So Did You Pass?

Test results – do they matter?

All through my ceramics diploma course I have been telling myself that it was the course, not the results which were important and I still hold to that very strongly.  On the other hand when a dull, buff coloured envelope (which might have been from the Inland Revenue except that I don’t think they write addresses by hand) arrived this week I was curious.  These days letters are a rarity and those addressed by hand smell of intrigue.  I ripped it open and instantly recognised the format of the paper work inside.  Before I could read any of the results I stopped – I wanted to remind myself of my claim.  Results don’t matter.  The comments on these flimsy sheets would mean much more than any percentage figures, wouldn’t they?  Apparently not!  Thanks to the perverse workings of my brain I could, if I wished to, tell you all of the percentages on those sheets right now.  I shan’t!  But I cannot tell you a single comment without reading them again.  Congratulations, you did moderately well!

I have bust several guts in the process of getting from one end of the course to the other.  My husband has had to take over all the cooking in order not to starve .  There have been weeks of sleepless nights.  I have tossed and turned or, worse, got up and paced the house, because I could not resolve some problem.  We in the know called it ‘Pot Anxiety’ and all of us suffered from it at one time or another.  The diploma has entered not only the pores of my skin and the underneath of my finger nails but also the very fabric of my dreams.  For what?  To excel.  To do my very best.  To understand as much as I possibly could before time was ‘up’ and I had to go it alone.  It really wasn’t so that I could reach for my calculator and confirm what I already knew.  I would frankly have been ashamed if I had been awarded better marks – I was less pleased with my final exhibition that anyone else could have been.  I knew that my ideas were only partially resolved so it should be absolutely no surprise.

As a professional teacher I have always worked to a very strict mark scheme.  For a time I was a Moderator for one of the public examination boards at GCSE level and the Internal Verifier for a set of school BTEC courses.  I learned, through a process of rigorous training, how to allocate marks and how certain criteria represented a particular grade.  On the other hand, I have now had the luck/privilege to undertake 5 courses in Higher Education institutions and I cannot resist making a bit of a comparison.

My experience of tertiary education has been truly amazing.  In addition I have long maintained that, as a teacher, it is important for me to sit on both sides of the desk and to understand how it feels to be on the receiving end of things for a while.  I shall value the knowledge, understanding and personal development which I have gained from a long series of excellent tutors, whose wisdom and comments I have truly enjoyed, for ever.  But I do think there is a bit of a hole in the world of Higher Education which could do with some filling.   In my view, English schools are streets ahead on the topic of marking.  Their schemes are scrutinised to the ‘nth’ degree.  Marking is checked, peer reviewed, externally moderated and sometimes reviewed again.  Those young people who are lucky enough to be awarded a particular grade in this summer’s public exams can be confident that their marks mean something very clear and they can be extremely proud of their achievements.  I wish I could say the same of some of the tertiary marks which I have had the luck to obtain.  I would love to see a much clearer correspondence between mark-scheme criteria achieved, comments and actual marks.  Perhaps it is appropriate that those people who are gaining ‘school stage education’, and for whom a particular range of results can be life changing, it is the marking which must be particularly rigorous.  Whilst, once one reaches the Higher Education level, it is the quality of the learning and the skills gained which mean so much more.  Yet I wonder whether, if the two levels of institution got together, the one might learn off the other to the benefit of all.

One thing, though.  I have expended so much effort on being adventurous and experimental on this course that I can see now that I lost sight of the value of the balanced proportions and clear aesthetics in a top quality piece.  I rather wish that one of my tutors had pointed that out to me instead of it dawning on me once the dust had settled and I had tucked myself up in my own little studio to make under no pressure and, thanks to the knowledge gained on the course, with much more pleasing results.

I believe this is so much more pleasing to look at than anything that I made for the final show.  The best idea came too late!
I believe this is so much more pleasing to look at than anything that I made for the final show. The best idea came too late!

When you need a friend . .

collaboration 1
Collaboration 1 awaiting firing

Collaboration – the action of working with someone to produce something.  What a lovely idea, especially when I might otherwise be inclined to drift a bit post diploma with no specific project in mind.  So just when I thought there was no life after City Lit along come two people, quite independently of each other, wishing to work with me.

Trevor Ruddock Black
Trevor Ruddock Black – Fabulous colours and great texture.

Actually, if I am totally honest, the project with Trevor Ruddock Black had been on the back burner for a bit whilst I made it to the end of the course, but this week is the first time that I have begun to think seriously about it.  Trevor paints in oils.  He makes vibrant abstract paintings on a very large scale and with fantastic texture. A little while ago we discussed the possibility of creating complimentary three dimensional pieces and so this week I started exploring how we might do that.  Of course foremost in my mind was how to get a cast of his paintings without destroying them in the first place.  Funnily enough that seems  to have been the easy bit!  The painting has survived completely unscathed.  Phew!  Next came the difficulty of working with a great many undercuts  which normally make it impossible to take a good cast from a mould.  Lets just say that I am working on that.  But the good news is that, at least on a small scale, I have almost cracked it – please excuse the awful pun!  And now I have a small box which is a copy of Trevor’s painting awaiting firing.  I can’t wait to see the results.  The next step is to think about colour – I could pass the box over to Trevor for that bit, or I could do something which compliments his painting.  The one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to copy his art!

Then, out of the blue, I was approached by a sculptor wanting help with casting porcelain.  Her project sounds really interesting and we met for the first time to discuss it yesterday.  I am full of hope for another interesting partnership.

Meanwhile, this week marked the first every meeting of the City Lit Ceramics Diploma Alumni 2015 reunion.  More on that anon, but it is great to know that we have each other in this time of transition and the thought that we are already planning our first group exhibition post graduation fills me with excitement.  Not sure where or when but we will Re-turn.  Sorry, more awful puns!

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who are in one way or another supporting my quest to become an artist.  I never realised that I needed people so much as I have over the past couple of years and I cannot end this post without saying thank you to my best friend, the person who, over the past couple of years, has demonstrated the most amazing capacity to support, understand, wait, cajole, cook supper and keep the house from becoming a health hazard.

I do not think being on your own between study and next step would be good for anyone but I certainly feel pretty blessed.  Go Team!

Its good to know you.
Its good to know you.