Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Crafthaus Editor: What did your mom say when you told her that you would be going to school for art and ceramics? What was her reaction?
Richard Peterson: She’s always been 100% supportive of me, she’s one of the biggest supporters I’ve ever had in my life and I think that’s the thing that made it all possible for me. I have seen her work hard to support us all her life and that’s what I learned from her. If you work hard enough at it, it’ll happen. Especially in this field, it is very hard. I mean when they say you have to ‘work’, you have to REALLY work.
Crafthaus Editor: So true.
Richard Peterson: Work is all you do. I carry my mom’s work ethic with me and in a way it has gotten me to the point where I am now. When I look back, there are so many things that could’ve gone horribly wrong had I chosen certain other things instead of choosing ceramics. But because I had that backing from my mom, learned her principles of what is right and what is wrong, paired with hard work, this is what actually led me to where I am now.
Just the other day we were looking at the book “Graphic Clay” by Jason Bige Burnett and I’m in it and she was so happy she was crying. She said, “I can’t believe that drawing pictures got you here.”
Crafthaus Editor: What I like is hearing about people having had exposure to a craft medium at the high school level and how they benefit from that experience. Even if they end up not going into the craft business or into the art side of things, it’s an experience they carry with them for the rest of their lives and it does make a huge and positive difference for them. It’s incredibly good to hear this again and again, the importance of an art education which, as you know, gets pushed aside for a bunch of other things all the time.
Richard Peterson: Art and music, they always get cut out.
Crafthaus Editor: Art and music are the first classes to go even though they are probably among the most beneficial classes to have, I agree. Are you still in touch with your teacher from high school?
Richard Peterson: Jon? Yes. I’m painting a mural at his house in his living room right now. He and I are still great friends. We make sure to communicate at least every two months and see how we are doing. Whenever he has a student who he feels could somehow benefit from going to art school or should at least think about it, he will have me come in and talk to that student about what they need to do, things that they need to look into.
Oftentimes, the student’s parents aren’t as supportive as they could be. They’re like, “You’re going into art. How are you going to make a living at this? Is it possible? I don’t think it is. I think this is a joke. You’re going to school for fun.” Which I think is one of the things you hear most often. “Oh, you’re an art student. That must be so fun.” It is. Yes, I love what I do, but god, some nights I want to kill myself. It’s terrifying.
Crafthaus Editor: So true. We work like dogs. Actually, this is the other thing that people don’t realize: If you’re involved in the arts, you work all the time. There’s just no stopping because if you don’t work, there’s no money coming in. Also, art and making is always on your mind. There’s no separation between work and private life. It’s all the same. It’s also the one thing that you absolutely have to do. There’s nothing that interests you more.
Richard Peterson: That’s right. I had a girlfriend for a while who would go insane because I was in the studio until three in the morning, come home and get in bed around four o’clock, and then I’d have to be back at the studio or school at nine. Before I went to sleep, I was frantically thinking about shows that went up I had not seen yet, whether there’s anything that happened that I wasn’t able to participate in because I was in the studio? Or maybe there was an article in Ceramics Monthly that I just haven’t read yet, so I read it right there, in bed, just to catch up. She never understood that this is how you actually have to be if you want to get anywhere with your artwork.
Another thing that’s terrifying me is that a lot of the ceramic students at the university aren’t really as dedicated as they should be. They graduate and then stop making, I think it’s about 72% that don’t touch what they do after they graduate and it’s just absolutely terrifying.
The trouble is that the Akron area doesn’t offer much to do in ceramics after you graduate. You either go to graduate school, find a residency, or there’s nowhere to keep making. There are a few places around that are trying to change that, like Zygote Print Press in Cleveland for instance, and someone just opened a clay studio in Cleveland called Brick, which is like an open studio space. That’s almost the first of the kind that we have in this area. There’s not much happening here outside of education, or outside of academia.
Continue reading the next segment: "Grad School"
Richard Peterson is currently an MFA Candidate at the University of Arkansas.
His email is rfpeters_ at _ uark.edu or richthepotter_ at _yahoo.com .
Thanks so much for this series Richard & Brigitte. As an educator who has been trying to get more access to authentic craft experiences for youth I can confirm that it is a struggle. A local non-profit was just given $45.000 for a program that creates teams of youth to sandblast grafitti off buildings but you won't see that amount of money going to after school ceramic or metal programs which I see as having a better trajectory and reward! They even admit that grafitti tags have only increased in recent years and they "take it off in the morning and it's back by noon!". Sad that we can't protect kids with the same energy we put into protecting buildings!
In the meantime I have half a dozen high school kids interested in blacksmithing but no real source of funding. I really hope the American Craft Council and other large craft organizations can get behind creating a grant system for quality craft programs in out -of-school time for Middle & High School students. Many of my current community college students tell me they have "never made anything."
Adjunct Faculty in Jewelry & Metalsmithing
Southern Maine Community College
Thank you, Ann, for this comment. First off let me say how impressed I am that you have half a dozen youth interested in craft at your HS, that is a wonderful record and testament that you are doing something right up there in Maine! Congrats! I hope they all continue with it! Blacksmithing is wonderful, lots of fun too. Secondly, with regard to your request for funding of middle and HS kids: I do think that some craft organizations already have grant opportunities for youth, this may not be widely known so this exchange here will be a good opportunity to look at some of these opportunities:
American Craft Council: I cannot point you to anything specific off the top of my head, I therefore suggest you get in touch with Perry Price, their Education Director, via email and find out what kind of resources and suggestions are available: pprice_at_craftcouncil.org. This is such a huge organization, even if they don't offer this themselves (yet) they can probably make suggestions of who does.
ABANA: You are, of course, already familiar with this wonderful organization. https://www.abana.org/affiliates/affiliate_map.shtml. I looked at their affiliates map to see who is close by to your area and it seems that the nearest affiliate is a few states over, but regardless, ABANA's mission is educational so I encourage you to email them and ask what specific resources they offer at the HS level. Here is the link to the resource page on their website: https://www.abana.org/resources/index.shtml
There is a scholarship available to members: https://www.abana.org/downloads/abana_scholarship.pdf
This awesome organization (of which I am a board member - just to disclose this right off) is very much interested in fostering youth earlier than college level already. Many on our board are educators and make strong efforts to reach out to High Schools in their own geographic region, they would be wonderful resources for you to talk to. There is a reduced student membership rate to our conferences and a general willingness across the organization to foster all kinds of educational efforts. I encourage you to get in touch with Monica Hampton, our Education Director, and inquire what opportunities are out there: mhampton_at_snagmetalsmith.org
New England School of Metalwork: http://www.newenglandschoolofmetalwork.com/
Located in your own state, this might be another great educational resource for you. Again, I encourage you to reach out to them and see what they can offer. Maybe you can grab some of your students for a field trip?
A quick google search revealed that there are practicing blacksmiths in Maine and the surrounding states, again, a field trip out to them could be interesting and a wonderful resource for your students. Perhaps one of them has a mobile forge to bring to your school for demonstrations if a field trip is out of the question.
I realize that some of these things cost money and may or may not be at least partially funded. From personal experience I can tell you though that you will find that many practitioners and organizations are very much interested in educating our youth and that they may be willing to offer this at a much lower cost than you expect. Instead of waiting for funding that may never materialize, how about finding the organizations, practitioners and resources that share your interest in education and see how you can team up with them so that everybody wins. Who knows, maybe a supplier of hammers would be willing to support your outreach efforts/field trips too? You won't know unless you ask.
I would be much interested in hearing back in a few months which of these organizations offer grants to HS students and what the overall result was of your efforts. Please share that with us if you get a chance! Thanks so much and best wishes to you!!
Thanks Brigitte. Some of these I've tried- without success- but I will keep trying. My problem is that it's a lot of unpaid time for me to do that-- I'm not a High School art teacher. I was a contracted Teaching Artist for an alternative program for three years but resigned this year in favor of a new position as the Art Room coordinator for a large Conference/Retreat center which unfortunately doesn't operate in the winter and I can't do fire there. The building is 100+years old. The Maine Crafts Association has launched a new apprenticeship program and I'm encouraging the young blacksmith I hired for the school to apply for himself and the most ardent student in that group but it will depend on his time etc.He just got a new job and the student has transportation issues. At least I have two nice forges within striking distance that will collaborate! It's just complicated---and very time consuming---to organize events.
I will keep trying to find support as much as I can around my own need to keep afloat financially.
I am a member of SNAG and came to the Conference in Boston courtesy of SMCC which I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. The Educator's Dialogue and other events/talks really made me want to expose my local youth to this world even more and I do plan to communicate about whatever I can get going here but I'm working on getting more of a "team" behind it. I was very glad to hear that SNAG would be increasing efforts to reach out to the young. Thanks again for all these links and I'll try to post some updates on my page.