Launching a Holistic 21st Century Career
In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been potting for very long. Recently someone openly criticised my work and me, saying I don’t deserve what I’ve achieved, because I haven’t invested enough time into the craft. That remark did make me think. The internet, social media and the explosive popularity of ceramics, stoked by Instagram, has brought about a new dynamic, an age of innovative and connected potters, with lots of positive and negative consequences. I often critique the work of diverse potters, whether my own or other pieces I see online in shops and in galleries. It’s a tendency I’ve partly inherited, but perhaps it also stems from how I was taught ceramics, the approach I embraced for the craft and the tens of thousands of hours I’ve invested in my first seven years.
The medium used to teach us at the Steiner school from the earliest ages was clay. We dug it up in kindergarten and fired it alongside bread we’d bake in wood ovens. These activities served to teach us about the Romans. We built small kilns and made mosaic tiles for numerous projects and were given the opportunity to try out the potter’s wheel at a very young age. When I was fifteen, I was useless but I loved it. Moreover, I loved watching my first teacher effortlessly throw vases and bowls in seconds, as if it were magic. Something stuck with me from that day on and so I pursued the craft with vigour. I chose it for my final examinations and spent lunch breaks and much of my free time in the pottery studio, throwing, turning and teaching myself usually from online videos.
Alongside pottery, Steiner schools offer dozens of arts and crafts to their students including: painting and drawing, metalwork and forging, woodwork, stained glass, knitting and sewing and even gardening and plowing — alongside numerous other activities. These classes were considered just as important as the more academic courses, and the robust combination made me who I am today.
Training in Ireland
Upon graduating in 2012, I was lucky enough to secure one of 12 places in the revered DCCoI Ceramics Skills and Design Training Course in Thomastown, Ireland, a little village in the deep south of the country. Shrouded by green hills, it was worlds apart from London, where I had grown up. The school teaches skills, promotes practical knowledge and was almost entirely ‘hands on.’ Our own aesthetic didn’t matter until the second year. Gaining fluency with the clay between our fingers was the primary goal. The second year curriculum, especially in the final term, focused on developing our own signature, a personal style that we could decide for ourselves to pursue.
I chose to follow the route I’ve always taken, which is simplicity.
Words & Visuals: Florian Gadsby