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nancylee

Throwing mugs

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nancylee    30

Hi all,

So I have a small shop with all handcrafted goods, and I have about 4 potters in my shop. I have found that bowls, mugs, etc. under 20 dollars are an easy sell- but the more expensive bowls, vases, etc, take longer to sell, which makes sense. My problem is that I can't keep enough mugs in my shop. Only one of the potters makes mugs - the others don't even though I have asked them about making them. And he only makes two glazes. i am a newer potter, so while I will put some ornaments and small bowls in my shop, i haven't put any of my mugs in the shop because they suck!!! My small stuff and bowls sell very well, mostly becaiuse people love the glaze I use. So...my question? Since i am having trouble getting mugs to sell, and people like my glaze combination, how can I get better more quickly making them? I know, it takes a long time to get good, but I really struggle with them. I can make nice bowls, but since the mugs start out as cylinders, I have more trouble with them. When i go to spread the cylinder, i undercut too much and get a lump of clay on the bottom in the middle, and the edges are thinner. And then the top gets too thin, and forget about getting them the same size!!

 

I realize that I am newer, and that I should ideally spend a lot of time perfecting the art of pottery, and I am in awe at what many of you do, but I really do need to make mugs, so any suggestions would be helpful. I have a class i take, and have watched video after video, but to little avail. Thank you!

Nancy

Please excuse the poor spelling - this iPad is driving me nuts with the auto correct.

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voceramics    2

Hi Nancy,

 

Sorry I'm not much help since I hand build rather than throw, but have you ever thought of hand building mugs? I just wrap rectangular clay around a plastic wrapped cylinder and then affix the edges and bottom by scoring and using slip. It's a fairly quick way of making consistent mugs while you are getting in the groove with your mug throwing.

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Mark C.    1,797

Nancy

First the right clay will make this go easier-A body that throws well like a good stoneware one is best for learning.

As far as making them all the same size forget this till you perfect the cylinder wall throwing. Really concentrate on this skill till you have mastered it

Then move on to same size. After years (which it really takes) one can throw the same size by weighing the balls of clay out and they all are about the same size.

Again let this skill go till you master small cylinders.Work on this till you have it down.

 

As far as finding a prolific potter who will supply you with wholesale or consignment mugs in all sizes thats a hard nut to crack. I'm speaking from experience as one who has supplied 5 shops some for over 35 years. Its better for me to sell them myself for full price and I do about 2/3 of my sales but having checks coming in every month keeps me sending pots (mugs are only 1 item) to my outlets and as I get older doing less shows is starting to sound better.

I make 7 types of mugs -soup-truckers(old style motion) and 5 sizes of regular mugs. In about zillion glaze combos

Heres my last glaze fire unloaded a few days ago.

Mark

post-8914-134871175327_thumb.jpg

post-8914-134871175327_thumb.jpg

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TJR    359

Nancy;

I am trying to think of some way to help you with an answer. I am in the opposite predicament. I can make mugs all day long with beautiful handles, but they just sell slowly. I don't understand why the other three potters don't make mugs. Is it beneath them, or they don't know how? I would think that if there was a ready market, someone would step in to make them. I can't really help you with the throwing part. It takes a long time to get good at it, like playing the piano.

TJR.:unsure:

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Benzine    609

Nancy

First the right clay will make this go easier-A body that throws well like a good stoneware one is best for learning.

As far as making them all the same size forget this till you perfect the cylinder wall throwing. Really concentrate on this skill till you have mastered it

Then move on to same size. After years (which it really takes) one can throw the same size by weighing the balls of clay out and they all are about the same size.

Again let this skill go till you master small cylinders.Work on this till you have it down.

 

As far as finding a prolific potter who will supply you with wholesale or consignment mugs in all sizes thats a hard nut to crack. I'm speaking from experience as one who has supplied 5 shops some for over 35 years. Its better for me to sell them myself for full price and I do about 2/3 of my sales but having checks coming in every month keeps me sending pots (mugs are only 1 item) to my outlets and as I get older doing less shows is starting to sound better.

I make 7 types of mugs -soup-truckers(old style motion) and 5 sizes of regular mugs. In about zillion glaze combos

Heres my last glaze fire unloaded a few days ago.

Mark

 

 

 

Very nice.

I like the handles. My handles are quite a bit narrower, but I really do like that style.

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GEP    863

Under $20 for a mug is a tough price point for wholesaling/consignment potters. That means the potter gets less than $10 per mug. It's going to be hard to find good quality mugs for that price. $12 for a small mug is a common price point for wholesaling potters. Which means you would sell them for at least $24 in your store. If you're willing to raise your prices a little, you'll find lots of potters willing to supply you.

 

As for ramping up your own mug production, there's no reason they need to be all the same size. And they don't need to be cylinder shaped either. My most popular mug is bowl-shaped.

 

Mea

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nancylee    30

Nancy

First the right clay will make this go easier-A body that throws well like a good stoneware one is best for learning.

As far as making them all the same size forget this till you perfect the cylinder wall throwing. Really concentrate on this skill till you have mastered it

Then move on to same size. After years (which it really takes) one can throw the same size by weighing the balls of clay out and they all are about the same size.

Again let this skill go till you master small cylinders.Work on this till you have it down.

 

As far as finding a prolific potter who will supply you with wholesale or consignment mugs in all sizes thats a hard nut to crack. I'm speaking from experience as one who has supplied 5 shops some for over 35 years. Its better for me to sell them myself for full price and I do about 2/3 of my sales but having checks coming in every month keeps me sending pots (mugs are only 1 item) to my outlets and as I get older doing less shows is starting to sound better.

I make 7 types of mugs -soup-truckers(old style motion) and 5 sizes of regular mugs. In about zillion glaze combos

Heres my last glaze fire unloaded a few days ago.

Mark

 

 

Hi mark,

Thank you for your advice. Yes, throwing a good cylinder consistently is still tough for me! Mugs...grrrr. I would just not bother, but as you said, they do sell. Want to sell me some??? Your mugs are yummy glazes, they remind me of ice cream.

I use either 60 stoneware or B-mix. The 60 glazes beautifully, but I have been finding it harder to throw,with than the b mix, don't know wh. i find pottery endlessly fascinating! Thank you again for your wise advice.

Namcy

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nancylee    30

Nancy;

I am trying to think of some way to help you with an answer. I am in the opposite predicament. I can make mugs all day long with beautiful handles, but they just sell slowly. I don't understand why the other three potters don't make mugs. Is it beneath them, or they don't know how? I would think that if there was a ready market, someone would step in to make them. I can't really help you with the throwing part. It takes a long time to get good at it, like playing the piano.

TJR.:unsure:

 

Hi TJR,

I am not sure why they won't make mugs. I think a lot of potters like to throw the big gorgeous bowls and vases, but don't like to throw cereal bowls, mugs, plates. Maybe because it takes so long to get good at throwing big stuff, so they feel like the small stuff is for beginners? Or maybe mugs are too labor intensive, with the handles and all. I love to throw stuff people will use every day, useful things, but I know everyone is different, thank goodness!

 

I practice throwing a lot, but after two years, I still have trouble centering clay over 4 pounds and with the cylinders, which is why I throw a lot of small bowls! :) I've gotten good at them! Are some people just never able to center big clay? If so, that will be me. I will be the potter of under 3 pounds!

Thanks so much for your help,

Nancy

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nancylee    30

Under $20 for a mug is a tough price point for wholesaling/consignment potters. That means the potter gets less than $10 per mug. It's going to be hard to find good quality mugs for that price. $12 for a small mug is a common price point for wholesaling potters. Which means you would sell them for at least $24 in your store. If you're willing to raise your prices a little, you'll find lots of potters willing to supply you.

 

As for ramping up your own mug production, there's no reason they need to be all the same size. And they don't need to be cylinder shaped either. My most popular mug is bowl-shaped.

 

Mea

 

Good suggestions, Mea. I will look into moving up a bit on the price. And I love your pottery!

Nancy

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nancylee    30

Hi Nancy,

 

Sorry I'm not much help since I hand build rather than throw, but have you ever thought of hand building mugs? I just wrap rectangular clay around a plastic wrapped cylinder and then affix the edges and bottom by scoring and using slip. It's a fairly quick way of making consistent mugs while you are getting in the groove with your mug throwing.

 

Hi,

Thank you for the suggestion! That's a great idea - I was thinking I would have to use coils to hand build and I am not that patient! Have you ever seen a tutorial on this?

Best,

Nancy

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Mark C.    1,797

Not looking for more mug outlets anymore as they all sell without any shipping or packing.

I can suggest another way to get more.Its to think different about it.

 

Heres a story in business about mugs.

I have a good friend who has a very successful bagel shop ( called Los Bagels) its actually very well known as its has great cookbooks and outreach programs for our community

I approached the owner with a offer about 5 years ago-a different business deal than the norm

I suggested we sell mugs for a good price in 3 different sizes and keep the price point low so folks can afford them-if he would take less 1/3 I would take less 2/3-we keep the price low for students (one of the main customers at shop (they serve coffee and pastries all fresh baked) and sell lots of mugs in volume. This deal has worked out so well they now carry my bowls and I'm doing one less fair a year as this mug deal brings in some serious $ for both of us. I do all the backstocking and go their weekly so his people do not have to do much other than put the new stock out.

Consider some different approach other than the mark it up 100%-It has to work for both parties.

mark

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nancylee    30

Not looking for more mug outlets anymore as they all sell without any shipping or packing.

I can suggest another way to get more.Its to think different about it.

 

Heres a story in business about mugs.

I have a good friend who has a very successful bagel shop ( called Los Bagels) its actually very well known as its has great cookbooks and outreach programs for our community

I approached the owner with a offer about 5 years ago-a different business deal than the norm

I suggested we sell mugs for a good price in 3 different sizes and keep the price point low so folks can afford them-if he would take less 1/3 I would take less 2/3-we keep the price low for students (one of the main customers at shop (they serve coffee and pastries all fresh baked) and sell lots of mugs in volume. This deal has worked out so well they now carry my bowls and I'm doing one less fair a year as this mug deal brings in some serious $ for both of us. I do all the backstocking and go their weekly so his people do not have to do much other than put the new stock out.

Consider some different approach other than the mark it up 100%-It has to work for both parties.

mark

 

Thanks for thinking outside the box. I get 35% now on consignments, but I generally buy the mugs outright. I like the idea of pricing a special mug for a niche in the market. I am going to pay with this idea - thanks! And glad you don't have to pack and ship your mugs to sell them!

Nancy

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Bobg    4

Practice, Practice, Practice. I've been doing pottery for about 5 years and make quite a few mugs and they sell well. My brother has been doing pottery for 35 years and sells a lot of pots, but he doesn't make mugs. Just doesn't like to even though he has no trouble doing so.

 

Bob

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LilyT    1

Nancy, I found that I did not make rapid progress in throwing until I practiced hard. And by this, I mean sitting down and making 20 or 30 at a time. Or more. For several days.

 

You could also start out with your clay slightly softer, so you can develop the shaping skill independent of the strength. (poke holes into the clay with a long screwdriver and pour in a 1/4 cup of water, leave the bag closed a day or so, and then wedge it up.

 

 

With mug/cup shapes, why don't you try throwing off the hump while practicing pulling cylinders evenly? You only need to center the top pound or so for your mug. This lets you efficiently work on the part you want to practice without wasting a lot of time setting up (wedge center cutoff clean) between takes. Do this for half a day at a time for a few days and you'll find you work more comfortably and fluid, and maybe also find your style.

 

As for handles, one simple approach I've seen as an alternative to pulling is to use a needle tool to cut off the top inch or so (and repeat throughout the entire cylinder if you're just making handles). You can lay them out and warm them up with a torch or under a plastic sheet in the sun, and they can be ready for you at the end of your throwing session.

 

And as for your comment about centering large amounts, perhaps my experience here may be helpful to you also... I am a small woman and it turns out I have very little upper body strength, even compared to other women (zero pullups, zero pushups, etc.) I found that when I did some strength training to make my upper body and hands stronger, clay became amazingly easier. I worked on pushups starting on the stairs, pullups (pulldowns if you have a machine), and deadlifts (yes, it's for legs, but it increased my grip strength, and for *my* back it was helpful). I imagine that any exercise where you gradually increase the sheer weight that you can grasp and sling around will help.

 

And my last tips for centering large amounts are: 1. set the wheel speed slower, and 2. the very base where the widest area of the clay touches the wheelhead at the 'skirt' is the hardest part to control, so either use your sponge there, or just cut it off while you're learning how to do it. You'll get there eventually, but it's another strength thing.

 

Hope this helps!

 

warmly,

Lily

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neilestrick    1,379

It is extremely rare that I see a good mug handle that is not pulled. Nothing compares to the graceful curve of a well made pulled handle. Slabs, handle cutting tools, coils, etc. all look labored and amateurish, in my opinion.

 

Pulling a good handle takes a ton of practice, like pulling a couple hundred or more. It is well worth your time to spend an afternoon just pulling handles. There are also several different ways of going about it. Some pull from a big lump and then attach and repull. Other pull, let them firm up and then attach. Others attach and then pull. Some handles taper all the way down, others taper to the middle then thicken again. Some are more round, others more oval, and others thin and ribbon-like. But they all have a natural, graceful curve.

 

Lately I have been making small, one-finger handles, which I love. People either love them or hate them. Lots of people thank me for making them because so few potters make them. Some people think they need to be able to get their whole hand into a handle, which I think is ridiculous, and they think my small handles are useless. You'll never make everyone happy.

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It is extremely rare that I see a good mug handle that is not pulled. Nothing compares to the graceful curve of a well made pulled handle. Slabs, handle cutting tools, coils, etc. all look labored and amateurish, in my opinion.

 

Pulling a good handle takes a ton of practice, like pulling a couple hundred or more. It is well worth your time to spend an afternoon just pulling handles. There are also several different ways of going about it. Some pull from a big lump and then attach and repull. Other pull, let them firm up and then attach. Others attach and then pull. Some handles taper all the way down, others taper to the middle then thicken again. Some are more round, others more oval, and others thin and ribbon-like. But they all have a natural, graceful curve.

 

Lately I have been making small, one-finger handles, which I love. People either love them or hate them. Lots of people thank me for making them because so few potters make them. Some people think they need to be able to get their whole hand into a handle, which I think is ridiculous, and they think my small handles are useless. You'll never make everyone happy.

 

 

This, x1000. I cringe whenever i see an extruded handle slapped onto a mug, or worse yet, an anemic strap jutting off the side of a cup. Neil is right, it takes practice, but it really isn't that much more time consuming once you get the hang of it than a lot of methods out there, and it makes for a better pot.

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nancylee    30

Lily and Doris,

Thank you for the advice. I am going to find a night when I don't have anything else to do and just sit down and make as many mugs as I can. See what I come up with. I have seen videos of throwing off the hump, will go check them out again. And try adding to the clay and recentering. Great advice, and thank you for it!

 

Neil, I will try to pull a handle. I tried it a few times, and it got all crooked. I can't even imagine pulling it attached to a mug!! Definitely a learned skill!

nancy

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neilestrick    1,379

Lily and Doris,

Thank you for the advice. I am going to find a night when I don't have anything else to do and just sit down and make as many mugs as I can. See what I come up with. I have seen videos of throwing off the hump, will go check them out again. And try adding to the clay and recentering. Great advice, and thank you for it!

 

Neil, I will try to pull a handle. I tried it a few times, and it got all crooked. I can't even imagine pulling it attached to a mug!! Definitely a learned skill!

nancy

 

 

 

It literally takes a couple hundred to get a good feel for it.

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Mark C.    1,797

I suggest small bats to throw them on-off the hump will take you way long to learn. You want to try not to distort them-hence small bats. The other way is to slide them off a bat like in yedrow videos .

Work in series-weigh all the clay balls same weight and throw 20-30 at a time. If they are all wrong wedge them up and start over. This is the long hard slow learning of throwing-there is no shortcut.Handles are a all together new skill to be learned.

I suggest pulling your handles and cutting them off at slight angle then attach them- this is easier for beginning than pulling them off the mug.

Mark

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I suggest small bats to throw them on-off the hump will take you way long to learn. You want to try not to distort them-hence small bats. The other way is to slide them off a bat like in yedrow videos .

Work in series-weigh all the clay balls same weight and throw 20-30 at a time. If they are all wrong wedge them up and start over. This is the long hard slow learning of throwing-there is no shortcut.Handles are a all together new skill to be learned.

I suggest pulling your handles and cutting them off at slight angle then attach them- this is easier for beginning than pulling them off the mug.

Mark

 

 

Throwing off the hump does take time and practice to learn, but in the end it saves time--what the hurry? Im not sure that "it takes too long" is ever really a good reason not to add a tool to your toolbox--unless of course you're under a deadline... Even then, get out what needs to be gotten out, and learn something new that will save you time in the long run, or offer you an alternative that might be helpful in other arenas also...

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yedrow    8

I agree that handles are best pulled. I don't even like pulling extruded handles since the top is either too close to the width of the bottom or it is pinched.

 

Mugs are some of the best practice you can get throwing. They are small, sellable, and can be made quickly. Since they can be made quickly the practice is more intense.

 

I tell people that you should treat the clay like a string. When you pull on a string a tension will build in it as your fingers slide along the length of the string. The clay is like that. As you pull it up you will develop a tension between the point you are pinching and the base of the pot. If you can feel that tension you can time the lift (in a musical instrument sense). When you get control of that time you will get a good powerful lift. Also, try lifting toward the center of the wheel, not strait up. You can move the clay out easier than you can move it in. It is good to be able to lift in, strait up (cylinder) and out (bowl). The base of the mug will control what shape it will be, relative to the aesthetic you are pursuing (sloped in, sloped out, cylinder, round, etc). If you slope in a bit you can see that control happening.

 

Oh yea, also cut something like every tenth mug in half, bottom to top. Look at the cross section. The wall of your pot should be about the same thickness just below the rim as it is at the base (the rim should be mouth-friendly thick). If it is notably thicker at the base, try to do a shorter pull on your first lift with the intention of making the clay even, not getting height. Then with your next pull or two try to get height. It is always best to start out from a predictable point.

 

Joel.

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nancylee    30

I suggest small bats to throw them on-off the hump will take you way long to learn. You want to try not to distort them-hence small bats. The other way is to slide them off a bat like in yedrow videos .

Work in series-weigh all the clay balls same weight and throw 20-30 at a time. If they are all wrong wedge them up and start over. This is the long hard slow learning of throwing-there is no shortcut.Handles are a all together new skill to be learned.

I suggest pulling your handles and cutting them off at slight angle then attach them- this is easier for beginning than pulling them off the mug.

Mark

 

 

Throwing off the hump does take time and practice to learn, but in the end it saves time--what the hurry? Im not sure that "it takes too long" is ever really a good reason not to add a tool to your toolbox--unless of course you're under a deadline... Even then, get out what needs to be gotten out, and learn something new that will save you time in the long run, or offer you an alternative that might be helpful in other arenas also...

 

 

I think Mark suggested speed in learning because of my shop and my need to make mugs for Christmas. I do know that I should learn all techniques properly. I am not one to cut corners generally. :)

Nancy

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nancylee    30

I agree that handles are best pulled. I don't even like pulling extruded handles since the top is either too close to the width of the bottom or it is pinched.

 

Mugs are some of the best practice you can get throwing. They are small, sellable, and can be made quickly. Since they can be made quickly the practice is more intense.

 

I tell people that you should treat the clay like a string. When you pull on a string a tension will build in it as your fingers slide along the length of the string. The clay is like that. As you pull it up you will develop a tension between the point you are pinching and the base of the pot. If you can feel that tension you can time the lift (in a musical instrument sense). When you get control of that time you will get a good powerful lift. Also, try lifting toward the center of the wheel, not strait up. You can move the clay out easier than you can move it in. It is good to be able to lift in, strait up (cylinder) and out (bowl). The base of the mug will control what shape it will be, relative to the aesthetic you are pursuing (sloped in, sloped out, cylinder, round, etc). If you slope in a bit you can see that control happening.

 

Oh yea, also cut something like every tenth mug in half, bottom to top. Look at the cross section. The wall of your pot should be about the same thickness just below the rim as it is at the base (the rim should be mouth-friendly thick). If it is notably thicker at the base, try to do a shorter pull on your first lift with the intention of making the clay even, not getting height. Then with your next pull or two try to get height. It is always best to start out from a predictable point.

 

Joel.

 

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