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About Stephen

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  • Birthday 10/02/1960

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  1. Stephen

    slow leaking pots

    Could someone explain to me how water weeps through glaze? I've never really understood this and have read some on it. Weeping seems to always be attributed to the clay not being fully vitrified but vases, cups and such almost always have a glaze liner. Is it because the glaze is not fully sealed and relies on the vitrified clay underneath to stop moisture from seeping through? Is it that any crazing will allow the seepage meaning that there are really two problems, non-vitrified clay and poor clay fit? Or Is it that non-vitrified clay will result in poor glaze fit causing crazing and then the resulting weep?
  2. Stephen

    slow leaking pots

    Just tossing it out there but is it possible that beyond the possibility that they bought some high fire clay they are firing too low six months ago, that the kiln is not hitting temp? I realize elements wearing out would be gradual but if one or two stopped working altogether and the kiln being on a timer is shutting down when expected. Obviously I am making a leap that first its electric and second that no one is checking the cone in the sitter. If it was gas though it seems unlikely they would fire to anything but 10. Some times teachers inherit these task with a sheet of instructions. My suggestion is further stretched because the OP didn't mention the glaze being affected and it surely would be in color and appearance if the pots were under fired enough to weep. Also with wearing out elements and a gradual under fire to timer shutoff instead of sitter might take a long time to reach the level of everything weeping so maybe it was gradual but when it hit that point seemed instant.
  3. no doubt you will make it. One thing I would toss in is I would try and go to shows first and then enter the next one when possible. So many of them talk about being restricted to handmade and selective but when you get there your booth is in between a person selling $5 knives from china and someone who puts decals on T-shirts. Also we found that anything that is essentially a big community party is going to be heavy on attendance and light on sales (unless you sell $5 Chinese knives or cheap decal T-shirts).
  4. Hey congratulations, you did it! I don't think anyone looking at your throwing video or your work product can disagree that you are on the ladder now and a potter. Thanks for letting us watch you progress through all the hard work (and fun). From here on it's just keep on keeping on. Hey five bills at a farmer market is a good day for anyone in my opinion. I've done a couple of dozen of them and when all is said and done it's generally about 6 hours of selling time and the last hour was usually slow as the crowd faded out. How many pots do you have in your inventory? Are you now going to move to doing regular shows?
  5. Stephen

    Pricing my work?

    I've run a couple of fairly decent size businesses over the years with a number of employees (one went over 10 years) and this business is different I think in a lot of subtle ways than normal retail. Yes you have products and customers and a lot of the same jargon but the essence of an art/artisan business is just different and I think a lot of advice from others in our life space might miss some of this even though they might be very capable, smart and knowledgeable people . ... and ya know I'm learning. Watching my partners sales (she is full time) is really dialing it in for me. She and I both have pots that move through ($20 mugs, $30-$50 bowls for example) but she has a number of high-end hand painted pieces that take some serious studio time on her part and she charges much more for these and gets it. Yes they sell much more slowly and that's just fine with her and she has no intention of lowering the price to move more and I can not image why she would. She loves doing them and they enhance her rack tremendously but they need the right buyer with the right budget that day to sell. That scarcity makes it impossible for her to do just that for her living. Mugs, bowls, platters etc. those are production, a staple and more bread and butter sales. ya might have to have those to keep the lights on, we do. By watching these sales I have zeroed in on some absolutes, a pot is worth what people will pay for it and its best value is the highest a reasonable number of people will pay. If you have a number of different priced forms of various complexity then it all works out really well as more simple and therefore usually less costly pots will sell through quickly and more complex and generally more costly pieces will move slow. The balance works if you WANT a number of forms in your inventory and you want to maximize what you get paid to do what you do at the end of the day . As long as the price covers your fixed cost, labor all the way around with a reasonable profit margin beyond cost (that's for the business if you are trying to build one of value beyond just paying you personally a salary, and not everyone is but that's another topic). While your cost does not define its worth to a buyer it does provide a strike point with profit of the least you can take for that specific form to be profitable and arguably worth continuing to make. If you don't go less than this your golden and if you can command more then your better paid or the slack is picked up elsewhere if there is any. Now there might be other valuable reasons to carry a pot that you don't do well enough to hit what you like to hit, such as a good draw for other sales and such but we don't do that. I tried to jump out to quickly a couple of years ago, quitting my day job, and do this for a living and I lost some time recovering so now I am determined to go slow and learn the way to do this right (according to me) and one thing I have come to the conclusion of is that inventory and sales are two very different areas in pottery. You have to have pots to sell pots so obviously one somewhat drives the other but Pots don't expire and finding your market and selling pots is its own area of expertise and it does not matter at all if production of good pottery/art just continues to hum while you dial in on the marketing and sales. We (artisans) make what we sell so if you hit a groove selling you can't just place a big re-order when the stock is low so having extra inventory is a good thing. I'm 58 and plan to do this till I kick, full time again I hope at some point, so I'll just let it pile up if it does instead of going for volume. I'm lucky because I have a rack to put my stuff on so I get a lot of input and some dough. Handmade pottery just does not seem like a good fit for volume. That's a very long winded way of saying that I completely agree with you that if you have forms that sell, even slowly, for $200 then keep them as additions to your lineup. Find a balance that works for you. All expensive stuff might be a tough way to sell in enough numbers to make a living but your rack will sell through at different paces and your production will be uneven, it will work itself out. The market is funny that way.
  6. If this is the one that has a wood filed kiln I would tear down whatever structure that is in place and redo the charter from the ground up to be about the wood fired kiln, the history around that and workshops build around it. Implement the buddy system on working shifts and make the kiln firings and openings a big event. You will have to create some buzz. Check local rags, they need local stories and may also offer some free display space for a non profit. Maybe even have a big kiln opening sale open to the general public every time it is fired and fire it often. Give the artist 65-70% and keep 30-35% for the guild to make it stronger. If you can get some cash flowing then maybe you can get it to the point of a low income hire and that means a weekly dedicated effort of at least 40 hours. Good luck!
  7. Stephen

    Cracked handle

    No matter how well the repair looks really do toss it after grading (or make the planter because it probably will fail at some point no matter how sturdy it seems after glazing. The thin glass from glazing will make it look fine because of where the crack is it might seem to be holding under weight, but that would only last for a bit and a whole pot of boiling water could really be dangerous. Welcome to the forum!
  8. ya know I was worried because 1 1/2 walls are not insulated, they are sheet-rocked (I know hard to believe a builder went to the trouble of sheet rocking and not insulating) and the room is 600' with 12' ceilings but man it worked like a champ in July/Aug/Sep when the heat topped 105 almost daily. I did get a 24k BTU and the AC bill was about $80 a month during those hot months. I was trying to use a couple of standalone 10K BTU and that was costing more and virtually doing nothing so the studio was virtually unusable in May/Jun and most of July, even at night.
  9. Added a split A/C heat pump over the summer and it is perfect. Cost about 3 grand when all said and done. Got the DIY model (more expensive) and paid a relative a few hundred to help me and had to pay an electrician a few hundred to hook up but is just like central and works great in hot or cold. In Texas the cold part is most important. I just say that its going to be 77 tomorrow and 79 on Friday and high was 40 a week ago for several days so the weather can be all over the place around here this time of year.
  10. Is it common to do plates in a ram press? These guys do everything on a press except mugs and plates: http://aeceramics.com/process/ Maybe contact them. In their shop they have a lot of RAM press molds, maybe they have a plate one and can do your run for you.
  11. Have never had any luck washing off glazes. Have had some interesting effects from trying (some very cool and some not so much). I have surmised that bisque ware is porous and soaks in glaze and the residual after washing off still interacts with whatever I re-glaze with. It's only come of a few times in a decade and the last time was a platter and I thought it was very cool and interesting, my partner not so much. I think we will just keep doing it like we do and see what we end up with but I think in order to really start fresh maybe you got to soak for a while or something. Maybe Marks water blasting will take care of it. I did wash the platter pretty thoroughly and it still had residual that interacted and created kind of a frost coming up through a solid glaze.
  12. Stephen

    Hardening of glaze

    While our shop is not a hobby situation it is true we don't run through many gallons of glazes a month and I can certainly see that if you've found it saves you $400 a month after accounting for the extra time then making your own makes sense. As I said, my partner and I like a lot of glaze variety so making three dozen glazes was a huge undertaking and I had/have a lot of sunk cost in having plenty of materials on hand to keep stocked. I probably experienced it differently than some on the fuss because I couldn't take good advice I found advising just using the same base that fits your clay and then use oxides to color. Of course also lot of folks swear by only using a handful of glazes but that a different discussion :-) I do think though that I spend gallon for gallon several times as much on the commercial glazes in actual cash but overall clay and glaze and firing is not a big factor for us, labor and marketing is and with the huge amount of bulk buying to make my glazes and the extra time it just lost its appeal to me. I also bought a bluebird mixer and mixed my own porcelain for a while but but dropped it for the same reason. While I did a lot of research, installed glaze software and spend couple years running lots of test and doing what I needed to to get it right I still ended trying lots of cool recipes and ended up in recipe hell so I found it all to be way more fuss than just buying glazes. My in-house glazes do work fine and yes they are much cheaper than all of the ones I buy commercially and mix in-house. All of out pots fire at cone 5 with a 20 minute hold to hit 6 with heat-work and a controlled cool-down to 1200. Any glaze that doesn't work with that firing schedule we would drop because with production and only 2 (7cf and 9cf) electric kilns we cannot spend time running different firing schedules for different pots. So far over the last decade the one's we buy and like to work with all do fine but I have dropped some of the recipe ones for being too fussy. Good luck with the hardening glaze and don't let me discourage you from conditioning your glazes before every use, if it works for you than that's what counts.
  13. Stephen

    Noobie teacher messed up!

    adding to GEPs advice to zero in on your firing time, I would also start a kiln log book and record every firing and keep track of how long to shutoff so as it starts taking longer to get to temp you can evaluate when its time to change the elements. I don't know your kiln but I think the consensus is that you can get about 100-125 combined firings (bisque and glaze) from a set of elements on most models. More bisque and less glaze so really the number glaze firings determine the limit if you use the same kiln for both. If you post the model for Neil he can probably give a better guidance on the actual number you can expect. If you can figure out last time elements were changed and start your log with that number then at least you will know when you are in the range so if the firing become both really long and/or the kiln still does not reach temp then you know the possible solution, it's normal maintenance so be prepared and maybe even get it in the budget as soon as you can so a set of elements is on hand when the time comes so the class will not be dead in the water while you try to get a several hundred dollar plus purchase approved. Other things can cause a kiln not to reach temp but if its due for a set of elements anyway then that's a great place to start and good time to do it. The timer is a safety precaution so if the cone in the sitter never falls or the sitter bar malfunctions the kiln will not just keep going indefinitely and both ruin the pottery being fired and become a hazard so I would put it at least out a bit so that it does not start turning your kiln off as the elements age and firings take longer. I know some people don't do it on every firing but I always place a cone pack with a cone one below, the target one and one above (5,6 and 7 for a cone 6 glaze firing) on every shelf so I know exactly how hot it fired. Good luck with the class!
  14. Stephen

    Hardening of glaze

    I doubt they are contaminated. I have never found this problem with commercial ones and have also had it on a few recipes. I have surmised its a recipe issue. One thing that I think helps is let your glazes steep overnight after mixing but before meshing. First off I may be breaking glaze law by stating such things but we use 80 mesh and I just do it once when I mix 10,000 gram batches (about 4 gallons in 5 gallon buckets) and then just use a drill mixer between glazing until a new batch is bought or mixed. We do not have any glaze issues on a couple of dozen commercial glazes and a dozen made from recipes. We s-can high maintenance glazes and since my partner likes a lot of glazes 2/3's of our glazes are commercial and I would like to move to 100%. I thought doing my own glazes was cool at first but tired of it. Money wise its just a non factor as glaze cost (once you have bought it) is such a low part of the overall cost. Labor is what matters not clay and glaze. Besides I had to buy thousands of dollars of bulk ingredients and oxides to mix my own. OK I didn't HAVE to but small qtys of this stuff sometimes doubled the price per oz/lbs so I choose to and now I have tons of stuff I will unlikely use in a lifetime. To each his own but i wouldn't be a slave to glazes. Make a few and buy a few.
  15. Stephen

    Favourite craft show tools and tricks

    been making do with little charger packs and bringing a few fully charged alternatives for Square, but since starting in February we are going to be doing a once a month local I am adding a nice power station. Borrowed one for a few shows last year and they are really great and cover you on other emergencies like jump starts and adding tire pressure. I think they will also run small low power consumption fans.

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