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Richarde

If You Want Perfect...

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I almost think I'm about to ask a no-brainer. I'm a relatively new potter (going on five years) and am earnestly trying to increase my sales. I pot at a community studio for now, and I've asked my fellow potters about selling pieces that aren't quite perfect. For example, I had a lid warp on a butter dish, and though I ground the offending curves to make it fit, the inside warp doesn't allow for a full block of Kerrygold butter to fit. I think it should go in the garbage--and pieces like it--but my fellow potters say, "If they want perfect, they should go to Wal Mart." Some of these potters have more than 40 years experience making and selling pottery. I'm I being unreasonable? I understand a little imperfection may be expected, despite taking precautions. How does this community feel about that? Thank you.

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@Richarde  I suspect that everyone here who sells ceramic work has asked these same questions along the ceramics path, particularly about seconds.  Ultimately, it is your decision.  There are stories about embarrassing moments months/years beyond the sale of a second piece when one of those pieces shows up unexpectedly at a friend/family home...and the artist goes "Arghhh".

 

I suspect that you will always be your own toughest critic...and that is OK.  You may find that with even more experience that today's firsts become the seconds of years to come.  I deal with that more than I want to even think about.  I will admit that I am much more liberal with applying my hammer to projects than I used to...not many ceramic tool lists include a hammer but it definitely can be your friend.

 

-Paul

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I told this story once before, but it's worth repeating because it's a good one.

A full time potter friend of mine sold a large bowl as a second as it had a tiny crack in the bottom. The purchaser knew that she was buying a second. We usually put the price tags in red for seconds.

A few weeks later a different woman came in with said bowl."I received this bowl as a wedding gift from my best friend. I don't think she realized that there was a crack in the bottom.Can you replace it please?"

My potter friend said nothing and got down another large bowl. Price $36.00.

To me she said;[as we were firing together], "The best friend went to the wedding and ate and drank and had a great evening for the price of the seconds bowl-$8.00.

Nothing was ever said to either party.

We just thought it.

Get out the hammer.

TJR.

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One thing I see a lot in big box stores is cheap mold pottery with flaws designed in to make the piece 'look' handmade. While I think a crack is damaged and not even fit for a 2nd, many other imperfections are unavoidable and often part of the charm. 

 

Actually sometimes I am secretly pleased when a really nice pot has a small crack because we claim many of those for personal use :-) 

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My advice is to adopt and stick to your own standards ... and ... don't assume that just because someone has been making pottery for 40 years that their standards are a good ... sometimes 'time put in' is just time put in.

Would you want a butter dish that didn't fit the butter? Are you proud of it? How would you feel if a potter you admire got it as a gift?

Start your shard pile ... every potter has a growing one.

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I have heard and been told the "if they want perfect buy it at Walmart" phrase A LOT at the local community center. Secretly it's one of the reasons I fire my own I want entire control and don't want someone saying oh that is good enough... Good enough is NOT good enough. I know 5 years from now my work will most likely be better than it is today but if I were to sell pieces I think NOW are not quite up to snuff what would I think of those in 5 years? Talk about causing a cold sweat!

 

I struggle with waste, hate it, can't abide it... To toss out a pot with a small imperfection makes me cringe (so wasteful erg) so I figured out a way for me to be able to get this thought right with my head. I put all the non sellable pots in a box for making walking stones in my yard. When I have enough I'll break them up and add concrete and make bright, colorful, and USEFUL walking stones. No wastage just repurposing. After the last rain I was thinking gee I relly need to get some more dead pots because I really need those waking stones to the meter so I don't get muddy feet getting my readings for firing a kiln load! Lol

 

T

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Listen to Chris.  I've been making and selling pottery for 11 years. At this point, I do well with sales and income. Admittedly, the pots I offer for sale today are VASTLY better that the first pots I offered and did sell, but at no time did I offer warped, cracked, glaze flawed pieces. DON'T DO IT.

I was even encouraged by the so called local  instructor to 'call it art and up the price"  Do I need to add, he makes crap?

Every piece you put out there has the potential to live longer that you will.  The hammer hangs beside my kiln.  I use it less now, since I have become more discriminating about the greenware, If I know the design is bad, I recycle the clay, no need to fire it.

Please do yourself and all of us quality conscious potters a favor and cull you work.  Sounds like you already know what to whack? :-)

 

Like Pugaboo's stones, will be doing some of that.

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Guest JBaymore

"Sell on quality, not on price".  -Tom Peters   Thriving on Chaos

 

What do you want YOUR name to stand for?  The hammer is your friend.

 

GO Chris.

 

best,

 

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

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Thank you everyone. I guess I just needed confirmation. I've already gotten much freer at discarding obvious crap, and I'm even learning to cull it BEFORE bisque or immediately after. I was just so frustrated and want to be finished with the work for this client (This is the second butter dish--three and four are drying). The first turned out perfectly--fit-wise--but the glaze was over fired and looked like yuck! Maybe now I need a thread on how to keep things from warping!

 

Chris, you got me at the question of how I would feel if this were given to a potter I admire. Yes, clay lover, I'm trying to help uphold standards and PRICE in my area. Pugaboo, I may just have to try the stepping stone (or a dead pots garden)! 

 

Again, thank you everyone.

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Thank you everyone. I guess I just needed confirmation. I've already gotten much freer at discarding obvious crap, and I'm even learning to cull it BEFORE bisque or immediately after. I was just so frustrated and want to be finished with the work for this client (This is the second butter dish--three and four are drying). The first turned out perfectly--fit-wise--but the glaze was over fired and looked like yuck! Maybe now I need a thread on how to keep things from warping!

 

Chris, you got me at the question of how I would feel if this were given to a potter I admire. Yes, clay lover, I'm trying to help uphold standards and PRICE in my area. Pugaboo, I may just have to try the stepping stone (or a dead pots garden)! 

 

Again, thank you everyone.

Avoid the commission. I made four casseroles for a client. Not my usual shape.Had to copy the one they brought in. Three out of the four I made cracked in the bisque. Luckily one survived. I am done with custom orders.

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Second tha.  I learned early oe, commissions are a deep hole I will not fall in.  Do a search on that topic, there have been several long threads on the perils of commissions.  Closest I will come is agreeing to let buyer specify stamping and glaze choice on piece I am already making . Even then....has to be something I can easily sell if the person changes their mind.  I won't agree to ugly choices, cause then I'm stuck if they don't take it.  No amount of $$$ will get me to do otherwise.

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I really only started commissions this year, and it seemed like a way to be certain money was coming in. I also used it as a way to force me to make things I don't like/don't do well--plates! It feels like torture, but I think it has forced improvement on me! I am finding, though, that I'm tired of making things I have to make.

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I was not advocating selling flawed pots but rather just cautioning you to be careful to not go overboard with the concept to the point that your tossing good pots. Hand made pottery is handmade and it's real easy to nitpick your work down to nothing. I do however agree with others that a butter dish should flawlessly hold a stick of butter and thus that pot would certainly be a prime candidate for the shard pile.

 

I do think cracks, warps, pin holes, crazing (sometimes) and crawling are most likely trash but like I said b4 we will hang onto great pots that might have a slight crack in the bottom for personal use if its otherwise sound. We would never sell a cracked pot, even as a second, but we have no issue using it in our daily lives.     

 

I think its like everything else in pottery in that it takes time and experience to 'cull' your work properly and professionally. If your tossing something I think you should take the time to truly review the piece and not just work from a perfectionist position that everything that isn't perfect needs to be tossed, at least until you're skilled at making the call.

 

Whitney Smith in Oakland writes a great blog and has been a successful studio potter for a couple of decades and she has been doing some soul searching on this issue in her latest post as her work has always been really tight and she is developing a looser approach and has blogged about how it has run counter to her tendency to be a perfectionist. I think everyone getting into this business should review her blog, I think its called a potter's life??

 

While I wouldn't mindlessly follow the advice of your 40 year potter studio mates I certainly wouldn't dismiss what they are saying. Maybe try to get a little one on one banter going with the ones that are telling you this and try to more closely examine what they are calling good that you think is flawed. Not just the butter dish but other pieces you think are bad as well. They may surprise you with their reasoning and get you to examine your work in a different way if you think its junk and they think its sellable. Get them to address the flaw you see and see if they will explain why they think its OK in an expensive handmade piece of pottery.

 

I like Chris's statement to come up with your own standards and then stick to them. Don't let other artist bully you into their standards. If you like to make heavy mugs, think heavy mugs are acceptable then make heavy mugs. Someone that is adamant that heavy mugs are amateurish and bad will smash every one of them. That does not make them right about anyone's work but their own. 

 

Good luck with growing your business!

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it does help to hear the opinions of other people about your work.  especially if you are the perfectionist who cannot accept less than ???  i had a friend who make great pots but she loved runny glazes that made drips and runs all across the pieces.  she thought the runs made the plain pots more interesting.  i thought it looked as though someone kicked over the glaze pot by accident.

 

she thought my glazes were static.  i wanted static glazes so the textures would be the standout feature on my pots.  

 

we all have differing standards and different eyes.  

 

keep that butterdish for your own use. i have made hundreds and the butter in my house here is in a glass dish.  there are two flawed ones i made, but they are in the dish drainer.  i don't get to keep the good ones.

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Hi I am an artist, I work w watercolors , pastels and oils. I do not sell, but even to give away there are rules of what keeps the art together over time. Paper will discolor and disintegrate with exposure to acid, acrylics over oils won't work, etc. Every medium has "rules". Once someone really knows their medium, then you can push the medium- that is how new things are born. Then the artist masters the new things. 

  There is a looseness of style that comes from experimenting freely, but the first 100 experiments generally look like , with tiny elements worth salvaging . Those tiny bits are what I pray for, those little mistakes or bits that give a yearning. I usually don't know how that color happened or that texture, the area around it looks horrible , but that little bit is perfect. So then I try to reproduce it not always able to. So i file it , and later I pull it out, maybe try again or see I am already there. It gives me hope because it shows my artistic growth, it shows my path, so I don't feel stagnant. It is harder to "file" ceramics. Maybe if you have a yard there could be a corner for the pieces that almost made it, or gave you a little yearning.

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I feel your pain. Was hoping to do a show in two weeks. Over half of my last load is out in the garbage. I recycle in the clay boxes. Even half of what I kept won't be sold. It goes in my own kitchen or to family, Glazes over done a little. I think of it as part of the learning curb.My daughter dances. She will repeat a routine about 80 - 120 times before a single live performance. I feel my audience deserves no less commitment from me. every day I have more respect for those who make pottery for a living.

 

The delicate dance from the wedging table to the wheel through the glaze and into the kiln.

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