[Clayart] About writing clay books

vincepitelka at gmail.com vincepitelka at gmail.com
Fri Feb 10 18:30:09 UTC 2023

Mel's post about writing books got me thinking about this.  I have talked to a lot of other people in ceramics who have written books.  The only ones I have known personally who made good money off them were Susan Peterson and Robin Hopper.  But both of them put huge effort into writing many books in a time before so much how-to information was available online.  

I got into writing my book accidentally.  I have always prepared a lot of handouts as an efficient way to pass on information.  If you haven't done so, go to the "Documents and Handouts" page of my website and you'll see.  My first full-time teaching job was at North Dakota State University in Fargo, and the Art Department was run on a shoestring budget.  I was going over to the Division of Fine Arts office every other day or so to copy handouts for my classes, and it was cutting into the Art Department budget.  The Division Director told me that the college bookstore could arrange to have the campus print shop print all my ceramics handouts and assemble them into a bound volume and the students would buy it for a nominal fee.  The students paid $7.50 for the collection of handouts with a nice cover, and they could no longer misplace individual handouts, and I no longer had to spend so much time copying and assembling handouts.  It worked out great for everyone.  

When I was hired at Tennessee Tech's Appalachian Center for Craft in 1994, I was teaching students from intro up to a far more advanced level than anything we had at NDSU, so I greatly expanded the handouts and created an intro and an advanced version.  From there it just made sense to redo the whole thing as a proper book, and ACerS published the first version of "Clay: A Studio Handbook" in 2001.  At that time ACerS was printing books domestically and would only do black and white images.  In 2014, Sherman Hall at ACerS talked me into upgrading the book and said that they would print color illustrations, so that made a big difference in the edition that came out in 2016.

Mel is right.  You don't make much money on print "how-to" books in the age of the Internet, but creating the original edition at the turn of the millennium and redoing the book with color images in 2015 brought me enormous satisfaction.  Committed teachers like me, Mel, Linda Arbuckle, Bill Schran, Julia Galloway, and so many others. get obsessive about passing on good information.  
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Potter, Writer, Teacher
Chapel Hill, NC
vpitelka at dtccom.net

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