My teaching philosophy is one that focuses on a student’s ability to understand basic principles of design, applying them to making original art, and their ability to create works in a safe environment with the intent of becoming a successful professional artist. My beliefs have been shaped not only by classes I have taught, but also by classes I have taken. During my two years of teaching Ceramics and my first year of teaching Art Appreciation, I have developed certain expectations of what I want my students to know when completing my course.
I believe that It is fundamental for beginning ceramics and sculpture students to learn and understand the principles of design and apply them to the pieces they create in my class. As for the Art Appreciation students, I expect them to learn the basic principles of art, what drives an artist to create, understanding of the creative process, and to leave the class with the ability to voice informed opinions on art. The projects I assign have a set of parameters that they must meet but are otherwise open to interpretation to enforce creative thinking.
I enjoy giving lectures on ceramic techniques and clay bodies, but I find that students are most responsive to these techniques when they are actively putting them to use. Therefore, my philosophy is practice-oriented. I even apply these ideas to having Art Appreciation students understand art. I let them explore different mediums in order to spark their interest. If I can relay my personal experience to them, I believe they will better understand artistic practices.
I have a preference for sculptural ceramics, but I believe that students should be exposed to and learn all aspects of a discipline, which includes hand building techniques and wheel throwing, to ways of creating functional and nonfunctional ceramic forms. I present students with projects that explore traditional ceramic techniques such as creating pinched forms and tile making to exploring surface decoration and design using slips, underglazes, sgraffito, and even printmaking with mason stains. The intent of these practice-oriented assignments is that they can be applied to sculptural pieces later. These ideas provide students with the opportunity to view the clay body as not only a sculptural surface but also as a tool for drawing or printmaking, using traditional tools in a contemporary context.
As a part of their studio practice, I believe every student should be taught and actively practice proper studio etiquette and safety. I always enforce studio safety, ensuring students are wearing the proper attire and taking the right safety measures in the studio to prevent any possible harm. I ensure that each student has read, signed, and fully understands studio safety. In my classes students are given a thorough tour of the studio so they know where fire safety equipment and evacuation routes are from the studio in case of an emergency.
I encourage students to participate in and attend all art related events happening in their area. Students are encouraged to use the projects presented to them as opportunities to express their individual ideas and to explore creative contemporary thinking in their approach. Engagement with current happenings in the art community around them is of utmost importance to students’ development. I strongly encourage them to enter into exhibitions and to pursue opportunities to engage with the creative communities around them. I constantly present them with opportunities to build their resume as artists. I believe that students of all academic levels should constantly be active as artists. By the end of a semester I believe students should be comfortable and confident in creating, decorating, and glazing their works.
As aspiring professional artists, students should also be on the same level in their ability to present and talk about their works and works that inspire them. While previous projects have been based on learning techniques, their final project is the chance for them to put any technique they’ve learned into practice and to speak about their work in comparison to another artist. I provide them a list of contemporary ceramic artists to research and to create works in response to that investigation. They then must be able to give an informative presentation on the artist’s background, studio practice and ideas, and explain how the work they made relates to that artist without being a direct copy.
As an instructor of ceramics, I am committed to providing constructive feedback and criticism on students’ works and I encourage them to voice their opinions in a constructive manner to aide their peers in the creative process. I aim to create an environment where students can speak freely and comfortably about their own works and others’. They should be able to articulate both successful and unsuccessful aspects of an assignment. Frequent in-progress critiques are important and help students to develop their personal style while developing their ideas in a contemporary and coherent manner. I believe that these types of practices such as use of basic design knowledge, research through participation in local opportunities and familiarity with other artists, appropriate safety practices in the studio, and learning to express their ideas in a communicative way helps to create stronger works and stronger artists.