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So. I'm going to try to keep this as nice as possible. For the last few months I've been working with a ceramics store owner who is having issues with pretty much everything. Basically the business is in the hole monthly by hundreds of dollars and relies on volunteers to keep the last and smallest of the two kilns running -last time I went in it was not. We (said volunteers) do this in exchange for either free slipware or in my case, low temp firing. This seemed like a great deal at first, I was the only one there, I offered to paint a mural, write a grant, and do other things, none of which the owner seems interested in even though often musing they want to improve the walls and convert to a non-profit, -I realize I have no control over their motivation level which seems often to be in the toilet.

Things have deteriorated and now the owner seems to leave to go get lunch or rescue family members as soon as one of us arrives, I end up doing things I said I wouldn't, like cleaning up ppl's rotten dishes in the workroom sink and dumping the garbage instead of trimming greenware. Also I was told they fired to cone 6. They "didn't know they weren't" until I told them 1855 F was around cone 0.6, not 6. This made me realize partly why things are such a mess, including the early work I brought them, which was mostly ruined. They don't know WTF they are doing.  Also, there is no working vent, they don't think it's important enough to fix, so the fumes blow back into the shop and are probably messing with the kiln, also I've tried to explain this is bad to breathe. They have groups of kids coming in to paint slipware sitting in this gas cloud. For this I got poo-poo'd, nobody loves an efficiency expert. Also some of the other volunteers who work there, don't bathe or wash their clothes, so they're scaring business away and me away, and I could go on, but what would be the point, nobody's going to listen to me and for these and other reasons clearly this place will go down the tubes and close soon. Good riddance perhaps. Obviously there is no 'free' lunch and I should just go pick up my greenware and wish them the best. 

Do you think this is a sign I should crack open my savings account and buy a new kiln of my own? -of course you can't answer that, but I probably can. Thanks for reading and I enjoy all your opinions and company regardless. 

Edited by yappystudent

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sounds like there will be a really cheap, badly used kiln for sale soon.  keep an eye open but go far, far away from the day to day.  you do not need their problems and if they suddenly close without warning, you will lose everything that you have in their building.  ask me how i know this (twice) lesson!

Edited by oldlady

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If you can afford a kiln, it would save you a lot of stress and headaches, worth it to have control over your own work. As mentioned above, used kilns on craigslist or others can be had you'll just have to check daily and grab one as soon as you see it. Expanding your search area may help to quicken 'the find'. If you don't have wiring for a larger kiln, maybe a 120v test kiln that you could use to at least make tile, jewelry, trinket boxes and other small handbuilt items, or tiny pottery which is so adorable it almost makes me want to learn to throw.

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Just a bit of a warning about used kilns. There are times when school districts will sell older kilns(some quite new) because of remodeling, updating, or whatever. These kilns are usually not 220/240, but 208. This  can be a expensive to change over to 220/240,  so make certain you get a good look at the manufacturers plate before making any decisions, no mater how good a shape the kiln is in. The last used kiln I bought was actually from a building in the district where I worked. The kiln was an anomaly that I knew of. . . 220/240 as for some reason the school was wired that way!?? 

 

best,

Pres

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If you believe children are being exposed there to toxic fumes, or if patrons think their pots are food safe when they haven't been fired adequately for that to be true. that itself seems reason to stop volunteering there. 

Even if you are not in a position to buy a kiln, you could use the time you now spend volunteering to work elsewhere and earn the fee for firing at a kiln that offerings firing services for a fee.

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Yappy, I had to look at your location....to make sure it was not where I used to be!!  Time to bolt.  Even if you have to take a hiatus until  you can save up enough for a kiln or find a good used one....could be worth it.  My friend likes to tell the story of Ruth Ann Tudball who didn't have a kiln and threw pots for 3 years.....apparently she was reclaiming them.  

Good luck.  I feel your pain, have walked your path.  

Roberta

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It's unfortunate that you are put in this position, for numerous reasons.  One, it is unfortunate, that those running the place are taking advantage of those, who are trying to help out.  Second, it is unfortunate that the owner seems to be lacking both a knowledge and a passion for the Art.  Then to compound all that, there is the disregard for proper procedures and safety, when it comes to the studio.

I would get your own kiln, used or new.  Then I would send/ leave a letter for the owners of the studio, regarding the issues (namely the venting and other safety concerns).  In said letter, I would emphasize the need to take care of those issues, before it becomes a legal matter for them.

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ya know if pottery is your hobby for enjoyment then this sounds like it's ruining it for you. I would second the small test kiln idea if that will get ya going sooner and out of this terrible situation. Although we barely use our little 1 cf  one it would be great for firing a few pieces. I could see 4-5 good size mugs, large bowl or 2-3 small ones, vases etc. Just not many at a time and often just one of something larger. As a hobby though that might be just fine and only cost a buck or two to fire and you can pretty much put it anywhere. My sister in law used one for her first year of glass firing and had it on a little cart with a metal sheet on top sitting is spare bedroom. Wore that little sucker out before she went large. 

Edited by Stephen

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You should probably bail.

However it also sounds like there are customers, and people willing to volunteer. So maybe if the owner is losing money, it is because of their incompetence and not that the location and market are a losing proposition. 

Maybe if you and the other volunteers group together you can offer to take the business to a non-profit status. If they are losing money every month, and the equipment is as bad as it sounds, they would probably do better walking away from the rent payment than hang on a few more months before shutting the doors. 

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This kind of situation is super frustrating.  If you've made offers and been turned down, and given information and had it ignored, then there's not really anything further you can do. If they won't hear your words about you being uncomfortable with the lack of knowledge, hygeine or safety, then it sucks to say, but they don't care.  Definitely time to find some other situation to fire in.  I have never regretted owning my own kiln.

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And... depending upon your interests and time, maybe it's time to open YOUR OWN studio.  If there are people coming in, you could figure out what the revenue/costs are and 'rescue' the community from a BAD situation!

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@ crrclay: The idea has occurred to me of having my own 'lady with the kiln in her garage' small business. I don't know how I feel about that at this point but it's a good suggestion based on what I've complained about. At this point I'm not ready to make the investment of money and time, but if I were to start a small business that would be a good road to go down. 

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yappy, now is the time to do anything with clay classes.  everything goes in cycles.  we are in a "l think i want to learn to make pottery" phase right now.  get on the band wagon before it passes by.

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Definitely worth looking into, but test your willingness to put up with other people's bad habits and your ability to address said habits.... it's been something that I have had to work on (for myself) very hard, nearly every day - I tend to be an "awww.... let it be..." kinda person until it gets to a point where I want to 'splode.  Cleaning is the worst item, and I am *not* a clean freak.

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