Review Comments

Peter Lane - Ceramic Review – March/April 2006


     Anyone who is familiar with Robin Hopper’s stimulating and informative books will enjoy watching this master potter demonstrating many of the techniques described. Now Hopper has produced an outstanding series of video workshops in a high-quality DVD format that illuminate and expand upon his written words. Working methods accumulated during more than forty years as a production potter are presented in an extremely clear, logical, and straightforward way.
     The first film, Beginning to Throw on the Potter’s Wheel, provides a comprehensive introduction that runs for sixty minutes and features all the essentials from clay preparation, centering, throwing and trimming a number of basic forms, to throwing exercises. The next programme, Advanced Throwing, develops naturally from this practice throughout another sixty minute film showing techniques for making large pieces by adding coils, slabs or further thrown sections to extend and/or alter them in various ways.
     The series continues with a consideration of aesthetics and studies in ceramic design entitled Form and Function. This is an important aspect of ceramics rarely given adequate coverage where instructional books are concerned. These two films, divided into five complete programs, offer a total of 225 minutes of compulsive watching, beginning with Elements of Form, followed by Lids, Spouts and Handles and, finally, an exposition on functional vessel forms for eating, drinking, cooking and serving.
     Hopper’s most recent publication, Making Marks: Ceramic Surface Decoration, is complemented by an excellent double disc collection [180 minutes) comprising six programmes in which he generously illustrates wide-ranging techniques from that book.
     There are immediate advantages to be gained by seeing methods and processes
visibly demonstrated ‘in the flesh’, as opposed to attempting to assimilate sufficient expertise merely from books. The communicative skills of the demonstrator are crucial in this respect. Robin Hopper is a natural conversationalist and teacher who anticipates any question that might arise by providing detailed explanations regarding ‘why’ as well as ‘how’ a particular technique is employed.

Review Source Video Comments
Arts and Activities
Making Marks This excellent and stimulating video series . . . . is comprehensive, thorough, and sure to inspire students with its numerous inventive and creative ideas.
Making Marks Will be enjoyed by crafts people of every level.
Book Report
Making Marks Highly Recommended.
Ceramic Review (UK) Making Marks A well organized and skillful exposition . . . . Excellent stuff, but by far the best aspect of the series is the breadth of [Hopper's] appreciation . . . . He succeeds in opening our doors of perception so that we become aware of the infinite variety of clay.
Library Journal
Making Marks As a good survey of the main elements of pottery decoration, this series is highly recommended.
Studio Potter Network
Making Marks This series is an excellent resource for both beginning potters and institutions teaching ceramics (high school on up). It should also be of interest to more advanced potters for the aesthetic point of view.
Video Librarian
Making Marks As an encyclopedia of options available to potters, Making Marks is unparalleled. There are enough creative ideas here to fire a potter's kiln for decades.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Making Marks #2 Extremely detailed . . .would make an important contribution to all but children's collections.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries, Making Marks #3 This video is well produced, with professional lighting, close-ups, and dissolves used to good effect. Hopper supplies much useful and valuable advice.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Making Marks #5 Production values are very good. Lighting, camera angles, music, and narration all combine for a pleasant and informative experience.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Making Marks #6 This video would be very useful in the classroom and the studio and is sure to stimulate interest in the processes shown.
Pottery In Australia
Form & Function Each video has great value on its own but as a set it gives a complete understanding of the multitude of issues that face the maker of good quality functional pottery. These are high quality videos that are an ideal teaching tool for either an individual or in a class situation. They raise issues that challenge and teach even the experienced maker of functional ware because of the detail presented in each subject area.
School Arts
Form & Function There's a lot of good information, clearly and engagingly presented. . . . Highly recommended for university ceramics courses and advanced high school students.
Form & Function An excellent series.
Book Report
Form & Function If I were a teacher looking for good resources on pottery for my library, this series would be added to my must-have list. Highly Recommended.
Ceramic Review (UK) Form & Function Robin Hopper's enviable clarity of demonstration makes this series a particularly welcome addition to potters' videos . . . . {These videos] provide an excellent starting point for further understanding and development.
Video Librarian
Form & Function Aspiring potters will be both inspired and enlightened by the principles presented in this series.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Form & Function 1 A good introduction to pottery.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Form & Function 2 An excellent production practically anyone will appreciate . . . . Virtually flawless in all its parts . . . . The presentation is . . . well balanced, clear, logical, and visually fascinating . . . . Don't miss this exceptional video.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Form & Function 3 For an instructional video on pottery, this production is very good . . . . Highly recommended for collections seeking art instruction videos.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Form & Function 4 Hopper's guidance on design and function of tableware merits serious attention.
Video Rating Guide for Libraries Form & Function 5 Interesting, informative, and even inspiring . . . . Highly recommended for public libraries and schools with ceramics programs.
Studio Potter Network
Variations on Raku Gordon Hutchens gives the viewer a 'workshop in a box' with this nicely produced video. A raku man of long standing, he demonstrates many different techniques he uses, at the same time expounding on his aesthetics, clay philosophy and other subjects.
BC Potters Guild Newsletter Variations on Raku Students agreed the video stimulated them to consider Raku more seriously. The producers should be congratulated on the professional quality of the film.
Beginning to Throw Robin Hopper . . . skillfully guides [novices] in using the wheel, including wedging, centering, shaping and trimming the clay . . . . Presented without glitz or pretense . . . thorough and clearly explained.
Video Librarian
Beginning to Throw [Hopper] explains each movement in a very understandable fashion, and the excellent camerawork allows home viewers to get as close as a student—or perhaps even closer . . . It's hard to imagine a more lucid or comprehensive introduction to the subject . . . . Highly Recommended.
School Arts
Beginning to Throw and Advanced Throwing Multiple camera angles, close ups of hand and finger positions, and cut-away shots make these videos engaging and worthwhile. . . . Both videos would be of interest to high school and university students who are starting out on the potter's wheel.
School Arts
Beginning to Throw Thorough and focused . . . . a good reference for the beginning potter.
Book Report, in press Beginning to Throw and Advanced Throwing Robin Hopper is "video friendly" . . . . These videos on the process of making things on a potter's wheel work and work well. The camera angles and the movement and pace of the technical aspects are exceptional . . . noticeable in their quality . . . . Highly recommended.
Clay Times,
Beginning to Throw and Advanced Throwing If one is looking for some active visual instruction . . . these two tapes by Robin Hopper will fill the bill nicely.
Book Report Building Your Own Potter's Kiln [In] this excellent video . . . . Sheehan breaks each task into components, simplifies as much as possible and explains the process as it goes along. . . . As with other instructional videos by Tara Productions, the visual and aural aspects are without flaw.
Video Librarian,
Building Your Own Potter's Kiln This video has excellent instructions for those who can commit to the project.
Studio Potter Building Your Own Potter's Kiln Sheehan's considerable experience with kiln building shows in his attention to detail and demonstration of ways to avoid trouble spots . . . . A straightforward, informative video.
Video Librarian
Beginning Raku Hutchens is very safety-conscious . . . . He also offers encouraging words for beginners . . . Recommended
Video Librarian
Beginning Handbuilding This tape will be of interest to a wide audience and is strongly recommended.
Video Librarian
Getting Started With Clay The ancient methods illustrated are likely to inspire a modern to get going in this engaging program which is about as good and fun an introduction to pottery as you're likely to find. Highly Recommended.
Video Librarian
Beginning to Glaze and Fire Cheerfully recommended as an independent title or as part of the series.
Studio Potter Network
Beginning to Glaze and Fire Beginning to Glaze and Fire with Graham Sheehan is an invaluable reference for the potter setting up a first time studio.
Video Librarian
Getting Started Series Tara Productions' excellent Getting Started With Clay series is highly recommended for public libraries.
Book Report Getting Started Series The technical and visual aspects are of the highest quality . . . . Each of the videos deals with an entire process within its specific area . . . . . They assume that the viewer knows nothing and go from there . . . . These are good videos and a good addition to any collection. They will be used.
Book Report Salt-Soda This two video set on salt-soda firing will be an excellent introduction and give the base for a working potter or instructor to actually do it and as Gordon Hutchens continually exudes—enjoy. For libraries serving an advanced art program . . . . get this set; it will be well worth it.
Video Librarian Salt-Soda As usual with Tara Productions, the technical work is excellent . . . . Recommended.
Contact Salt-Soda Straightforward, unpretentious videos that communicate a lot of information . . . . Well organized with strong production values . . . . makes all the 'how-to' books seem hopelessly inadequate.
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