Ceramics and Social Media Applications

The ceramic industry includes a diverse group of potters similar to the social media landscape. Most common communication channels will consist of announcements, pictures of work or events, blogs, and videos. The traditional social media landscape comprises of Twitter and Facebook, but over the past two years there has been significant growth on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. Quite often potters will report they don’t own a computer and if they do own one they don’t have an email address, so social media escapes a large majority of the community. But for the potters involved in the social media channels, they are using these tools to show and tell their art as well as develop and discover their talent (Zimmerman, 2014).

The professional ceramicist can be found in museums, art centers and galleries noted in a recent industry poll from NCECA , known as the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (Bracker, 2015). This group of potters favors Facebook and Twitter. This gives them a strong platform for promoting their website and next gallery or museum showings.

There is the production potter, who produces their ware in volume, whom will post on Facebook especially directing fans to their website.  They can often be found on forums and online communities. They are contributing to the ceramic industry evolution with discussions on clay and ceramic issues, offering advice, writing reviews of ceramic products and sharing global ceramic industry news. The production potter would be the known as the Critics on the Social Technographics Ladder (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

The studio potter is not production but more serious than a hobbyist by making a full time living selling their work. They are the Creators on the Social Technographics Ladder making the most contribution to the social media landscape. They will use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to push the consumer to their studio. These social media networks are free and can draw a good amount of interaction. The studio potter might post a promotion on Twitter or Facebook giving away a new ceramic mug like Joel of Cherrico Pottery to engage and invite the consumer to “Like” their page, build their brand, and follow their studio (Birkholz, 2015). The studio potter can be found on YouTube demonstrating, teaching and engaging other potters, artistic students, and viewers such as Master Potter Bill Van Gilder.

The hobby potter or leisure clay artist, one who works with clay for enjoyment, occasionally sells their work on a smaller scale like Etsy or local event. They can be found on Pinterest pinning works of the professional or average potters. Since they are not as involved on social media for promotion of their goods, they would be considered the joiners or spectators of the Social Technographics Ladder. As joiners they are interested in visiting the social networks for inspiration, Facebook pages of ceramic vendors like Stone Leaf Pottery to learn about products, and following their favorite ceramic groups like Amaco’s Potters Choice Exchange for tips and techniques (Sophia, 2015). As a spectator they are more likely to be involved in watching videos of ceramic demonstrations, read blogs from the studio potters, and being influenced by reviews by the professional ceramicist or average potters.

clay-social-media-icons

Social Media networks offer potters a vast level of publicity, the widening of consumer target market, and a growth in social interaction for and among the ceramic professionals, studio potters and leisure clay artists. By expanding their social media landscape from the more traditional sites such as Twitter and Facebook, they can amplify their exposure with Instagram and Google+. Not only do social media networks increase the potter’s audience, it offers the building of ceramic communities. Potter Adam Field used Instagram effectively to pull in consumers and widen his audience by creating a scavenger hunt involving ceramic objects. The idea behind the scavenger hunt was “to create a groundswell of community that would encourage sharing information, techniques, and inspiration”  (Johnson, 2014). As more potters become comfortable with the new form of marketing, social media can help them get their name and products out there at a very minimal cost.

Resources:

Birkholz, J. (2015). Cosmic Mug Giveaway, Laughing Squid Feature, And Mainstream Art Ambitions. Cherrico Pottery. Retrieved from: http://www.cherricopottery.com/category/social-media/

Bracker, C. (2015). Who Are We? NCECA. Retrieved from: http://blog.nceca.net/inside-nceca-vol-i-issue-13

Johnson, G. (2014). Hide-N-Seekah!Using Social Medial for a Pottery Scavenger Hunt. Ceramics Arts Daily. Retrieved from: http://ceramicartsdaily.org/ceramic-art-and-artists/ceramic-artists/hide-n-seekah-using-social-media-for-a-pottery-scavenger-hunt/

Li, C.  & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Social Media Page. (2015). Facebook’s Potters Choice Exchange. Stone Leaf Pottery. Retrieved from: http://stoneleafpottery.com/category/social-media/

Zimmerman, C. (2014). How Artists Can Use Social Media to Discover and Promote Their Voice. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carlota-zimmerman/how-artists-can-use-socia_b_4756824.html

Getting Dirty With Social Media Tools

Getting Dirty With Social Media Tools

I spend eight hours a day five days a week talking ceramics. After work, I come home and walk in the countryside of Florida a mile and a half with my toy fox terrier, Puppup. As eight o’clock rolls around, I crack open the laptop and start my Master’s Program term homework. On the weekends during the day, when my hands are not covered in moist clay, I might be packing up an order, designing new plates, or blending glazes to provoke that exclamation “Wow!” from the next group of wedding registry millennials on Etsy.

On nights that are raining and we are not walking, I am select Etsy shops for my next Treasury on Etsy. This shopping gallery of 16 featured Etsy stores pulls in viewers, favorites, and orders to my Etsy shop Extrudergirl. Once the Treasury is designed, I post a link to it on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. At the end of the month, I run a traffic source report to see which social media network is working for me as seen below*:

trafficsourceetsy

* (Etsy, 2015)

In trying to expand my marketing for Extrudergirl, I have started delve into Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Trying to maintain the different social media networks is time consuming even when I am not balancing work, home, a small business and school.  A month ago, I was introduced to a free social media management site called Hootsuite.  This program allows me to schedule my posts to a variety of social media networks. I can check daily, weekly and monthly scheduled posts making appropriate adjustments with one click.  I have new insight to my posts, followers and content with Twitter, Google Analytics and Ow.ly.  The reports created helped me make better decisions on content I was posting based on what my followers have been responding to (Hootsuite). The dashboard gives me a quick snap shot of my Twitter account when @Extrudergirl has been mentioned in a post, or I have been retweeted or liked as well as any current activity of those I am following.

A few days after Hootsuite, I came upon Klout. The Klout is tool that measures your presence on the social media landscape. When I first signed on my Klout score was an 18.94. I was disappointed. I had read that the average score is 40 and wanted to know how to achieve such notary (Klout, 2013). After following some very simple instructions on post content, time and volume, my Klout score increased within days. I held a new steady score of 48. Combining the results of Klout with Hootsuite helped me to decide to use Facebook for my personal use only and not my Extrudergirl ceramic business.

Using Hootsuite and Klout as my new social media tools for posting to my Twitter and Google+ account, I thought about an article I read by Cindy King where she talked about Social Mention (King, 2011) which tracks “and measures what people are saying about your company” (socialmention). This search reports specific keywords related to your company or products. This unique tool will help me be more conscious of words I wanted related to my Etsy store Extrudergirl when people do searches. I did a search of Extrudergirl. My name was linked to my blog, Extrudergirl, and the word ceramic as seen below.

socialmention

                This result was startling. I am new to the Hashtag world. Almost everyone has seen and a good handful of you have used the pound sign (#) with a word after it. I thought I would at least have something linked to #extrudergirl since I have been using that to tag pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. In an article I recently read by Cindy King, she recommended Tagbound (King C. , 2015). Tagboard lets you see what is being said related to your hashtag across the social media landscape. I am hoping in the next three months as I expand my Twitter usage and remain consistent with blogging, that the hashtags will be measurable.

My Extrudergirl social media goal over the next three months is to increase my Klout Twitter Score, adding posts to my Google+, and use hashtags and keywords to drive followers, fans and buyers to Extrudergirl. As my blogging grows and tweeting content improves, I am hoping to increase my retweets, tweet likes and Google+1 volume as well. For now, I am heading back to the studio to get dirty.

Resources:

Extrudergirl Stats (2015). Shop Stats 2009-2015 Traffic Source. Etsy. Retrieved from: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/Extrudergirl/stats?ref=seller_platform_hdr

Hootsuite Platform (n.d.). Everything You Need In One Place. Hoostsuite. Retrieved from: https://hootsuite.com/products/platform

Keath, J. (2015) Ultimate Recap: Top New Social Media Tools for 2014. Socialfresh. Retrieved from: http://www.socialfresh.com/ultimate-recap-top-new-social-media-tools-of-2014/

King, C. (2011). 12 Social Media Tools Recommended by the Pros. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/12-social-media-tools-recommended-by-the-pros/

King. C, (2015). 44 Social Media Tools Recommended By The Pros. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/44-social-media-tools-recommended-pros/

Measure (2015). Mesaure Page Extrudergirl Account. Klout. Retrieved from: https://klout.com/#/measure

The Klout Score (2013). What is the Average Klout Score? Klout. Retreived from: http://support.klout.com/customer/portal/articles/679109-what-is-the-average-klout-score-

Hath not the potter power over the clay?

Barlet-for-america-mug-277x300

I can hear Jed Bartlet, President of the United States in the TV series West Wing, in my head “I’ve read my bible from cover to cover, so, I want you to tell me, from what part of holy scripture do you. . .” as I hang up the phone after talking to a southern male potter. I talk to potters all day. I get paid to do it. And they always have a story to tell or an opinion to share. Yesterday as no different.

This Louisiana gentleman was bantering in his charming drawl with me as older gentleman like my fathers age do. They are harmless and I think to myself when I am talking to them someone out there is being entertained by my father and I would want them to give him that respect. He asked me about the comparison between two pottery wheels. Now, I am knowledgeable enough to spout a few things, after all I have been doing this for 15 years professionally; and he knew that. He could tell I knew the specs and the speech so he asked “Do you pot?” I told him I have thrown; but I don’t care for the wheel. “You don’t care for the wheel?” He asks shocked, appalled then disappointed, “Well then little lady what do you with clay?” I verbally scooped up the clay from splash pan and said, “Well, sir, I am an extrudist.”  I might as well said I was a nudist. “Huh.” He said shortly and thanked me for my time and information.

After letting the conversation set up in the back of my mind, getting leather hard in my head, I thought about Jed and how he like to quote from the Bible. “I’ve read my bible from cover to cover, so, I want you to tell me, from what part of holy scripture do you. . .” get the right to judge me as a potter. This happens often with people who touch clay. Now, I don’t think this gentleman meant any harm or was judging me; but there have been others over the years who have.

The politics and hierarchy in clay astounds me. There is the ceramist, the potter, the clay hobbyist, the slipcaster, the China painters, and anyone else that has dabbled with clay in their lifetime. Are we not all potters? Do we not all honor the clay, create from inspiration, manipulate the mud or glaze to produce goods for all or for fun?

I can hear Jed in my head doing one of those wonderful speeches he so often casted. I can  hear him quote from Romans 9:21 while walking with his hands in his pockets, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishour?” Just because we play with mud doesn’t mean we need to smear each others craft. We are all potters in our own right, doing an honest deed and paying it forward with our gift and talent to create a piece of art from the earth and mixed with water, passion and inspiration, like Jed Bartlet.

Wrap me is seaweed and banana peel then light me on fire!

                                         June_Ridgway1201

Contemporary wood fire, Raku fire, pit fire and electric kiln studio potters can use the Saggar technique to create decorative pieces as seen here by June Ridgway. In this example, a Saggar firing was used to create a localized reduction of the kiln atmosphere as well as a concentration of the horse hair on the ware. A Saggar is a structure with a fitted lid that can be made from metal, kiln shelves, paper, tin foil or Raku clay. It encloses a piece of pottery, such as the pot seen here, to keep combustibles contained to cause incredible effects.

     Saggar Firing was originally designed by the Chinese to keep wood ash and flame-flashing off their glazed pottery when firing in a wood burning kiln. Today Saggar Firing is the reverse, where the studio pottery introduces combustibles that will affect the pottery. Saggar firings have special preparation. The pottery created for the firing is not restricted to a particular body like its kin firing Raku. Once the pots have been bisque-fired which is a common practice for electric kiln firings is, the pieces are ready to be embellished.

Pots can be decorated with a terra sigillata. This is a slip from dry clay mixed with water. A potter typically applies 3-5 coats of the terra sigillata to the pottery and then sets it dry.  Taking a smooth flat pebble, back of a spoon or a chamois, lightly burnish the pottery to achieve a gloss finish. Pots can be decorated at this time with horsehair, seaweed, copper or steel wire, hay, pine cones or pine needle, banana peels or corn husks to create the thin black lines seen in Ridgway’s piece. The material is held in place with twine or copper wire or tin foil.

Prepared pots are cradled into Saggar.  The Saggar is filled with materials such as sawdust, salts, copper carbonate, copper sulfate, manganese, red iron oxide or metals but not too much. Over saturation of combustibles will prevent appropriate oxidation and cause the pot to turn dark in color. This is the key to a successful Saggar firing. A mixture of different organic materials is suggested to create unique results.

Now that the pieces have been prepared comes the firing process. The kiln is stacked with the pottery and the fire begins with a soft flame. It is gradually increased until the kiln reaches 1500°, the wood fire can be extinguished or gas burners can be shut off or electric kilns can be turned off. The potter will leave the pots in the kiln until cool to ensure the slip has adhered. Results are never the same since the potter has no control over combustibles or the fumes which create a lovely one of the kin piece as seen here.

Mug Me!

mug

Sitting around the fire, the earliest potter would have mostly pinched clay he found by a river bed. He would have squashed the raw clay into a shape of what we know today as a Japanese tea cup; a similar shape as if we cupped water with our hands and drank from that same river. The potter would have laid the cup in the fire to hard the new drinking vessel. He might have bartered berries, animals skins or other items for his drinking forms; or he might have been mugged in the middle of the night while trying to stay warm by that fire, only to start his creative process over the next day.