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Everything posted by GEP

  1. Heading out for a well-earned vacation. Goodbye winter! At least for a few days.

    1. Min


      Enjoy yourself!!!

    2. Mark C.

      Mark C.

      YA-nothing is better than a warmer climate in winter

    3. Pres


      Hope your trip gets your bones thawed out. About now I wish to be back in Hawaii!




  2. On the subject of “hours vs. years,” I agree that there is a minimum number of hours required for development. But I’m not sure you can speed up the process by cramming in all of the hours within a short period of time. In order to make what I consider “professional” or “sellable” pottery, you need to be a fully-fledged adult with a strong grasp of your own values, tastes, priorities, etc. The pots you make are a reflection of who you are. And if you have not yet answered the “who am I?” question, your pots will look immature too. So even if you’ve spent 4 years in a college ceramics program, putting in many hours of intensive study, a degree holding 22 yr old still has years to go. A college campus is not the right environment to answer the “who am I?” question. The environment is too safe. (I remember as a college design student, I thought the program was so hard, intense and competitive. Then I hit the real world and realized how safe the environment had been.) In other words, the hours of study are just a starting point in terms of technical proficiency. The years of personal development are necessary too. In my experience as a pottery teacher, I occassionaly worked with students who had been practicing pottery for a year or two, and already making wonderful pots. They were mature people (which doesn’t necessarily mean older) who had a good sense of their values, and a large bank of life experiences to draw on and guide them.
  3. I was taking recreational pottery classes while working full-time as a designer. During those years I was also building up a freelance design practice on the side, so for several years I was working 1.5 full-time jobs. Pottery was my much needed stress relief on weekends. It took me eight years before I was making pots that I would consider “sellable.” Sure I sold some pots before that, mostly at my studio’s holiday sale, and at some small local fairs, but I would call those pots “student pots” not “professional pots.” The people who bought them had the same expectation. So for me, it was eight years of serious weekend practice. At that point I bought my own equipment and started working out of my own studio. This was a huge turning point, because it’s when I could finally make all of my own decisions, and especially to develop my own glazes. Before then, I really didn’t have control over how/when my pots got fired, and I was using the same clay/glazes that everyone else at my studio was using. Which means those pots were not MINE to the extent that professional pottery needs to be. I would add that to the factors that make someone work professional-grade. Skill, aesthetics, sound science, and ORIGINALITY. If you can only make pots that look like somebody else’s, that’s not professional.
  4. While you’re at the camera store, buy a can of Dulling Spray. Lightly mist the glossy areas of your pots. As others have noted, we can see the light tent clearly reflected in the pots, and it is very distracting. You can solve that by diffusing your light sources better, or by spraying your pots with Dulling Spray. Dulling Spray rinses off with water and won’t harm your pots. It’s often used on people’s eyeglasses for portraits.
  5. Don’t forget that function is not the only factor that determines whether a pot will sell or not. Style and aesthetics are important too. Having said that, for the show that I am currently planning for, I have 47 mugs and cups, 47 individual-sized bowls, and only 16 various jars and canisters. Among other designs too. I have 235 pots total. These plans are based on the past two years or so of sales. I keep track of everything. I expect to sell across the whole line.
  6. I think it’s ok to talk to exhibitors while they’re working, but only with discretion and sensitivity. Between seasoned festival artists, there is a culture of how we behave in other artist’s booths, i.e. with great respect that our first objective is to sell. So if you are aspiring to be a festival artist, you might as well start learning/practicing this culture. Of course, never get between an artist and a customer. Boy do I hate it when aspiring potters want to talk my ear off, blocking my view of the rest of the booth while customers come and go. But if the booth is quiet and you present yourself profesionally and with respect, I’m happy to talk to you. Have your questions ready, things that require short answers. Your whole approach should convey “I know why you’re here and I won’t waste your time.” I disagree that I might not know if a show is going well or not. I always know. I agree that I have my party face on for the most part, but I can distinguish between a customer and an inquiring artist, and treat them individually. Say if I’m having a bad show, I can keep a brave face for customers, but if a artist asks how it’s going, I’ll be honest. One question to never ask ... don’t ask for a sales amount in terms of dollars. The exact dollar amount is none of your business, and irrelevant to you anyways. Professionals understand that, so if you ask that question, you are conveying that your understanding of things is very shallow, and your mindset is nowhere close to being ready for this. When I get asked about sales, my answers come in adjectives. Amazing, good, average, disappointing, etc. Apply the adjective to your own expectations and experiences with selling. The only artists with whom I will share dollar amounts are the ones who I have known for a long time and have developed a lot of trust and respect. I do not want to be offered food or drinks afterwards. That’s asking me for more time, compared to finding me at a quiet moment in my booth. Once a show is over, I do not want to be social anymore. Though I will gladly take your email questions afterwards, as long as you are not expecting me to write long form essay answers, or expecting me to become your mentor on an ongoing basis. Between festival artists, when we are in another artist’s booth chatting, and a customer walks in, it is perfectly normal to stop talking in the middle of a sentence, and exit with a small hand wave. Knowing you can come back and finish the conversation later. Or, if the artist across the aisle is in my booth talking, and a customer walks into their booth, I’ll point so the artist can go back. Again, the conversation might stop in the middle of a sentence.
  7. If you really don’t have a good handle on whether you are ready, don’t apply for this year’s show. Instead, go to the show as a spectator, then make a decision for next year. Discreetly talk to other potters and ask how they like the show. Or just observe to see how busy they look, and whether you think your work will fit in. It’s worth a day trip, and a year of waiting. Compared to wasting a bunch of money, time, and energy on a bad show, or a show that is not a good fit for you. This is how pros do it.
  8. Shows cut into production a lot! Especially the ones that require out of town travel. But of course a business doesn’t work if you only produce and don’t make any effort to sell. So making time for shows is necessary, but that’s why it’s crucial to choose them wisely, to avoid spending valuable time at unproductive shows. I put a lot of research and legwork into picking shows. I still end up in bad shows sometimes, but the goal is to minimize that as much as possible. Also, when I’ve been in my studio producing for two months straight, I really need to get out and talk to people! In addition to unloading the inventory. The change of scenery is valuable to me, psychologically. I’d go nuts if I never left the studio.
  9. GEP

    raku tea cup - food safe?

    LOL, you guys. Don’t hate the messenger! You’re right, at least donuts are not radioactive.
  10. GEP

    raku tea cup - food safe?

    There is no definitive or cohesive way to define “japanese raku” in terms of materials, methods, or safety standards. The work is as diverse as everyting else in ceramics. There are probably vessels being used for tea ceremonies that are safer than what we consider “western raku” and probably some that are less safe. It’s not a monolith. Put in perspective, drinking tea from a porous vessel is probably not as bad as cigarettes or donuts.
  11. The photo really helps, it’s important to see how distinctive the original work is, and how much of a copy yours is. Do not sell! There are too many specific elements that are a direct copy of something distinctive and original. Keep the piece in your studio or home.
  12. When I used to have a Trimline canopy, I would strap the poles to the roof rack. A dolly or handtruck can also be strapped to a roof rack.
  13. I did shows for over 10 years with a Subaru Forester. It can be done. I did some “tetris-style” packing (like @Callie Beller Diesel mentioned above) and also used the roof rack. I unpacked the car between shows. Most of these years were the part-time years of my business. Having a dedicated vehicle for a part-time business doesn’t make economic sense. Don’t think about it like “I need more space to pack more stuff” but rather “I need to design a display that fits into my Trailblazer along with X boxes of pots.” This approach to thinking will serve you well in many aspects of doing shows. Being organized and efficient goes a long way. So does being frugal. The Trailblazer is absolutely big enough. The right time for a dedicated vehicle is when your pottery business has supplied you with the funds for it. Until you reach that level, run your business as cheaply as possible. I traded in the Subaru for a used Toyota minivan when my business was full-time and the cost was easily affordable based on my business’s revenue.
  14. @shawnhar I would not choose a trailer as my first choice. Especially if you are still in the early stages of your pottery career. Try to make it work with a car that doubles as an everyday car, such as an SUV or minivan. In addition to the lack fo suspension that others have mentioned, there are lots of show sites where space is very limited during load-in and load-out. If you are pulling a trailer, you are taking up twice as much space (which can get hairy when a trailer-owner doesn’t know how to steer their trailer). Trailers are also bigger targets for theft, compared to a normal looking car. I would not spend $3000 on a trailer. If you don’t have a large enough car, I would trade in your current car, plus put the $3000 towards a larger car. I also don’t think 1000 mile trips are a good idea for the early stages of a pottery business. Very few shows are worth driving that far. I guarantee there are good shows closer to where you live. When you get to the point that you are doing this full-time, then it makes sense to think in terms of a dedicated van or a trailer, that you never need to unpack. Right now, the investment doesn’t make sense. And again, a trailer doesn’t really make sense for doing long distances with fragile pottery.
  15. So how do you feel about the $780 electrician’s quote now, after seeing how much work and expertise was involved?
  16. Aha, so the brushes come off easily? I may not need the garden hose after all. (which is good on a day like today -5°F wind chill)
  17. This thread has made me think hard about sieving. I go through a lot of glaze these days, and sieving has become very cumbersome timewise. Unlike @Callie Beller Diesel, sometimes glazemaking does sneak up on me! So annoying to sit down for a day of glazing, only to open a bucket and say “oh [bleep].” It sets back my whole day. @liambesaw‘s idea of putting a brush head on a power drill is very intriguing. But ultimately I decided that the lowest speed on my power drill is still too fast. Plus my sieve that fits a 5 gallon bucket is pretty shallow, it holds maybe a half-gallon at a time. The idea of a shallow sieve combined with a power tool has me visualizing large horizontal splatters of glaze across my studio. I was sold by @Mark C.‘s comment that the Talisman holds 2 gallons. I ordered one this morning. I like the idea of the high volume, combined with the controlled hand cranking. As for cleaning it, I don’t have a wide and shallow sink. I don’t think my household drain could handle this much glaze anyways. So my plan is to take it out on the patio and clean it with the garden hose.
  18. My firing cycles come up every 2.5 weeks. It usually involves 3 loads of bisque, and 4 or 5 loads of glaze. I run the bisque kilns while I start throwing the next cycle. Then I spend 3 days glazing (1 day for each bisque load). Each glazing cycle produces $5000 worth of pots.
  19. I just noticed @Mark C.‘s comments about me using top loaders in a basement studio, and how that must be tough on my back. I think I need to point out that I am only consuming about 1.5 tons of clay per year. I know that’s much less than Mark, who goes through 8-ish tons per year. I also can’t imagine loading 8 tons into top loaders, or carrying that much clay down a flight of stairs. My volume is manageable in my studio setup. My lower volume works because I have an east-coast urban audience, and I have learned how to market and price for this audience. This audience cares about quality, but they care very little about oxidation or reduction, or what cone I am firing to. They care a lot more about design.
  20. @shawnhar I make a comfortable full-time living with two 7 cubic ft electric kilns. In my sphere there are a lot more full-timers firing electric, vs firing gas or wood. Not sure where you got that impression.
  21. I've tried it with a hand-held scrub brush. It took just as long as using my hand, and the brush got clogged up and took a long time to clean. I think you need the spinning action of a power drill, or the cranking motion of a Talisman, in order for the brush to work faster than your hand.
  22. At the very beginning, someone gave me a small kiln for free. I spent another $5000 furnishing the rest, inckuding a wheel, kiln vent, kiln furniture, slab roller, lots of tables and shelving, various tools, and the electrician who installed the kiln circuit and punched a hole in my wall for the vent duct. I did all of this in my unfinished basement, which was not being used for anything else, so my space was essentially free. SInce then, I have bought 2 new kilns, a second wheel (used), and renovated my dingy basement into a clean and bright workspace. Maybe another $25k spent, mostly on the renovation. These days, I spend $1500 on clay per year, $300 on glaze materials, and $450 everytime one of the kilns needs new elements and TCs which is once or twice a year.
  23. To continue thinning/growing the wall after collaring, learn to use a throwing stick.
  24. GEP

    Teapots that pour beautifully

    I haven’t done it that way in a long time, so don’t have much to add. I think Mark answered it best ... make lots of holes. I try to throw the spout edge as sharp as possible, but I will sometimes hone them further at the leatherhard stage, and even at the bisque stage with a diamond grit hand pad. It all works. I once did it to a fully glaze-fired teapot with a diamond hand pad. It works but it leaves a blemish.
  25. GEP

    Teapots that pour beautifully

    Lack of air exchange is only one reason why a teapot spout might gurgle. Most teapot lids are not air tight to begin with, hole or no. You can dig through my instagram account (@goodelephantpottery) and read the captions for every post that contains a teapot over the past year. I’ve been in pursuit of a perfect pouring teapot spout, and you can read all of my thoughts on what makes a spout pour well. A nice, organized arc of liquid is one of my goals. I’m not quite ready to declare my spouts “guaranteed dribble free” but a customer who bought one in December reported back to me that the pour was perfect. Still working on repeating that result consistently, but I’m close. Edit to add (realized it would be a pain for someone to dig through my instafeed): Here are the important factors: 1) the spout should taper all the way down to the opening. This creates back pressure as the liquid travels down, creating the arc of liquid. The more tapered the better. 2) longer spouts work better than shorter spouts, more distance creates more back pressure 3) the edge of the spout opening, especially the bottom edge, should be sharp. This prevents the last drop from dribbling down the outside of the spout 4) I try to attach the spout low on the teapot body. This accomplishes two things. It requires a longer spout to do this (see #2), so the opening of the spout is still high enough to accomodate a full teapot. And it makes the teapot start pouring with a shallower tilt of the pot. If the spout is attached high on the teapot, it takes a steeper tilt to start the pour. The shallower tilt makes the teapot easier to use. 4) I cut one large hole in the teapot body where the spout is attached, rather than punching a series of holes. This ensures there is plenty of liquid flowing. 5) I don’t put holes in my lids. To answer your specific question @cambriapottery, I have tried different angles for the spout, but that doesn’t seem to affect the pour. If the angle is pointing upwards too much, it might make the teapot harder to use because of the steep tilt required to pour, but doesn’t affect the pour itself.

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