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#1 Judith B

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 10:01 AM

Hello,

 

I was looking for a position as a potter's assistant in Vancouver, BC, but as I know nothing about this kind of position, I thought I could ask the community a few questions.

 

Did you ever had an assistant in your studio? Was it on a regular basis? What kind of work did you gave them? I've never been an assistant before so I'm sure there are a lot of things I don't know. So if you had any experiences as an assitant, or by hiring an assistant, I would love to hear how you organized everything :)

 

Thank you so much!


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#2 DirtRoads

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 01:14 PM

My area is so different from Vancouver so I'm not sure how relevant my input is but here goes:

 

I have 2 employees (I don't really think of them as assistants).  One works 6 hours a day/4 days a week is paid $16.50 an hour  for glazing.  (actually they are paid by the day $100/day and sometimes they get quota in 5 hours so they can leave with pay).  Quota is $700/day but they usually hit $800-$850.  They mostly glaze but do other things when needed. (This person has worked for me for 22 years and for my family for 47 years .. they are 71 years old)

 

The other employee is my niece and she works strictly in clay.   She is paid $10/hour with small bonuses for production.  She puts out about $800-$900/day in clay pieces, working about 8 hours/day.    She's a college student and will be starting an internship in December in healthcare and from there nursing school.  Full time in summer and weekends when school starts.  She does excellent work.  In the fall I will have 2 weekend workers (another family member, nephew). 

 

I don't enforce quotas but they are understood.  I've sketched out the costs and they both know this is a production business. 

 

Many of the potters in my area have employees.   The key is production, consistency and yield.   Average pay is $8-$10/hour.   Look for a potter that has close to a 100% sell through.  Show where you can increase production and pay for yourself. 



#3 Celia UK

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 04:39 PM

An interesting topic, but I feel as if I'm reading a foreign language! I don't understand what you mean by 'Quota is $700/day but they usually hit $800-$850.'
Similarly 'She puts out about $800-$900/day in clay pieces.'
And 'Look for a potter that has close to a 100% sell through'

I'd be really interested to have the terminology explained. Clearly I've no history in sales / marketing!!

#4 Davidpotter

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 06:27 PM

An interesting topic, but I feel as if I'm reading a foreign language! I don't understand what you mean by 'Quota is $700/day but they usually hit $800-$850.'
Similarly 'She puts out about $800-$900/day in clay pieces.'
And 'Look for a potter that has close to a 100% sell through'

I'd be really interested to have the terminology explained. Clearly I've no history in sales / marketing!!

I believe that it's how much dollars worth of pottery is made.


Practice, practice, practice. Then when you think you've practiced enough, the real practice begins.

#5 DirtRoads

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:36 PM

An interesting topic, but I feel as if I'm reading a foreign language! I don't understand what you mean by 'Quota is $700/day but they usually hit $800-$850.'
Similarly 'She puts out about $800-$900/day in clay pieces.'
And 'Look for a potter that has close to a 100% sell through'

I'd be really interested to have the terminology explained. Clearly I've no history in sales / marketing!!

 

Quota would be an expectation of what I expect an employee to fulfill in a day's work.   I set quotas based on what I need to make a certain profit.   If someone is paid $100 and glaze $700, then my glazing cost is 14.25% of my selling price.    At $800 of glazed products, that puts glazing labor costs at 12.5%.   

 

"She puts out $800-$900/day in clay pieces".  This employee only works in clay.  They do not glaze.   At the end of the day they have $800-$900 of new pottery in the drying room. 

 

"Sell through" is a retail term that assesses how much product you have left in a specified time period.   I define sell through in pottery as what is left at the end of the year.    A lot of the potters in my area sell almost everything they can make.  On Christmas eve 2013 I had one salad plate left.   That's what you would call 100% sell through.    I'm  pretty sure there are quite a few potters out there in that same position.   These are the potters that could hire an assistant.



#6 Diesel Clay

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:59 PM

Well, I've not hired one, but I have worked as one. I will say that what you do and how much you get paid depends on the potter you work for. The couple in High River that I worked for had me doing things like pugging clay, waxing pots and loading kilns. The things that didn't impact the final appearance of the work. They did not have the same level of output that DirtRoads describes, but they also did no wholesale the way he does. I got the job just by chatting with one of them at a sale day, and mentioning that I was a student of clay at ACAD at the time. She mentioned she needed help. I don't believe I know of too many potters that take on assistants, but i have found almost all of the jobs I've ever had mostly by "putting it out there" that I was interested in the work, and willing to do the s&$7 jobs in order to learn.
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#7 Judith B

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:00 AM

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. However, I am still learning how to throw and everything so I was hoping I could be some kind of a "potter in training": by helping someone on their production, I could learn and practice more. Does this kind of thing exist? Or I guess I could do just as you did, Diesel Clay, job that don't affect the appearance of the pieces. Maybe I should try to go to summer markets ans directly talk to them see how it goes :)


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#8 Colby Charpentier

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 05:07 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. However, I am still learning how to throw and everything so I was hoping I could be some kind of a "potter in training": by helping someone on their production, I could learn and practice more. Does this kind of thing exist? Or I guess I could do just as you did, Diesel Clay, job that don't affect the appearance of the pieces. Maybe I should try to go to summer markets ans directly talk to them see how it goes :)

 

This is a really tough situation to come by. It requires the business to invest a lot in you, whereas many educated assistants can walk into the situation and be able to repair puggers and kilns, formulate glazes, and provide numerous skill sets that don't only save the business money, but increase productivity as well. And there are so many skilled and educated clay people around looking for work that it might (and should) be difficult to compete. As Dirtroads suggests, you need to be able to pay for yourself. Good luck.



#9 Judith B

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 06:16 AM

Well I hope I will be able to find someone. I've been throwing for two years so I might not be able to throw perfectly but there are other tasks I could probably do. I found it interesting to share a workplace with someone who's already established but I know it's a tough business.

Things that gets me inspired : Creative Thinking


#10 JBaymore

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 09:53 AM

Judith, 

 

I believe that you are in Europe, yes?  A lot of people's comments, including mine, are likely based in US experiences. 

 

This is like the "apprenticeship" thread that is also recently here somewhere.  This kind of stuff is few and very far between.  It has gotten harder to do this over the past 35 years or so.

 

If a potter agrees to take someone on...... suddenly they are occupying some of their time in doing teaching/training.   Since most potters are single person operations......... when they are tied up teaching..... they are not producing. Nothing is happening in the studio.   So in a very real sense this is costing them money..... and that is BEFORE and ABOVE whatever wages they are paying that person.

 

Then there is the wages factor.  In most places there are minimum wage laws to contend with.  Some people try to skirt them...... but the risk if they get caught is astronomical.  To skirt them legally is a real paperwork and word-smith game.. and is not easy to set up.

 

Then there is the liabilty factor.  If a helper / assistant / apprentice gets hurt on the job..... the potter better have Workman's Compensation insurance.  That stuff is expensive.

 

Then there are workplace laws that are supposed to be complied with.  Organizations like OSHA have standards that DO apply.  For just one example, since pottery involves clay, and clay has free silica content (not to mention glaqzes and such)... the controls that are supposed to be in place for protecting workers are pretty hard to comply with.  As a single potter yourself, you can decide to just work in a pigstye....... but if you bring in an employee....... that has to change.  Or you can be in BIG trouble.

 

When you get done with all of these kinds of considerations....... it is a BIG decision to take someone on.  The fact that some people still do that often means that they are not really schooled in business practices... and often do not KNOW that they are exposing  themselves to these kinds of risks and liabilities.

 

Then just when you get someone trained well...and they are actually creating a Net for you....... they decide to leave and go set up shop themsleves. And in some cases.... competing with you in the same market.

 

There are some folks that DO this well... and they are the "few and far between" folks.

 

To gain the education....... like for many jobs....... you likely will have to invest in it yourself.  College, workshops, books, videos, shared/coop studios where you can observe others working, and so on.

 

best,

 

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


John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#11 Judith B

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 02:20 PM

Well all of you are not super positive about it, that's really too bad. I was really hoping it would be a great experience. And by the way, I'm looking for something in Vancouver. I'm currently living in Victoria, BC, but will be moving soon.

 

Thank you all for your answers.


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#12 Mark C.

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 02:41 PM

I suggest going to a large loca art fair and talking to the potters-see what turns up.

I know there is a summer show somewhere near you.

Mark


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#13 Min

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 10:30 PM

You could try posting an advert in the BC Potters Guild Newsletter. An unclassified advert is free if you are a member, 22- if not. Info on the last page of the following link: http://www.bcpotters...CNewsletter.pdf



#14 Diesel Clay

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 11:32 PM

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a potter in your area. (I beg the pardon of any cat lovers here).
I'd think they're thicker on the island than the lower mainland, but I'm a province away, so I'm not totally sure on the exact saturation.
OHS rules and enforcement vary widely from province to province in Canada. I can't quote BC's, but I'm sure there's a website that has them.
I think the reason it worked in my situation was that the things I did helped the potters I worked for to make money, not cost them. I learned a lot more about how to run a business from them than I did about throwing. That's not to say that the production lessons I learned weren't there; I learned a great deal about efficiency, ergonomics, and practical work cycles that I never would have learned at college. I would recommend getting this kind of education if you're thinking of doing this for a paying gig. However, if you want to build your skill as a potter, find some workshops, or hit up Emily Carr for some extension courses. There are some mind blowing teachers I would give a valuable body part to study with in Vancouver and Victoria. Get a space and a wheel and practice your heart out.
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#15 JBaymore

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 06:24 AM

 I learned a great deal about efficiency, ergonomics, and practical work cycles that I never would have learned at college.

 

I'd certainly say that this is very true.  The ideal pattern would be to get the college degree for what IT can give....... and then get the apprenticeship/assistant position for a few years to get the other parts that there is no time for in a 4 year (or 6 year) college program.   As a generality (always wrong) ....... college focuses on the art and teaching to think .... apprenticeship focuses on the buiness and how to make it work.

 

best,

 

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


John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#16 Judith B

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 02:22 PM

Thanks all of you for your answer. I have heard a lot about Emily Carr Institute of Design and has been thinking about going there :)


Things that gets me inspired : Creative Thinking





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