[Clayart] Ceramic programs… my take…

Robert Harris robertgharris at gmail.com
Tue Apr 26 03:36:52 UTC 2022

Interestingly, in the UK, art and music, of all descriptions, was
traditionally never taught in a University environment.
Which is why you got the Slade, the Royal Academies of Art, Music and
Dramatic Art as well as various other art schools. (My mother, an
architect, got her degree from a college of Art, she still had to do plenty
of engineering courses!).

The environment at these colleges of art was one that emphasised both the
craftsmanship as well as the philosophy of art.
(In ceramics one of the most notable was first Central (headed by Dora
Billington who taught Ruth Duckworth, Alan Caiger-Smith, Ray FInch) then
Harrow, which boasted teachers and students like Mick Casson, Colin
Pearson, Walter Keeler, Janice Tchalenko and Jane Hamlyn.)

This separation from the very academic strictures of traditional
universities allowed exactly the sort of integration of both craftsmanship
as well as artistic excellence that both Snail and Vince want to see. When
art is taught at "regular" universities, I think it seems to get sucked
into the very cerebral and prose based emphasis of the rest of the
university. Whereas "Art" (and I include music and drama) is all about the
doing. Yes, true art needs some thought (although I wonder how much thought
Pollock or even Picasso did while he was actually doing), but it is deed
based far more than any other subject. In that regard it is more like
mechanics (even without the aspect of crafstmanship) than it is like
history, literature etc, let alone chemistry. (And while chemistry or
surgery might have a large doing component it is very different from the
doing of art).

So to me it makes perfect sense to push for art to be outside an ordinary
university system which may not really understand its needs or
differences.. It's worthwhile noting that Alfred, probably the most well
known ceramic college in the US, is otherwise a fairly ordinary
agricultural college (another field that is rather more about doing than
thinking). All this according to a friend of mine who did her undergrad


On Mon, 25 Apr 2022 at 20:30, <vpitelka at dtccom.net> wrote:

> Hi Snail -
> I like Mel's response, and I agree with him.  Anyone going into chemistry
> must learn all the tools, materials, and processes of chemistry -
> essentially the craftsmanship of chemistry, and they teach those tools,
> materials, and processes in any university chemistry program.  Anyone going
> into medicine must learn the craftsmanship of whatever branch of medicine -
> same thing.  I don't see how you can approach studio art from a completely
> different point of view.  Whatever branch of studio art, you have to learn
> the tools, materials, and processes, the craftsmanship of the particular
> branch of art, in order to make art effectively.  You can't even hire
> people to make your art effectively unless you are thoroughly familiar with
> the tools, materials, and processes of the medium.
> Once you accept that premise, then a high level of proficiency in tools,
> materials, and processes can be effectively employed to realize the artists
> conceptual intent, and it makes little difference whether you are talking
> about art that happens to be utilitarian objects like pottery, or art
> featuring 2-D imagery that elicits psychological and emotional response, or
> art that fills a huge gallery with porcelain sunflower seeds.
> - Vince
> Vince Pitelka
> Potter, Writer, Teacher
> Chapel Hill, NC
> vpitelka at dtccom.net
> www.vincepitelka.com
> https://chathamartistsguild.org/
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Clayart <clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com> On Behalf Of Snail
> Scott
> Sent: Monday, April 25, 2022 3:19 PM
> To: Clayart international pottery discussion forum <
> clayart at lists.clayartworld.com>
> Subject: Re: [Clayart] Ceramic programs… my take…
> I know I have had this argument with Vince quite a few times, but I still
> believe that the academic environment of a college or university is not the
> ideal setting to learn to be a craft potter, or for such instruction to
> occur. This is not to say it has not been accomplished well in many
> colleges, but usually in spite of the academic environment, not because of
> it. Why expect anything but academic-style art to arise from the academic
> environment? Art that takes advantage of that intellectual milieu, draws on
> other disciplines and fields of knowledge, and expects the same from its
> viewers, is a natural fit for a college art program. Production craft is
> not. This is not denigrating the value of that craft in any way, but I
> don’t go to a seafood stand for good steak, or a symphony hall for a
> foot-stompin' barn dance. Condemning a university for not being a trade
> school is equally absurd, and devalues both.
> -Snail
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