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Everything posted by GEP

  1. Liam, this is not how I operate. I hate borrowing money and hate paying interest, no matter how low. My comment says that I always keep enough cash flow on hand to survive missed shows. Shows are 95% of my income, but like I was trying to say, I know it’s a risky business and therefore I stay prepared. I’m not going to brag about my specific finances on the internet. I’ll just say that, like Mark, I am already set up to retire. Edit to add: This is part of a broader concept for anyone who wants to be self-employed. When I quit my last full-time job to become self-employed in the 90s, I promised myself that I would always buy myself health insurance and start a retirement plan. Then when I quit design to become a full-time potter, I knew the income would be less predictable and therefore I promised myself to manage my cashflow accordingly. With freedom comes responsibility.
  2. My next shows are mid-April and mid-May. No word yet if they will be cancelled. My hopes are low for the April show. I normally choose the non-refundable hotel option because it’s cheaper. This time I only booked cancellable hotels, just in case. I’m still producing as usual. If the shows are cancelled, I’ll have extra pots for summer shows, and I’ll take some time off. The loss of income isn’t fun, but this is a good example of why small business owners need to be proactive about cash flow. I’ll be fine. Even when there’s no pandemic, any show can be wiped out by bad weather.
  3. Aha. My money’s on this being the cause. In my experience, a 30 minute soak is about a half-cone of heatwork, which is significant. It’s a perfectly legitimate way to fire, if it makes your pots work. If your pots were not showing signs of overfiring, which I gather they weren’t, then that person gave you bogus advice. And if they delivered it as a “scold,” then that person can mind their own business. Instead of testing gloss medium on an unimportant piece, I would put that piece back in the kiln and fire it with the hold. If it turns out your clay/slip combo can withstand a refire, then refire the whole load. If not, then try the gloss medium on this load.
  4. The location of the light spots could also indicate that another pot was loaded very close to it in the kiln, with the pots almost touching each other? Nothing wrong with loading a kiln like that, but it’s another case where firing a little hotter would help. Or firing slower, so the heatwork can reach the places that are more densely packed. I agree with Neil that your next step is to use witness cones to measure exactly how hot your kiln is firing, in every zone. There might be a cool zone somewhere.
  5. I knew I’ve seen photos of large architectural ceramic corbels, and of course it turned out to be Marcia Selsor’s work: @A.Adriana, it’s possible to build these out of clay, but keep in mind there is quite a bit of expertise required! Marcia is a lifelong practitioner. Which is not to say that you are not capable of doing it, you seem like an experienced artist. Just be prepared for a big learning curve. And yes, they do need to be fired, even if the fireplace is non-functional. Edit to add: they will not be reinforced, because reinforcing materials cannot be fired along with ceramic. The ceramic will shrink and the reinforcement will not. They will be hollow, and constructed to be self supporting. If you know how to make plaster casts, I suggest making the master out of modeling clay (oil-based clay) rather than ceramic. Then make a plaster mold and cast both halves of the final ceramic pieces from the molds.
  6. These are just guesses .... not from personal experience ... I would think that oil will eventually wear off. If they’re just for decorative use, maybe a thin wash of acrylic gloss medium would work? Or acrylic matte medium? Thin it out with water so it’s just a wash. And you'd have to coat the entire piece so the surface texture is the same overall. Once it”s dry, it will be as permanent as anything short of a ceramic solution, Of course, test on something unimportant first! As for why it happened in the first place, to me the lighter spots look less fluxed. Run the slip through a sieve again, maybe a few times. Or use a stick blender to give it a long whirl. Another possibility is that there is extra thickness in the walls of the pots where the problem is happening. The clay isn’t fully vitrifying due to the extra thickness, and therefore not transferring its fluxing action to the slip. Firing a little hotter might solve this problem too. Don’t know if this is a private collector or a gallery, but when I was wholesaling with galleries, there was a time or two when I had to miss a deadline due to a firing problem. Calling them and explaining what happened, and asking for more time always works. These types of buyers understand that you are doing something that isn’t automatic or fully controllable.
  7. The use the first one. See my emails above. My company name is the top line, and all of my emails are consistently branded. The goals is for the email to be recognized as a Good Elephant Pottery email first, with the name of the show second.
  8. This is common salesmanship advice, but it does not apply to what we’re selling. We are not selling used cars to average people. People who will buy handmade pottery are a tiny subculture of people. They are way above average in intelligence, cultural education, self-esteem and probably professional accomplishment (given that they can afford to spend $40 on a single mug, which to an average person is considered crazy). They cannot and should not be pressured into anything. They are too smart for that. Show them respect for their agency, and deal with them eye to eye, i.e. like you are not above them or below them. Your goal is not to make a sale to somebody ONE TIME, like a car salesman. You cannot survive for long in this business without repeat customers, and a lot of them. If someone makes a purchase and leaves your booth thinking “well that was a little annoying” you are toast. Again, I never push my email list on anyone. It is not necessary. I was willing to take going on 18 years to build it. It’s an incredibly valuable asset now. At the extra important show I referenced above, my booth location was near the far end of the show away from the entrance. Some friends of mine said “Gosh isn’t it tough being way down here? There are way more people in the aisles on the other half.” I hadn’t noticed because my booth had been swamped all day, thanks to my email followers who came to the show looking for me. Listen to what @LeeU said. A lot of people are easily bothered by your behavior, and you might not know it. I am the same way when I am a shopper. It takes a great deal of self-awareness, combined with empathy and respect, to actually make people feel good all day long. I find that a lot of artists are doing an ok job, some are definitely offputting, and maybe 1 in 10 are doing it well.
  9. I have a great supplier, Clayworks Supplies in Baltimore. 45 minutes away. In fact, I’m going there tomorrow for a van-load of clay.
  10. This is still putting people on the spot, where they might be too polite to say no. The only time I ever mention my sign up pad is when someone expresses that they don’t want to miss a specific show. I give them the website option first, followed by “if you’re really interested, you can get a reminder by email.” Maybe half take a card and half sign up for emails. I put a card in every bag too, but I don’t say anything about it. I do think it would be fine to say, in a no strings attached way, “my card’s in the bag, if you want to find me later, or sign up for my email list.” It should not be a yes/no question. Let the customer leave without making a decision on the spot. If you have a website, you can place a MailChimp embed form on it. So putting your website url on your business card is enough. If you’ve been to my website, there’s a page called “Mailing List” with embed forms that send info straight to my MailChimp audience. I get lots of signups during and after a show, even though I am not pushing it. People will use those forms. They probably weren't interested. Don’t chase those customers.
  11. I”m actually not in favor of pointing out the sign up pad, even to someone making a purchase. That doesn’t automatically mean they want more emails. They might be happy to follow you, but prefer to use instagram, or just check your website themselves. A certain percentage of them will have been too polite to say no. Now they feel put upon, which is not a good experience. Some people are comfortable saying “no thanks” but some people can’t. And being put in a “no thanks” position is not a positive experience either. I just keep the pad in the check out area right next to my business cards. Sign ups need to be completely motivated by the customer, not pushed by me.
  12. For me, it is fairly straightforward. Do it for every single show, and have your emails be consistent. Consistency is the key. It makes your business look credible. I think the harder part is collecting the addresses in the first place. A lot of people struggle with convincing people to hand over their address. The answer to this is much broader. It's about developing and presenting a line of work that is attractive enough for folks to want future opportunities to buy it. And making sure the time they spent in your booth is something they would like to do again. No straightforward answer to that. I also find that it helps a great deal to have a signup pad that looks a little more official than a spiral notebook. An email address is a sensitive piece of information. You need to give the impression that you are a professional who will use that information properly. Here's mine. Also, if anyone advises you to use a gimmick to get people to sign up, don't listen to that. Such as dangling some free prize for signing up. You don't get real customers that way. All you get are people who want something for free. It takes more patience than that. Building a good audience takes many years.
  13. Hehe, I am now amending my rule to "don't invade your neighbors' spaces physically, visually, audibly, or olfactorily!"
  14. I send one email per show, usually on Tuesday if the show starts on Friday. And on a Wednesday if the show starts on Saturday. Except when it's an extra important show, I'll send a "mark your calendar" email about the week earlier. I just finished one of those extra important shows. Here are the two emails I sent. All of my announcements follow the same template. Keep them consistent! https://mailchi.mp/fdbe36b57c81/one-week-away-acc-baltimore-2020 https://mailchi.mp/75713f6ad290/acc-baltimore-2020-this-weekend
  15. Here’s another ”what not to do” ... Please do not play music in your booth, loud enough to hear in neighboring booths. It might be the right atmosphere for your booth, while being totally wrong for your neighbor. In the same vein, do not conduct your salesmanship loudly enough to be heard outside your booth. You basically have to shout to accomplish this, but I’ve seen it! Think carnival barker.
  16. Here's another one, which seem so obvious but unfortunately I've lost count of the number of times I've seen it. Do not block access to your neighbor's booth, either physically or visually. One time, someone on a bicycle came to talk to my neighbor. After a few minutes, she said "hey your bicycle is blocking my booth. Can you stand over here instead?" and made him stand in front of my booth. WTF?! I waited about 10 minutes to see how long he planned to stand there. Then I stood up and politely asked him not to stand there. He got it, apologized, and left. I'm not sure the artist understood what she'd done. It's also wrong to put part of your display in front of your allotted booth space. This means customers cannot walk in a straight line along a row of booths. If they are diverted around an obstruction, the next booth gets fewer visual hits. I've seen artists do this unintentionally, and some who are definitely doing it on purpose.
  17. I've mentioned stuff like this before on the forum, but I think it would be nice to have a thread where we share etiquette tips for artists at shows. If you last on the art show circuit, you will make some very good friends. But there is definitely a culture that you need to understand, in order to get along with other artists. I rarely have problems with rude customers at shows. The worst personalities I have met at shows are some of the other artists, who are being rude or tone deaf. In my book, Rule #1 is "do not ever get between an artist and their customers." If you are in another artist's booth chatting, as soon as a customer walks in, leave. Stop talking in the middle of a sentence if necessary. Just make a small hand wave and leave. You can finish your conversation later. It's not as important as the artist's need to say hello to the customer. Similarly, if the artist from across the aisle is in your booth talking, and you see a customer walk into their booth, quietly point over their shoulder and gesture with your eyes to let them know they have a customer. Again, it's normal for that person to stop talking in the middle of a sentence, and go back to their booth. At one show, during one of those preview night parties, a customer came to the booth next to mine, and looked like she was prepared to wait until the artist came back. I could see the artist waiting in line at the bar. So I walked over to the bar to tell her a very motivated-looking customer was waiting in her booth. She ran back. I would certainly want someone to do that for me. This is on my mind today, because at last weekend's show, I had to endure a very clueless artist who did not know Rule #1. I guess I am lucky that I was able to complete a sale even though he wouldn't shut up.
  18. Am I imaging, or is there another crack here? If there is more than one crack, and they both originate in the "corner" of a foot, then this indicates there is a structural problem there. Either the joints need to be compressed together more, or there is a lot of extra thickness there. If the feet are stuck to the kiln shelf while the pot is trying to shrink, that would certainly make the problem worse. So propping up the pot on wasters is still a good idea. But take some time to examine the structure in those corners too. I hope you figure it out @CactusPots, because it's a lovely form.
  19. Just wanted to report a happy ending to this story. I ended up not changing the Thermocouple Lag. The solution was change the way I stack the kiln, and to adjust Thermocouple Offsets when needed. In the past, I never used witness cones except during the first firing after replacing elements/TCs, and when I was troubleshooting a problem. From now on, I will use witness cones every 10th firing or so, so I can keep up with the drift of aging TCs. These measures are probably overkill for most potters. It's necessary for me now, because I need to keep my firing temps in a fairly narrow range. Here is my new shelf-stacking strategy for a 7 cubic ft kiln, in case there are others out there who need to make their glaze firings more even from top to bottom. By having all of the shelves in the middle zone, my newer kiln's controller can keep all three zones exactly even. My older kiln will keep them within 4 degrees of each other. Sometimes, the witness cones will tell a slightly different story than the controller, and when that consistently happens, the answer is to adjust the TC offset.
  20. This is a guess, but to me the mugs in the photo look like mass-produced bisqueware, similar to what you get at paint-your-own pottery shops. Which means they are low-fire pots. I think this look could be achieved with an approach similar to majolica. Dip the entire pot in a smooth white glaze, then apply colors while the glaze is still slightly damp so the stains have a smooth surface to slide across. Here’s an article with good information about majolica, including a base glaze recipe: https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/daily/ceramic-glaze-recipes/low-fire-glaze-recipes/messing-with-majolica-an-instructor-shares-tips-for-learning-and-teaching-the-majolica-technique/ This article says to mix stains with gerstley borate for fluxing. For the above effect I would thin out the stain mixture more, maybe even use something oily like mineral oil. Maybe place a big dot of the stain mixture on the pot, then immediately blow at it through a straw to achieve those patterns. It will probably take lots of practice to make it work.
  21. There really isn’t a solution that does not need to be kiln-fired. If you are making non-functional work, i.e. it doesn’t need to be food-safe or hold water, then it fine to leave your surfaces unglazed and only partially fired, if that’s the look you want. But the underglaze still needs to be fired. You can either apply the underglaze onto leather hard pots so it gets fired in the bisque firing. Or, you can apply underglaze to a bisque fired pot (which is useful if you want the ability to erase mistakes), and bisque fire the pot again. Just to emphasize, if you’re trying to make functional pots, then my advice won’t work. Functional pots need to be fired to maturity.
  22. I think it’s great when I hear that someone is retiring from another career, and becoming a potter on a hobby level or a semi-pro level. It works the brain and it works the body. When you do it full-time for a real income, it’s very different. It overworks the body, and often underworks the brain, due to the repetitious nature (couldn’t do it without audiobooks). I don’t regret doing it for the last almost ten years. I’d do it again! But there is a limit. So you can retire TO pottery, or you can retire FROM pottery. These are two very different paths, though both valid. Either way, I know that being retired and having nothing to do can be a catastrophic mistake. I also know that when your occupation is the sole basis of your identity, you’re in big trouble when you get old. There’s more to me than being a potter, but I’ve had to table everything else. When I retire from pottery, I still plan on being a maker, on a hobby or semi-pro level. And doing something that does not require so much physical work, and does not require so much space.
  23. When you roll out your slab, make sure you are not stretching the clay in only one direction. If you do, that direction will rebound back more than the other direction. If you are using a slab roller, put the clay through in one direction making the slab twice as thick as you want it. Then rotate the slab 90 degrees and put it through the slab roller again to achieve the finished thickness. I see in your original comment that you say you are “compressing the clay in both directions,” but I’m hoping to spell out technique more specifically. I make a lot of square plates. Before I figured this out, many of them would emerge from the kiln as rectangles. As for your coiled pot coming out oval, are you working on a banding wheel, which will allow you to address the pot equally from all 360 degrees as you are building it? If you’re not using a banding wheel, this could also be affecting your slab pots.
  24. Step 1: Curse Step 2: If the thing that needs repair came with a manual, I start looking for a solution in the manual. Most of the time, the problem turns out to be routine, and the solution is already spelled out. Step 3: If I still can ‘t quite find the answer, I call the manufacturer of the thing that needs repair. Often they have personnel who can help troubleshoot. In the pottery world, people tend to be smart and nice. Step 4: I’ve also had good success asking for equipment help on this forum!
  25. Yes, several ceramics entities will recognize "emerging artists," such as Ceramics Monthly magazine, and some of the high-end craft shows. However, this does not catapult anyone to success. It's just a boost up. There's still a lot work and years ahead for a talented emerging artist to build a sustainable practice. There's no such thing as an overnight success in ceramics. There's too much skill involved, you cannot get around the number of years it takes to acquire the skill.
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