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How many people work in your studio?

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It's my impression that most potters who work full time do it alone, well not quite because y'all seem eager to share and explore together. 

I'm so curious about potters experiences of working together.

How did you manage you work day/work load?

Did you work other people of equal skill/experience or was it more of a teachers/apprentices type situation?

How did you organize every day technical details? i.e. this is ready for bisque fire, glaze fire, needs more work, focus on this detail.

How did you manage feedback?






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I’ve worked in a few different group situations over the years as well as being on my own. I went to university for clay, so that was a student/teacher situation where I was the student, but I’m now working at a teaching studio as an instructor and the glaze tech. I’ve also worked in group studios where people just rented space and worked independently. I’ve also spent a lot of time with a studio in a garage or basement, and I transported work to fire.  I know others who work as solo potters, but I also know several who work with a spouse in a more collaborative studio style. There’s good and bad points to each situation, and it’s kind of up to you what you need the most at a given point in your career.

The pros (not exhaustive) of working in a group studio or teaching situation:

-you can bounce ideas off of other like minded people

-having an external workplace to have to go to leads to a more healthy work/life separation

-you can share assorted studio tasks so your entire time isn’t taken up wth managing a big space all by yourself

-organizing to order materials in bulk usually leads to savings

-being exposed to things you don’t do yourself can lead to a lot of creative and practical skill growth

Some of the cons:

-you can sometimes get really distracted by your fellow clay people and not get anything done

-more people moving stuff leads to more opportunities for stuff to be broken or damaged accidentally

-you need to have strong communication about cleaning/expectations or there will be resentment/fights

-you might be restricted in your work by the available kilns or glazes; lack of flexibility in firing schedules


Some pros of working by yourself:

-complete creative control over kilns, firings and other materials (no undesired clay cross contamination)

-you can leave things out and come back to them as you will; no one will be after you to empty your splashpan 

-room to screw up/be vulnerable in private

-you can crank your tunes as loud as you want (or work in complete silence)

-alllll the shelves are yours!

-pieces are vulnerable only to your own level of clumsiness. 

-if your studio is in your home, you can do things like flip pots before bed, or unload a kiln first thing in the AM in your pj’s.


Some Cons of working by yourself:

-you are responsible for everything. All the cleaning, all the firings, all the maintenance, all the costs.

-at some point it becomes isolating. You have to make more of an effort to be social.

-no one to encourage you or commiserate with if you knock over the board of pots you just filled.

-learning and feedback opportunities from other makers are much more limited, and must be sought out purposefully

-no work/life separation if your studio is in your home/on your property

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On 5/30/2024 at 9:57 AM, falseawareness said:

How did you organize every day technical details? i.e. this is ready for bisque fire, glaze fire, needs more work, focus on this detail.

This question in particular is very specific to a given situation. How I manage my own workflow for getting ready for shows is different than how I cycle work through kilns for the teaching studio I’m at. 

In general, you pick an end point (eg, a show you need to make work for, or the end of a class) and work backwards to make your plan. If I have 6 weeks to make $8K of work and have my booth setup ready and photos taken, I know I’ve got about 3-4 weeks of wet work, a week of glazing and firing, and a week of booth prep (rough example). There’s different admin tasks that have different end dates, and you still have to factor still others that happen less frequently, like quarterly tax filing. Most folks I know do a  very rough layout for the year sometime after Christmas, and flesh out more details on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis. 

With the teaching studio, I’m laying out all my bisque firings based on when that class is glazing. We have something like 12 instructors with 1-4 classes each, starting on a rotating basis. Classes are 6 weeks long, except for wheel samplers, which are the “make your first pot” evenings to give people a quick, fun taste. I mark out the end dates of each class on a big wall calendar, along with their class stamp to identify pieces by. All work is sorted by class stamp after bisque and glaze. The deadline to have a class’s work in the bisque is 4 days before the last class, which is glaze day. Glaze firings happen when we have enough to fill a kiln (about every 2-3 days right now). Member work and wheel sampler stuff is loaded around class work, but everything moves through pretty quickly, as no one class will fill a kiln by itself. We try to have classes wrap up at different times, but some weeks are still more bisque intensive than others. So things like monthly glaze bucket maintenance are tackled on quieter weeks.

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  • 3 weeks later...

having worked alone for about 50 years, i welcome the opportunity to introduce new and more experienced potters to my studio.   two are coming tomorrow.  i had two come out a few weeks ago and one of them is now bringing another potter with her.  what fun!  this is not a "work together" event but a visual and tactile experience to broaden their understanding of what can be done when you think about what you are doing. 

i have always encouraged new potters to visit as many studios as they are able to see HOW the space is set up and what methods work for the various kinds of work that comes out of them.  ideas i have used for years are a revelation to visitors.   being self taught has allowed me to think of why certain steps work or do not work for what i am doing at this time.  setting up for wheel work is different from slab, for example.  

never worked in a group location except at Parsons in manhattan.  not a class situation, free work.   i remember being there late when a woman came into the area and asked how to remove the plaster she had poured into a huge sink.  

that encouraged me to work alone in my own studio at home.  thinking, always thinking and making mistakes but they were only mine.

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@Callie Beller Diesel and @oldlady have summed this up well.

For me, I have a hard time concentrating with another person around, even with my long time partner and studio mate. Though we often work at the same time, some things I can’t work through until I’m solitary. Particularly new ideas. On the other hand, we work well together and there are ideas I would never conceive if I had to lean only on myself. With only two people it’s not a chore for everything to be in the place you expect it, sounds small but it’s big. It hasn’t been hard to arrive at an equilibrium where the studio is in a wonderful state for both of us to produce.

There is something comforting about having a significant level of responsibility (or control) because that’s where the deepest learning happens. You alone are the sole source of all masterful work and disappointments. I strongly believe it’s a stage all potters should experience. 

All that said, I wouldn’t be making what I do without her inspiration, new eyes, and encouragement. She wouldn’t be doing her marvelous work without a little help from me here and there.

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I have had a two or three  pottery partners over my 50 plus years-all where in the 70s starting out. The last partner ship failed badly and felt more like a divorce (never had one so I'm guessing). Since then I only have had others work for me. Thats been a key to my success . I started hiring from our local collage and got the ones who wanted to learn . Then I learned most did not want anything to do with production work.I gave up on that and hired collage kids who knew nothing about clay and they where the best (none made pots only other chores. In the 90s a few folks came to me looking for work and are still working for me in a very part time basis after all these years. You need to pay them well and treat with great respect . Without my helpers I would be long out of clay by now due to body/hand issues.They set the schedule and I work around it most times-its a give and take for us all .

Edited by Mark C.
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I have about 40 students using my studio. I have my own small personal space in the corner of the studio, but it's not private or closed off. There aren't students in my studio all day, so I can find plenty of time to work alone, which is what I prefer. It's a good balance for me- making pots alone but having social interaction during the classes I teach. Given the option, I would work alone all day every day, so this forces me to interact with people other than my family.

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I am also a work alone,  I use to take a community sculpture or pottery class if I wanted to be near other artist.  The last few classes didn't work out that way,   I ended up teaching.    The teacher was ill or the class over booked,  some kind of situation would always happen.   When I am in a studio I just want to work on my work not teach.  It is probably   selfish but the during the time I am teaching my mind is still thinking about my work.   The students are getting the short end,  so do I.   I get drafted not payed and I payed for the class that I am now teaching.  I turn on the radio  in my studio and the day just flies by.   Denice

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Yes, I work alone - usually.  I keep saying I'm going to approach the local university and ask them if they would be interested in my writing up a class for internships.  It would be nice to get college kids out there to my mountain cabin to help me with mold making, casting and cleaning of greenware, assembly, pouring and cleaning of resins, 3D printing and the cleaning up of prints, packing, etc.  There is so much I could teach interns!  Free help I wouldn't have to pay, but I would have to invest time into.  On the other hand, if any of them turned out to be pretty good, I might be able to lure them to stay on and hire them.  I could really stand to scale up and build a small /team/ of people to help out there like they do in the UK.  The kind of work I do is very labor intensive and isn't pottery, but there are a lot of 'jobs' that someone could specialize in that would save me a ton of time in studio and let me focus more on sculpting, less on the tedium.

I get my son to help me out with cleaning resins but I've never asked him to help me with my ceramics.  I do host workshops and offer private classes but sadly very few of those people live anywhere close enough  to me or have the time to stop by with any regularity.  Else I'd trade classes for work in studio time!  I've tried several times but that's never worked out.  They come take the classes and then never repay me back with time spent doing any real work for me so I had to give that up. 

I live in a pretty remote wilderness mountain area with a fairly low population out here so it's not like I'm in or close to a city.  

Edited by Hyn Patty
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