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nancylee

How Much Can A Production Potter Throw?

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Hi all,

I searched and found some threads that had topics like this, but I would like to get some estimates of how many pieces can a production potter throw in an hour/day? I am talking about functional pieces: plates, salad plates, small and big bowls and mugs. Also, how do they usually make the mug handles?? When I make a handle, it takes me forever!!! If I ever had to survive on my pottery production, I would starve to death! 

 

Thanks,

Nancy

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99% of my handles are extruded-this compresses them and they are much quicker.I can shoot many different size handles with custom home made aluminum dies.-My studio assistant puts on 95% of the handles.

As a production potter I never crunch those nimbers-I throw about 1/3 day trim the last days work-then do other pottery chores or something else altogether.I have counted this up but its been years-A better way is to say  how much is I'm selling in a year-

Many of us in the crafts fair/gallery/retail world work on how much we want to gross in a years this has been the model for me as well and now after 40 years  I'm slowing down on production as I back off sales to a slight degree. This was what I have tried to do for a few years around the time my wrist surgery set me back. I let a retail outlet go and stopped doing as many shows.

 

I can fill up a kiln load in a week no problem (35 cubic feet) if I'm going full steam.

I'm slowing down now after 40 years and do not need to work that hard. I also have many other interests

This combined with a few less shows and one less retail outlet means a bit less output and I'm picky who and where I sell to now

Mark

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Thank you, Mark! I would love to have as assistant to put on handles, but since I don't make any money from this, that wouldn't be practical! :)

 

I would have to do this until I am 90 to get as experienced as you! I dont know about that. Thank you for sharing, it is very generous of you,

Nancy

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In a two day cycle of throwing, trimming, and handbuilding, I will use 50 to 75 pounds of clay. More importantly, I am trying to build $1000 worth of inventory. Of course there are plenty of days that are not spent building pots, such as show days, glaze days, packing days, etc. But at least 4 days a week are spent building pots.

 

I pull my mug handles. Yea it's time consuming but over time I have gotten much faster at it. There are probably faster ways to do it, but I really like the way my handles look.

 

Aside from mug handles, I am always looking to do things as fast as possible. When developing new designs, that is always a factor. This includes many designs that do not have foot rings. For some pots, I prefer that aesthetically and functionally too, it's not just for speed. Because they feel nice when cupped in the hand, and do not collect water puddles in the dishwasher.

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I wish I could magically transport folks reading this particular thread to the places I work in Japan to watch some folks I know there working.  The core level of just "throwing skills" (not dealing with astehtices yet.... just forming....to start with copying a specific form) that is expected out of an apprentice put most in the Western world to shame.

 

Training there is typically very different from that what we do here in America.  Most Americans would simply not DO it.  They would quit in frustration (many do).  Generalizing is always wrong, but here in America we tend to be in a rush to be "creative".... and that frequently gets in the way of developing good core material handling skills.  In Japan usually the core handling skills are honed to a mastery level before the "creative" side is ever let loose.

 

Typically a new apprencice starts with either a small plate form (small pickle type plate) or a small cup form (a yunomi).  These are thrown off the hump.  LITERALLY thousands of these are thrown before the person is allowed to move on to another form.  Even in their "free time usually).  The standards of matching to the original are painfully precise... right down to weighing the trimmed finished forms.  The learning days are long and hard ............and in the winter....cold, and in the summer ..... hot. 

 

Usually there is not much tollerance for "almost" pieces.  It is the Yoda approach...... "Do or do not, there is no try".  I've regularly seen the master potter at a number of places pick out one cup from about 50-60 sitting there as an apprentice is working and say something like ... this one is OK...... recialm the rest and make more. 

 

That one piece is usually picked out and set next to the model form that will be in front of the apprentice... and the apprentice is usually then left to figure out themselves WHY that piece was picked above all the others that were there.  That sometimes difficult and long term introspection goes a long way in the development of the skills and particularly the EYE of the apprentice.

 

Once the apprentice can throw this first single piece they are studying to the high standards... they move on to the next simple form.  The complexity of the forms and the scale sloowly is increased over time.

 

Many of the 2nd and 3rd year apprentices at the pottery I work at a lot in Japan typically are throwing 300 - 400 yunomi cups in a day.  The next day or the day after they trim them all in a day.  These are matching in form just about like mold produced, including the precise dimensions of the foot, and the total weight and balance. 

 

It is completely HUMBLING....and I've been doing this professionally for 44+ years.

 

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post-1543-0-37430200-1379783720_thumb.jpg

 

best,

 

.................john

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post-1543-0-38268200-1379783430_thumb.jpg

post-1543-0-37430200-1379783720_thumb.jpg

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Wow! That is amazing, John. I don't think I coud, take that kind of training, even (especially?) when I was younger. As a teacher myself, I do agree with the form before art. Once I learn forms, then I can get fancy. I have gone back to tHe basics over and over, because I don't have them 100% correct yet. I rarely throw over 3 lbs still, and I have been doing this for 3 years.i stay small and simple, still, and that is fine with me! I wish Imcould watch the Japanese apprentices in action; I think I would learn so much from that mindset.

Best,

Nancy

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The old time potters here in Seagrove,(up to ww11) had a similar work routine. Most of the potters were also farmers and in the winter or none farming season, they made pots. A work schedule  was making enough pots to fill the ground hog kiln, loading the kiln from the previous weeks work and firing to get pots out for the weekend shoppers. There was also the loading of wagons with crocks and jugs to take to different farmers markets.

As late as the 1960's a production potter was paid a nickle a pound and that included glazing, loading, firing and unloading the kiln.

Most men worked at farming and hunting and some families as well, potters. You must also remember this is in the middle of one of the poorest areas of the country. Think about the movie "Grapes of Wrath" and except for the dust bowl of the Midwest, it was that hard here.

The reason for the history is that the circumstances dictate the forms,methods  and their economic survival, which I  imagine is also the driving motives in the formation of the forms of all culture's , east or west

Only recently ,have we in America, had the time to "Play" at living instead of struggling to survive.

Rome tried it, didn't work too well for them,Just a thought as the pots dry.

Wyndham

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Wyndham,

In a way, I envy the purposefulness of the life of those people, even with their poverty. Their lives had a rhythm and they had to work to survive. Making pots in the winter sounds like a family and community affair. I don't envy their struggles, but I do like the sounds of a simpler life. As I get up early tomorrow to go to my "real" job, which pays for the cars, and the cell phones, and all the nonsense we "need" in modern life, I will think of the farmers making pots by the winter fire.

Best,

Nancy

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It is interesting to note that John mentions the day of trimming. I also think of the days of pulling handles, time throwing lids, working spouts, assembling teapots all involved with completing the pieces. The master process he mentions would blow me out of the water early. I would go crazy trying to make the perfect piece thousands of times. Then to realize that i have only mastered one form with how many more different forms to go? Daunting, frustrating, and humbling, better you than I-hats off to you, and I don't like to uncover my bald spot often!! :wacko:

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I do what should probably be called quasi-production. I don't make only one thing, I make several different items and often three or four different things in a day. I throw around 35 to 40 one pound mugs in an hour, around 18 pie plates in an hour, and around 18 three pound spoon jars in an hour. I throw between 100 and 150 pounds of clay in a day.

I hand make my handles. To do this I roll the clay into a ball, then without changing much of the motion, I roll it into a carrot shape. Then I slap this down to flatten one side and then cut off the tip of the big end. I wet both the mug and the big end and attach the handle. I can do this in about the time a person using an extruder takes, when doing a run of 30 mugs. After 30 mugs the extruder starts getting faster. But, if I'm doing 10 mugs I'm much faster. All total it takes me about 4 minutes to throw, trim, and handle a mug.

Repetition is the trick. On top of that, I'm a form guy. I have no interest at all in a well glazed pot if it doesn't have good form. I follow a simple set of rules I learned from a Ferguson quote, "First learn technical skills, then form, then the kiln/glaze, and finally surface." Most of the work I've seen ignores the first two parts and goes straight to glaze and decoration. But to me, to get the beauty out of a pot, you need the form. Form comes from control and control comes from practice. Just make lots of pots. And, if you can, find a good handle and try to reproduce it. I think I have a good handle, here is a pic. Feel free to give it a shot. Another couple of tips: Good handles come from a good eye for negative space, and let yourself flow, like water. Beauty comes from natural motions in an analog sense, not from digital skips and jumps.

 

the first sputtering of production in my new studio

 

 

 

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Yedrow,

I LOVE your handles!! I was taught using the handle making tool. I haven't pulled them yet. My issue with handles is that they flop all over when I try to attach them, then they get uneven as I try to work them. A handle takes me about 1/2 hour! I am working on them, they are getting better, but they are still slow, and I still get avoidance of the studio when I have to do them!!

 

Thanks for the information,

Nancy

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Nancylee,...... get a metal coffee can.  Either pulling separately and attachiong or pulling off the form...... put 3 handles on the can (yes... they will stick) spaced equally around the form.  Take them off.  Pay atterntion to what you are doing and seeing.  Repeat this.  Keep repeating it until you can't stand it anymore.  Come back tomorrow and do it all over again.

 

In a couple of days, you'll be amazed at how much better your handles are.

 

best,

 

...................john

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John,

When you pull a handle off the form, do you attach it, turn the coffee can (or mug) on its side, and pull the handle down? I tried that today, and the handle kept falling off the mug from gravity! I should make a YouTube video of my learning errors - it wold probably be hilarious!!!

Thank you - I am going to do,this after work tomorrow!

Nancy

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If I'm making dinnerware, dinner plates take about 2 minutes on the wheel. So I can do 25-30 in an hour. At 4.75 pounds each, I could do 700 pounds of dinner plates in an 8 hour day of throwing. Figure 2 hours of wedging, prepping the balls of clay,moving the bats onto shelves and other miscellaneous activities related to the throwing, and 6 hours of throwing. Sandwich plates take the same amount of time, but less clay. So the pounds per day would vary greatly depending on what form I'm making. Not that I would ever throw plates for an entire day, but that's how it would come out. If I'm doing large planters, I can work through a 32 pound planter in 15 minutes, so about the same daily tally as dinner plates, but only 4 pieces per hour. Mostly I'm happy if I get 30 minutes of throwing without having to deal with customers, students and phone calls.

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Yedrow,

 

Mind my asking how often you work at the pace you listed?

 

I throw four to five days a week at work, and I work at home some as well. It's a pretty tight pace. Throwing bigger stuff uses up a lot of clay. That being said, unlike Neil and others I don't throw anything over 20 pounds and rarely that much. I make production stuff at the pace customers purchase it. Most of what I make is 6 pounds and under. That means lots of mugs and pie plates.

 

Joel.

 

Joel.

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Wow Neil! That's a lot of throwing! I don't ever expect o be ale to thow 30 pounds of clay!

 

Joel, by pie plates, do you mean smaller plates, or bigger, like cake plates? And everyone loves mugs!

 

Nncy

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