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shawnhar

Let's critique my throwing skills

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8 months in and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface but I'm getting much better at centering, opening, pulling and shaping. I'm still not purposeful in a way that demonstrates mastery, I might shape 3 or 4 times or realize it's thick at the bottom and have to pull and shape again, still get the wobbly rim and have to trim it , etc... and I haven't mastered the smooth transition of the super efficient "centering/opening/pulling" technique that I saw in a utube vid that I can't find now; it was one fluid step from centering through first pull and I often get a wobble when opening, but I've it done successfully a few times. I read that mugs are pretty much 70% of your sales as a production potter so that is where 70% of my effort is going, and I feel like it has definitely paid off in the quality of my mugs. Iv'e tried to absorb all the feedback you have already given here, like thinner and rounded rims, handle shapes, etc.. and the video is a good representation of where I'm at as far as ability, technique and speed. 

Anyway... I'm looking for hardcore "I don't care if you like me" feedback. The forum is filled with nice people (which is a good thing!) but I don't want nice, I want critical feedback that I can use to improve my skill. I want to be better, and I would like you, to tell me what I'm doing wrong, or what I should work on to reach my goal of being a production potter. I am at the point where bad habits might become muscle memory if I don't change them now and I plan on making a thousand mugs next year, so I am looking for input that will help me be a professional, so any critique and/or advice from someone that's been doing this longer than me will be very valuable to me.

I appreciate your consideration, now let the flaming commence...

 

Edited by shawnhar
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I really do not want to be in the teaching throwing mode . Thats one reason I avoided teaching.

After looking at your vid while have my daily expresso on lunch break from studio-I will add a few points going from a professional .

I can suggest saving you a lille time-after you cut the ankle with your stick use a needle tool parallel to wheel head to remove that foot trimming-its very fast and cleaner. Also throw those on small bats (I use homemade plaster as that dries bottoms at same rate as tops)its also faster.

I'm not a rib guy but I once was so I;'ll not say a thing there-the rest looks fine-a bit wasted time in the water bucket but hey you are newer at this.

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A time saver might be to adjust your first pull into a bulk pull (I use my palm and force the cylinder into a volcano), scrape the slip while it's in a cylinder and cut the foot while it's in a cylinder and then belly it's shape as a finish.  But it looks good.  If you're comfortable with your form and want to really speed things up, make some tombo sticks and throw them off the hump.  

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Thanks Mark, I feel the same way about teaching anything and appreciate you taking the time to watch the vid and give feeback.
You know, looking back at the video it does seem like I spend a lot of time going to the water bucket. I did a session of 50 mugs in one day to practice speed a while back, and I ended up with a buch of "boogers" from where I had not cleaned off my hands, or the tools, so I changed my steps to include a lot more cleaning, trying to avoid that. I have noticed I need to spend less time creating slip if there is enough wet area to spread what slip is alreay there to the rest of the pot, and I do see less time in the water bucket as more efficient, just haven;t gotten there yet. 
I had not thought of using the needle tool instead of the stick for the bottom but I will incorprate that into my next session! I have seen vidoes of people using right angle V shaped trimming tools used to do both at the same time and planned on making some from old hacksaw blades. 
 - "Not a rib guy" is a pretty intresting statement, I'm curious if that is a product of years of use and realizing you didn't/no longer need it or more of a "end result is the same" and abandoning it to save time. 
 - Do you wire/remove your mugs from the wheel or leave them on the bat? It seems like what kind of bat would be irrelevant if you wire them off and put on a ware board.

Thanks liambesaw, I have tried the 1st pull palm thing but ran into problems with the clay drying out too fast and creating a ton of torque on my palm so not able to complete the pull. I have seen different clays be able to resist that torque more than others, or stay slippery longer, which is very much the reason I keep moving to less grog/more plastic clays. 
 - I got a ton of S cracks trying to throw off the hump, which I'm sure is due to my newbness, but if I wanted to have 100 mugs for the farmer's market I was just going to have to do what worked before. Throwing off the hump is high on my list of things to master, as one of my hopeful mainstays is little 4 oz ramikens sold for cheap, my wife sold the heck out of them at 5 bucks and I could really crank those things out if throwing off the hump.

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Very cool, the torque and s-crack thing are probably related to the clay, but you're doing awesome dude, progressing way faster than me!  Have you been recording yourself for a while?  I have been recording myself and watching it when I'm trying to address a specific issue and it's pretty helpful.

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I tend to leave my finger marks-I used to make pots look smith but I actually like the marks that made them same is true with small glaze finger marks. It shows how its hand made-factory stuff is always so perfect-we on the other hand are not. 50 mugs is a three hour job here after 45 years of this work. minus the handles-which is another 3 hours.Usually 2 days a week .

100 mugs a week is the norm.especially holiday time.

You do need to keep the slop off fingers for sure-you are a towel guy  so you could use that more?-I do not use one except when working with large forms that require me to not use a splash pan due to size.

I use a sponge in my hand a lot while throwing.(those 3 inch round hydra ones) that are yellow -the older the better I do not think about the details anymore at all.Like breathing you do not think about the lung movements anymore.

I throw all small stuff on small plaster bats-you never needle them or cut them as the pots dry and pop off as soon as you can pop them off. I only wire pots using plastic or formica bats which is larger forms over 8 #s for me. I use 2 sizes of homemade plaster bats -look up old pots on this as I showed how to make them years ago.I do not like walking the same path  over and over so use the search function  for this or just read my old posts

I never throw on the wheel head.I do trim pitchers on the wheel head wet bottoms tap center then trim.

As to off the hump its only small 10cm lids for me -honey pots and jam jars-after trimming you have to tap the centers with a tool to compress the center to stop the s cracks its little trick I learned in the 70s.

I got go back to work-its the season

but wait theres more-I make 5sizes and 3 styles of mugs

from soup mugs to motion mugs and 5 sizes of standard mugs

The 5 sizes  of standard are

3/4 

1#

1 1/4#

1 1/2#

2#

depending on the size and style they can take less or more time so thats a factor as well.These weights are all in the he 2018 Feb issue of ceramics monthly along with all my forms list with weights.

I throw everything in series on ware boards that hold up to 7-10 bats depending on size so I get up when the board is full and put them away and get new board-all boards have bats on them-you learn to be efficient in this business 

If its a hobby no need to go thru this much motion management .

when you start moving over 10 tons a year and it takes 12 moves from buying clay to sell those wares you learn fast to move it as little as possible .Hobbists can move things a lot more with zero downside.Not me

hands ,wrist .and backs,legs and feet all take a beating.

Edited by Mark C.

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My only comment, as I do not throw nearly as well as you do, is that I hope as you start doing lots of volume at the wheel, you consider some kind of complementary stretching program so you do not develop back problems from so much leaning  into throwing position.

Maybe you are young enough not to worry about this, but still...

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Gabby I hope your speaking to shawnhar as I'm a 65 year old with a kids brain-I'm all ready all stretched out.Had the back problems already-back in my 20's then in my 40's now Its all good except the wrist back neck feet, arms legs and brain.

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@shawnhar for someone who is 8 months in, overall your movements look very sound. I have a few suggestions:

Center your clay into a “hockey puck.” The proportions can vary from an actual hockey puck, but center your clay into a shape with a flat top and vertical sides. This sets you up to throw a more even walled cylinder. Currently, you are centering into a shape with a domed top, bellied middle, and a large buttress at the bottom. You have to overcome all that uneven distribution in order to throw an even-walled pot. This may not register as extra work on a small pot like a mug, but it will definitely get in your way on larger forms. This doesn’t mean all of your forms need to be cylinders, you can shape them into anything you want after you have gotten your clay up into a cylinder. 

Speaking of buttresses, pay attention to buttresses and get rid of them! I used to say to my students “the buttress is your enemy.” It prevents your fingers from getting close enough to the base of your wall. On larger forms, it actually sucks clay downward and outward, no matter how hard you are pulling upward and inward. Allowing a buttress to persist and grow is basically ensuring that you will throw a heavy-bottomed pot. On a small pot, just scrape it off with your fingertip whenever you see a buttress forming. On a larger pot, you may need to use an angled tool (wood or metal) to scrape them off. As much as possible, you want the base of your wall to meet the wheelhead at a right angle. 

On the first mug you threw, you shaped it into a nice shape around the 3 min mark, at which point I thought you were done. Then you continued to shape it into a totally different shape. Why? In all of the work you’ve posted on this forum, I sense a lack of “intentionality,” or that you are unsure or indecisive about shaping. Your video proved me right! At 8 months, this is not something you should have nailed down yet, but it’s something you should work towards. Intentionality is crucial for a pro, ie knowing in advance what form you are aiming for, and going directly to that result. “I”m just going to allow the clay to tell me what shape it wants to take today” is not for pros. 

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Nice work Shawn! Smooth an' easy, nice.

I keep a large (Hulk size, o'course) sponge at the wheel (a grout sponge cut to about two thirds full size) - handy for cleaning hands, basin edge, tools, etc.; the smaller sponges - round and cut pieces of larger sponges (thanks Bill VG for that tip - purpose cut shapes) - are handy for working with the piece. Any road, I rag for drying only - hands, wheel head - not cleaning.

At top of third pull, looks like a bit o'wobble introduced (~2 mins)? As reaching top of pull, slow the wheel (and therefore vertical speed) a bit, and remove hands/tools from work slooow and easy. Errm, maybe that wobble was a'ready there, idk. O'course, I still get wobbles, just startin' out here - less often than a few month ago, however.

Looks like you keep just a few tools in the pan, easily found, aye. I'm engraining habit of putting tools down in same place (on right of pan for me, as clockwiser…), from right to left: needle, metal rib o'death, two wood knives, two wood ribs, bucket, small sponges in front o' bucket, Hulk sponge propped in back o'bucket, corked string (for hump cuts) and wire hanging off back o'bucket. Some o' the accomplished throwers spend time casting about for encrusted tools, heh.

I toss the wetter clay and smoodge into the wet reclaim bucket just off my right foot, onna floor; the dryer chunks and clumps I'll pile up and later toss into the dry out (to later re-slake) bucket, hence the water bucket doesn't load up as quickly. ...which ain' faster, maybe slower.

I'm ribbing the outside and using leather on the rim as well; looks like I'm wringing out the leather more - not much difference there.

I'm not wiring off wet work - shuffling bats for me, else off the hump, and there, have found that taking a bit more clay (to later trim away, ugh) on the base to grab reduces the chance of deforming the work. Lately, just lids off the hump, as I'm measuring clay ball weight - trying for uniformity. I use plaster bats onna clay pad most o'th'time, powder board and plastic bats else.

I'm not finding a lot of production/repeat work vids to watch out there; the Clinton vids are, imo, good. There's a few others. Check out ton a day Isaac Button.

Clinton points out that making the same moves =repeat work. Aye that! He doesn't use any measuring sticks, don' need'm. Wow. Hence, I'm working on repeating the moves.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMjn7CrZp2vIqT1BwA8sZUQ

 

Short version: try using a big sponge to clean hands, tools, etc. Put it down all wrung out and ready for next time.

 

Second vid (is that Neil E? Hi Neil!), note full cone up an' down (more than magic three, he went four); imo, this is key to round and true work, for the clay is more homogenized and fully swirled about (err, "aligned particles" - meh, don' have a scanning electron microscope handy). From there, note attention to centering (no run out) before starting to open.

  Openin' - yeah, ah can't do that, my nervous system bein' what it is. I'm steading my hands on the piece whilst opening, just what it is, hence it's two thumbs for me, one feels, one supports, and the hands steadied by the centered lump. If the lump is running out, then stop, not time to open yet.

  Startin' th' pulls, note the time/revs spent at the bottom, getting clay moved into position; can't rush that.

Nice work! Thanks Babs

Edited by Hulk
homophone correction

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All these comments are right-on.

My suggestion is to throw more bigger stuff. I think it will give you a better feel for the distribution of clay in the form when you're not working so small. That 12" cylinder is still a superior teaching tool.

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Shawn, watching you throw your technique is actually pretty good a couple of small suggestions, a little downward pressure on the rim as you open helps to seal the outside of the  ring to the bat and helps to maintain center, staying perfectly on center at all time is absolute key to throwing well and maximizing the available clay. Hulk is spot on, work on timing you are releasing hold on the clay a bit to fast, take some time at the end of every action to allow the clay time to completely adjust to the last move will cure much of the wobble that holds you back latter in the throwing process. keep up the good work, you are doing exceptionally well for your time on the wheel.

clark

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6 hours ago, Hulk said:

 

Second vid (is that Neil E? Hi Neil!), note full cone up an' down (more than magic three, he went four); imo, this is key to round and true work, for the clay is more homogenized and 

Yeh with a mere 3lbs of clay. 131/4 inches.......

Could be a starting exercise with a dozen balls each throwing day.

Smooth operator..

Edited by Babs

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Thanks, Babs! So that video is my attempt at the 12 inch cylinder challenge, which is throwing a 12 inch cylinder in 3 pulls with 3 pounds of clay. So it's not my 'normal' throwing. I coned it extra to make sure it was perfect, and pulled a lot slower and thinner than I normally would, and in fewer pulls.

Anyway, as you can see in that video, I'm leaning over a lot, which is necessary for larger pots, but it's what you ( @shawnhar ) are doing in your video with a small pot, and it's going to kill your back some day. So try to sit up a little more and lean from the waist, don't bend your back.

You've got a lot of wasted movements in that process, but you're probably not pressed for time to produce a certain amount like some of use, so I wouldn't worry too much about it, but do have in your mind exactly what form you're making before you even cut up your clay. That way everything you do moves you toward that finished piece, and you'll end up being more successful in achieving your goal.

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On 11/30/2018 at 11:53 PM, Mark C. said:

Gabby I hope your speaking to shawnhar as I'm a 65 year old with a kids brain-I'm all ready all stretched out.Had the back problems already-back in my 20's then in my 40's now Its all good except the wrist back neck feet, arms legs and brain.

Yes, I was speaking to Shawnar. I know you have your whole throwing act very well  in order.

My husband is your same age and went to the doctor maybe a month ago with backpain that a physicians assistant had hypothesized as a herniated disk.

The real doctor on seeing him said, "You are too old for it to be a herniated disk!"

Age has some benefits.

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Awesome feedback guys!

Liam I have only recorded myself a few times, I meant to do it more often but never got around to it. I agree It is really helpful to watch yourself 3rd person.
Mark that is really intresting, I am going to skip the rib on some of my next batch and see how they turn out. I could throw 50 mugs in 3 hours if I had all the clay balls ready and was making one shape, but the handles would take MUCH longer! My goal was 40 mugs a week next year but I realized my studio (aka, my bathroom) is not big enough to support that volume of production, well maybe, if I did'nt make anything else, only mugs, maybe. -I'm going to try using a large sponge for finger slop and try throwing with a sponge in my hand to see if I can avoid the towel and the bucket more. - I'll have to look into getting some small bats and will look up ur your old posts! 
 - You make a 2# mug? Good grief that thing must be more like a beer stein, lol.
Gabby thanks for the suggestion of stretching, gotta keep the body in shape!
 - Dangit now I want to practice throwing a 3 pull 3 pound cylinder but I don't have time right now, after xmas... challenge accepted!
Mea thanks for the hockey puck tip, using it right now and it's working great! You are spot on about being intentional, I would say that is my biggest weakness right now. Changing the shape, you got me....I just changed my mind mid throw and decided it need to be the other shape, "unsure and indecisive about shaping" is exactly right. I'm still experimenting a little, not every time I throw but I'm not trying to make exactly the same shape every time either, I'm trying to put tons of varience into my mugs bowls and vases because I don't know what sells so it's hard for me to nail down a specific shape and make it on purpose, feels like everything is just a market test to see if it will sell, if so then, great, make more of "those". I see that is kind of backwards, the correct path is "make 20 of these, on purpose", if they don't sell, don't make more, but if they do you can make more because you made those on purpose.
Thanks Mark, the large sponge is a good tip, just threw 9 mugs and it helped, added a clean water bucket and dry with towel, bam! I do need to watch it letting go of the piece gently, happens when I'm trying to rush the process. I kind of have to wire off my mugs right now so I can put them on ware boards, don't have any bats to use like that, the ones I do have are 12" and take up too much space.
I thought he almost lost it at the 59 second mark but recovered, then the same thing happened next piece, and the next, that wheel is spinning super fast! I can't throw that dry or fast without torquing the clay and losing it. I think I need another thousand under my belt, lol. Watching that video made me try to go faster and I lost 2. 
Rae I am all over that 12" cylinder practice after xmas
Clark I agree about releasing too fast, will work on that, nice tip on the ring pressure when opening, I'll give that a try.
Neil thanks for the insight on posture, I have one of those "reminder belts" for my back and haven't been wearing it. I got into the habit of really leaning in like that when centering started getting easier, I'll work on keeping my back straight and mindfulness  of what I'm doing.

Had a great sales day at the Farmer's Market, at least to me, sold 17 mugs and a few other things, 350 in sales was well above what I hoped for considering the venue and rain.
Next day was open house sale at the studio and I sold all my seconds mugs for 5 bucks so I ended up doing over 450 for the weekend, a milestone for me for sure!

2104476987_farmersmarket_small.jpg.db8099ffdf6c7ab04621749ada437470.jpg

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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?  

  

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Thanks Stephen, I signed up for the 4 Saturdays leading up to xmas so I have 3 more to go this one is only open 3 hours, figured it might be a good toe dipper, I need some experience. I had 100 mugs and over 100 other pieces, making more mugs today as I'm off work due to IT issues. I do plan to do regular shows, as many as I can get in next year, my wife is selling her store and is going to work with me to try and make pottery a reality, we hope to do a bunch of shows and explore other avenues of selling, my current goal is to sell 12k in 2019.

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On 12/1/2018 at 9:22 AM, GEP said:

@shawnhar for someone who is 8 months in, overall your movements look very sound. I have a few suggestions:

Center your clay into a “hockey puck.” The proportions can vary from an actual hockey puck, but center your clay into a shape with a flat top and vertical sides. This sets you up to throw a more even walled cylinder. Currently, you are centering into a shape with a domed top, bellied middle, and a large buttress at the bottom. You have to overcome all that uneven distribution in order to throw an even-walled pot. This may not register as extra work on a small pot like a mug, but it will definitely get in your way on larger forms. This doesn’t mean all of your forms need to be cylinders, you can shape them into anything you want after you have gotten your clay up into a cylinder. 

Speaking of buttresses, pay attention to buttresses and get rid of them! I used to say to my students “the buttress is your enemy.” It prevents your fingers from getting close enough to the base of your wall. On larger forms, it actually sucks clay downward and outward, no matter how hard you are pulling upward and inward. Allowing a buttress to persist and grow is basically ensuring that you will throw a heavy-bottomed pot. On a small pot, just scrape it off with your fingertip whenever you see a buttress forming. On a larger pot, you may need to use an angled tool (wood or metal) to scrape them off. As much as possible, you want the base of your wall to meet the wheelhead at a right angle. 

On the first mug you threw, you shaped it into a nice shape around the 3 min mark, at which point I thought you were done. Then you continued to shape it into a totally different shape. Why? In all of the work you’ve posted on this forum, I sense a lack of “intentionality,” or that you are unsure or indecisive about shaping. Your video proved me right! At 8 months, this is not something you should have nailed down yet, but it’s something you should work towards. Intentionality is crucial for a pro, ie knowing in advance what form you are aiming for, and going directly to that result. “I”m just going to allow the clay to tell me what shape it wants to take today” is not for pros. 

Great tips Mea!

I try and emphasize "Keeping the cylinder" with my students, but many of them either forget about it, or just disregard it.  I usually break throwing down in to; Centering, Opening, Pulling, and Forming.  Once they get all the pulls done, *then* they can worry about the form.  There are exceptions of course, for things like plates and such, but hey, there are always exceptions.

I've never used the phrase "The buttress is your enemy", but I may have to.  I will of course, have to explain what a buttress is, and get past the giggling, but if I can show teenagers how to pull a handle with minimal giggling, anything is possible...

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41 minutes ago, Benzine said:

I've never used the phrase "The buttress is your enemy", but I may have to.

The entire phrase I used in class was “The buttress is your enemy. Kill it!” I swear I’m not a violent person, but those buttresses are evil. 

Edited by GEP

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Just going to add one more critique, I don't see you compressing the rim with your fingers after making a pull.

You seem to be taking a fair bit of time trimming the excess clay from the base of the pot with your wood knife. I find one of the Dolan turning tools works better than a wood knife for removing the clay. I use it first vertically then horizontally against the batt / wheelhead to remove the skirt.  (I use the 11E one of these https://cdn3.volusion.com/pycz3.5je7j/v/vspfiles/photos/DT11E-3.jpg?1532342457 ) 

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1 hour ago, GEP said:

The entire phrase I used in class was “The buttress is your enemy. Kill it!” I swear I’m not a violent person, but those buttresses are evil. 

You could take the "Karate Kid" approach.  "Buttresses do not exist, in *this* dojo (studio)!"

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3 hours ago, shawnhar said:

Thanks Stephen, I signed up for the 4 Saturdays leading up to xmas so I have 3 more to go this one is only open 3 hours, figured it might be a good toe dipper, I need some experience. I had 100 mugs and over 100 other pieces, making more mugs today as I'm off work due to IT issues. I do plan to do regular shows, as many as I can get in next year, my wife is selling her store and is going to work with me to try and make pottery a reality, we hope to do a bunch of shows and explore other avenues of selling, my current goal is to sell 12k in 2019.

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).   

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shawnhar, late to the party but i only have one comment.  the handles shown on the mugs at your sale look very far away from the mug.   at my age, that is uncomfortable, supporting the weight with only my little finger is hard.    you do look like a happy person having a good time, keep it up.

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