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Everything posted by GEP

  1. I’ve never seen anyone remove the pizza stone from an oven when it’s blazing hot. The pizza can removed with a wooden pizza peel, or just use a pair of tongs to slide the pizza onto a cutting board. Leave the stone in the oven to cool. So a cone 6 clay pizza stone would work fine. Having said that, I personally use a 15 inch cordierite kiln shelf. Though I can see the appeal of wanting to hand make your own out of clay.
  2. “The situation with the other potter definitely surprised me in how she handled it. I would have seriously considered purchasing other items from her had it been handled differently. ” This is a direct quote from the customer in the above story. The potter might think she benefited herself by keeping the money and leaving the customer high and dry, but really she lost a potential repeat customer. This is a crucial point that others here have pointed to as well: happy customers equal repeat customers. Imagine trying to keep a pottery business afloat if your customers will only buy your work once. Finding a brand new customer for every single pot? It’s not sustainable. On the other hand, if you make customers happy enough to come back to you for more, your task of selling becomes so much easier. Happy customers also refer their friends to you. The above customer contacted me because another good, steady customer recommended me. Gratitude and integrity go a long, long way.
  3. I've never done it with USPS, but I know that with UPS and Fedex, they want the shipper to file the claim, because the shipper is the one who paid for the insurance on the shipment. With UPS, if they want to inspect the damaged package, they will send a driver to look at it. I guess it makes sense that USPS needs the recipient to come into a post office instead. But still, the shipper should refund the customer regardless, and facilitate the claim. I once ordered supplies from a vendor that was lost by Fedex. The shipper said "not our problem." I called Fedex, and they said that the shipper had to file the claim. I could file the claim only if I could prove that the shipper refused to file a claim. Grrrr. I resolved the issue by calling my local Fedex distributor location, rather than their main customer service number. I spoke to a person who said he would look into it. I don't know what he did, but the delivery arrived a few days later, after being lost in the wind for a month. Never ordering from that vendor again.
  4. I recently heard this story from a potential customer. It made me so mad, I want to rant about it. The customer tried to order a custom pottery item online. The potter took 9 weeks to ship the item. The item arrived broken. The potter responded by telling the customer to file a claim with USPS. This is @!#?!-level customer service on several fronts. The potter is taking no responsibility for their work. I really hope these attitudes are not widespread among those who do custom work, and those who sell online. If you are taking custom orders, figure out a process for completing the work in a reasonable amount of time. 9 weeks is not a reasonable amount of time. In my studio, a full making cycle takes 2.5 weeks. If I took custom orders (which I don't) at most it would take 2.5 weeks. When you ship a piece of pottery, you are 90% responsible for the outcome, based on how you pack the item. You assume the box will be dropped or kicked at some point. The carrier is responsible for the other 10%. The customer is responsible for 0%. If an item arrives broken, the customer should get a replacement, at no extra cost to them. None of this was their fault. This is another reason why you need to be able to produce work in a reasonable amount of time, because sometimes a replacement will be necessary. If the breakage was truly the carrier's fault, then YOU file a claim to try to get reimbursed. If you can't prove the carrier was at fault, then YOU eat the cost of the lost pot and lost shipment. This is why it's important to learn how to pack correctly, understanding that the outcome is mostly up to you. If, for some reason, a replacement is not possible, then YOU refund the customer's money asap. Again, if you think the carrier is at fault, then YOU file claim with USPS/UPS/Fedex. Never make the customer do the legwork for getting their money back. I am stunned that a potter actually did these things. I told the customer that instead of filing a claim with USPS, she should ask her credit card to reverse the charge.
  5. All of my shows are juried, and they all involve a jury fee. Except for one that is very casual. I’ve gotten all but one of my booth fees returned, but none of my jury fees. For me a jury fee typically ranges from $25 to $50, so I’m not worried about it. The one show that didn’t refund is letting me apply the whole booth fee to their 2021 show, which I also think is fair.
  6. This is a known phenomenon! We called it”The Two Month Rule” and it was part of my wood firing classes. Nobody was allowed to pass judgment on their pots until two months later, because of exactly what you’re talking about. When you first see the pot, your mind is clouded by your expectations. It takes two months to forget what the expectations were. It’s amazing how much perceptions and feelings change.
  7. Very interesting, did not know this part of Gerstley Borate’s history! My understanding is that when Laguna bought the remaining stock, they put it through a big ball-milling process before bagging it, therefore making it homogenous. Do you know if this is true? I didn’t start using it until after it became a Laguna product, and have found it to be consistent over the years.
  8. Having taught a class where I guided students through their first selling experiences, it is totally normal to find pricing to be terrifying at that stage. The only cure is time and practice.
  9. I mentioned in another thread a few days ago that I would be attempting to throw an extra-large planter for my patio. Here it is so far. This was a combination of throwing and coil building. 25 lbs of clay total. It is currently 17.5 inches across and 10 inches tall. No guarantees it will make it through the rest of the process.
  10. I have 3 main glazes. Plus 3 more that are just variations of the two of the main glazes. Another benefit to keeping your glaze palette limited is it’s easier and cheaper to buy glaze materials, when you only need a limited number of ingredients. You can buy 50 lb sacks knowing you’e going to use it all up.
  11. I mentioned two days ago that I had a show postponed to late June which had not been cancelled yet. Well, it was cancelled this morning. Now I already have enough pots for a July show that has not been cancelled yet, which I expect to be cancelled too. My back-up plans are to do another "home delivery" show for my local area, and another one for the State College PA area, which will involve a day trip up to Pennsylvania. These will probably happen in June or July. I have already received booth fee refunds of $1515, and now I have another $450 coming in a few days. With my teeny budget, this actually goes a long way. Combined with the home delivery sale I did last month, I am several months away from needing to tap my emergency fund. Sales from my online school have been up ever since the shutdowns began. I guess that makes sense. Honestly, I am enjoying the slower pace. My front yard has not looked this good in years. I am cooking a lot more. I used to enjoy cooking a lot, but since becoming a full-time potter, I really haven't had the time or energy to do much more than dump things in an instant pot, or get take out. These days, I get to enjoy better food. Last summer, I bought a blueberry bush, which died. I partially blamed the plastic planter, because the plants in nearby ceramic planters were fine. My next studio project is to make myself a gigantic ceramic planter, and try again with a blueberry bush this year. I am rethinking how I am going to schedule myself, even when things are relatively normal again. I really don't need to do 10 shows per year. 6 might be enough?
  12. For those in the mid-Atlantic area, Clayworks Supplies is doing curbside pickups at all of their locations (Baltimore MD, Alexandria VA, and Richmond VA), if you need to buy heavy stuff like clay. They are still shipping as well. The hours are limited so check their website for details. https;//clayworkssupplies.com
  13. I have one show that was postponed to June 20-21 that has not been cancelled yet. I still made pots so I have enough inventory for it. Not because I think it will happen, but because I think it is my professional obligation, until I hear otherwise. Two out of three of my July shows have been cancelled. So I am still making enough pots for the third show. Again, I don’t expect it to happen, but who the heck knows. As has been pointed out by Mark, finished pots do not go bad, so there is no downside to having extra stock. As for fall and holiday shows, I think it is reasonable to plan as if they are going to happen. I’m keeping my thoughts about this fluid, of course. If they happen, there will be lots of changes. I plan on having a big touchless dispenser filled with hand sanitizer in my display. My greeting will become “Hi! If you want to touch any pots, please sanitize your hands first (while pointing at dispenser).” I expect everyone will be glad to comply with that. The hard part about this idea is that hand sanitizer is so hard to find right now. I also plan to use an alternate arrangement of my display, which is smaller and pushed towards the front of the booth. This will give me more space behind the display to keep my distance as much as possible. A smaller display is fine because there will be fewer customers anyways. But based on how people are flocking to beaches and shopping malls this week, I don’t expect the art festivals to be ghost towns. I own two N95 masks, which my brother sent me out of his California earthquake preparedness kit. I am saving them for shows. They do not have an exhalation valve, so they will protect me from others, and protect others from me. I am planning to apply for one or two extra shows for the fall,. I usually try to keep my November schedule easy, so I can stock up for my December open studio, but this year I plan to have extra stock piled up. I’m still deciding on which shows. and cancellation policy is a big factor for me too. This is my thinking for now. But I am following the data everyday, and I don’t consider anything to be decided.
  14. It’s a simple 1:1 ratio. 25g beeswax + 25g coconut oil = 10 tubes of lip balm. I borrowed my digital scale from the pottery studio. I melted the ingredients in the microwave in 30 second increments. I used a glass measuring cup, it got warm in the microwave and kept the wax mixture melted longer. Nah, I’d be worried about them melting while in transit.
  15. It’s not food, but I did make them in my kitchen. I have trouble buying lip balm in stores, because these days they all contain ingredients that make me itchy (shea butter, aloe vera, menthol). Why can’t I buy a basic mixture of beeswax and coconut oil? Now I know why, because it is way too easy and cheap to make it yourself. The store brands need to add fancy ingredients so they can charge $3.99. These tubes cost me about 25 cents each.
  16. This year’s penn state show is already cancelled :-(. Full booth refund, and all artists are automatically juried into next year’s show.
  17. To go further along the vein of "you're not alone" ... @HayleyPots what you're going through is so common, there is a term for it: The Startup Trough of Sorrow. This is a common experience because too many new entrepreneurs have overly idealized expectations for how groovy things are going to be, right from the start. What they don't expect is that is takes years of development to get into a groove. It sounds like you were already dealing with stress, burnout, and debt before the pandemic hit. The real test for new business owners is whether you can adapt mentally and climb out of the trough. Those who are thinking about starting a new business should pay close attention. What Hayley is going through is the norm, not the exception. I've lost count of the number of potters I've met who are struggling with the trough. It's also possible to avoid the trough, by having modest expectations for the early years, and by understanding how much work is ahead of you.
  18. Yes I think this is a reasonable cost in the short term, but not permanently. I mentioned in my blog post about my "home delivery" sale that this approach is missing the opportunity to meet NEW customers. Shows are where that happens. I would like to get back to shows when it's possible. The cost of a booth fee is worth the potential new customers. I used a Square online store for my recent event. I know Square and Weebly are the same company now, but you can still build an online store on the squareup.com website that is separate from your Weebly site. The Square store allows you to create different shipping rates for the customer. They could choose the $20 shipping, or the $10 delivery. This would save you the step of refunding. I wonder if you could do this in your Weebly store too. (I would think yes, given that they are the same platform, but I could be wrong.) The Square store also solved the problem I was having with BigCartel, which would allow multiple people to buy one item, due to slow payment processing. With the Square store, once a person finishes paying for an item, the item automatically became unavailable, even if it was already in somebody else's cart.
  19. @HayleyPots, this sounds like a situation where it would be totally appropriate to use a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the short term. You still have access to the studio, therefore you can make the pots that the donors would get in return. You could tier the donations as “mug” level to “teapot” level to “full set of dinner and salad plates” level. You could also offer gift certs for the gallery, free classes in the future, lots of options. So really this would be a pottery sale more than a charity ask, just using GoFundMe as the platform, and “to pay the rent during the shutdown” as the mission. I bet your existing members/students will be first in line to help out. They care the most about your survival. You can ask them to spread the word in their social circles as well. People who like to engage in the arts know people who think it’s important to have art spaces in their community. What I’m finding is that there are people in our strange current world who are in a position to help, and really really want to help their communities right now. I think you will find that you are not as alone as you think, and how much people do care about the arts. The way fundraising generally works is that you are looking for a bunch of small donations ($50 ish) that will add up to a substantial amount. Plus, you are looking for one or two deep-pocketed types who will fund most of the campaign. The 50% rent discount is a wonderful offer, and I think you should try to take advantage of it.
  20. Thanks Neil! I found a couple that look like they will do exactly what I need.
  21. I would totally be interested in this! As I was plotting locations on a map by hand, I was thinking there must be a tool that makes this task faster. I once read that UPS drivers' routes are designed to make as few left turns in urban areas as possible. Because left turns take much longer than right turns. So I know this type of tool exists. If the shut down lasts until year's end, I will hold my annual open studio this way. And it will (hopefully) be a much bigger event than the one I did this week. It would help if the driving routes are maximally efficient.
  22. I've just published a blog post about what I've been doing for the past 1.5 weeks, so everyone interested can copy or adapt the idea for themselves. I have complained often about how much I hate selling online. This approach replaced everything I hate with something I actually like. https://www.goodelephant.com/blog/improvising-in-a-pandemic
  23. Offset lithographic printers are still very much around. The place you're talking about is probably a digital-only shop. If it has a retail storefront that the public can enter, then it's not the right kind of place. For anyone who is trying to find printer blankets, try googling "offset lithographic printer near me." Then give them a call and tell the receptionist that you are a potter who is wondering if their company gives away used printer blankets. They should be free, printers throw them away everyday. But be prepared to pay a reasonable price if asked, for the time it takes them to accommodate your request.
  24. I found enough ingredients in my kitchen to make a Shoo Fly Pie. This is one of my favorite pies, so simple and down to earth, easy to make. I’m down to my last slice. Plate by Christy Knox. Photograph by Laura DeNardo. 1 9-inch pie crust 1 cup molasses 3/4 cup hot water 3/4 tsp baking soda 1 egg beaten 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup brown sugar 3 tbsp butter or shortening Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine molasses, hot water, and baking soda. Stir well. Whisk in beaten egg. Pour mixture into pie shell. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter/shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on top of molasses layer. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Lower temp to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.
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