People ask all kinds of interesting questions about making pottery. Here are a few of the most common ones I get:
How long did it take you to make that mug/luminaria/vase?
X years and counting. Any craft is a skill that improves and grows with time. Everything I make contributes to the next piece in progress.
What’s a bisque firing?
A bisque firing is a partial firing, where the chemical water is evaporated out of the clay. At the molecular level, clay is composed of alumina, silica, and water. A bisque firing goes part of the way up to maximum temperature, in order to remove the water molecule bonded to the clay molecule (I bisque to cone 06, or 1828 degrees F). It also partially crystallizes the remaining alumina and silica, making the piece more durable. While not strictly necessary, it’s a common practice in modern ceramic studios. Bisque ware is very porous and better able to absorb the glaze that will be applied later.
Your electric bill must be enormous. How much does it cost to fire your kiln?
Surprisingly, not that much. A few years ago, I calculated the costs of a bisque firing, and a glaze firing. By using my electric utility’s online website, I was able to determine the average cost of a kilowatt hour for a short period (2 weeks) before I fired. And I was able to figure out my normal amount of household kilowatts used per day during that time, also. Then I fired, and noted the increase in the number of kilowatts consumed during that time. Subtract the normal average, from the larger number (firing day), and multiply by the average cost per kilowatt hour. In my area (Valley of the Sun, Arizona), these costs can vary widely during the year. And our local utility continuously adjusts rates depending on overall demand and availability. However, even with seasonal fluctuations, I can generally cover the cost of the electricity, by selling at least one pot from the kiln load.
Are you selling online? Are you on Etsy? Where can I find more of your work?
Etsy is a great site, but at the moment, I spend 8 to 10 hours a day on the computer for my day job; I don’t want to spend even more time constantly posting and updating an Etsy shop, which is pretty much required in order to be successful there. Selling items via ecommerce on my own website requires a level of constant maintenance that I am not able to commit to, at the moment.
Where do you sell your work?
Do you ever make those French butter keepers/yarn bowls/silverware drainer jars?
There are lots of fads that make their way around the ceramics communities. Ultimately, any forms that I make, are items that I regularly use in my own home. I don’t do butter keepers because I keep my butter in a regular bowl; I never found it necessary to keep it fresh by dunking it in water. I’ve sometimes make yarn bowls, but the market for this is pretty limited (at least, here in Arizona, where knitting sweaters and other warm clothing just doesn’t appeal quite as much as it might in a colder climate). A silverware drainer is a utensil jar with holes in the bottom, to go next to (or in) the sink. I haven’t tried to market this one yet.