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Member Since 08 Apr 2010
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#117943 Electric Vs Gas Firing - Surface Look - Clothes Or Skin

Posted by GEP on 06 December 2016 - 10:14 AM

This past weekend, I surprised yet another gas firer when she asked, "this is all reduction fired right?" and I said "No it's all cone six electric."

Although I will respectfully disagree with Neil that borates are the problem with cone 5-6 glazes. I love gerstley borate. I think the problem is Zircopax. Makes such flat colored glazes yuck.

#117731 I'm Trying Not To Be Angry But

Posted by GEP on 03 December 2016 - 08:17 AM

I'm sorry this happened to you Stephen. You have every right to be angry. After reading the correspondence from the show organizers, I would not bother reaching out to them. I would just drop them like a hot potato. It's clear that art was not their main focus, and they don't care how much they impacted you. When organizers do things THIS weird and dumb, they aren't going to be around for long. Focus your energy on your remaining shows.

#117009 Qotw: Do You Need A "symbol"?

Posted by GEP on 23 November 2016 - 07:03 PM

Some people have orange aprons. Some of us have orange crocs.

Attached File  image.jpg   110.53KB   0 downloads

#116943 Instagram

Posted by GEP on 22 November 2016 - 09:35 PM

I've decided to start using Instagram. So far I've already spent way too much time looking at other potter's posts! Must be careful not to do that everyday.

I know I've stated in the past that I don't think social media is very effective at generating sales. But my ultimate goal for Instagram is not for selling pots. My Instagram posts will be different from my Facebook posts. I want to show a close-up, behind-the scenes peek of a full-time pottery studio. The good, the bad, and the boring.


#116274 Warped Piece

Posted by GEP on 14 November 2016 - 10:28 AM

I make a lot of plates, trays, platters on hump molds. One thing I always do is take a flexible rib (a red Sherrill rib) and throughly burnish the slab against the mold, using fairly firm pressure. This erases any memory the slab may have had, and realigns the clay into the shape of the mold. I also leave the piece on the mold longer than five hours, usually overnight.

This is another process where practice and repetition also make a big difference. When I first started using hump molds, I made lots of warped plates. As time went by, the warping gradually disappeared. Not through any conscious technique changes, but I think I slowly learned how to handle slabs soundly and consistently.

I also think your footring is too small for that platter. If you make the footring wider, the rim will be better supported.

#115761 How Much Do You Sell Your Mugs For?

Posted by GEP on 06 November 2016 - 10:29 AM

I don't think it makes sense to discuss specific price points without considering location as a context. The right price in one area doesn't apply to other areas. Also, you have to consider the potter's equity, how much equity do they have with their customer base? The long line of customers in that potter's booth was probably due to his track record of quality, not his prices.

Here in the mid-atlantic and northeast, I charge $35 for a large 20oz mug. When I look around at shows, mine are the cheapest. I have no incentive to charge less.

#115676 I Have A Dilemma

Posted by GEP on 04 November 2016 - 06:44 PM

The prodigal customer reappeared! She called this morning, and came by this afternoon to fetch her plates. She apologized and said she had been travelling a lot. She just got back from a trip where she saw the friend who also bought the plates, and thus was reminded that she needed to make a pick up. I don't think there was a serious emergency, I think this was a case of absent-mindedness or low priority. Anyways, I'm glad it's over and that it worked out fine.

#115505 Website Ads On Your Website

Posted by GEP on 01 November 2016 - 11:18 AM

I'm going to get a little pretentious here, based on my background in publishing. I've laid out many publications that included ads. I think it's really important to be careful about it, to make sure the sponsor gets the value they paid for, without overshadowing the actual content of the publication. This is hard enough on a printed page. On a website, it's much harder because the designer has much less control over how things appear to the end user. It really irritates me when I see any layout, web or print, where this balance has not been handled well. 


I have no plans to put ads on my own website. When I visit other potters' websites, I don't mind when I see ads for ceramics-related products and services. Where the ad makes good sense based on the content of the website. And it looks like both the advertiser and the website made a careful choice. The advertiser is targeting the right viewers, and the website is bringing value to their viewers. And the ad was produced to the websites specifications, and placed in a designated spot, away from the actual content. Such as a sidebar, or a top banner. 


I hate it when I see a website, for supposedly a small artisan business, with Google ads placed willy-nilly on the page. Like when a string of ads is placed right in the middle of a blog post. For products that are not ceramics-related. Most likely they are for a website that I visited the day before (which really creeps me out that Google can do that). I feel like the website owner is making a cheesy money grab, while applying no thought or effort. 


If I got this offer from Big Ceramics Store, I probably wouldn't do it. But I wouldn't mind if I saw it on other potters' sites. 

#115227 Pulling Walls

Posted by GEP on 27 October 2016 - 03:00 PM

For cylinders, there needs to be a "match" between the speed at which your wheel is spinning, and the speed at which your hands are travelling up the pot. If your pot is going off center during a pull, your hands are travelling up the pot too fast. I used to tell my students to count to twenty during the pull. Or thirty for a bigger cylinder. Another way to think about it is, the pot should make two revolutions for every centimeter your hands move.

#115156 Any Thoughts On How To Improve My % In A Good Gallery?

Posted by GEP on 26 October 2016 - 03:02 PM

I wouldn't try to compete with jewelers in terms of gross sales. Jewelers have to spend a lot more on materials. And having taken a beginner metalsmithing class, making jewelry is tedious and time consuming. Their gross/net/labor ratios are nothing like yours. The comparison is meaningless.

If there is significant tourist traffic, design some items that reflect the location in a specific way. Make it thoughtful and interesting, doesn't have to be cheezy tourist crap. Last year I designed a simple platter that, if you look closely, contains a subtle silhouette of the state of Maryland. It sells like crazy.

#115127 I Have A Dilemma

Posted by GEP on 26 October 2016 - 09:54 AM

Thanks for all the responses everyone! Lots of good ideas, and some points I had not considered.

Here's what I'm thinking now:

What she did is not that bad, on the spectrum of bad customers. After all, she did pay for the plates first. She didn't swindle me, and she's not harassing me. She left me in a state of uncertain obligation, which is really an existential crisis rather than a real crisis.

Although I believe she is being flaky, the truth is I don't know that for sure. The problem here is a lack of information, I shouldn't fill in the empty space with assumptions. Sending her an unsolicited refund is also a message of "Go away, you flake!" Does she deserve my hostility? I don't know. I should only use hostility in cases when it is clearly warranted.

I think the most responsible thing for me to do is to take her last words at face value. She had an emergency last month, and will get in touch with me when she's ready. This is respectful while also holding her responsible for her words. If she wants to complete her unfinished business, it's up to her.

But I'm not going to store her plates indefinitey. If I haven't heard from her by early December, I'll remind her again. I'll tell her the dates/hours of my impending open studio, and if she doesn't make a pickup at or before, I will make her plates available for sale. I will explain that demand for these dishes is kind-of crazy at this event. Which doesn't mean she can't get them later, it just means she might have to wait if they sell out.

I will not bring up the possibility of a refund. If she really has changed her mind and wants a refund, she needs to tell me. If she asks, I'll do it.

I don't hold any delusions that she might become a regular good customer. I have enough good customers to know they don't behave like this. However, HER FRIEND has the potential to become a regular good customer. Everything I do will likely be reported to the friend.

Thanks again, everyone, for helping me figure this out!

A related story, at a show in early October, I was faced with a similar request. A husband/wife stopped to look at my pots.They had bought my pots before. The husband came back later by himself and wanted to buy a nice piece for his wife. But he wanted to surprise her, could he pick it up in a few days? I was already dealing with the dinner-plate-lady situation so I was feeling reluctant but I agreed anyways. He emailed the next day and made an appointment for Tuesday. He showed up right on time and was delightful about the whole thing. I was glad for the reminder that most pottery fans are like this.

#114605 Qotw: Ceramics In Action Pictures Anybody?

Posted by GEP on 12 October 2016 - 01:14 PM

Sometimes customers send me photos of my pots in their houses. I wrote a recent blog post about them:




And since I published this, I've received a bunch more. I plan to use these in my show announcement emails next year.

#113813 Multiple Clay Explosions In Bisque

Posted by GEP on 26 September 2016 - 12:29 PM

Small kilns like that can heat up really fast! Yes you are ramping up too fast.

I started out with a small kiln with manual switches, low, medium, and high. For bisque firings, I would fire on low for 3 hours, followed by medium for 3 hours, then high.

#113806 New Business Promotion

Posted by GEP on 26 September 2016 - 11:13 AM

I don't do online selling either, just once in a while, so I can't offer any personal experience.

However, I've been subscribing to this newsletter called "What's in Store" from MailChimp this year, which I highly recommend to anyone who is starting an online store. Basicially, MailChimp asked one of their employees, who had zero experience building/managing an online store, to launch MailChimp's store and write about the experience. There's a lot of honest and useful advice provided. I've been meaning to post this on the forum for a while, and this thread seems like the perfect opportunity.


There are over 20 newsletters by now, but they are very short and easy to digest. I would scroll down and start at the beginning.

(One tidbit for those who don't feel like reading everything: lifestyle photos outsell product-only photos.)

#113466 Causes For Cracks

Posted by GEP on 20 September 2016 - 10:17 AM

Before trimming, take a needle tool and measure the thickness of your bowl before trimming it. Measure it right in the center of the bottom, and in the area where you plan to establish a foot ring. Just knowing this in advance gives you a much better chance of getting even thickness when trimming. Don't worry, the act of trimming will seal up the needle holes. I have been throwing for 20+ years, and am now a full time professional, and I still do this when trimming large bowls.