Lissa Claassens | Episode 657
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Why a teaching studio and why is that important to your community?
Well, initially I started teaching because I felt it was a more secure income. But then I discovered that it meant more to me than just the income, that I cared about each individual and it’s become my life. My students have become my friends and it goes much deeper than just the teaching. It’s a two way thing.
You started teaching slowly, starting with kids and adding adults. It is it important to test the waters so to speak instead of jumping in?Is it better to do it kind of slowly and get the feel for how you teach and if you like to teach?
Yes, I think so. I think however much education you’ve got within that particular field, in ceramics or whatever, you actually need to feel how it feels to teach. To know what people want to learn and how to get it across. There were some points in my teaching career when I was like one step ahead. I would go to ceramic arts daily and look up a technique before I could teach them. So you are kind of learning just one step ahead of your students sometimes. I mean, of course I have gone beyond that stage but if anyone is wanting to start teaching I would recommend just doing it slowly.
What is the tell-tale sign as to when it’s appropriate to go head-long into a teaching type studio?
You mean instead of being a production potter or selling your own work?
I think the time is right when it feels right for you and that you are comfortable with it and you are getting more and more students. I mean I started out with like three students per class and then it built up and built up until I had ten students per class plus a waiting list of many, many more. So yeah I think you just have to get a feel for whether it is worth your while or not.
How do you make it interesting so people want to come back? I heard you say earlier that you were kind of listening in to figure out the things people wanted to learn. So is it an issue of knowing what they want and that is what makes it interesting?
I think that what I try to create is a welcoming atmosphere where people can come in and feel comfortable and not judged. So in the end it actually boils down to them feeling socially accepted and accepted as a person much more than what they are actually making. And I am discovering now with Covid, at this time when they are not here, they are missing the interaction with their peers and the group and with me more than they are missing the pottery. So that for me is a very interesting thing.
It is really okay to be just one step ahead of the class by going and learning from someone else and coming back and teaching them?
No, it’s not okay in the long term. (laughter) No,you definitely have to have a lot more experience than your students. And I think that they appreciate that and recognize it and I think I’ve got this reputation as a good teacher because everyone knowing that I have been doing it for a long time and that I’ve got actual experience in it. So when I give some advice on something it’s not that I am just sucking it out of my thumb. I know that if they don’t compress that plate it is going to crack and I can say that with great conviction. They’ll believe me. They can trust me, so that’s good. You have to be able to trust your teacher.
Between your teaching schedule and your fulfilling orders, what does your typical work week look like?
It’s the whole week. It’s morning classes and working a bit in the middle, then afternoon classes and evening classes, and then the whole weekend. Especially the weekend for making. It just never ends. It fills up my whole life. I love it.
Workshops Lissa mentions
Sue Tirrell -sgraffito on porcelain
Mike Stumbras -amphoras decorated with slip trailing