Beltaine

The penultimate Penland week is over and it was good; mostly I was here in my role as advisor, and most everyone is working away on several projects.  I’m very pleased that said projects are quite wildly varied and that some also extend on out of the class.  Something that’s been brought back to my attention while I’ve been here (which is in no way exclusive to this place) is that all too often when I see books or other projects, I know exactly who the person showing them has studied with.  Sometimes it’s a signature technique or structure that’s barely been changed, if at all; other times, particularly in the academic world, it’s concept or subject matter, taken on to achieve approval and/or decent grades. That’s sad to me, especially when I am jurying a show and see such cloned works. Copying to learn can be a good thing initially, perhaps the very first time, but it is a copy, a model. I want my students, whatever the learning context may be, to learn to make their own work.

I’ve been asked if I would teach here again in the future.  Yes, I definitely would, but I would want to teach a class I designed and proposed.  I would want to cover a little less territory, and go into each area more in depth.  I have always had certain difficulties teaching courses other people have designed, no matter how much respect I have for the other teacher or how similar our outlooks might be. In this case, we did manage to touch on everything in the class description, and added a few other things besides. I have one more talk left to do on Monday: how you can do this (to some extent) at home, essentially a mini Portable Papermaking session, so I’m wrapping up with something of my own.

Friday, everyone’s needs were taken care of by mid-afternoon, and I decided to head out for a bit…then suddenly, on the spur of the moment I contacted Mary, and she was free for the evening!  I threw a change of clothes in a bag, went down to Black Mountain and we went to dinner and had a fine evening.  I was happy about that; she was busy all day Saturday (in fact, she got up and left at 6 am) and then was flying out of town till well after Penland is over for me…we’d resigned ourselves to missing each other, but didn’t have to, hooray! (Though the not very much wine we drank gave me an incredible bout of insomnia and made me too bleary for the next night’s wood studio party).

The week was not good at all for good folks in Tuscaloosa; you probably also already know what happened as a result of the tornado. Warm and wonderful Steve Miller, who (among many other great things) puts out the Book Artists and Poets podcast series, lost his beautiful house. Here’s how you can help in general, and Steve in particular…I will be doing so next week, as soon as I get to a branch of my bank (there are none in this state).

Other things out in the world: the Hand Papermaking auction, which is only on for a week, and a nice blogmention.

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3 thoughts on “Beltaine

  1. SO spot on, about students being able to make their own work. a hard, hard thing to teach. YAY for a visit with Mary! and for home, soon.

  2. Your observation about “clones” is spooky–I was just having that same conversation with a colleague last week! It’s an unfortunate byproduct of working in traditional craft media, I think…not a necessary one but it seems as though content takes a back seat to technique at times. I don’t know if the responsibility is with the students, teachers, or both. These are demanding techniques, to be sure, and it’s hard to balance rigorous conceptual development with technical skill development in a classroom setting, but I think it’s important to encourage students to find their own voices sooner rather than later.

  3. Hi Kim – I definitely believe it’s the responsibility of teachers to address conceptual development from the start, and for students to explore willingly. Conversely, though, there are different expectations for focus in different venues.
    Thanks for this comment! Eventually, I would like the Blahg to evolve into a place to have such conversations, though I am not able to encourage that at the moment, for various odd reasons. But stay tuned!

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