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“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

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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!