Our Inspired Teachers: Dale Rawls

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Dale Rawls, MS art

Bachelor's in art, Portland State University. Master's in education, Lewis & Clark College. At CGS since 1989.

The summer of 1973 I was studio assistant to Ray Grimm, who was head of ceramics at PSU. One of the pieces I was excited to help make was a pot made with 50 pounds of clay. Ray explained to me that we would center and throw this big, low, wide pot together.
Before we began Ray said, “Watch my hands and do what I do.” We dry-centered the big mound of clay until it looked like a low cake about to rise. We used our fists to open up the center and move the clay out to the edges. I still can hear the rhythmic pulse of our fists against the clay as the potter’s wheel turned slowly. Ray reached for his sponge in the water. I was surprised to feel my hand wet with my own sponge rinsing down the clay. Ray then began to compress the giant rim of clay that would soon become the walls of the pot. He began to push in with the heels of his hands. I felt myself inhale and hold my breath at the same time Ray did. The piece grew as we compressed the walls and we shaped the form.
We said nothing for quite some time. Ray handed me the end of a long cutting wire. We cut the pot and lifted the finished piece off the wheel. Ray looked up with just a smudge of clay on his forehead and said—matter-of-factly—that now it was time for lunch.
I had never had an experience like this before.

That summer I realized I wanted to be like Ray: a teacher who continued to make art, and whose work was a reflection of his life. He has continued to be with me when I enter my studio, get on my bike, or work with students making art. His life, his love of problem solving, and his emphasis on process and creativity is a legacy that I hope my students carry into their lives.