From the Editor: September 2015

How do you develop and resolve an idea into a finished piece? 

This is the question we asked of the artists who submitted entries to our contest From Idea to Finished Form.

As the entries started coming in, I thought about how this question applied to my own studio work. I use Post-it notes a lot when planning new pieces. This has been a part of my process for a while, since the days when pages in a sketchbook seemed too precious to waste. Starting with what is essentially a scrap of paper helps to loosen up my mind. Plus, it’s easy to grab a Post-it when an idea comes to me at the office, in the car, when I’m reading at home, etc. Whenever I have an idea, I scribble down some notes and a hasty line drawing, that I refer to when developing the idea, making larger sketches with notes on dimensions, techniques, concepts, and further research.

I also thought about how the question applied to our work here in the office. When we write or help to plan articles, the creative process can start with an outline, or a list, or a series of questions. The layout process starts with a set of images and a separate text document. We meet with the designer, and she sometimes sketches out a page idea, or makes notes and lists on the materials we give her. Our production team often uses quick drawings to discuss ideas with the editors before creating final layouts. If you’d like to see some of their sketches paired up with the finished layouts, follow us on Instagram at  @ceramics_monthly.

Once all of the contest entries were in, we reviewed them as a group, and were impressed with the creativity manifest throughout the artists’ processes for developing their work. We all learned from the varied ways they explore ideas and hope you will too.

Part of the inspiration for this contest came from discussing the ways that learning, creativity, discovery, and idea development happen in ways other than through traditional educational models. Getting feedback is critical to all artists growth, and it can be hard to come by. In traditional classrooms, there are structures in place and relationships with peers and faculty that facilitate this. For artists interested in learning outside of traditional academia there are an increasing number of options.

This issue features some of those programs, from physical bricks-and-mortar facilities, to studios (and kilns) on wheels, to online virtual learning. One of them is the Minnesota New Institute for Ceramic Education (MN NICE), which was organized by Ursula Hargens in conjunction with Northern Clay Center to help artists develop a body of work and gain the skills needed to run their own studio and find markets for their work. Henry Crissman talks about bringing an anagama kiln to the people, while Mark Shapiro discusses how POW! (Pots on Wheels), brings both handmade work and a mobile studio into communities. Bobby Silverman, Molly Hatch, and Andrew Martin discuss the online courses they’ve developed to reach wider audiences and supplement traditional education models.

Our cover artist, Adam Field, also has experience both learning and teaching outside of the traditional academic model. He completed some of his education through an apprenticeship with an Onggi master in South Korea where he learned technical skills and invaluable lessons on tradition and workflow that he now practices in his own studio. His innovative use of social media lets others learn from his experiences, and also promotes the sharing of ideas, techniques, and inspiration by makers across the field.- Jessica Knapp, editor.

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