I wish I could say I thought this out from the beginning.
One of the classes I enjoy teaching most at Wheaton is a two week summer ceramics class at Honeyrock in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. The class began 7 years ago, and has been something I look forward to in May ever since. In the first year a small group of students, the incomparable Mark Epler and myself built a wood-fired kiln from scratch. (We also made work, glazed, and fired the kiln all in two weeks, but that's another story.)
For the past two years, however, there hasn't been enough students to "make" the class. So this year I decided to invite some ceramics alumni to fill out the ranks. I had only about 6 weeks to give people notice, so I wasn't expecting much of a turnout. I figured there might be one or two people who were both interested and had the opportunity to come. I was pleasantly surprised by the response, and in the end five alumni were able to join the class, which meant the class was evenly divided between alumni and current undergrads. It was my hope that the alumni and undergrads would get along well together, and that the alumni might act in a kind of "mentoring" role with the current students.
It went better than expected. The relationship between the alumni and the undergrads was more symbiotic than mentor/mentee: while the undergrads benefitted from the experience of the alums, the alums benefitted from the enthusiasm and energy of the undergrads. (In hindsight I should have seen this coming, as I benefit from that same energy all the time.) As a teacher I was thrilled to have the alumni with enough experience to help me with some aspects of class preparation and to have the chance to talk about some more professional development aspects of becoming an artist. Beyond the teaching, it was just great to be able to reconnect with former students and catch up with their lives post-Wheaton. They are amazing individuals at the beginning of great adventures!
With the added energy of the class had I added an assignment I've been wanting to try for years. We scouted the grounds for clay deposits and tested them as a coating (slip) on some of our pots. These fluted cups are coated in a rich chocolate brown clay we found and processed, making these pieces uniquely original to Honeyrock.
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the studio chair
A place for me to ramble on when I need to take a break.