Creek Road Pottery LLC
Through The Fire Collection: A Raku Pottery / Metal Jewelry Collaboration
Slanted Art Co-op Gallery Montrose , PA
March 18 6:00 P.M. EST. – April 12 6:00 P.M. E.S.T.
It’s not just pottery, but a lifestyle with art that’s affordable.
“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri
I hit the doldrums, that eerie calm of not feeling like doing anything while you wait for the next foot to drop. Why throw a ware board of mugs or bowls if you feel stressed out? I thought I might better wait a day or two and read a book . At my other job I was still working though the pandemic. I was not a front line worker but simply an essential worker helping to make paper towels for a large company. It was nice to keep working and have a paycheck coming is and I even had a feeling of survivors guilt.
While many were having a bad time finding a place to be creative I had the space and time to be able to but just didn’t feel like it. While others in clay lost access to their community work spaces, equipment, and shows my studio sat vacant while I moped around feeling guilty about not going down to the studio even for them. I was also feeling terrible about not being productive. Motivational posts from Facebook or Instagram were no help in pulling me back up over the bank and only made me feel worse. And the only thing that did make me feel better was the reading and the caring customers and friends who came to check up on me and told me to take as much time as I needed to work things out a bit. I thought it would only be a week or so but it was almost two months. Cobwebs grew across the moths of unfired mugs as made my way through the dark forest I found myself in.
“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”
– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri
While moping around I was researching business and marketing techniques for selling my work. I signed up to get daily videos from Story Brand by David Miller. In one of those video he mentioned a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. I ordered the book and read it almost in one sitting on my day off from the factory. I Frankl’s ideas on suffering and his philosophy on logotherapy quite interesting and refreshing. If Frankl could survive the Nazi concentration camps of WWII with such a healthy attitude while seeing everything around him taken and destroyed there may be hope for me to get out the rut I was in.
Like Frankl mentions, I just needed to find my “Why” and focus more on that to keep going rather then the “what”. If I found the why the “How” would not matter as I would be able to make it happen. I could not wait for some answer or for something to happen. I had to form that meaning by creating it myself. And through creation find the “why”. Maybe I should just go back down the the studio and look around a bit. Maybe I should just knead up a few lumps of clay just in-case I felt like throwing again. And maybe… just maybe.. I should try a simple bowl real quick to see how things would go and if I still had it in me…maybe if I just took a few steps however big or small I would start walking towards the “why” at my own pace and slowly work out the “how”.
“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”
– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Well the first wear board of mugs were terrible as I got back to it a bit. With the lonesome whine of Hank Senior strumming “I saw the Light.” playing low in the background from Alexa I started though the inferno. There are others for sure who had far more of a challenging time and I am not at all looking for any kind of sympathy as we all travel our own infernos level by level when we start.
Many have a hard time finding the “why” or have no guide simply show up in same way and they may abandon that path when they see the great and terrible challenges of the “how” that stand in their way as some rocky mountain or beast. And for certain others have had a far more terrible of a journey where they had to awake the courage in some way to move forward if they were able. I thought maybe I should throw a wear board of bowls rather then mugs..and use some distraction..and let my mind flow some to relax and try to change my attitude to the mental suffering and blocks my head was going though. The bowls looked real bad also. It was not until I put the last bowl on the wear board I could see some kind of progression of style and form coming back ever so slightly. Local shops were calling for work on the reopening of the local economy as we moved from red to yellow.
My “why” appeared to be that I enjoyed helping people use authentic handmade in their everyday lives. And those things they used everyday could be also be art. I did not need to be 100% but only 70% if I needed. And the pots did not need to be perfect but maybe it was ok if they wobbled a bit. Like Dante I found my Beatrice somewhat and trudged on slowly.
‘We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars”
– Canto 34, Inferno by Dante Alighieri
I have not made the ascent yet but making progress slowly at least. I am at least taking a few more steps forward then before in the studio. I had to switch to a new clay body as supplies ran short due to COVID-19. Learning the new clay body after working so long with the last has been a challenge. Drying cracks and firing issues are still being worked out but the struggle with the clay has been a great way to deal with the struggle is society. And as I pull the first mug from the kiln I knew things would slowly get better. I packed up that first mug and Frankel’s book and gave it as a summer reading gift to one of my customers and supporters.
So maybe sharing with community was some symbol of beholding the stars even though the the night was still a bit overcast. I am behind on custom orders and need more pots to fire out so I guess I’ll keep throwing. I find the long throwing sessions therapeutic and feel more relaxed when I finish unlike the stress from before. It was also brought to my attention that I need to still have a nice time, as if the pots ever become to much like work I might not enjoy the process as much.
Below are a few tips that might be able to help those of you who are far worse off than myself. To some all my small sufferings may simply sound like first world problems of the privileged but the slow down was real enough. If you the reader are having a bad time be sure not to be to hard on yourself and maybe start by forgiving yourself. Here is a great video on the struggle that I found helpful on climbing back up over the bank “How to Get Motivated During a Crisis in 5 Steps”.
Alford D. Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC
Creating Authentic handmade pottery in the hills of the Blue Ridge Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Divine Comedy, By by Dante Alighieri Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, Divine Comedy English Translation
Frankl, V. E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.
My love for clay and history was combined with this multi layered themed project of references to ancient warriors from some of the oldest Hebrew texts of the biblical literature. Each brush was hand thrown on my pottery wheel using 1/4 lbs lumps of clay. Each form was then sculpted, carved, imprinted with texture patterns and text was applied. After the bisque fire all the handles were then washed with red iron oxide to bring out the texture lines. Each handle was then fired to 2223F in my gas kiln.
The texts selected were out of what scholars say are the oldest texts preserved among the sections of Hebrew literature and in the rough and tumble environment of the Ancient Near East the hero in the biblical literature are not always written about in the most romanticized fashion. While the romanticized version of any history can be useful we must not depend totally on them. The Hebrew writer told also of the failures which helps us see the heroes as human. Below are the texts that were used on the handles.
Brush 1 – Jdg 3:16 ויעשׂ לו אהוד חרב ולה שׁני פיות גמד ארכה
And Ěhuḏ made himself a sword, it was double-edged and a cubit in length,
Brush 2 – Num 25:7 וירא פינחס בן־אלעזר בן־אהרן הכהן ויקם מתוך העדה ויקח רמח בידו׃
When Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he left the assembly and, taking a spear in his hand,
Brush 3 – Gen 34:26 ואת־חמור ואת־שׁכם בנו הרגו לפי־חרב ויקחו את־דינה מבית שׁכם ויצאו׃
They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword, took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away.
Brush 4 – Judges 16:30 -. אשׁר המית במותו רבים מאשׁר המית בחייו׃
Those who were slain by him as he died outnumbered those who had been slain by him when he lived.
Brush 5- Jdg 5:26 ידה ליתד תשׁלחנה וימינה להלמות עמלים
Her left hand reached for the tent pin, Her right for the workmen’s hammer.
Brush 6- Judges 5:2 בפרע פרעות בישׂראל בהתנדב עם
When locks go untrimmed in Israel, When people dedicate themselves
Brush 7- Jdg 7:20 ויתקעו שׁלשׁת הראשׁים בשׁופרות וישׁברו הכדים
..and the three columns blew their horns and broke their jars.
Brush 8 -Jdg 9:54 . שׁלף חרבך ומותתני פן־יאמרו לי אשׁה הרגתהו
“Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!’
Brush 9- Jos 6:24 . והעיר שׂרפו באשׁ וכל־אשׁר־בה רק הכסף
They burned down the city and everything in it.
Brush 10- Exo 2:12 ויפן כה וכה וירא כי אין אישׁ ויך את־המצרי ויטמנהו בחול׃
He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand
Each brush was loaded with background information to the listing.
The very first brush I used as a test and held back was later purchased by a highly thought of customer . This was the Goliath Brush:
The story of Goliath in the Hebrew literature always fascinated me.
After reading Homer, Goliath of the “Sea Peoples” or “Philistines”, always seemed like a Greek warrior to me in the biblical text of 1 Samuel 17.
The text below is 1 Samuel 17:6 describing the armor of bronze. When read in Hebrew word order it is most poetic.
וּמִצְחַת נְחֹשֶׁת, עַל-רַגְלָיו; וְכִידוֹן נְחֹשֶׁת, בֵּין כְּתֵפָיו.
“And he had greaves of bronze upon his legs, and a javelin of bronze between his shoulders.”
I always felt bad for this hero, as like in the Iliad of Homer, he may have been forced to fight one on one because they drew his name out of the helmet from among the many others that volunteered.
APPROXIMATE MEASUREMENTS –
5.25 inches in diameter
2.25 inches in length
26mm synthetic knot
2.25 inch loft.
Total brush length with knot:
You can find the rest of these brushes on my Etsy shop at CreekrdPottery here
A Greek, and Babylonian series are also planned using texts of heroes out the Greek epics and Babylonian cuneiform texts concerning Gilgamesh.
While looking for a glaze cost savings and going though our glaze raw materials I realized I had a few opportunity areas. I try to review the raw material pricing every six months to keep the prices of my pots at a level for the local area while also maintaining quality. I was taught to hand mix glazes and always have, only buying premixed glazes for special projects in very small amounts. To make it cost effective it is important to have as few raw materials as possible while still maintaining the safety of the finish wares.
In the past I have seen some glazes have six to eight raw materials. If a pottery were to have five or six glazes each using different materials the cost for maintaining the glaze recipes and raw material storage can rise creating loss in studio space, storage space, and grow into a large financial burden. All of this adds up over time, driving up the cost of the finished product. So I set out to correct some of the issues by looking for a low material glaze that would have a wide firing range.
Since I fire to cone 6/7 in an up draft gas kiln, the top of my kiln is always cooler. I hit a cone 7 on the bottom, cone 6 in the center, and the top a cone 5. With my old glaze I would sometimes loose the top shelf of pots to under-firing. If I fired longer to make the top of the kiln warmer, the temperature on the bottom would over fire and vitrify the pots. That ‘s why I was happy to find the “Blue Dawn ” recipe on the Facebook pottery group.
“Blue Dawn”, was created by the late ceramic artist and teacher Janet Holdcraft donated by her friend and colleague artist Jerry C. Williams Sr.., who put the glaze “Blue Dawn” in the public domain. Hearing about Janet from her good friends Jerry Williams and his wife Lea Ann Nall-Williams , I found Janet to be an amazing person who was loved very much by her students and kept very good records of her glaze research. I have included part of the post below:
The blue glaze used on this piece was created by Janet Holdcraft and she loved her bubbles. This is Janet’s recipe we are calling it Janet Holdcraft’s Blue Dawn. Base glaze 2500 is EPK of 500 grams, Flint of 750 grams, and Gerstley Borate of 1250 grams with 5% or 125 grams of Cobalt Carb. She has a whole page of trial and errors and this is the last one on the page with a * and a “YES” we have her book and it is a treasure. Thank you Janet for all the good you did in this world. This is for the last few Good Will Friday’s that I have not posted but the good you showed to me and Jerry will never be forgotten. RIP Lea Ann Nall-Williams. Clay used is 50 pounds of premix with 5 gallons of reclaim and red art added to the mixture there are also other things he adds but trying to get him to measure anything is as impossible as getting Jerry C. Williams Sr. to post of facebook. Posted by Lea Ann Nall-Williams. I use to be there sometimes when she mixed her glazes she was very percise and on a mission.”
After seeing the post I gathered the raw materials and hand mixed a 100 gram batch as a test and gas fired out the glaze in my test kiln. The results for such a simple recipe were quite amazing. I was able to make the full range I needed with zero loss from glaze defects which was a huge relief. I was quick to show Jerry the results and took images off my coffee table. The poor lighting did not do the glaze color justice, but the blue shown through just beautiful enough to cause excitement.
So after I was pleased with the results I decided to try the glaze on a collection of shave bowls I had started. And what better way to create a collection then to have it be a tribute to the person who made it. It was amazing to think about how many artists, teachers, and craftsmen live far beyond their years in the work, research, and contributions they left behind. I am proud to have the opportunity to mix this glaze and I am more than happy to post Janet’s recipe here so others may try it if they wish. Below is the recipe converted to a 100 gram batch:
Janet Holdcraft’s “Blue Dawn”
Gerstley Borate – 50
EPK. – 20
Flint. – 30
Cobalt. – 5
If you have work with these stamps on the bottom, or your citronella lamp has the “Mariposa Pottery” note seen below, then you may have a Janet Holdcraft piece. Thanks very much to Lea Ann Williams for sending in the images.
Below are some samples of the “Blue Dawn” collection. The works maybe purchased while supplies last at our Creek Road Pottery shop on Etsy
The artist Jerry C. Williams Sr. has inspired me with his work and forced me to think about the bottoms of bowls as a whole new canvas begging to be worked with texture. Jerry’s Native American inspired designs capture the native culture in very unique way. On first seeing Jerry’s work the patterns, textures, and drawings on the bottoms of his bowls made me appreciate all sides of the pots I was making and forced me to think about what other parts of the work I might be missing out on experiencing. You can find Jerry’s ceramic work posted on his page or at the Green Door Art Gallery. I would like to thank Jerry and Lea Ann once again for posting this recipe to the public domain and it was a pleasure to use the glaze and I’m sure many other artists, potteries, and ceramic lovers will enjoy using and seeing the glaze . If you the reader try this recipe please let me know how it turned out by posting a comment here with a link to a sample! I would love to see where this might go!
Jerry and Lea Ann, if you are ever in PA feel free to stop by and I’ll show you my little pottery! Also thanks for the beautiful bowl you sent over to me.
Creek Road Pottery LLC
Carbon coring or “black coring” can be an issue when firing clay bodies. While doing some experiments with reduction firings I had many pots that were cracking in the process and had no idea why. It seemed that the cracks were from fast cooling, as they were clean breaks through the glaze with sharp edges. Little did I know that this cracking was caused by carbon coring or “black coring”. I did some comparisons wth cross sections of the broken pots and noticed that this discoloration did not happen in my oxidation firings but only in reduction. I dug out my ceramic books and searched online to find out what this issue might be.
While researching I found a post by the Lugna Clay company entitled ” Bloating and Black Coring”, which seem to suggest that I may need to bisque fire my clay body properly. The theory behind the article suggested that not all the carbon was burned out of the clay body and the kiln also may need to be vented better in the bisque firing. The clay body I was using was AMACO high-fire warm brown 58-M stoneware clay. I only had issues with bloating when I accidently overfire it a few times on the bottom shelves while trying to reach cone 6 in the middle of the kiln. The clay body was high in iron content which, I later found, created the issue with black coring when I reduced the updraft kiln to produce a body reduction. The iron in the clay and the reduction process was a bad combination and would produce a bad kiln load of pots. Bowls shattered as they cooled.
The answer to the problem came from an excellent research report entitled “Calcium and sulphur distribution in red clay brick in the presence of a black reduction core using micro X-ray fluorescence mapping”. by L.Gredmaier, C.J.Banks , and R.B. Pearce. These findings can be found on page 2 and 3 of this report:
“The following factors determine the extent of black reduction coring in red clay ware:
- Firing time – a longer ring time can eliminate the black reduction core.
- The oxygen atmosphere during ring. Lack of oxygen promotes the formation of black reduction cores.
- Iron oxide content in the raw clay.
- Carbon content and burnout or oxidation of carbon during firing of the raw clay.”
The research in this report stated also that the red iron oxide was converting to magnetite.
To the potter, according to “The Potter’s Dictionary of Materials & Techniques” by Frank and Janet Hamer, on page 26, means this conversion created weakness to the clay body caused the clay to vitrify at a lower temperature due to the red iron oxide and carbon converting to black iron oxide and carbon dioxide, which creates an active flux . The pots become brittle and fragile. One mug I took from this load popped apart while I poured coffee in it as a test, sending shards across the table, because it could not withstand the thermal shock due to black coring.
The solutions to black coring from the article link to above would be to use a clay body with less iron content. Also, it is suggested that bisque firings should be slower and to the correct temperature to allow carbon burn out. I personally found that in my high iron clay body, if I skipped the body reduction of the firing and reduced the kiln towards the end of the firing, I still got reduction glazes to look great without black coring.
If any of you who read this have found this helpful or have your own findings, feel free to leave a comment!
Firing out the Amaco AG40 is great for raku , but I sure had issues with the higher temperatures. When I was working towards my degree and also was an apprentice at a pottery when I found a little Amaco AG40 updraft kiln in the classified section of the paper. The kiln was owned by older gentlemen and hobby potter about two hours from where I lived. This gentleman had the kiln installed above his garage he was using as a studio. He had a ventilation fan that came with the kiln and everything was in great condition. A family member and I loaded this little kiln onto a truck and carefully drove it home.
The kiln had no instruction manual, and we had to learn how to light it from the label on the side. We had the gas company bring out two tanks and connected both with 2 lines running into one hose with a connection to the regulator. After following the directions, we were able to fire the burner and bring the kiln to life. That summer, and for the next two years would use the little kiln to run a raku line of pots. Those were the best summers. We ran a Spring and Fall show with demonstrations for the public. It was three days of fire, smoke, and pottery.
After graduating with a B.F.A. in Ceramics and leaving the pottery, I put all my equipment into storage. I had to find work to pay off student loans. When my wife and I bought our home, I put in a small clay studio with the encouragement of friends and family who were into the wet shaving hobby. These friends wanted lather bowls and brush handles. I hooked up my little Amaco Kiln again and looked online for a manual. Amaco was able to send me an old manual. I only fired this kiln to a midrange temperature with this kiln once but could not remember the schedule to repeat it. The manual had a suggested firing schedule, so I started tinkering.
I had the gas company come and hook up a tank large enough to prevent freezing. The first few firing were terrible simply because I was not able to properly regulate how much gas was going to the kiln’s burners and I had a broken gauge. I started with a simple bisque fire but knew I had to make some repairs before I went to a full first firing.
At times I was almost ready to roll the kiln over the bank. I had a whole cone or more difference in temperature between the bottom and top, with the bottom shelf being hotter. The kiln would also stall out. So I saved up some money and bought a converter kit. The kit had a stand with an updraft burner which allowed hookup to a twenty-pound propane tank. This helped out a great deal because I now had more control over the amount of gas and temperature of the kiln because this had a gauge that worked.
With the conversion kit, I now went back to square one and used the firing schedule out of the manual and completed a midrange firing. I still had a large temperature difference between the top and bottom. To fix this issue, I widened the glaze firing range so that the top of the kiln would not fall under fire. I was able to get a few good pots using this method; that is until I accidently overfired on Christmas day.
On Christmas Eve 2015 I prepped and glazed a load of shave bowls that I wanted to have completed as Christmas gifts. I wanted to wrap those gifts right from the kiln for dramatic purposes and hand them out a few days later. Glazing ran later than expected and the firing stalled out climbing to cone 5/6. I left it run for an hour longer than usual, but the cone was not bending. I realized that the gas had dropped off. After fixing the issue, I went back inside. It was now 3 am Christmas morning, and I had an alarm set to go off every 15 minutes, but instead it went off after another 45 minutes. While I nodded off with”visions of sugar plums dancing in my head” the little Amaco AG40 was over firing.
I jolted awake and looked at the time and realized the problem, then rushed to the kiln and looked through the peephole. The bottom shelf was running real hot, and the middle shelf cone was now all the way down. Thinking I caught it in time I started the 2-hour cooling cycle the manual recommended. All was fine until I opened the kiln about 30 hours later.
The bottom shelf was severely warped with cone 5/6 clay pots melted to it. It appeared that the shelf might have gone to cone 9 or 10. The second shelf of pots had blister marks in them, so I suspect this shelf reached cone 7/8. The top shelf was perfect. I was able the salvage five good shave bowls to give to friends.
All of this was great practice on how quickly things can escalate even if minor adjustments are made. I am still working out temperature differences, and the little Amaco AG40 needs new bricks and repair work done. But the kiln has grown on me, and I enjoy firing it out in both reduction and oxidation firings.
Click here for the manual for those who may need it. It’s quite old but had some good information in it. If you would like to add your experiences or tips concerning the Amaco AG40 or updraft kilns in general, feel free to comment!
Creek Road Pottery LLC
Back in August 2015, while pulling my kiln and wheel out of storage, I happen to find to see a YouTube video on the topic of learning a particular skill with deliberate practice. In the video “Learn To Kickflip in 5 hours And 47 Minuets.‘ The user Mike Boyd filmed his practice sessions from start to finish, landing a Kickflip. He had no skill of doing this at the start. After watching the video, I felt inspired and tried to focus on progress over perfection.
When I first started making pots again after almost ten years or more, amazingly throwing the first bowl was easy but the next 25 were hard. They would end up collapsing, have thin bottoms, or simply go off center. I had to take a step back and work on the skills separately from step one to finish. First, I practiced centering, a very basic skill that one would learn in a beginner’s class. I found that centering one pound clay pieces were much more challenging than the five pound. Since most of the pots I would be throwing to fill my niche were created from one pound of clay I needed to practice this skill to cut down on time, material waste, and frustration. Needless to say, I ruined many pounds of clay before I was able to achieve my goal. But each time, with each step I was able to have a learning experience built on the failure, to have a centered mound of clay on the wheel. I had to repeat these learning steps through the whole process, from wedging the clay at the start to finishing with a nicely glazed pot. I have to admit the whole experience was quite humbling while remembering just ten years ago when my skill level was much higher. Some days I just wanted to toss the wheel, kilns, and pots in the creek. I had to set the goal of progressing a little each day with one thing, rather than being perfect.
A person can have all the positivity and inspiration in the world, but if they are not progressing then it all is useless. Most ceramic artists and potters can create basic forms on the wheel rather quickly. But being away from ceramics so long I had forgotten how to throw most forms. I had to practice the essential forms that I would be throwing most, which was a simple cylinder shape, for cups, and wider cylinder forms for bowls. I made large amounts of ugly pots, wasted clay trimming heavy pots, cracked pots while loading the kiln, over fired pots, under fired pots, and melted a few kiln shelves. But with the view of progress over perfection I was able to have a somewhat enjoyable time experimenting with different parts of the process to find out what worked and what did not. I also had to practice with the raw materials to see what they could do and how far they could be pushed. One example where this took place was adjusting the glaze recipe for it to work correctly on the clay body I was using. I had to know how each material in the recipe reacted and how they all worked together. There were plenty of online resources to help with this process and having the small kilns I was able to fire out test tiles until I had a result that looked somewhat good. I then was able to practice putting a lot of ugly glaze on a lot of ugly pots. Friends and family thought the were nice and wanted to take them home, but I knew better. I needed more practice and progress over perfection.
After all the screw ups, piles of ugly pots, and glaze mishaps, I had to take the time to reflect on what I had learned and scrounge up what appeared to be the best-looking pot and have a drink, relax, and view where I was. Many time this is done easier with a friend, family, or even a stranger. A stranger has much better feedback in my opinion because they are allowed, to be frank and not worried about offending if they have no emotional or family ties. I was able to pass some of these ugly pots around to folks and ask them what they thought and took their opinions and feedback to heart and changed some things I was doing wrong and didn’t know it. Just because I may have thought a form looked correct, that did not mean others thought the same. At times, it can be a very sobering and humbling experience to receive constructive feedback, but over time, it will come, for the better or worse. I also took the time to view the works of other ceramic artists. Applications like Etsy and Instagram were excellent resources to view ceramic art and ideas. I was able to compare and contrast different forms to have a better understanding of what expectations artists and buyers were setting. Seeing the work of others forced me to take the time to look critically at the many processes it takes to create a finished piece and see if I could progress more by building skills in each area which in time would add value to the finished piece.
Unlike the YouTube user Mike Boyd, in the video referenced above, I was not able to complete a pot in five hours and forty-five minutes. I’m not even close after five months. I believe I have progressed. What I thought to be an excellent form last month, I now see maybe it was not. And what I am doing today, I see many opportunity areas in my skill level that needs developing, from wedging the clay to when the customer receives it. For a perfect pot can be created, marketed, and shipped. But if any part of the process is not of the highest quality, the whole chain can be easily broken. Creating a decent pot is only twenty percent of the entire process. I do not know what a perfect pot is, but I am beginning to know what it is not.
While researching the start up the Creek Road Pottery, I quickly came to realize that running a business would be much more than making pots. Months before I even thought about creating a pottery I went through the Business Model Canvas course given by Steve Blank on the Udacity website. The class was very helpful in organizing and researching the many areas of a business that would need developing. One area was developing Revenue Models. Within the many revenue models, there was Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
When I was perusing my degree in ceramics, we learned a lot about art and little about marketing ourselves and the work. At the time, it was believed that the way to make money and sell art was through galleries, trade shows, and studio storefronts. Many who went on to pursue their masters degrees ended up teaching which gave them a position of recognition through the university they were employed. Others would leave the field due to lack of finances, student loan debt, or have to take on other jobs outside the art field to earn a living for themselves. But today all of that has changed, and if the artist can put on a few hats or have processes automated, handed over to paid services, or use applications, the jobs can become manageable once again. Below we will look at some applications that can assist the artist in writing content geared toward SEO.
One of the simplest tools that helped SEO management when creating posts or pages was the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin built for WordPress has a simple install and came with a host of features that helped with content writing, page analysis, Meta and Link elements, XML sitemaps, RSS optimization, and much more. The Yoast SEO also grades the post and ensures that keyword usage in the headings and content. It also gives a list of most used words in the post so that the writer can make changes to up the ranking. This plugin also shows the total word count of content and also monitors SEO for title and descriptions of posts. With the plugin writing content, creating titles, and descriptions much easier. And with the color coded indicator buttons, it was easy to see if my attempts at SEO were on the right track or not. However, SEO cannot be adequately managed without better content. With Google’s new standards, the search engine will be far more selective about how it ranks post and information.
Another tool that is very useful for SEO, content creation, and management is the Grammarly program. Grammarly has a free version that installs as a plugin to most browsers and also has an extended paid version with many added features. These features allow the user to make informed decisions about how to use words, grammar, punctuation, and flags wordiness. It also claims to enhance vocabulary and grammar usage. As Grammarly flags issues, the user can remember how to use words or punctuation. Also, there is a built-in search that can detect plagiarism and alert the writer or content provider that a text was copied. If you have written content outsourced, it may be wise to paste it in Grammarly to see if the text is original or copied.
Artists who sell online have plugins that one can install with the store packages. One of these would be the Shopify SEO Manager. Since SEO is important to ranking and sales, stores like Shopify, Etsy, and others have both plugins and free classes and resources on how to post items and create descriptions for products. Many have Google result simulators, page speed integration, site map management, and SEO issues scan built in. Many times when creating a post or descriptions, the artist would fill up the meta tags with as many keywords as possible. Now with the new Google SEO standards, these types of loaded fields will have a lower ranking. Even though these plugins can be somewhat costly, they offer simple solutions to the user to alert them if they are compliant or not. Users also post case studies, which can be very informative. Although some of the studies are sensationalized, one case study that I found very helpful was the creation of ThinkPup.
So as one can see even though it may take some time to learn SEO, there is much more help by the way of applications and plugins that can make writing content and listing products much easier for the artist. These programs also can not only save time but take the guess work out of SEO, and if keywords or phrases meet the search requirements. The artist is then able to use some of this free time doing the things they enjoy, which is making quality art for his customers.
By Al Wayman