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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.

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