Technical Skills...smh

"No, that's not how you do it, do it like this..."
I am not a technically trained potter. I don't have a BA or MFA in ceramics. I have not travelled around the world taking workshops and week-long intensive training sessions. My first ceramics class was at a cramped studio in NYC. The teacher didn't even bother to show up and told one of the other students to give me a lesson. While unprofessional, it did reinforce what I've done most of my life and relied on myself to figure it out. After a couple months at the "party studio," I found a new community studio with more structured beginner wheel and hand-building classes and finally got to learn the basics. While each teacher gave thorough demonstrations, each student worked on what they wanted, and the teacher was there to provide guidance. Occasionally we would be given an assignment, but for the most part, everyone was free to work on what they wanted. This freedom this allowed me to jump back and forth between wheel and hand-building at my whim.
Having only learned the basics, I never learned the history or theory of ceramics. Details of firing stages, glaze chemistry, and alchemy confound me. There have been times this lack of knowledge made me feel like a fraud or a hobbyist, but I've learned to recognize these thoughts as mind games best ignored. My work is no less valid than someone who can throw 100 perfectly matching bowls.
I find I'm more open to making what I want, the way I want. The quote at the beginning of this post is something said to me once that almost made me walk away from what I doing. I can be a stubborn Taurus after all. I've been told I roll my slabs too thin, but the pieces stand and hold their shape. I've been told I need to use slip or vinegar to seal seams, but the cloudy water has worked just fine. I've been told I can't fix a crack once it's formed....well, I have. I don't have formal techniques ingrained in my head and that gives room to have fun with the process and learn from failures.
The expression "Rules are meant to be broken" is an interesting one. I find when you don't know the rules at all, that is where the heart can create some of the best art. Don't let a lack of formal training stop you from being the maker you know you are, you can always learn the fundamentals later, if you decide they are necessary.

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