Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coming down and going up!

I'm excited that my kickstarter is finished and I was able to raise what I needed to get this new kiln up and running.  I started taking down the wood kiln a couple weeks ago, trying to sort what was reusable and what wasn't as I took it down.  

Look at those gaps!

Above the grates there was getting gnarly!  I tried to save the bagwall to use as a classy lawn ornament but it was just too heavy to move.

Not much left.

I snapped chalklines for the kiln and laid down a layer of self-leveling compound so that the foundation was perfectly flat and level.

Today I laid up the concrete blocks for the foundation and layer of cement board on top so that I start with a perfectly flat area to lay brick.

Here is the kiln shed, my studio is just to the right.  I'm going to put a metal roof on it once I get the stack through the roof.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm hoping to start laying the floor of the kiln tomorrow, I also need to go track down a brick saw.  I started loosely planning this project almost a year ago so it feels good to see it start coming together.  


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oil Burner Update

The stars finally aligned themselves this week and I was able to fire the university kiln with my waste oil burners.  Things went pretty well, I had a few small issues during the firing that I was able to resolve or at least troubleshoot for the next firing.  I made it to cone 10 in about 11 hours using 27 gallons of waste vegetable oil.  The two biggest issues I had were the burner nozzles clogging and my air compressor not being able to keep up.  The latter was an easy fix, I was able to commandeer the department compressor so I had one on each burner.  I'm going to have to invest in a much larger/higher CFM compressor for my kiln.  That was an unexpected expense but I'm glad I figured it out now so I can budget that in.  I think the clogging was due to the oil not being adequately filtered.  The burners drew from a 5 gallon bucket and I had a 100 mesh sieve that I poured the oil through.  While attempting to remove sediment from the sieve I cracked it and put a couple small holes in it, so I think quite a bit of sediment made it through.  I was able to clear it quickly with a wire brush but it could lose temp pretty quick if the clog happened for too long.  I'm excited to know these things work and have that stress behind me.  It makes it a lot easier to move forward with getting the kiln built. 

In other news, I picked up an electric kiln this week.  I've been looking for a used one for a couple years but I had a pretty long and picky list of what I wanted.  My patience paid off and I was able to pick up a computer controlled Skutt 1227 for an extremely small amount of money.  It came from an elementary school that was having mandatory equipment replacement and was used at most 4 times a year.  It was a 3 phase 240 which is an cheap style to rewire as the elements don't need to be replaced, but lo and behold when I got home it turned out that it had already been rewired at point in time.  Score one for the home team.  The pieces I do with multiple layers of slip don't take to raw glazing so this will be a useful tool for me.  I don't know why I haven't taken a picture of it yet, but here it is tarped up in my truck. 

My kickstarter is over in 6 days.  I am currently $480 short of my stretch goal which will help with a number of additional expenses for the kiln.  If you are interested in contributing you can click here.  I still have plenty of brushes available for your contribution or would be happy to make some pots for you! 



Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickstarter Update

My kickstarter project has reached 93% of the funding goal in 72 hours! That is just amazing! I am blown away by the generosity and support, thank you so much. There are still 26 days left so plenty of time to contribute if you are interested.  If there is anyone out there interested in contributing but not interested in the pots I have a plethora of deer tail brushes available.  The brushes won't show up on the kickstarter page but you can specify by sending me a message via kickstarter.  The best part ist that the brushes are available immediately.  You can contribute to the existing rewards:
$15 for one brush
$35 for two brushes
$50 for three brushes

You can view the project here.

Cheers y'all!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kickstart my kiln.

Hello to all my loyal blog readers.  If you've been keeping tabs then you know that I'm in the process of tearing down my wood kiln and replacing it with a new kiln.  2013 was not a stellar year for the pottery business so I've decided to try an alternative method of funding for the kiln.  My initial plan was to try a "buy a brick" program that a few other potters have used with success, but not having the web skills to set that up left me seeking other options.  I have chosen to go with Kickstarter, they have a proven track record as well as a great format that's easy to use for computer illiterate folks like myself.  If you're not familiar with kickstarter, the basic idea is that you contribute and in return for your contribution you receive a "reward".  In this case you receive a certain piece or pieces of pottery depending on your contribution.  The kickstarter format is all or nothing.  So if the funding goal is not reached then the project is considered unsuccessful and the backers aren't charged. So that's it in a nutshell. There is a short video and a lot information about the project on the site so I won't go into it here, the video is also at the end of this post.  My project can be seen by clicking here.

To make it an incentive the pieces you receive for your contribution are below retail and shipping costs.  The pieces will be shipped out after the kiln is up and running, but if you're local or catching me at a show, you are more than welcome to come by the shop and pick out your pot(s). I also will be more than happy to send pictures of pieces for you to choose from.

As an added long-term bonus I intend to write an article about my burners with full disclosure about their construction and operation.  Open-source kiln firing, if you will. 

Well, that's all I have for now.  If you have any question/concerns about kickstarter, my project, the rewards, the universe, etc. I will be more than happy to answer them.

Cheers y'all!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Steady slabbin'

I poured a slab yesterday for the new kiln.  It's an 8x10 slab, enough room for the kiln and the apparatus for the oil burners.  I've positioned the new slab right outside the studio to make loading and tending the kiln easier.  It'll have a roof over it sooner or later.  This coming week is our spring break and I'm hoping to make some headway getting the wood kiln down and maybe getting this one started. I busted up a wheelbarrow full of pots from the shard pile and used it as fill underneath the slab, an offering to the kiln gods if you will.  I did this with the last kiln and that kiln produced great pots.  Maybe it's just an empty gesture but why tempt fate?


One of these days I'll actually get to make some pots.

Cheers y'all!

Saturday, February 22, 2014


I appreciate the comments on the last post, it's nice to know there are people out there still reading this thing.  We all have a different take on things, and of course different needs, but I think it's important that we not let ourselves be taken advantage of.  If you're willing to go "the extra mile" for your galleries then you need to make sure that it is on your terms and your choice.  Remember that the galleries don't exist without us but to a certain extent we can exist without them, so who is doing who the favor? 

I've been wholesaling for the last few years and it has been very good to me.  This year was a particularly rough one.  Most of my work went to the east coast but last fall was a doozey for that region.  One of my smaller galleries was on their last leg and the government shutdown put them out of business, my largest gallery had to scale back and haven't reordered from me, that is a pretty big hit for me.  I haven't taken an order since the summer, so I'm not sure how things are going over there.  I opted not to go to Baltimore this year, with my kiln needing a rebuild I just didn't feel comfortable committing to it.  It also gave me a chance to take a breather and reconsider how I'm marketing my work.  I'm not sure that I want to commit to wholesaling on the scale that I was, but I'm not ruling it out yet.  Having a new kiln with an easier turn around might make those commitments easier. 

I've been taking a bit of a sabbatical since October.  I've spent a lot of time working on my house and property.  I'm starting to phase back into the pottery.  I spent the last week cleaning up the back acre, it was one huge gigantic trashy mess.  Wood piles and 5 foot weeds.  Here is a nice before and after. 

I'm digging out an area next to my studio to pour a slab for the new kiln.  Over the next couple weeks I'll be disassembling the wood kiln and sorting out what is salvageable.  I'm hoping to get it built during March and get firing again sometime in April/May.  I don't know exactly when I'll get back to making pots but it shouldn't be too much longer.  I'm also considering a showroom expansion and having regular hours, but I'm getting ahead of myself there.  Well, that's all I have going on here right now.  Hope all is well with you all.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Taking advantage.

I've had a couple of negative experiences in the last few months and thought I might share them here.  I'm not really sure who reads this (feel free to chime in and lets get the conversation going) but if you're an old timer then this is nothing new for you, if you're a hobbyist or an up and comer then maybe this might give you some forewarning for these situations and you can decide how you want to do things. 

I was invited to take part in a group show last fall, it was a good theme and a really good group of potters so I was excited to be a part of it.  The gallery wanted a photo of a piece that would be included in the show for publication/promotion, that's not abnormal or unreasonable at all, done.  A week or two before delivery he sent an email asking us to shoot images of all the work for the website...I was sending about 25 pots, so that seemed like a bit of a task.  I was going to have to haul out the photo setup, get it all dialed in, shoot the images, and get them edited to be uploaded.  Anyone who shoots their own photos can tell you that all that takes about as long as making the pots, which means in a show situation you are doubling the amount of work for less money.  Anyways, I really toiled over this which seems a little ridiculous, but it really frustrated me.  In a 50/50 consignment situation (don't even get me started on the bullshit that is consignment), or really any split situation with a gallery/shop, it is my understanding that you are paying them 50% to cover the marketing and selling of the work.  I definitely feel that shooting images of the work falls into that category.  Back to the story, rather than confront the gallery owner and argue my case I simply decided to play ignorance and just didn't shoot images of the work.  I never heard from him once the work arrived about the images...but the show was a success, I sold a lot of the work so I was happy with that, I still haven't been paid, but lets save that for another post.  Even though this was months ago it's been on my mind a lot.  It just lends further creedence to my belief that the artist-gallery/shop dynamic is seriously flawed.  I had decided to let it go, this situation happens so rarely that it's not worth getting more worked up about. 

Last month I heard from a former student of mine who works for a small museum.  She asked if I would like to sell work in their gift shop, it seemed like an easy opportunity to maybe sell a few pots.  It was consignment but it was with someone I knew so I made the exception.  She told me what type of pieces they wanted and I let her know that I had the work and could send it to them.  The next day she informed me that the director wanted me to send individual photos of each piece with dimensions and descriptions...these aren't big pots we're talking about, a lot of cups and smaller pots.  I opted out of that arrangement because to be honest it just is not worth my time.  I would have to do all the work I have to do to post on etsy, then pay to ship all the pots in hopes that I might get half the price at some point in the future, no way.  I can understand that since they may not have been familiar with my work they would need photos, I keep a stock of photos for just such an occasion.  Also with higher priced work that may be a more reasonable request.  The situation just left me fuming, and as you can perhaps tell by now I am not good at letting go of situations that leave me feeling like I'm getting screwed.

I have the very fortunate luxury of being able to be selective about how and where I sell my pots, I can't dismiss that.  But, I feel that these situations take advantage of us and our need to make an income.  If I weren't in a situation to be selective I would probably let myself be taken advantage of to try and make those few extra bucks, I'd have to!  I inform new accounts that if they are unable to see my work in person I am more than happy to provide them with a visual catalog of what I can do, I'm not sending individual images of every pot.  When I'm offered consignment I politely decline and let them know that I don't do consignment, if they ask why then they may get the short polite answer or the longer scathing answer, it depends on my mood and the kind of operation I think they're running .  There are exceptions of course, taking part in group shows or shows where the gallery is merely a location and/or didn't curate the exhibition.  I do have one consignment account, but he has a proven track record and sells more of my work than most of my wholesale accounts, and he always pays on time.  He has treated me very well so I see no reason to rock the boat. 

So what's the point of all this?  I don't really have one.  I'm just sharing my frustrations and how I choose to approach these situations.  When I was starting out I would jump at any opportunity to get my work out there, but I'm 16 years in and feel that I've paid enough dues to not have to put up with this kind of stuff anymore.  I don't intend for that to sound egotistical, but there has to come a point where you have developed experience and enough of a reputation that you don't need to be put through the ringer to sell some pots at a little shop.  I'm just so frustrated with some of these places asking for a cut and demanding more work from the artist.  I make it, you sell it, end of discussion.  Bring back the guilds! 

Cheers y'all!