Teaching is essentially a creative process, requiring the same energy, focus, and passion that one puts into art making. It requires ongoing self-evaluation, flexibility, and a desire to stimulate the curiosity of students and challenge them to work hard in a supportive environment.
Ceramics embraces a wide range of exploration from pottery to sculpture. This flexibility is one of the strengths of the medium. Thus it is important to acquaint students with both the history of ceramics and a full range of contemporary issues. It is valuable for students to understand how their work fits into the context of our culture and necessary for them to become familiar with contemporary artists that share their aesthetic concerns. It has been my practice to familiarize students with the broad possibilities of the ceramic medium and then to encourage each student, as they advance, to focus on an area of personal interest.
It is also vital to provide students with the information and experiences necessary to develop a solid technical vocabulary. Students need to develop sound methods for constructing pieces, as well as a working knowledge of glaze formulation and basic firing techniques. Successful teaching emphasizes that students receive extensive hands on experience with the medium. Developing confidence though regular practice, is important to refining both ideas and the level of craft necessary to bring work to completion. Thus, my courses are designed to familiarize students with the relationship of material, process, and aesthetic concept.
The role of thoughtful criticism helps students articulate their ideas. Through one-on-one faculty contact and regular group discussion, students learn to clarify and focus their direction. In this setting, each student will grow individually and also become aware that they are part of a larger community.
I believe it is valuable for a teacher to remain an active and enthusiastic participant in the medium. Insight into students work is sharpened and refreshed by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with one’s own artwork. Students learn by seeing the practices that support their teacher’s artwork and career. The topic of professional career practices should also be an important component of advanced coursework in the medium.
Finally, an instructor can establish a tone in the studio of professionalism that is balanced with a sense of humor and compassion that encourages students to work hard and to strive for challenging solutions. It is my desire to combine this tone with the other aspects mentioned above to provide the students a positive setting for artistic exploration.