The Future of Fine Crafts: Part 4

July 26, 2010

Today is the last of our Future of Fine Crafts guest series from our friends at the Peters Valley Craft Center, which is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary as a national center for fine craft education.

Special thanks to the contributors to this series: Kristin Muller, Kathe Brannon and Susan Kornacki, as well as today’s guest blogger Julia Whitney who shares with us her assistantship experience from the last 10 weeks. All we have to say is: wow, what a list!

Julia Whitney group shot

My name is Julia Whitney and I have lived and worked for ten weeks in the Delaware River Gap, assisting nine workshops for the Ceramic Department at Peter’s Valley Craft Center. There are student assistants for each department, chosen by applications, from all over the country.

Traveling from Alton, Illinois a small river town and suburb of St. Louis Missouri, my experience at PV has far exceeded my expectations. I work facilitating ceramic workshops, helping instructors and students, and maintaining equipment, and overall studio conditions. This includes eight to twelve hour days, six days a week. After a long days work I enjoy speeding off on my bicycle to meet fellow assistants to pick black raspberries, and swim in the eddies of the Delaware River. Afterwards we head back to our residence for long conversations at the ever-popular picnic table, or bike back to the studio to make art.

Julia Whitney pottery wheel

Being the final week of my assistantship at PV, I sat down to reflect on what made the experiences so worthwhile to my growth. Following is a list comprised of points that resonated with me from each workshop that I took directly out of my sketchbook. I think that each of these notations captures a little bit of the essence of the center and what it is that instructors, students and staff take back into their everyday lives.

  1. Peters Valley is about educating our intuition to create more freely
  2. It is about making a safe place to work, and to share
  3. To think about words, and what you want to communicate
  4. To express gratitude
  5. To ask questions
  6. PV is about working for discovery rather than product
  7. To develop ideas and use fundamental building blocks to complete the work
  8. It is a place to try everything, and figure out what you are doing
  9. It is a place to understand when art does and does not work
  10. It is a place to build around others, and in doing so, build confidence
  11. To be aware of our sensitivities
  12. To address concepts of form, surface, and idea
  13. To balance between the physical and the visual
  14. Students are pushed to ask where their sense of beauty and taste originate
  15. To find beauty in organization
  16. To use simple materials
  17. To work hard, and see results
  18. To engage in peer review, research, and discussion
  19. It is a place to meet new friends, and reconnect with old acquaintances
  20. It is a place to foster your love of learning
  21. To practice patience with developing technique
  22. To test your limits and break through boundaries
  23. Peters Valley encourages engagement in the natural world
  24. To make mistakes intentional
  25. And to master a material
  26. To disregard what you are good at and focus on what you may learn
  27. It is a place to create themes, initiate and investigate
  28. To build your bibliography
  29. And to focus on the sweep of a bowl
  30. To collect what happens beyond a photograph.
  31. To be resourceful
  32. To make “do-dads”
  33. To be considerate
  34. To heal
  35. To help others
  36. It is about working with the earth to become connected to the community
  37. To increase your vocabulary
  38. To understand what you are trying to get back to
  39. To seek truths
  40. To begin with an idea
  41. And then stop to think
  42. It is a place to understand the meaning of different
  43. To be dependable and selfless
  44. To take a technique and push it until it becomes your own
  45. To understand an object’s story, and our own personal stories
  46. To create metaphor
  47. Peters Valley allows you a place to make work for you!
  48. To appreciate small gestures
  49. To gain inspiration
  50. To see the stars
  51. It is a place to continually try new things
  52. It is a place to question levels of information versus wisdom
  53. To focus on the details
  54. To realize the full potential of a curve
  55. PV is a place to create something done before, and something new
  56. To capture visual breadth
  57. It is about understanding how you relate to art and life
  58. To play
  59. To find your voice
  60. To put your notes away
  61. To develop a personal rhythm
  62. To let go of insecurities
  63. To let your competitive nature out with a healthy dose of badminton, kick ball, or basketball
  64. To open your heart and mind to others
  65. And to speak confidently.

Julia Whitney ceramics workshop

I want to say thank you to Peters Valley for making this list possible, as well as to all the instructors I gained these insights from; they include: Kristin Muller, Shanna Fliegel, Joyce Michaud, Chris Staley, Jeff Oestreich, Leigh Taylor-Mickelson, John Dix, Arthur Gonzalez, and Takeshi Yasuda. Thank you to my fellow assistants, as well as the students for creating such a rich and fun learning environment! And a very special thanks to the department head of ceramics, Bruce Dehnert and his wife Kulvinder Kaur Dhew for allowing me the opportunity to grow as an artist and as a person. It has truly been a unique and invaluable experience.

Please visit the Peters Valley Craft Center website for complete information about the center, including their workshops, craft fair and store.