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Qotw: Epic Failures Anybody?

Question of the week; failures learning;

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#21 rakukuku

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 01:19 PM

Well I was doing some stannous chloride fuming in raku and you have to place a special can over the work while it fumes and it has to be done quickly! Stupidly, I didn't measure and one of the pieces was too tall and didn't fit under the can. A friend was filming me doing all this and all my cursing was caught on film and tape and he posted it to his friends!    At least I was wearing respirator so I was not recognizable. Actually , the work came out fine.  Even the too tall piece which I had to turn sideways.  It was funny. Rakuku



#22 JBaymore

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 01:22 PM

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..............

 

I needed more of my custom clay formula mixed up.  Called up my handy-dandy long term supplier and ordered another 2000 pounds of it.  I had a show coming, a number of custom orders to complete, store/gallery stock to replenish, and so on.  I had already started production on the noborigama load a bit... but knew I'd be running out of clay any day. On the average I know that my wood kiln takes about 2000-2200 pounds of clay made into pots for a load....depending on the particular types of pieces for that load.

 

The clay arrives one day.  As the driver is unloading it I notice that the bags are labeled "Bateman" not "Baymore".  I ask the driver about that.  He says...... "Not to worry... just mis-labeled".  I say.,.... please call the factory and check on this to make sure it is my clay.  He does.  Gets assurances that it was just a mis-spelling of my name when the warehouse guy heard it and labeled the bags.  OK....... fine.

 

I continue working on the load.  At one point I am wedging together some of my OLD clay.. and some of the new clay.  As I slice the bung, I notice a SLIGHT marbeling of the clay.  Hummmmmm.............   Now I know enough about clay bodies that organics in the clays can cause slight color differences that have no bearing on the fired results.  That is normal.  Things like fireclays and ball clays (both were in that body) often look different run-of-mine to run-of-mine. 

 

BUT.... I flash back to "Bateman".  I call the supplier again myself.  Yup... it is the correct clay.  Yup... it's organics.  Yup...... not to worry.

 

Finished making and bisque firing the load and glazing.  Stacked the kiln.  Fired the kiln.

 

Unloaded the whole load into the shard pit.

 

I was NOT my clay formulation.  Probably was a cone 6 oxidation body.  Or a really botched mixing job with materials mis-weighed.  Just about nothing was salvageable in the whole load.  Looked terrible, slumping, warping, cracking, awful color... you name it... it had it.

 

This nearly bankrupted me.  Each firing of a large kiln like mine is a huge investment of materials and labor TIME.  LOTS of eggs in one basket.  Amongst the other stuff, I had one huge 12 place dinnerware set order in there for a very good client that was to be a wedding present..... missed the deadline.  Lost the purchase and the client.  Had no stock for general sales for a while.  Had used up a lot of paid-for materials.  Got zero dollars for my investment of all that time (time which simply can't be recreated).  Needed to spend more $ to get more materials to make more work.  Put production behind by one full kiln work cycle. 

 

Disaster.

 

SO....... I went to small claims court to try to recover something out of this mess.  Now the law says that I had to go to the court in the place where the company was located.  That was a couple hours drive away. I also consulted with a lawyer.  So there was more time and money invested.  My day in court finally arrived (weeks and weeks after he unloading).

 

And....................... I lost.

 

You know those disclaimers that the suppliers have on their websites and in their catalogs?  The ones that say "we are not responsible.... clay and glaze materials are naturally occurring minerals and we have no control over .... blah....blah.... blah".  Yup.... they are very powerful tools in a court of law.  They stand up.  Not only did I lose the value of the load... I had to pay for the clay!  Now the court DID allow me to not pay the INTEREST on the clay cost bill that accrued during the dispute.  Yay!

 

Lessons..... a multitude. 

 

The BIG one........... the phrase I use on this forum and in my classes all the time......... "test, test, test".

 

Do not put materials into full production until you KNOW that they are working correctly.

 

Also... trust you gut.  That should have lead me to .....test, test, test.  I screwed up.  I didn't.

 

The company in question... which shall remain nameless....... no longer exists.  They went out of business not all that long after this incident.  Guess maybe they had a lot more incidents like this.

 

There you have it.  Don't repeat my mistake.

 

best,

 

......................john


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Adjunct Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

Former Guest Professor, Wuxi Institute of Arts and Science, Yixing, China

Former President and Past President; Potters Council
 

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http://www.nhia.edu/...ty/john-baymore


#23 neilestrick

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 03:01 PM

My biggest mistake was in grad school when I forgot that I had the 30 cubic foot gas kiln running with a bisque in it. I remembered at 11pm as I lay down for bed. When I got to the studio it was at cone 10. Whole load into the trash.

 

Just last week I accidentally set my small kiln to cone 6 for a bisque. I didn't double check the program like I usually do because I was in a hurry. Into the trash.


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#24 glazenerd

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 05:40 PM

More Epic stories, some rank right up there with suspense novels. Harrowing, frightful, just barely avoiding disasters.

 

So I have used these stories to encourage the youngins, the newbies, (hey, I might be one myself(, and the greenies. Epics happen-even to the best of the best.

 

So now I will use the most recent epic stories to talk to another group of forum stalkers. You know who are! The ones whose "epics" were so disastrous that you sold off your kilns and vowed never to touch clay again. Yet you keep coming around from time to time because the love of clay still abides. A professor lost over a ton of fired clay early in his career: it happens. A seasoned production potter mistakenly programmed a cone 6 bisque even after decades in the clay biz: it happens. Two almost fried their homes along with their kilns: it happens. So forgive yourself for your "epic", it happened: time to get back in the saddle and ride.

 

'epics" do not mean you are stupid, incompetent, or a bubbling klutz: they just mean you are human. If they happen to the best of the best: why did you think they would not happen to you?

 

Nerd



#25 Joe_L

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 01:33 PM

No epics *yet*, except failing to enroll for a ceramics course when I was 18 :)

 

Ooops, perhaps I shouldn't have said this just before my next firing????

 

Joe



#26 Joseph F

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 02:09 PM

No epics *yet*, except failing to enroll for a ceramics course when I was 18 :)

 

Ooops, perhaps I shouldn't have said this just before my next firing????

 

Joe

 

Depends on if you believe in jinx's or not. DUN DUN DUN! 



#27 glazenerd

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 05:12 PM

Had an epic just a month ago: think I already posted that episode. Managed to fire a test load of unglazed tile; wonderful!!

Was thinking so much about formulation and effect: left the glaze batch sitting on the glaze table.  I use to keep a stack of bisque tile by the test kiln---note "use to".

 

Nerd



#28 Mark C.

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Posted 27 August 2016 - 11:41 AM

This is another epic story of my past.It happened in the late 80's or early 90's.

 

A long time ago I got most of my clay from a mega supplier called Westwood Clay Co. circa 1970s-1980s This Company never paid any attention to us little potters when their clay went bad-we where always at fault so I got feed up and looked around some-There was a small clay company down south in LA area near Westwood that I heard made good clay it was called Laguna clay co-The owners Dad lived near me and when he sold out his stuff and moved I bought some of it-During that time I decided to see this clay company and meet his son John-It was a small place in Santa Ana at that time about 14 hours drive south of me. I switched to their porcelains after a tour of the plant by John Brooks. I used Dave’s Porcelain for many years in my production studio.

 

Over Time Lagina grew and bought out Westwood clay and took over in their facilities.Since then they have bought facilities country wide-In Ohio and Axner in Florida.

 

Years went by then I starting to have problems  with Daves mostly bloating and some shivering-I was an old time experienced user and did not take its my fault well-yes I raised my bisque temperatures and still I lost huge amounts due to bloating all the while the techs said it was me but every one I know who used this clay also had these woes. After firing three car kiln loads at Xmas I and getting nowhere with on this issue with the Clay company. This was a bad time to loose so much work and I snapped.

 

After a few long stonewall talks to John Brooks I packed up 3 whole 35 cubic foot car kiln loads in 3 huge TV boxes and shipped them UPS to Johns upstairs office-I did not pack these to survive just tumble stacked 3 whole kiln loads in large boxes with zero padding and drove a full large truck off to ups the bill back then in the 80’s was over 100$ to ship about 150#. I felt great as this amount of work really showed what the crap was going on. After many months of tossing their stuff in the trash I sent it all to the top man. It was liberating and really pissed him off but you see I said how do you think I feel after making all that work and having it bloat- my time my glazing and trimming my gas my sweat -It got thru and years later at a workshop their clay John Pacini  told me that story  and I was legend at Laguna for doing this as John had to pack over 100 #s of shards down stairs to dump them from his upstairs office .No one had ever sent in that sheer volume of fired work and the boss had to deal with it.I never asked for a credit I just wanted to get my point of blame across to the company.I'm an ethical person and expect the same treatment.

I feel good just thinking about the story it warms my heart
 
You see in this world you should be held accountable for good bad or inferior work-clay is our life blood and no matter how I fired it bloated-it was an ingredient problem on the manufacturing side and we all knew it.

They knew it but would never admit it. Nowadays I have a good rapport with all of them but we all know where we stand-They need potters like me and I need clay makers like them. Now I have over 35 years of Dave's under my belt .

In the clay business things can change very quickly and not always for the better.

 

​PS sorry about the test sizes as I copied this from a 2012 post in this forum  and some text sizes changed?

 

Edit: (Text size fixed -JBaymore)


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#29 ChenowethArts

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 09:11 AM

There was one particular instance when a student asked to bring in a piece because there was space on the top shelf of the gas kiln.  She promised to get it into place, close up the kiln and begin the overnight candling before the evening was over....which she did.  What she failed to mention was that the piece was earthenware.  The firing was a Cone 10 reduction firing.  Upon opening the kiln, there was nothing of hers on the top shelf, but the flood of melted earthenware dripped between (and fused) nearly every shelf and puddled in/on pieces below the drip source.  It wasn't pretty, neither was it much fun to clean up.

 

-Paul


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#30 LeeU

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 04:50 PM

WOW...I had not fully comprehended the gravity and potential heartbreak, to say nothing of serious financial damage, of some of these truly epic losses for people in business,education.production, & other aspects within the world of ceramists.  Puts things in perspective. No tears from me over the next clay failures in my life.  


Lee Ustinich

 

 

 

 

 

#31 glazenerd

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 05:45 PM

I appreciate all who put their personal "epics" out there, so others could see "ooppss" happen to everyone.

 

"Epics" are like a fast food: they come in small, medium, and large. Some make us cringe, some make us narrow our vocabulary: and some make us want to put our heads in a kiln on fast fire. Sometimes they can almost cause the collapse of our beloved endeavors, as we have just read that story. Does not matter the skill level, the years of learning, or even the years of experience: "epics" still happen. We go into our studios or work spaces to get away from life and the troubles of life follow us in there: and distracts us. We think about our bills, our kids, our spouses, or the trouble of the month: hitting wrong buttons, grabbing wrong jars, and drift away from what we are doing. I wonder how many have simply sneezed while trimming a pot: and cut it clean through?

 

The stories come from the experienced, the season; from some of the best in the business. This week's QQW however was actually geared towards those just starting out, or perhaps in it for years and just starting to learn a new technique. As you have just read: "epics" are going to happen: most often due to the learning curve involved with clay and glaze.The issues of life are visited upon the potter: just like any other profession. We have bad days, off days, and days our minds just simply check out- it happens. That same human spirit that creates works of art out of clay: is the same human spirit that is subject to the frailties of life. Perhaps even more so for clay arts: because there is an intensity, a fervor, a passion for what we are doing. When that much focus in poured into a piece: it is not surprising that we get distracted in the mundane "duties" of making pottery such as proper loading of a kiln, or supporting a shelf, or paying close attention to a firing cycle.

 

There is only one group of people in this world who have never had an epic failure: the ones who never did anything in their lives. When you expose yourself by putting you heart and soul into you work: you then likewise expose yourself to human frailties. It is a well known historical fact that Da Vinci was rarely satisfied with his artistic works: including the Mona Lisa. Get over the "epcis"; they have and will happen: the hardest part of pottery is being content that you did your best.

 

Nerd



#32 Mark C.

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 07:11 PM

Its not if you had a huge mistake it more when you have one and what do you take away from it.In Ceramics its just a matter of time. The mixing can get you on glazes the kiln can get you in so many ways-the clay can get you just when you think you have it made.

Ceramics makes one humble.


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#33 JBaymore

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 07:52 PM

 

There is only one group of people in this world who have never had an epic failure: the ones who never did anything in their lives.

 

Very true. Ya' gotta take risks.

 

best,

 

..................john


John Baymore
Adjunct Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

Former Guest Professor, Wuxi Institute of Arts and Science, Yixing, China

Former President and Past President; Potters Council
 

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

http://www.nhia.edu/...ty/john-baymore


#34 flowerdry

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 08:02 AM

John, I think your epic story takes the prize.  I got a knot in my stomach reading it.


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#35 JBaymore

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 08:31 AM

John, I think your epic story takes the prize.  I got a knot in my stomach reading it.

 

Wasn't fun living thru it.

 

best,

 

................john


John Baymore
Adjunct Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

Former Guest Professor, Wuxi Institute of Arts and Science, Yixing, China

Former President and Past President; Potters Council
 

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

http://www.nhia.edu/...ty/john-baymore


#36 Pres

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 08:58 AM

Learned not to use the wheel as a shop table for use with the circular saw. Cut a very small notch out of the wheel head. Good news. . . after years I have found that the notch makes a perfect place to lift bats from with a trimming tool. In the future, I would put the notch in the bottom of the bat! :huh:


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . . http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/

#37 GiselleNo5

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 12:05 PM

After reading all these posts I'm realizing that what I had counted as my and others' epic fails ..... really weren't so bad.

I create order from chaos. And also, chaos from order.

 

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#38 glazenerd

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 05:14 PM

Glad to see several positive responses: the stories put the "epics" in our lives into perspective.

 

Nerd



#39 firenflux

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 05:07 AM

When I started working with a potters wheel, I could never get the pots thin enough or tall enough. In my frustration over trying to re-center the clay to trim it and get it thin enough, I started hand carving my pots. Initially I used a fetling knife and it was very haphazard, but I ended up liking the look and feel of the textures I created. Many many years later I can now control the thickness of my pieces to allow for purposeful carving and texture. In essence, my struggle led to my esthetic.

#40 GiselleNo5

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Posted 02 September 2016 - 10:00 PM

When I started working with a potters wheel, I could never get the pots thin enough or tall enough. In my frustration over trying to re-center the clay to trim it and get it thin enough, I started hand carving my pots. Initially I used a fetling knife and it was very haphazard, but I ended up liking the look and feel of the textures I created. Many many years later I can now control the thickness of my pieces to allow for purposeful carving and texture. In essence, my struggle led to my esthetic.

 

One of the reasons I started texturing my pots with carving and slip trailing is that it drew the eye away from the imperfections of my inexpertly made pieces. Well as my skill at making pots grew so did my skill at decorating. Now I choose to decorate the pots because I like it, I don't do it to hide mistakes. Mostly. ;) 


I create order from chaos. And also, chaos from order.

 

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