  

After the tea bowls, they did the same with tumblers, rice bowls, rice wine bottles, and other forms.  When Grant returned to Fargo/Moorhead at the end of the year he was one hell of a potter.  He set up a studio in Fargo and worked with another former student for a while, but within another year he gave up pottery and went into the family business.  Too bad.
- Vince  

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft
Tennessee Tech University
vpitelka at dtccom.net  

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