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. From that, I was able to figure out my normal amount of household kilowatts used per day during that time, also. Then I fired the kiln, 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 even due to time of day. 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/sound bells?
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 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. Check out Practical Art, around Christmas time, for some of these.
Sound bells are a passive sound amplification vessel for cell phones or MP3 players. You rest your device in the slot provided, and the device slightly increases the sound, without being plugged in. It's a modest volume increase, but it can be effective in certain environments. I'm experimenting with some designs, but I'm not sure when I'll have these ready for market.
So, are you writing anything else?
Sure. Lots of stuff. Nothing quite ready for market yet, but soon...
Is there going to be a "Book Four" in the Consolidation series?
I think Maggie's story is finished, but I have ideas for other characters in the universe. I'm working on something that I call "Rochelle's Story" (although I need a better title than that). Rochelle is a minor character introduced briefly at the end of Consolidation: Book Two, and has a minor part to play in Book Three. However, she has an interesting background and perspective on the Superflu pandemic. She was living in Washington DC, during the pandemic, and had a much more difficult time with the experience, than Maggie did. And of course, if I write Rochelle's story, then I have to write Kevin's story, too. Sign up for my newsletter, to be notified when material is ready for public viewing!
In addition to this, I feel like I left some things open ended and unresolved, in the Consolidation universe. There are situations going on in other cities, where things aren't going quite as well as they are in Chandler. Those are opportunities for more stories, as well. Those ideas are still simmering in the back of my brain, at the moment.
A pandemic disaster story is pretty grim. You don't really think the world will really end in an apocalypse, do you?
People have been predicting the end of the world, ever since the world began. And still, this chunk of rock keeps hurtling around a middling star at the edge of a spiral arm of the galaxy, without much change in billions of years. Sure, disasters happen. Lives get destroyed. And yet, humanity is a highly invasive species. We continue to adapt and survive. Not all of us. But enough of us.