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Member Since 08 Apr 2010
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#101532 Annoyed At Postal Service

Posted by GEP on 06 February 2016 - 09:23 AM

ronfire, here's a tip I learned about shipping plates. They travel more safely if you pack them on their edges, like file folders in a file drawer. Plates are heavy, and this way they don't put any weight on each other.

If I am shipping up to 4 plates, I will stack them horizontally because the proportion makes more sense in a horizontal-ish shipping box (maybe 14l x 14w x 10h). If I am shipping more than 4 plates, I'll use a box that is the same height and width, but with a longer length, and stack them vertically (18l x 14w x 14h).

For the order you described, I would use an 18x14x14 box, stack the 6 plates vertically in the middle, and pack the other pots on either side. This way the weight is distributed symetrically, which is easier for someone to carry, less likely for someone to drop.

#101510 Annoyed At Postal Service

Posted by GEP on 05 February 2016 - 11:09 PM

I know someone who works for UPS. He said the "fragile" stickers make your box stick out for someone who is having a bad day. Unfortunately it's better to not draw attention to your box that way.

#101131 Question About How Cold Bisque Can Get In Below Zero Temps

Posted by GEP on 01 February 2016 - 01:37 PM

Welcome to the forum and thank you for posting!


I moved your thread to the "Studio" section of the forum, where it will get more views and hopefully more responses.

#101042 Professional Courtesy

Posted by GEP on 31 January 2016 - 09:48 AM

Fortunately I have never been asked to trade by someone whose art I don't care for; that could be awkward.

I have, and it is awkward. The last time it happened I said that I was low on inventory at home, and needed work for my next show. Good thing that most artists understand there is a protocol to trading: it must first be established that both parties like each other's work enough to own it, before anyone mentions the word "trade."

#100515 Where Did My Post Go

Posted by GEP on 24 January 2016 - 10:02 AM


First of all, welcome and thank you for joining the forum! For new users, your first post waits in limbo until a moderator approves it. This is how we stop spammers from using the forum. We know that this is inconvenient for new users who are not spammers, but it is a necessary step. Now that your first post has been approved, your future posts and comments will go straight through.

#100241 Ceramic Income Streams For Studio Potters

Posted by GEP on 20 January 2016 - 10:01 AM

Boston is a 9 hour drive for me, so it's really not that bad on the road warrior scale. But still it will be my furthest show to date.

I have been slowly exploring another possible income stream, which is to produce videos of all the pottery projects I used to teach. Of all the incomes streams I've tried in the past, teaching in-person classes is the least profitable by far. Although it was very rewarding otherwise and I miss the process of being a teacher. Unlike selling handmade pots, this is a product where the internet actually provides a lot of efficiency and potential distribution, compared to accomodating only 10 in-person students at a time. The hard part is to carve out time to work on it. I do think there is a big learning curve, but beyond that the production can be streamlined. Mark, your post is giving me motivation to carve out the time.

#99884 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by GEP on 16 January 2016 - 01:37 PM

"Entry fee $30.00. Packing mats. to ship $20.00. Shipping fee there $30.00 (shipping back if not sold, $30.00 more too!). So just getting the piece into the show, not counting time and materials and other cost to MAKE and photograph the work itself, is coming to $80.00. Then there is the 40% commission the exhibition takes from the sale price. The work in the show is then priced something like only $200.00. 200 minus 80 minus 40% equals $40.00 back for the artist if it sells. (And if the piece does not sell.... shipping back brings that down to $10.)"

John, using this type of exhibition as an example shows that you are maybe not in tune with working potters. Working potters do not do these types of exhibitions. Because we figured out there's no money here, after trying them once or twice. These shows have their place in the craft world, but not for working potters. The artists in these shows might be top-notch art-wise, but they are not practicing good business skills.

I don't like to be specific with income figures, but for the sake of this discussion, my gross sales in 2015 were $73k, with a net profit of $52k. That is a very comfortable existence, even in the DC metro area (well for someone for bought a house in the 1990s). I have health insurance and a well-funded retirement plan.

It can be done. Warren Mackensie hasn't held me back.

#99864 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by GEP on 16 January 2016 - 09:24 AM

In my travels, I see just as many overpricers as underpricers. Both are doing themselves a disservice, by guessing rather than being in tune with the marketplace. This is not a pervasive problem that is dragging all the potters down. Underpricers and overpricers only hurt themselves. Pottery fans will not buy your work because it is cheaper than the next potter's. But they also won't overpay for something they like. I see lots of potters who understand pricing and are doing it correctly. Modern working potters are pretty smart about this.

(If anything, overpricers are doing more damage, if they are overpricing in order to allow the customer to haggle them down to the "right" price. All that does is train wealthy customers to expect all prices to be negotiable. Ugh.)

John, I think you are basing your ideas solely on Warren Mackensie's "mingei-sota" attitude. Real working potters respect Mackensie for many things, but recognize that his pricing is not for everyone. He was a full-time teacher, therefore could afford to underprice his work and still put food on his table. He also dealt in high-volumes, and is worldwide famous. He is a unique individual, and does not represent how most potters work or think. I'm sure there are aspiring potters who try to emulate him, but those of us who make pots in the real world do not. (Go visit some high-quality art and craft shows this year, you might be pleasantly surprised!)

Chilly, your idea is not realistic either. Pottery fans travel from show to show and to different galleries. It's a small world. These people will notice if your prices are too high, and they will notice when you slash them in half. Going in the opposite direction is not a problem, as proven by oldlady's example. She jacked up her prices one day, and nobody minded! We are not selling toilet paper or gasoline, those pricing rules do not apply.

Don't underprice. Don't overprice. Take the time to figure out the value of your work in your marketplace, and price your work correctly.

#99762 Electric Kiln Manufacturers: Which Are Best And What To Look For

Posted by GEP on 15 January 2016 - 10:51 AM

Do I think one manufacturer is the best?


Because of any special features?

1) Ceramic element holders, and 2) multizone/multi-thermocouple controller.

And I don't know how well other kiln manufacturers handle this, but when you buy an L&L, you get extremely clear and concise written instructions for how to disassemble, move, and reassemble the kiln. And any time I've called or emailed L&L for help, I've gotten prompt and expert advice.

Longest lasting elements?

This is not dependent on kiln brand or element brand. This depends entirely on how your fire.

Best value?

I agree with bciske here, the best values are the ones you don't find on Craigslist.

#99703 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by GEP on 14 January 2016 - 10:36 PM

That is what I am going to have to decide: at what point do I pull the plug and do this full time?

Not until you know there is a viable market/demand for your pottery. If your pension + unexpected loss of your husband = financial hardship, then you really do not have the luxury to quit a good paying job cold turkey. It sounds like you DO have enough time and energy to make pots while working full-time. You need to allocate some of this time towards business development. You CAN do this while working full-time.

You are currently doing small-time sales, etsy and small shows. My suggestion is to challenge yourself to do a medium or large show this summer. This experience will give you a lot of data to help you decide if and when to quit your job.

#99615 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by GEP on 14 January 2016 - 12:13 PM

When you spent a year sabbatical feeling happy, healthier, and busy making work, were you making money?

Edited to add:

If yes, then whatever you were doing that year is where you should start.

If no, then you might have the wrong impression that running a pottery business for profit will feel like a sabbatical. It's anything but. I'm typing this as I procrastinate from going down to the basement, where I have about 6 hours of throwing to do today.

#99381 Mugs - Handle Or No Handle

Posted by GEP on 12 January 2016 - 12:46 PM

Plenty of tea folks in the USA. But you'd better know what you are doing.... not only on the pottery side but on the TEA side also. They take tea very seriously.

This is important to point out to anyone who wants to make yunomis in order to avoid making handles. Making a yunomi that will impress a serious tea person, is just as advanced and elusive as making good handles (if not more).

#99353 Mugs - Handle Or No Handle

Posted by GEP on 12 January 2016 - 09:47 AM

Having been a pottery teacher, I have also encountered folks who are saying "handles aren't necessary" when they really mean "I don't like to make handles." A good handle is one of the most difficult skills to learn, but when you have reached the other side of this curve, you'll be glad.

In some parts of the world, people are used to using tea cups without handles. If you are in the U.S., mugs need handles.

I used to make a tea cup (with a lid and strainer) with no handle. Sold a lot of them too. But over time I heard enough feedback like "I stopped using it because it's too hot" and "it could really use a handle." If you intend to sell your pots someday, you cannot dismiss this type of feedback.

#99181 How Many Kilns?

Posted by GEP on 10 January 2016 - 10:04 AM

I have two 7 cu.ft. kilns. I had only one kiln until 2013. The second kiln was a huge leap forward in production, because it eliminates the need to wait for a kiln to cool down. When I'm in a glazing/firing phase, I typically have five kiln loads to glaze fire. With two kilns I can glaze/fire all of it in 3 or 4 days. With one kiln there was lots of dead time waiting for the kiln to cool. I could work on other things, but it was not nearly as organized or efficient, and definitely less productive.

#99023 How Do You Keep Production Work Interesting

Posted by GEP on 07 January 2016 - 06:39 PM

Nancy, I have a sink in my basement, but I don't have a clay trap and therefore wash everything in buckets anyways. I use two buckets, one for clay, and one for glaze+everything else. The clay bucket is also my throwing water. When it gets sludgy I use it to reclaim clay. This cycle happens quickly so I get to throw with new water often. The glaze bucket takes a few months before the sludge builds up on the bottom. At that point I will tip off as much water from the top, pour the water out in the yard, then scrape the sludge into the trash. I only use the sink to wash my hands when they are almost clean already.

I have a friend whose studio sink drains out into her yard. She said it was totally illegal, so if you're going to do it, it's a DIY project. Also, she made sure not to wash any food waste, or anything organic, down this sink.