Development of an individual’s strengths in support of his or her unique voice is something I believe to be fundamental to teaching within the arts. My ultimate goal is to facilitate each student as they transition from the classroom into a future that responds positively to his or her ideas.
I encourage students to bend systems around their own way of learning, re-arranging ideas and improvising to highlight their strengths. This allows what seems infinitely impossible to become exciting, rewarding students with a complex knowledge of the whole of the problem rather than just the answer to the question. I recognize and encourage the individuals who define a unique path rather than one of rigid norms. Over the past fifty years openness with information, and a sharing of resources has proven to be a positive catalyst for the recent growth of the ceramic arts. As a conduit of information for my students I often provide them with access to my own resources, but first I encourage them to exhaust their own.
It can be challenging for a student to develop a unique voice within such a subjective field of study. Individuality is the engine that drives a student in the arts, yet within the bounds of the art world it must be simultaneously fostered and reined in. I prefer curriculum that teaches the best professional practices, individual discovery as well as group involvement. I encourage study in technological advancements as well as ancient practices. In some instances, a hand is a better tool than a potter’s wheel, or a 3-D printer or silk screen may illustrate an idea better than the hand itself.
Whether a student is utilizing historical practices, or in discovering new techniques, it is imperative that he or she back up ideas with a conviction of deeper personal exploration. If an artwork work brings out a visceral response in a student, I ask “why?” If the tactile nature of a given piece begs for it to be held, again, “why?” At first answers may evade an intellectual response. However, after reflection, a personal anecdote or story will boil to the surface. This process brings deeper meaning for each student, guiding he or she to a better understanding of the larger framework from, and for, which one is creating.
As a potter, maker of architectural tile, and educator, I value a strong work ethic, diversity of thought, and the resolve needed to be successful within the field. I question what it means to make a living in the arts. I cultivate each student to define his or her version of success. Study in the arts leads to a richer aesthetic and ability, and it is also important to remember that it leads to success in many other realms. Some may become gallerists, some teachers, some technicians, and some will move on to different professions all together. Curiosity and intrigue are paramount to an articulate and creative future; bearing this in mind I push each student to find opportunity wherever it strikes, and to apply the critical thinking of an artist wherever that may be.