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Member Since 08 Apr 2010
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#71965 What Was Your Greatest Leap Forward This Year?

Posted by GEP on 16 December 2014 - 10:33 AM

My biggest leap forward this year was the result of leaving my teaching job at the end of 2013. I do miss the classroom environment and seeing my students/friends every week. But having all of my time devoted to studio work resulted in giant leaps forward in productivity, design of new pieces, more shows, and a whopping 40% increase in sales (not exaggerating ... I'm still trying to wrap my head around this number). I also never felt strung-out exhausted this fall, which had been the norm in previous years. Somewhere along the way this year, my work crossed over another threshold. After several years of applying, I was juried into the 2015 Smithsonian Craft Show, so next year is already looking bright.

#71750 Production Potter Productivity

Posted by GEP on 12 December 2014 - 12:25 PM



Well, so far I just learned why I decided not to post here and haven't for more than a year... I'm thinking this was a bad idea...

Because the Internet always wants to give answers to questions you didn't ask?


Yes Virginia, there is wisdom on the internet.... EXACTLY!



Years ago, when Clayart was the only clay forum around, I posted a glaze recipe and asked "can anyone suggest how to tweak this recipe so it melts at a half-cone lower?" One of the responses I got was "why don't you adjust the recipe so it melts at a lower temperature?" Seriously. Clayart was/is so unstructured and disorganized that the original questions get lost quickly and nobody thinks it's important anyways.


I'm glad this forum is organized into threads, so when an OP remarks that the answers are not on point, everyone can easily refer to the original question.

#71577 Production Potter Productivity

Posted by GEP on 09 December 2014 - 10:36 PM

Scoring and slipping can be reduced to one step, by scrubbing the attachment points with a wet toothbrush instead. It roughs up the surface, and creates just the right amount of slip.

Don't blend in the seams where the handles attach. That is a total time suck. Just press the handles on firmly, with lots of pressure and a tiny bit of wiggling. Then clean up any slip that oozed out with a wet paint brush. Takes a little practice. Hopefully your glaze will pool in the visible seams and make them look nicer.

#71563 Production Potter Productivity

Posted by GEP on 09 December 2014 - 08:43 PM

Mike, I don't think there are many potters here who are producing at this rate, which is why no one has the exact answer you're looking for. I do think you have gotten some useful responses anyways.

Throwing 5 cylinders per hour is not worth paying for. 15 per hour is good. I am guessing an experienced production potter would be throwing 30.

The hand building rate is painfully slow. I don't know how to make it go faster, except to hire folks with faster skills. I'm guessing some of your employees are belaboring over the details too much. Try to figure out if this is happening, and address it. Extruded handles ought to be really fast. Maybe the tiles can be made in bulk in advance and kept moist.

#71028 How Do You Develop You Own Aesthetic?

Posted by GEP on 01 December 2014 - 12:47 PM

Good point , Chris. Include what your are balancing as well as your attempts to grow.Marcia

I've mentioned this on the forum before, and this is the advice I give out frequently, that I worked another good-paying full-time job for the first eight years after launching the pottery business. The other job gave me the funds to start the pottery business, and also allowed me to develop my work without any financial pressure. I didn't quit the other job until I knew the pottery business would provide a living income.

#71027 How Do You Develop You Own Aesthetic?

Posted by GEP on 01 December 2014 - 12:42 PM

You are or should be your best and toughest critic. How hard are you on yourself?

My standard for judging my pots: If I hadn't made that, would I buy it?

I know what goes through my own head when looking at pots. I have a great deal of appreciation of art, craft, and design. But I am value-oriented and hate clutter. I will sometimes buy expensive pots, and sometimes buy things that I only plan to display on a shelf, but mostly I want pots in the everyday functional range.

My new pottery designs go through a fairly long design process, which often involves using them myself for some time. I only release a small number of new designs per year, and maybe one or two will survive in my line for the long term.

Another standard that I like to achieve: When I can say to the customer "I know you're gonna love this."

#70892 Critique - Worst You've Heard

Posted by GEP on 28 November 2014 - 10:45 AM

The most upsetting negative feedback I've ever received .... in my first semester of college, I got a B in Design 101. I thought I had done a good job in the class. But in hindsight I know I half-assed it, just expecting my work to stand out because it always had before. I realized many of my classmates were also voted "class artist" in high school, and I was just average among them. That was the end of my half-assery. I put forth a real effort after that, and the critiques were still hard and honest, but at least I knew it was not from lack of effort. I guess I'm lucky that I did not have any professors who were bitter or failed to be constructive.


When working as a designer, you need to hear and process and incorporate mountains of critical feedback. Finishing any project with an "approval" from a client (who wouldn't have hired you at all if they didn't like your work) involves so much detail and nuance. Multiple attempts. Convincing and conceding, back and forth. You are often aiming for a moving target. This is normal to me now. The absence of disagreement would seem weird to me.


Now working as a potter, I am free from aiming for those moving targets. I only need to hit my own aesthetic goals. The critical feedback I get now comes in the form of rejection from shows I've applied to, and when customers walk out of my booth empty-handed. But again, I think it would be weird if there was no disagreement about my work. I know how hard it is to please people. It does not bother me at all. In fact what really bothers me is when someone gives me obvious false praise, when their body language says they do not like my work. Do you think I'm going to burst into tears because you don't like my pots? Please.


(side note ... this is one of the secrets to my success as a potter. After many years of greased-pig-wrestling with other people's aesthetic ideas, I have developed a rock solid sense of my own values, and I only try to be true to myself.)


I can totally empathize with a college student, without much worldly perspective, who feels hurt by the sting of criticism. I really don't have much sympathy for a grown adult, with enough time out in the real world, who acts like a baby when criticized.

#70399 Pitfalls And Must Haves

Posted by GEP on 21 November 2014 - 11:51 AM

That's a good way to put it Chris. The LLC issue is all about risk comfort and risk management. In my book, the best way to get comfortable about risk is to understand what your risks are. Real risk, not remote possibilities. Like I said before, a pottery business has very few liabilities, and they are either very remote, or well within our control.


That's the way I see it. Everyone else can make their own decisions about it. I'm going to take the money I save on LLC filings and buy tin oxide instead.

#69997 New Potter: Advice Appreciated!

Posted by GEP on 16 November 2014 - 09:09 AM

Welcome to the non-lurking side. Nice to have you here!


Your post is very thoughtfully organized and well-written, and that bodes well for what you're trying to do.


I agree with everything bciske said. Especially that you need to give yourself more time than next August to figure this out. Even if you can net $10K by then, that is not relevant for the long-term. It doesn't indicate whether you can sustain those sales, or sustain the physical grind of full-time pottery (both the pot-making and the shows). Plan to keep the other job for 5 to 10 more years. Possibly you can switch that to a part-time job, or a work-at-home job, along the way as part of a gradual shift.


I say 5 to 10 more years because your work is not "full-time living" quality yet. If you have been throwing for one year, it shows a great deal of natural ability and promise. But still it needs a lot more development. And I've seen those glazes all over the place.


Tweaking your booth setup: All I see is the light tablecloth in the middle. The dark pots on dark shelves disappear, especially because they are not facing the front of the booth. I would rearrange the layout so some of the shelving is facing the front of the booth. Make the table in the middle less prominent. You can have dark pots on dark shelves with proper lighting. You'll need lights for some of the better quality shows.


The Trimline is technically a better tent than the Light Dome, but only if you can handle the weight. The Light Dome requires much less effort. This is important if you're doing lots of shows. However, if you've grossed $3-$4K this year, and just bought a new kiln, this is not the right time drop $1000 on the tent. There are plenty of pop-ups at good-quality shows, make do until you can easily afford a nicer tent.


Apparently it's very trendy for restaurants to use tableware that looks rustic and handmade, but they have no interest in paying for handmade. We've had some discussions about this idea on this forum, it doesn't appear to be a viable idea.


$36K net per year is a doable benchmark, but again not until you've had 5 to 10 years more of development.


A pottery career is not a sprint. It's not even a marathon. It is an uphill hike that doesn't end. If you're in a hurry to get there, then it might not be the right choice for you.

#69896 What Gets You In The Studio Faster?

Posted by GEP on 14 November 2014 - 09:27 AM

It wasn't too long ago (maybe 7 years) that I made really bad handles, and I hated making them. I've put a lot of effort and practice into making them better and easier. I credit a lot of my growth to Tony Clennell's dvd on handle pulling.

#69876 Question On Show Arrangement, By Item, By Color Or By Sets ?

Posted by GEP on 13 November 2014 - 10:13 PM

If you are bringing multiples of the same item, it's more important to group like items together than like glazes. Then display one example of each set you had in mind, to suggest to customers how the items can be put together, but without making them feel like buying the set is required.

#69835 What Gets You In The Studio Faster?

Posted by GEP on 13 November 2014 - 10:10 AM

All of my work is driven by deadlines. I don't think I ever make anything that isn't "due" soon. Yesterday I finished trimming my last two wholesale orders of the year, due on 11/24. And now I need to finish one last big cycle of work for my December shows, about $6000 worth of pots, for a show on 12/7 and for my open studio the following weekend. This doesn't mean I never experiment on new designs, but when I do I have a show date in mind for when I'm going to finish the project (or scrap it). I came from a long career as a designer, so deadlines are normal to me. If anyone thinks my answer takes the romance out of the idea of professional pottery, I'd say "who said it was romantic?" Fulfilling on a deeper level? Yes, there are many moments of euphoria/pride/satisfaction that result from this work. But in order to have that, the day-to-day life is about a high-rate productivity, and deadlines.

#69223 Hw Do You Cope With Aches And Pains?

Posted by GEP on 03 November 2014 - 09:53 AM

I am an avid runner, therefore my body is tuned to use my core and my legs for support.

Proper wheel height and throwing stool height. For me, my wheel head is as high as my belly button. This has just about eliminated lower back pain. And I propped up my wheel a few inches, which keeps my legs a bit straighter, if I don't do that my knees will hurt.

I throw clay that is very soft. If I don't, my neck, shoulders and wrists get sore.

I do all my handbuilding standing up. I have bad feet, bunions and such. Good shoes that support my feet while not bothering my bunions are essential. For me the best studio shoes are Crocs. I like that they are cheap, last for years, and can be hosed off when dirty.

Everything heavy in the studio is on wheels.

I still experience aches and pains on occasion, especially in my wrists and shoulders. When possible, I will give myself some days off to rest.

Thinking long-term, I'm 43 now and I am planning to retire from full-studio pottery by age 60. I'd like to spend those years with a healthy body and more free time. So I'm working on a financial plan that will allow me to do that.

#69120 Wholesale Q & A

Posted by GEP on 01 November 2014 - 06:52 PM

For me there are only two PROS: Some of my wholesale accounts are reputable enough that they increase my credibility. I am proud to say "you can find my work at .... " And some of my gallery accounts are in areas that are too far for me to travel for a show, therefore they reach audiences that I can't reach myself.

The CON of doing wholesale is that it's less profitable. I used to do 50% wholesale and 50% retail. After I did my year-long analysis of my hourly earnings, and figured out how much more I was earning at art festivals, I changed that ratio to 20% wholesale and 80% retail. I increased my income by 40% (as of last year, this year will improve on that) while also decreasing my work hours.

#68958 Cash Deposits Seized By Irs

Posted by GEP on 30 October 2014 - 05:51 PM

So based on the lack of details in both of the articles, and their alarmist-sounding tone, I ran them past my accountant asking if this was even possible. Turns out the IRS and Treasury Department DO have the authority to seize your bank account if your banking activity contains certain suspicious patterns. He also said that legitimate small businesses have nothing to worry about. These laws exist to combat the drug trade.

Specifically, the behavior is called "structuring" which means you routinely make bank deposits that are slightly less than $10,000. When you make deposits of $10,000 or more, banks are required to report that to the Treasury Dept. So making routine deposits of just under $10,000 looks like you are trying to avoid IRS detection.

Does your pottery business behave like this? If not, then don't worry about this.

Is it possible for legitimate small businesses to behave like this by accident? Of course, and it's too bad if this happened to innocent people. This is another reason why it pays to have a good accountant. Hypothetically, if I landed a huge wholesale account that involved a $9,800 order every quarter, I'm confident my accountant would notice it and say "let me explain structuring to you, and why you should renegotiate this order."