One more comment from potter Karen Karnes (my last post) that I found instructive.
Watching Hamada work was the most important ceramic instruction I, as a young potter could have. He had a quiet presence—he didn’t say anything as he worked….
Despite the fact that I have met and even know several potters, I’m dismally ignorant about pottery and its history. Hamada’s name meant nothing to me, except that it was clear that he was an important potter in Karen Karens’ life. But what fascinated me is that she learned by watching him. A couple of months ago I was talking to another potter, Asa Pritchett, in California. He told me about his favorite teacher, someone who spoke little, someone he’d learned from by watching.
Having thought and perhaps overthought the process of education, I’m one of the those people whose firm conviction has always been that we learn by doing. And of course it’s true. I don’t know that we can truly learn unless we do. But now I wonder, what about watching?
Clearly, there are some arts that can’t be watched. No one could have learned to write by watching Hemingway or Faulkner do it. But playing an instrument, for example, may be another proposition altogether. In an 1891 essay by someone named Philip Hale at the front of my Schirmer’s book of Mozart piano sonatas is the following:
Hamada felt that the traditional way of potting made a bond between past and present and gave meaning to his work. His chief inspiration were the anonymous folk craftsmen of past and present who produced things of beauty without being conscious of doing so.
In a five-year-old post on a blog that’s nearly as old, Nathaniel Pearlman, remembering his aunt who was a potter without pretensions, and having read Susan Peterson’s book about Shoji Hamada (Shoji Hamada: A Potter’s Way and Work) writes:
Watching, it turns out, is learning.