Monday, June 11, 2012

Frye Pottery

My friends, Tim and Pam Frye, make wonderful whimsical and functional pottery that walks a timely tightrope between retro and contemporary.  A good half of their “line” is as much sculpture as pottery. 
Frye Butter Keepers
But beyond the wonderful pottery they make, for the past 3 years they’ve also committed themselves to educating the population around rural Effingham, IL in the craft and art of making pottery. 

Three years ago they scoured the countryside for pottery equipment (wheels), put out what advertising was necessary (as it turned out – not much. The demand was already high), and opened their shop to teaching weekly classes.  They now have as many students as the two of them can handle year-‘round.

It was for that reason I spent much of my weekend bending Tim’s and Pam’s ears to the details of teaching in one’s studio.  They generously answered every question, and even answered many questions that I didn’t know enough about teaching to ask.

At one point, Tim and I were talking about the difficulty of teaching something that we’ve done for so long that what we’re doing has long since become a part of our autonomic potter system (Tim and Pam are also 30+-years into this pottery life).   

Tim related that the gap between his nearly unconscious skill level – what he does effortlessly and without thought – and the student's complete unfamiliarity with clay, makes Tim appear to them as though he is doing something nearly akin to supernatural.

This gap and perception was highlighted one evening as Tim was demonstrating how to throw a bottle on the wheel.  And (wouldn’t you know it), as sometimes happens, the bottle got away from him.  Perhaps just a thin area in the wall.  Maybe a harder lump amid the soft clay. It happens.  Whatever the reason, the bottle flopped.

“He’s HUMAN!” exclaimed one of his students.

….and that’s when Tim zapped ‘er dead with his laser vision.


  1. When you are trying to learn to center, you can't believe that anyone can ever do it. Once you know how, you can't believe that everyone doesn't know how to do something so simple. When I taught multi-handicapped kids, we made "task analysis sheets" that detailed every little step of lessons. Occupational therapists use the same process.It is amazing how many movements it takes to do something as common as pouring glass of milk. You might try writing down the steps on hand outs or getting someone who is a good observer to look at the fine details of what you are doing and writing them down for you. Just demonstrating doesn't always work because many students are so amazed by the pretty pot that they don't look at posture, finger position, wheel speed, etc.

  2. Ha! I always have one of those "human" moments when demonstrating. I always blame the clay ... or the wheel. Unless it's my own wheel, of course. Tough to do that ...

  3. you have to take them out right away or they will tell others.
    I did demo's for many years at the local high school. I was able to get the attention of the class by putting the biggest, bada** in the class on the wheel and getting him to make a pot.
    As he struggled I would walk over and say- let me help you- I would then place my wee hands on his and we would make a pot. The class would go silent and noway got out of line...was fun!

  4. Better be careful there. Laser vision can take out users of extraneous apostrophes too. And you never know where it's going to come from.

    I'm with Hollis on the blame thing. Top ten reasons for failure (in front of an audience)

    10. Apparently my pugmill needs to be cleaned out (...or if you're a Midwesterner: Apparently my pugmill needs cleaned)

    9. uh, yeah, they've obviously just struck a new vein in the clay mine.

    8. ME: "Porcelain is just that much more difficult. This happens to the best of us."

    ONLOOKER: "But....Mr Bauman.....that clay you're throwing is dark gray. Isn't porcelain pure white?

    ME: "So, what's your point?"

    7. OUCH! ...dang hand cramps.

    6. I'm sorry...who had a question? ....oops. I should have mentioned that all questions will be answered at the end of the demo. I shall now start over.

    5. LOOK OVER THERE! ::points away from wheel into the distance:: ...oh, you missed it.

    ...what pot that I had started?

    4. I suffer a rare disorder: Thixotropia. Don't worry, it's not terribly contagious.

    3. I think it's just as important that you see how it should NOT be done. That way your education will be more complete.

    2. That's how Voulkos did it. Next I will demonstrate Soldner's method.

    1. Well, that one'll settle that cup half empty/cup half full thing, eh?

  5. As a wannabe potter, having learnt for 10 years, on and off-- I still struggle--but actually really understood all the comments and had a good laugh! Great! Even though I've been at it for 10 years, I am still learning, so its good to see that you professional potters are really human!
    Shelley from Jerusalem, Israel.

  6. Well, after 10 years of making pottery you probably already suspect the truth: That one never stops learning.

    Humans are the only ones who make good pots, though leprechauns have been known to throw pretty good unicorn-watering bowls.