The use of videos in ceramic workshops


The paper is informed by the findings of the author’s ongoing doctoral research on handmade pottery practices. It proposes the use of digital videos, photography and ‘process matrices’ in assisting teaching in workshops. Ceramic students are familiar with live demonstrations and online videos but the direct use of visual material as a reflexive and teaching tool is not common. Building on previous research, the study confirms videos can be used to systematically analyse craft activity, and communicate some of the tacit knowledge involved in making processes.


The session will provide a practical context in which to test current thinking around teaching and learning in the creative disciplines. The paper aims to stimulate a discussion on the use of videos and other digital tools as teaching aids in ceramic workshops and - by extension - in craft and design classes. The usefulness of such an approach is informed by evidence collected in ethnographic fieldwork conducted by the author. Participants to the session will be encouraged to challenge the idea of using visual material to facilitate teaching and provide systematic feedback during making workshops.


The paper proposes the use of digital tools to assist in the teaching of ceramic techniques. The discussion follows the potential application of findings from the author’s doctoral study of professional British potters at work, conducted through ethnographic fieldwork. The study employed digital filming, digital photography and ‘process matrices’ for collecting, visualising, analysing and communicating some of the craft knowledge involved in making pottery by hand. Findings suggest that digital tools could enhance the training of ceramic students and complement their experiential learning in workshops. For Sarah Pink (2013) moving images have the potential to represent embodied and multisensory experiences. Previous research in craft studies (Gowlland, 2015; Harper, 2013; Lehman, 2012) show videos can be effective in capturing corporeal techniques and some of the tacit knowledge involved in making activities. Interviews with 13 participants across 3 British workshops showed that the potters were familiar with videos of making processes. Most participants had published videos as part of their promotional material, shared clips of their processes on social media or engaged in video-interviews.

The research suggests that aspiring potters could enhance their learning experience through reflexive analysis of their own actions based on the use of videos. Students would be encouraged to film their own actions whilst practising techniques in workshops, and study the appropriateness and efficiency of procedures using the videos. Feedback collected from participants in the research (e.g. Interviews with the author at the Leach Pottery, July 2016) shows this approach could benefit mid-career potters as well as apprentices.

Videos would be used at different stages in the training process: (1) to illustrate actions during training sessions and complement the experiential learning of craft; (2) to enhance feedback to students by providing visual material, e.g. by showing enlarged details or focussing on brief but important moments in the making; (3) to facilitate reflexivity by encouraging students to film and reflect on their own actions in the workshop; (4) to document students’ progress; and (5) to generate evidence for further research on craft activity.

Video stills and photographs would complement moving images by illustrating static subjects (e.g. layouts, details of products, hand grips) and offering direct comparisons of alternative procedures. The use of photos of making processes is well-established in literature on ceramic practices (e.g. Carter, 2016; Cohen, 2008; McErlain, 2002). However, illustrations are edited for publication and photos of making sequences ultimately lack the continuity of videos of processes. Following the methodology used in the author’s doctoral research, the paper proposes the use of a ‘process matrix’ as a systematic method for the collection and analysis of students’ making techniques. The matrix consists of a digital worksheet containing a description for still frames captured in the videos of processes. The tool can also be employed to record and assess progress, and provide feedback to the students.

Overall, this initial proposal aims to stimulate a discussion on the use of videos and other digital tools to enhance the learning experience of aspiring potters, craft practitioners and design students.