Gerald, I'm with Tatjana on this one. ASK THEM.
There are two usual approaches to anything. Either someone is able to make something pretty (swan) and then researches (mallet) to make it in a period way. Or they start from research (mallet) and perhaps (though not necessarily) work towards pretty (swan).
Someone who isn't entering competitions and teaching classes is probably not going to be considered for elevation anyway.
Ask for a copy (electronic, if possible) of their write-up of their competition entry, and ditto for class notes. This is the most encouraging feedback an entrant or teacher can get. Someone CARES!! It's even better if you give them feedback on what you have requested.
How on Gods green earth can we be expected to know there approach and thinking process that was going on in there head that lead to the final products they make?