Though I sadly do not have enough hours in the day to write about each lecture I was able to attend, I do want to summarize some my favorite parts and my overall feelings at and post the NCECA conference.
The first lecture I went to was about the subversive nature of ornamentation given by an undergraduate student, Djnnaya Stroud. Ornamentation has evolved over many periods from the ancient to the contemporary ceramics, it has been used for propaganda, religious narrative and now social issues. In the most basic sense ornamentation makes a pot "pretty" and so appeals to and attracts viewers. Stroud specifically looked at the works of Grayson Perry. Perry points out how our, societies, tastes are given to us by the "default man". Minimal taste is no longer revolutionary because it is the typical upper middle class surroundings. Ceramics is rooted in every day life so by adding ornamentation to the functional, the issue becomes approachable.
Chris Staley is a loved, soon to be retired, professor at Penn State. His circle of love and support after the lecture was overwhelming. He spoke about teaching clay and how it involved three factors: clay, student and teacher. Clay is physical and tactile. It is collaboration. Teacher and student must trust each other for the classroom to work.
Then comes the list of advice that scribbly covers my sketchbook.
1. Ask quality questions that lead to bigger questions
2. Everything you, or your students produce is a metaphor. When you make something, ask what that metaphor is?
3. As a teacher, share how much you see so the students can see more.
4. It is ok not to know. The idea of wonder is the essence of learning.
Michael McCarthy is also a ceramics teacher but in a completely different setting. McCarthy leads the ceramics studio at the Austin Riggs residential psychiatric center, a place where the studio and the hospital overlap. He talked about the basics of the studio: it was not a privilege so was not taken away from patients, it was always available to them for expression and exploration. McCarthy tries to combat the idea of "failure" and pushes the idea of "students" (not patients) learning.
Then there were the many emerging artists lectures on Saturday. Each were unique and invigorating for technical, conceptual and social reasons. Roberto Lugo was by far the most moving and instead of me summing it up I recommend you just see for yourself.
As I read over my notes and recollect from the past weeks adventure I notice one thing in common- The potential of clay for social change! So many artists and teachers are doing so many great things and then so so so many more artists and students are excited about the potential and sitting in lectures to learn, grow and then do. Clay is play but also academic. Clay is approachable and accessible. Clay is a material, and object and a process. Clay can be used to teach views in a museum, or used to help overcome an illness in a residential museum. I believe in Social Clay and I am pumped to be in this world with so many "mad potters"!