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QotW: What is a realistic amount of time to spend before being able to produce quality thrown forms on the wheel.Meaning ones that others will want (not family members)

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Mark C. asked a poignant question of late that figures in to a lot of discussion that has reappeared concerning quality of work, pricing, and sales. Mark's question posted in the QotW pool is:QotW: What is a realistic amount of time to spend before being able to produce quality thrown forms on the wheel.Meaning ones that others will want (not family members)  1 year   2 years  3 years   4 years   5 years   longer?

I find this to be quite appropriate, but maybe not inclusive enough. When I first learned to throw, I was in the studio for a 10 week course in the Summer. I had a night job that left my days open, as it also had flexible hours, posting liability ledgers in a bank. During the 10 week course, I had a 2 hour class 3 times a week. I spent 5 hours in the studio minimum every class day. I also mapped out the class schedule of final due dates, firing due dates and such so that once I started making pots, I kept nothing. Then the week before final bisque deadline I kept everything I made. 9 pieces to show for the class. Got an A for the course, worst yet was hooked on the wheel and clay. 

The point of this is that intensive training will definitely move one along faster, and non distracted intensity over a few years would do much more than hobby potting a few nights week. Maybe you get my point now about years vs. intensity. I believe it is a good discussion, that will lead into venues such as apprenticeships, MFA degrees with required residency, work study programs or even jumping in with both feet into a startup. Hmmm lots to think about. So please horn in on Mark C's excellent but thought provoking question.

 

best,

Pres

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I'll let you know when I get there.  Like pres, I think hours is probably a better measure than years.

I can throw a nice even mug the same way pretty much every time, and I've got 10 months of "recent" wheel throwing under my belt now.  But I have a wheel at home and I am throwing for about 3 hours a night, 5 days a week.  Weekends are mostly glazing and firing so I'm only at the wheel maybe 4 hours.  So that's around 19 hours a week, for 44 weeks, 836 hours total so far and I'm just now feeling confident I can sell my mugs and bowls.

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Pres,

There is a lot to be said about the 10,000 hours of practice ... .  I don't remember the rest of the story.  Practice not only of throwing, but designing work that is interesting and desirable.  Well thrown pots can be ruined with poor choices of glaze and glaze applications.  

40 hours practice per week leads to about 5 years of practice (+/- a year or so).  


LT

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11 minutes ago, Magnolia Mud Research said:

Pres,

There is a lot to be said about the 10,000 hours of practice ... .  I don't remember the rest of the story.  Practice not only of throwing, but designing work that is interesting and desirable.  Well thrown pots can be ruined with poor choices of glaze and glaze applications.  

40 hours practice per week leads to about 5 years of practice (+/- a year or so).  


LT

Are you saying 10000 hours before someone will want to buy your work?  That seems excessive!

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10 minutes ago, Magnolia Mud Research said:

 Well thrown pots can be ruined with poor choices of glaze and glaze applications.  

 


LT

Well thrown pots are not necessarily well designed either functionally or aesthetically.

 

best,

Pres

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12 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

Are you saying 10000 hours before someone will want to buy your work? 

well, PT Barnum didn't think so.  
My perspective is that the customer  controls of what is bought, while the supplier controls what is offered for sale.   
 

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The 10,000 hr thing is to be a master, at anything, it's a generality of how many hours it takes to master any skill.

"Others will want" is pretty vague, I started selling pots I made in the 1st week of throwing, for dirt cheap, they were terrible. Around 500lbs I started getting better, but at 1000lbs I started having some confidence and felt better about selling a few mugs at the going price.

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I can't speak for others, but throwing took me a long time to learn. I do remember selling a few (worthy, competent) small items around year 3.  They were my best pieces at the time, and not produced in any sort of volume.  I agree that year numbers are a bit arbitrary, and intensive study matters. I needed every minute of those 10,000 hours to make things that, even if I can do better now, I'm not ashamed of. 

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I was taking recreational pottery classes while working full-time as a designer. During those years I was also building up a freelance design practice on the side, so for several years I was working 1.5 full-time jobs. Pottery was my much needed stress relief on weekends. It took me eight years before I was making pots that I would consider “sellable.”  Sure I sold some pots before that, mostly at my studio’s holiday sale, and at some small local fairs, but I would call those pots “student pots” not “professional pots.” The people who bought them had the same expectation.

So for me, it was eight years of serious weekend practice. At that point I bought my own equipment and started working out of my own studio. This was a huge turning point, because it’s when I could finally make all of my own decisions, and especially to develop my own glazes. Before then, I really didn’t have control over how/when my pots got fired, and I was using the same clay/glazes that everyone else at my studio was using. Which means those pots were not MINE to the extent that professional pottery needs to be.

I would add that to the factors that make someone work professional-grade. Skill, aesthetics, sound science, and ORIGINALITY. If you can only make pots that look like somebody else’s, that’s not professional. 

Edited by GEP

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1 hour ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I can't speak for others, but throwing took me a long time to learn. I do remember selling a few (worthy, competent) small items around year 3. 

This requires some brutal honesty and a merciless hammer. A person once told me there was enough crap pottery in the world she didn't want to add to it. She was a forthright person and I liked her.

I sometimes garage sale or cruise thrift stores with potters who find their own work. They smile and handover a few dollars and if necessary say something like "ya' - it's ok" all the while thinking how quickly the hammer will fall. I like these people too.

I hope to find something of my own one day and it would be nice to feel as though it deserved a good home away from hammers and rocks and piles of shards.

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Mea makes the vital point here, I think.  Many people seem to find a market, at least for awhile, with pots that are "student pots."  Different people will buy them than those who seek only professional work.

I don't think this is particular to ceramics. There is a market for clothing that is not well made as well as a different one for well made clothing.

There is a market for prepared foods that have their issues as well as for gourmet.

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I started selling my pottery after 4 months of working on it 1 day a week. I have (hopefully!) improved since then, but I started selling it when I felt it was good enough for a stranger to buy it and like it. Worked out fine. :)  Plenty of pieces ended up in the trash though and I was very selective about what I would offer up for sale.  

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Pots "that others will want" is not the goal. Consistent reproduction of the product is. How long does this take to learn? That depends on whether who is teaching you can guide you into handles, lids, spouts, and gets you up and running.  Throwing the consistent cylindrical form takes patience, or about 6 months of 8 hour days working, but thats not to say 8 hours at the wheel. Maybe about half your time is spent on marketing (not part of your 8 hours, sadly), and studio time is divided up between the many tasks. The important thing here is not the "training" but rather the ineffable process of the body recording "muscle memory" - sort of like learning to ride a bicycle or play guitar. Don't expect to be playing gigs at local clubs after on 6 months of learning guitar. But you can learn guitar that will be enjoyable to others. Same with clay. Any professional artist who wants to stay in the game is a full time worker. You hear a lot of complaints about this, but its not really changed much since the 1960's.

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What's a realistic amount of time to spend...

    Time at the wheel vs. calendar time, yep; "quality" focused time, yep on that as well.

...to produce quality thrown forms...

   I'll add consistent in thar, in terms of the keep to slake ratio high and repeat forms as well.

From there, I'll echo idk, as I'm not yet peddling; I believe some of my pieces are plenty good enough, however, the keep to slake ratio is low and I'm not repeating very well. Furthermore, I'm tweaking the shapes and styles. When I see* where a groups of pots can go on a shelf together, then I'll put'm out there. 

From what I've seen over the last year*, range appears to be never to a many months of focused regular practice, most somewhere in between.

    Never - just that; some of us will never learn to swim well either.

    "Several" months - where some pieces are good; the keep to slake ratio may be low, but there's a few good'n's every once't while, really. I'm basing this on what I've seen, not my own work, ahem.

I'm feeling lucky to have spent two semesters in a fully appointed lab ~eight hours week - there's no substitute for being with others, imo. Whilst there is lots of good info in books, magazines, utube, etc., they don't depict how mistakes are made very well (haha, which in Wheel I we're all doing - one can learn a lot from mistakes), also real life examples of sound skills (each does things just a bit differently, right?) besides many other dynamics. Any road, I'm not seeing where it would be easy to find a throwing teacher around here - there's the wheel, do this, go.

What type of experiences have others had mentor/mentee (wow, actually dictionary word) in wheel? Else has in person "influence by others" been mostly by watchin'? 

I'm a gonna go throw for a while. :|

* "see" in the sense that things we've become interested in are alla sudden seen differently, and that seeing evolves, perhaps quickly at first, as our interest/knowledge/skill/taste... evolves.

Edited by Hulk
few < several

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11 hours ago, C.Banks said:

I sometimes garage sale or cruise thrift stores with potters who find their own work.

It's always an odd feeling when you see one of your pots at a 2nd hand store. What is really funny is I once found one that they were selling for more than I originally sold it for :blink: Can't say that I've ever bought one back to trash.

Maybe another way of looking at Mark's question is how many pots did you make before you no longer felt like you wanted to take a hammer to them after a few years more of making pots.

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4 hours ago, C.Banks said:

This requires some brutal honesty and a merciless hammer. A person once told me there was enough crap pottery in the world she didn't want to add to it. She was a forthright person and I liked her.

 

I like her philosophy too. I *love* the hammer as a pottery tool.

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The way I look at this QOTW is more about my competency in being able to produce objects on the wheel, and not about when I made "good" objects, whether those be for sale, or in comparison to my other works.

I also agree that it is more a measure of intensive, focused hours of practice than it is years of dabbling/making/etc.

What I tell students is that in the beginning while learning to throw they are going to be "taking" what the wheel and the process gives them; yes they have input, but once things begin to go awry, they do their best to keep it from flopping, and call it good enough. The point at which they are able to sit down, and produce any object they want, in just about any (realistic) size they want, is the point where I consider them to have mastered the throwing process. For me, this took me about my first 8-10 years, and its been another 8-10 years since that point. There are definitely objects or sizes that challenge my skills, but it has become a process like breathing in  which I dont have to think about it much, if any, and I just do. While I feel that I have "mastered" the wheel, I definitely do not believe that I have nothing left to learn from the wheel; it is a process in which I will continue to grow in my technical abilities for the rest of my life......i.e for now throwing 15#, 1/4" thick bowls takes relatively little effort, and one day I will be throwing 30# bowls with the same ease.

However, many have noted the other exhausting lists of skills that need to be honed to make "generally admirable" work, let alone work that is designed well for its utilitarian purposes; form, surface, glaze chemistry, eutectics, equipment handling, studio management....all these "broad" categories take years/lifetimes to hone.....it took me about 4 years, maybe 200 firings of my gas kiln to truly understand and with relative precision how to predict how each zone of the kiln will react....the next new kiln, will take me likely as long to learn its nuances too. It is these challenges which keep me excited about ceramics.

In my area there were a couple of potters who would at shows share a double booth, and would hang these 10' tall banners of themselves with the words "Master Potter__________", yet they both made pots which were adolescent in their maturity at best; while yes, they may have put in the 10,000 hours, a master potter it does not make. I know Ive spent well over 10,000 hours practicing the art of walking, yet I aint bringing home the bacon with my vertical posture!

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My hammer was often the cutting wire, as I would often cut the piece in half just to see. I still do it, and find it is a great tool for teaching. However, there have been times that pots went through bisque before I realized I didn't like it. . . . . Floor drops are so satisfying when all of those shards are scattered, and nothing left to do but sweep it up. The sound of a pot breaking on a concrete floor is enough to get everyone's attention either in fear of an accident or a crazy teacher getting release on one of his pots. They never worried about me wrecking theirs.

 

best,

Pres

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8 minutes ago, Pres said:

My hammer was often the cutting wire, as I would often cut the piece in half just to see. I still do it, and find it is a great tool for teaching. However, there have been times that pots went through bisque before I realized I didn't like it. . . . . Floor drops are so satisfying when all of those shards are scattered, and nothing left to do but sweep it up. The sound of a pot breaking on a concrete floor is enough to get everyone's attention either in fear of an accident or a crazy teacher getting release on one of his pots. They never worried about me wrecking theirs.

 

best,

Pres

"Don't mind me, just practicing my juggling with all of your final projects over here!"

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17 hours ago, Pres said:

My hammer was often the cutting wire, as I would often cut the piece in half just to see. I still do it, and find it is a great tool for teaching. However, there have been times that pots went through bisque before I realized I didn't like it. . . . . Floor drops are so satisfying when all of those shards are scattered, and nothing left to do but sweep it up. The sound of a pot breaking on a concrete floor is enough to get everyone's attention either in fear of an accident or a crazy teacher getting release on one of his pots. They never worried about me wrecking theirs.

 

best,

Pres

I did that, in my very first class, my very first day teaching, to illustrate the difference between ceramic's strength, and fragility.  I took a project, left from a previous year(s) and casually dropped it.  It got the student's attention!

I've only broken one student project (Post firing), and it was a year or two, after I had grade it.  They brought it back for an Art Show, they chipped it, and as I was going to fix the chip, it rolled off the edge of the table, and shattered.  It was an oblong shape, so I have zero idea, on how it was able to roll...

16 hours ago, liambesaw said:

"Don't mind me, just practicing my juggling with all of your final projects over here!"

Funny you should say that.  I used to put clever things, in the School Announcements, reminding students, from the previous Semester to come pick up their projects.  One of such things was, that I would "Donate them to the 'Uncoordinated Jugglers Association'".

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Had 3 pots that got broken at once when a library shelf support that wasn't seated let the shelf fall. Broke the glass shelf and 3 pots. I worked with epoxy glue and putty for the next 3 months repairing the pots, paid for the shelf out of my pocket. When the students got their pots back, after having seen how badly they were broken they were amazed, but happy to have them returned. They also knew how much work I had put into repairing them and how sorry I was that they had broken. The showcase was one that loaded from the back, very difficult to work with. The next year I designed a showcase on large wheels with a skirt that hid the wheels. Loaded from the front, with locks. Really worked quite well and was used at all sorts of displays for the department.

 

best,

Pres

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On the subject of “hours vs. years,” I agree that there is a minimum number of hours required for development. But I’m not sure you can speed up the process by cramming in all of the hours within a short period of time. In order to make what I consider “professional” or “sellable” pottery, you need to be a fully-fledged adult with a strong grasp of your own values, tastes, priorities, etc. The pots you make are a reflection of who you are. And if you have not yet answered the “who am I?” question, your pots will look immature too. So even if you’ve spent 4 years in a college ceramics program, putting in many hours of intensive study, a degree holding 22 yr old still has years to go. A college campus is not the right environment to answer the “who am I?” question. The environment is too safe. (I remember as a college design student, I thought the program was so hard, intense and competitive. Then I hit the real world and realized how safe the environment had been.) In other words, the hours of study are just a starting point in terms of technical proficiency. The years of personal development are necessary too. In my experience as a pottery teacher, I occassionaly worked with students who had been practicing pottery for a year or two, and already making wonderful pots. They were mature people (which doesn’t necessarily mean older) who had a good sense of their values, and a large bank of life experiences to draw on and guide them. 

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Well said, Mea! I was 44 when I threw my first pot, and have always collected pottery, have a business in the art world and have dabbled in a lot of hobbies and activities that require working with my hands, including being a pastry chef in a past life. So, I brought a lot to ceramics based on my interests and experiences... and age. :( 

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