Friday, October 24, 2014

Lump of Clay to Finished Mug

A few months ago I put together a two-part demo video for my art club, Westchase Artists Society.  We have monthly meetings and often our members give us a peak into their process.  For my month, I prepared a video that takes you through the entire process of lump of clay to finished mug.  Because my process is protracted over a period of weeks, it was easiest to scale it down to an edited and fast-forwarded video.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

That Little Old Mug Maker... Me

The first part of my pottery career was void of mugs.  I was more of a sculptural potter.  I tried my hand at making mugs, but was never happy with the finished form and handle.  So I just never pursued the mug.  A few years ago, probably close to 7 years ago, a group of potters that I belonged to had a "mug swap."  I wanted to be part of the event so I made some mugs.  They weren't as bad as I had remembered, so I made a few more.  Then I kept thinking about mugs and what I liked to have in a mug and my journey began, in search of the perfect mug.  I really got into making mugs and coming up with new surface decorations.  All of the sudden, mugs were a major part of my Etsy shop.  And, a major part of what I make.  If I'm going out into the Garagio, I'm more than likely going out to throw mugs, or handle mugs.  A good part of my clay time is spent on mugs.  As I throw each mug I try to improve my throwing skills.  I'm working towards a nice light, well balanced mug, with good form, a nice handle, that's pleasing to the eye.  Mugs challenge me like no other form does.  I hope that the day will come when I can sit down and throw a series of mugs that will be the same size and shape.  But that goal doesn't upset me that much, because each mug is slightly different.  It shows that a human was there instead of a machine.

Mugs are one of the most personal items that we can make.  We put our lips on the lip of the mug, we often fondle the body of the mug while enjoying our first cup of coffee.  I strive to make handles that will keep you far enough away from the body of the mug so you don't burn your hand, and that are large enough that you can get three to four fingers in for a secure hold.  I try to make the surface glaze decoration fun, with hopes that my mug will become one of your favorites - take it to work, live with it.

I've recently come to the conclusion that a switch in clay was in order.  After working with low fire earthenware clay for years, I made a switch to a high fire stoneware clay.  One benefit in this change is that the mugs will be more durable for everyday use.  Finally, I'm making a huge commitment to my pursuit of the perfect mug.  The high fire stoneware, is less susceptible to chipping, able to handle the dishwasher and microwave and also less problems with crazing (fine cracks in the glaze) as time goes by.

This switch in clay wasn't as easy as buying new clay.  The higher temperatures mean that the glazes that I was using for the earthenware clay either will change under the higher temperatures or cannot be used at all.  A major investment in new glazes was in order, as well as an investment in clay.  I had to go through some glaze testing to see how colors changed.  I also had to search out glaze charts that showed colors at the higher temperatures of cone 5.  Trying to match my earthenware colors was a real challenge and for some colors, like greens, I'm still in search of the perfect green.

So, I'm doing a good thing with this change.  I think that offering a product that's more durable and more versatile for every day use, has a value.  My next hurdle will be to land on a fair price that takes into consideration the added costs of production.   Pricing... the final frontier.

One Year Later

Sixteen days shy of one year and I'm back.  Not that I've gone away, just that I've had a busy year with new family responsibilities that have made me keep an eye on my time.  I've made some revelations.

One year ago I was fairly upset with Etsy and what seemed to be a move away from their dedication to Handmade.  I jumped on the Zibbet bandwagon as I'm reminded from my previous post.  My first insight was received from a fellow potter who made me realize that Etsy really is the perfect home for me.  That I shouldn't take changes that they make personally.  The one thing that I thought would happen, hasn't happened.  I thought that the site would be inundated with mass-produced product and that it would eventually have a schlocky look.  Much to my pleasant surprise, I'm not getting that feel at all.  Even with the expanded guidelines for sellers, Etsy is still the best website to find unique items, made by creative people.  I thought that with the numerous changes that my sales would tank.  I'm happy to say that has not been the case.  People continue to find me and continue to order and make requests for custom items.  I think that the changes that Etsy has made to the website with the goal of making it better for handhelds has been great.  And, the changes that they've made to the mobile version for Sellers are awesome.  I can take photos with my iPhone, and set up a listing all from my phone.  I would have never dreamt of doing that a year ago.  Huge bonus as far as I'm concerned.

So you might be wondering, what's up with Zibbet.  Well, not much.  I prepaid for one year and loaded up the shop.  I have a hard time keeping track of more than one website, so Zibbet has fallen by the wayside.  I  know that time and effort has to be put into a new shop and I blame the fact that I didn't put the effort into Zibbet.  It's unfair of me to say that the site didn't work for me, because I didn't work for it.  My revelation here is that I'd like to spend more time creating than on the computer.  I renewed on Zibbet and will see how that goes, and will stay focused on Etsy.  To make my life easier, I'll only use Zibbet for my photo and jewelry line and see what happens.  So, let's see what happens.