Sunday, July 1, 2007
A Bit of Potter's Humor
Customer: Why does this mug cost so much?
Potter: Well, to make it, I must:
1. Drive to Tacoma or Seattle and buy 500lb. clay, (1+ hour trip each way and pay ferry fare/bridge toll) or pay extra to have clay delivered to studio. Rule: Always buy clay in the larges amount you can afford-it's cheaper that way.
2. Unload 50 lb. boxes of clay and stack in studio.
3. Cut and weigh out amount needed.
4. Wedge (knead) clay.
5. Center clay on wheel and throw the mug shape.
6. Remove from wheel and let dry 24 - 48 hours; depending on humidity.
7. Put mug back on wheel and trim.
8. Hand-pull or create the handle.
9. Let handle dry 1 to 5 hours; depending on humidity.
10. Attach handle to trimmed mug.
11. Cover handle in hot wax or wrap in plastic to slow drying on very dry days.
12. Let mug dry 1 week minimum to "Bone dry". If mug cracks at this point, trash, recycle clay and start over at step 3.
13. Load mug into kiln in the garage and fire to 1850 F - about 10-12 hours.
14. Unload kiln and take mug to studio for glazing. If mug has cracked during first firing, discard or put it in the bottom of lowerpots or use as fill.
15. Measure & mix and seive glaze(s) making sure they are at the right consistency for coverage.
16. Put hot wax on the bottom of mug so it does not stick to kiln shelf. Or, if glazed on the bottom, use stilts. (Be sure to buy more at the supply store next trip.)
17. Choose design and glaze mug.
18. Let mug dry thoroughly.
19. Load mug in to kiln, making sure it has enough space. If glaze scratches or gets bumped on journey, wash with hot water and start back at step 12.
20. Fire glazed mug to 2450 F, 10 - 14 hours depending on firing cycle.
21. Hold firing temperature at 2450 F for approximately 25 minutes. Frequently check kiln during entire firing cycle to make sure it goes right.
22. Wait about 14 hours for kiln to cool to under 400 F before opening.
23. Remove and check mug. If cracked, start over at step 1.
24. If mug has miraculously survived to this point, clean sharp bits off bottom and other spots by hand with a grinding stone.
25. Pack mug in bubble wrap, place in crates, haul crates to van, drive to show, unload crates, set up booth and shelves
unwrap mugs, arrange tastefully in display. Discard any that did not make the trip in one piece.
26. Stick price labels onto mug.
27. Offer mug for sale.
28. Last, but certainly not least instruction; Try not to attack the foolish person who innocently asks,
"Why does this mug cost so much?"
AND, let us not forget all the hidden steps not numbered in here: Pay Puget Power, answer phone, wash down studio and reprocess used clay, develop and test new glazes, read professional publications, attend meetings, photograph works to enter juried shows (or pay a professional photographer to do it), attend workshops and seminars, develop sales tags & show graphics, come up with new mug forms and techniques, work, eat, sleep.