Feb. 20th 2010 Terra sig, pedagogy, puzzles

Kennebec River ice jam puzzle

tiles in piles

Ok, so I’ve been reading some great books in my grad program and one of these is called We Make the Road by Walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. It’s a conversation between two men who have spent their lives educating. I’m interested in this book because I am a teacher and I am also a learner. What fascinates me about this book is the way these men engage people in the learning process. It’s not about what the “teacher” has to pass on, it’s about what the people already know and empowering them to access more knowing, sometimes this is for a particular outcome, but sometimes it’s more about empowering people. To me, that’s exactly what education is for. That’s what I’m looking for in my own learning and that’s also what I hope I am providing for my classes. Goddard college in Vermont has been a perfect fit for my way of coming to knowledge. It’s a pedagogical holistic education.
I have been asked to speak various schools about being a working artist and I am always struck by the “system” of our schools. I think if I hadn’t fumbled around on my road to becoming an artist (I always was one, by the way, in fact, we all are) I might not see this as clearly as I do now. I had dinner with a friend of mine who teaches at one of the universities and he was lamenting about the lack of true interest in his students. This is a conversation I’ve had with most of my friends who teach at the college level. This system seems to have lost its vitality. I always feel fortunate that my students are coming to me specifically because they want to learn. I don’t believe that I will be taking on any major reform, but I am wondering how I might engage these high school kids when I go to tell them my story, in light of what I believe and what I am reading? Perhaps I should add-without starting some type of revolution? These kids are smart and they are well aware of the “system” and its associated BS. My task isn’t to tell them to storm the office, I think my task is to ask some questions and to listen with them. I haven’t figured that out entirely. I guess we’ll make that road by walking it.

Terra Sigilata. The other day I mixed up a new batch and I had to wait a few days for it to settle out. I had forgotten about it, which is normal behavior, and wala! It is ready. You can see in the picture how it separated. It only seems to have two layers so I will siphon off the top and use the bottom layer. Last time I mixed all these great colors and it came out dry and flat looking, so I decided to just go with the white until I prove that it will do what I want. I had these unfired tiles laying around arranged in a classic pattern. They were kind of stagnating there and I was uninspired to use them. I piled them together in a jumble and I like the way they were looking. They still had a pattern, but the dynamic had shifted. It immediately conjure up this book on education and social change. All the pieces were already there I just needed to rearrange them to serve my needs. See who says Art isn’t functional? I decided to test my new sig on these tiles. Now, they reminded me of a game with these small tile pieces, they also reminded me of individuals, each one unique with their own blend of knowledge. I thought, I as lay them on top of the larger tiles that those represented systems in which we work. Most of the time the system is laid out for us, all rigid rules in place, but sometimes when you remove the rules the most original ideas can spring forth. So I brushed on some loose interpretations of rules to each of the 4 larger tiles. The idea is that the smaller individuals will work within a system to create…what? I don’t know and I don’t believe I have to know because if I know, then I blow the whole game. This is what I need to do at the school when I speak. It’s not so much a game as it is a puzzle.
I just got back from a walk down by our river and all these huge ice blocks are heaped upon each other. I took that to be nature’s answer to our local ice puzzle. Questions I am asking myself. How do I fit into the system? Am I inside or outside of it? What has the system taught me that I am still holding onto? and why? How many different systems are at play in my life? What are the systems my children will be facing? Is it a game or is it a puzzle?


  1. congrats on the MFA program. I am working on my MFA as well – and it is ironic – that I as well have put away the cone 5 clay for earthenware – for the time being anyway.

    I loved reading this post and about your thought process.

    keep moving forward!

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