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…

Tiny Increments

Some things happen in tiny increments of time, especially those less glorious tasks. Fun jobs like planning and gathering, then using a mitre saw to chop wood into usable pieces for portable shelves occur in a time warp of effortless bliss. Framing shelving units – not so much.

So, I had researched long enough and had to prepare for the eventuality of the craft event. It was time to stop procrastinating; the shelves were going to happen. There would be no distractions – shelves would be built.

And they were. It took less time than anticipated and of course they aren’t perfect – they have fallen over once, taking a dozen or so pots to their doom. However, with some minor adjustments for improved stability,  these two sets of shelves should serve their purpose and function, for they are lightweight, portable, easily set up and taken down, and will hopefully not continue their villainous rampage against my pottery.





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.

The potter’s soiree

If a soirée is an elegant evening gathering , is it posible to have a wheel throwing soirée? Well, that’s what I called those eclectic gatherings of multigenerational socials held for the purpose of getting hands muddy and making art.

During the first soirée, each guest had a chance to try their hand at making art from the earth. Each person took turns donning an apron and sitting at the wheel, taking minimal instruction and finding their way to the form that suited them. To the delight of the guests, many wheel thrown pots were made that first evening. As the summer progressed, they returned to glaze their ware at the next or other soirée. We had a lot of fun with great conversations at each of those gatherings.

The idea of inviting friends and relatives into my studio – or any artist studio for that matter – isn’t some brainchild of mine; the open studio (day or concept) has been around for a long time. What I like about having guests in my studio is infusing working isolation with some social interaction.  My studio tends toward an environment of working isolation, if you don’t count the dogs, so having the occasional guest or guests brings an energy to the space that lasts for a while after they’ve left, and I kinda like that energy.

So, now my studio has the traditional working areas alongside a conversational area for studio guests. It’s a nice balance.


Setting up a home studio

A friend of my niece is going to set up a pottery studio in his new house and was asking what he would need to get started.

My work area has evolved since the beginning, so I thought about the basic components I gathered when I first set up my potter’s studio.

Besides a good potter’s wheel, having access to electric, adequate lighting and ventilation, and easy-to-clean flooring /horizontal surfaces are a must.

Speaking of clean, easy access to water, a bunch of hand towels, a good apron, sponges, and a scraper are working and cleaning essentials.

Storing work and ware makes bags for storing unfinished projects; crates and shelves for carrying and storing bats and ware; and vessels to stow tools an organizational necessity.

A wire cutting tool, ribs, sponges, a needle tool, and trimming tools serve as the very basic throwing tools.

A yard of heavy canvas, a rolling pin, a fettling knife, an old kitchen spoon and fork, and a slip container can be the basic hand-building tools.

As far as glazing brushes go, I used 1″ and .5″ hardware store utility bushes for the first couple of years.

Outdoor studio: pros and cons

There are a lot of plusses about a porch that serves as an outdoor studio. From both a sensory and production perspective: being outdoors in natural light, catching a gentle breeze, watching a cardinal soar by, and being able to dump clay water into a nearby plant just helps me feel connected to nature while I work.


Sunday, I worked as the rain teemed all around. The eaves kept the rainwater out of most of the doorways and only trickled in on one side. Dinah liked the rain as long as she didn’t get wet; even though he was under the weather, Oliver seemed to enjoy it as well.

On the flip side, those dog days of summer can be a bear when the humidity reaches 85% or more. I make sure to get working before 7:30 am and work until I’m sweating just sitting at the wheel. Usually the cool water extends my work hours to about 1 pm so that helps. So does the ceiling fan which runs constantly. The big old maple tree lends shade to the porch and keeps the temperature comfortable until early afternoon.

Then I’m back in the studio for the evening and really enjoy throwing, trimming, and glazing as the sun begins to set. Oliver and Dinah seem to like this time of day, too.