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shawnhar

1st Practice run at production

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"Awwww, isn't that cute, he thinks 11 pots is 'production'", you might think. I know ,I know but this is a huge step forward for me. personally. It was the 1st  day I could see this might actually be possible.  Between 9:00am and 3:30pm I wedged and threw 50lbs of clay, got all of them off the bat, flipped and wrapped for trimming next visit. My goal was 5 and my wife said I should make it 10, had to stop at 11 after I realized I had nowhere to put these, would have lost most of them without some kind of solution. The studio owner saved me with some temp shelf space, yay!

Forms are pretty basic but that's my level right now, decent walls down to the foot, thicker rims and not leaving a ton of clay around the bottom , throwing a little drier and using the ribs a lot more were  personal accomplishments. No flops or major issues, just a few air bubbles and a dried blob of clay on a ware board - best day so far.

switching to raku clay made a HUGE difference. That b-mix with no grog is like trying to hold a wet noodle compared to this stuff, better for drying and avoiding cracks as well, so i have high hopes for the survival rate on these. Will get to trim them tonight during "day 2" of class.

Thanks to everyone so far for all the feedback, it's made a big difference in my progression. Comments, critiques, criticisms and advice welcomed.

1245013532_0505181514(1).jpg.a3d419be736fe706f6c7d0d8ad16d987.jpg

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59 minutes ago, shawnhar said:

had to stop at 11 after I realized I had nowhere to put these, would have lost most of them without some kind of solution. The studio owner saved me with some temp shelf space, yay!

From someone with lots of experiencing using and teaching in communtiy studios, please be mindful not to ask for extra space on a regular basis. In most group studios, space is always in short supply, often a subject of contention. You are being unfair to everybody else who uses the studio. You are also putting the studio managers in an awkward position of having to accommodate you. 

Your enthusiasm is terrific but does not give you permission to inconvenience others in a shared space. Group studios are for learning and recreation, not for production. 

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What a satisfying sight! 

Hats off to you on your continuing diligence and progress.

If you are using more space than you are entitled to, it would be courteous to offer to pay extra for that service. At the kiln where I fire, they charge us not a flat rate but rather an amount based on how much of the kiln our pieces are using., which is correlated too with how much shelf space we are using.

Edited by Gabby

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What cone are you firing to? Most raku clays will go to cone 10, so if you're glaze firing to cone 5/6, your pots will probably weep. Raku clay should really only be used for raku, maybe for cone 10 if you've tested it and are sure it will be tight enough for functional work. Also, really groggy clays tend to be rough after firing, and more likely to scratch tables. There are better bodies out there for what you're making- lots of options between B Mix and Raku clay. Find a body with fine grog that will mature at whatever cone you're glazing at. 

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Fair point about the shelf space, it is definitely in short supply and I had to wait a couple of weeks to get mine. This is a one time thing to see how much I could do at this level. I would have gladly paid extra for the space but I think it evens out since I paid for a shelf and didn't have one for a while. I am not going to be a nuisance and try to do production volume in this space. If I did this again I would fist find someone with extra space in their private studio I could rent temporarily for the drying process.

Neil, thanks for the info on the clay! I never considered it might be an issue since it was one of the clays the owner suggested would be better for larger objects. he said it did not need to be raku fired and I could use the regular glazes. It did not seem very groggy at all, far less than the white stoneware I tried before, and way less than the brownstone we are using in class. Pretty sure I remember the box for the clay stating cone 5-6 on the outside.

The studio fires cone 5 for bisque and cone 6 for glaze, all electric kilns. They do have a raku glaze contraption outside and I saw it being fired once.

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Some large plastic bins with gypsum wallboard in between stacked inside with rims down would be good solution to storage, and protecting while letting them set up for trimming.

 

best,

Pres

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shawnhar, your bottoms have a lot of clay that is on the sides. do you know about using a sharply angled stick to remove most of it as you finish throwing?  helps a lot.

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If you're shooting to be a production potter you'll need to start making production pots; what you have there are a number of bowls, but none of them match. Granted, not all production work means its the same size/shape, but generally, patrons will come back wanting another bowl to match what they have and you'll have to figure out how to reproduce. There are a number of ways to "measure" work while throwing. My favorite (IMO fastest, and simplest) is that I take a pugged log of clay (any clay will be fine, but it needs to be a thick, heavy chunk; I use about 8# and its 3" thick) and wrap it in a piece of plastic and a rubber band to keep the plastic on. I then shove a long handled plastic paint brush into the log and set the bristles to the height/width to where it needs to be for "x" pot. Keep consistent in the width in which you open your floor and your pots will begin to resemble each other. Weigh your clay and keep your consistency tight; I find 1/8# can throw my sizes off here and there. Another nice thing about the log of clay/paintbrush; wire gets hung off of brush, and needle gets shoved in top. Needs to be heavy and stable so it doesnt shift as you throw down a new ball of clay. keep the bristles wet that way if you run your rim into it, it wont gouge your surface. If you dont wrap in plastic the dimension will shift as the log dries; this is esp true overnight.

   In regards to space; learn to stack pots, both in green and bisque stages. Avoid putting excess weight/pressure on rims (think bottom bowl of stack); try to let weight transfer to bottoms of pot where more support is. You can go to my Facebook page (Sam Hitchman Ceramics) and see a video of my tiny 300 sq foot studio which is packed with about a ton of pots. You can fit them if you're clever.

  Raku clay, aside from being groggy as all get out(as mentioned, scratching table tops, etc), and likely not vitrifying tightly enough for utilitarian purposes(tons of issues) at maturation, is going to contain a lot of fireclay=lots of off gassing=pinholes in your glazes. Use the proper product for the purpose; I use Bmix and love it most of the time, just takes practice. Bisque occurs between ^08-04 typically. Read up on a pyrometric cone chart and stages of firing.

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6 hours ago, hitchmss said:

If you're shooting to be a production potter you'll need to start making production pots; what you have there are a number of bowls, but none of them match. Granted, not all production work means its the same size/shape, but generally, patrons will come back wanting another bowl to match what they have and you'll have to figure out how to reproduce. There are a number of ways to "measure" work while throwing. My favorite (IMO fastest, and simplest) is that I take a pugged log of clay (any clay will be fine, but it needs to be a thick, heavy chunk; I use about 8# and its 3" thick) and wrap it in a piece of plastic and a rubber band to keep the plastic on. I then shove a long handled plastic paint brush into the log and set the bristles to the height/width to where it needs to be for "x" pot. Keep consistent in the width in which you open your floor and your pots will begin to resemble each other. Weigh your clay and keep your consistency tight; I find 1/8# can throw my sizes off here and there. Another nice thing about the log of clay/paintbrush; wire gets hung off of brush, and needle gets shoved in top. Needs to be heavy and stable so it doesnt shift as you throw down a new ball of clay. keep the bristles wet that way if you run your rim into it, it wont gouge your surface. If you dont wrap in plastic the dimension will shift as the log dries; this is esp true overnight.

   In regards to space; learn to stack pots, both in green and bisque stages. Avoid putting excess weight/pressure on rims (think bottom bowl of stack); try to let weight transfer to bottoms of pot where more support is. You can go to my Facebook page (Sam Hitchman Ceramics) and see a video of my tiny 300 sq foot studio which is packed with about a ton of pots. You can fit them if you're clever.

  Raku clay, aside from being groggy as all get out(as mentioned, scratching table tops, etc), and likely not vitrifying tightly enough for utilitarian purposes(tons of issues) at maturation, is going to contain a lot of fireclay=lots of off gassing=pinholes in your glazes. Use the proper product for the purpose; I use Bmix and love it most of the time, just takes practice. Bisque occurs between ^08-04 typically. Read up on a pyrometric cone chart and stages of firing.

Nice teapots on your Facebook page

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Just now, Mark C. said:

Nice teapots on your Facebook page

Thanks Mark. They are much better now that they arent crushing themselves to death. You may or may not remember my seeking advice when they were; had a COE issue which I had overlooked. Problem solved! Thanks to the community in post!

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Wow, tough crowd. ;)

You're doing an awesome job and tackling a steep learning curve well, kudos.

Considering they're planters a little heavy on the bottom might actually be a benefit to the life of the pot, I say that as a veteran gardener with tons of experience using store bought ceramic pots. I second the opinions about clay types, find yourself a nice throwing clay a bit on the groggy side. Sounds like maybe someone pushed some raku clay at you, if it's fine use it up but you can do better and make things easier on yourself -or throw even more pots per day, yay. If I were throwing pots (I'm a handbuilder FYI) I'd choose a basic sandy buff because the earthy color would look nice with plants and it tends to play nice with glazes, behaves and is easy to handle without being quite as 'boring' as white clay. I do tend to use buff/yellow sandy clays whenever I hand-build my own planters and care about the glaze results. However, always do what pleases you personally, the more interest you have in it and you'll produce more/better. 

Edited by yappystudent

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Old Lady,  thickness in the bottoms is still a struggle at this point, making progress and my more recent pots are better, but that is certainly one of the harder things to get a feel for. I get the impression it will "click" somewhere around the 300 pot mark. I am starting to get much more of the clay up into the walls and using the stick to carve off excess from the bottom before removing from the wheel so I am seeing improvement, but it's slower than I would like. I plan to do another throw and cut session Saturday.

Hitch, you are spot on with none of them matching, I probably used the wrong word "production", it was really more "volume" practice to get a feel for "throw and go" just to see how many. It was a valuable learning exercise, out of the 11, 3 bottoms cracked during drying and 3 more cracked during bisque. I also learned the holes should be made while on the wheel rather than at the trimming stage. Thanks for the tips on consistency and stacking! My class is getting better with some more structure and I practiced throwing measured amounts, same shape/height from our previous class, threw 9 mugs in 90 minutes (including wedging/measuring out the clay!) and they were "mostly" the same shape and size, the handles did not have much consistency, but our instructor went over that on Monday and I got a lot out of it. I don't like the raku clay and will be switching back to the B-mix, or "brownstone" I don't plan to be throwing anything over 4 lbs for a while at this point, so I can focus on technique and consistancy, lots of smaller items allows more glaze practice as well.

Yappy, thanks for the encouragement. I like the tough crowd and encourage harsh critique. I find honest appraisal and opinion only happens when folks aren't worried about hurting someone's feelings or squashing their creativity, etc... 

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4 hours ago, shawnhar said:

Old Lady,  thickness in the bottoms is still a struggle at this point, making progress and my more recent pots are better, but that is certainly one of the harder things to get a feel for. I get the impression it will "click" somewhere around the 300 pot mark. I am starting to get much more of the clay up into the walls and using the stick to carve off excess from the bottom before removing from the wheel so I am seeing improvement, but it's slower than I would like. I plan to do another throw and cut session Saturday.

Hitch, you are spot on with none of them matching, I probably used the wrong word "production", it was really more "volume" practice to get a feel for "throw and go" just to see how many. It was a valuable learning exercise, out of the 11, 3 bottoms cracked during drying and 3 more cracked during bisque. I also learned the holes should be made while on the wheel rather than at the trimming stage. Thanks for the tips on consistency and stacking! My class is getting better with some more structure and I practiced throwing measured amounts, same shape/height from our previous class, threw 9 mugs in 90 minutes (including wedging/measuring out the clay!) and they were "mostly" the same shape and size, the handles did not have much consistency, but our instructor went over that on Monday and I got a lot out of it. I don't like the raku clay and will be switching back to the B-mix, or "brownstone" I don't plan to be throwing anything over 4 lbs for a while at this point, so I can focus on technique and consistancy, lots of smaller items allows more glaze practice as well.

Yappy, thanks for the encouragement. I like the tough crowd and encourage harsh critique. I find honest appraisal and opinion only happens when folks aren't worried about hurting someone's feelings or squashing their creativity, etc... 

Shawnhar; I hope my constructive criticism didnt come across as aggressive; sounds like you want honesty and not hollow compliments anyways. Best advice I ever received was some of the most difficult to swallow at the moment. Compliments dont create fortitude!

Im assuming you mean that these planters had drainage holes you put in the base? I always put any holes into my pots when it is leather hard. I use a drill and bit, but the hole cutters, or piece of pipe work just fine too. The push through type require softer clay to avoid cracking, so that may be the cause of your cracks post bisque; might have been there when going into bisque as it may have cracked while/after pushing the hole cutters through (assuming thats how you made the holes). Any standard twist drill bits work wonderfully well for making holes in leather hard, or even semi bone dry pots (the drier, the slower you go with pressure, speed is ok). If you have very large holes (over 1/2") Ive used forstner style bits to make the holes, go slow with pressure on bigger holes; more surface area, more tension/torque. Heres a tea pot of mine with larger (and smaller holes too) all drilled at leather hard; biggest holes are about 1 1/2" in dia.

Cracks could be related to number of other issues though; too thick/thin of floors, lack of compression (cracks "S" shaped?), too much water left in bottom after throwing, stress during trimming/hole making....Sorry to hear they suffered flaws....good glaze tests now, plus, if they're just planters a little extra drainage wont hurt anything.

   Keep on cranking the pots out; Its my belief you wont make good pots until you've made a lot of bad ones. Your goal of 300 sounds great! Every session you're working in the studio shoot for another 1,2,3....5....10....20.... pots per session. Dont sacrifice technique for speed, cut out excess steps, and focus on the process. Often I get in a rhythm when making work and count in my head what step I'm on. Most of my pots have 6 steps; center, open, pull 1, pull 2, rib, finish, repeat....Of course there's a bunch of little steps along the way too, but the gist of it is that I keep my mind in what Im doing, and not thinking about the leaking faucet. Turn and Burn!

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On 5/7/2018 at 6:08 AM, shawnhar said:

"Awwww, isn't that cute, he thinks 11 pots is 'production'", you might think. I know ,I know but this is a huge step forward for me. personally. It was the 1st  day I could see this might actually be possible.  Between 9:00am and 3:30pm I wedged and threw 50lbs of clay, got all of them off the bat, flipped and wrapped for trimming next visit. My goal was 5 and my wife said I should make it 10, had to stop at 11 after I realized I had nowhere to put these, would have lost most of them without some kind of solution. The studio owner saved me with some temp shelf space, yay!

Forms are pretty basic but that's my level right now, decent walls down to the foot, thicker rims and not leaving a ton of clay around the bottom , throwing a little drier and using the ribs a lot more were  personal accomplishments. No flops or major issues, just a few air bubbles and a dried blob of clay on a ware board - best day so far.

switching to raku clay made a HUGE difference. That b-mix with no grog is like trying to hold a wet noodle compared to this stuff, better for drying and avoiding cracks as well, so i have high hopes for the survival rate on these. Will get to trim them tonight during "day 2" of class.

Thanks to everyone so far for all the feedback, it's made a big difference in my progression. Comments, critiques, criticisms and advice welcomed.

1245013532_0505181514(1).jpg.a3d419be736fe706f6c7d0d8ad16d987.jpg

Oops I entirely forgot your desire for an honest critique, here goes: why da fug are you switching back to "wet noodle" or brownstone instead of buying your own decent throwing clay like everyone with experience keeps suggesting? Most clays handle differently from each other. Throwing crap clay isn't like wearing ankle weights, you won't gain much of an advantage over decent clay when you finally switch. Also I'd like to see some brush painting or something decorative on those pots. More pics of finished work pls. :angry:

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Thank hitch, I did not think you were aggressive at all.  The drying is a real issue as I am only in the studio Mon and Thurs nights and Sat day, sometimes the pots are just as wet as they were when I left and sometimes they are over dry, it sucks. Love the idea of the drill bit, though 1/2" is the largest I own at the moment. Losing some of them is no big deal, I pretty much  cont on 30% fail rate right now.  Actually only 2 pots out of everything so far have met my standard and all others a "failure", but my standards are pretty high for this endeavor. I don't really care that someone else is selling mugs like the ones I just made. I'm not happy with the quality yet. Getting closer though, every time I throw and I wrangled some more space at the studio so drying will be better.

yappy, I ended up going to something called "Bunckombe" and I like it so far. I don't know what a good throwing clay is for me yet and I keep trying different ones.  I should have a few finished pots tonight and will post some pics. Decoration is something I haven't really tried yet, gonna try some underglaze on a few of my recent mugs though.

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Shawnhar, I don't understand how the pots can be just as wet as when you left them.  That said, I have had this happen to me during cold wet weather, since my studio is in the basement.

I am looking forward to seeing the pics of the finished ones!

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It's a matter of how tightly they are wrapped. Originally I was using a large plastic bin and they did not dry at all, started putting plastic over them and they dried to much. Wrapped tightly doesn't let them dry. I haven't found the proper air flow so that they dry "some" but not too much, since I am gone for a couple days, sometimes more.  Plus with limited shelf space I have to jam everything together or up on a high shelf where it dries too fast.

 Got the new shelf though and am building a damp box for it with some vents so I can control the drying better.

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Bwahaha! No critic yet.  It’s just half the work.  As we say in our class when someone oohs and aahs over greenware. Hold on. Let’s see if I destroy it with glaze. 

Ive thrown with many different claybodies. Each of them have helped my throwing and trimming skills.  I am lucky I have access to over 20 commercial clays and I’ve fought every one of them. Different grog size. Sand.  I’ve even thrown with sculpture clay.

My favourite clays have nothing to do with throwing. I love altering so the plasticity in the leatherhard stage matters. I’ve found one I really like.

I am so happy that spring is here.  During rainy days left overnight without any cover too wet to trim. Cover in plastic  (rim down) 5 days later still too wet to trim.  

How are you putting your plastic on? Bowls on rim and then the whole piece on wood in large garbage bag scrunched up with tape? Make sure no holes. In summer sometimes I doublebag if I think I am going to be away for long.  If you are worried about space won’t your damp box take up space too? 

Winter is hard time to gauge consistent drying  but now that the rain is gone it’s much easier to control drying. 

As others have pointed out keep on throwing . Build up that muscle memory and boom before you even know it you’d have improved  it really is about the hours at the wheel. 

My pots stopped being murder weapons pretty early as I was destroying more than keeping them. I figured out using the needle tool to gauge thickness of the bottom side. I am still blown away byhow much clay there is in the side bottom of the bowl. 

 

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Ha! - Lots of people were real impressed with the large pieces I was throwing, but exactly one survived, out of a dozen. The damp box is going on my new shelf space, I bartered cleaning for a shelf in someone's studio space.

Got pics of one of the planters and 2 sh***y mugs. Actually the one on the right is my favorite sh***y mug so far, I'm up to around 30 sh***y mugs now... :lol:

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I think it is great that you are working on the smaller items that for so many people are their bread and butter in terms of sales. What do you like, and what do you not like, about these pieces you have shared here? 

One thing that struck me about the mugs, that probably is a back-burner thing as you work on getting the shapes you really want, is that the way you glaze them will really matter.  When people spring for a hand-made mug, it is probably because they want something that feels unique, not at all like, say, Pottery Barn.

I do not have the skill as yet to throw anything large, but when I hand-build large,  they usually warp and look as funky as I do.  

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Gabby, I like the little planter pretty well, rim is nice, has a little foot band at the bottom and the slightly off balance glaze I like as well, it's a decent pot imo. The mugs are something I have decided I will try to make 5 or 10 every time I sit at the wheel, until I feel good about them. I don't like that they are wildly different, the one on the left has a handle that sicks out way too far and is too thin, and it is not round on the rim, at all. The other mug is decent, handle could be shaped better for my hand and the rim could be a tad thinner, but overall better than most of the previous mugs.

Mark I am done with that clay for anything large, and handles are a pain right now and most of them suck, which is why I am going to do a few mugs every time now so I can practice, plus glazing. These 2 were glaze tests of "floating blue", it runs like crazy and have to be careful, but I agree, and my other mugs waiting to be fired have more than one glaze.

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