Monthly Archives: March 2008

Salt/ Soda Discussion Group

At NCECA I attended a discussion group that has carried on past Pittsburgh and is leading to some interesting post-conference disussions. At this year’s conference, the discussion group, Salt Firing Verses Soda Firing was led by Joyce Centofanti. One of the other attendees, David Hayashida, came up with the great idea creating an email list so we could continue our discussion and share recipes and techniques after we returned home. David put the list together and there was instantly a lot of information being passed around. Another participant, Pamela Theis, decided to take it one step further and create an Ning group (an social network site) that will allow us to continue to connect with each other, but to invite others out there who weren’t a part of the original group to add to the discussion.
So, if you’re interested in salt firing or soda firing, or even a hybrid, join the group and join in the conversation! It just began a couple of days ago, so we’re really just getting started.

Join the group Salt/Soda Firing 

I’ve been playing around on the site and found that you can upload photos and create this little slide show creator that you see below:

Find more photos like this on Salt/Soda Firing 

This is my page on the Salt/Soda Firing site, if you’re interested in seeing what you can do. I’m excited about the possibilities with this group. Soda firing is still relatively new so I think that a group like this that will allow us to share, trouble shoot and brainstorm can have a big impact. I hope you join us!

Akar Yunomi Invitational 2008

What is a yunomi you ask? Yunomi is an informal Japanese teabowl that is taller than wide, with a trimmed foot.

Akar’s site was overwhelmed this morning, but the bottleneck seems to have opened up. I am having a lot fun meandering around the exhibition. Just click here (or on the screenshot above) if you want to see my tea bowls. Enjoy the show!

Pottery and knick-knacks?

In the taxi on the way to the Pittsburgh airport on Saturday morning our driver asked if we were in town with all the ceramics people. We said yes and he asked “what do you make: pottery or knick-knacks?” Isn’t that a great question?

I made a promise to myself many years ago that I would make a commitment to continually further my ceramic education. This is done in a couple of ways: attending workshops, reading all clay focused books, magazine (& blogs!) I can get my hands on, and go to NCECA every year. I do pretty well with this commitment and have managed to get to all but one conference in recent memory.

NCECA is usually held in a smaller city: Pittsburgh, Louisville, Portland, Baltimore, Indianapolis, etc… I often wonder what the host cities think about “us.” I don’t know how many people attended this year, but I know that in the past attendance has hit about 6000. In the immediate area of the conference it can feel like every square foot of space is filled with potters and sculptors (and knick-knack makers!). I wanted to share a couple more images from my trip (again, this is just a tiny snippet of the week!).

This is the exhibition hall where vendors, schools, publishers, etc… have booths set up. It felt a little smaller this year than in the past (the whole conference felt that way). But that in no way means that there wasn’t enough to see, hear & buy! I got some fun new tools that I’ll share with you in the near future. 

Most of the images that I am sharing with you were from the La Mesa tableware show from Santa Fe Clay. It’s always one of my favorite shows, and one that I usually go to see 3 or 4 times. There were 150 place settings from different ceramic artists this year. Amazing!
This group of images is more black and white (the last NCECA post was more colorful). It was a different day and I was drawn to different pieces.

Julie Johnson. The gestures of the lines are irresistible.

Molly Hatch I’ve been eying Molly’s work for a while. I love how she outline the shapes with a sketchy line.


Michael Kline I’m a big fan: I eat my steel cut oats out of one of Michael’s bowls every morning and I’m a faithful reader of his blog. I love these pieces with the white slip and wax resist lines.

Yunomis and Postcards

A few updates:    

In a few hours (March 28, 2008. 10am ct) the Yunomi Invitational 2008 exhibition at Akar is opening online. You’ll find several of my tea bowls in their online exhibition(!). My artist statement & resume are up on Akar’s site now. I can’t wait to see the show tomorrow. My tea bowls are in very good company! More to come on the show…

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My friend, Gary Jackson, put together this wonderful super sized postcard for me to take to NCECA last week. If you’ve come upon my blog via this postcard, welcome! If you’d like to sign up for the potteryblog.com mailing list, just go here. If you sign up, you’ll automatically get an email whenever there is a new post. Or of course you can always sign up for the RSS or Atom feeds. I’m looking forward to hearing from the new readers out there. I’ve got a lot of interesting things in the works, many of which are responses to suggestions from potteryblog.com readers. Thanks for all of the emails and comments!

Live! From NCECA 2008 – Pittsburgh

Greetings from Pittsburgh! It’s been quite a week. I’ve met a lot of great people, put faces to names that I’ve come to know through this blog, caught up with old friends, bought pots, bought tools, heard great speakers, participated in lively discussions, and looked at and picked up what must be hundreds of pots and the conference is only half over!

I wanted to share a handful of images of pieces that I’ve seen at shows this week. This is just a little itty bitty taste of what I’ve seen. Enjoy! (click on the images to see a bigger image.)

Beth Lo. I find this piece incredibly endearing.
Justin Rothshank. This has a dinosaur on it! Fossil fuel… get it?

 

Naomi Cleary. I just love how the drawings are on the inside of this cup.
Diana Fayt. I love Diana’s work and this is the first time I have gotten to see her work in person. It’s even more impressive in person.

 

Ursula Hargens. Her works makes me crave spring even more than I already am! 
Simon Levin. I am such a fan of Simon’s work. I don’t know anyone else that gets surfaces like his out of a wood kiln (or any other kiln for that matter!).

The Quarter Trick

This is a little trick that I picked up from my friend Jordan Taylor for throwing platters. I find it extremely useful so I thought I would pass it on to all of you and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

The quarter trick solves three problems that arise from throwing platters:

  • Instead of having to both wedge and center one large mass of clay, you can break it down into two pieces which reduces the strain on your body
  • It helps you more easily judge the thickness of the floor of the platter and adds consistency if you’re doing multiples.
  • And it allows you to compress the floor of the platter REALLY well so you don’t have to worry about any future problems of cracking.
So here is the quarter trick
Wedge up and center your first lump of clay. This piece is going to be the floor of your platter. I used 8 lbs of clay which gives me a slightly narrow but thick foot (great for putting holes into so you can hang it). You can vary the weight depending on the ultimate size of your platter. But I find that the 8 – 9 lb. range works for a variety of sizes of platters since the size foot isn’t necessarily that different.

 

Center your clay and compress the heck out of the floor. Place a quarter in the center of your centered clay (I use a 1974 quarter). 
Wedge up your second piece of clay and place it on top of the quarter. I tend to use between 8 – 12 lbs. of clay for this second piece, depending on the ultimate shape of the platter. 
Open up the platter and establish the curve.
TAKE OUT THE QUARTER!!!!
And clean it off so it doesn’t become part of your reclaim. (I speak from experience on this one.)  

Then finish off your platter as usual and be aware of the thickness of the floor.

This platter isn’t actually the platter that is throw above. That platter is sitting in my studio waiting to be trimmed. But this platter was thrown in the same way.

1000 True Fans

Thanks to BoingBoing, I found interesting article that seems applicable to ceramic artists.Kevin Kelly’s thesis is that one approach to make an good, steady living is to build up a base of 1000 “True Fans.”
from Kevin Kelly’s article:

  • A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

Each of these True Fans will spend, on average, $100 per year on your work. You end up with $100,000 gross annual income. After all the expenses (taxes, insurance, materials, show fees, etc…), you end up with a solid living.

1000 fans probably seems like an overwhelming number. But if you look at as 1 person per day for 3 years, that’s a little easier. Or maybe you have 500 True Fans that spend $200 per year. And it’s possible that you aren’t selling directly to that group. You can have super loyal fans that are buying your work through galleries and shops.

So how do you do it? I think the best possible way is to make direct connections with the buyer. It makes a lot of sense for potters. You’re making work that is meant to connect the maker with the buyer. Your artist statement, wording on your website, the writing on your Etsy shop can have a more personable tone to help establish that connection. The time that you spend meeting with customers at your studio, art fairs, gallery openings, workshops, classes, wholesale and retail shows are invaluable. And of course, a blog is a great way to connect with people :)
After you connect with people that really love your work, you’ll have to figure out ways to maintain and build up those relationships. Special sales and discounts. Early alerts to sales, personal emails, etc…

As a full time potter in the year 2008, I definitely get the questions (often from other artists): how do you do it? how do you make a living as a potter? This is an interesting way to look at it, and is an interesting approach to your business if you’re looking to build it up or try to
make it more stable.

I hope you take some time to read the article. Kelly goes into quite some depth and looks at different scenarios and ways to gain True Fans. What are your thoughts?

I’m getting ready for NCECA…are you?

I’m getting ready to head out to Pittsburgh in a week and a half to attend NCECA. One of my favorite parts of it is the cup sale. I love donating as many mugs as I can fit into my carry on (along with cups from friends who aren’t attending). I really love spending time pouring over the hundreds of cups that are just sitting, unpretentiously, on long folding tables. Cups of all shapes & sizes from potters of all skill levels and from many corners of the world. The variety of designs and finishing techniques always amazes me. And unlike a normal gallery setting, you get to pick up almost every single piece if you want to and study them.
A little info on the cup sale from the NCECA website:

  • At the Louisville 2007 NCECA Conference, 745 cups (of every design and ceramic material imaginable) were donated to the Annual Cup Sale
  • An estimated 2000 viewers – many of them returning several times – visited the Cup Sale exhibition
  • Hundreds of eager buyers gathered throughout the morning hours on Friday to purchase their favorites
  • Within 3 hours of the Sale’s opening, a record $20,483 was raised for the NCECA Fund for Artistic Development!

And if you’re not able to make it to NCECA this year, it’s not to late to mail in a cup or two for the sale. You can ship your pots so they arrive by March 14th to:

Josh Green

(for NCECA Cup Sale)

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild

1815 Metropolitan Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15233

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Is anyone else out there spending part of their mid-March in Pittsburgh? Let me know if you’d like to meet up in person. I’d love to get together with other bloggers and blog readers in person(!) Send me an email if you’d like to figure out a time to meet up for lunch, dinner, coffee or a beer (emily@sodafired.com).

And if you’re not able to go to NCECA this year, I’m hoping to do some somewhat “live” blogging from the conference. I’ll have my laptop, camera and an internet connection at my hotel. Check back to see what’s happening!