Martz Memories by
Bulletin boards Throwing large plates
It never gave him enough satisfaction to know his students only became good potters. True, many became skilled in their craft, but for Karl Martz, demonstrated skill was not enough. The master wanted his students to share their knowledge with others, and to share it repeatedly. Since he taught by example, students were shown how to share what they had learned in several ways.
Karl’s articles and comments in crafts magazines were frequent. We were aware of his exhibits in art shows around the country, for we watched him as he packed and crated pots. We were expected to pack pots with care. We saw our teacher had various ways to ship them, for some of his pots were sent abroad.
In 1953, a new publication appeared. It was called Ceramics Monthly, and the editors published several articles by Karl. Other magazines and journals had already used his writings and comments. To encourage his students to write for publication, our master kept a special space on his bulletin board which he called the “Hall of Fame.” Whenever he saw one of his students had an article related to ceramics in print, he pinned a copy of the publication to that reserved section for class students to note. The student who wrote, enjoyed knowing his article received days of honor in the “Hall”. During the 1970’s I wrote several articles for C.M. and I’m sure the writings received their turn on the bulletin board.
Not only did writers have their efforts recognized in the “Hall of Fame” which was placed for all who passed by to see, but Karl also kept on display a “roster of students whose work has been accepted for exhibitions – state, regional, national, invitational – especially prize winners”. Class students consulted the bulletin board frequently, because it also displayed exhibition announcements, important new products, and job openings. This practice of recognition became another part of his teaching.
You might wonder how it would be possible for me to find enough subjects to write ceramic articles about, but already Karl had taught me ways to solve problems, and I developed a system for solving them. First I looked for places in ceramic production where potters were having problems. Then, if I solved the problem, I wrote an article of explanation. The system worked well for me. Karl knew what I was doing, and drew my attention to existing trouble spots.
One serious throwing need existed. Not one of us seemed able to find a solution.
Most graduate students wanted to throw and display large plates. Karl encouraged mastery of this skill area and offered a “points” reward for those who were successful. We all needed thirty or more points at end of semester, and we would be awarded one point for a successful twelve inch plate, and an extra point for each inch beyond twelve. The challenge had attractive rewards, and it caught my attention, but none of us wished to go through the process of repeating other people’s mistakes. We were told how far some students had gone towards success. Skilled students could get the clay wheel-thrown to plate size, say fifteen inches in diameter. This allowed for shaping and subsequent shrinkage. However, more steps were necessary.
One had to (1) get the plate off the throwing bat, (2) dried to leather-hard, and (3) flipped over, so as to be able to (4) groove the foot rings. Then the leather-hard plate would be (5) decorated. In my case, decoration often involved surface carving, mishima, slip painting, sgraffito, or those that used Wax resist. I enjoyed the practice of free-hand painting a plate design on a base glaze with tin chloride, but I used most of the glaze decoration methods. With all decoration finished, the plate would be completely dried, and made ready for (6) bisque firing. Nobody expected problems with the (7) glaze firing.
The list of danger zones seemed formidable, but one-by-one I solved them. Yes, I wrote an article for Ceramics Monthly, called “Throwing the Large Plate”. It was published in the September, 1971 issue. The article used six photographs of throwing procedures, and concluded with a photo showing me standing alongside four of my twenty-inch finished plates. Karl placed a copy of the article in his “Hall of Fame” as recognition of my work. He knew he had taught me well.