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Carlton

New to the Business

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My wife and I have been very fortunate to purchase a new home with a Ceramics Business built in. The lady is retiring and has left 100's of molds, slip, paints of all kind and (3) kilns.  We have the most simplistic knowledge about the business and need to come up to speed on painting techniques.. Wet, dry, when to fire, glazing, etc>….. I just learned that bisque means the piece had been fired once and ready for first paint application if that tells you how new we are to the craft. 

We are extremely anxious to keep the business going but the lady is 87 and tired and ready to just move to the mountains with her family so not allot of info has passed.... any help/direction is greatly appreciated.....

We did order a new Christmas Tree mold in preparation for the season demands and I feel this would be a good example for someone to give us ideas, start to finish, on making  the piece look great with the glazed or shiny finish.

Carl &Mary

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You're asking for an awful lot of info, more than we can give you here without pages and pages of typing. It would be good if you could pay the previous owner to spend a couple of days walking you through the entire process. There are a lot of variables that will be specific to your studio depending on what types of equipment you have and what type of slips and glazes you are using. In ceramics, hands-on experience is the best teacher. It would also be good to take a ceramic class from a local art center or community college where you can learn about working with clay and firing kilns. You may not get any experience with slip casting there, but you will get a lot of good general knowledge about clay, glazes and firing.

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Ya know you have two problems, process and business. I would look for slip casting classes. While pottery classes for folks working in ceramics is a good thing it sounds like this is a slip cast business so a pottery class may have very negligible value if you are planning to keep this business going as is and may well just get you all confused about it all. You are not trying to decide on the direction to go with pottery,  you want to know how to use the stuff you have. A generic pottery class would be fun and certainly dial you in on working with clay forms but slip casting is not the same thing and the class may not even cover it at all or just clip past it quickly and running electric kilns may also not be covered in any kind of depth. 

If I were you I would go on an information blitz, watching every you tube video I could find on slip casting and order any books you can find on amazon. You already have all the equipment so using the that information you should be able to get going. Sometimes it is good to just go at it. If she has not fired those kilns in a very long time it might make sense to have a kiln person or at least an electrician check them out for safety before you start using them. 

Has the business been running right up until now? I mean are clients expecting delivery of products or is just just a case where she had run this business in the past so all of the equipment is still there? You mentioned a Christmas tree mold but it's mid October so unless you are planning to man a booth at some Xmas shows Xmas buying by businesses I think is long over unless she has some orders already.

Good luck!

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It's important to understand terminology as well.  For instance,  one does not "paint" clay, one glazes clay. And, unless you know what you are doing and why, common painting techniques (and certain brushes) do not necessarily lend themselves to the technique of applying glaze, even as illustration or line work. For example, a commercial glaze applied with a brush usually requires three coats, letting the sheen dry off between coats. Also, glaze does not usually blend like paint mediums and knowledge of how pigments work in ceramic applications is important.   As Neil & Stephen noted, much of the details needed to produce decent quality slip ware will not be found in most pottery classes or courses.  I would also  add that if you have not built and run a business before, knowledge of planning a business planning is also essential.

Another Forum here, Business, Marketing, and Accounting might be right up your ally--great place to post this type of situation/questions etc.  Best wishes---don't get discouraged as you discover it's not as simple as it might appear!! 

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