John Baymore has been a professional studio potter for 44 years and currently fires a five chamber noborigama which was completed in 1981 at this studio in Wilton, New Hampshire. He just concluded serving his second term as the President of the Board of Dirctors of the Potters Council of the American Ceramic Society and is now the Immediate Past President of the Association. He has a family history in ceramics tracing back to the Cook and Mercer potteries in Trenton, NJ from the mid 1800s.
John began woodfiring his student work in 1969 in New Jersey in a small woodkiln he built at his home. John studied ceramics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and was first introduced to Japanese aesthetics and clay work when shown the black and white film, “The Village Potters of Onda” in his Ceramics 1 class. He has also attended classes at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and Rivier College in Nashua, NH. In the past, John has taught continuing education classes at the Danforth Museum School (MA) and the Lee (MA) Art Center, continuing education and BFA/MFA credit courses at Massachusetts College of Art, and BFA/MFA credit courses at Boston University’s Program in Artisanry. He is currently adjunct professor of ceramics at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he has been teaching ceramics studio and technical courses as well as ceramic art history in the undergraduate, certificate, and continuing education programs since the fall of 1995.
He has worked on on the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s Curriculum Committee and acted as the chairperson of the NHIA Health and Safety Committee from 1998 through 2006. In AY2005-06 he was the school’s part-time Academic Program Health and Safety Coordinator. He sat on NHIA’s NASAD Accreditation Committee in 1999-2000. He has also worked as a member of the Leadership Advisory Team for the New Hampshire Department of Education.
John has been a presenter at NCECA conferences in Boston in 1984, in Columbus in 1999, in Portland in 2004, and Seattle in 2012. He has presented workshops for diverse organizations including such venues as the Alabama Clay Conference, the Harvard University Ceramics Program, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston University, Wellesley College, the Currier Museum of Art, the New Hampshire Potter’s Guild, Emerson Umbrella Art Center, The Potter’s Shop, Mudflat Studio, Clay Dragon Studio, New Hampshire Art Educator’s Conferences, and a NJ State Teacher’s Conference. He recently presented the keynote address for the New Hampshire Art Educator's Association annual meeting at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH.
A kiln design and technical consultant for Cutter-Eagle Ceramics from 1978 through 1984, John has been a professional kiln builder since 1973. He was the full-time ceramics technician at Massachusetts College of Art from 1974 through 1978. He has built numerous gas, wood, salt, and soda kilns for potters and craft centers over the years, as far away from home as Richmond, VA in the United States, and recently also in Japan. John was the online “Kiln Answer Man” for the CraftWEB Project in 1995. He has also done glaze development consulting for the Finer Decoration Division of Sherle Wagner International in 1982 through 1984.
In 2006, John designed and oversaw construction of a large wood kiln at the Kanayama Togei Kumiai in Goshogawara-shi, Japan where it joined the only other non-Japanese designed and built wood kiln installed there by Fred Olsen. During the summer of 2009, John was invited to return to Kanayama to lead the group of international artists in a month long project in building a large wood fired salt kiln. In 1979, John was a consultant for the living history museum, “Old Sturbridge Village“ in Massachusetts, when they constructed a re-creation of a large colonial period wood fired bottle kiln.
John was an invited participant at the First Woodfiring Aesthetics Symposium held at the Japan Society in New York City in 1983, and was included in Gerry Williams' 1997 slide presentation on "Japanese Influences on American Ceramics" at the American Craft Museum in New York City.
He was the recipient of the Judge’s Special Prize in the Mashiko Ceramics Competition in 1996, juried by Shimaoka Tatsuzo and Hamada Shinsaku, and was invited to Japan to receive that award. Both Joan Mondale (representing the US Ambassador to Japan) and the Assistant US Cultural Attache’ to Japan attended the awards ceremony, formally representing the U.S. Government. This exhibition was also attended by the Emperor of Japan.
He was an invited presenter at the Aomori International Woodfire Festival in Japan in 2002, an event viewed by 37,000 Japanese citizens, and has also been guest lecturer at the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music (Geidai) in the summer of 2004 and again in 2008. In 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2009 John was an invited artist-in-residence at the Tsugaru Kanayama Ceramic Cooperative for the international woodfire festival programs held there. In the summer of 2013 John worked at the Kanayama studios producing a body of woodfired work. All in all, John has been invited to travel to Japan in the capacity as a professional ceramic artist on eight separate occasions in the past 13 years, and has lived in Japan for almost 2 years.
John was a lecture presenter and demonstrating artist at the International Society for Ceramiic Art Education and Exchange symposium held in Tokyo in the fall of 2011. In the spring of 2012 he traveled to MunGyeong, Korea as an invited presenter/participant in the MunGyeong Chasabal (teabowl) Festival. In the spring of 2013 he was a presenter at the 7th Yixing China Ceramic Culture and Art Festival. At that event he was appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Wuxi Institute of Arts and Technology in Yixing.
His work has been acquired for public collections in Japan including the Mashiko Pottery Museum, the Tokyo National University of Art and Music Collection, the Aomori Art Museum, the Goshogawara Art Museum, the Kanayama Resident Artists’ Collection, and Hitachi Corporation headquarters. His work is in the private collections of many Japanese potters including Shimaoka Tatsuzo, Hamada Shinsaku, Matsuzaki Ken, Ogawa Hirohisa, Kondo Hiroshi, Shimada Fumio, Yokou Satoshi, Matsumiya Ryoji, and Shigetoshi Tsuji. His work is also in the collection of the MunGyeong Ceramics Museum in South Korea and the Yixing Ceramics Museum and the World Pottery Capital Ceramics Musueum, both in Yixing, People's Republic of China.
John was selected to be featured in Japanese journalist Yokota Masuo's 2001 Japanese language book on Americans who are greatly influenced by Japanese culture. Also published in the Japanese language, a kiln he built in Japan is featured as the cover shot of issue #79 of the “Aomori Journal” and he has a six page section about him in Matsumiya Ryouji’s new book, “Clay, Fire, and a Stubborn Guy”. John’s influences from Japan are also mentioned in English in Yale University Press’s “Encyclopedia of New England”, and you can find his overglazed woodfired work which is influenced by Hamada Shoji’s work, pictured in Paul Lewing’s ACERS text, “Overglaze and China Paint”.
Other text publications involve multiple inclusions in Maureen Mills’, “Ceramic Surface Decoration”, studio information and images in Steven Branfman’s, “Potters Professional Handbook” and a listing in Yankee Magazine’s, “Guidebook to New England Handcraft Centers”. His work has appeared in Ceramics Monthly, Clay Times, Ceramic Industry, New Hampshire Magazine, and other magazines and newspapers. John has appeared on NHK Television News in Japan a large number of times, in a one hour RAB Television special (Japanese language for domestic use) produced on the Kanayama residency program, on WMUR Television’s “Four O’ Clock Focus”, and on National Public Radio being featured speaking about ceramic toxicology issues in 1976.
Articles by John have appeared in Ceramics Monthly, The Crafts Report, the NCECA Journal, and other publications. In 1983, John was also a pre-publication content reviewer for Charlotte Speight’s text, “Hands in Clay” and in 2005 for Steven Goldate’s, “Dictionary of World Ceramic Art and Artists”.
Recent exhibitions include an invitational solo exhibition at Chi-Lin Asian Arts Gallery in Meredith, NH in August 2010, "Seacoast Master Artists" invitational at Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye, NH in July 2010, an invitational solo exhibition at the Thayer Academy Gallery in Braintree, Mass. in January of 2010, "Three in Clay" invitational at Chi-Lin Asian Arts Gallery in 2009, “Faculty Highlights” at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2005 through 2009, “The Vessel” invitastional at the Cunningham Gallery in Jaffrey, NH in 2004 and 2008, “International Resident Artists” at the Kanayama Togei Kumiai in Japan in 2004, 2006, 2008 , 2009, and 2010, at the Aomori International Woodfire Festival in Japan in 2002, and the 67th, 68th, 69th, 70th, and 71st “Regional Juried Exhibition” at the Fitchburg, MA Art Museum. Other recent exhibitions include the 2005 “Endless Variations” NCECA shino invitational in Baltimore, the “1st N.H Ceramics National Biennial”, “Woodfire Potters Invitational” in Manitou Springs, CO, and “Our Cups Runneth Over” invitational at the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, where he also had a solo show in 2003. John was one of three invited wood-firing artists (along with Jon Keenan and Marc Lancet) when Tokai Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston held its first-ever showing of any non-Japanese ceramic artists in 2002. John has had work in 13 exhibitions in Japan since 1996.
He is a charter member of the Potter’s Council of the American Ceramic Society, and a member of the American Craft Council, the International Society for Ceramic Arts Education and Exchange, NCECA, the New Hampshire Potters Guild, the Japan Society of Boston, Doshikai Iaido Dojo, and a state-juried level member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
I think that the question is intriguing....so thanks for posting it...... but probably is WAY oversimplified. The answers to almost every question there will change based upon some very basic business premise variations. Let's take a look at a couple:
I can create a "pottery business" in lots of ways. Let's look at 2 of them.
Way #1..... figure out what people want/need, what they will pay for it, and then make those objects.
Way #2...... make objects that you love to make, and then find people who are interested in those objects, and can afford to pay for them.
Those are two totally different approaches to running a "pottery business". Both viable if you want to call 'economic success' the sole yardstick.
Way #1 - I can create a "pottery business" that is solely comprised of myself.....a sole proprietorship where I do everything. I use tools and equipment that is appropriate to that approach.
Way #2 - I can create a "pottery business" that is managed and guided by myself, but has a few employees that are taking on specialized aspects of the tasks involved, and I can invest in machinery that increases production efficiency commenusrate with a "small factory" kind of approach.
Again..... VERY different business models. #1 possibly less capital and labor intensive... #2 likely very capital and labor intensive.
No one right answer for all. However there might be one right answer for one specific individual.
I think for almost every industry/endeavor it is the distribution/sales channel that is the key to success. The supplies and labor channel can sometimes be challenges to the business.... and sometimes fatal...... but they usually can be overcome if the sales side is there.
Small businesses almost always fail due to a combination of under-capitlization and poor planning for necessary start-up period cashflow issues.
He wanted them to think. Not all aesthetic prose are pseudo intellectual.
Another 'amen' is due right there.
The very CORE of our college department's ceramics curriculum is to get students to THINK. We stress a heavily traditional route to develop that thinking...... but developing an understanding of their own work and how that "fits into the world" is very important. It you want to go off and be "irreverant" and "non-traditional" then you better then be able to eloquently articulate the reasoning and route that lead you to that point. If you want to make "highly traditional work", you better be able to support that approach with the same level of analysis and impact. You can work sculpturally, you can work functionally... but you can't work without actively THINKING.
BTW... I basically "ban" the oh-so-easy words "I like" from critiques. I don't really care if a student likes or dislikes a particular work. I want to know things like what the student actually sees in the piece being considered (ande hence what they may be missing), I want to know how the visual elements and principles of design are handled, I want to know what specicic feelings the work might produce (deeper than the usless "like" comment), if it is functional...... how has function been adressed and is it successful to those ends, I want to know what choices were made in the forming and decorating processes and why those particular choices were made, I want to know what historical references might have been researched to arrive at the work, and so on.
Anti-intellectualism is a trend itself here in the USA of late. Terribly sad.
I would strongly suggest that those that are having serious difficulty with this particular article..... go get a couple of books on ceramic art history and read up.
You also have to weigh what various craftspeople feel is a good dollar volume for what they will call a "good show". Someone can say "Oh yeah I did GREAT there"......... but you have NO idea what that really means.
There is one major show that I used to do that many potters continue to do year after year after year. That show requires sales records go to the organizer....since a commission is taken on gross sales in addition to the booth fee. Every year the "average sales by media per booth" are published. If you talked to the potters, many if not most would say "wonderful show"........ but when I look at the average sales per booth...... I'd say "appaling for the work and time involved".
So..... perspective........ Seattle just rased the minimum wage to about $10.00 per hour.
If I have to do a weekend fair, it'll basically take me a day to load up and prepare all the (already made) stuff for the weekend. Two long days spent at the event. And one day to unpack and recover from the event. So........ four days.... at let's say an average of 9 hours a day. 36 hours of direct labor. The standard "rule of thumb" for comparing self-employed income to employee wages is about double to account for SE tax , Medicare, and so on....... so to make minimum wage (in Seattle) for my efforts at SELLING there has to be 36 x $20 = $720 of net income left AFTER I PAY THE POTTER FOR THE WORK I SOLD.
What do I mean by that?
The above basic wages are not for being a potter. They are for being a retailer. For selling a product. You happen to buy your product from yourself. You need to figure out what the price is of the pieces you make at wholesale to pay yourself for the time, materials, and overhead that wnnt into making the pieces in the first place. That is separate from the selling activity. (Not going to talk about that part here.) But for most the typical "markup" is 100%. So that means a pot that pays you a decent wage for making it.... say at $10.... has to sell retail for $20 to give you the room to pay the salesperson for their time and effort.
So that $72O figure above needs to now DOUBLE to $1440 to make the numbers work.
The above does not include selling expenses taken out of the gross sales. You will have packing materials, business cards, receipt books, costs for stuff like Square, the depreciation on your booth and shelving and such, the booth fees, your travel costs, and so on. These typically easily add up to the hundreds of dollars.
So you have to add those expenses to the $1440.
And that $1440 is paying you minimum wage (ish) to be at the fair. While you were there, you weren't making anything in your studio. Hopefully whn you calculated the price of the pots you sold to the retailer.... you came up with a better than minimum wage figure there. Otherwise....... you could be flipping burgers at Micky D's and have health insurance.
I start my glaze calc students out with some "old" methods... and then lead them into molecular understanding and then into using glaze claculation software. Works well.
First assignment..... research a glaze RECIPE (I immediately make the verbal distinction between a recipe and a formula... to set the stage.) in books or online (that fits the firing range used) that they LOVE, that is composed only of materials that we stock in the lab. Bring in the recipe and images and share..... explain why they picked it and so on. Then mix it up (that lets us get into how to DO that... stuff like accuracy of measurements and the impact of significant figures, use of lab tools, H+S procesures, and so on) and apply the glaze test to test cylinders (and record keeping and labeling).
Then I have them research each of the raw materials in books and online. Write me out (typed, etc.) a "book' on what they found out about the characteristcs of each raw material in their glaze recipe....chemical composition, what it comes from, where it is mined (if so), what oxides it supplies in the melt, what it does when mixerd in water, and so on.
Then I have them make a decision about changing one characteristic material from their list of ingredients. Some pick different feldspars, some change from stuff like Whiting to Dolomite, some change the colorants, and so on. It is their decision what to do. (In the group setting... this lets me address a LOT of stuff to the group.) Then I introduce the concept of scientific method (short version - change ONE thing at a time ....control all else), and a line blend and how that works. They then set up a line blend system (11 points) and vary a SINGLE variable in that potential blend (sort of half of a blend....really just regular incremental stepped changes). Next comes exchanging two items for each other.... a true line blend.
Eventually when we have fired results, and can look at an analyze them, we then look at what the material changes did to the oxides in the melt in each case. Slowly we shift from a materials based approach to glazes to an oxide based approach.
15 weeks......... two - 3 hour classes a week, plus homework time. By the end....... they can mix up glazes, organize tests, do recordkeeping, use Insight at a basic level.. .... and know what they are doing at a basic level. (At NHIA we now just instituted Clay and Glaze Chemistry II in our curriculum starting in the fall BFA semester.... YES!)
Don't get overwelmed. There is a lifetime of study ahead of you. Take baby steps. You'll get there.
You are absolutely correct with that statement. It is the CORE of toxicological study.
However the real ISSUE in most artist's studios is that they have NO idea WHAT the exposure level is. THAT is the reason to treat materials with great respect. In many, many cases ... that respect will be overkill.
And what produces "safe" conditions and works in one artists studio and studio practice... is not necessarliy going to be the same in another situation. So one person's experiential information may not hold up in another's world....and be misleading.
Those levels of contaminants relative to working practices can be studied (stuff like air sampling)....... most artists won't spend the $ to do that.
So we are then back to 'gun safety'....... is the gun loaded? If you don't KNOW....... well.... you get the idea.
I can add one thing in there in the early part of the process (unless I missed it).
VERY ealry on take a small sample of the clay and place an excess of vinegar onto it. If it fizzes all over, you have some calcium compounds (limestone / carbonate likely) evenly spread into the mix. That's generally OK.
If it fizzed from single localized little SPOTS....you have nodules of limestone in the clay. These will cause you what are known as "lime pop-outs". Almost impossibel t clean out of the body.
Yeah.... wood firing is a "labor of love". You REALLY have to be willing to accept the huge labor factor. It comes in many forms.
First there is the "getting the wood" factor. Whether that is tracking down good suppliers of cut stuff (whick seem to constantly be changing), or going out and cutting it and hauling it.... it takes time.
Then once you have it "on site", there is the wood prep itself. The wood needs to be in certtain sizes. Some larger , some smaller, and having the right ratio of those kinds on hand for a given kiln. So likely some chain saw work, and then either hand splitting or using a log splitter. Often...... appropriate amounts of differnt types of wood too.... hard wood vs. softwood, etc.
Then there is the wood stacking and "drying maintenence" aspects. Keeping track of the condition of the backstock of wood for future firings. Covering it at the right times.... uncovering it at the right times. And so on.
Then ...... moving the current firings wood to the area near the kiln if it is not already there. You get to be a kiln pilot.......... or actually .... "pile - it". LOTS of "moving wood".
Next we have the loading of the kiln to factor in. It is WAY harder to load a wood kiln than say a gas or electric kiln. Between "strategic placement" thinking time as you are in there thinking about flame paths..... and then all the wadding issues. WAY longer to load. WAY, WAY, WAY.
Then there is the firing itself. You need to stoke 24/7. SOMEONE does anyway. With a gas or electric kiln.... you can be doing other things at the same time as occasionally going and turning up a burner or two. Or in the case of an electric kiln....... making sure the controller is doing its job. Not so the wood kiln....... pretty constant attention. As the firing progresses....... focus goes up. All else fades into insignificance. Nothing else gets done. So every hour of the firing is at least oneperson labor hour... often more then one person on a larger kiln. If you fire for 2 days...... one person.... 48 hours of direct labor at $X per hour in addition to all the other direct actual fuel costs.
Then there is the "firing exhaustion" labor costs. Wood firing is hard physical work. After a firing, you are drained...... useless for a while. In some cases you are just finally SLEEPING! So no pottery work gets done or far less than normal. So in that sense... more "lost labor".
Then unloading. Again a much slower process than gas or electric firings. Cleaning ouit dry ash from fireboxes and waiting for dust to clear before you can really get in there. Sometimes stuff is stuck and requires carefull thinking and judicious use of chizels and hammers or grinder to get out. Older kilns have sharp bits and bobs that require slow careful deliberate movements inside.... or blood is shed.
Then there is the clean up of the work. Wadding and stuff like shells and the like removed. Deciding how MUCH to grind off. Lots of grinding and buffing and fussing.
All in all........... HUGE amounts of labor.
For a lot of the labor above..... you can often contract it out.... but that still factors into the "wood firing is expensive" part. When you need a "firing team" ..........and if you don't pay them cash to do so........... the expense there comes in the form of trading away part of that expensive kiln space (that you could have used yourself) for the firing labor others provide.
Yeah.... now that I've said all that.... I'm nuts. Think I'll go get a couple big L+Ls with nice computerized controllers. Sounds REALLY good to me right about now.
It is called "scumming". It is because there are some soluble salts in the clay body. They are migrating to the surface as the water leaves the clay and depositing there. On edges where the water tends to get air currents and evaporate first and best....... it tends to get concentrated.
Left unglazed it often still shows. Covered with glaze, it is a "crap shoot" as to how it will affect a particular glaze.
The FIX is done in the clay body formulation. If you are buying commercial clay...... you are kinda' stuck with that happening now and again. The typuical one is a TINY additiona of barium carbonate to the body (yes... barium carbonate). Thru ion exchange in the wet clay the barium carbonate becom,es insoluble barium sulphate ....and .... problem solved. Getting the precise amount of barium carb. is tricky. You don't want too much or too little. And it is a TINY TINY TINY amount.
Denise,...... holy crap.... the mercury from the light bulbs....doubt if it all washed off !!!!! Not good.
I put TONS of stuff into clay bodies for 土あじ ..... Tsuchi Aji (Sue Chee Ah Gee)........ literal "Clay Taste" or "Flavor Of The Clay"......meaning "character of the clay body".
Sometimes there is ALL of the following in one of my clay mixtures: sawdust, granite dust and pieces up to 3/8", granitic sand from the river bank behind my studio, three sizes of commercial grog, molochite grog in two different mesh sizes, fine silica sand, coarse silica sand, crushed chunks of feldspar. And yes.... somtimes it does get thrown.
(Not as bad as you think.......but don't bear down heavily on the wheel head with the sides of you hands - you shouldn't anyway with any clay-. )
I have one clay mixture that is more rocks than clay. This idea was inspired by seeing a woodfiring potter just outside Mashiko in Motegi back in about 1996 or so. Some of his work more closly resembles glass than clay, as you can see through sections of the walls where the feldspathic rocks have melted. That mixture is a real bear to work with. Horrible to trim. And it takes about 6 to 10 repeated firings in my noborigama before the rocks melt down enough to not be used as a Surform Rasp. Lotsd of failures.... but the keepers are great.
I often have students at the college just go outside and dig up some "dirt" and put back into the commercial clay some of the character that the commercial "beneficiating" has so carefully taken out.
A while ago I was doing some kiln consulting work for a prep school with a good ceramics program. (BTW..... I promised that this school must remain nameless when mentioning this following fact.) There in a corner was a large maybe 5 1/2 - 6 foot tall piece.......... instantly UNMISTAKEABLE......... a still raw green Volkous "Stack". I was blown away that it was there. Nice one too. That item is incredibly valuable........ and is just sitting there in their kiln room.
He had done a workshop there.
I love that old picture of Hamada, Leach, Yanagi, Archie Bray.... and Volkous at the workshop Hamada was doing. And the comment from Hamada to Volkous, 'you need to loosen up' (see early Volkous pots). He took it to heart.
Your issues are typically long term chronic exposures, not acute exposures. Not much CO produced. More SOx.
It is very simple to answer this question. Get a Nighthawk digital readout carbon monoxide detector. Put it in the kiln room. Fire withouit the fan working at all or with the pipe enptying into th room. Watch the digital readings.
If you CAN.... try to find an old Nighthawk sitting on the shelves of a smaller hardware store. The newer untis have the sensitivity dropped so that the low level readouts are not as sensitive as they used to be. But still good enough for that you are doing.
End of "hypothetical" discussion. Then you'll KNOW the issue or not.
You can also get professional air sampling.... maybe $500 to do. Overkill in this case.
Every kiln room should have a CO detector mounted in there anyway... particularly in a SCHOOL....... so this is not a wasted expense.