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dealing with a studio that has bad practices


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Hi there,

I've been a member of a studio for a couple of months that is incredibly dirty - tons of dried clay on things, not great cleaning practices. Their glazes are also often neglected, needing to be sieved. They have so many different people loading the kiln that there are often preventable mistakes (one girl was complaining to me about how they put a piece with underglaze inside her bisque fire mug and it was left with black spots inside, just to name an example) and when things get other people's glaze on them or whatever other things, nobody comes to let you know or seems to care at all. The reason I haven't left yet is because I get 10K cubic inches of firing space a month and it's super close to my apt, but I'm curious what the best way to approach this would be. I think that their practices violate health codes and I worry about the silica. For most of the last few months I did a lot of work on my home wheel and brought stuff in to finish at the studio but now that I have been spending more time there it really makes me want to say something. From what I have heard, when some people have mentioned certain issues the owners were not very receptive to them so I am hesitant. 

 

I am pretty scared for the people who use the studio there often who are setting themselves up for potter's lung! I am touring some other studios so I can make the move hopefully.

Tips? Any links I could send them re: health and safety? The owners are pretty young so I am wondering if that's part of it. 

 

Thank you!

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Can you use a respirator while you're there?  Not likely necessary, but if you're worried about silica in the air, that's one way to keep using the studio and still feel safe.

If dry clay on things is the worst it gets, it sounds like every studio I've been to.  Silicosis is no joke, but there are measures you can take personally to prevent it.  There's a lot of fear around it, which is understandable!  But there are much more dangerous things you're exposed to in a studio that no one talks about.  Silicosis is rare in potters now, because people are more aware of what causes it and how to prevent it.  Be aware, but don't be paranoid.

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If others have already expressed concerns to the owners and they weren’t receptive, then your best move is to find another studio. The situation isn’t great for the people who are still there, but they are adults and can vote with their feet too. 

A well run studio will offer more than just cleanliness, but a more supportive and enriching environment for artistic growth. 

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I did my initial learning in a studio just like that.  I referred to it as "Anarchy Central".  One of the instructors always wore a mask inside.  She was the only one who ever did.  My advice would be to learn the basics from the undoubtedly good potters there and make a commitment to establish your own studio.  If you find a product you enjoy making and can develop a market, keep reinvesting the sales back into the venture.  

The problem of course with Southern California is buying a property to work with.  I didn't start ceramics until I bought my first home. 

Still, ceramics can be done with a card table and an electric kiln.

That studio was the UCSD Crafts Center and it did get closed down. 

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@CactusPots It's so wild that I have considered telling the health department in hopes that a visit might make them shape up a bit.

 

 

@liambesaw its not so much as just some dried clay... its a LOT of dried clay. really really tons of it because their deep cleans are not very deep or thorough. the raw materials for glaze making also are pretty haphazardly stored in the glaze room. I wear an n95 most of the time I'm in there because I feel like wearing a respirator would look absurd. I am thinking I may just have to switch studios which is a shame, but I worry for the health of the people who don't realize how many health and safety problems it has. My friend who is a potter in Asheville is dumbfounded by their practices when I share them, she said she would never be able to get away with half the that goes on there if she were working at any of the studios she has worked at. They also have very careless kiln loaders and they let some of the younger members be super chaotic and disrespectful in the space. I've stayed because of the firing space and there is a lot of amazing work around that has been inspiring me, not to mention how close it is. I guess I'm simply too old to be playing in a playpen - I want a studio that is reliable for me to work and grow in!

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26 minutes ago, claybodybri said:

@CactusPots It's so wild that I have considered telling the health department in hopes that a visit might make them shape up a bit.

 

 

@liambesaw its not so much as just some dried clay... its a LOT of dried clay. really really tons of it because their deep cleans are not very deep or thorough. the raw materials for glaze making also are pretty haphazardly stored in the glaze room. I wear an n95 most of the time I'm in there because I feel like wearing a respirator would look absurd. I am thinking I may just have to switch studios which is a shame, but I worry for the health of the people who don't realize how many health and safety problems it has. My friend who is a potter in Asheville is dumbfounded by their practices when I share them, she said she would never be able to get away with half the that goes on there if she were working at any of the studios she has worked at. They also have very careless kiln loaders and they let some of the younger members be super chaotic and disrespectful in the space. I've stayed because of the firing space and there is a lot of amazing work around that has been inspiring me, not to mention how close it is. I guess I'm simply too old to be playing in a playpen - I want a studio that is reliable for me to work and grow in!

I also started in a studio much like that.  I met great people while I was a part of that studio, but that experience also pushed me to educate myself on other ways to be part of a studio or have my own studio.   Just keep educating yourself and looking for another space.  

Roberta

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More likely to get closed either by the health dept or their insurance carrier than for them to clean up.

Some people's creative process seems to  require lack of attention to background noise like cleaning up after themselves.  The way I dealt with it was to limit my time to essentials and to enjoy it for what it is, not what it isn't.  I'm sure you're already doing that.  Best thing is to work in off hours if you can.

I do miss certain parts of the communal studio experience.  Not enough to choose it over my own place.

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Wear the mask when there and either accept the situation or move out to another studio.

If you call in the heat and they close down that will not cure the issue for anyone.

 

In terms of kiln loading until you get your own kin you are subject to whatever happens always no matter where you are studion wise and mistakes will always happen in these places.

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not long ago one of our members mentioned just moving to LA.   if you search maybe you can find each other and a way to work together????  i know the post mentioned Los Angeles but the search terms are very fussy on this website.

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5 hours ago, Roberta12 said:

I also started in a studio much like that.  I met great people while I was a part of that studio, but that experience also pushed me to educate myself on other ways to be part of a studio or have my own studio.   Just keep educating yourself and looking for another space.  

Roberta

It has definitely been teaching me things I would do differently! It is just sort of shocking because the studio I started at but switched from due to lack of 24/7 access was SOOOO on top of everything and conscientious and clean. I miss that place but they only have one small kiln so they won't support the volume I am trying to work on. Thanks for sharing that you had a similar situation!

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2 hours ago, Mark C. said:

Wear the mask when there and either accept the situation or move out to another studio.

If you call in the heat and they close down that will not cure the issue for anyone.

 

In terms of kiln loading until you get your own kin you are subject to whatever happens always no matter where you are studion wise and mistakes will always happen in these places.

I understand about the kiln, but at the last place I was a member if anything happened to my pieces someone would come talk to me or leave a note or apologize. At this place, there are many careless mistakes (probably due to lack of quality control from the top) and nobody says anything or seems to care even about obvious ones that affect or ruin someone's work. It's just a bit frustrating! 

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21 hours ago, claybodybri said:

Any links I could send them re: health and safety?

https://vincepitelka.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Clay-Studio-Safety.pdf  

I get that people can leave if they don't feel it's safe to work there but I'm guessing that there will be people left there who don't know the risks of inhaling silica dust etc. In one of the studios I went to there was a woman who was dry sanding a piece then blowing the dust away into the room. I told her why that wasn't a safe thing to do and her response was "it's natural so it's okay". There are times when people don't know what they don't know. 

Sounds like there are a number of sloppy studio practices there, some sound just plain frustrating but are common in group studios like the kiln loading issue but for health and safety issues I'ld try and bring them up and if you leave let them know this is why.

21 hours ago, claybodybri said:

The reason I haven't left yet is because I get 10K cubic inches of firing space a month...

Just curious but you're saying slightly over 3 cubic feet of firing space a month is generous for this type of studio?

 

Edited by Min
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2 hours ago, Min said:

https://vincepitelka.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Clay-Studio-Safety.pdf  

I get that people can leave if they don't feel it's safe to work there but I'm guessing that there will be people left there who don't know the risks of inhaling silica dust etc. In one of the studios I went to there was a woman who was dry sanding a piece then blowing the dust away into the room. I told her why that wasn't a safe thing to do and her response was "it's natural so it's okay". There are times when people don't know what they don't know. 

Sounds like there are a number of sloppy studio practices there, some sound just plain frustrating but are common in group studios like the kiln loading issue but for health and safety issues I'ld try and bring them up and if you leave let them know this is why.

Just curious but you're saying slightly over 3 cubic feet of firing space a month is generous for this type of studio?

 

Thanks, what you said pretty much sums up why I feel so weird about just leaving and saying nothing. Re: firing space, they are on the lower end cost wise based on how much firing space they have. I was also hoping to do large pieces but I am realizing I need more time before I feel comfortable approaching that so it might not be as necessary. That being said, I would like to amp up my production a lot and sell more etc. Some of the other studios are a lot better but also a lot more expensive, so I am trying to find a sweet spot.

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I don't have any tips on how to approach the owners, but I feel your pain. I was in a similar situation. I felt very torn because there weren't any alternatives, no other studios locally that had membership. I didn't say anything because I felt like it would fall on deaf ears and I was there for not just use of the studio, but to be with other potters. Good luck with this issue. 

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7 hours ago, claybodybri said:

I would like to amp up my production a lot and sell more etc.

If your intention is to make pots for sale, there really isn’t a “sweet spot” when you are using group studios. If they’re inexpensive, then they probably aren’t well run. If they are well run, they are charging you for it.The general lack of control will stymy any business, even if the studio is well run. (You have an art fair next weekend and you need all of your pots fired before then? Too bad, we need to get all of the kids camp pieces fired first.)  Making pots as a business really shouldn’t be done in group studios, except on a tiny scale.  If you want to expand beyond that, it’s time to setup your own space with your own equipment. 

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Maybe it’s time to do a little math. How much is a 3 cu ft kiln (which is tiny, btw) in your area? Or maybe a 5.  How much is electrical hookup? How does that amount of money compare to the amount you’re spending at this studio on monthly rent? How many pots do you have to sell to pay it off? How much time will you save by not having to travel back and forth? How much do you gain by controlling your own work?

Having a ceramics community is well and good as long as that community is actually supportive and healthy. If this studio isn’t receptive to improving it’s OHS practices in this day and age, it signals to me that there are more things than this going on. Being new at it and just not knowing would be one thing if they were willing to learn and improve their practices. If they’re established and just don’t care, that’s a red flag to me.

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