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This page contains the detailed report written by a ceramics student on an undergraduate degree at a British University.

Positive points of NEVAC material:

  • The NEVAC videos are invaluable for recording the professional as well as personal life histories of eminent ceramists.
  • The choice of ceramists is good and is particularly significant as some of those filmed have since died and these records become all the more valuable.
  • The filming of the ceramists work is particularly relevant as without this archive we may never see many of the pieces of work shown, as many may end up in private collections or may be lost with time.
  • The filming of the ceramists whilst at work is especially important because this allows people to experience almost first hand the working methods and techniques of the ceramists, something they may never have the opportunity to do otherwise.
  • In general the picture and sound quality of the videos is very high.
  • The informal/personal style of filming is good and is more personable than a rigid style. I think it encourages the interviewees to be more relaxed during the interview.
  • The still shots of some of the work are a good idea as it would be possible to draw and study the work in detail.

Positive comments on the interviewing approach:

  • The informal style of interviewing was good and evidently put interviewees at ease, allowing the artist to talk freely.
  • Interviews held in the studio or whilst ceramists were at work were particularly insightful as these help circumscribe the context of the interview and, keep the interviewees more focused on the subject they are talking about, e.g. they tend to talk about the work whilst making it and not get side tracked, and the resulting video is more visually stimulating.
  • The fact that the interviewer has some knowledge of ceramics (or is a famous ceramist themselves e.g. Walter Keeler) leads to stimulating interesting conversation, allowing for a good level of dialogue rather than over simplification, and explanations necessary for complete novices.

Critical comments on the interviewing approach:

  • A slightly more formal approach to the interviews is needed, for example more specific questions need to be asked as a few of the interviewees tended to ramble and this makes it hard to discern any relevant information disclosed during conversation.
  • Because the interviewer has a good knowledge of ceramics then it is assumed that the audience will also have the same level of knowledge, this may not be the case and so perhaps some more questions are needed to encourage interviewees into explaining things in greater detail.
  • I did like the fact that the people doing the interview knew about ceramics, e.g. Wally [Walter Keeler] but I think that it was assumed that the viewer has the same knowledge of ceramics as the participants of the interview and this may not be the case. Also there is a possibility that because the interviewee knows that the interviewer has some ceramic knowledge then this may influence the way in which the interviewee explains things and the subjects about which they talk.
  • I feel that the interviews could also be slightly more structured. It would be interesting to expand the variety of people being interviewed for the archive. It would be valuable to interview curators of ceramic exhibitions, private collectors, auctioneers as well as ceramic students, gallery owners, those working in ceramic factories, production throwers etc. to give an idea of the industry as a whole. Also to interview people on the street about what they feel about certain ceramic objects, would be insightful of present culture particularly if people were asked to give their opinions on the same objects in say 10 years time.

Criticisms of the content of the video:

  • The interviews started very abruptly with no introduction as to what was being talked about or why, the information given on the catalogue not being detailed enough and not explaining the relevance or importance of the subjects being discussed.
  • The variety of the ceramists seen on the usability test was limited to older more traditional ceramists: younger ceramists with different approaches and genres of work also need to be filmed.
  • Ceramists talking about their histories, ceramics etc. in their own homes is visually unexciting, it would be just as useful to have these on audio rather than on video, the video as a medium is not being used to its full potential.
  • There seems to be no correlation of questions asked of the ceramists (although I would probably need to view complete sets of videos for a few artists to judge this fairly). E.g. some artists talk much more of their personal histories whilst others talk much more of their own work or other peoples work, there seems to be no guide lines as to what information the interviewer seeks to find from the ceramists as such the interviews appear arbitrary and unplanned.
  • To a certain extent the video material does cover topics that I would wish to know about but not to a satisfactory degree. I would like to see more studio-based interviews with each ceramist being asked to give a demonstration of the way they work, with tips and techniques of a practical nature. I would like the focus of the interviews more biased towards the work the artists produce, their inspirations, influences, aspirations etc. and more talk about ceramics in general rather than their personal histories. Although I realise that their personal histories are an important part of the archive, the main reason that they are being interviewed is because their work is so successful and so this must play the greater part in the interviews. I would also like to see more interviews with ceramists talking and handling other peoples work.

Criticisms of the technical aspects of the recordings:

  • Camera shots on individual pieces lasted far too long, as it is possible to pause the videos then this length of time per piece was not needed. In general pieces of work were only seen from one angle and you were not able to get a proper sense of the object in 3d.
  • The camera work needs to be more professional, for example on the Mary Wondrausch (1 of 6) the camera person is practicing with the focusing of the camera and we hear a discussion about the best shots to take, we do not need to see or hear this. Also we hear Mary Wondrausch talking in the background of the film but you can't make out what she is saying.
  • There needs to be more relevance to some of the shots, for example in Marianne de Trey (2 of 10) Wally [Walter Keeler] is the interviewer and the camera stays on him for an inordinate amount of time when it is her we need to see, particularly when she is talking.

Prefered layout of the web-based video database:

Possible searches:

  • Alphabetical/index of names
  • Techniques e.g. throwing, slipcasting, hand-building etc.
  • Types of ware e.g. bowls, cups etc. Materials e.g. porcelain, stoneware etc.
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Training e.g. where they trained
  • Map e.g. where they live
  • Picture index of work
  • Demonstrations
  • Time period e.g. when they were alive
  • Outlets of work
  • Genre of work, e.g. functional, sculptural etc.

General points about how the web-based video database may be organised:

  • If the archive is primarily aimed at ceramic students then it must be very user-friendly. If it looks too complicated then students will be put off using it as ceramic students (at least the ones I know) are notoriously bad at using computers.
  • The introduction to each ceramist is of utmost importance, to put the videos in context. It would be useful to see at a glance, who the person is, the type of work they produce, their contribution to the world of ceramics in general and the exact content of the videos. Information needs to be easily accessible.
  • When listening to audio recordings it would be useful to have a photo on the screen of who is talking.
  • As user-friendly is the policy, then from the beginning there should be some instruction button available which would take you to a menu which allows you to see exactly what the system can do and how to do it. There should be some sort of help button such as the doctor cartoon suggested at the usability test. This should be available when needed but not constantly on the screen. Perhaps it could be a video of somebody explaining what to do.
  • The web-based interface should be made as visually stimulating as possible e.g. clicking on photographs or pictures to work your way through the program. The use of symbols is a good idea for finding different sites but there should be a key that can be brought up at any time to find out what the symbols mean.
  • It would be useful to have the transcript scrolling as the video plays: this would have to be optional though so that you can hide it if preferred. A good idea would be to have certain words on the transcript highlighted so that it would be possible to pause the video and click on that word for more information about it. For example if the artist is talking about a certain type of pot which is not seen in the video, I would be able to click on the name of that type of pot and a picture of it and some information about it would be shown so that I could better understand the conversation.
  • It would be useful to be able to split the screen in two so that you could have a video playing on one half of the screen and a static image on the other half of the screen. This would be useful to compare objects as well as techniques etc.
  • All videos should have a time line with time calibrations on it (some of the computers didn't have this) so that you can tell how much of the video that you have seen and how much is left to go. It would also be useful to see through the use of symbols or miniature stills of the video what is happening in each time interval.
  • When the video is initially loading the viewer should be made aware of this as it is possible to hear the sound perfectly yet it takes a while for the image to show (you see only coloured stripes) which may be misconstrued as a computer error. At all times it should be possible access the video information, for example if you click on a name in the main directory it should take you immediately to that video.

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