There are so few experiences these days where the dissemination of information comes only from direct experience. We most often turn to the internet to be our teacher and guide. We look up definitions, videos, blog posts, and articles written by someone we have not met in person and likely never will. Although the internet is an incredibly invaluable resource, there is something missing when we are not able to interact face to face with our instructors, mentors, and long term professionals.
In most modern professions the idea of an apprenticeship is a thing of the past. Thankfully, this is not the case in the world of ceramics. The apprenticeships in the United States often look very different than the seven to ten year apprenticeships under a Chinese master potter. Many are shorter and provide more autonomy and creative independence, yet it still involves direct access to the source of the information. Someone who is available for questions, troubleshooting, and encouragement. It is a time where the learning is only available when one has their hands on something….making a mess, fumbling, moving pieces, slinging clay, and trying out new skills.
Four years ago I entered The Village Potters gallery and found Sarah Wells Rolland and Lori Theriault at the front desk. After short introductions, I boldly asked if they were looking for a studio assistant. Providentially, they had just been discussing taking on an assistant, and we began our discussions. A few months later I was up and running as the new assistant. There was so much to learn. I had never loaded kilns, mixed glazes, reclaimed clay, or even thrown a piece of pottery over 6 inches! It was the perfect opportunity. Not only was I able to be in a working studio, but I also was going to study under these brilliant artists. The position was part studio assistant and part apprentice. It was a role that was constantly being developed as it was new to the structure of the studio. I was able to glaze and fire with Bernie Segal, enhance my throwing techniques in Lori’s class, refine my eye for form with Sarah, improve my handbuilding techniques with Karen Dubois, learn about obvara with Judi Harwood, make immaculate handles with Cat Jarosz, and move through balancing other professions and the love of clay with Melanie Robertson.
As you may have read here, I have learned so much about generosity, community, and vision in this place. Coming in January I will be taking a sabbatical. I will be travelling and studying in France, Spain, and Italy in 2017. I will greatly miss the mentorship, love, and professional development that have changed me and my direction as an artist, but I look forward to returning to see all of the beautiful pieces and people that will continue to emerge from this incredible place.
There are now many ‘apprentice-like’ experiences available at The Village Potters. So many individuals are able to experience the wisdom and encouragement either in classes, as a studio apprentice, ISM intern, or workshop attendee. The gift of receiving that direction and guidance lives on everyday at The Village Potters. We currently have four amazing studio apprentices and three wonderful work/trade students.
by Dearing Davis, The Village Potters