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AubreyNM

Questions about clay studio memberships

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Hi everyone, I’m a complete beginner working with clay and I feel like I have a knack for it. I wish I had started learning years ago! 

I’m about halfway through an 8-week wheel pottery class and I know I want to  continue developing my skills when the class is over. There are a couple very close (10-15 minute drive) studios that I’m considering for clay studio membership, but I have a couple questions:

1. What is a reasonable price (per visit, per month, etc.)? 

2. How much should standard brown or white clay cost? One of the studios sells their clay for $3/lb (they also state you cannot bring your own clay) and the other sells 25lb of the same clay for $20. I don’t quite understand how the cost can be so different. Both of these include glazes and firing.

3. What “amenities” do you look for in a studio? For example, one studio offers 24 hour access at a higher cost and the option of a different kind of firing (I don’t know a whole lot about that yet).

I can provide more info if needed, I just don’t know what details are important. 

Thanks in advance!

ETA: This seemed like the right place to post, but I’m not sure! If it’s not, please let me know and I’ll move it.

Edited by AubreyNM

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1. It would all depend on the facilities what is equipment available, how much room do i get to store work and clay, hours open, what kind of firing is available etc.

2. Well it would seem one is selling it by the pound...meaning they are breaking up bags and handing you clay and the other just sells you a premeasured bag they get from the supplier. Its kinda like buying potato chips by the small individual serving or the family sized bag...the big bag is usually a lt cheaper per ounce. The reason i am sure they allow no outside clay is to save their kilns from unknown cone clay melting in a higher cone firing.

3. I would want quality electric wheels, a large slab roller, an extruder, sizable tables to work on, designated safe storage of work while drying or keeping wet, a locker to keep some tools and such in,  kilns that fire often,  a variety of firing option...electric oxidation, gas reduction, etc. If glaze is provided i would want a color chart with fired samples well marked containers and if not commercial glazes then recipes provided so i understand what the glaze is made up of. I would also like the ability to make up glazes from ingrediants and have other commercial glazes allowed to be fired if i can show documentation that they are formulated for the cone to be fired at. I'd also like the opportunity to fire my own kiln if i have that knowledge. Open 24/7 would be fabulous as i am a night owl. I would also want safe parking and a lock on the door once inside the studio.

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The cost of any service, whether a clay studio, a hairdresser, dog-walking... will surely vary according to where you live. 

Where I live, a medium sized city on the West coast of the US, there is actually no place where one can pay a membership fee for open studio hours if one is not enrolled in a class there.

What is customary here is that several studios allow four or more hours a day of open studio time for students enrolled at the time in a class with them. At the community centers, for example, which are buildings funded by the city with things like pools, meeting rooms, weight rooms, and classes, one can take an eight week pottery class for about $200. In the private non-profit studios it would be more like $300-$400. With these one can have access to the studio during business hours, which includes Saturdays, as long as a class is not in session.

Clay comes with the classes, rather than being priced separately, as does access to all the glazes and tools, as well as firing services.

You cannot fire things yourself, mix your own glazes there, or bring in clay or items you have made at home. They want only their own clays and glazes in their kilns.

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whatever else is considered, look for a clean place.  find out how often it is cleaned and if it is done by the potters themselves or hired out.  look for sinks that are accessible and check tabletops for canvas or a surface that can be wiped clean.   your lungs are valuable and you were given only one set for your whole life.  dust is deadly. 

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$3/pound, even including glazing and firing, is ridiculous. All that does is deter people from wanting to make pots, which in turn impacts all the other parts of the business.  An advanced student could easily go through half a bag during a class, so 100 pounds during the session. That's $300 in clay, more than the price of the class. $515 for an 8 week class all together!

I charge $1/pound with glazes and firing. I'm not making big profits there, but people are willing to make a lot of pots and keep taking classes because they're not going broke paying for clay. My classes are $215 for an 8 week session. Find a studio that won't nickel and dime you to death. You don't want to feel like you're going broke every time you go to the studio.

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Hello, and welcome to both clay and the forum!

I think the only thing I'd like to add to the answers above is to check out the community vibe at the centres you're considering, and see what it is that you'll best be able to learn at each of them. Since you're still in your first clay class, you might find that you want lots of instruction time, or technical help available to you for some time yet, rather than a more self directed situation.  Who surrounds you is important. Instructors that will teach you what you want to know are good, but so are the other students, because you support each other in your learning.

You have to decide for yourself if you want to focus on a product vs a process approach to making things in clay.  There is a steep learning curve as I'm sure you've noticed,  and there are a lot of different skills to master.  Some studios want to help their students as much as they can to be able to produce a successful project or two by the end of the class. To do this, they'll show the students a lot of shortcuts, they'll hyper simplify some concepts so they're less overwhelming, and teach habits that are bad if you want to go on to have a more in-depth studio practice (they're fine if you're not though).   It's an approach that encourages people and gives them confidence in their abilities, because you can get projects that work early on and are pretty fun to do.  There's nothing wrong with this at all if you want something rewarding to do with your hands, but don't care if you make a living at it. Other studios will teach a more process based approach, which means that they teach you to be technically correct from the start, but it can be very frustrating because it takes a lot longer to get good. There's also nothing wrong with starting with the first approach and switching to the second if you find later you want to know or do more.  

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Thank you all so much for the information! It's all very helpful!

21 hours ago, PSC said:

2. Well it would seem one is selling it by the pound...meaning they are breaking up bags and handing you clay and the other just sells you a premeasured bag they get from the supplier. Its kinda like buying potato chips by the small individual serving or the family sized bag...the big bag is usually a lt cheaper per ounce. The reason i am sure they allow no outside clay is to save their kilns from unknown cone clay melting in a higher cone firing.

3. I would want quality electric wheels, a large slab roller, an extruder, sizable tables to work on, designated safe storage of work while drying or keeping wet, a locker to keep some tools and such in,  kilns that fire often,  a variety of firing option...electric oxidation, gas reduction, etc. If glaze is provided i would want a color chart with fired samples well marked containers and if not commercial glazes then recipes provided so i understand what the glaze is made up of. I would also like the ability to make up glazes from ingrediants and have other commercial glazes allowed to be fired if i can show documentation that they are formulated for the cone to be fired at. I'd also like the opportunity to fire my own kiln if i have that knowledge. Open 24/7 would be fabulous as i am a night owl. I would also want safe parking and a lock on the door once inside the studio.

PSC, thanks for the analogy! It makes a lot more sense when you put it that way. You gave me a lot of great things to consider and I will definitely keep them in mind as I try to make a decision. As far as mixing my own glazes and firing the kiln, I'm not sure I'm even remotely close to that point but I'd love to in the future. I bought a book about glazes and I'm slowly reading through it. I'll have to ask about the firing schedules as they aren't listed on their web sites.

12 hours ago, Gabby said:

The cost of any service, whether a clay studio, a hairdresser, dog-walking... will surely vary according to where you live. 

Where I live, a medium sized city on the West coast of the US, there is actually no place where one can pay a membership fee for open studio hours if one is not enrolled in a class there.

Gabby, thank you! That's true. I live in the midwest and I would guess almost everything is cheaper here than on the west coast!

12 hours ago, oldlady said:

whatever else is considered, look for a clean place.  find out how often it is cleaned and if it is done by the potters themselves or hired out.  look for sinks that are accessible and check tabletops for canvas or a surface that can be wiped clean.   your lungs are valuable and you were given only one set for your whole life.  dust is deadly. 

oldlady, that's a great point that I hadn't thought of. It's actually one of the reasons I don't want a studio in my home. At the end of each class we are required to wipe down all of the canvas tables with a wet sponge. The place itself isn't the cleanest but it doesn't seem overly dusty.

12 hours ago, Marcia Selsor said:

I can't say, but are they amenities of the $3/pound stated? Like glaze and firings included in the price? 

Marcia

Marcia, I don't think there are any extra amenities to the $3/lb. Both places include glaze and fire in their clay pricing.

8 hours ago, neilestrick said:

$3/pound, even including glazing and firing, is ridiculous.

neilestrick, that's what I was thinking! I was actually planning to call them today to make sure it wasn't a typo but I got stuck at work late. Maybe it's like PSC said and they don't have premeasured chunks (the right word is escaping me at the moment). It sounds like you price things very reasonably.

7 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

You have to decide for yourself if you want to focus on a product vs a process approach to making things in clay.

Callie, thanks for your insight. I like some instruction, but I find I get a bit impatient in my class when the instruction goes on too long. I learn better by doing and by trial and error, so it's more helpful for me to have a brief instruction and then be able to ask questions as I go. I also think I'd prefer a process approach and be technically correct. I'm not really interested in producing for income at this time. Maybe in the future if I ever become really skilled, but for now I just want to make functional pieces for family and friends and exercise some creativity.

Here's a breakdown of the two places I was considering. Sorry, this is a ton of information and a super long post. If you've made it this far and want to comment on it or give any additional advice/suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it. But I totally understand if you don't!

#1 is a small studio that offers a variety of different art classes for all ages. I took my son to a 4-week art class there and liked the vibe.

5 visit pass: $40, limited to studio hours, community shelving

Monthly unlimited pass: $60, limited to studio hours, one shelf

24 hour unlimited access: $110/month (slightly discounted if you pay for 6 or 12 months upfront), 24 hour access, one shelf

Additional shelving available for rent at $8/month, as well as lockers for $10 monthly or $38 for 6 months.

Hours: Tues-Thurs 11am-8 pm, Fri 11am-9 pm, Sat 10 am-9 pm, Sun 12-6 pm.

Clay & Firings: Clay is $3/lb (Standard Brand 306 Brown or 182 White) or $2.50 for reclaimed. Clay cost includes glazes (cone 05-06 & 5-6) and firings. Seasonal Raku firings available for additional fee. No outside clay may be brought into the Studio.

Tools: Basic tools and necessities are available for all Clay Studio users.

Equipment: 4 Brent CXL Wheels, 4 Brent C Wheels, and one Clay Boss electric wheel. Hand building & Sculpting room with large canvas covered work tables with a 23x50 inch North Star Slab Roller. A large cone 5-6 glazing area and 2 L&L Electric and a Kiln Vulcan Electric Kiln.

 

#2 is where I'm currently taking my class. It is a big community art center that offers tons of different arts and theater programs for all ages and it occupies a former school building. My 8-week class was $125 as a non-resident (I live in a different city about 15 minutes away), it's $115 for city residents. That cost includes 25lb of clay, glazing, and firing, and 4 passes to work in the studio outside of class time.

Open Studio Passes: (10 visits) $30/resident; $60/non-resident. This is the only option, there aren't monthly memberships.

Hours: Mon-Thurs 9am-9pm, Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm. Studios are open for independent work as long as there isn't a class in session.

Clay & Firings: $20 for 25 lbs or $9 for 25 lbs of recycled clay. Clay purchases include glazes and firing fees.
#182 White Stoneware
#306 Brown Stoneware
#308 Brooklyn Red (cone 6)
B-Mix (cone 10)
Porcelain (cone 10) is available at additional cost.

Cone 10 Reduction firing is available at no additional cost for studio users. Both the electric and reduction kilns may also be rented if you wish to fire projects from your studio at home.

Tools: You must supply your own tools.

Equipment: 13 Brent wheels, 4 Creative Industries wheels, a variety of cone 6 glazes, large spray booth with pneumatic spray gun, 2 small and 1 large Brent slab roller, 3 extruders with assorted dye cuts

 They don't mention storage, but lockers are available to rent for $25/6 months. I'll be there Monday for class so I'll get more information about storage and shelving then.

 

I was originally leaning toward #1 because it's slightly closer to my house and the 24-hour access would be nice. I have a 14 month old son, so I try to keep my "me time" to when he's in bed for the night and I'd like work around my husband's schedule to avoid getting a baby sitter. I also work part-time as a microbiologist and my schedule changes from week to week, so having access at any time would be ideal. However, that $3/lb clay price just seemed really crazy to me and that's what prompted me to post here in the first place.

Again, thank you all. And extra thanks to anyone who made it to the end of this!

Edited by AubreyNM

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Sounds like you have most of the information you need to make a decision. :)  

note: 24 hour access might be overrated if you're going to be working there all alone. If there are usually lab techs working or firing kilns, will they be available to teach/advise as well?

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is $3 a bag a typo. That is absolutly ridiculous even including bisque and glaze firing. 

so basically you want to get better at the wheel right? that is first priority?

IF you have space at home...

to me it sounds like the best bet would be to continue taking classes (that way you get the community) and work at a wheel at home (maybe you could buy a second hand wheel).  you wouldnt have to keep  everything but you could check what the bisque and glaze firing rates are at the studios around you.  i throw in series and keep a few of the best ones.  the rest i recycle right away. 

a community setting i would go as far to say is ideal for clay. your learning curve grows exponentially in every realm. the right community setting. 

 

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On 4/27/2018 at 11:08 AM, Rae Reich said:

Sounds like you have most of the information you need to make a decision. :)  

note: 24 hour access might be overrated if you're going to be working there all alone. If there are usually lab techs working or firing kilns, will they be available to teach/advise as well?

You’re right, thanks for the reply! After I posted that super long response and read back through it, I decided to stick with #2. I’m planning to take two classes starting next month instead of buying 10 passes. So I’ll be in the studio twice a week for 8 weeks, plus 8 passes to use outside of class. I don’t think they really involve students in the firing process, but since I’ll be there quite a bit I think I’ll be able to convince someone to teach me. 

On 5/5/2018 at 11:29 AM, preeta said:

is $3 a bag a typo. That is absolutly ridiculous even including bisque and glaze firing. 

so basically you want to get better at the wheel right? that is first priority?

IF you have space at home...

to me it sounds like the best bet would be to continue taking classes (that way you get the community) and work at a wheel at home (maybe you could buy a second hand wheel).  you wouldnt have to keep  everything but you could check what the bisque and glaze firing rates are at the studios around you.  i throw in series and keep a few of the best ones.  the rest i recycle right away. 

a community setting i would go as far to say is ideal for clay. your learning curve grows exponentially in every realm. the right community setting. 

 

Thanks for the advice! The $3 is not a typo. I have no idea how they justify that price. 

I have space in my basement and I’d love to get a wheel, I just worry about the mess, dust, plumbing, etc. It’s definitely something I want to do in the future when I have more experience and a good system for cleaning up. 

I like your idea of keeping only the best and immediately recycling. In my class I’ve been keeping almost everything, but I use the “wonky” pieces for experimenting with trimming, texture, or glazing. 

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The idea of only keeping the best stuff is an interesting one.  As an archaeologist (my day job) who studies craft production in the archaeological record I am always interested in what evidence for learning and experimentation survives.  Aside from the academic pursuits, there is value for the potter in working through the whole process, even if the early steps are not perfect.  If you spend years perfecting throwing you will produce great pots with no ability to trim.  By the time you learn to trim, you will have to work through drying and attachments/modifications.  Then there are years to perfect firing and glazing.  At some point you also have to work through the skills needed to market and sell your work. 

By working through the whole process from early on there is the potential to learn many steps of the process simultaneously.  There is certainly value to training on certain parts of the process individually, but it is important to remember that making and selling pottery is a massively complex endeavor with many independent components.  Getting good at just one part does not necessarily move you toward a final goal. 

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2 hours ago, fergusonjeff said:

The idea of only keeping the best stuff is an interesting one.  As an archaeologist (my day job) who studies craft production in the archaeological record I am always interested in what evidence for learning and experimentation survives.  Aside from the academic pursuits, there is value for the potter in working through the whole process, even if the early steps are not perfect.  If you spend years perfecting throwing you will produce great pots with no ability to trim.  By the time you learn to trim, you will have to work through drying and attachments/modifications.  Then there are years to perfect firing and glazing.  At some point you also have to work through the skills needed to market and sell your work. 

By working through the whole process from early on there is the potential to learn many steps of the process simultaneously.  There is certainly value to training on certain parts of the process individually, but it is important to remember that making and selling pottery is a massively complex endeavor with many independent components.  Getting good at just one part does not necessarily move you toward a final goal. 

How wonderful to combine the disciplines! One of my fellow JC students, a middle-aged woman, decided to go into archaeology and I envied her. There has been so much useful information found in shard deposits. And I'm pretty good at fitting pieces back together.....the road not taken. 

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On 5/8/2018 at 7:23 AM, AubreyNM said:

I like your idea of keeping only the best and immediately recycling. In my class I’ve been keeping almost everything, but I use the “wonky” pieces for experimenting with trimming, texture, or glazing. 

I throw a lot.  When I first started even more. I’d have 10 balls of clay - no more than 15 mins a ball and not get up from my wheel till I had thrown all 10.  (If I did more than 10 then i’d get nauseous and light headed - so I always took a break at 10).  I’d trim them. Then line them and decide which ones I liked and which ones fulfilled the goals i’d Set.  Not all 10 made it to trimming because I was cutting them in half. If I could even center.  I remember in begin wheel at the end of the semester my prof complaining I hadn’t thrown enough. I’d been busy handbuilding pieces for glaze testing. So the next semester I put glaze testing on the back burner and focused on throwing. 

I was the only student who destroyed more than kept.  It’s how I learnt to measure the real thickness.  By feeling I’d guess how thick it was and then I’d cut it in half and find how much more thick it actually was. Both after throwing and trimming   

 

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