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I Always Learn Something New

Yesterday I did a teapot making demo for the members at Mudfire.  After the demo one of the members came up to me, thanked me for doing the demo and said "I always learn something new when I watch another potter."  She's been doing this for many years.  I agreed with her and we discussed how sometimes taking a workshop or watching a demo is not about learning everything a known artists does but learning new things that can improve your work, even if it has nothing to do with what the workshop is about.

I have the good fortune to be able to audit a lot of workshops so I learn a lot of techniques and a lot of tips.  I've learned to put a thin cloth between my lids and their jar so I can lift the lid without distorting it or breaking the handle, I've learned how to make a wet box, how to clean wax out of brushes, tips on packing pottery...the list goes on and on.  I've also learned a lot about building forms and decorating that I may or may not ever use in my own work but it's in my knowledge bank and even if I never use it I can teach it.

Ash Glazed Goblets
This is something I love about people who work in clay, they tend to be very free about sharing information.  Why?  I think it's because we love what we do and want to share that and because even if you copy another artist, your work and theirs will reflect each personality and most likely will not be an exact copy but rather a complement.

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Comments

  1. There is so much to learn and I am always mesmerized by watching other potters work.
    I totally agree with you about making work that was inspired by another artist. My late-boyfriend John Zentner always said "Everyone touches clay differently"... in other words, you may be influenced or inspired but it still will have those subtle differences that make it yours. He was a very wise man and an excellent potter who was strongly influenced by Byron Temple.
    And he loved to share his ways of working with clay.

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    1. Hi Michele, I too love watching other potters working. Maybe most of us do, it's just so peaceful and interesting.

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  2. I've taken many workshops which had nothing to do with the type of work I was interested in at the time, then years later I have an 'ah ha' moment when I remember something the potter said. I never know what the future may hold in working with clay and something I learned ten years ago may help me ten years later. I wish I could take more workshops and lived closer to other potters so I could learn more from them, but the blogs have helped me a great deal so I try to give back on mine hopefully helping someone else.

    I don't think any two pieces of pottery are ever alike even if they are made by the same potter one right after the other. I try to make similar pieces to go together as sets but they are never exactly like each other. Just like a piece of pottery influenced by one's surroundings, travels, or life experiences may seem like they are copies of another potter's work but are not, they come from that individuals visions within their own mind. Many times I've made a sculpture and years later I see a similar piece made by another potter in another country who had been potting for years. I think as humans, certain styles and forms are common to us all. I think nowadays we are so visually stimulated from television, internet, advertising, movies, it would be hard to even say what the exact influence for a certain pot style, texture, or glaze choice would be, at least for me it would.

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    1. I agree with you Linda, and blogs are great places to gather information about the techniques, inspirations and tips about how to make our lives easier.

      I tell students that if they want everything to be a perfect match they can buy it in a department store, if they want something unique they can make it or buy it from another craftsperson.

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  3. Well.... as you probably know I have pretty strong views on the copying thing!! I'll keep them to myself here on your very lovely blog, but I will say that I agree that I have learned so much from other potters and they are the most giving of people. Technique is one thing and it is invaluable to learn from others, but I will never understand why people want to look at art that someone else created and then copy it. It truly baffles me. Why don't you just want to make your own thing? Why the need to look at something and copy it? I don't feel that urge as an artist. When I was learning to throw on the wheel I would try to copy what the teacher showed us and I would look through clay magazines and try to copy forms, to learn, but now I don't want my work to look like another's, I want it to speak of who I am. Maybe it's different for functional potters... I don't know, this is a long and multi faceted topic for sure. And being a Libra, I could go back and forth all day long on the subject, but I will spare you, haha!!!
    beautiful goblets BTW !!

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    1. Hey Tracey, thanks for the very thoughtful comment. I've heard it said that pottery has been made since about 5000BC, it's impossible to make something completely new. I like to think that people will copy something in the interest of learning the technique and then trying to make it their own in their own voice. I've heard lots of artists recommend this for workshop students and that's what I was referring to. I think if someone wants to try to make a living ripping off other people's ideas and claiming them as their own then that is wrong and I can't understand it or think of them as an artist. But because someone makes a casserole, a house or a figurative sculpture doesn't necessarily mean that they are copying someone else, it may just mean that they are creating work that comes from their heart. I am by no means avdicating that people try to make exact copies of another's work, I agree, why would you want to do that?
      Thanks for the complement on the goblets.

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  4. It is all about the ricks is it not?! If you take one thing away from a workshop it was worth your time.
    Lov-er-ly goblets.

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    1. You're so right Meredith, and thanks.

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  5. I hear ya Lori!! and agree :)
    As I have said before on my blog, the best thing I ever took away from a workshop was finding out about the dolan knife! If you can get in, you should try to go to the clay conference at Arrowmont this year. It was an amazing experience and I learned sooooo much!

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    1. I learned about the Dolan knife from a Lana Wilson workshop, she and it are great. I've heard that about the Arrowmont conference, maybe we should all try to get there at least once.

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