The Heart of a Working Prof | James Watkins | Episode 385

James Watkins | Episode 385

James C. Watkins is a ceramic artist whose work is included in the White House Collection of American Crafts, and the Shigaraki Institute of Ceramic Studies in Shigaraki, Japan.  Mr. Watkins is a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor.  The Horn Professorship is the highest honor that Texas Tech University may bestow on members of its faculty. Horn Professorships are granted to professors in recognition of national and international distinction for outstanding research or other creative scholarly achievements. Mr. Watkins teaches Architectural Ceramics and Architectural Drawing in the College of Architecture. He is also a recipient of the Texas Tech University President’s Excellence in Teaching Award.  He is a 2005 Fulbright Scholar, Teaching in Vietnam at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture.  He is the co-author of two books, “Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques” published by Lark Books and “Architectural Delineation, Presentation Techniques and Projects” published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.  His work is also the subject of a book entitled “A Meditation of Fire the Art of James C. Watkins” by Kippra D. Hopper published by Texas Tech University Press. He received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute, and his M.F.A. from Indiana University.



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When should a person start selling their work?

When you feel like your work has developed to a point technically and you have strong ideas. And when you are in a position where you can make enough work to fill your particular market. So I think it would be not as a student but after you have studied enough and the work is receiving attention that tells you it is sell-able.

How can a person get good critique of their work if their learning process is either through a community center or just through YouTube?

I am not sure about YouTube but if  they attend workshops, when I give a workshop I am asked to give a critique, and so that is one way. And there are all kinds of programs that exist that aren’t going to be effected by the university closing down the programs. There are place where people can take 2 week or 3 week workshops where they can get intense criticism. So I think that is one way.

If someone wants to become a professor, what advice would you give that person before they started the schooling process?

Wow, that’s a hard one. It would be a different answer than what my instructor would have given me years ago. I think it’s more difficult, I think there are fewer jobs because of programs closing clay courses. I would just say be cautious and have a back-up plan and that’s about it.

How do you get noticed so a publication would want to publish your work?

Good photographs. Being persistent. Writing about your own work. Getting other people to write about you work whenever you have a show and send it to the publishers. Like I said, they are looking for copy, they want good copy. They are struggling each month to fill their magazine. Just be persistent and don’t give up. If your work has merit it will be noticed.

How do you go about writing your own work? What types of things do you say?

I tell my story. I write about influences. I write about techniques. I illustrate techniques through photographs. I do videos. YouTube videos. So you just have to do a little bit of everything. I have friends who are good writers proof it and give me suggestions. When you do that long enough, there is a learning curve and you get better.

How do you stay a life-long learner?

I think we all are. Aren’t we? I think there is nothing else that you can do other than just continue learning. I am just that way.  I am excited about the world around me. And I am constantly getting ideas from things that I see and from my failures. Because I learn a great deal from things that didn’t work.


Ceramics: A Potter’s Handbook by Glenn C. Nelson


Instagram: @jamescwatkinsini4

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