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Friday, December 28, 2012

Overloaded or not?

Sometimes you just have to squeeze a little more into a kiln, and you start to wonder if the lid is going to close or not.

To check, you can take a long straight edge and lay it over the top and see the clearance, or you can use the edge of the kiln as a sight and slowly squat down until you can see the far edge of the kiln just over the top of the closest edge. If nothing is sticking up, you're ready to fire.

The only problems we ever have is the very top of the kiln is always just a little bit cooler, so we make sure to put glazes that respond well at cooler temperatures up top.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another Day off! and State of the Studio

Rowan had to remind me tonight that Friday is the last day of studio work until Sunday. Saturdays off mean I shouldn't throw a bunch of stuff on Fridays that will need attention on Saturday. *sigh* days off are good, but I am used to working whenever the clay needs me, and I am used to creating more as soon as I finish trimming. I'll have to work on this...

Today was an excellent studio day. I started off throwing 31 round mugs, then moved on to trimming and adding handles to nearly 40 Tankards. This evening after realizing I would be off Saturday I decided to throw more big bowls and a pie plate. I kind of hoped to get started on the glazing, but it will have to wait for tomorrow too. One good thing about taking Saturdays off is that we now have a great day to fire kilns. We won't be in the studio on Satuday, so firing Friday to Saturday is a great solution to keep us out of the superheated basement (usually 95F to 105F) over the summer.

Rowan joined me today and unloaded a bisc kiln, cleaned and waxed all the biscware, then added O&A to tankards as well as a few special order medallions. While doing that she also managed to do all the dishes in our sink twice, add pieces to Etsy and reload the kiln with greenware for another bisc. It's not quite full so we'll wait until tomorrow to finish it. She's something else. Whenever I work hard, she works harder. She's probably done more that I don't even know about. She's sneaky like that.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Changes afoot. We are focused!

First, pictures from the studio today:)

1) Tankards from yesterday, too wet to trim and handle
2) Big piles of reclaimed clay, taking FOREVER to dry right now.
3) Finished and trimmed pieces waiting for the kiln (DRY FASTER!)
4) Some mid size bowls and some pitchers
5) Teapot parts, a few wee bowls and our large serving bowls.

I'm feeling pretty good this week. There has been a lot of busy-ness to attend to, we delivered 3 of 4 wholesale orders and participated in two weekend events. One personally and the other by someone representing us. 3 more orders to complete. All are well on their way. These are all happy things  that make me smile! It's inspiring to feel successful, and a successful week like this lends energy to the next challenges. Here's what is going on at Hughes pottery..which by the way pushes 3-4 tons of clay through a 416 sq foot studio space in the basement of our 1200 sq foot house each year. I really want to get the studio into a garage instead of our basement, but that's the next project on the list. I believe dreams can come true, so we'll find a way.

Here's the biggest change we're implementing immediately: We're going to take a mandatory day off every week. Saturdays are now an official non working day. Since I can remember, I haven't taken a regular day off, and I dragged my wife into this habit as well. It's a bad thing. Rest and recuperation are essential to remaining vital, happy and productive. In addition to this, there will be a vacation in the fall, even if it is a stay-cation. I repeat, rest and recuperation are essential to remaining vital, happy and productive.
To aid us in our endeavor to relax, we're reducing our vast array of pieces to something where regular stock can be maintained and won't be accepting special orders that fall outside of our regular production line. This hurts me, I want to please everyone, but there is a good reason. We can't be everything to all people, we can't please everyone. There is enough regularly scheduled work of a standardized size, shape and color that we can't keep up with the requests that inevitably come for slight variations to really personalize. We just can't keep up with it all. It's a wonderful position to be in, yet I am very sorry.

Remember the acronym KISS? Keep it Simple Stupid. It's a great rule. The more complicated a thing becomes,the more difficult it is to maintain. We needed to remember this. When my wife and I started talking about keeping up with the production for individual sales, consignment sales and our wholesale customers, we realized there was just too much. Too many potential forms, too many color combinations. We've reduced this to the essentials, reducing the number of pieces and going from 12 color combinations to 6. I think it is manageable now. Of course the catalog won't remain static. We'll add pieces and colors and retire pieces and colors as time goes by.

In the meantime, clay is wedged and we are ready to produce our pieces in their 6 colorways and be sure there are always sets available on our sales site. We hope to complete the transition  to  this new catalog focused production over the next couple months and have our shop fully stocked by fall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How does this always sneak up on us?

 As much as we try to get ahead, somehow we always end up in a production crunch.

I was so glad to have both Rowan and my son Morgan helping today.
Rowan unloaded the bisc kiln, cleaned and waxed everything, then helped to finish the mugs by adding the necessary medallions, while I pulled handle after handle.
When Morgan showed up he wedged up 450 lbs of clay for the next round of throwing.
We then took a pizza break and gathered ourselves for second shift. I threw 15 plates, 2 large serving bowls and 2 medium serving bowls. Morgan and Rowan mixed up 4
batches of glazes, 75,000 grams of materials mixed..that's impressive. The plan was to load a bisc kiln and a glaze kiln before bed, but we ran out of energy. As a compromise, Rowan sent me for a chocolate milkshake treat for her and she went back and loaded a bisc kiln just before midnight. It was an amazingly productive day.
I still have another 40 mugs to throw to complete all the orders, but that won't take as much time and effort now that the bulk of these are finished. I am looking forward to switching to pieces that don't require handles for a while. Maybe 100 bowls would be nice..yeah..bowls.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

She's slipping me little notes all the time.

I like getting notes!

Sometimes when we have a lot of special orders, it's difficult to keep track of how each piece should be glazed. Rowan started keeping detailed special order forms about two years ago which has helped a But even that left some confusion as the pieces progressed through the firing process.

 Recently we began wholesaling and as part of our catalog Rowan put together this awesome color chart. So now I get post it notes attached to the clusters of pieces with the color combination number and any special notes that I should pay attention too. Like "just on the rim" or "as far down the piece as you can manage" So far the system is working out well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Tools for working smarter

Sometimes, when you learn how to make a new thing, it just takes as long as it takes. That's OK most of the time, but when you have need to reproduce an item, sometimes you have to develop new tools to make the job flow a little faster.
For the last few years we have been making more and more of our Oak and Acorn pieces and we make them in a tedious way. We collect actual Oak leaves from trees we come across and trace them. Then apply them to the pieces and sculpt them onto the surface adding the details in a very individual way. Actual leaves will only last so long, so one of the first things we do is make and  keep a ceramic leaf from the first generation of leaves in each size to use as a template. This gets tedious...really tedious. So we needed a solution.

Initially, we wistfully looked at cookie cutters, but cookie cutters are not so individual, they are mass produced by machines in the thousands. Everyone can have the exact same one. We rejected the notion, but still needed a solution.

Eventually we decided that a mass manufactured cutter wouldn't do but maybe we could find a place to make some that are exactly, and I really mean exactly like the leaves. bumps, curves and all. I didn't have too much hope for such precision, but we started searching the internet and finally came across a guy who seemed to be able to do what we needed.

So we found Frank and Frankencutters LLC It looked like Frank was doing the small detailed kind of work we were looking for, so we sent him drawings, he gave us a quote and we sent him a check. 2 weeks later, we got these in the mail.

They're strong, have handles and are spot on. We couldn't be happier, and it should make the Oak and Acorn line much easier to make without sacrificing any of the details we want to include in each piece.
We're going to get started this week :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Moment on Video

This is The Moment. The time all potters can't wait for. We're sharing it with you, because we love you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A good start

Today was my first real day of work this year. Not that I haven't been working, but I went into the studio to make more pieces. At the end of last year, I posted we had made some decisions to change a few things about how we run the daily business. The basic plan was more focused work, starting in the AM and cutting off before we're so tired we can't think. Making sure we leave plenty of time for recharging, dates, making whoopie and other fun hobbies.

The plan was to be up by 8 and to the studio by 9. The plan for today was to make 75 items, perhaps 100, pack some things deliver them to the post office and have some ware boards cut. I can report partial success.

I was up by 9 and to the studio by 11:30.
I made 71 pieces
The new ware boards are in use :) The old ones held two rows of Tankards, that's 40lbs of clay on a 10lb board and I always put them up on the top shelf (like in this picture) The new ones are on the bottom left. hold 1/2 as much, but are much easier to move around. I am pleased, and there are enough I won't run out of ware boards until after my  shelves are overflowing with pieces.

Tomorrow I'm going to aim for up by 8 and into the studio by 9 again. The pieces under the plastic are practically ready to trim now. If I hadn't covered them the rims would already be bone dry. Not bad for throwing them between 11:30 and 2PM.