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

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.