Sunday, August 17, 2008

Take Pottery Workshops

One of the best ways to learn techniques, network with other potters and to motivate yourself is to take a workshop from a studio potter. I spent 8 years at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. One benefit was the opportunity to take 1 and 2 day workshops from some of the best potters in the country. I also lived close to Terra Incognito Studio in Oak Park, Illinois. They also have a really fine workshop program. In the span of just a few years I watched Jeff Oestreich, Julia Galloway, Linda Christianson, Bob Briscoe, Dan Anderson, Sam Chung, Malcom Davis, Linda Sikora and others lecture, make pots and answer questions. I always came away with some useful information, a glaze recipe or two, and a deeper understanding of how personal and individual clay can be.

But you don't have to stick close to home! If you can, taking a week or longer hands-on workshop is even better. When you go away to a workshop you can accomplish so much more. You work in the studio every day (a luxury for most of us). You see demonstrations of new techniques and get to try them on the spot. You get great personal feedback from your instructor and your classmates. You meet other potters and make contacts that can be very helpful later when applying for shows, etc.

The big names like Penland, Arrowmont and Anderson Ranch are meccas for big name talent. But there are clay centers all over the country that provide great workshops. I think it is more important to pick an artist who's work really inspires you than a location. I have taken two workshops at Santa Fe Clay in New Mexico. I studied with Julia Galloway first and spent a 2nd week a year later working with Matt Metz and Linda Sikora. Both these workshops accelerated my growth and prepared me for the transition from student to working potter.

I've also taken some really helpful "Business of Art" workshops offered by Arts Wisconsin. Although not clay specific, these long weekends have been invaluable information sources for marketing, funding, grant writing, tax procedures, etc. These type of workshops are very helpful for those of us trying to make a living. And you still meet really cool people.

Come to think about it, I ended up living here in northern Wisconsin because of a workshop. I took a woodfire workshop with a potter who ran one of those ads at the back of Ceramics Monthly. A group of us traveled up to McNaughton, Wisconsin to work with Joan Slack of Riverrun Pottery. We bonded over wood splitting and stoking. Our group returned several times over the next few years and when Joan decided to build an art center and gallery she contacted me to be her apprentice. So there you have it. Take a workshop. It could change your life!


Jerry said...

Another great place for workshops is the John C. Campbell Folk School ( in Brasstown, NC.

Anonymous said...

If you're in the New York area, I recommend Haven Art in Long Island.

They have small classes and are very good for beginners.