I am on this strange thing called "The Australian Ceramics Discussion List". It is full of alternatively infuriating and inspiring thoughts, opinions and practical tips from any one of the 400 members. There has been a recent thread on education, the value of contemporary Australian ceramics education, what it adds to personal practice and to the world generally. This morning I opened an e-mail with this from Owen Rye:
"Education is the difference between you yesterday and you today. I can say what I had in mind about postgraduate education - but please do not imagine this applies to teaching beginners. That is a skill very few people have and I'm not one of them.
First thing was to try to bring out what was in people rather than try to put something in from outside ( put simply that involves mainly listening rather than talking). Second was believing that postgraduates should learn for themselves - and if their aims were serious then quite likely I could not answer their questions anyway. But I could try to learn with them and in the process we both learned how to learn more. Learning how to learn is far more important than acquiring 'facts' or 'knowledge'. The most common advice was "Try it and see what happens". ( My friend Tony Stewart said that you did not ask your kids 'what did you learn at school today? , the real question is 'What did you think about today?).
Another was that postgraduates were headed to professionalism and so had to be competent at presenting their work in public, at writing, at exhibiting and so on, as well as making. One result of this thinking was that it was almost irrelevant to me what kind of work anyone wanted to do - functional, conceptual, installation, fire art - the same basic approach applied. In fact I most enjoyed the weirdest aims because I learned so much from the students.
Another supervising (that is something different to teaching) device I used came from Ivan McMeekin, my teacher. Whenever you showed him some work you had done he would say "Yes, and now you could try doing this as the next step". After all that I realised, as I think Ivan intended me to, that there was always a next step. It was never 'finished'. Fifty years later I am still thinking about the next step - the next firing in a few weeks is a big experiment in many ways and I don't know how it will work out. (if you know what you are doing it ain't art).....Owen Rye"
Lucky students who have Owen for a teacher.