[Clayart] hand building

David Woof woofpots at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 19 19:26:40 UTC 2022

Hi Jen,
"Tyranny of the Round" you said.  I love it!!!
Not The "tyranny" per se, but that you would speak out,  These voices need to be heard.

Because while I have made my living for 45 plus years as a Potter, Hand builder, Sculptor, and Educator, I sensed the frustration of students who's natural leanings and interest leaned in one way but only found reasonably accessible schools whose curriculum blocked their natural desires with opposing prerequisites.

And the thought loomed large in front of me: "Why not run entry level first semester classes embracing both methods of creating objects in clay.

I wasn't teaching long, before I realized that I could teach both hand building and wheel throwing in the same first semester class.
That an effective teacher who was equally proficient in both methods could teach both methods to all students.
It was evident that when given a choice, individual students would gravitate to one or the other methods as their primary preference.

I ran my classes like a "Gym Class without a whistle" once the initial hands-on intro demos were presented.
I floated around the studio teaching Throwing and Hand building.
Demonstrations throughout the semester kept the fires of inspiration burning brightly.
 Seeing the success and excitement of other students as they progressed intrigued everyone and the throwers and hand builders invariable came to try the other methods as they were so inspired.

Of course My syllabi clearly stated that the requirement for successfully completing the semester was that each student demonstrate a hands on working knowledge and could speak knowledgeably, at that first semester level. of both methods.

 The original ancient Latin root of our word "Educate" meant "to Draw forth the best in the student."  And that is how I taught.

 Of course the teacher must be proficient and inspired in both disciplines.
 Acknowledged that many instructors were expected to enforce following a handed down curriculum.
A curriculum usually handed down by dismissive Institutional Administrators who who knew nothing about Ceramics.... except......they had taken a class, found it too difficult to master, and so in their mind, "it didn't qualify as a Fine Art medium anyway."  But who authorizes the Instructor's Salary paycheck??? What a dilemma some instructors face!!! Usually one needs allies higher up the chain, or tenure, to exercise academic freedom.

As a dedicated teacher I cringe when I think of how many first semester Ceramics students from these sort of classes didn't return for a second semester because of prerequisites as in, semesters of either hand building or wheel throwing, before being offered the vs-versa..
What a waste of human potential and of a life satisfying pursuit for fine and serious people.

Does this sound like I am bragging about this method over others?...... ( Yes probably! BUT NOT meant to be SO!!!)
It certainly may be partially true if you are of a dismissive spirit anyway and so wish! Take it or leave it, or use your "Delete" dear friend!!!

Free yourselves from "tyranny of the round" or "pinched slabs" for that matter.

Misneach, "Go with love and courage"

From: Clayart <clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com> on behalf of Jen Birenbach <jbirenbach at speedymail.org>
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2022 8:32 AM
To: Clayart international pottery discussion forum <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com>
Subject: Re: [Clayart] hand building

Thanks for this Mel. I’m new to this list, but have known about it for years. I hope it’s ok if I chime in here-

I’m a hand builder who threw first. I started hand building about decade ago due to a shoulder injury that inflames quickly. I had no interest in hand building before then.

I was lucky enough to find a great hand building teacher in Raleigh NC who helped adjust my attitude toward hand building. (Jen Stas) She helped get my head out of the “Tyranny of the Round.”

I love that my fingers (& my banding wheel & a rib or two) do all the work. I find it very intimate. I love the problem solving too- every step of the way.

These days, I am grateful for the growing body of hand built work I see and new opportunities in recent years to develop through insights from hand builders. I am amazed by ancient pots as well- those skills.

It truly is a different skill. One I want to continue to master.

Thanks for reading-
>From the currently windy coast of the North Shore of Massachusetts

On Sun, Jan 16, 2022, at 11:29 AM, mel jacobson wrote:
> my discussion on hand building was, and is a reaction
> to those that work at home, small kiln, and hand build their work
> in clay. It is often overlooked.  Hobby potter sort of thing.
> My feeling is that any technique can become very complex and
> difficult to make with grace.  Clay is just very hard to control
> and those that do it....are to be honored.
> It looks so easy to make a slab box..."nothing to it", well until
> you want to make one...cracks, etc. It is complex construction.
> And, the clay body has to be "dead on right".
> I have always felt that throwing should be started at about 14 years
> old.  Before that, it is just mess'n.  Once kids learn to drive cars
> and other forms of transportation and sports, their hand eye skills come together
> pretty fast. Of course girls are about two years ahead of boys.
> My entire life as a teacher was 14-18 year olds. They loved the wheel, but often
> tired of it, and turned to more complex techniques.  Cutting pots in half, re-shaping
> pots, combination of form all became a natural progression. Then add size and scale
> and things got moving along fast.  But the realization that just your hands and a lump
> of clay was complex.
> The big problem with teaching smaller kids is that they get a half a pound of clay...beat
> it on the table and make a snake pot that cracks on drying.  Or best of all, a horse with
> legs the thickness of toothpicks. The horse never makes it to the kiln.
> When adults feel the centering and lift and stretch of clay a great "moment" of learning takes place. That
> transfers to all sorts of clay technique.
> But so much of learning clay technique goes back to the teacher.  My line for years..."Mel, I cannot throw, my hands are
> weak or something".  My reply is always the same..."No, you had a crappy teacher".  It is an adult physics
> problem with your hands, feelings and sense of rhythm. It is like the bike...balance, you "catch it".  once caught
> it is lifelong.
> I know that many of you can teach good technique to adults. But a great deal of hand building is taught
> as funny little pots and animals.  Some of the greatest pots every made where "hand built".
> mel
> website: www.melpots.com<http://www.melpots.com>
> www.melpots.com/CLAYART.HTML<http://www.melpots.com/CLAYART.HTML>
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