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#99619 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by JBaymore on 14 January 2016 - 12:35 PM

I know you probably already looked into this, but are you SURE that your husband's pension plan has no "survivor's benefits" at all?  That is a bit rare, I think.


Also, should he pass away, you will have the survivor's benefits for HIS Social Security also available to you at some point.  So don't forget to take that into account in your planning.


There is no way around it, starting a small business and getting it to a profitable stage is a multi-year process.  No matter WHAT the field that is.  SO being a potter or a jeweler or a XXXXXXX is going to be no different.  The unfortunate truth is that as far as businesses go, those involved in the arts are even harder to get going.... because we are selling stuff that is not a necessity to people's lives.


Standard practice is that you have to plan to LOSE money for a certain period of time before the spreadsheet will stop showing red ink.  That means that you should have start-up capital amassed in the bank (beyond living expenses) that will sustain the business until it becomes profitable.


Check out the US Small Business Alliance resources for help in you planning.  And Mea has some excellent stuff she hass published that documents her journey.


Don't want to be a total "Negative Nelly" .....it can be done....... but you really w ill need to get the "ducks in a row" before you jump into the deep water.


We tell our students this kind of stuff also.  This is not "news" to them when they get out.  They know it is hard, and that it has to be run like a business.  And that only those that are "driven" to make it work will make it work.





#99508 How Does A Gas Kiln Controller Work?

Posted by JBaymore on 13 January 2016 - 02:10 PM


I have struggled firing my 3.5 cu ft conversion kiln.........




It is not a 'sacred cow', at least for me.  There is a reason industry does what it does as far as their kiln technology.  There is no question that automated controls using seriously precise technology and engineering can produce the level of consistency that manual control and lack of serious technical support cannot.  BUT.... and that is a big "but"....... all of that comes at a price.  The big question is, "Is that price worth the returns?"


USUALLY... for studio artists.... the answer is "no".  But not always.  Each case is an individual one.


Those Blauu kilns are fantastic.  They are also very expensive.  So one has to weigh the cost/benefit analysis.  Automated firing is easy and pretty darn cheap to add to electric kilns...... so the "Do I adopt that?" question gets a pretty fast "yes" answer.


Maybe part of the "issues" that are driving you to seek more "control" by heading down a technological route are rooted in your experiences with that type of kiln.  I've been around the block.... and NEVER have seen one of those little "convert an electric kiln to a gas kiln" or even the commercial small updraft "gas kilns that look like an electric kiln" to work very well.


If there are no other choices... they allow someone to do fuel firing in a situation / location that a more "formal" gas kiln is not possible.  In that case, the trade off is that they do not work all that well.  You tend to accept that potential as the "price of admission".


A decent gas kiln is NOT all that hard to learn to fire.  It is also not all that hard to manually control for pretty consistent results. Add in a quality pyrometer with multiple probes, and an oxy-probe to take the visual guesswork out of adjusting reduction conditions (the big issue in manual control) and you can do pretty well.


The time to decide if something like automation is appropriate for one's self is when you almost don't totally NEED to use it.   When you have a skill and experience base to evaluate the tools f rom a basis of knowledge, not from a position of lack of understanding. 


It is similar to my pet peeve with the Giffin Grip.  The time to think about getting one is after you don't NEED it to solve re-centering issues.  Then you can really evaluate the tool and its potential benefits and potential payback.  If adopted tooearly .... it stunts some skill development.


Do you have anyone that fires gas nearby, with a larger more "formal" kiln, that can teach you?  It is a hands-on process.  And it takes a bit of time to learn the skills.





#99398 Sharing Recipes

Posted by JBaymore on 12 January 2016 - 03:41 PM

Writing a book,  Still wouldn't rest easily with me unless  declaring the original source, if known.


Once you put them out there...... they tend to be looked as being in the "open source" department, to use the computer phrase.  TECHNICALLY if you came up with the original, and you wrote it up, the exact recipe is copyrighted (as a piece of writing).  But since it is a recipe for some tangible product, I think you'd need something like a patent to protect that.  Strange very gray area of law, I would think. (Lawpots?)


Many have made money by collecting and sharing other people's glaze recipes without much in the way of attribution. 


Potters are a bit crazy;  we tend to freely share what in most other businesses would be considered "proprietary formulas" that are valued business assets.  We also tend to freely go around and show people how to make the objects we make in places like workshops and Youtube videos.  We share how to build specialized pieces of equipment.  And so on.


Try to get APPLE or MICROSOFT to share some of their "secrets" :ph34r:   :rolleyes:  ;) .






PS:  Luckily..... how they get used, and the kilns they are fired in tend to impact the look of the glazes... so sharing it is only a part of the story.

#99360 Mugs - Handle Or No Handle

Posted by JBaymore on 12 January 2016 - 10:35 AM

Actually I read somewhere that tea bowls have no handles because if they are too hot to hold, the tea is too hot to drink.


Some background..........


When the beverage is first poured (and hottest) yunomi are traditionally grasped between the bottom of the foot with the center two fingers of the hand and the thumb sitting on the top of the lip.  Your hand forms the shape of the "handle".... keeping it away from the hot clay.  As the beverage cools, then a 'closer to the hand' grip happens until you can fully "cup" the yunomi in your hand to enjoy the warmth.


Japanese green tea (brewed ones, like sencha and bancha) is not made with really hot water, like many black Chinese teas (or the typical American methods).  Really hot water makes green teas bitter.  The optimum range is around 140-180 F. (Try it!)   "Serious" tea folks go crazy about precise water temps for specific teas (as well as crazy about specific unglazed clays enhancing flavors of specific teas). 


So the "target" temperature of the liquid in a typical yunomi is not as hot as you might imagine.  We drink brewed Japanese greens all the time (sencha and bancha).  We have a Japanese hot water unit that pumps out hot water for making tea whenever we want.......(Zojirushi   https://www.zojirush...p/product/cdjuc    ) ..... and it is set at 140F.


Chinese tea ceremony for the black teas like puer does always start with fully boiling water (212 F) but also involves some cooling steps to take some of the heat off the liquid before it is served and consumed.  And the teacups used for that are very tiny and so do not have a huge thermal mass to burn the hand.


Chawan (actual Japanese Tea Cermony bowls) are generally large relative to the amount of whisked tea that they will contain.  Lots of thermal mass "heat sink" to take the temperature off.  A bowl that is 13 cm in diameter and 9 cm in height will typically have well less than 1/3 of the volume with anything in it.  (The tea is an amount that can typically be consumed in three sips.)  When the tea is being made by the host the water is slightly cooled before being scooped out of the kettle (taken off low boil) and added to the powdered tea (matcha) in the bowl.  The whisking action also causes the tea mixture to cool a bit.


The tea is thicker than most non-tea practitioner people are familiar with, and the water content is less than with the brewed teas most are familiar with.  Water stores a lot of heat energy....tea leaves do not.  For actual Ceremony, the top quality powdered green tea leaves are ground finely (looks like green tempra paint) and mixed with water...... with 'thin tea" (usucha) being slightly creamy... and 'thick tea' (koicha) being about the consistency of good thick latex house paint (most Westerners do NOT like it).


When at the hottest point, the Chawan is picked up by the host very similarly to what I described for yunomi above with the right hand...... and then placed on its foot in the palm of the outstretched left hand.  It sits there for a moment, then is again picked up by the foot and lip with the right hand, and placed in front of the Guest on the tatami.  The Guest then picks up the Chawan by the foot and lip with the right hand and places it on the palm of the outstretched left hand.


The time involved in the various procedures is allowing the bowl to reach a comfortable temperature to cup with the hands a bit later in the ceremony.





#99138 Raw Materials

Posted by JBaymore on 09 January 2016 - 10:26 AM

If the glaze materials you have on hand are the ones that went INTO the working batches of the glazes you use....... and those glazes are OK... then you do not need to test before EACH new mixing (as long as you are CAREFUL about your mixing procedures).  If the materials you have on-hand when you mixed the last batches are in NEW un-used bags....... check the lot numbers on the bags.  If it is the same lot number you should be OK without testing them.  If there is no lot number.... you should test.


To help avoid surprises, mixing procedures should be "standardized, and you should make up a checklist of the ingredients that you check off the same way every time. If you check the item off when you pour it into the glaze bucket.... you should do it at that point ALL the time.   Then when the phone rings .... and you come back... you know if you already added that material to the partially weighed out glaze or not. ;)


The smaller the test batch, the more careful you need to be on calibrating the scale, cleaning the tools, and weighing the materials.


On a somewhat related topic:


One of the "classic" mistakes up professor types see all time is students who suddenly decide on using a new glaze/slip/clay body for a body of work for something like their senior thesis show... and do not do much if any testing work with the new-to-them material.... and put it right into production of the new body of work.  Then when it screws up in the firing, they get all bent out of shape at their "bad luck".  :rolleyes:





#99102 Raw Materials

Posted by JBaymore on 08 January 2016 - 05:47 PM



The answer to that question is the standard, "It depends".


To start with... how critical is the formulation of a particular recipe to slight variations in composition?  A "good" recipe / formula should have some "tolerance".  If there is little tolerance..... then you need to have tighter controls.


Second....... how devastating would the loss of work be?  One piece that took a total of an hour to produce...... well... maybe that itself is the "test work" for the new material batch.  But $100,000 worth of production?????  Well... that would be kinda' dumb to do.


In industry, they test new materials batches before putting them into production.  In fact in Japan... many studio type artists do this too. 


SO let's say you have "Glaze Batch A" that is a staple in your studio.  You mix it up in 40 gallon batches.  So you have a batch of glaze that lasts a certain amount of time in production work.  As that glaze batch starts getting low, you know you need to make more soon.  So you look at your raw materials inventory, and discover that Feldspar Z that makes up 20% of that glaze is just about out.  So you order more.  This is now a new bag from the supplier. 


Now you need to mix up more of "Glaze Batch A".  What you SHOULD do is mix up a test batch...... say 1000 grams or so.... and glaze some work with that mixture right along with the other production work using the original "Glaze Batch A" bucket.  Fire tham together.  It is a comparison test.  If the new batch looks the same and tests the same (crazing, abrasion, etc.) then you can mix up the replenishment for the big 40 gallon batch.  If it is different... you are now on the path of finding out WHY it is different...and taking action to adjust the recipe appropriately.


A long, long time ago... in a galaxy far, far away....... I did not follow this approach with a new shipment of custom clay body... and unloaded an entire noborigama load into my shard pit.  It almost bankrupted me.  And I lost some good accounts because of it.





#99093 Raw Materials

Posted by JBaymore on 08 January 2016 - 04:41 PM

It is as complicated as you wish to make it.



It can get MORE complicated than you wish to make it!  ;)


But it is also way too easy to OVER complicate it.


There are two general ways to look at glazes... "materials based" and "oxide based".  A lot of studio potters tend to focus almost solely on "materials based" approaches.  The "chasing glaze recipes" addiction is a part of this thinking.  This leaves them missing about half the available resources to understand what is going on.  That being said, a slavish total "oxide based" approach overlooks that the stuff we typically use is coming from impure, variable raw materials, and those raw materials have properties that impact HOW they enter into the melt and also how they behave in application. 


So you need both halves of the picture to really master things.


For the studio artist, you only need to understand the things that are in the pervue of the work you are trying to do.  The field of ceramic chemistry is enormous... and no one 'knows it all'.  If you weant to be a ceramic engineer... then you need to know a lot more of that breadth.  But if you just want to produce good studio work...... you need to know what you need to know.  No more....no less.


A glaze RECIPE is like the instructions for blending raw materials for making a cake.  A glaze FORMULA is the technical analysis of the cake AFTER it is baked.  A UNITY formula is set up in a way that lets people compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.





#98771 Recommendation For Mask To Make Glazes, And How To Make Environment Safe

Posted by JBaymore on 04 January 2016 - 10:57 AM

Quick excerpts from my toxicology section handout from the class I teach on that at the college:


As in most things that studio artists face when it comes to health and safety issues, we typically don't KNOW the contaminant level when we are doing various activities like clay body of glaze mixing.  So the prudent approach is to err on the side of caution.  (Is the gun loaded?)


General recommendation:  P-100 / HEPA filter for getting as much nasty stuff out of the air as possible.  Half face mask for the higher Protection Factor given that the EL is not known.


There are well researched standards for dealing with this issue in an occupational setting.  Being a studio artist, this IS an occupational setting.  They come from OSHA.


See here:  https://www.osha.gov...IONS&p_id=22737


Note that if you have studio employees you are supposed to KNOW the exposure levels to even begin to deal with this stuff.


Then there is this: http://www.silica-sa...quirements/osha


The respirator must FIT.  Very important.  If it doesn't, you think you are protected... and you aren't.  It is worse than knowing you are not at all protected.





Hope that is useful.






#98695 What Does Your Throwing Chair Look Like?

Posted by JBaymore on 03 January 2016 - 01:23 PM

Am getting back to throwing..............l.



Good.... good........ give in to the Dark Side.  ;)

#98694 What Does Your Throwing Chair Look Like?

Posted by JBaymore on 03 January 2016 - 01:20 PM



Been using it for MANY years now.  It is all about ergonomics. Looks weird....works great.





#98636 Wholesale Pricing

Posted by JBaymore on 02 January 2016 - 09:19 PM

When you sell wholesale... the gallery. shop can price the pieces at any amount they see fit for their audience.  HOPEFULLY you have "done your homework" and know what your work would be worth in the market.    The TYPICAL markup (retail price) is 100% over the wholesale price in the art/craft field.  Meaning that if you sell it to them for $50... they will sell it for $100.


If you sell it to them for $25... and they can sell it for $100....... YOU are leaving $25 on the table.


Don't think of the wholesale price as a "discount".  The wholesale price is the price you'd be happy to get for the work you've made. 


When you yourself then sell retail.... you have costs in doing that.  The difference between the wholesale price (you pay to the potter.... yourself) and the retail price, is what you pay to the retailer (yourself) to do the selling activity.





#98590 Other Forums Or Websites Of Interest

Posted by JBaymore on 02 January 2016 - 10:56 AM

........... but a lot of strong individuals.


Well phrased.  ;)  :P  :lol:  B)





#98522 Metallic Taste To Glaze

Posted by JBaymore on 01 January 2016 - 03:27 PM

 But if there is nothing toxic in the glaze, this isn't a health hazard.


Right there is the "key" to approaching this subject when you don't have a large technical background, or you don't want to get involved in the testing work to ascertain if the work is suitable for food use.


Does not say anything about the "archival quality" of the surfaces of your work..... (may deteriorate over time/ use) ... but it solves the "don't want to poison anyone" issue and the potential "I'm gonna' sue you" liability.





#98452 Wishing Everyone A Happy And Healthy 2016.

Posted by JBaymore on 31 December 2015 - 03:55 PM

Wanted to say "Happy New Year" to everyone as we shortly usher in 2016.





#98451 Wishing Everyone A Happy And Healthy 2016.

Posted by JBaymore on 31 December 2015 - 03:55 PM

Wanted to say "Happy New Year" to everyone as we shortly usher in 2016.