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Les Manning. Because of him, I am here.

Because of him, 16 students walk out of here every year, with a strong sense of why they are making what they make. He is a very gentle, friendly soft spoken man that is extremely talented and instead of only focusing on this art, he also puts a lot of his energy into teaching. Lucky us. He makes you feel that he is there for you, that he will do everything he can to make you do things better for yourself. It feels like unconditional support and it is rare to receive that from people you don’t know and don’t know you.

He creates the moment where you feel very aware of what you are doing. And you need to be in there, in that moment, to find out more about yourself and your art. But first you need to know that moment exists. He makes you think about a lot of different aspects of your art. He made me think a lot. He makes so many strong comments, has many valuable tips and is honestly concerned about your health and your body. It is hard to describe in words what Les Manning is all about. You will just have to hope you will meet him one day. He changed my world. Forever. He gave me something special without knowing it. He gave me the confidence that as long as I keep loving the clay as much as I do, good things will happen, no matter what. And no matter where my paths will go in the ceramic world. They only go there because I met him.We have 3 weeks of classes with him (the course outlines are at the bottom of this posting). It is about applied design, throwing V and studio operation. He has decided to combine them in the next 3 weeks, so we don’t end up with long lecture days. That works out really well. He talks about the studio setup, your body posture, the kiln room, the grinding machine and the glaze room. He demonstrates teapots, lids of the hump, spouts and handles. He talks a lot about the design aspect and about proportioning and placing. He spends time with each student and looks at their drawings, their wheel and chair positioning and their accomplishments so far. His demonstrations are excellent. We watch great slides and excellent movies. And we throw. We throw a lot, reclaim a lot and get encouraged. We have reached the point that we are making what we had in mind, instead of the clay guiding us into the unknown.

At the end of our 3 weeks we have “critique”. Our names go in a hat and he will pick one to present and one who critiques the pieces of the person who is presenting. After that the class can add comments and give feedback. It is a very interesting and valuable exercise. When you critique, you have to be honest and choose your words carefully. When you present your pieces, you have to try to not take it as something negative, but rather as something to take with you into your ceramic future. But that is hard when you are in the moment.

It did go well. In the beginning we all only said nice things about each others stuff. That came from us all being there for all those months and seeing the process from the beginning until the end. People who never touched clay, presented a beautiful display of pieces that were connected some way, with a design element. It is hard to do critique if you are attached to the people. We didn’t start off with a neutral frame of mind, we went in there and had to critique our friends, which is difficult. We knew some of them tried really hard, so how can you say something negative? But that’s the whole learning process. It isn’t negative. It’s all about the words you choose and the explanation you give with it.

Les was very specific and really good at making us think in a different direction, making us look at it in a different way. After the first few were over, our class started to really get the point. Out came the beautiful sentences, constructive feedback and good comments that you could take with you and use it whenever ready. Most of us were happy after our turn. Happy to walk away from an intense ceramic course with the feeling of support and confidence that you are on the right path and the confirmation that it doesn’t have to be perfect in the eyes of the world. It has to be perfect for yourself.

Course outline Applied Design for Ceramics: Students will learn design techniques as they specifically relate to ceramics, and investigate the nature of creativity. A variety of creative exercises will generate ideas that will be expressed through drawing and in written form. By identifying personal tastes and interests, students will develop their own style. Their ideas and unique style will then be translated into reality by combining pottery-making skills with design principles, issues of form and function, appropriate decoration, choice of production methods and craftsmanship. They will design and develop products such as dinnerware place settings, teapots, casseroles and more, in the form of prototypes that will be made in “Throwing Part V”.

Course outline Throwing Part V: Students will refine advanced level throwing skills to create large lidded forms such as casseroles, and more complex and demanding forms such as teapots. Students will also develop the prototype of the products they designed in the “Applied Design” course, that show a successful integration of the principles of design, functionality and aesthetics, with a distinct personal style.

Course outline Ceramic Studio Operations: This course offers the skills and knowledge necessary to set up and successfully operate a ceramic studio. Instruction will include ceramic studio design and maintenance, determining and purchasing materials and equipment; as well as making and maintaining tools and equipment. Kiln issues such as designing, building, repairing, firing, loading and unloading will also be investigated. Health and safety issues are an integral part of all aspects of this course and will be addressed regularly.