Amanda Bartel | Episode 833
I began working with clay in 2011 when I asked a cashier to teach me pottery. Since then, I have worked in and built multiple studios nationally and internationally. I make functional pieces born from an inner stillness and I strive to help my students find their own stillness through my teaching.
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When I asked you where did this love came from, why did you go to the people who taught you?
Oh gosh, I wouldn’t be here without those people and I truly just love people, that’s just a natural thing about how I would identify myself. I usually just love people and I love sharing so if there is something that allows me to be with people and share with people it’s motivating.
Is it innate in the way that you think that they know what I need to know?
That’s a good question. I think that everybody has something to offer. I don’t necessarily know what it’s going to be, but I am sure that if I get to know them, which I want to do, because everybody is interesting and everybody has a story, then I will be a richer person for having had a relationship with them whether it is in pottery or life.
Do you find that going to people and learning from them specifically, do you find that you process it better with people, with others?
Yes, and I think there’s a next level to that. I think that I learn best if I know I will be sharing the knowledge and passing it forward. So it’s like not worth learning if I am going to hoard it to myself.
Do you also find that is creates a sense of community? Have you kept in contact with others?
Absolutely, I have and I think that’s what allowed me to continue because I have moved so much, to start from scratch every time I move, which you do have to because clay is regional, glazes are regional, materials are regional, what you are firing in is not going to be the same as your previous studio so there’s a lot of adjustment to be done which takes time so if you don’t have some sort of network, or people who remember you, then it would be difficult to continue to grow I think.
Do you find it easier to receive constructive criticism when you are in those relationships and learning from someone?
I don’t feel like pottery is a place where I have really experienced a lot of critique or criticism. Maybe I am lucky or maybe I don’t take risks that are large enough to put me in a position where I might be criticized. I think the biggest criticism would just be people not paying for classes or coming and then leaving because it was so terrible or not buying my work. The selling my pottery issue might be in part because I have not spent a lot of energy finding people who want to buy pottery, but I do spend energy creating a spaces that people will feel welcome and want to come and learn from me. I do love to share both pottery and life through teaching. I haven’t had a critique because I think for the most part people enjoy the spaces that I create. So it hasnt been hard in that way. Maybe I’m just lucky, I don’t know.
You’ve learned from so many people. How do you actually pass it on to others?
I try to take the very disjoined way that I learned and consolidate it. I do a lot of first time potters in what I call date nights. So two people come to have an experience, which has been wonderful and so much fun, because it’s so cool to help someone do something for the first time. There’s not a lot of things we adults do for the first time and put ourselves in a position of potential failure. And so to be able to guide someone to be successful in trying something, that is hard. Pottery is not easy and I make it look easy in my demonstrations because I have been doing it for 11 years. But I tell everybody, I know you can do it. And you are going to be able to make something that you can use for the rest of your life. My measure for if a pot is good or not is if it can hold ice cream. If it can hold ice cream it counts.