September 2008 -

Gold Minds: Jamie Walker '81 -Ceramics

As told to Jonathan Kiefer

Jamie Walker
Mary Levin photo

I like giving students a lot of independence to choose their own direction, and to be responsible for what they're coming up with—as opposed to the heavy-handed approach where they become very reliant on the instructor. So when I got here I started oral presentations, which they'd never done before. They'd have to talk about their work in front of an audience. The first time we did it, it was a disaster. But we kind of regrouped and it soon developed into something that's become very useful, going on for 19 years now. It makes them slow down and actually think about what they're doing. That's a real struggle for most of us, to reconsider assumptions. One thing about ceramics or the other craft materials, like wood or metal or fibers, is that there's a huge amount of technique involved before you can actually manipulate it the way that you want to. To learn how to fire a kiln properly or to throw a pot can take years. So you find a lot of students who get caught up in the technique. Like, "Oh, I finally got that red glaze!" But I was interested in putting the questions first, like, "Why do you want red to begin with? Because it's hard to get, or because you really have a deep-rooted aesthetic reason for wanting that particular red?" One of the most rewarding things to see is the difference between where they start and where they end up.