Radford Makers learn failure’s role in success

maker at the wheel
Robert Blankenship, a junior marketing and finance major and a mentor for the new Community of Makers, takes the wheel at the Radford University Annex Pottery Studio.

Several members of Radford’s Community of Makers put aside their usual tool kit of 3D printers, microcontrollers, electronics, power tools, multimedia and e-textiles and fabrics this semester and learned to throw pots in the Radford University Annex Pottery Studio.

Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Art Drew Dodson, the Radford students are learning the joy of clay, patience of creation and power of 2,300-degree heat. 

Several members of the community recently gathered to prepare their creations for firing and reflected on their traditional making experience that dates back to mankind’s earliest history.

“Centrifugal force got the better of me,” said Robert Blankenship, a junior marketing and finance major from Hurt, Virginia, who is a mentor for the new Community of Makers, a living/learning community in Peery Hall. “My first attempts fell apart. It is something I had to do with my hands and it took a while to get the feel.”

Senior Madison Holloway, a recreation parks and tourism major from Virginia Beach, Virginia and fellow maker mentor, also had to practice patience.

“Every material is different. I had to learn how it would react,” said Holloway who is creating a cup and saucer to keep at his desk. “It took me four or five attempts on the pottery wheel to get it even close to what I wanted.”

Nathan Rayfield, a freshman finance major, shows the product of his early efforts at throwing a pot.

The Community of Makers Faculty Advisor and Assistant Professor of Marketing Jane Machin framed failure as a key step in the making and creativity processes.

“Learning to fail is a fundamental experience,” said Machin, who is also a potter. “Conquering that fear is part of the process and a difficult one for many who want perfection right away.”

Not expecting to be perfect all the time is liberating, Dodson said.

“When students from across campus learn that valuable lesson here, they get excited and really go for it,” Dodson said.

In the pottery studio or the Peery Hall maker space, Radford students are finding unique ways to explore. Among their other recent making activities, they have created a mobile sound unit, made toffee apples after picking apples at a local orchard, assisted high school students to build robots for individual combat and converted recycled materials into haute couture.

“Making helped me connect with friends while I am learning discipline. It feels good to be creative,” said Nathan Rayfield, a freshman finance major from Cape Charles, Virginia.

“I am looking forward to warming my food and eating oatmeal from the two pots I am working on now,” added Rayfield as he readied them for their first firing and subsequent glazing.  

Nov 13, 2018
Don Bowman
(540) 831-5182