Retail Pottery

My pottery studio has evolved from amassing supplies, tools, and equipment. A friend recently Instagram-shared her Guatemala visit showing a potter making pots with corncobs for surface texture, and found objects to trim the ware. Here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, my pottery making appears to support a vast retail industry.

My usual go-to is The Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA for quick trips to pick up an item or two or 15. It’s where I order my clay, usually speckled brown 112, dark brown 266, and white stoneware 181 – all Standard clay bodies that I fire to mid-range. They make it easy to efficiently load 500 lbs. of clay or bags of chemistry into the car from their loading entrance, located on W. Basin street.

I also do my share to keep Amazon growing by leaps and bounds. From shop vac to buckets, shelves, and countless other supplies, ubiquitous Amazon purchases can be found organizing, storing, and basically supporting the pottery process throughout my studio and kiln shed. I’m sure I’m part of the reason for the increase in Prime membership fees. A Google search of a,azpm and Amazon is the top hit. Go figure.

A couple other retailers I’ve purchased from are Axner and Bailey,  Axner for specific items, such as bamboo teapot handles, fountain parts, or a roll of ‘dishwasher and microwave safe’ stickers;  Bailey Ceramic Supplies when that one special glaze I needed wasn’t in stock at the Ceramic Shop.

My most recent purchase was from Diamond Core Tools, for some diamond grinding discs. After watching those Instagram videos of potters smoothing pot bottoms in a matter of seconds, I overcame the mild sticker shock and was sold. I purchased the 8 inch 120 and 240 grit discs, which arrived yesterday. I also snagged one of those ‘sticky bats’ to try out – total impulse buy.

When I look around my studio, I can’t help but think about that Guatemalan potter making pots with found objects and corncob tools – straight from earth to ware. But it’s time to try out those new diamond grinding discs…

Kathystoneware at Bethlehem VegFest

The kiln has been firing with extreme regularity, prepping for the 2018 Bethlehem VegFest. With less than a month to go, I’m still adding to bins full pottery that will be for sale at the kathystoneware booth.

Saturday, July 14, 2018 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM EST at Daniel Rice Memorial Field
100 W. Lehigh Street  Bethlehem, PA 18018

exploration of limitations

There are so many choices in limitations. Options abound with the dark brown of the glaze-fired clay and only creamy matte glaze to points the way toward stamped surface decoration. In some cases one glaze color accent is applied, while in others, none. Options are endless, and I’m only just getting started to explore what is possible.

Yesterday’s grace

Ambition could be the title of the hopeful list of ware to be included under the next craft show tent. But I’m taking things one day at a time; throwing a dozen bowls one afternoon, and a clay brick’s worth of mugs on another. Large bowls next, and yesterday, it was teapots – only four teapots, to be exact.

I needed time to allow for personality, teapot personality. Cane handles were a must, but the rest was up to the flurry of happenstance and the what-if’s that come about when throwing has ended and hand-building commences.

From a utilitarian point of view, how would each member of this little quartet function? To fill, to pour, and to carry when tea is about to be served? How would this dark brown clay enhance the series of glazes I plan to use? Thoughts pause hands to consider these and other things, as little periods of grace make room for the future possibilities of each teapot.

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The next little step

 

Thanks to my stylist-extraordinaire niece, mskfitz, and Sato Salon Organics, my pottery has been displayed and sold in a brick and mortar setting for quite some time now. When this retail opportunity fell into my lap, it compelled me to act upon part of my long ignored business plan to-do list (note the passive voice). Oh, I knew what needed to be done, but always considered every step forward a commitment to taking on that one big facet of pottery-making that didn’t hold much appeal. While making pottery provided an inherently creative process filled with countless opportunities of discovery, let’s just say that selling pottery did not rev these engines.

So, I performed some basic tasks: made a business card, set the pricing, and even showed up at a ‘meet the artist’ moment. Well, the business card revealed its hastily-made existence; the pricing was perfunctory thanks to a potter friend’s sage advice; and I survived the ‘meet the artist.’ I now found myself, unwittingly, on the potter purveyor’s path.

As far as branding was concerned,  I noticed that I desperately needed some professional help, and when I mentioned this observation in passing to my daughter, she replied, “That’s kind of what I do.”  After a quick comparison of our respective business cards, it became evident that she was my branding creative (eileenalot.com). So with my friends and family discount, I sent my down payment  via Venmo, contracting her branding services. I told her to take her time, that I was in no hurry.

Knowing full-well what the next mini-step required, I purchased the obligatory 10′ craft fair Ez-up tent with cloth panel sides and wheeled storage bag.  After watching several YouTube videos of how to set up the tent and how to put the cloth atop the frame, I made a sandwich and planned an evening with friends where margarita consumption and inaugural tent raising would occur.

Now, to heavily research how to build display shelves and make an itemized list, with pictures, of the necessary wood and hardware required to do so.

 

When pottery moves in

Little corked jugs are curious forms. They nestle into any space and seem perfectly willing to take up permanent residence there. A case in point: some of these little guys have been on display for sale at SATO Salon Organics for a while and recently we figured out that they look so comfortable in their spot on the shelf that they avoid moving day. So, they’ll soon be placed in a new location at the salon, but my guess is that they’ll settle in comfortably once again.

Altered wheel-thrown form

After seeing a wheel-thrown altered pot on Pinterest, I wanted to try making a few. I threw a form on the wheel with about 4lbs -5lbs of Standard white stoneware clay and after each form was leather hard, used a needle tool to mark the four corners of where the cuts would be created. A fettling knife was used to cut out a little square and then stamped with one of my home-made clay stamps. Then I used the needle tool again to mark 8 holes – 4 holes outside the cut shape and 4 holes, one in each corner of the little cut out square. I made sure the holes were large enough to allow for passing twine through after firing shrinkage. Then I replaced the cut-out shape into each wheel-thrown form and allowed the clay to dry. After bisque firing, I applied underglaze to the cut-out shapes on both forms and when they were dry, applied a coat of wax resist. I also applied wax resist inside the openings created with the needle tool to prevent the glazes from accidentally getting ‘brushed’ into those 8 holes. Next, I applied underglaze to the pot rim and base (shown on left), allowed it to dry and applied clear transparent glaze over the whole pot surface. For the pot on the right, I used Amaco Textured Tan glaze very loosely and unevenly applied. After glaze firing at cone 5, I used garden twine to ‘tie’ the shapes to each form. This was clearly an exercise in procedure and now I’m stoked to try variations on this idea of an altered wheel-thrown form.

The potter’s manicure

All my life my hands have been relegated to the unadorned among us. Oh the toenails saw some lacquer in the summertime, don’t get me wrong, but my hands always found themselves in too much water, sawdust, grout, or reduced by length and banned from polish due to someone’s rules and regulations.

 

 

From the dress code in high school to similar restrictions as a nurse in a Catholic hospital, my nail polish went underground,  inside my shoes. A later career change to teaching art kept my nails short and color-free as practicality won over vanity. I could count on less than two hands the number of professional manicures I’ve had. Once, when I returned home with a French manicure for a special occasion, the eye rolls from my daughters confirmed my suspicions that painted digits weren’t ‘me’.

 

 

Now, during the day I still teach art, although it’s all graphic and web design- but I’m a potter at night, on weekends, and holidays. Potter’s hands take a lot of abuse from having them in water, not to mention the sanding effect of the grog in the clay, and the incredible drying effect of stoneware on the skin. So, to keep my hands ready to wedge pounds of clay, plunge into buckets of water, and grind over grog-filled stoneware on the potter’s wheel, today I follow my own rules and regulations about short fingernail length and polish-free nails.

 

PVC Photo booth

Setting up the photo booth was easy once I saw that post about using PVC pipe to create the structure.

Using my chop saw made quick work of cutting the pipe to the dimensions I needed; the 3-way fittings and elbows worked great to not only build the box but to make it stable. I draped a few yards of muslin over the top and sides, then stood a piece of matt board at the back. I ran a roll of tracing paper across the ‘floor’ of the booth and up and over the matt board – folded the paper over the top of the board to hold it securely in place, then left the paper uncut on the roll in the front of the booth so it could easily be replaced as needed. With a lamp placed outside the muslin ‘wall’ I was ready to shoot some pottery images. The whole task took about 20 minutes from start to finish. An added benefit is that the PVC is very lightweight which will make it easy to move and quick to disassemble and reassemble should I ever need to do so.

Pining for Porcelain

Lately I’ve been considering pottery work with porcelain. Mostly because the translucent characteristic of this clay body lends itself to all sorts of interesting outcomes. It’ll be trial and error for a while I’m sure, but therein lies the joy. Curiosity for how this medium will respond to various hand-building, printing, and wheel throwing techniques serves as the driving force.

The porcelain arrived quickly from the Ceramic Shop (Philadelphia, PA), so I tore open the box to check it out. From the outside of the bag the clay felt a little stiff, but from what I understand from YouTube videos, once the clay is well wedged, it softens up. I was careful to wash the surfaces, tools, sponges, buckets, and anything else that had previously come into contact with stoneware. Again, a YouTube video recommended washing tools, etc. so that no iron bits would contaminate the porcelain clay body.

I used a brand-new wire cutting tool and wedged the porcelain on a heavy piece of clean cardboard, since my bamboo wedging table’s surface was thoroughly embedded with stoneware from previous wedging. With only a pound or so, tried throwing a little vessel with a tiny spout. The clay handled nicely, was very easy to center and form – left the bottom a bit thicker for trimming a nice foot. Next, I threw a little one pound bowl and tried to make the walls as thin as I could without risking collapse. Again, I kept the base thicker so I could trim a deep foot.

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