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Saturday, July 31, 2010

2 Dumb things I did this week

Working tired is never smart, but sometimes I don't have a choice.

Earlier this week I mis-glazed several items, these lovely tumblers and a covered jar..All of them look great on the outside, but on the inside..the glaze was on far too thick. They are bubbled and cratered and not safe for use.. some of the glaze is about 1/4 inch thick on the inside. The other thing was to mis-glaze this special order covered jar. I had two jars, one was special order, the other wasn't. I switched the glaze patterns on the lids. They both look alright, but they are not what was ordered.

*sigh* Nothing I can do about it now. Those tumblers represent a couple hours of work and a couple hundred dollars. I can spare neither the time nor money :( so I am a little upset, but moving on.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

5 packing tips for Potters

So I noticed I have a bunch of newbie potters asking me questions about various aspects of what I do, so I thought occasionally I would throw some tips out.

Sometimes I don't think clearly enough to remember all the little tricks I've picked up, I just do them and they work.. Maybe by posting some of what I do someone will be helped along, and maybe someone who does it in a more effective way can share with me too. There are a lot of making tips and how-to postings out there, but some of the other practical concerns never get addressed.

I make and transport a lot of pots. I'm somewhere around the 2-3000 pieces a year mark.

One of my least favorite parts of the job has always been packing for a show and packing it up when we're finished. When I first started out I used newspaper. My mom always had a stack or so of the local rag around and I though that it would make good cushioning. It was, but it was also dirty, smelled like Mom's cigarettes and often had little clippings of local news missing right where I needed to protect a handle.

Tip #1 Always use clean newsprint. If you must buy it in sheets, you can buy it from U-Haul for about $10 for 140 sheets, I cut those in half, they're too big for most of my pots. What I usually do is buy end rolls from the local newspaper for $.25/lb. What you see pictured is a 7lb roll. It is a very economical solution. When the newsprint is too worn to reuse anymore I trade it in for fresh and use the old ragged stuff for post-firing reduction when I fire the Raku Kiln.

I'd been using the clean newsprint for a couple of years, wrapping the pots with a couple of sheets of paper each for padding when I realized that I am not a shipping company. I don't have to protect these pots from drops off of 20 foot conveyor belts. I just need to keep them from clinking together while I drive across the country.I cut back to one sheet per piece. Any empty space in the tote gets filled with crumpled paper to keep the pieces from getting thrown around. No breakage problems.

One day while someone was helping me pack I noticed they couldn't tear the sheets off the roll does take a knack..but once you figure it out it tears pretty easily. It is however a HUGE pain in the but to tear off 140+ sheets of newsprint, which is when I got my next idea.

Tip #2 I use a utility knife to slice it off the roll. It works brilliantly and saves a lot of time. As you can see from the pictures the paper is just the right size to generously cover a mug.Which I then stack in these marvelous hard sided totes which I purchase from Wal-Mart for about $4 each. The lids snap on and they don't hold so much I can't lift them.

Tip #3 If you need to put them in the back of a pickup where the wind could easily take a lid, you can drill a hole or two in each handle and use zip ties for security. I solve the problem by packing my plywood tables over the top.

This leads me to the next tip. There are a lot of ways to fit pottery into a tote. From seeing incredibly bad pack jobs from good hearted folks who agreed to help, I came up with this basic plan to keep the pots whole during transport.

Tip #4 always make your bottom row stand upright. Mugs on the bottom of the tote should be in the full upright position. If you are going to stack totes in your van, ALL the mugs should be in the upright position. Why? because a cylinder shape can be compressed from the top or bottom without breaking, but if you use even half the compression from the side it will break. Stacking a bunch of totes on top of mugs packed sideways will result in obvious damage some of the time and micro-fractures in the walls of the pieces much of the time. Your customers will find them when they pour their hot beverage and the clay expands and exposes the cracks.

Tip #5 Always have extra paper, don't bring a roll to tear from, a sudden downpour can ruin the whole role quickly, it's safe in the tote. I try to lay down some of the cut paper in between the layers and across the top of the totes. If you only bring a single sheet for each piece you will, without a doubt, run short by the end of the show.

Let me know if you found this useful..and let me know if you have a better way.


These are ridiculous. I had a lot of fun making them.

Left to Right 54oz, 64oz and 64 oz

Octoberfest is right around the corner.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Glaze kiln 1,2,3

Glaze kiln number one came out this morning. I'm pleased with the results so far. The pictures in this post are some of the results. I wish I had better photos to share, but this is the best I can do for now. I am eying up a Kodak camera that just went on sale at Staples, went from $200 to $120, but not yet..I can hold out and use my phone for a few more weeks.

Glaze kiln number 2 is just beginning to fire now. I have plans to glaze more tomorrow and start Glaze kiln number 3 tomorrow afternoon. I'm trying to stagger the firings a little so the fires of hell in the basement are a little more tolerable than usual.

The week is progressing well in regards to our preparation to leave. The pottery will be all finished by Thursday. I should have bags packed by Friday. I've started the shopping for the extra Cat food and bought fresh litter, the dog will be visiting our friends in Erie. Cath should be moved back in by Monday and Ro will be staying a few extra days to finish some details of the summer camps at The Creative Oasis. I'm really looking forward to Pennsic this year. I think the turnout will be amazing and I can't wait to see all my friends on the merchant circuit.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The final pieces

I can't make anymore before Pennsic. I'll still be throwing this week, but that will be for after Pennsic.I'm so tired tonight I don't have words, but I promised photos today after working, so here they are.
Today's projects were Oak and Acorn bowls, acorn bowls, an assortment of handle-less tumblers, a few more tankards and a couple of lovely low and wide serving bowls.

Some Shameless Self-Promotion

I usually reserve my shameless self-promotions for the Facebook Fan Page, but every once in a while I'll send out something on the Blog. We've got a lot of stock in the Etsy shop right now, including some really amazing deals on seconds/clearance items. Here's a picture of one of the mugs from the top shelf :) This is a good one!

I'm going to get back to much to do before the Pennsic War!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day by Day

The countdown continues.

Pennsic waits for no Potter. Now I have two cold kilns full of biscware and just about enough greenware to fill another, though I am still hoping for two. My production was thrown off these last couple days because of some family problems, but I got back to it today. Here are a few pictures of what I've been up to for the last couple days. You'll see Casseroles, Butterkeepers, 2 ginormous mugs, 2 med plates, a bunch of soup mugs, and I have plans to throw more tomorrow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scarce Potter

I've been scarce here in Blog Land, I've kept up with some little postings on FB, but the actual writing has been on hold.

Last weekend Ro and I went out of town, to an SCA event in Maine. It was a lovely time despite the rain, but sales were a little low to justify 2 hotel rooms and a 12 hour drive each way. The luck of the draw I guess, win some you lose some. I did notice however, that my stock wasn't what it should be. Which is when I started plotting this week's mad marathon of production. And it is Mad. We have a big show coming up, the biggest we do and I noticed I had less stock than I had in actual sales at this show in the past. That's not good at I had to fix it and fix it in a big way.

On the way home we drove to another show where we were to drop off the pottery, spend a day relaxing, then head home for 2.5 weeks of intense production.

I got a little carried away with the relaxing. I met up with two friends behind the display booth. One produced a bottle of Single Malt and the other a bottle of mead.

I don't think I've been quite so relaxed in years. I am grateful to my lovely wife for pouring me into the truck and driving us home :) It DID take off the rough edges and worries for a day..When I woke up the next day I was more than ready to jump into the production. I felt refreshed!

SO the plan is this..I want 4-5K worth of stock. to be produced by the 23rd most of it in mugs and tankards. So far so good.

I've thrown 111 mugs and tankards and 12 soup mugs and 1 ginormous mug for a special order. Today I handled and trimmed everything but the soup mugs. I'll get those in the morning. Then we'll let them dry all day and load a bisc tomorrow night.

While those pots are drying I'll get started again with some covered jars, butter keepers, pitchers and scotch cups and maybe some more of the larger round mugs. Folks seem to like those ginormous mugs a lot.

I'll be posting regular pictures on the Hughes Pottery Page on Facebook but I think I won't be posting many blogs...but who knows, it might be good therapy :)and I am pretty sure by the end of the month I am going to need some therapy.

Oh yes.Ro posted some new work for sale on Etsy today, so please feel free to check it out!

Clay Blog Feed

I received this email today letting me know of this new clay blog feed and that I am part of it. Great idea! I'm glad to be a part of it. It looks like a great tool for finding other clay blogs. I know I love to see what my fellow clay-siblings are up to :)

Greetings fellow Clay Artist/Potter,

Your blog (technically, the rss feed) has been selected and added to the Ceramic Artists and Potters Feed (and the blog list in the Links section) at The page displays the latest entries from selected ceramic/pottery blogs. The idea is to show off what the clay community is currently working on or being inspired by. The feed will display your name, link to your blog entry and a preview of your post.

If you have questions, would like something changed, or would like your blog removed you can reply to this email or use to contact me.

If there are other blogs that you feel would be a good addition please let me know. Almost any blog is acceptable as long as it is mostly about ceramics or pottery.

There are currently over 170 blogs so the feed might take a little while to load. I'm considering some options to speed up the load time but for now you might have to be patient...

Thanks for your time (and your blog!),

Brandon "Fuzzy" Schwartz

Thursday, July 1, 2010

not much but mugs

Done and waiting to be done.

Damn I made a lot of mugs.

Camps to Production to Camping

Shameless Self- Promotion

New work on Etsy (click the pic to see the shop)

Camps to Production to Camping

It's been a busy week. I'm rushing like I said I wouldn't do this year to get ready for the biggest showing we do. It's still 3 weeks away, but I need a good base of work done now because there is some traveling to smaller shows over the next couple weeks that is going to take up production time. So between the making of new things and our volunteer duties and classes at The Creative Oasis Ro and I have been seeing very little of each other. She's been at the studio from 8-5:30ish and I've been dropping her off in the morning, then returning there from 12:30ish to 5:30ish. By the time we get home from the camps and have some dinner, it's hard to get started again. At the beginning of last week when Ro started the camps, she came home and quite literally passed out.This week, she's getting more into the swing...she came home, we took a few minutes to relax together then both headed to the second job of the day. She went and mowed with the tractor then posted the new work on Etsy while I went back to the basement and made more tankards till around 11 when I had a moment of insanity.

My feet were aching. AGAIN. I needed new shoes and I didn't seem to be able to get there during the day, so combining that need with the frantic needs of the cats who were swarming like bees every time we moved because they were out of food (no, not for long, but they seem to need to know it is there, or they get really upset. They just had some wet food, hours before) practically forced my decision to head to Wally World's midnight fluorescent Mart. I got new sneaks, some work shoes and a bag of Cat-Swarm food and a couple single servings of Skinny Cow ice cream. I love single serving cups of ice cream. Portion control.

I'm wearing the new sneaks now. They feel like little foot hugs. So much better. I'm about to return the work shoes. I can't cram my square feet into them.The it's off to the basement for more throwing and the beginning of the trimming and handles.