Its not often that miniatures hit the national stage, but this month, you can read about one of our IGMA Fellow members in the pages of O Magazine.
After starting out in large scale ceramics, Jon Almeda made the switch to miniatures about 15 years ago and has never looked back. Self taught, he has continued to push the boundaries of his craft, experimenting with shapes and glazes, making his own tools and even creating a miniature, and portable, pottery wheel. Check out his Instagram account where you can enjoy videos of Jon, having taken his portable wheel to a remote location, and watch him creating his stunning pots with a dramatic backdrop of sun, clouds and sea. I venture a guess that these wonderful videos have caught the eye of many event planners, for not only is he features in Oprah’s magazine, one of his videos shows Jon at a New York fashion show, throwing pots as models create fashionable tableaus in the room around him.
Have you ever wondered how that staggering catalog of classes on offer at Guild School comes into being? The actual process of selection is spread over several months, here is the condensed version.
Sometime in late winter, Guild School Director Barbara Davis, sends a notice to all IGMA’s Artisan and Fellow members, asking for proposals for classes for the following year. Prospective teachers, all of whom must be Artisan or Fellow members, have until May 15, to submit their ideas which generally include a brief description and a photo. The photos are very important as they are often the only information that students will have on which to base their opinions on which prospective classes they would be interested in taking. All these photos are posted on huge display boards outside the cafeteria at Guild School, and those display boards are often the first thing returning students look for. Nothing like planning for the next year when you haven’t even begun the current year’s classes!
Students have several days to examine the posted photos and mark their preferences on their opinion sheets-indicating with a 1 or 2, which classes they are definitely interested in taking, and which they might be interested in taking. These ‘votes’ are tallied and each proposed class then has a sort of beginning point from which further evaluations can be made. This is all what I’ll call Step One in the process.
Step Two is in the hands of the School Committee. Upon arrival at school, each committee member receives a large packet of information containing photos and descriptions of each proposed class, along with a little information on the instructors and their teaching experience. Committee members are responsible for familiarizing themselves with that material during the week so that when they meet at week’s end, they are ready to help with the selection process. When the committee meets, all the previously mentioned items are present for discussion. The student opinion tallies are often the beginning point, but committee members also spend a substantial amount of time reading student reviews of classes/teachers who have proposals under consideration.
Next, large sheets of paper are posted around the meeting room, one for each category of class, i.e. furniture, structure, metal, etc. to ensure that a variety of media and disciplines will be represented in the final choices. Starting with the longest classes, 48 and 36 hours, the list begins to be winnowed down. Any proposal with good numbers and strong teacher performance will make the list. If that teacher has more than one that proposal that looks good, discussion will ensue as to which might be the more popular choice, but often the final decision in cases like that is left to the director to work out with the instructor. When all proposals have been considered, then work continues to make sure the list is balanced according to category and media, by number of offerings overall, and also by time categories; for example, you obviously want more 12 hour classes than 36 hour classes as students can take 3 – 12 hour classes in the same time as one 36 hour class.
By the end of the meeting, which often takes a good 6-8 hours, Barbara Davis winds up with a list of possible classes for the following year. And that leads to Step Three, Barbara now goes home and begins to contact instructors. Sometimes she needs to ask them to make changes in their proposals to address questions that may have arisen in the committee meeting. Sometimes she needs to ask them if they’d mind teaching more classes, or fewer and be a student part-time. Some classes/instructors will drop out here, and sometimes, when registration begins, other classes will be dropped due to lack of interest. In any case, about 6 months after the process began, the school catalog is in production and the list of classes goes up on the website where eager students pore over the possibilities and start to make their lists!
Traditionally January 1st is when people give thought to refreshing their lives-starting a diet or maybe committing to begin working out on a regular schedule. There has been talk these last few weeks, perhaps based on the recent spate of celebrity deaths, and/or the election results, on how 2016 has been a bummer of a year. When focused on the negative, one can always find plenty of ammunition to back up an unhappy outlook on life, but I recently read a newsletter from blogger Ann Wood (of Ann Wood Handmade) that reminded me of something I used to tell my kids, when you focus on the negative, its all you can see. So, take a deeper look and find the good things, they are there!
There is a small ritual that can help you to notice those good things, and can help to change your outlook as well. Every day, write down 3 good things that happened that day. It can be as trifling as having had a text from a friend, or a tasty meal, they don’t have to be earth shockingly important events. But, if you choose to remind yourself daily of things that were good, you will find yourself noticing the good more often, and focusing on the negative less.
I’m looking forward to reuniting with some of my miniature community at the Colonial Williamsburg Study Program in a short time-and by the time I come home, perhaps the notice of which class I was accepted into at Guild School will have arrived. Happy thoughts indeed!