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Advice on Home Studio


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Hello, I am hoping to set myself up with a home studio and am doing research on equipment, location, supplies, etc.  I have taken several classes over the last few years and have spent time in open studio but feel like I just need to do my own thing at this point.

My option for keeping the process out of my house (which is a priority) is a very small pool house that has water and electricity but not heat. We do not use it for much except access to toilet. It has several windows, shelves, sink and even a refrigerator that we dont use . The tiled floor space is just enough to fit a small kiln and wheel with not much left over. We drain the pipes and do not use the space in the winter. Winter weather here gets quite cold at times with an average in the low 30s. So before I go ordering everything...is it feasible to throw and fire pottery for at least 8 to 9 months of the year in this setting? I'm considering a Bailey stx wheel and skutt 818 kiln (that's the largest I can fit in the space). Any advice on supplies and equipment (or anything else) is appreciated.  Also looking at kilns and ventilation, do I need to vent the kiln if I can just have the windows open and remove myself from the building? If I use something like the skutt envirovent can I simply point it out a door or window instead of placing through the wall? Thanks so much for the guidance. Feels like I'm taking a big leap with lots of experimentation coming!

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I'm in central NH--it gets around 2-20 in deep winter. I use a small ceramic heater or oil-filled radiator for my ceramic work on my back porch (10 X 12-but only about half is dedicated to claywork & my kiln). The screened porch is sealed with restaurant patio-quality clear vinyl .  Snow & rain can drift in a bit and of course winter is very cold here but it is workable even in February with the small heater. I just can't use the wheel out there from Jan-early March. Personally I like shelving & storage to be lightweight and/or have wheels so I can change configurations as needed. Stacking totes are also my friend. I use a folding utility table w/Hardie Backer on it and have the same for safety underneath the kiln, an L&L 23s, vented to the outside. I fire year round. What fun you're gonna have!!

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Thank you LeeU!! Do you only glaze and fire during the coldest months, or do you hand build? Any problem with having clay and water year round in that setting/temp? I am thinking about using a 3 bucket system and also wonder about clay storage/use during the colder months. I plan to use Hardi backer as well. I think so too; I'm really excited!

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So I’ve had a few garage studios that were unheated, and Calgary gets a wee bit colder than freezing for the winter. I have some thoughts.

-I would suggest that if you only have space for a kiln and a wheel, you’d be wiser to keep the floor space inside for shelving rather than that kiln. If you can build a small covered enclosure off the side of the pool house for the kiln, that’s going to work better. That’s assuming you already own the kiln and aren’t transporting work to be fired.

-When temperatures drop to freezing, any wet or partially dry pots you have will disintegrate with the freeze/thaw cycle. They’ll need to be reclaimed. Keep an eye on your weather for that, or do as Lee suggests and make sure there’s a space heater to prevent this. Clay that hasn’t been made into pots yet will be fine, but you’ll have a lot of wedging or some reclaim to do, depending on the clay body. Pres keeps his clay outdoors year round in PA and says he’s just got to wedge it all up and it’s good to go. The white stoneware I was using when I had my outdoor studios tended to turn to mush in the bag and needed more attention. You mention a fridge that you don’t use. There are a number of people who use dead fridges for clay storage to keep it from freezing because of the insulation. The trick used to be to put a 100W incandescent bulb in there, and the radiant heat from that was enough to keep your clay from getting ice crystals. But they don’t sell those here anymore, and I don’t know about availability in the US.

-Glazes freezing are a right nuisance. They won’t be ruined, but when they freeze solid they hard pan horribly, and you’ll be scraping the solids off the bottom of the bucket with a large loop tool. There are also some glaze recipes that form crystals (lithium or calcium/boron) when they’re kept somewhere around 15*C (59F) but I forget the exact temperature. If you can find a way to store your glazes at room temperature, you’ll save yourself a LOT of work having to reconstitute and sieve things every spring.

- I personally found that overnight temperatures were a better indicator of when you can work in the studio and when you can’t. When it drops in the fall to about 10* C (50F) at night on the regular, the buildings tend to stay quite chilly for longer in the day. It makes your hands ache to put them in cold water all the time, so either using hot water to throw or having a crockpot for warm water is a handy thing. I don’t know about the specific weather patterns in your area, so I couldn’t speak to the number of months you’d be able to use your studio, but there’s a bit of a measure at least.

 

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I  use the protected porch year round, except the wheel must be moved inside in deep winter if I want to use it then- -tho I mostly hand build. I think Callie notes the best solution-build an insulated enclosure outside against one wall of the pool house, for the kiln

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