It’s Thursday, the eve of our installation at the Continuing the Conversation Conference at Harvard University. If any one of us told you we weren’t nervous, we’d be lying. The last of our cups were thrown after school on Monday and were loaded into the kiln on Tuesday. By Wednesday, all of our cups had been glazed; and those that had their QR codes were placed in the Art Gallery for viewing by those that walked by before they will be ultimately packed up to come with us to Harvard Friday morning.
The whole experience has been great. All the hard work we have put into this including throwing, interviewing, waxing, or glazing has lead us to where we are now. The bonds among our team have strengthened from countless hours spent together after school working on our project, drinking tea, and having a good time. In the future, we will look back at this and realize that the experience was invaluable, and worth more than we could ever imagine.
Seeing all of our work come to fruition has been amazing, but we are still not done yet. The real fun has yet to begin because Friday, October 25th, our show hits the road. Look out Harvard, here we come!
Probably my greatest attribute is the fact that I can convince young people that they can do this, and they get involved with it, and I keep impressing on them that every time they pick a brush up, they get better. And I think that’s probably the best thing I’ve done with my life. That’s what’s probably going to be on my tombstone: That he taught me to pick up a brush.
Pete W. – October of his 42nd year teaching high school art
I’ve been in the studio after classes every school day for the past month. Seriously, it’s become a habit now. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, in fact it’s sort of my fall sport; throwing red cups. I love it. Sometimes I work on classwork, but usually I’m “caught red-handed” with these cups and pitchers.
The funny thing is that we still have no clue what we’re doing. Maybe I’m supposed to pretend we are old pros and not tell anyone that we’re struggling/working hard here. Perhaps I’m the only one, but I think we all experience this challenge. It’s a type of project that we have never done before, and we all kind of ignorantly agreed to. When I was first told about the FLOW Project I thought it sounded very interesting and I wanted to help. 200 cups and interviews seemed like a lot, but we had 2 whole months so it couldn’t be that hard. Then came the college application process. Oh gosh, you don’t know how intense that is until you’ve spent every weekend either visiting, researching, sitting in on talk of, testing for, planning, writing essays for or applying to college. So that cut deep into my time this fall. Then of course there are your grades, because you need to keep getting those A’s :). Overall, we were more time-restricted than I thought we’d be.
But one week from today, we’ll be completely done! The show is next weekend so there’s no time for procrastination. It came fast, and we still have a good amount of interviews and planning to do, but we can manage it. So maybe this project taught me something about what I’m (we’re) capable of. We faced a challenge new to all of us, but we boldly accepted it and hopefully will hit it out of the park. And I really do mean WE. The collaboration in this project was just off the charts. I even switched some cups for interviews with a brother; 5 to be exact. I enjoy the cup making more, though people really do have some interesting things to say. He enjoys the interviewing more, so we made an arrangement. Working toward each other’s strengths and interests just makes sense in my opinion.
I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I hope other people can enjoy drinking out of the cups we made and listening to the interviews we’ve done. In fact, they should listen to more than just the interview that the QR code on the cup sends them to. The more they listen to the better. More interviews = awesome. The reason I think this is important is because I feel like I’ve become wiser with every interview I do. Sometimes I just gain insight into the interviewee, which in itself is precious. But other times I see a deeper meaning to some of the conversations. I’ve done a lot of thinking because of this project and can’t wait until I listen to all of these interviews. After the conference probably, or maybe on the way over to Boston? Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my post and God bless.
Interviewing people about “flow” can sometimes be difficult. The first couple minutes involves explaining what flow is. Well, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what someone does.
Most people have that one sport or one game they love. Some others even seemed stumped by the question. It’s scary to think our body functions and we “lose track of time” and have a sense of timelessness.
You may see a person in flow and not even realize it. I’m sure most teachers love what they do so much they get into a sense of flow. You never know if the mailman is fully absorbed in his job. Everybody has their own “flow” and some people do not even realize they have a “flow.” Gardeners, sanitation workers, artists, scholars, poets, athletes, and businessmen all may have different flows, and all have found one thing in their life that they simply could not live without it.
Personally, I get into a flow sitting down at the potter’s wheel. Three-hour open studios go by in a blink of an eye, and after school from 3-5 is even faster. I zone out everything around me and focus on the clay ball spinning in front of me.
It is almost funny to think that I put this much effort into making a drinking vessel or a pitcher when I own so many of these at home. I’m not sure that I enjoy the finished product and using my pieces as much as I enjoy the atmosphere of the studio and the relaxation of throwing a bowl. There isn’t a word to describe the feeling of putting a piece into the kiln to glaze it and seeing it come out. You can predict glazes, but there is nothing for certain. These are the things I enjoy so much that I could do without an end.
Originally posted at Teaching/Craft
“I don’t think I even know how to stand still and not try,” one student says.
Several students and I are in the studio after school, creating cups. The topic of conversation is ‘senior slide,’ and how yesterday might have been the perfect ‘senior skip day,’ but, really, isn’t October too early in the year for such shenanigans?
Another student adds, “I don’t know if I’d be able to look a teacher in the eye if I skipped, or did the slide.” They agree that it’s an issue of mutual respect.
“Some of my friends, though, that’s what they’re living for – as soon as they’re accepted to college, that’s when they will quit. And they can’t wait.”
All the while during this conversation, they are throwing, trimming, sanding cups. We are well on our way to the two hundred we committed for an upcoming installation – but not there yet. There are less than two weeks to go, so the energy has escalated. We are all closing out each day with ruined khakis, the iron in the red clay producing stains that never quite go away.