Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On newbies

I had 4 new students in class last night. I always find it challenging to teach 4 newbies at the same time. It is hard on the mind and body, and you are always keeping an eye on 3 of them while you spend your time with the 4th. Essentially, I made 3 bowls with them (for them) so they could have them to trim next week.  There is always at least one that sort of gives up half way through the class. You can see it in their eyes. They want to excel right away and think that they just can’t do it. I reassure them that this is normal, and that they will not be making casseroles and teapots the first night, or the next....more like cat dishes.  They always ask the same question too, “what is the trick to centering?”. My answer to that is “practice”. They don’t always like that answer. The problem with pottery is that it just looks so darn easy, but it is so difficult to verbalize how to do it.

I teach the “Dave Settles Method” (If you can call it a method). Essentially, I start the newbies off with a run down on wedging, let them work on that for a bit, and then I do my demo. I usually keep it simple for them on the first night and throw a bowl or two. Here is where the Settles method comes in. I set them loose on the wheel with what they wedged up earlier and I walk away. I leave the room. I don’t even look to see what they are doing for about 10 minutes. Then I come back and see what they have done. Usually I come back to a lump of shmeered clay all over the wheel, or a tortured looking object that could have been a bowl, but it looks like it went through a wood chipper.

I tell them to start again, but this time I will be there to walk them through it. It is kind of like the laying on of hands at a holy roller tent revival, except I am not “curing” the sick and infirm or casting out demons, I am trying to show them what the proper pressure feels like, what it means when I say this is or is not centred, etc. And so on down the line until they all have at least 1 pot made.

So today my back aches, and I slept in and was 15 minutes late for my non clay job (oops).


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