THE GOLDEN BRIDGE PROJECT
The Wheel Revealed
Golden Bridge Project announces The Wheel Revealed, a course in which we show you how to bring your imagination to life by using the potter’s wheel at Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry.
Crafted specially for beginners, this 12 session course covers clay preparation techniques like wedging and kneading, centering clay on the wheel, and throwing basic cylinders before moving on to forms like mugs, bowls, vases, depending on your progress.
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7 Month Course
The Golden Bridge Pottery was founded in 1971 by two Americans, Deborah Smith and Ray Meeker. The pottery is undergoing major changes. Our production of wheel-thrown, glazed stoneware which Deborah has been in charge of since 1985 has been significantly reduced. We will utilize our well-developed infrastructure as a resource for continuing our contribution to studio pottery in India.
The Golden Bridge Project is not a school. There are no diplomas. No certificates. It is an informal environment where materials, wheels, kilns and studio space are coupled with a well-trained staff that can assist at all skill levels from the beginner, with no experience with clay to fully developed artists with specific goals compatible with our available infrastructure.
For students interested in the basic skills required for making stoneware pottery, we have a seven month course for those who may or may not have had previous experience working on the potter’s wheel. It is not a hobby course. And it is not “art school.” It is geared towards becoming a professional potter and eventually setting up your own workshop. This course is wheel-oriented and the first four months are given wholly to developing a basic understanding of clay and “throwing” on the potter’s wheel. We feel this is an effective way to introduce you to clay.
The seven-month course begins the first full week in March and continues through the month of September. Some rudimentary clay tests are done and at least the general processes for discovering a suitable “clay body” for making pots on the wheel are performed. Students prepare all of the clay they use during the whole of the course themselves. A series of basic forms is thrown on the wheel, each student progressing through the exercises at his or her own pace. The workday is full, six to eight hours, six days a week. In the fourth month the student produces a group of pots to “bisque”, “glaze” and “glaze-fire” in the student kiln, which holds between 100 and 150 pieces. Normally four students share this firing.
The course runs for an additional three months when all teaching activity ends. Generally July and August are for advanced throwing techniques and hand building and making work for a firing in September where students are given more freedom for self-expression. At the end of two 7-month sessions students should have the confidence to set up their own studios.
Next year we hope to admit ten new students to the course. Those who show particular promise will have the option to return the following year as an artist-in-residence. Artists-in-residence are self-directed with help from our technical staff.
Ultimately the aim of this teaching process is not to turn out finished potters or ceramic artists. It is to give the individual the tools required to set up a workshop and to progress to whatever level of competence you wish to achieve. Mastery will come only from years of practice, but the student should at least understand what is possible and have a method to reach those possibilities.
Making pottery is a very physical activity and you must be ready for a good deal of hard work and be in reasonably good physical condition. If you already have a back problem you should be quite realistic about your prospects for becoming a professional potter.
Selection of Applicants:
The Golden Bridge Pottery has facilities to take ten students/residents at a time. The number of applicants is far greater than the number of available places. Most applicants who do finally join wait two years to get in. Many cannot wait that long and that forms the first line of elimination.
Due to the number of people interested in this course, I do have to ask for some background information in order to help me determine who will most benefit from the program at the GBP. In the past the selection has been done on a first come first serve basis. Now, however, applicants with previous experience with clay or an art school background will enjoy preference.
Note: I no longer teach the course. Aarti Manik, artist-in-residence at GBP will teach the course in 2023.
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