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Member Since 08 Aug 2013
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#101148 Production potter work tips

Posted by MikeFaul on 01 February 2016 - 03:15 PM

I posted these photos in another thread, but they seem to fit here better... We made these kiln guards out of 3/4" plywood. My friend Steven S. made them for me when were building out the studio. I think he got the idea from Dale down at the Work House Ceramics Studio in Lorton, VA... Saves your firebrick...


IMG 1948
IMG 1949 2

#101147 What Happened To The Guy Who Wanted................

Posted by MikeFaul on 01 February 2016 - 03:06 PM

I keep a pretty close eye on the forum and I cannot remember your posting as being that controversial. I must have missed something ... Or, was the nasty stuff in a PM?

I take your comments seriously Mike since I know other 'flamer forums' think they are not so bad either. BUT I just have not seen systemic mean spirit in the public area of the forum. Our moderators are pretty thorough so it's usually quite the opposite. I hope all Members are aware that they can and should report any abuse ... Public or private ... to the moderators

I don't know what we can do to stop nasty PMs but one thing that might help with first questions is to change the name of a first time poster from "newbie" to " New Poster" or some such. Then we won't tend to confuse them with someone who is new to clay.


OK, I'm not trying to say this is a bad place. I'm not trying to say this is a "flamer forum"... If I gave that impression I'm sorry. My point was sometimes we approach folks from the position that we know better than they do, we criticize them unfairly as oppose to offering a professional critique. We launch into these criticisms without asking clarifying questions that might change the advice we're giving them. And sometimes that makes us wrong, and we turn people off. SOMETIMES... So, sometimes we scare people off. Justsayn... My opinion... 


Now it's not a question of a mean spirit. It's a question, in my opinion, of a bit of arrogance on the part of some people, not all.  It's like you said the other day. Someone posts in the glaze forum. "I'm an expert on this topic, I know topic "A" is dangerous, I'm an expert. I don't need help on topic "A", I know the rules and safety issues related to "A". I have a question on "B". Please don't post on "A", because I know my stuff on "A", but if you would be so kind to answer my question on "B", I would really appreciate it..." And then what follows? A page and half on topic "A" with one post actually saying; I'm not sure we were direct enough with the poster...  This is the same thing that happened to me. It's not that anyone is being "mean", they think they are doing the "right thing". But, they think they "know better" than the person who just said they're an expert, and have good reasons for doing it that way.


If I remember correctly a moderator did intervene, and return comments were along the line: "Hey some people just don't understand the true nature of their problems."


You see... that's the "I know better" attitude, and my entire point is that it becomes exclusionary, it puts people off. And, it turns them away. So, I'm saying we should consider and reflect on the idea that maybe we do affect people more than we realize. That's it. I'm not saying we take them out back and beat the tar out of them, throw them in the kiln and cremate them, then draw and quarter them (sequence maybe out of order). I'm not saying we are cruel. I'm not saying we are bullies. I'm saying our attitude affects others and we should consider that as a factor in why people don't come back. It's not an easy thing to accept, we all want to believe we're good people. We all want to believe we're wonderful people, we do nothing to "scare others off".


But, maybe sometimes we do... Maybe we would all do well to consider there are lurkers watching and reading our posts and how we interact with one another... How we critique. How we respond. How we assume. 

#100964 What Happened To The Guy Who Wanted................

Posted by MikeFaul on 30 January 2016 - 05:21 AM

It's a two way street really as is all communication.
Just saying, I've been a member for a couple of years now, have received no arrogant nasty pms, my tuppence worth of thought mainly from observation, and experience, but no tertiary studies in this field, seems to be tolerated by people, or if ill advised thoughts by me, corrected by others.
So the poster and the people giving thought, time and expertise freely sometimes have to change the perspective and read in a non reactive state.
No one is out to get the poster, often the further questions are to clarify the question.
Posts can be answered by the experts or others, as the advice is free, the poster can take it or skim over the irrelevant.
I feel Old Lady's post here is because we alll think about the questions asked, take time to answer and then the vacuum that follows sometimes is a bit like getting a book taken away just as you turn the last page...

This is my point: true hospitality is not a "two way street", it's a one way street-an attitude exhibited by the host or hostess that makes the visitor feel welcomed and accepted.

I posted a year ago seeking help for a productivity issue, I was asked to post a photo of the pot that we were making, so I did along with detailed assembly instructions used by our potters. I got slammed for the amount of clay I use to make my pots, the wavy side walls of the one pot I posted in a photo, and hammered because I didn't know how to throw, and was told to go slip cast. People were talking out their koondingies about stuff they knew nothing about. We had good reasons for doing things a certain way, but it defied clay-wisdom, so "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" This was in open forums.

It got so bad within 24 hours I took down the photos. The PMS traffic was worse. I took the posts to industry consultants who laughed at them, and pointed me to my competitors who are doing exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

I haven't solved all of my challenges yet, but' I've seen video of a single person attaching up to 1,000 handles a day, and of throwers with yields of 200 cylinders a day. Things I was told would ruin the art form and turn Potter's into "slaves". And, the people were happy!

I've been here for a few years too. I've seen kids come who fell in love with clay and wanted to set up a table at their local farmers market, and the wolf pack comes out. Your work isn't good enough-go to school for 10 years. "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" And, they aren't nice about it either. They don't encourage they discourage. If I were that kid, I wouldn't come back either.

Why do you give your time freely here? Before you answer that think about the original question... "What ever happened to...?" It's about them, not us! It's easy to deconstruct my argument-oh it's just Mike, not my experience. Just one PMS, never happened to me. Never seen it, so it never happened. But, then why this thread?

OldLady even says in her original post, "...there are lots of examples..."--I agree! She also asks, "Do we scare them off?" I'm suggesting we give this question careful and prayerful consideration. Don't dismiss it so easily. Think it over as individuals, how can each of us be a better host or hostess? Maybe we could send an encouraging PM to newbies inviting them to return, or like their first post, or let them know they can message you with questions. Or just tell them you're looking forward to seeing their gallery go up.

Relationships don't form when two people sit across the dance hall waiting for the other to get up and ask them to dance. And, they won't form if we take on a holier than thou attitude either-I already have a relationship with God, thank you very much!

#100942 What Happened To The Guy Who Wanted................

Posted by MikeFaul on 29 January 2016 - 09:35 PM

As one of those posters who on occasion disappears I am not even surprised, in the slightest, that posts in this thread don't even consider ANY possibility other than:

1. Visitors asking questions are too rude to share their results,
2. Visitors, can't take the heat of honest critique,
3. Visitors can't communicate well,
4, Visitors are intimidated by our brilliance,

I've gotten some fantastic help from folks like Mark C. But, you should see some of the private message traffic I've received. Condescending and arrogant doesn't even begin to describe it. I am VERY cautious of what, where, and how I post as a result.

My point in saying this is this, if you're going to critique your forum, don't start by criticizing your customer. Start by looking in the mirror. It's not their fault their leaving and not coming back--it's ours. If you want their behavior to change, change your behavior.

We recently had our customers getting upset about not hearing about their order status. We shifted our basic customer base from the military to law enforcement. This new segment behaved very differently. They call ALL THE TIME, it was driving us bonkers.

Everyone was saying they were 'nuts' and 'paranoid'. No, they were different, so, we had to change. So after each step in our process, throwing, handling, sprigging, bisque, glaze, and shipping we send a short update email. All the calls stopped. Five star reviews returned.

You have to ask yourselves "Do you want them to participate?" If so, then something MUST change. If not, do nothing.

If nothing changes... Nothing changes!

#100717 Qotw: Are "kiln Gods" Superstition?

Posted by MikeFaul on 26 January 2016 - 07:48 AM

My kilns are named Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego--Three men of faith who were forced into a kiln rather than deny their faith in the one true God and bow down to an idol. Daniel Chapter 3...  https://www.biblegat...search=Daniel 3


And, while in the kiln they were protected from the fire by that one true God in whom I believe... Jesus Christ, no I don't believe in kiln gods, luck, charms, or idols. 


I do believe in science... AMPS, Heat, chemistry, process, most everything that happens in a kiln can be explained with a little study and experimentation.


I remember our copper green kept shifting color into this unpleasant olive drab color. I could not figure it out. Some of the potters kept saying firing schedule, but that was a constant from before the change. Elements going bad, but the AMPS being drawn were normal and constant from before the change. Others said glaze cross contamination, but we remixed the glaze over and over and the same thing kept happening. Then someone came up with the bright idea that the chemical source changed, and we launched into a series of tests rotating out chemicals in the recipe--no effect. 


Weeks went by, and some of our unbelieving potters starting blaming the "kiln gods". I started praying for an answer. Then after about three days of prayer I was running our drill stir mixing a bucket of glaze. I picked it up to clean it. For some reason I turned it upside down. There was a cap on the tip that had worked loose and fallen off. The inside was hollow. Glaze was being forced up into the cylinder and not getting cleaned out. So, every time the stir was being dipped into one bucket, cleaned on the outside, then into another the stir was still cross contaminating other glazes. 


So, we would remix the green glaze, and over the course of normal operations add to it an ounce of our walnut brown glaze a couple of times per week. This constant cross contamination would cause a gradual color shift, so in a few days we ended up with olive green--Every time we remixed. So, it WAS cross contamination. No "kiln gods" it was simple chemistry, and we would have never found it had we not been pointed in the right direction.

#100715 Professional Courtesy

Posted by MikeFaul on 26 January 2016 - 07:10 AM

I was at a show and this potter had a really nice aesthetic, so I thought I would buy one of his pots and possibly start collecting his work. When he found out I was a potter (my wife loves to brag), he immediately stated slashing the price and offering a "professional discount". I was embarrassed for him and insisted I pay full price. I know how hard potters work for their money and they don't need to be discounting anything--they deserve every penny they earn, twice that, and then some. 


But, he would have none of it, wrote the ticket for nearly 40% off. I was going to buy 4 cups, but decided to only buy a single because I felt as though I was cheating him. In the end, he lost a lot of money. He took in 60% of one cup instead of 100% of 4 cups. You can be nice to your fellows and profitable. At some point we need to learn that to be a great potter we need to hone our business skills as much as our artistic, creative, and technical skills. But, I digress...


I have mugs from a couple of potters that I absolutely love, bowls from several others, and a set of dinner plates I have to pick up still. I paid full price for all. Could I have made them? Sure, but they all reflect a style, aesthetic, idea, or technique that I never thought to do... So, while I "could" I never "would have" and I enjoy celebrating the creativity of my fellow professionals. As a collector, I don't need a discount! I don't want a discount! I want a lifetime of enjoyment from the art I collect--not a K-Mart Blue Light Special! 


Here's my idea of professional courtesy. When we were building out the studio, a friend of mine with nearly 40 years in clay showed up at the job site. I had the entire building gutted down to the studs and was expecting a load of tongue and groove flooring to arrive from the mill. The flooring was going on the ceiling and walls. Anyway, the wood had been shipped on a special crate: 22 feet long x 5 feet wide stacked 5 feet high. The problem was it was loaded on the truck backwards, so the forklift I had borrowed was useless. So, we had to unload it one plank at a time, and I was all by myself.


Steven asked if I needed help, I told him my predicament, he stayed, and helped load the lumber. He came back every day for six months and helped build out the studio. He has complete privileges at Potter's Fire. Anything he needs... Carte Blanche. That's how professional courtesy works, a tangible relationship based on an exchange of professional services. It is an EARNED courtesy.

#100611 I Hate Wedging

Posted by MikeFaul on 25 January 2016 - 06:47 AM

"Hate" is a very strong word for a mere task...


I'm rather indifferent toward it, it just has to get done. I suppose I even kind of like it. It's sort of a puzzle. How can I portion the clay, wedge it, and setup on at the wheel for daily production to maximum efficiency? How would this vary for a new form? Doing it right can make a big difference in daily productivity.


It's time consuming and our clay consumption rate is getting rather high so Peter Pugger here we come... That will bring new challenges, how much of a 3" diameter pug needs to be cut for each form? How can we make adjustable cutters for our forms to cut multiple pugs as we extrude?


I had a mentor who heard me say I "hated" something once and he gently pulled me aside and whispered in my ear; "Why don't you just change your mind, and have a beautiful day?"


I realized that most of things I was "hating" were a matter of choice, and I could just as easily choose to "like" them. Or, at least "enjoy" them, or "enjoy" the opportunity to learn and develop my technique from them... I didn't have to be a victim of the things around around me. The attitude we bring to our work is just as important as technique. 

#100504 Production Tips For Production Potters

Posted by MikeFaul on 24 January 2016 - 07:26 AM

Here's another tip... It's actually a variation on damp boxes we use to use. We use to make damp boxes out out air tight poly boxes from The Container Store. They worked great because they have a gasket around the lid and create a nice air tight seal. We would pour a plaster slab in the bottom and put our greenware int them and it would store indefinitely. You could even rehydrate bone dry pots to any stage of moisture content with a little TLC and patience because the clay would absorb moisture from the air (humidity levels up to 100%). 


But, in a production studio, the system has a problem, when you start moving orders of 100 and 200 pieces you end up with boxes and lids stacked to the ceiling. And, you opening and closing bins kills your productivity. So, we came up with this damp box based on our ware cart system:

  1. Purchase a ready to assemble aluminum frame bun pan cart (Side loading NOT FRONT LOADING) for about $175 you can get used for even less,
  2. Buy a case of aluminum full sheet pans (18 x 26 I think)
  3. Pour plaster slabs into the aluminum sheet pans, nearly to the rim, make sure you do this on a level surface and you get the air bubbles out.
  4. The sheet pans w/ plaster slabs will be your shelves, they will be heavy about 15 to 17 lbs.
  5. Restaurant supplies sell poly vinyl shrouds with zippers designed to cover the bun pan racks
  6. You now have an adjustable shelf damp cart that will keep your greenware fresh for a good 7 to 10 days, cost is less than $500. Oh, and it's on casters. Justsayn.

A couple of maintenance points on this system. The vinyl shroud will shrink, you can get a length of elastic band from an outdoor outfitter and a sliding grommet and run it around the bottom of the shroud. Tighten it up to a nice snug fit around the base of the cart. No matter what you do, this will never have the same tight seal as the boxes, but we never let pots sit around for a long time so it works for us. Second, periodically check the dampness of your plaster slabs. You'll need to rehydrate them as water evaporates. They hold a lot more water than you think. 


Be careful not to place your greenware too close to the sides. The angle irons from the bun pan cart hang over the shelves by 1" and they will cut your pots. You might consider marking your plaster with a red sharpie to identify a "safe zone"


This system holds 15 to 20 large mugs per shelf. You can generally get about 80 to 120 small pots in a cart. A cart stands about 6'4" tall and takes up about 4 square feet of floor space. 


For most studio potters this means all of your greenware is now located in a 4 square foot space. to work on a pot you only have to go to that one small workspace to find it. Things are not spread out, individually wrapped in plastic wrap. I had a potter who was wrapping every pot in plastic it drove me crazy unwrapping three pots trying to find the one... 

#100467 Production Tips For Production Potters

Posted by MikeFaul on 23 January 2016 - 06:19 PM

We do many of the things that have been mentioned above. Regarding ware boards, I've outlawed the moving of pots--We move boards not pots. We converted baker's bun pan carts (side loading) to ware carts. We made shelves out of 3/4" marine grade plywood, cutting it into 6" wide planks, three planks fill a single shelf (18" deep). We purchased a shroud with zippers from a restaurant supply ($75), and voila we had a damp cart that can hold up to 100 carts in about 2 square feet of floor space. And, it's on casters. Each board can hold up to 5 mugs. The boards are stacked next to the wheels. Potter's move their pots from the wheel heads onto the boards, the boards onto the shelves. They setup over night.


The next day for handling, boards are pulled from the cart, handles attached, pots are moved to and from the boards. Boards are returned to the carts. And, the carts move the pots to and from the kiln room.


We try to always be aware of the number of movements we're making and tools being used to complete a task. To attach a handle we use a single toothed rib to trim and score the handle and a small brush. In the past a potter might use a multipoint needle tool to score, an x-acto to trim, pre snap the handle using a tube, a dry makeup brush to clear crumbs, a wet sponge to wipe away slip. It took forever to attach a handle. 


By switching to a different slip formulation we can use barely any slip, using the scoring rib we shallow score instead of deep score, there's almost no ooze of slip. If there's no oozing slip there's almost no crumbs to brush away. Assembly times plummeted. Two tools, one pass, let it set, one set of clean up movements, back to the board and then the board goes on the cart.

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#100465 How Do You Keep Production Work Interesting

Posted by MikeFaul on 23 January 2016 - 05:50 PM

Hi all,

I have a potter friend who had to make 500 mugs in a week or so - I can't even imagine!! Not just the amount of work, but how to keep yourself from going nuts making the same mug over and over and over.....? And 500 handles??  I find handles so fidgety. How do you not keep from getting bored if you make the same thing over and over? 


I'm starting to get a lot more urn orders, and if I end up with pottery as my retirement career, I'd love some advice as to how to keep it interesting and fresh. Just the thought of making 500 mugs makes me shudder - do you find interest in each one? Do you keep interested by making sure they are the same? Or is this a time where you can just let your mind go?


I guess I'm interested in the mental part of this. I love to make new things, my ADD brain gets excited by the new and  shiny, and it seems as though those who make a living at this often make similar things thousands of times a year. What do you do to keep it interesting?


Thanks for any thoughts,


I'm not sure we would try and tackle 500 mugs all at once. We would probably go after 100 pieces at a time over 5 days, maybe even fewer pieces and more days. But, I must say the entire idea of hundreds of cylinders all lined up in a pattern with the rims forming an ovoid opening diminishing over the run and disappearing as the series moves to the back of the rack is... well... kinda sexy...


You see some of us take delight in the beauty of a single perfect form, and others in the beauty of a multitude of pots all lined up--Both are very sculptural... I just love seeing a mess-o-mugs on the table being moved through the process. What drives me nuts is mug number 1 in the series... Two is such a relief... and by the time I get to five I'm cruising... I'm listening to my music, talking to God, and meditating my way through the series. 


I've hired artistic potters who just can't throw at a production pace. They get lost in making every mug perfect with 200 orders in their backlog. They forget that while they are perfecting the profile of one pot, 199 customers are developing a rather perfect level of frustration.

#100083 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by MikeFaul on 18 January 2016 - 03:51 PM

Thanks you all for the very generous advice! Mike, I appreciate all of the information you shared with me. The only issue is I don't know how to do market research! I had a store once and after the opening, I hired someone to do market research which was expensive and complicated. Are you talking about that kind of research, or hitting the pavement, going to funeral homes, vets, etc.? And I have an Instagram and Facebook that I link to etsy, but haven't gotten sales this way yet.
Again, I'm absorbing all,of the, and taking notes. It's very nice of you all to help me.


I would not spend a penny on professional market researchers. The type of research I'm thinking of is much more simple than that. For example, let's say you think making urns, specifically pet urns is what you want to do. You might make 6 to 12 different urns, and call some local vets. Explain what you are trying to do-research not sales. Ask them if you could set up a small table in their waiting room one Saturday and bring your urns. Bring a questionnaire and ask folks what they think about the urns, how they use them, color preference, etc. And, collect demographic data too. Prepare your questions carefully. After 2 or 3 Saturday's you will see patterns emerging. Follow the patterns.

What you might find is that some people will want to buy, some vets may want to carry your line wholesale. All of this is gravy, and will jump start your business.

Offer everyone a free pet ornament or some small piece of pottery if they fill out your survey and join your email list. This opens up your email channel. You'll need this to save on marketing dollars down the road. Remember everyone there has a pet and pets don't live forever. You want to be there to comfort them when they need you.

Maybe you like sculpting or scraffitto as an artist, build this into your surface design so you get your artistic jolt while serving the market.

#100001 Mug Sizes

Posted by MikeFaul on 17 January 2016 - 06:33 PM

I only make one size, with 1.5 lbs of clay, which hold 20oz with room at the top.

I own two! Made hot chocolate taste uber wonderful...

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#100000 Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

Posted by MikeFaul on 17 January 2016 - 06:24 PM



Limitations on income are not so much a function of price or even your labor contribution. Really, the limit is more a function of what you want to do with your business. If you desire a small business that generates several hundred thousand in revenue to say $1.0M or more that's definitely possible. I know of a few production pottery studios in this class. If you want to work for something even larger, again certainly with time and effort it is possible. I spoke with someone the other week who started in her garage and now employs 30 people making artistic and architectural tiles. Her business I believe is probably in the neighborhood of $15M per year, but it took about 20 or so years to get there.


The ability to generate wealth is there in this market. At least in certain segments of the market. Weather you desire enough income for personal comfort or to grow a business I would suggest that making pretty pots and going to shows is a very risky approach. This is more gambling than business. It's akin to buying a lottery ticket and hoping your numbers are drawn.


Now some potters have done this quiet well over the years. They have worked out, through trial and error, the market research. They know that a kiosk here performs well, but one in this other spot not so well. A coffee shop does good, but a bakery in a warehouse district is a big nope. All of this knowledge was acquired because they tried, failed, tried again and succeeded. The cumulation of these trials became their market research.


Given your stage in life you may not have 10 years to take the trial and error path. It takes a long time, and its expensive.


The problem here is you don't know if someone will show up at the show who likes your style, aesthetic, color choices, surface design, etc. And, you can't rely on your friends and family. You need to listen to the impartial voice of the market. I would suggest you take the time, while your still working to conduct some market research and find a segment of the market that makes a good fit for your skills. This might be funeral homes (urns). Or, maybe it's bobble head dolls. Perhaps it's left handed olive oil cruets? I have no idea, only your research can answer this question for you.


Find your market segment, make some pots, take them to people in that market and start asking a lot of questions about how to make the pot better for them. Make no assumptions and don't rely on "congenital wisdom". Collect all of that information, revise your design accordingly and then start making those pots for that market


Our original beer mug held 14 oz and we used something like 1.25 lbs of clay to throw the cylinder. When we took it out to our customers and asked them about our beautiful feather weight design, they laughed at us. But, they also told us what they didn't like about it, and what they didn't like was everything we, as potters love, go figure. We went back and redesigned the mug their way. I'm not going to say exactly what we did, but the first week we released the new design we sold 1,200 pieces. The most expensive coffee mug we've sold in 2015 was $200. The most expensive beer mug was slightly less than that. We've even been commissioned to make hand carved family crest steins (5 Liter) that sold for $1,500. Our customers create these prices themselves off of base prices starting as low as $27.50 for a coffee mug. 


Good planning can turn a $27.50 coffee mug into $100 experience and your customers will love you for it. And, you'll love them for the great reviews, notes, and phone calls they send you. Good planning can turn a $44.95 beer mug into $175 celebration, or $57.50 wine goblet into $225 wedding chalice. I'm constantly telling my team we are not in the pottery business, we are in the Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary, I Love You Mom, Proud of You Son, Wouldn't Have Anyone, But You Husband, Can't Believe You Did It, Praying for You to Feel Better, I knew You Could Do It business... When we realize that we can make an experience where the price is really in consequential. 


Write a business plan, and pay a lot of attention to your marketing plan. Stick to your plan for the first year. Get yourself some advisors you can talk to, you will hit many stumbling blocks (stuff you didn't know you didn't know). Having mentors to call will be VERY helpful if for no other reason to know you're not alone in experiencing the issue. Plus this will solve problems and save tons of money in your first year-money you would have spent figuring stuff out.


Take it slow, maybe in year one do this part time and keep a governor on your pottery business. In year two work part time and allow more pottery sales. In year three, go full time with your pottery business. 


If you find the right market segment you get good steady sales right out of the gate providing your product quality and production process allows you to perform to the demands of the market. If your show based, that means having a stocked booth. If you're prepaid internet based, that means onetime shipping. If you're a wholesaler, it will mean going beyond making pots to helping your customers solve problems with your product (value ad).


Suppose you throw at a pace of 7.5 pots per hour. And, you throw 15 pots per day. Handling should take you about 2 or 3 minutes per pot, so that's another 45 minutes. Include prep time and you're put to may 4 1/2 hours a day, maybe 5. Let's say one of your production days is a Saturday and you work another 3 days a week in year one. You're producing 60 pots per week. I'm not sure of your kiln capacity, but I'm guessing that's about one kiln load of material. 


So, if you do your market research properly I'm willing to bet you could ramp up to 4 or 5 sales per day in your etsy shop. Now, let's say your average sale is only $35 on Etsy. From our experience, if you do your planning properly that's about 1/2 what you can do on average. So, you're revenue is $140 to $175  per day. That works out to $4,200 to $5,100 a month. So, that's grossing around $50 to $60K per year with schlepping around to shows. And, you only have to do some minor social media marketing-most of which is free, and loads of fun.


Now, I can't emphasize this enough, this works because you're making pots for the market and not to gratify your own desires as an artist. In this model you're using your talents as an artist to satisfy the wants and needs of the market not trying to make a statement and hope the market cares.


All of this takes a lot of planning and fore thought. Do not discount this, it's more important than learning to center, pull, wedge, or any technical technique. If you can't operate as a business all you have is a lot of pretty gifts for your friends. If you operate as a business, you have cash to buy gifts for your friends and family--your choice.


Sorry... I have a cold and I'm babbling...



#99091 Ram Press

Posted by MikeFaul on 08 January 2016 - 04:37 PM

Mike just call a few of those tile places and talk story to them as they are doing this now



So, I just finished my first round of calls and this is what I learned...


The presses are very reliable. Some tile shops have been running 10 to 15 years without any major failure on the press. They are reasonably low cost to operate. Despite what I was told by Ram Process, most of the tileworks I spoke to said they make their own masters and cast their own dies. They use non skilled labor as die makers and train them in house. 


They can cast about 4 to 5 dies per day. Which is really nice for us. They use a CNC machine to carve their masters. Most tile shops carve in wax, then cast the wax in poly. The die is cast in Hydrocal or similar gypsum based plaster material with embedded air lines. 


Purging the die is critical and new purging equipment from RAM works exceptionally well to both purge and prevent warping of the die. If the die is not purged properly the tile will not release properly from the die and the image may get trashed during the releasing process (we've seen this with the Texas Tiler). 


A die is good for between 200 and 300 strikes, then it needs to be recast. 


A poly master should last a good long time, I didn't get a life on these. We are considering cutting Delrin directly with the CNC and bypassing wax.  Delrin, while brittle should last forever unless it chips due to breakage. 

#99006 Time Study

Posted by MikeFaul on 07 January 2016 - 03:21 PM

Time and motion studies are very useful in operations research studies supporting large scale manufacturing operations. Here they are used to clean up protocols to squeeze out small costs in individual steps that can be applied across the broader process. In small scale processes they probably cost more to conduct that they will save because there is no larger process to scale them over.


Even in our shop, where we employ potters and isolate steps like throwing, handling, engraving, firing, glazing, etc. we are more concerned with macro measures like revenue processed per station per hour than time per pot. We use to watch pots per hour, but now we are moving to revenue for other reasons. This quarter we schedule two glaze firings per week. We just multiple the number of pots in a firing times the average price per pot for our revenue per fire. 


For production load planning we take our max firing capacity (glaze) and work backwards through the ceramic process. We could probably push our people to go a lot faster and pay them piece rate to force the issue and all, but have decided for cultural reasons not to do that. We would rather hire career oriented people than churn folks through the production mill. So our standards are lower than most production facilities. And, we have more fun too. The trade off is we don't really know what's fast enough.