Thursday, December 03, 2009

this coming weekend

I have a long list of things to do, most of which take me away from the woodshop.

On Saturday morning I will be on TV in Little Rock to promote "Arkansas Living Treasures" for the Arkansas Arts Council and Department of Humanities. So I have 8 hours of driving for 4 minutes of fame. If you are in the Little Rock area, the station is KATV-7 and the program is Saturday Daybreak and I'll be on sometime around 8AM.

Then later in the day, I have a book signing at Lux Weaving Studio on Saturday Dec. 5th, 5 to 8 continuing Sunday Dec. 6th 12 to 5. Eureka Springs artists Eleanor Lux, Mary Tait and Karen Foster will be there to sell their work.

I am also preparing for my webinar with Ed Tech Specialists, a organization working to assist educational reform in Michigan. I will be live on the web 10AM Eastern Time or 1500 UTC December 14, 2009. You will be required to register to attend.

The webinar will be archived for later use.

In the meantime, I have been thinking about the differences between arts and crafts, or more specifically, the difference between artistry and craftsmanship. Is it enough to have greater attention on artistry in schools, or is craftsmanship a necessary component through which to instill a sense of excellence? I would welcome your participation.

When I was studying pottery at Memphis State University, my teacher gave me a B in one class because she said I was not doing enough to push the limits of my designs. I explained that I was trying to refine my designs and get develop greater skill in their production rather than spend my time making absurd products that might be of limited use. In a sense, I was responding to the material as a craftsman rather than an artist, seeking measurable growth of skill and design. Is there a difference in the level of rigor in either approach? It can be likened to the comparison between a shotgun and rifle. The latter requires a better aim.

I am also reminded of a sculpture competition here in Eureka. The best of show according to a polling of guests was a monumental marble sculpture of an angel. The workmanship in the lifelike sculpture was flawless and the hours devoted almost beyond measure. It took a fork lift to carry it into the building. The piece that was awarded best of show by the judges and a cash prize was a free-form accident that occurred during a firing failure in a kiln. A shelf had collapsed, and pots had broken and fused into a mass of colors and shapes which the potter decided to call "sculpture." What happens when we look at "art" as being something conceived by accident rather than created by skill? What happens when we reward "artistry" with no consideration of "craftsmanship"? Will we then be led to the false conclusion that success in the arts or any other endeavor is due to natural aptitude rather than to work, practice, effort?

Our children can learn lessons that affect their perception of values. Do they only then pursue the things that require the least effort? Or can craftsmanship, perhaps even more than the arts, impart a sense of the intrinsic rewards of rigor?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm familiar with your experience in pottery class. My only quibble would be because I believe that students don't "get" grades, they earn them. Too many years as a teacher, I guess.

Mario