In 1990, my first experience with the pit firing process was done through a Wisconsin Arts Board Grant and a group of elementary students. The grant was part of the state's artist-in-education program. One hundred and thirty third graders, their teachers, and I set up a play scenario at Olympia Brown Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin. We opened the O. Brown Pottery, immersing these students in the craft of the potter using play acting as a method of acquiring knowledge. These students knew as much about the pit firing process as I did when we started. We were equals.
To establish the O. Brown Pottery, the students utilized a number of play scenarios.
Through this method of play, and the fantasy that we were all artists trying to meet a deadline so the principal wouldn't lose his car if we defaulted on our loan, we learned many new skills. We learned how to make and fire pots in a pit, how to start a business, and how the process of play can lead to self-discovery. The best part was—we had fun.
As a potter, I gained a knowledge of the pit firing process in collaboration with O. Brown students and staff. This story demonstrates a healthy and playful attitude toward a change in the creative direction of my work. Years later, I continue to learn through this process of discovery.