[Clayart] bad pots 2/story

mel jacobson melpots2 at visi.com
Tue Oct 25 10:09:02 EDT 2016

we all have our first pot story.  it is part of the craft 
legend.  but, what many of us that teach are trying to 
impart is......you fire good pots for people.  you set high 
standards for students to shoot at.  making a decent pot is 
a very hard task.  it takes a special kind of person with 
hand eye coordination.  if all get A's, you minimize the 
natural talent of the true crafts person.  does that A art 
student get a pass in math or physics???...hell no.  take 
your C and be happy with it.

it is part of our new world that we praise and hoopla over 
everything that new students do.  `wow, that was a good 
fart, let's record that...and a movie too...wow, you are 
wonderful.`  we have become praisers of nothing.

atta boy/girl crazy.

as a teacher of craft i did not waste space in the kiln to 
fire 3 lb donuts.  in fact most serious students want the 
early work thrown out.  they get it.  they are reaching for 
a good goal.

i worked in the japanese studio for the entire summer and 
not one of my pots got near a kiln.
i re/cycled the same hundred pounds of clay a hundred times.
the first fired pots happened about mid september.  then 
they rolled out by the hundreds.  but, they were made to a 
standard. reach for that standard, then watch out.

of course you mostly know a japanese master potter does not 
do `atta boy` stuff.  in fact, if you did a really good job 
you did `not` get `daaami`  or, bad.  i knew it was going to 
be different, but it took time to realize i was never going 
to be praised.  `good enough pig` was all i got.

yes, it was very different, but not too far from how warren 
mackenzie dealt with students.  he had very high standards 
of excellence.  no easy A's.

new students look around when learning.  they see the good 
pots going into the firing cycle.  they observe what it 
takes to be good.  in most cases they get excited and work 
to a goal.  when it is reached....it is wonderful feelings.

not much good comes from padding a grade, or kidding a 
student. they know.  (as all of you knew when you started 
doing higher end art/craft.)

a former student, now a doctor in chicago, said in an email 
that the B grade he got in my class, was the best grade he 
got in high school.  he was a straight A student. well, 
except in my class.

it is like giving a  two foot trophy to a kid that placed 
82nd in a race. they know.

i can remember when schools started to group kids by bird 
names...robins, blue jays etc.  all the kids knew that the 
cardinals were the smart kids.  sparrows were the kids with 
D- grades. i could never figure out who the teachers thought 
they were kidding.

i can remember being in sixth grade and realizing i was very 
smart.  it was not academic, i could figure stuff out, far 
ahead of other kids. i could `see` things more clearly.
yes. `SEE`.  that was my gift, and it has always been my 
gift. and, boy do i respect that in other people.
(fred paget comes to mind, and my god-son bill burgert.)

schools often are in the `prediction of excellence`business. 
  mary and john will be going to harvard, they are 
brilliant.  what happens when they do not make it???? or 
become `a pain in the ass to our society`.

as pete pinnell said to me one day...`give me a farm kid 
from nebraska, with high energy and personal strength and 
desire and i can make success.`  pete could see `potential 
energy`.  potential means nothing until success is reached.
great teachers move potential to reality.
( i have told this story before.  on my last day in the 
studio in japan, i realized there was a cherry wood stamp on 
my wheel head. uchida put it there.  it was my ph.d.  the 
stamp kanji was `SAMA`/  those that know some japanese know 
that when you move from melsan, you move up to melsama.  it 
is a great honor. it became my master potter stamp.  you 
see, he knew that contrast is wonderful.  you get your `atta 
boy` when you deserve it.  there was not a dry eye in the 
studio.  mrs. uchida blubbered.  the boys bowed to me with 
tears in their eyes.  now, that is reward times 100.
gotta wait for it.)

More information about the Clayart mailing list