This course grew out of a desire to see the process of recreating red-figure pottery through its many phases, and to gain an appreciation for just how complicated these phases are, and how many decisions—big and small—must be made along the way. It also became clear, to follow on Richter’s words, that there were numerous sources available to help on this quest, but that they needed to be brought together. Certainly, there are the many thoughtful and detailed works of art historians and archaeologists and a dauntingly large literature on Greek vases. But the voice, and more importantly, the hands of the potter were essential. And so too were the different kinds of scientific analyses and observations published more recently by art conservators and materials scientists. The hope then was that by bringing all of these disciplines and specialists together, one might approach a little more closely the elusive reality of the master potter and painter working in ancient Greece. That’s where the course syllabus came together.
But one key element was missing—the apprentice. Who else would be willing to slog for long hours, watching the most accomplished potter, learning the most basic of skills and making the observations and gaining the judgment (however limited it is in 13 weeks of work), but an apprentice in workshop? Or better yet, 13 apprentices (actually 15 when I count myself and teaching assistant Ross Brendle)? This course relies on the participation, enthusiasm, skills, drive and careful work of a group of undergraduate students here at Johns Hopkins. They are chosen from fields as diverse as archaeology, studio art, art history, classics, and materials science, and I hope in the next 13 weeks, they will grow together, asking different questions, learning with their hands, and perhaps even manage to produce a fired kylix or two.
This course would not be possible without the generous support of Elizabeth Rodini, director of the Programs in Museums and Society at Hopkins and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Their support and encouragement has allowed us to collaborate with the brilliant and talented Matthew Hyleck, potter and Education Coordinator of Baltimore Clayworks, an inspiring educational ceramics non-profit here in the city. Funding has also made it possible for us to make a short documentary of our discoveries—both big and small—over the course of the semester. There are many individuals who gave so freely of their expertise, time and advice on this project, and they are listed here in a long and still growing list. This course has been in planning for nearly a year, and now it is time to apprentice ourselves to the experienced and practiced potters, both ancient and contemporary.