Glaze of Our Lives: A  Story of Passion and Reduction

Johnny Cash the pottery cat takes a nap on a few mugs. Delores finds a date maybe.


After  Johnny Cash blew by Jimmy’s leg in his mad dash out the studio door into the great wide open, he  ran to the large oak tree by the fence and  sniffed around some then  laid down to relax in the grass. The sparrows were  darting in and out  between the branches and  a red wing black bird  squacked to scold him. 

It was quite easy being a pottery cat. Johnny Cash had Delores right where he wanted her.  Their history went way back. Johnny Cash was a gift to Delores  from her husband Bill  when he was just a kitten.  Bill  just finished  trimming with the weed Wacker  along the side walk when he thought he heard a fait  meow.  Bill turned off the loud motor  and walked  to the  curb  where the trash was set out.  He  set down the wacker picked up the bag of garbage and under it was the smallest black kitten he ever seen.

Bill took the cat to the house to show Delores.  She was smitten by the cute  little fur ball. The kitten looked starved so they pored it some warm milk . The little guy lapped  up the milk and was still for a long time .   Bill and Delores were worried  and  poked the  cat a little and  made sure he was breathing.  “Awww!” said Delores ” I think he is sleeping right there in  his milk.”   All of this happend five months and  six days  after they found the lump  on Bill’s neck.  Five months and six days  because that is how fast the cancer spread .

The doctors tried everything possible but  the lump was found to late.  It was Johnny Cash the pottery cat that would curl up on the  lap of the slowly dying man ,  both warmed by an electric  blanket to ward off  the chills. Delores  sat by and cared for them both , lightly stroking Johnny Cash’s soft black fur to ease anziety as she  did what she could to make her dying husband comfortable  until the bitter end. 

The undertaker  drove  the herse slowly  to the cemetery on that cold rainy  day in October  when they laid Bill in the grave.  It would be months before  Delores  felt like going back to the studio again. Everything she seen reminded her of  Bill. He built the  drying shelves, her kneading table,  even put  in the glaze booth. Cobwebs grew in  her throwing bucket and rack of mugs went bone dry without being handled.

By Spring  Delores thought  she might try to go back down to the pottery studio to just have a look with Johnny  Cash  the cat circling  underfoot.  Delores started making pots again  slowly. First only one mug  was all she could  take . She looked at  the  lonely form turning slowly on her wheel , her heart sank with grief  and tears streamed from her eyes. She just had to make another mug, Bill would want her to. Before long one mug turned into one wearboard  of mugs, which turned into one shelf. She found creating therapeutic. 

Back out in the yard under the tree  Johnny Cash thought he heard a truck pull in. He raced to the frount steps  and found it was the UPS delivery man. The sound of the UPS delivery man ment that Johnny Cash would get face and belly rubs and at times a treat .  By time  the black cat  made it to the steps Delores was already signing for  her package.  “Aww whose a good boy?” said the  short stout delivery man as he seen Johnny Cash trot  through his legs purring.


Johnny Cash  made sure he did some cute rolls at his feet and was rewarded by belly rubs and face scratches. ” Your getting to be a big kitty!  I have a  surprise for you!” The  UPS man reached into his shirt pocket and gave Johnny Cash  three treats from a Frisyies bag.  ” He’s almost  twenty pounds now ” said Delores.  “But he still manages to climb all over and knock things off shelves. He’s a big clumsy boy.  Aren’t you Mr. Cash?”  The delivery man laughed “He sure is a just  big  fluff ball! Well I need to run! Have a great day ! ” He turned and walked back to his truck.  A small piece of paper floated across the lawn and Johnny Cash  seen the movement and playfully pinned it down with his paw then sat on it.  ” What are you hiding Mr. Cash?” said Delores as she picked  up the large cat.
 

Johnny Cash hung over Delores ‘s arm like a large over stuffed purse while she  opened  and read the paper.

” Dear Delores,

I  would find it enjoyable if at some  time you would join me for a coffee. I know you have been though a lot but whenever you are  ready just let me know. ”

It was not signed anywhere. Delores flipped the paper over  to see if  there was a name or number on the back.  But it was just written on a sales receipt from the gas station. Whoever wrote the note also bought $50.00 worth of gas and a  soda. Johnny  Cash started to growl  and  scratch at  Delores’s arm with his hind legs as a signal  to be let down. She dropped him to the ground as she thought about the note. ” Hummm..I wonder if…”  Delores  said out loud as she folded up the paper and put it in her pocket.

Johnny Cash  had already ran back  inside to the studio and made a jump for the fourth drying rack up but missed mostly and hung on by his two front paws. Straining  but  determined  the large cat found footing on a  freshly made wet  vase to give him a lift , knocking it into 3 others  as they all plopped  to the floor bats and all.  Pleased with himself he then stretched out on  six of eighteen  mugs that all caved to his form under the weight  like a memory foam mattress.  It seemed he preferred the pots just before leather hard stage, but not wet.

“Johnny Cash! You get down! Bad kitty! ” Delores  yelled when she seen him reclining  with ease  up on the shelf on the pots now all mangled and dented into a somewhat cat form. ” Why do you have to be so bad! Those were custom orders! Scat!” She yelled. It was almost a game to Mr. Cash as no matter how mad Delores got he always seemed to land on his feet with her. He  jumped from the shelf  as if inconvenienced,  and lumbered away with his tail in the air.  “Ohhh noo…your such a bad kitty! That was alot of work you just messed up! Now get!” Delores begain to pick up the mess. But in the back of her mind she wonderd about the note . Maybe it was time to get a coffee.

My Pottery Management Tools:

I spent the afternoon avoiding pottery to create worksheets and journal print-outs that you can clip into a three ring binder that should better help you track your clay journey.
I created PDF of each sheet so you can print them individually and put them in your binder as needed.  Below is a description of each sheet and some background information on how to fill it in.  Even though I am not getting anything done due to procrastination, I do hope the sheets can help at least one of you in some way.

My Pottery Goals:

The “My Pottery Goals” worksheet has section to fill in ten year goals, five year goals, three year goals, and one year goals.  The ten-year goals can allow you to dream big.  Write in where you might wish to be.  All of these goals can change as you move forward, so no need to worry about what you put in as long as it is something you dream of achieving. As you narrow down the years you can also work to refine the goals more for the short term to make actionable steps to the over all big goal.  The one-year goal can be made by comparing advancements or opportunity areas to last year. Be sure to fill in as much as you can, as each day when you do tasks in the next worksheet, you can see if those tasks and projects you do either help you towards where you would like to be or not.  This helps to weed out those annoying projects you might take on because you are not able to say no.  I have to admit that I am still working on this with custom orders. But at least now I have some type of framework to follow step by step even in small ways and to assess how far I have come and what I might need more practice in.

I have also included your “Why”. Your “Why” needs to be more than passion.  As when you lose a kiln load of mugs you might not feel all that passionate about making pots but you still need to do the work and be action driven to reach your goal even on the bad days.  There are some great posts on finding your “why”. I discuss the topic in my post on balancing work and pottery here.

Another section I felt was important was to include ” If I live to be 86 from today , I have _____ days left.”  This section sounds a bit morbid, but I thought adding the idea of just how short life is and how we spend our time was very important.  Time is something we spend and give each day and a thing we never make up or give back.  When we are born we have a full “bank account” that dwindles down each day.  So knowing and seeing the end along with our long and short term goals might help us reevaluate and choose better what we will spend time on and how we tell our story.


My Pottery Journal:

This idea came from Donald Miller and his Story brand/ Business Made Simple website for business leaders.  I took a workshop on business and loved it. I reformatted the journal page to fit the artist and those who enjoy pottery so they could work to have some type of direction planning their daily tasks.  On the Journal page, there is space to list 3 critical tasks. It is thought that any more than three tasks becomes a distraction and can make one feel overwhelmed. These three tasks should be tasks that are critical to your pottery and towards your goals.  It is always important to review your goals each day.  Next are the secondary tasks.  These are small tasks that you can do that do not require much effort.  Then comes your reward for working so hard.  This section is called “Things I get to enjoy.” Here, be sure to schedule in a few things that you do that is relaxing. This section is also a good place to write in what you are grateful for.  The fourth section is “If I was living yesterday over, I would have..” This section gives you another chance to look at some things you might need to improve on and begin break cycles that hold you back.  This idea comes from the writer Victor Frankel and his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” .   The “Summery” section of the journal sheet allows you to write down any thoughts or ideas you might have about the previous day or the one that is to come.  The last section of the “”My Pottery Journal” page is that question again “If I live to be 86…”  just to remind us once more just how precious time is.  Lastly, there is a question on if you are enjoying life or not. I do hope you are!


My Pottery Project:

This journal print out page is for those projects you wish to start and keep track of. In the large open section you can draw out sketches of your idea and in the bottom of that section there is a list of art descriptions to help you think about what to add to your work to make it communicate better.  Some of those terms are form, shape, texture, asymmetry, negative space, functionality, and a few others.  The middle section allows you to write in the project name, due date, clay type, glaze, and important dates dealing with firings. At the bottom is a notes section where you can jot down ideas that come to you while you work things out.  Having theses all in a binder will allow you to flip back and forth to see due dates for planning, project progress, and your work has evolved.


My Pottery Kiln Log:

I made up this sheet to make it easier to keep track of firings. When holes are punched in the sheet it can be put in the binder for future reference.  Even if the power goes out you will still have good records of your kiln that you can go back and look at to make changes or to run the same program or schedule.  Simply place a dot on the grid and mark the time and temperature when you check your kiln.  You will be able to see if your kiln is staying on schedule or if you need to make adjustments.  When starting to use a sheet I would fire normally to get a good centerline record of what the kiln does.  That way you might be able to detect issues earlier if you see things going out of the base centerline schedule.    At the bottom of the “My Pottery Kiln Log” is a section to write in the time, warm up , soak, and other important information. The note section will allow you to write in observations or learnings you had while firing, any changes you made, or what issues you might have had during the firing.


My Pottery Troubleshooting Guide:

I wanted to include this in with the packet to make it easier to think through issues you might run into. The system I used is one that is used in manufacturing, and it is called the 6W2H.
By asking Where, When, Why, What, Who, Which, How, and How much, problems can be narrowed down and bring you to root cause. This video explains 6W2H at length if you can withstand to hear the robot reading to you. The middle section of the troubleshooting worksheet allows you to put in the root cause when you find it and what you did to fix it.  I also placed in a section for part numbers,  help numbers, and other important information so if the issue happens again you will have a sheet on file right in your binder. This will save you time by saving what the fix was rather than trying to remember.  This sheet also can help with reminding you to do preventive maintenance, or doing checks on things before they fail, causing you downtime before that big show.

The full “My Pottery” packet of PDFs can be downloaded below for free at no cost to you!  Let me know how I can make it better and also let me know if it helps you in any way.  Now I need to go make pots as I am way behind.  Happy potting!

PDF sheets for download are listed below:

MyPotteryGoals
mypotterykilnlog
mypotteryproject
potterytroubleshooting
mypotteryjournal

If you enjoy these worksheets sheets and tools, you may also like the Pottery Cost Analysis sheet I made up here.

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

For many artists, art isn’t their day job. Something else is their day job, like teaching, fast-food, manufacturing, or even being a homemaker and raising children. That means they make art on the side in their time off. It is a constant struggle for these artists to have a healthy work/life balance. This post is no answer to that struggle as we all go through our own valleys and do what art we can when we can, but it might offer some advice. I am struggling with this myself and I want you to know you are not alone. Here are some helpful tips as I try to stay balanced.

 

Have a Good “Why”

 

Knowing why you make art in the first place and having a goal or reason far beyond yourself can be extremely helpful when you find yourself juggling a day job and creating art. Having a higher cause will help you keep going, even in small steps, if your “why” is something you feel strongly about, an issue you would like to make better, or work to make change on a larger scale in society.  Once you find a good “why” no “how” or “what” will keep you from reaching your goals.

Simon Sinek wrote a great book on the topic called “Start With Why”  In his book Sinek explains how to motivate yourself and also to inspire others to take action.   Below is a video where Sinek discusses the topic of finding your why.

 

 

Schedule Everything

 

I work at a paper plant and the job requires us to work 12-hour swing shifts switching between days and nights. At times after a long shift, I might not feel like making pots.  I found that if I schedule everything and write it out, I can better plan for family time, reading, and other things I need to do. I put everything in a journal.  I have a few nice templates I use with my journal to make layout easy. There are a million ways to create a journal layout.  I use the tips found here, but find a layout that is best for you and start filling it in. If you wish not to do journaling, purchasing a planner is another way to get things more organized.

I don’t always keep to the schedule, but at least it is written down in a journal I am able to review the tasks and goals then work to change things to get back on track. One of the issues I have with a schedule is I tend to beat myself up for not being able to complete everything. Try to set realistic goals and plan for only three major tasks a day. If it happens to be a work day I only schedule two tasks.  That means if you are tired after night shift, it might be fine to take a nap, then spend time with family before making pottery.

 

 

 

Find Wasted Time

 

One of the areas that I have trouble with when creating art while having a day job is wasting time. Once, I mapped out my entire day and tracked what I actually spent my time on. I found that while I complained about not having enough time for things I enjoyed and making pots, I did have time to spend hours on social media. I then feel terrible about all the wasted time and try to do better. It’s a slow process.

Wasted time does not always need to be on social media and our phones, but it can be time wasted on relationships that bring us down, or people commenting mean and unhelpful things. I quickly realized not all feedback should be valued the same, and had I listened to many of those people, I would have given up. It is possible to work hard and not give up on the wrong things. I try and ask myself “If I was living today a second time, what would I do?” It takes practice to cut out wasted time and replace it with things we enjoy. I am still practicing. See my post here on procrastination.

 

Think Long Term

 

The turtle wins the race. Making good art to sell while working a day job might take time and practice. It also takes time to build a community of followers and buyers who enjoy what you do and love what you make. At times I need to stop and think long term and see each step, big or small, as a step closer towards the goal I set for myself.

Many feel disappointed when they have a bad month of sales after only a few months in business, or when they fall short of projects. But thinking long term can help you to be kinder to yourself. Remember to not only set one-year goals, but also five and ten year goals. If we see it as a marathon rather than a sprint, we can enjoy the journey more and not feel so stressed about not being where we think we should be.

 

Stop Worrying About Others

 

I find myself getting distracted when I stop and look around at what others are doing. I might see a larger shop doing much better and start feeling down about where I am and think about giving up. Or I may look at small shops to make myself feel better and forget to have empathy and remember what it was like to be just starting out.

Artists who work day jobs may get picked on by family, friends, and even those who do art full time. Those we know and work with may make fun of our efforts at making art to sell. At times professional artists might gaslight you into thinking you have to go all in with art or else you are doing it wrong. But going all in might not be the best decision if you have others who depend on you. It’s your story so tell it the way you like. Who cares what others think?

 

Use Your Job Skills in Your Art

 

No matter what industry you work in, your day job skills and processes can be applied to making your art and running your small business. Accounting, project management, social media management, manufacturing processes, or IT can come in handy when you apply what you do each day while you build your art business.

Like your day job, be sure to learn new skills. In art, you do not need to be worried about processes failing or plans not working out as you now are free to explore and learn from issues and troubleshooting. In art, solving one issue simply means you move on to the next problem to solve. Use your day job to work to your advantage. If it was not for my day job, I would not have been able to start my pottery studio.

 

 

I hope that today after work you take the time to do one thing, if you can, towards your goals on making art. I will try to do the same. I wrote this while on lunch break at the paper factory at three in the morning. I hope to go home to my pottery studio and make a ware board of mugs.   I will make them for my “why,” for myself first and then for you all. Some time back, I started a little group on Facebook called “Pottery After Work”. I thought it might be nice to chat with others who make pots while working a full time job.  I need to revive the group and interact more.   I do hope this post helps at least one person to start managing making art while working better. Let me know in the comments!

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

No ship is coming in, so stop waiting to be rescued off the island.
Put in the work to build and dig out your own canoe to paddle.
No one will make the art for you.  Things may not work out. But just start anyway.
With art, you are not simply a replaceable cog in a guaranteed process.
There is no one like you.
It’s your story, so start telling it how you like.
Who cares what others think.
No one else can tell your story for you.
Do one thing towards your goal each day, no matter how big or small.
You will fail, as failure is part of the process.
Art and creating is what moves us forward outside the systems.
Be different, Be bold, See non-conformity as a strength.

Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

 

I had a whole week off from my job at the paper factory, and I should have used that time for making pots. I have a few shows on the way, but for some reason, I did not feel like going into the studio. I did many things to avoid making pots, and then tried to justify the things I was doing to validate myself. I began to wonder if I was beating myself up too much about it. I did take time for self-care. I read some great books, went to visit family, helped at a small vendor show, and made out direction-setting plans for the pottery. I even wrote a few blog articles. But even still, I felt as if I got nothing done.

Work Energy

I decided to read the book Work Energy by Jim Harmer. Jim is a blogger and runs the web content business called Income School. He had some terrific tips for working things out on the topic of procrastinating. Harmer in his book thought that at times we might be overwhelmed by a bunch of ideas. He suggests starting a bucket list, even if you are not sure you will do everything on it. Harmer says you should think about the list as things you might dream about. Then Harmer suggests picking one of those things you wrote down and make one small step towards the goal, no matter how small. Harmer believes just taking the first step towards a goal may prompt us to do a bit more.

Another great idea in the book Work Energy was to try an idea for a month or more to see if you enjoy it or not. This gives a person time to work though the issues rather than giving up too early. Harmer thought we might need to get through the boring period before we start seeing progress. He calls this period “groundhog day.” Like in the movie Groundhog Day, things repeated. When tasks become repetitive, we may need to put our head down and “groundhog” through the issues and boring parts.

The book also pointed out how we might get distracted by new ideas and feel overwhelmed. This means we should put our heads down and concentrate on the things that get us 90% of the progress before we try other ideas or modifications. A lot of patience is needed, and plans should be made for the long term. Many times, we may procrastinate by thinking we need more time to get ready, but no time like the present! Today is a suitable time to start. Work Energy was a delightful book to read and Harmer’s rags-to-riches story on writing blogs and giving photo classes online was inspiring in showing how simply taking the first step can be the solution to ending procrastinating.

 

Organize Tomorrow Today

 

Another book I read was Organize Tomorrow Today by Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow. I thought I was procrastinating because I was disorganized. I tried everything under the sun to work things out and make things easier so I would stop procrastinating. Organize Tomorrow Today has eight ways to retrain your mind. Now friends, I’m not sure about you all, but anything that makes such claims I end up being skeptical of. But the good Dr. Selk had a list and some things on it merged nicely with the last book we discussed above.

  • . Organize Tomorrow Today
  • . Choose Wisely
  • . Maximize Your Time
  • . Win the Fight Through
  • . Learn to Talk to Yourself
  • . Learn to Talk with Others
  • . Be Abnormal

The book has processes for each of the eight sections. To go through them all would take time so I will just cover one section of the book that was most helpful to me. The section “Win the Fight Through” was about working past the first few days when the task is easy and continuing when the task gets hard. In my experience, when I first start something, it might be easy to do the first few days but gets harder as time goes on.

For example, one time I thought it would help my procrastination to show up for myself and each day make up ten pots. Ten pots for seven days is seventy pots a week. I was able to push through at least three days of making pots, but then I had a rough day at the paper factory. I was really tired and did not want to make pots that day. So, I missed a day and then became comfortable and missed a few after that. Winning the fight through, according to Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow, might take a few tools. If I were to ritualize the task and schedule it in no matter what, it may help in pushing through the challenging times.

The next tool is recognizing roadblocks that keep us from doing the task we wish to do each day. Once you know what is blocking you, it is easier to plan a way to counteract the issue. Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow say to ask yourself the questions, “How would I feel if I were to do the task?” and then “How would I feel to not do the task?” Next, think about your quality of life and how the decision for change might affect you.

 

Do The Work

 

I was still having a tough time as I enjoyed reading about procrastination far more then working on it and all those pots still needed to be made. Then came the real hitter. Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. Folks, let me tell you, this was hard to read because Pressfield was not shy about pulling punches and telling me what I needed to work on. The book was on the topic of resistance, or all the things that might keep us from doing the work. Pressfield went all out like a Baptist minister telling me my faults and what I needed to do to overcome procrastination. He even mentioned a bunch of other issues I didn’t even know I had.

I was at the paper factory reading Do the Work and it told me that I needed to go all in if I wanted to be happy and do my true calling. This book almost made me quit my job until I remembered Pressfield would not be paying health insurance for my wife as I was the sole bread winner. But what he was saying was all true. I did not need better systems, better apps, better scheduling, or better time management. I needed to simply do the work.

 

2-minute Rule


A video I  enjoyed was the 2-minute rule. This idea has you complete tasks that are two minutes or less to get you started working.  The video below explains it in a real good way.

 

 

What I discovered is that each person might be different and have varied reasons why they procrastinate. Some may have a fear of starting due to the fear of failure. Others worry about what others may think of them if they mess up. Many may justify doing other things instead of what they know needs to be done. I decided to simply show up and make five mugs. If I could make five mugs, I might be able to make ten. And ten mugs would be a great start.

I promised myself I would not define myself by my last mistake. Today is a new day, another chance to take a step towards finishing my goals. I learned I do not need to be perfect; I can go slow as its the turtle that wins the race. I need to stop comparing myself to others and not take personally what others think (unless they are good friends and are trying to help me out). We are all working on something, even if it is working to avoid the work we need to do.

How do you deal with procrastination? Let me know in the comments!

 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

 

“And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon, and this word first the goddesses said to me – the Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis: “Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.”      – Theogony by Hesiod, English translation by Evelyn White

 

Many people may ask me where I get my inspiration. Artist or not, we all get inspired to do something, something that drives us into action. Many say, “Follow your passion!” In my observation, passions can change after you have pursued them for a while. “Follow your passion!” also assumes it is something of good. If your passion was stealing cars it could cause you a bad time. Something more than passion needs to drive a person as at times I do not feel all that passionate about clay when pots crack.  A video I thought was helpful on the topic of following your passion can be found here. You may realize, after all the effort, you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would when you first started. But to start, folks believe they might need to be inspired or moved to action by some “trigger”. Here are a few things that “trigger” me. 

 

 

Reading & Research

 

When I was younger, I loved to read and had a small library of books that I enjoyed. I read many of The Hardy Boys books and Little House on the Prairie. I was terrible at reading and spelling until the 5th grade, when I had to do a book report. The experience was so moving that I still remember which book it was. The Hardy Boys: The Secret of Pirate’s Hill. I earned an A. I realized learning could be fun and took off reading like there was no tomorrow. While reading in my free time, I learned English grammar and spelling. My grades improved the more I read, and by high school, I was doing much better.

When I attended Keystone College in my home state of Pennsylvania for art, I met a guy who had piles of books all around him in the snack bar. His name was Richard. He was surrounded by books as he was studying ancient near eastern literature. Loving literature myself, we connected immediately. When we became friends, I went to Office Max with him to photocopy parts of books (as this was before the internet and the texts he was using would cost hundreds to own). It was at this point also that I was introduced to world religion by the librarian named Dr. Elliott. Dr. Elliot taught a world religion class and gave students permission to sit in and listen. She went over the ideas of Joseph Campbell and a bit of the psychologist Carl Jung. This led me to read the book The Power of the Myth by Joseph Campbell.  Between my buddy Richard and Dr. Elliot, I learned how important reading and research was to learning and applying it to my work.

 

 

Nature

 

I also get prompted to action by nature and love color and natural texture patterns. Before I made pots, I loved to go winter camping and hiking. I used to do all of this with my buddy Stephen. I even had a fun channel about my adventures outside. You may view those terrible old-time videos here. Taking the long hikes, up to 3 days or more, gave one plenty of time to spend with oneself and work things out surrounded by color and texture. Sitting in a field of grass with a good friend, making meals on a small cook burner as the sun set made an impression on my mind. The community of camping with friends made its mark as well. In times past, each Memorial Day and Labor Day we would camp with our college friends and loved ones and have grill fests. We would all bring our favorite dishes to show off and share. At night, sitting up late around the fire chatting and joking impressed upon me the community feeling that all was right in the world at that moment where we were. 

Nature shows up in my work in the texture patterns. I often use natural patterns in my pots, mostly the texture patterns of tree bark and things pressed into the clay like stones, plants, and other natural found objects. In the past, I use to layer these patterns, creating line and shape contrasted with color and glaze. I enjoyed using and feeling the raw, unglazed sections of the pots, and tried to leave parts unglazed to show off the clay’s natural beauty. Firing reduction in gas changes the glaze colors to the earth tones that I grew to love and enjoy.

 

 

 

Themes of Color

 

I am inspired by themes of color. I am not sure how it all works. Maybe I get it from my mom who always needed a matching outfit for every occasion. I always told her if she were to live a second time, she should be a fashion critic. Even at 86 years young, she still calls and asks what glaze colors I am running for the shows so she can dress accordingly when she helps as a greeter. Last year for the fall show, I ran all the colors from a single pail of glaze.

Depending on the shelf it was fired on, how hot the pots got, and what the atmosphere was like in the kiln, I was able to produce a wide range of work all from the same glaze that matched the color of the October seasonal fall look. Another show I was inspired by was the 2020 Christmas show called Blue Christmas. All the pots for this also were done from one pail of glaze. I was relieved when the blues came out beautifully to meet the expectations of those who stopped by to see.

The set-up for that show matched somewhat how I imagined it. I also think about these when working out collections for the shows. I try to get customer feedback and pair that with some ideas of work that can match in color or theme. I very much enjoyed the rolled rim mixing bowls and flattened rimmed handles on the batter bowls and bakers.

 



 

 

 

Be Like a Sponge

 

Inspiration can come in many forms, and many times we may not know from where. The ancients tell us about the muses, gods, or God. I try to expose myself to many things, absorb as much as I can and let it come out of my hands and into my creations. Not all of it ends up being well received, and I may spend far too much time working hard on the wrong things. But those times when inspiration hits your total concentration can be a fair and foul thing when you are driven to create, do the work, and get it to the right people as a gift. What I do know is I would make the pots even if no one else cared or bought them. I would still pile my ideas high to see where it would go or where it might end up. Mug one is far different to mug 120! So, what inspires you? What drives you to action? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

“Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other
gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar.
But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter
went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.
Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under
they feasted, nor was anyone’s hunger denied a fair portion,
nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo,
nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing. ”

– The Iliad, By Homer, Book 1 

 

 

The Mixing Bowl

 

One of the most useful pottery forms (besides common mugs or soup bowls) are mixing bowls. Mixing bowls are diverse and can be used in many ways. A large bowl makes a great centerpiece, like on a kitchen counter or dining table with fruit inside. Large mixing bowls are also useful for baking and mixing recipes, raising bread dough, or soaking beans.

 

 

To make a mixing bowl, I start with 8 to 10 lbs. of clay. I knead the clay to get the air pockets out and mold into a cone shape. This makes it easier to center on the wheel. In the past, I have also added smaller lumps of kneaded clay on top of each other to make the cone while it’s on the wheel head.

I then place the large cone on the wheel head and turn the wheel by hand, slapping the cone while rotating the wheel to center it. I stand to throw and have my wheel up on blocks. This helps me prevent back injuries from being hunched over. 

 

Throwing the Bowl

 

When the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, I cone it up and down a few times to center the clay throughout the whole lump. I then flatten the cone on the top, pushing down to compress the clay. Now it is time to open the clay.

I roll my thumbs in and push down until I have about a 1/2-inch base. I pull the clay out, creating the floor. I still leave the clay narrow (like making a vase) and pull up for height before pulling out. At this point, it is important to compress the sides and rim after each pull up. 

 

 

Once the height is achieved, I pull out the sides and create the bowl shape the way I like. Sometimes I use a small mirror on the other side to see the shape from the back. Once the shape is how I want it, I then compress the sides and top some. I take a rib and compress and shape the inside, removing any ridges or grooves that could catch a spoon. For this, I use a large throwing rib or a plastic pizza cutter.

 

Now the inside is compressed and shaped, I cut the top rim with the pin tool to even it out. I then compress the rim and thin it to prepare it to be rolled. I carefully roll the rim over and compress the underside. A rolled rim seems to strengthen the bowl, which helps it keep shape during drying and kiln firings. I cut the bowl off the throwing bat with the wire tool and let it stiffen up.

 

Drying and Trimming

 

Once the bowl is stiff enough to handle being flipped, I turn it upside down and expose the bottom to air. It is important to let the bottoms dry first. Once it’s leather hard, I trim the bowl and make sure it has even thickness in both the sides and bottom. Even thickness prevents cracking from uneven drying. 

 

It is possible to speed dry if bottoms are put to heat to dry first. Some set their large bowls upside down in the sun, upright on a kiln lid, or set on metal shelving over a wood stove to heat the bottoms and dry all the way through.

 

When the bowls are bone dry, they can be loaded into the bisque kiln. Center and top shelves are good for bowls, as they need more even heating. If using a gas kiln, they need to be protected from the direct flame and the kiln needs to be heated slowly until just after red heat. Once the kiln reaches bisque temperature, the bowls should cool slowly to prevent cracking from thermal shock. Now the large bowl is ready to glaze.

 

Glazing the Bowl

 

I blow into the large bowl to remove any dust, then fill the bowl to the rim with glaze from a 5-gallon pail after stirring it well with a paint mixer attachment on a drill. Then I dump it out. Depending on the glaze’s gravity, it may need to be done twice if thin. I let the bowl dry completely.

 

To glaze the outside of the bowl, I dump glaze into a large tub, then hold the bowl upside down and at a slight angle. I dunk the bowl and then turn it straight to create an even glaze line about a 3/4 inch up from the bottom. I pull the bowl out and let it dry. Wait for the drips to stop before carefully turning it upright. 

 


 


Firing The Bowls

Once dry, the bowl is ready to fire. I make sure no glaze is on the bottom and even up the lines if I need to. I load the bowls in the kiln. For my kiln, a gas firing takes about 6 hours to reach cone 6 or 2223F. The kiln then cools for 24 hours before it is opened and unloaded.


After being unloaded, I check the bowls for cracks. I then wash them out and send them off to their new homes, post them online, or take them to area shops for sale.

 

I do hope you enjoyed this little post on how bowls are made!   Have you tried to make large bowls?  How would you use a large mixing bowl?  Let us know in the comments!

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

You Can Do It!

By firing manual you can get to know your kiln, better understand the firing process, and even manipulate the work by making changes to the firing schedule. This is good practice especially for beginners learning the firing process and firing techniques. It is my opinion that when firing out work in a kiln you need to be there through the whole process as it’s like giving birth. It is quite simple to do but just takes a bit of monitoring and being able to see the correct cones inside the kiln when it is hot and knowing when to shut the kiln off or start the warm down.

The Sermon

Even though many kilns are digital or use a cone sitter, I am a hardcore manual kiln fire guy. Which means I fire all my kilns , even bisque fire, with shelf cones. Now I will not preach at you like a baptist minister if you choose to fire digital shut off or use a sitter, but in my opinion you are depending on luck to shut down each load. Mistakes like putting in the wrong cone number digitally, wrong hold time, improper sitter set up, improper cone set up in the sitter, or the sitter cone melting in a strange way and not shutting down all can cause a kiln to over fire. I witnessed a kiln melt down when I was a young wart hog and ever since fired manual. Kilns can be like children playing in a sandbox next to the road. For the most part they will be fine but if you forget to check on them in no time flat they will be out playing in traffic. You do not want your kiln to be out playing in traffic. Forgetting your kiln could result in a melt down where all the work shelves and posts become like taffy stuck in there. If you simply do a google search for kiln meltdown you will see some amazing images of things that happened when folks had a bad time with their kilns. You will still have a bad time with your kiln even if monitoring it but those bad times will be less painful and disaster averted by taking corrective action. Amen.

Proper Setup

It depends on what types of shelf cones you have. Cones measure both temperature and work heat. If you use a pyrometer to check your kiln, you will only know temperature. Pyrometers do not measure work heat. Some shelf cones need to be placed in a cone pack while others are self standing. I like to use self standing cones in the peepholes and place them on a small piece of kiln shelf or post. When placing them in the cone pack, be sure to research the recommended angle by the cone manufacture. I set the cone almost to the edge of the shelf, so they are easy to see inside when things heat up, and it all looks the same color. At high temperature, you might be able to make out just a slight outline. Some say not to place it near posts or near elements, but I like it right out in front. Be sure your cone will not attach its self to a pot when it bends, cones like personal space.

Looking in There

When things heat up hotter than a goats butt in a pepper patch it might be hard to see the cone. When you look in there it is best to use welding glasses as you do not want to damage your eyes over the long run. Also, if firing with gas pull the plug and wait a bit as if the kiln is in reduction you may have flames shooting out the peephole. So when you look in there be aware of that flame or you can lose eyebrows or catch your good flannel shirt on fire. Now look in there real slow and find the outline. I try and place the cones in front of a pot to see it better. Another technique is to shine a flashlight in the and have the light reflect off the cone. You can also blow into the hole to slightly cool the cone to see the outline. At times if I was not sure and cold not see it I shut down the kiln to be surer than restarted.

Reading the Cone

Be sure to look at the chart put out by the cone manufacture. Orton has a free chart that you can download here.

Also, be sure to check the cone manufacture bend chart. You can see an example here.

Checking the Kiln

Each kiln is different But here is the schedule I use for both bisque and glaze fire to cone 5/6 when firing manual.

Hour 1 & 2 – Check each hour
Hour 3&4 – Check each 30 min
Hour 5 to Cone Drop – Check every 15 min

Below are some examples and tips on what the cone will look like inside the kiln and suggestions on when you might want to shut it down.

When to Shut It Down

Each kiln is different and the rate of the cone drop will change based on temperature and work heat.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, say a cone 5 shelf cones and you want a cone 5 firing, you want to shut it down at the slight bend.

Below is what a slight bend looks like base off the recommended bend chart of Orton.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, a cone 5 shelf cone, and you want a cone 5.5 firing, you want to shut it down at the half bend.
I go to the half bend for most of my firings. By going to the half bend you can properly bring to temperature shelves that may be running a bit cooler slightly.
A half bend for a cone 5.5 firing will look like this:

If you have cone 5 shelf cones and would like a cone 6 firing, you would do a full cone bend. It will look like this:

If you are all out of cones and only have a cone 5 shelf cones and would like to fire to cone 6.5 you would do a full bend plus 15 min.
It will look like this:

If you missed a check because you fell a sleep or the cows got out you can still tell about how much time you missed as you will have hard full bends and soft full bends. A soft full bend the cone will look like melted chocolate but be blistered and bubbled out but not a puddle. It will look a bit like below. Here I was out of cone 6 but used a cone 5 plus 30 min to reach a cone 7 for a bottom shelf. So I intentionally over fired to bring to temp a cone 7 glaze test on a bottom shelf.

All the checks might seem excessive, but help to catch mistakes early and also allow you to make correction. In my gas kilns I can see if the kiln is heating correctly, if the firing is going to slow or fast based on color. Also, when testing firing techniques or a new shelf configuration, how big or small the load is or doing holds. All the checks paid off and saved loads and prevented over fires. I have over fired, but only from falling a sleep and missing the last 15 min. Thank goodness my wife woke me and I only lost 1 shelf of pots to blistering. You can also check cone that did not bend to get an idea of how much off you were on the under fire. A cone that did not bend but at all might be like glass and have gloss say it was close to reaching temperature for example.

Do you fire digital or manual? Do you have any questions about firing manual? Let me know!

Al Wayman
Artist/ Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for my newsletter and become a raging fan.

Here is the link to the Pottery Cost Analysis for those who have small business and would love to add things up per unit.  I also added a few conversions to the chart and also the Profit First accounting /banking database.   Feel free to use the database and change things up and also if you can give me some suggestions on things you would like me to add to make things better.  Not all expenses are on this database, but there is plenty of room to add them in. Many hardliners will have you add up everything, including the kitchen sink. While the more you calculate, the more accurate your analysis will be. But in the long run even knowing a ballpark range is a far better than nothing at all.

Take and use this at your own risk.  To the best of my knowledge at this time, this database in virus free.

Download the Excel Pottery Cost Analysis calculator Here!

Glad I can help!


Al Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

More information:

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine.Hardcover – February 21, 2017 by  Mike Michalowicz

“Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More.”  Paperback – January 19, 2021 by Donald Miller

Ask Mike- What Percentage To Allocate Toward Profit Using Profit First?  

 

 

Eating your own dog food was thought of as positive in the past. It gave owners, creators, and makers of a product a semi customer based view of a product before release. However, many times the testing and feedback was heavily influenced by corporate culture where many issues went unnoticed. Now days, it is thought that taking it straight to the customer in a small sampling without influence yields the best results to see how customers actually use the product and what problems they solve. In “eating your own dog food” creators may be blind to usability and may have the knowledge to make their creations work that a normal user will lack. “If I am only for myself, what am I? ” – Hillel the Elder, Mishnah Avot 1:14

“I don’t want to talk about my idea because someone else might steal it.”

In short, this is simply a list of things that will not get done. If you eat your own dog food in this area, you will not be able to network and collaborate those key elements you need to produce an end product to the customer. If you keep all these earth-shattering ideas to yourself, you will not be able to hire people who are far better than you to formulate and run the many parts of development you might be terrible at. We also learn by messing up and having patience. Keeping everything under lock and key means creating or launching when everything is perfect, which translates to not launching at all. At times 70% is fine and done is better than perfect. The user and customer will tell you what changes and improvements need to be made. But keeping everything in a vault locked down is a sure way to not be action driven.

“I don’t like to copy work, so I try not to expose myself to remain original.”

Not exposing your self to other ideas or work to remain original can sink you like a rock as it closes you off to finding solutions to fix problems in a better way based off of existing products or ideas. While you remain original in your cave, things on the outside are always changing while you only see the shadows. This in turn can run your business into the ground, eating your own dog food as you refuse to pivot or take advantage of a flaw your competitor might have. Once your style has run its course over time, you will wonder why sales are tanking as your customer base dwindles or dies off. Some creators are songwriters and others are Disk Jockeys. There is a need for both. Jay-Z doesn’t have the time to work wedding parties. It’s ok to expose yourself and soak up the world and what it has to offer like a sponge, and let that run out in your creativity and imagination. Stuck on what to do next for your work or product? Ask the customer.

“I had this great idea, but it was already done by someone else.”

Another list of things that did not get done. Those other people may not have produced it the way you had in mind. You could still run with the idea and make a great competing product with better features or simply better advertising. Some great products failed because they launch to no one, and others who made junk did well as they showed it to people in a far better way. Coke and Pepsi both are huge players in the soft drink industry. Imagine if John Stith Pemberton did not move forward with his idea of a soda. Simply because a thing was already done does not disqualify others from engaging and staking out some market share for yourself.

“I only use products I create.”

Many times I have heard creators and product based businesses say they only use products they themselves create. This has always been strange to me as “eating your own dog food” limits your exposure to the competition and features others may use in problem-solving. Fencing yourself off with only your ideas can be a sure way to sinking a great idea or product, no matter what you make. It also closes you off from being able to change in real time to solve problems customers are having, as the only thing that breaks you from the echo chamber of group think is bankruptcy. There are chefs and there are cooks. Chefs create the recipes the cooks follow. You need to work out which you are and own it. There is a market for both cooks and chefs to the right people. Not to many high-end chefs run catering businesses. They hire it out to cooks. Today, community building and giving value is far more important than dog food, and profit a by-product. I need to go work on some berry bowls a customer helped me design. Did you know the holes had to be small so the blueberries do not fall out the bottom? I had no idea! It’s a good thing I asked!

Artist /Owner
Al Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Further Reading:

“The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce.” November 6, 2015 By Tim Urban.

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition Paperback – Illustrated, November 5, 2013 by Don Norman.

The Nature and Aesthetics of Design Paperback – Illustrated, September 28, 2007 by David Pye.

“Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More.” Paperback – January 19, 2021 by Donald Miller

Hey reader! Let me know what you think on the topic by leaving a comment!