Teachers, Instructors and Messiahs


Back when I was doing lost wax casting, designing and making one of a kind jewelry, there was a relatively famous jewelry maker who also traveled around the country teaching lost wax casting and jewelry making. He even had a book on the subject and had developed a very distinct style, using the same elements in various combinations for all his pieces. He had quite a following, in both the art world as well as the One Of jewelry makers.
As a professional jewelry designer and maker, he was very successful. As a teacher, not so much. Rather than teach the techniques of lost wax casting and design considerations, he taught his students how to make pieces like his stuff. I suspect that It was a good marketing move on his part because any of his students pieces that people liked always was accompanied by Bob Winston taught me how to make jewelry.. He was so influential that, if I could see three pieces any jeweler made, I could tell if he or she had ever taken a class from Bob Winston.
I bring up this example because of an article I read in the Oct. 2005 issue of Fine Woodworking, entitled Sam Maloof on Design. In the article he warns against domineering instructors. Some instructors demand that you work the way they work, and so there becomes just many little followers of this person or that person. This was certainly the case with this one jewelry instructor.
And that brought to mind James Krenov, as well as Monty Pythons The Life of Bryan. With both, the message got lost by the followers. Instead of emulating the approach to things, what they make/do are emulated - often to the letter. Technique is always easier to learn and do than to understand and use a philospy/ an approach to the doing/making. Im guessing Frank Lloyd Wright had this problem as well.
I dont think Mr. Krenov or Mr. Wright meant to have people make stuff that looked like their stuff. And poor Brian, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that can happen when you have followers instead of students. Probably most of the fault lies with the followers.
Just something to think about - or not.
charlie b
(hmmm - if and when Christ or Mohamed or whomever comes back, is the first thing he says going to be You missed the point, so Im back to try again.?)
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. "Some instructors demand

OTOH, try and make people aware of the principles upon which their particular method is based, especially in groups like this, and you'd think you'd violated their mothers.
Trial and accidental success is effective, though it's still accidental. Seems once some know how to do something they're less willing to risk doing it another way. If they understood that both ways were based on the same operating principle, they might take the chance.
Lost wax is about vents and centrifuges, isn't it? Did some back in HS.
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I can't say you're wrong but what do you base that statement on? Granted you get some ranting and raving about which technique may be good/better/best but saying everyone here has an accidental success is akin to calling everyone here a lucky idiot.
Take a look at some of the web sites a lot of the contributors (past and present) have that show their work and I think you'll find that individualism prevails. I have nothing against the masters such as Mr. Kresnov but I also don't think they have the all-knowing wisdom to speak for everyone that works with wood - or any material. His words during the interview were aimed at students he had over the years - not a general statement about everyone.
I also think more people "take chances" than you may think - hence the newsgroup format of mentors, and contributors of varying levels of expertise and the student seeking advice and maybe even a thought provoking idea or two. If you read about some of the masters and how they learned, it was by imitating what others had done prior to them and then eventually gaining enough experience to add their own style to the work. But first, they had to learn what worked and more importantly - why, so the envelope could be pushed - so to speak.
While you may think that the feedback from others is bad when you try to make them aware of certain principals, I think of it as questioning the value of the advice. If someone makes a statement about how to do something - which may seem dubious to others - it's going to be questioned, as it should be. If it can't be explained - then it may have little value. Better it be questioned than followed blindly.
Accidental success certainly is not the way I would express a person's way of working and not expect to hear about it.....
Bob S.

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George,
I think you give yourself to much credit. I gave an opinion about your baseless statements and you proved your own point. You are one that can't take criticism - well intentioned or otherwise. Calling someone's method of work accidental when you haven't seen their work or know the individual, is a bit of a guess on your part - wouldn't you agree?
No need to respond - your point has been made and noted.
Bob S.

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I think this thread's getting off the track I was trying to lay.
The point was that a teacher shouldn't try to make a bunch of clones of him, nor should the student try to be a clone of the teacher
Using James Krenov as an example, I think he wanted to teach his values of woodworking - do a few things, but do them extremely well - when designing, make the wood an important design factor and an integral one as well - if you're blessed and know early on what your passion is, then follow your passion. If you haven't found your passion yet, keep looking. But don't follow the money at the expense of your passion
What I often recognize in work by his students is small cabinets in unusual woods held up off the floor by somewhat spindley legs.
I almost got to take a class from him, but it was canceled So I've never met the man and know only one person who knows him - but Dave's a boatbuilder and not a furniture maker so he never had Krenov as a teacher
Anyone out there have James Krenov as a teacher? If so, did he try to make you make things that looked like his stuff?
charlie b
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charlie b wrote:

Not to mention the Krenov "flared trouser" look.
Why shouldn't a student's work look like their teacher's? They're only students - if you see a piece by someone who is described as "a student of Krenov" then chances are that they're actually a _recent_ student of Krenov. Of course their stuff at that period is highly influenced by Krenov, because they've just spent a year in his workshop. That's not to say that anyone who once studies with him is forever doomed to a lifetime of spindly cabinets and nothing else! Once they decide that what they're actually about personally is chainsaw carving, then we've got to the point of describing them as "Fred, who carves all those giant badgers you see around" rather than "Fred who's a student of Krenov".
Influence is pervasive and often unnoticed. I made this over the Summer, and as usual I'd flicked through a huge stack of books and photos first to get inspiration. I was rather disppointed afterwards to realise that I'd made a damn near copy of a piece by one of Krenov's students (I think it's in "With Wakened Hands", if you have a copy to compare). http://codesmiths.com/shed/things/boxes/wedding /
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George wrote:
snip

No vents required for jewelry and small sculpture invsestment casting - the investment is pretty porous to air under pressure. As for centrfuges, that sounds like a big, sophisticated machine, like The Vomit Comet they used to get pilots and astronauts accustomed to high Gs.
For small casting a spring wound, "break arm" device works just fine. The "break arm" had a pitvot point between the mold and crucible full of molten metal (up to 6 troy ounces worth) and the rotation center's axis. The molten metal was kept traveling towards the mold rather than being slung out the side of the crucible (actually, the metal wanted to stay still and the crucible would move out from under it
With good technique you could cast finger prints and I once cast a dragon fly and had the compound eyes come out in metal,
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Don't think the one we had ran more than 50 rpm, got the metal down while very fluid. Some designs required air venting, probably because of the centrifugal help holding the stuff down inside.
The Vomit Comet is a 707 (C135) AFAIK. Climbs and dives in precise maneuvers to get you used to 0 G, though most throw up as well. Sort of like the "dollar ride" you got in pilot training. Scheduled for a full 1.2, in case the student had a good set of ears, but it was better to puke quick, let your IP laugh at you, and then get some worthwhile instruction on the same maneuvers, with slower rates of change. You could pay attention rather than serial swallowing.
They also made a special point to pull a few G's and at least gray you out.
If you search for messiah complexes, you will find many among the fighter pilot/instructor set. Of course pilots and surgeons are people you want to be confident to the point of a messiah complex. Both call for timely and appropriate decisions, not vacillation.
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