Jump to content

Chris Throws Pots

Member Since 27 Jun 2012
Offline Last Active Nov 21 2015 07:54 AM

#95280 Etiquette For Community Studio, Suggestions Plz!

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 04 November 2015 - 12:58 PM



You don't currently have studio monitors, but could you? I run a community clay studio that averages about 45 monthly renters and 40 adult students per month, with Friday night drop-ins, afterschool programming through the local school system, and other random programming scattered in. We probably average 150 different individuals accessing the studio any given month. Getting everyone to pull their own weight and clean up after themselves is one of a list of constant challenges the studio faces.


There have been lots of good suggestions so far in the thread about the specifics relating to this piece of equipment, that kind of clay, etc, but for my studio, the most important piece in keeping things clean, organized and functional is my team of Studio Assistants. Each of these individuals hosts the studio for a consistent, weekly 4 hour chunk of time when studio members come in to practice/produce. All studio access for renters and students is contained to open studio hours hosted by a Studio Assistant. There are about 30 open studio hours per week... some mornings, some afternoons, lots of weekend time and a couple of late night shifts. The Studio Assistant arrangement is a work trade. They give their time in exchange for a set of keys for 24 hour access (outside of classes), a a large shelf space, a discount on clay, and most importantly the learning opportunities.


For each shift I assign the Studio Assistant tasks such as loading/unloading kilns, mixing glazes, pugging clay and cleaning/organizational projects. In addition to this assigned work, there is a closing checklist that Studio Assistants complete to make sure the studio is always left in good shape. Ultimately Studio Assistants are responsible for leaving the studio clean. Often times Studio Assistants have to remind renters and students to clean up after themselves... a "you missed a spot" kind of thing. The Studio Assistants who are less comfortable with confrontation end up cleaning up after renters and students... and quickly become much more comfortable with confrontation. 


Without the Studio Assistants our space would turn into a heap very quickly. I could cover the place in signs about studio procedures and expectations, but without someone monitoring the space the signs would be ignored... people like making messes, not cleaning them up.


Oh... and prior to working in the studio, members must sign a form that spells out what they can expect of the studio and what the studio can expect of them. That way, if someone does blow off their responsibilities we have a signed agreement form them stating they'll follow the rules.


Ultimately, if you can take on some studio monitors and limit the hours of studio access to times when the space is hosted by a monitor your studio will stay in much better shape.

#65270 Wood-Fired Turbo Kiln

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 28 August 2014 - 07:07 AM

Seasoned Warrior,

I have the good fortune to be able to fire a wood burning kiln a few times a year. We make cone 10-12 in the span of a day. Like has been wisely mentioned previously in the thread, just because it's not anagama, it doesn't mean it's not legitimate woodfiring. The design of this kiln is called the Phoenix Kiln, named for the Phoenix Workshops of Dunbarton, NH in the late 70s. There's an old issue of the Studio Potter (Vol 7 No 2) that describes it, and it's also discussed in the book Wood-fired Ceramics: Contemporary Practices. It's a small spring arch cross draft that climbs quickly. The placement of the firebox beneath the ware chamber is key. As the flame travels beneath the ware chamber it heats the floor of this section, gaining ambient heat before the flame comes into direct contact with the ware. Also, unlike in an anagama or norigama, there is no struggling with the cool ground. The pots are up off the ground so the pots and chamber heat very evenly.

We use rough ends from the lumber mill that we purchase by the bundle and cut down to the right lengths. We use about a three quarters of a cord to a cord and a quarter per firing depending on how long the wood's been drying, how tight the load is, etc. Admittedly there is not the level of ash buildup you'd see in a more traditional 2 or 3 or 4 day firing, so we also salt at cone 10 to supplement. We get great results.

The kiln was built in southern Vermont about 10 or 12 years ago, and after being relocated a number of times via crane and flatbed truck, the kiln's owner had the genius/insane idea to put the kiln on a trailer. So for the last few years it has been on a 20' heavy duty trailer. The kiln and trailer weigh about 10 tons total. With about a week's notice (and a large enough truck to haul it) we can take down the flue, support the arch with a form and drive to somewhere new to set it back up to demo or workshop. It's an ordeal to move, but pretty straightforward. The last time we moved the kiln was to it's current home in Burlington, Vermont's south end where the kiln's owner and I run a weekend workshop a couple times a year.

As you look to faster woodfiring methods, check out the Phoenix Kiln. It might be a good fit for what you're looking for.


#63824 Is Kiln Wash Necessary?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 04 August 2014 - 08:59 AM



I run a community clay studio, and in this arena kiln wash is a must. The problem is that given the frequency of our firings, our shelves warp quickly. I'd like to flip our shelves every 2 months to combat the warping, but grinding off the kiln wash leaves them with less-than-flat surfaces. So essentially I'd be trading warping issues for surface craters. And if the shelves aren't ground down pre-flip, the kiln wash flakes, glaze drips, etc will fall into the pots below. I'm between a rock and a hard place, and end up dealing with warped shelves until it's bad enough I just need to buy new ones for the studio.


I have a few shelves for my own personal use which I've skipped the kiln wash and have marked the sides A and B with iron oxide wash. I keep a log and alternate which side is fired facing up. When I get my own kiln, this is how I will fire. No kiln wash on the majority of shelves, alternating the sides to prevent wapring. I will keep a couple with wash for glaze tests, etc.


If you know your glazes, keep a log of firing times to predict element health, and are mindful of your relays, my opinion is that it's worth the risks of firing sans wash. And I'd encourage flipping them regularly. Certainly all mishaps can't be avoided, but the more exact your practices can be (and it sounds like you have pretty exact practices) the better risk management you'll have.


Good luck and congrats on the new kiln!



#58637 Decal Help Please!

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 16 May 2014 - 09:26 AM

You can print on any laser decal paper with an hp laser printer. You can do a search to find wich printers work the best.
I think Bel and Decal paper dot com intentionally leave out that detail because someone holds that patent for fired laser printed decals.
It will not work with color, and looks like a sepia print when fired

To determine compatibility with laser printers, look up the MSDS sheet for the toner cartridge the specific model uses. Some laser printers use polymers as the main pigment ingredient. These won't work. Others use iron, listed as ingredients beginning with the prefix "ferr." This what to look for. The HP I have uses 45% iron in the toner pigment.

#57277 Raku Burner Question

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 24 April 2014 - 11:14 AM

Thanks schism and Marcia,
I confirmed with Ward that Rectorseal is the right product. I'm all sealed and ready to fire on Monday.

#57232 Incentives To Shoppers?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 23 April 2014 - 08:49 PM

I have offered two freebies. One is to help get people into my booth checking out my work. The other is to build a returning customer base and to cultivate referrals.

Freebie #1: Fresh Lemon Water
I made a water crock for a 3 gallon jug to sit in/on. Wood fired to cone 10, salt, with a garden hose hookup spigot for dispensing water. It's a piece I'm quite proud of. It, a stack of small disposable cups, and a small handwritten sign encouraging people to help themselves sit on the corner of one of my tables at most shows I do. It brings a lot of traffic to my booth, especially on hot days. Some people are just thirsty, but for others, it's a great icebreaker to get them looking, asking questions, and buying.

Freebie #2: Screen Printed Ad Card
Last year I screen printed a run of 5"x7" cards to give away at shows. One side featured an image of a bottle I'd thrown (Photoshopped down into two colors) and the other side had my contact info, website, Instagam handle and a list of shows I'd be participating in throughout the summer and fall. One side was essentially an expanded business card, the other a small piece of original art. I got a lot of positive feedback about the cards last year and I'm planning on a new run with a new image for this year.
Attached File  image-1-1.jpg   489.06KB   0 downloads

#56224 Wooden Handles.......

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 07 April 2014 - 08:55 AM

Hi ayjay,

I'm entirely unsure as to how to treat a wooden handle, but given your project I thought I'd share this:

I stumbled upon an exhibition of Walter's branch handle teapots while visiting family in Southern Vermont and was blown away. He may share some wisdom via email. Otherwise, just enjoy the eye candy.


#56219 How Do You Sit At Your Wheel.

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 07 April 2014 - 08:41 AM

Hi Babs and All,

After years of taking slams on my snowboard and skateboard, and 20ish years of sleeping on my stomach, I started making pots. It was the perfect storm of low back issues. For a few years I just dealt with the aches and pains. Four years ago, a particularly bad fall on my snowboard landed me in a chiropractor's office having lost almost all movement of my neck. A few weeks of pretty intense massage+electrostim+adjustment and I was back on snow wth full range of motion in my neck. Phew.

Once my neck issue was triaged and dealt with, my chiropractor suggested we address some of the other spinal issues I'd been living with, primarily low back pain. Music to my ears. My work in clay had grown into a fullblown passion and small business, and simultaneously I'd begun coaching snowboarding... there were many nights where I couldn't stand up straight or walk without intense pain. I was 25 years old and terrified that I was going to have to give up the activities I was best at, and that made me feel the best while doing them.

I recognize this thread is about body positioning at the wheel, so I'll fast forward about two years, to the afternoon my chiropractor came to watch me throw to help better figure out solutions for my improved but ever-nagging low back pain. After about a minute of watching he voiced disbelief over how bad of an ergonomical nightmare making wheelthrown pottery is... or at least can be.

Two more years later I have gone from two chiropractic adjustments monthly, to one or two tuneups annually. I still deal with some low back pain, particularly when I get sloppy, but for the most part I live and play quite comfortably. Here's my list of fixes/preventative measures for taking care of your back while throwing:

1. ELEVATE. Raise your wheel and your seat. I have found that my body likes my wheelhead to be a few inches higher than my seat. In this configuration, I have had to learn to rely more on my hands and arms while centering rather than using leverage from my back, so I tend to throw softer clay than what I had been. Ideally, my stool is just shorter than standing height and my wheel is way up on cinder blocks. This is how I keep my wheel at home. Most often I'm throwing at work where the set up is lower than this (6.5" lift using Pacifica's leg extension kit), but the wheelhead being higher than the seat is the most important part.

2. POSTURE. Sit with your pelvis pulled forward to keep it in line with your spine. Once you hunch, you pelvis shifts back and the the spine is unsupported... like the rim of a plate that's been pulled out too far from the base. If it's hanging way out there in no man's land, it's probably going to warp under stress.

3. ENGAGE YOUR CORE. This one is probably the hardest to keep up with, but treat throwing like an ab workout. Just as you would tighten your core muscles to do a crunch, do this on the wheel. Keep your core muscles engaged the whole time you're seated at the wheel. A little trick to help is to envision touching your belly button to your spine. This will help every aspect of your life, especially getting ready for beach season. ;)

4. PROP THE BACK LEGS OF YOUR STOOL. Put a ware board or two under the back legs of your stool to help make steps 2 & 3 easier. I have a length of 4×4 board that I sank 1" deep holes into for the back legs of my stool to sit in.

5. STRETCH. FREQUENTLY. Before you sit down, stretch out. Take breaks to stand up, stretch out and keep your body loose. Do a cool down stretch.

Take care of your back. You only get one.


#56140 I Need A Tutorial On Applying Iron Oxide To Bisqueware

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 06 April 2014 - 08:44 AM

I have the same advice as the folks at the college, but with a couple additions.
-Brush or sponge it on thick. Don't cake it on, but apply liberally.
-Let it sit for a few. Allow the bisque time to absorb the water in your wash and for the iron to begin staining your piece.
-Wipe the wash away with a sponge, but make sure not to remove all the oxide. If you want the oxide to show up in the texture, make sure to leave some of it in the texture. Start with a clean sponge. Wring it out as much as possible... I've had the best luck using a sponge that is just the slightest bit damp. Rinse, wring, wipe, repeat as needed.
Good luck and post results!

#54932 Trimming A Foot For Bowls

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 18 March 2014 - 10:21 AM

Hi David,


Not to beat a dead horse, but practice is the best thing you can do for your trimming. The tap method that others have brought up is great when working on a new form, but once you've thrown and trimmed the same form a bunch of times, you'll just start to know how much you want/need to trim.


Here's a link to a video by Hsin Chuen Lin focused on achieving even thickness through trimming. He shows you how to make an easy DIY measuring tool that is more accurate (albeit more complicated) than basic calipers. https://www.youtube....h?v=Ab1GgB4jt1o





#53377 Ohaus Tipple Beam Dial-O-Matic Vs $8 Electronic Scale

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 25 February 2014 - 12:25 PM

I just upgraded the studio's Ohaus triple beam to an Ohaus digital CS-2000. It's like we've moved from the RV in the desert to the lab beaneath Gus Fring's laundry. We keep 14 glazes in 10,000 gram batches on the floor for member/student use at all time, so it has already become a huge time saver. Of course the triple beam will stay put for 100 gram test batches.

#52816 Test Tiles - How Creative Do You Get?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 18 February 2014 - 12:05 PM

I made a test tile wall for my community studio using small bowls thrown off the hump. They are all paddled flat on one side so they sit flush against the wall. They also all have texture made with a fork on one section (inside and out). Glazes can behave differently on the inside and outside of the same form, so I see using bowls as a big advantage in this department. The bowls also do a great job communicating the way a glaze/glaze combo breaks on rim. The downside is that the bowls collect dust, so it needs to be cleaned more frequently than our old board with traditional extruded tiles.


The grid on the left is with our white body; on the right our red body. We keep 12 stock, house glazes that are all numbered. We also mix two rotating glazes to keep things fresh. These all have laminated tags velcroed to the wall beneath them.


Here's she is:

Attached File  Test Tile Wall.jpeg   167.24KB   5 downloads

#52142 How Do You Store Your Kiln Shelves?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 10 February 2014 - 01:56 PM

We have a rack someone built years ago. I added the top section for posts. We have 3 kilns, 2 of which are in use, hence plenty of open slots in the rack. Extra shelves and shelves that need to be ground get leaned against the wall.

Attached File  Shelf Rack.jpeg   42.79KB   5 downloads

#52121 Mfa ... The New Mba?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 10 February 2014 - 12:05 AM

Daniel Pink addresses this topic directly in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. It's a great read.

#51494 How Many Ways Can We Think Of To Put Text On Ceramics?

Posted by Chris Throws Pots on 01 February 2014 - 09:13 AM



My understanding about laser-jet decals is that you'd fire your ware to ^10 first. Then apply your decals and re-fire in a much lower firing. If your're printing your own from an HP laser print or similar, I believe you'd want to fire to ^04 to set the decal. There would be no need to glaze overtop of the decal.


Justin Rothshank is a decal master and shares tons of information regarding printing and firing decals on his website. Check out: http://rothshank.com...ecal-resources/






Check out that link about info for decals. If you don't already have a laser printer the up-front investment may be a bit steep, but this would probably be the easiest/time saving/most consistent route.


I do a lot of slip transfers, which provide a similar look to decals but without the extra firing and with less materials cost. Transferring 14point text will mean some practice/trial and error to get the lettering to transfer without smudging, but it can produce great results.


Carving by hand seems like a LOT of work with a lot of potential for mistakes.


I have a thought about the pasta: Could you arrange the pasta on paper so you could transfer whole words or sentences at once? If you attached the pasta to paper with wheat paste I would imagine everyhting would just burn off. No doubt this is still a lot of work, but perhaps a help/time svaer.


Good luck!