Posts made in February, 2013

Throwing large

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in How-to, Teaching | 2 comments

Making large pots seems is a challenge that all potters attempt.  In one sense, throwing a large pot is evidence of accomplished skill because it shows that a potter can maneuver the technical challenges to handling a lot of clay. After I had been throwing for a few years, I got obsessed with making a ‘grapefruit bowl’, i.e. a bowl large enough to contain a week’s worth of grapefruit and worthy enough to occupy the place of honor on my kitchen table.  It took quite a while and resulted in several bad bowls. Now, I am able to make larger pots but they aren’t gigantic like some potters make.  In fact, most of the things I make on a regular basis are less than 5 lbs.  However, I like large platters and big bowls (8-10 lbs) and I do make them occasionally.  As I learned to throw larger pots, I realized there are two main obstacles to making bigger pots: Sufficiency:  This is the easier of the two problems to solve.  Add more clay.  As beginners, we usually start with 1-2 lbs to learn centering and pulling.  But, you can’t make huge bowls with 2 lbs of clay so we need to start with a larger amount.  This can be scary because it challenges the kinesthetic muscle memory that we have been developing.  And, it can be frustrating because it makes us feel like beginners as we re-face challenges of centering and pulling a larger amount of clay.  The best advice I was given was increase the amount of clay incrementally by 1/4 – 1/2 lb.  Keep practicing and increasing the clay until you make the size that you are satisfied with. Efficiency:  This is the more difficult challenge.  When I started throwing 3lb bowls, they weren’t much larger than my 2lb bowls.  This was because I didn’t use the clay efficiently   I lost a lot trying to center; too much clay was left in the bottom of the pot; and, I threw the pot off center which prevented me from get any more out of the clay.  The truth is, there is really no victory in throwing a 2 lb bowl with 3 lbs of clay.  The resolution to the efficiency challenge is practice (and more practice).  Don’t add clay until you throw a lesser amount well; after-all, the challenges that you face making a small bowl become harder to manage with increased clay. Here are some great exercises that helped me increase the size of my pots. Triple Pots:  Weigh three balls of equal amounts of clay within your throwing range (ex. three 2 lb. balls).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  It is likely that your third pot will be your largest.  You should be moving a lot of clay into the body of your pot in the initial pulls. Incremental Pots:  Weigh three balls of clay adding a 1/2 lb to each ball (ex. 1 lb, 1.5 lb, and 2 lb).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  If you don’t see a variation in size, practice again and pay attention to where you are leaving the clay. Salvage Pots:  After you have gained mastery over a volume of clay and you increase the amount, it is likely that your first attempt will result in a wonkey pot.  If you are reluctant to collapse the pot and re-wedge the clay, use this to cultivate a creative solution – carve it, alter the rim, make a chip and dip, oval/square the bowl, add embellishments,  etc.  By attempting to salvage the wonkey pot, you may stumble on an idea that will...

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The List

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Creativity, How-to, Inspiration | 0 comments

February is in full swing.  Last month, I was focused on closing out 2012 and preparing for 2013.  But now, I am back in the studio and I have been enjoying the time working on various pot forms.   But Julie wanted a little more structure and one of the things that she asked for was a list of pots to make on a monthly basis.  So based on last year’s work, we each have a list of things to make; I hope this will help keep things balanced during the busier times of the year. Although I like lists (well, that is an understatement), I recognize that I need to use the list to help me develop new ideas rather than re-create old ones because I could get sucked into finishing the list rather than creating new and soulful pottery. Last year, I corralled all my clippings and notes for pottery ideas and put them in a box – mostly to get them in one place.  If I make some time to flip through the box, and pick an idea to try while I work on the list, it could help keep the list from being just a checklist.  I just need to remember to make time for the...

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Common Questions

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in About Me, Shows | 0 comments

Although pottery isn’t my full time pursuit, I treat it professionally.  That means, I set time to work in the studio and then go there; I maintain a website and have business cards; and, I keep financial records.  Since I often get asked logistical questions about A Bit Off Center, I thought I would share a few of the most common ones. You make a lot of pots; when do you do it?  Each week is different; but, essentially, I work a few afternoons from 4 til 630 and Saturday with Julie.  I have a studio at home, so I often work for short sessions on ‘off’ evenings.  I enjoy my studio so it isn’t hard to find time to get in there.  Pottery keeps me from watching a lot of TV! How did you get started selling?  I wanted to make better pots so I made a lot of pots.  Julie and I knew each other from the community studio so we worked together for company.  Then we saw a local Craft Show and split a booth. Is it hard to get into/do craft shows?  Some shows are juried which means you submit photos of your work and they select the participants.  Other shows are entered by paying  fee.  Neither is difficult (except it helps to have really good photos).  Doing the shows is a lot of work and planning.  It requires having a booth (tables/shelves/tent), getting enough pots made, and making provision to take payment. What is your best seller?  Mugs.  Everyone likes mugs.  We also sell a lot of small bowls and chip and dip servers. What is your biggest expense?  Glaze.  It is expensive and we use a lot.  But, last year, our booth fees were almost as much as our glaze expenditure. I wouldn’t want to make things because I have to.  How do you do it?  I think it is a mind set.  I don’t feel like I have to do anything.  It feels like I get to make pots and I like multiples – they feel like another opportunity to do it better or...

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Compound Pottery

Posted by on Feb 6, 2013 in Challenge, Mugs, Multiples | 0 comments

After the fullness of the holiday season, I enjoy the contemplative quiet of January which is why I have only just fired my first kiln load of the year.  And although I have been working in the studio, it has been at a much slower pace.  Last year, I worked steadily through the year and the end result was that I made over 300 mugs which is a bit overwhelming to think about but is also the magic of compound pottery.  A few pots made regularly result in a large accumulation of pots over time. I have often referred to my number – that is the number of pots I can make at a time, remain interested, and avoid tedium.  For mugs, my number was 5.  (In fact, I made 5 mugs so often, that my number increased to 8.)  So essentially, I made 5 mugs a week last year which is less overwhelming to think about and makes the number of mugs that I plan to make this year seem very do-able. What pots could you compound this...

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