Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Big Challenge

Since starting to throw pots about eight years ago I've always preferred making smaller pieces. I felt more intimately connected to a cup or bowl then some giant vase or platter. When I was first learning it was also very frusterting to put so much time into a larger piece and have it fail where as with a smaller piece I could have more opportunities for success. I was also a bit annoyed by the macho attitude surrounding "throwing big" it seemed that people became so fixated on making bigger pieces that quality went out the window. During the time I worked as a production assistant I focused on throwing dozens of mugs or bowls so making bigger items fell off my to do list.

However, recently, while trying to develop my own line of work I've noticed the lack of larger pieces is affecting my sales and making my display look anemic. I've also been feeling a bit bored with making smaller pieces and am ready for challenge. So I've challenged my self to make items using 4 or more pounds of clay through the winter. This may not sound like a lot of clay to some potters but for me it is! I'm not setting any specific guide lines for what I'm going to make or setting any timeline. I'm just going to only practicing bigger pieces until I feel more comfortable with that size. I'm going to slowly increase the amount of clay I use for each type of piece and see how far I can get. I want to maintain my usual level of quality but I'm also ready to accept that this goal will take time. Right now, I'm focusing on large vases and platters but over time I'd like to develop lidded vessels, baskets, pitchers and many more things. Though my true love will probably remain with smaller items I am excited to stretch my wings and try something new. Photos to follow soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Glaze Room Organizing

Over the last few months I've been working on a little side project. Helping my friend David of Earth Alchemy Pottery get his glaze room organized. David has hundreds of glaze chemicals and spends a good deal of his time developing glazes and clay bodies for other potters and clay suppliers. Its important for him to be able to find his chemicals quickly and its important to keep the glaze room clean for health reasons. Over time all the bags the chemicals came in became difficult to move around and hard on our backs. So we decided to tackle the problem head on and get the chemicals put away in an easy to find way and a way that would be easier on our backs and lungs. Here are some photos.

 Small boxes to store coloring oxides:
 Large bins underneath the table for chemicals that are used in more quantity on wheels of course!
Storage behind the bins for tools and other studio necessities:
 Small storage cabinets for fusion buttons and test tiles:
Shoe box sized boxes for chemicals used in medium quantities:

 Fun times with organizing!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Structure 2.0

I've gotten a lot of comments and interest in my structure post so I thought I would do an update. While, I am doing better but it's still been difficult to force myself to keep track of my hours. It's also been difficult when working around other peoples schedule to be able to accomplish the tasks I'd like to get done. Having the sign in system is way better then nothing at all but I think I need to go more in depth to keep myself accountable. Luckily, my friend Amanda, who is a budding behavioral physiologist read my blog post and sent me a wonderful email with attached goal setting chart. I am so lucky to have smart and helpful friends! I'm also glad to know I'm not the only one struggling with goal setting and scheduling issues, there's a whole field of study dedicated to it!

Here is the email she sent me. I've also included the chart she sent me I'm going to modify it to fit my work schedule.

The overall gist of the chart is that you set up  tasks you want to accomplish and  build in reinforcers both on the daily level, and on the weekly level. You set how many time per week you want to accomplish each task, and also, how many tasks per day you're going to get done. You get a "prize" at the end of each day for getting the number of tasks done you've set out to do, a bigger prize at the end of the week for doing the tasks at or above the number of times you've planned on doing it, and an even bigger prize if you've successfully done both parts throughout the whole week. One of the keys to this type of reinforcement schedule is that you don't have to be perfect each day, just comply with your goal- whatever that may be. So, for me... two of my goals were to not buy food and go to the gym everyday. But on Wednesday, I had a jam packed day with classes, meeting, etc. so my goal for that day was to accomplish only one of those things, not both. So, on the chart, you mark how many of your goals you'd like to accomplish per day, and on the weekly level, you mark how many times per week you want to do each goal. See what I mean?  

Wow thanks Amanda! now I need to adjust this to fit my pottery needs. Part of the difference here is that I don't have the same tasks that need to be accomplished every week and sometimes when I break them down into all the different tasks that I need to do it feels overwhelming. So I feel like if I can break them down into three main categories, like Amanda did, then try to do something in those categories for a set amount of time each day that might work better. I'm going to give this system a shot for a week and see how it goes. I know part of the reason why I'm struggling so much right now is because I'm in transition in my studio but this should help get things back on track.

Week Of:
Studio work


Office Work


Doing Dishes



Studio Work: One four hour session of uninterrupted studio work         
Office Work: One two hour session of uninterrupted office work
Dishes: Do dishes and clean off counters before bed 
Daily Reward: One hour of TV before bed or go out for ice cream/small treat
Weekly Reward: One Restaurant meal or movie in a theater with Ian
Bonus Reward: Full day off from everything


Monday, August 20, 2012

Third Times The Charm!

It's high time I do an update on our new soda kiln, so far we've fired it three times.The first two times we had serious issues getting the kiln up to temperature, we also had problems keeping the kiln even from top to bottom. At the bottom front we were getting up to cone nine but on top we were only able to get to cone one even after ridiculously long firings (36 hours!). Below you can see two photos from our first firing. The top cones are mostly still standing tall and the clay and glazes are not mature.

Here you can see the results from our third firing. We were able to get up to cone eleven on bottom and cone nine on top way better!  We made some serious changes before the third firing including changing the bag wall and making the flue much smaller. Though we are still going to make small changes before our next firing things are going much better. Below you can mature clay bodies and glazes and some shine from the soda. And yes we did re-fire many pots!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Now that I am 100% self employed I am struggling with a problem that seems fairly common for those of us that work on our own schedule; structure. I find myself spending hours doing research on the internet when I had planned to go into the studio or when another person asks me to do something during the hours I should be working I think to myself "whats stopping me from going and meeting with this person? I don't have a boss". There's also the issue of household errands, it's so easy to get caught up doing housework or errands when I should be going to the studio or doing office work for my business. I was getting very frustrated trying to make sure I was getting work done and feeling like events were always conspiring against me. I needed a plan to combat the lack of structure in my work life. 

I decided that creating a weekly schedule didn't really work for me because my schedule changed so much every week. Sometimes I do a farmers market on Saturday some times during the week or on Sunday. Sometimes I have a lot of office work sometimes I need to spend all day firing. Because of these variations  I couldn't really say that I would do certain things on certain days of the week. So instead I created a time sheet system, this way I sign in and out of work and when I'm signed in I have to be doing something for my business. That could be writing this blog post, going to pick up supplies, working at the studio, meeting with other artists, selling at a market, filling out applications, making phone calls or any number of other things but it CAN'T be checking facebook or walking my dog or doing household chores. At the end of the day I total the number of hours I worked and make sure it adds up to at least eight hours. At the end of the week I will total the number of hours worked and if it is satisfactory I will give myself a little reward like going out to dinner. If not I will work on my days off, I scheduled two days off a week (shooting for Sunday and Monday). Part of the issue before was that I didn't schedule any days off and I felt like I had to be always working. This way I have more set days off and on. I am hoping that this new system will help me stay focused and more accountable. I would love to hear other peoples ideas for how to structure their time when self employed.
Thanks for reading!