Square or round?

dinnerplates

Square or round?

When I first started working in ceramics, I was drawn to square forms. I tried throwing on the wheels for about 3 years creating bowls and plates like other potters but I was never as enthralled as when I could make a square piece. I enjoy my slab roller making square slabbed forms boxes such as a charity box or Tzedakah box. I fall in love  over and again with my Scott Creek extruder when I mass produce my rectangular sponge holders.  I have seen many round sponge holders with cuts in the middle or open holes in the front to house the sponge but logically sponges are rectangular so why wouldn’t sponge holders? It is no wonder the sponge holders have become my number one seller on the Etsy Shop Extrudergirl.

Sponge holder

Recently, I have taken to making plates. I love the authenticity of creating a handmade plate as opposed to throwing a plate on the potter’s wheel. There is more intimacy in the process for me. The mark of the potter is very present instead of the clean smoothness of a wheel thrown plate. As I was photographing the latest sets of round plates for my Etsy shop, I realized I had no square plates in my dinner plate’s series. This was not a conscious decision but perhaps a psychologically unconscious one based on practicality and design

800px-Unglazed_platesAre round plates fashioned out of habit or functionality? I think as food eaters we are trained from an early age to eat on round plates. Was it easier to form round objects before the potter’s wheel when pinching plates, cups and bowls? In the early years of potter resources were limited so pressing clay in the palm of your hand or onto a surface such a wide stone would lend towards a shape being round. Are round plates out of necessity for space on a dining table? When setting a dining table round plates allows for easy access to the flatware and drinking vessels.  Are round plates traditional and square are modern? After all sushi plates, another good sellers of mine, are square or rectangular. The Chinese had mastered porcelain in the early 600AD; the process of kiln firing and glazing that potters continue to use today. Once” trade routes opened to China in the 1300’s” (WorldCollectors), dinner plates became sought after by European nobility; so round plates have been a-round forever.

Square or round? You can get the same amount of food on both designs with the same volume. Open your dish cabinet, do you have square or round? I bet they are round.  Don’t feel so bad, I am guilty too of only using rounds plates. But rest assure, there are going to be square plates on my Etsy shop soon.

Resource:
WorldCollectors. (n.d.). Collector Plates and Plate Collecting. Retrieved from worldcollectorsnet.com: http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/features/plates/

 

Soaking Up The Mobile Ceramic Rewards

In 2012, Daily Clay, a mobile off-spring of Ceramics Arts Daily and produced by The American Ceramic Society, hit the iPhone mobile application market. I, like many other potters who use Ceramics Art Daily as a ceramic resource, were hopeful that the app would prove to be beneficial. The extensive website offers books, magazines, videos, educational, blogs and forums. Instead, the mobile app became a daily posting of a handmade piece of ceramic art. Although inspirational, it didn’t serve the same grandeur as the parent website. Daily Clay had a strong potential to be a useful tool integrating mobile ability and social media with the Ceramics Arts Daily website.

Increasingly, I find Instagram connecting potters with their audience and consumers. Instagram is a mobile-only network which means you create and publish from the mobile app only. You can view and  a picture from a laptop or desktop but that is it. Instagram has gone to great lengths to offer the user high quality resolution ensuring the visual of ceramics pictures and videos are inviting. Instagram offers “filters, special effects, and editing tools” (daCunha, 2015). If you download InstaCollage, an app that compliments Instagram with special effect, layouts, and borders, you can create eye captivating pictures instantly as seen here:

spinart

It also offers easy “sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare” (Hemley, 2013). This allows a ceramic business owner to expand his or her audience in vast numbers from one mobile social media application.

The Instagram platform used hashtags from its first inception, known as the symbol”#”, to expound on the content of pictures and videos posted (Gonzalez, 2012). It is best for a potter to hashtag their pictures to identify the place it was taken, subject, and description. Some popular ceramic hashtags are #ceramics, #potter, #throwing, #stoneware, and #loveclay. #clay is the most tagged at 1,172,085 posts. If a potter was looking for inspiration from other fellow potters, they could search #cone6, a type of glazing firing range, and find 4,382 posts. If they wanted to find a ceramic supply brand from a picture posted and  with a hashtag such as Amaco, they can use the spyglass on the bottom of the app. Once they find AmacoBrent, one of the largest ceramic supply company’s, they can click the name AmacoBrent which brings them to AmacoBrent’s Instagramer page.  The potter can start following AmacoBrent as well as view pictures they have posted. On AmacoBrents Instagram page they cleverly posted their website www.amaco.com drawing the viewer to their shopping cart website as seen here:

amacobrentinstagram

Instagram helps businesses like a small ceramic studio like Extrudergirl or a large company like AmacoBrent. Gerry Moran suggests building a strong profile on Instagram as noted in detail below (Moran, 2013):

Perfect-Instagram-Profile1

A well-developed profile becomes the foundation for Instagram as social media strategy. Posting pictures of handcrafted ceramic pieces or products a ceramic supply business is selling to potter allows the business to cultivate a following not just through Instagram but with the cross posting capability to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare. As a ceramic business builds their brand awareness, they can start following back their new audience. As posted pictures become visual commentaries with hashtags, a potter can create a theme or capitalize on current trends to complement his or her brand and increase credibility. They can engage viewers and consumers with consistent images and by leaving comments on follower’s postings. Developing a posting schedule will entice followers and inspire potential consumers. Over posting could cause followers to abandon your business. It is best to analyze how many posts, the kind of pictures, hashtags followers are relating to, and comments consumers are leaving. Iconosquare is a free tool to measure your Instagram success. It will give you a snap shot of the percentage of followers, lost followers, follow growth, likes, comments, and overall engagement (Lawrence, 2014).

spongeholder2

Instagram is a visual experience for your followers, consumers, and perspective fans to learn, like, and buy into your business brand. Instagram will help promote your business, build a community around your photographed work and hashtags, generate leads and encourage conversation with your audience and consumers. I like to think, that with my Extrudergirl shop, once I get attention from my customers with a sponge holder photo on Instagram, I soak up my ceramic rewards.

Resources:

Ceramic Arts Daily Home Page (n.d.). Ceramics Arts Daily. The American Ceramic Society. Retrieved from: http://ceramicartsdaily.org/

daCunha, M. (2015) 10 Instagram Marketing Tips to Make People Love Your Brand. Business 2 Community. Retrieved from: http://www.business2community.com/instagram/10-instagram-marketing-tips-make-people-love-brand-01115446

Gonzalez, P. (2012). How to Use Hash Tags on Instagram. Instagramers. Retrieved from: http://instagramers.com/destacados/how-to-use-hash-tags-on-instagram/

Hemley, D. (2013). 26 Mobile Apps to Improve Your Business and Networking. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/26-mobile-apps-to-improve-your-business-and-networking/

Lawrence, T.(2014). Instagram Analytics Website Review ~ Iconosquare.com (Statigram). Tyler Lawrence. Retrieved from: http://tylerlawrence.com/instagram-analytics-website-review-iconosquare-statigram/

Moran, G. (2013). How to Build the Perfect Instagram Profile Infographic. MarketingThink. Retrieved from: http://marketingthink.com/infographic-to-build-the-perfect-instagram-profile/

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.