Demo at Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts at Fudan University
I recently had an opportunity to do a guest demo at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts. This school was started about five years ago to give Fudan University an art school. I went out to demonstrate the basics for a beginning throwing class. I had a great time and the students seemed genuinely interested. Its hard to say if they were more interested in me because I was an American but it was nice that they paid attention.
The studio was very large with 20 ft ceilings. Half the space was for ceramics and the other half was for the glass hot shop. I asked around and you can choose glass or clay. Wouldn't it be great to go to a school where you could do both as an undergrad? There aren't many in the US. Their were more than 25 students spread around neatly organized throwing stations. They had two large gas reduction kilns and a few Skutt electrics. So far I have noticed that most Chinese wheels sit very low to the ground. For the demo I raised my wheel up 6 inches and I still felt like I was curled into a ball. At the PWSS studio I have raised all the wheels in the hopes that we will save a few trips to the chiropractor for my students.
Caroline Cheng was gracious and translated for me as I spoke. Presenting through a translator would be good practice for all teachers. It made me reconsider my lack of economy with word choice. When I speak to people who share my language I take for granted all the figures of speech that slide under the radar. When I spoke through an interpreter I had to consciously think "Does this metaphor make sense to non English speakers?" or "How can I say this was as few words as possible?" There were many times when Caroline helped explain things that I didn't cover clearly.
It was funny to be talking about the history of ceramics to Chinese students. When it comes to design there aren't many forms that don't have roots in China. I was talking about a "traditional" bowl form that I attributed to Italian Majolica. I was reminded that the original was actually a rice bowl from the 1200's. It really hit home that most design ideas traveled back and forth along the Silk Road for 100's of years before they became traditions in one country or another.