Kiln Time As a Pottery Studio Assistant: An Interview with Teddy Poneman

Teddy Poneman, a Sophomore at Bates College, started working as a studio assistant Short Term 2012. The job was offered by his professor, and when Teddy was asked him if he was interested in the job, he accepted the position happily. And thus, Poneman’s first job at Bates College was created.

Teddy has had an interest in pottery since his high school years, where he took ceramics classes. This love for pottery followed Teddy into his college years as well, and he decided to work as a pottery studio assistant “because the tasks I’m asked to do in the studio are typical of what I need to do to work in the field of ceramics outside of Bates, so it’s very good training for a ‘real-world’ job.” There was no application for this job because, often times, students get lucky with job offers when they excel in a class that in the future will need an assistant of some sort. So in addition of getting an excellent education, a perk of investing time and energy into a class may lead some students to a job.

Teddy works at his job four hours a week, and his day-to-day tasks are based on the setup and cleanup of the pottery studio. “I make sure the sink is clean and not filled with clay, so it won’t overflow. I check that everyone turned off their wheels, covered up their clay, cleaned up their areas. My main purpose is to maintain the studio as a viable working space for everyone in a pottery course.” Although many tasks Teddy must do are based on cleaning, his job also entails that he know how to make pottery. “Other chores I need to do include mixing slips and glazes that the class uses, and loading and firing electric kilns filled with class work. These jobs are dependent on how much work has been made.”

When asked if anything exceptionally funny or interesting ever happened during his work hours, Teddy recalled that “I was in the studio during the earthquake last semester and was terrified when all the pots started shaking”.

Teddy’s favorite part of the job is having the studio to himself. “It’s very peaceful. Also, I don’t need to wait for someone else to mix a glaze or slip, or fire a kiln. These are chores that need to be done in any studio, but since I’m responsible for it, I can be self-sufficient in the studio.” Since working in ceramics requires considerable “on the job” experience of what it takes to maintain a studio, Teddy’s position as pottery student assistance allows him to learn “very practical skills of firing kilns, mixing glazes, and how to keep a clean studio.” Teddy hopes that these skills will be useful after graduation, because it would mean he would be continuing his passion of working with clay after Bates. “In fact, many of the jobs I’m applying for this summer are as a “studio assistant” or as an intern at a pottery studio, where my job would be very similar to what I do at Bates, but for 40hrs a week over the summer.” Therefore, his job at Bates College might not only prepare him for future internships, but might actually land him one.

Teddy has found that because of his job in the studio, he has “learned a lot about the practical side of ceramics, more than just making work, which is an essential skill to anyone who wants to seriously pursue a life in the ceramic world. Since last short term, when I started this job, I realized how important ceramics is to me, and how much I need it in my life. I figured this out due to the enormous amount of time I’ve spent in the studio since short term started.”

“I want to do this for as long as I can,” Teddy states, “and the skills I’m gaining from this job are essential to my development as a potter.”