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Hi folks, once again nothing new on the QotW pool. So I will put forward the following: When do you decide? You are getting ready to throw, and the wheel being as immediate as it is as compared to hand building, when do you decide what to make?  

My own experience has changed the time for this decision over the years. When still young and learning to throw in college, I had set parameters in Ceramics 1, throw a 9 inch cylinder with 3# of clay. This allowed me to continue on and keep pots, but then what to make of a cylinder. . . .naturally MUGS. Ceramics 2 came around, and I started doing vases, casseroles and other things, never really thinking about weights or size, just what I thought would work. After undergrad, I started throwing and demonstrating as part of my teaching job, and it was about doing what I could do well, cylinders for pitchers or vases, or other things of size to impress the students, and demonstrate technique. Grad work came with time for post grad credits for permanent teachers certification. Here again things were pretty open, other than doing different genres, raku, salt firing, reduction firing, and a required variety of forms. When I started throwing at home, I just made, if I sat down with a large piece of clay 20# or so, it became a large lidded jar or vase. Then I became more interested in repetition, bought a scale and started throwing in repetition, trying to repeat a form in variations. So the gist here is that in the beginning I was forced into a decision, then later just sat down and what ever came to mind I made, later as I became more interested in functional forms I started weighing out with the intention of making a series of chalice, patens, honey jars or whatever. The decision time is more deliberate and often from need of stock rather than the fun of throwing. I know that there are others out there that take need to the extreme also, knowing that if they have to have 100 of something, that is what they throw. Not their decision, but more of a business decision. 

So for the QotW: When do you decide what you will make when starting to work?  I have spoken about mostly wheel, but those of you that handbuild, is it with a sketch, just an idea, or just playing around? Wheel throwers, is it the day before, from need, an idea, before weighing out clay, or some other time?

 

best,

Pres

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I'm a wheel man myself, and i don't think I really started developing actual skill until I started planning ahead of time what i was going to make and how.  

I generally sketch at least rough dimensions and then set about throwing something to those dimensions and shape.  If I enjoy the way it looks, I will set my gauge and make a series of the same form.  My goal is always to throw 2 dozen of the same form, I feel like it not only gives me a nice amount of stock on that item, but it also really hones that form and sears it into the gray matter.  There is nothing like repetition to really explore yourself and a form.  People ask me often what they can do to get past a hump or get on to the next level and for me it's repeating a form, it's like performance enhancing drugs for wheel throwing.

So when do I decide?  I decide long before i sit down at the wheel.  

 

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I can get a serious case of blank page syndrome when faced with a large block of clay and no other directives. I need to have some choices made ahead of time, and I like most things to be planned out before I head to the studio.  I need to narrow the possibilities down, which is why I work within a functional framework.

 

I come at it from a “This is my job” angle. In the early part of the year, I schedule play and design time, to work out new ideas and keep things fresh. There’s not a lot of sales in January and February, and I’m flush off of Christmas, so I have the space to noodle a bit. I think about the feedback I received over the year, and if I’ve noticed I’ve received a lot of requests for an item, I’ll make the effort to design one I like. If I had requests for larger items, I’ll play around with them at that point, because I have the space to do things like throw a large bisque mold, or glaze test, or try a new material or technique. 

The middle of the year is about testing those new designs in the market, and seeing who likes what and how well it sells and at what price point. There are adjustments made, but at that point it’s more about perfecting existing designs, or starting to make more of it, making work for ongoing markets and stockpiling the proven items for Christmas.

 

Christmas planning starts in June, and and my cutoff for trying to work out anything new is the start of September. At that point my focus shifts from “what am I making?” to “how much do I have to make?” That last part is all based on numbers from last year at the same shows, plus who needs what for retail outlets and any online sales. 

Creativity gets put on hold for a couple of months, other than idea gathering and sketching. In a lot of ways I find the production time freeing, because I have a list and can just crank. Seeing a huge pile of stuff you’ve made at the end of the day is very satisfying.  But at the end I’m glad for the rest, and the time to noodle.

 

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Good question!

It's early days (as a "serious" hobby potter) for me; mainly, I make just a few things, 300, 400, 500 gram mugs and bowls, mostly, and some lidded jars as well, plus occasional side trips into fountains, platters, vases, shot glasses. The three main forms are evolving, in terms of proportion and features, so I'm testing, trying, testing. I also am interested in repeat work, which is getting better; when I can consistently repeat the moves, I'll fix a pointer at the wheel.

I've a fairly set idea what the next few loads (seven cubic feet o' kiln space) will be in terms of what forms,  sizes, which clays, glazes - when setting up for a throwing session, just a matter of about how many of what, with an eye to having time to trim and finish.

That said, gettin' t'work!

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I *generally* have a really good idea, of what I'm making well before I start.  I champion sketching, to all my students, and I try to practice what I preach. 

There was a time, at home, that I had a specific form that I wanted to make.  I had done something like it before, and had it pictured in my head.  Once I got past the initial stages, to the forming, it just wasn't working for me.  So I got some new clay, and before I restarted, I grabbed some chalk, from my daughter's Art easel, and made a rough sketch on it.  That's all it took, and I knocked it out, no problem.

 

The only time I kind of wing it, is when doing demos, where I don't have a final product, that I am trying to achieve, and when I'm making a lot of random forms, like for an "Empty Bowls" donation.

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While earning my BFA in ceramics I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy  deciding what to make, preceded by hours and hours of learning, practicing, researching, studying, observing, questioning, filling notebooks, building a library, shadowing mentors, haunting galleries/museums etc., doing small exhibits, more practicing, planning, drawing, designing, revising, redoing, thinking-thinking-thinking---I could go on.  

Detour through a 30 year not-art career and fast-forward to retirement and a decent home ceramics studio.  To answer the question: I spend about 5 minutes letting a thought come into my head as to what I might do with any given lump of clay.  Boom, done.  

 

 

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I constantly stress to my students that they need to know what they're going to make before they get the clay out of the bag. That way they'll know how much clay to prep, and have a clear path to successfully making a certain pot. There are specific steps that must be taken to make any form, and if you're not following those steps and just letting the clay do what it wants, you'll always end up with a crappy bowl.

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1 hour ago, neilestrick said:

I constantly stress to my students that they need to know what they're going to make before they get the clay out of the bag. That way they'll know how much clay to prep, and have a clear path to successfully making a certain pot. There are specific steps that must be taken to make any form, and if you're not following those steps and just letting the clay do what it wants, you'll always end up with a crappy bowl.

I require my students to have a sketch, that shows their general idea, for the form, and an approximate width and height.  Just hopping on the wheel, and stating "I'm make a bowl, mug, etc" tells me little.  How big of a bowl or mug?  What do you plan to use if for?  How are you going to finish the bottom?

It annoys them, that I ask these questions, but I tell them, I can't help them, unless I see their vision.

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On 11/22/2019 at 2:08 AM, Benzine said:

I require my students to have a sketch, that shows their general idea, for the form, and an approximate width and height.  Just hopping on the wheel, and stating "I'm make a bowl, mug, etc" tells me little.  How big of a bowl or mug?  What do you plan to use if for?  How are you going to finish the bottom?

It annoys them, that I ask these questions, but I tell them, I can't help them, unless I see their vision.

Yes I used to give them a design brief. Three sketches and selection of one on brief criteria and practicality of making before hitting the wheelhead.

Gets the brain thinking.

I make notes night or morning before on what's needed in various retail shops then all sorted there I will develop new or refinements but these usually have been mulling in my head as I go about all my other stuff in life. Doodles everywhere.....

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On 11/21/2019 at 9:35 AM, neilestrick said:

I constantly stress to my students that they need to know what they're going to make before they get the clay out of the bag. That way they'll know how much clay to prep, and have a clear path to successfully making a certain pot. There are specific steps that must be taken to make any form, and if you're not following those steps and just letting the clay do what it wants, you'll always end up with a crappy bowl.

I don't know how many times I stressed to students that throwing a bowl by starting with a cylinder style open up with a flat bottom was just a dish! Maybe I am a stubborn purist, but a bowl has a rounded inside, a smooth curve from one edge to the other through the bottom. In the long run they got the idea, and admitted they worked much better than a flat bottom.

 

best,

Pres

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I start with daydreaming....see some images in my head and play with them.  Then I sketch...because I will never remember the details of a daydream.  Then I mess around with the clay to see if any of the ideas really have merit...it takes awhile but I sometimes I can get some good results.  I also use props...fancy word for old junk that I collect that has a pleasing form or detail that just screams out to be part of a pottery project.

 

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I grew up in production pottery and own one now.

I learned to work off a production sheet that has a line drawing with all the needed.  I have a sheet made for everything I mass produce on the wheel.  Only part of the items I make I need the sheets on as I mass produce a lot of the same stuff.

I watch a lot of YouTube to get ideas before I sit down to do something new.  I'll make a production sheet after I make a few of something. 

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