The Mission: to explore, create and inspire!

thePatientPotter is a blog that is designed to encourage and inspire fellow Potters and Entrepreneurs as it takes them through the challenges and triumphs of a 'potter on a mission'.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back to producing...

Well, yesterday was my first day back in the studio after a whole week. It felt good. The last time I was in the studio was 3 days before Christmas. I was finishing up a special order that I delivered today - forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it away though... this picture is after the bisque fire. You may have seen this photo on my flickr site.

It is always interesting going back into the studio after a rush of producing and then the necessary 'days off' that come after. I don't know about you, but by the end of a particularly busy production run, you're not really into cleaning up the final messes you made. So, when you walk into your studio after a hiatus, you instantly get hit with the emotions of that last run. You see evidence of the frantic pace that you kept, and you shiver. But then you smile because you don't feel like that now. You are relaxed and ready to start again.

On this next wave of production, I have two commitments I need to produce for; Trade Days on January 4-6th and the gallery in Claremore that is down to only 1 red clay piece in stock.

What I want to produce is:
Bread Bakers
$20-25 Red Clay pieces

Everything has to be created in the next day or two in order for me to complete pieces in time for Trade Days in 7 days. So here we go...

The first thing I did yesterday was to clean up the studio! Start fresh.

My studio is in the basement and it has no piped in heat. I noticed that it was much colder than a week ago. Time to get the heater out. I had to let it run for several hours before I could comfortably be in my studio. I also do not have any hot water so the water is extremely cold coming out of the faucet. It is one of the things I do not like about this studio. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I dislike being cold. Last winter I used a coffee maker to heat up water for cleaning up but by Spring it had quick working. I will need to find something else.

After cleaning I wedged up some stoneware and threw 10 bread bakers. I will trim these today as well as throw some red clay pieces. I also want to start designing the 4 pots I have in the leatherhard stage.

I love being in the studio! It's good to be back!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tour Bus

Something good happened to me the other day that will no doubt change my life forever.

A charter tour bus company called me and wanted to know if I was capable of being a regular stop for some of their tours. My first reaction was 'yes!' but once we got to talking it was obvious that my place was not equipped to handle 35-40 people (some senior citizens) coming to visit on a huge charter bus. We ended the converstation with me saying 'don't forget about me, I'll call you when I'm ready'.

Wow! This is better than the vision I've had in my head for so long. Since the day I moved into this house I have wanted to make it into a Bed & Breakfast for Route 66 travelers and fellow potters. I wanted a full studio built off to the side of the property and a sidewalk leading from my house to the studio. The studio would have its own separate drive and parking area. My dream also included my daughter serving fancy coffee and pastries to my visitors.

I immediately went and told my husband about the phone call I received and at first it was 'that's a shame we can't accomodate them. oh well.' Not satisfied that he saw the potential of tour busses coming to my studio, I called my son Nick, who I knew would be as jazzed as I was. Sure enough he was and he told me not to give up on this. An hour later my husband comes into my office with this brillant idea on how we could make this a reality. Yeah! It's a great plan too!

We will basically create my vision without building the studio right away. We will create a separate drive and parking area that will accomodate large busses. Then we will move my studio into the garage and create an area in the courtyard by the garage that will accomodate lots of people touring the studio and/or sitting and watching demonstrations. Off of the courtyard is our formal dining room which will be turned into a snack area/gift shop. The only thing that will require much money is the parking area. It will probably require approval from the city as well.

This is the courtyard off of the dining room and next to the garage.

This is the area that we were thinking of putting the parking and eventually a studio.

I am getting lots of good advice from the potterybasics yahoo group which is wonderful. For those of you who don't know, this is a great egroup for beginning to advanced potters. Ask any question and you'll get answers. They are helping me think this thing through.

The first thing I need to do is draw up a quick plan and approach the city. See what, if any, permits I need or zoning issues I will need to address. I happen to be remodeling my dining room at the moment so I'll just finish it according to our new plans. Moving the studio to the garage will have to be done at a later date because what's in the garage will need to be moved to the new barn that is scheduled to be built next month.

The charter bus company was looking at May as being the first tour she would like to do. We are optimistic that this could all be accomplished by then - if we stay on top of it.

I'll keep you posted...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Trade Days a Success!

Trade Days was a success in my opinion. It was great to be out there with people selling, networking and checking out the competition.

This is what I learned from doing this show - the first show I've done in over 5 years.

#1 - People are starting to know who Bradley's Pottery is. Yeah! My marketing and networking methods are finally starting to pay off.

#2 - People visiting my booth, loved to hear a good story to go along with their new pottery.

#3 - People enjoyed digging around in my bargain basket looking for buried treasures. It was a great way to clean out my odds and ends and increase my cash flow at the same time.

#4 - By relaxing and enjoying myself, I was able to really interact with my customers which will help in future designing and selling. How did I relax myself? By focusing on learning not selling.

#5 - Everything does not have to be perfect!

#6 - Everything has a 3 year cycle. 1st year - introduce, 2nd year - sell like crazy, 3rd year - on it's way out. This not only applies to your product or design, but with other things as well, such as booth design or selling outlet. Example - I went around and talked to other vendors. One in particular was complaining that her sales were down. This was her 3rd year there. The first year she did good and the 2nd really well. I was one of her regular customers over this 3 year period, and in looking around her booth, I noticed that she had the same items, designs and booth that she has always had. I was ready to see a change. Jan from potterybasics said that this was true of his bread bakers. First year good, 2nd year great, 3rd year ok. Since he said this, I have looked at other things using the 3 year rule and it seems to be a good rule of thumb for a lot of things.

#7 - Being consistent is important. Example: Another vendor said that his sales were down. He said he didn't do this show the last few months and he thinks it hurt him.

#8 - Make a lot of $20-25 red clay items. Every red clay item I had in this price range sold.

I also think that the turnout for Trade Days would be larger if they had more artistic vendors in the group, so I am campaigning to do this.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

2 Days Before Trade Days!

I finally figured out what to do with these ornaments that will not require a lot of hi-temp wire (it's amazing what you can come up with once the stress is removed), I fired these to maturity yesterday so that they would be white. I will now do an acrylic wash on them of a very light color and then seal them with a hi-gloss sealant. They feel a little rough so I will sand each one with my Sand-O-Flex. This is what I am going to spend today doing, sanding, painting, sealing. I think they will be pretty.

Yesterday I also glazed all of my bread bakers so they can go into the kiln today. At least one will be mine and tomorrow after it fires I will test it out in my own kitchen with some bread. This will be the display in our booth. But... look at what happened to 3 of the pots I glazed yesterday!

What the heck happened here!?! I did this same glazing technique on two pieces that I have on Etsy right now. Same clay, same glazes. Same method of application. I will ask the potterybasics group on yahoo that I belong to and see what they come up with. Anyone else with suggestions please comment below. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I had a meltdown yesterday afternoon. Feeling very overwhelmed and over stressed. From past experience I have learned that stress makes you sick so I stopped working and played with my grandson until his bedtime, then I curled up in bed with a good book. Today I feel much better and have decided not to try to do everything. Items that have been put on the backburner...

The Newsletter - Since I have not had a booth at Trade Days yet, I do not know what to expect and figure my booth won't be all that great the first time, so, next month when I know what I'm doing, I will send out the newsletter to announce I am there.

The Ornaments - These are causing me a lot of stress because I'm not sure how I am going to fire them. I need to fire a whole kiln load and don't have enough rods or wire to be able to hang all of these at one time. So these are going on the back burner, I will do them when I get more rods and wire and I guess they will be next years Christmas item.

Removing these two items has taken a heavy load off of me and now I believe I can function. I am also looking at this month's Trade Days as a learning experience not a selling one. This is a trail run and I have changed my expectations. Sales will be the bonus, my goal this month will be to see what this Trade Days thing is all about and to see how I can make this into a profitable avenue for my pottery.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday before Trade Days

We are in high gear for Trade Days coming up this weekend. Yesterday I fired the last load of ornaments and we started glazing the stars and some porcelain beads. Today I will need to make 'S' hangers for each one since we glazed both sides. I have some hi-fire wire and some kiln rods so my plan is to hang each piece, using the wire, across the rod and hope everything works out. Since these are fired at cone 2, not my usual cone, I will need to fill the kiln up with these and hope it's not a disaster. I would love to do a test first, but I can't fire a whole kiln for one small test.
Yesterday I also trimmed these saucers for the herb pots I made. I will have to speed dry them in my oven today so I can bisque fire them. The kiln is going to be scheduled very tightly this week.
Today I also need to start glazing these - some are herb pots, some are mini bread bakers. I think I will start with a couple of each and glaze them in the new 'Worldly' look I'm doing these days.

I have 5 small red clay pots that need to be designed. They are leather hard and ready for slip. I want to work on 1 at a time - these will be art pots and will sell for a minimum of $25.

Today I need to create my newsletter announcing that I will be at Trade Days this weekend. I want it to email out tomorrow.

I also have to work about 4 hours at my 'paying' job today so here is my to-do list for today:

Work 4 hours at my 'paying' job

Make wire hangers

speed dry pots

slip 1 red clay pot

stain and glaze 4 pots

glaze more ornaments

fire whatever's ready

Work on newsletter

Already today I have updated my website, added an item to my Etsy store, and did this blog. It's going to be a busy week!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day after Thanksgiving and back at work!

Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a wonderful day yesterday. It felt good to have a complete day off! We had no out-of-town guest this year so my family and I just ate all day and worked on a 1000 piece puzzle. My husband finished it this morning. It was very nice and relaxing and felt good to be with family all day.

Day after Thanksgiving and all but my husband is back at work. Me, I stained and glazed all day while babysitting my 1 year old grandson. He's a good boy so I did get a lot done. Tomorrow I will fire what I did today. It will take two loads to fire everything I have so I'm debating on whether to separate the special order of 5 jugs into two different kiln loads or to put them all together into one. I'm leaning more towards the two loads just in case there is a problem and I lose a load. Geez, I hope I just didn't jinx myself :o/

The day before Thanksgiving I spent the day throwing mini bread bakers. This is something new that I'm doing on the recommendation from the potterybasics yahoo group I belong to. Apparently these are very successful sellers around Christmas time. This being the first time I threw these, there was a long learning curve. Out of 22 thrown, I kept only 11. They are smaller than I thought they would be which was probably part of my problem. I kept wanting to make them different than they were suppose to be. Not having actually seen or held one before, and only going by a picture, my mind was thinking something different than the instructions were telling me. I did finally get the hang of it and the next group I throw should be better. I hope to make 30 total to take to Trade Days in 2 weeks.

I waited until today to trim them, not wanting to do any work on Thanksgiving but I should have trimmed them yesterday or at least covered them. Normally it takes two days to become leatherhard but it has been so dry in this neck of the woods lately that these were past the leatherhard stage when I went down to my studio to work today. I was bummed but went ahead and trimmed them anyway. They were too dry to stamp my company name like I normally do on the side, so I used black iron oxide as ink to stamp my name on the bottom. We will see if that works. I also lost 1 baker because it slipped out of my hands and broke, so now I'm down to 10. I also want to use one in my own kitchen to test, so really I only have 9 to left sell.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sanded, Rinsed and Ready to Glaze!

My special order customer came by today and ok'd my prototype for his 5 Grecian pots. Whew! I told him I would have all 5 of his finished by Saturday, or Monday the latest. So, here they are along with the dog bowls, and odds and ends I threw this week. They were bisque fired last night and were cooled down by 1pm today. I spent all afternoon sanding them smooth, blowing them clean with the air compressor and then rinsed each one so they are ready for staining and glazing tomorrow. I hope to fire them tomorrow night or possibly on Thanksgiving day.

This is the prototype that ok'd today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It was a Doggie's world yesterday

Yesterday was supposed to be a mug day, but for the life of me I couldn't throw one - it's been a few weeks since I've been on the wheel. After the 10th failure with only a little 'vase' to show for my efforts (I know, a vase is not a mug - but that's what the mug ended up being), doggy bowls is what I ended up throwing. My Pekingnese Phoebe, has been complaining to my husband that her doggy bowl isn't big enough to comfortably fit her nose - she is a princess you know, so I decided to make a new bowl for her. Always good sellers, I made 7 of them, all different shapes and heights. Phoebe will be able to choose her favorite and life can go on.

"Thank you mommy."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Clay Buddy

Today my clay buddy is coming over - in 30 minutes actually. She comes over once a week to play in my studio. She has a kickwheel at home and has been dabbling in clay for about a year now. She started by taking a lesson in my studio and has been hooked ever since. We inspire each other and feed off of each others enthusiasm. It's a good shot in the arm for both of usI did a bisque fire last night to test one of my handled jugs. The rest of the kiln load was hers. She is going to be very excited. Oops! Actually she won't. I just ran out to the kiln to take a picture of its contents and this is what I saw ...

an exploded pot. Too thick on the bottom I would say. My clay buddy just arrived and is cleaning up the mess as we speak. Gotta go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trade Days and Special Orders

Well, I did it. I signed up to do Trade Days next month. I have 3 1/2 weeks to get enough inventory to set up a booth, luckily I am sharing the booth with my daughter, who makes jewelry, so really I only have to supply half the booth with inventory.

I don't have enough time to make a lot of my red clay - it takes about 10 days to get 40 lbs worth, so I am going to concentrate on my porcelain and stoneware items which means I'll be doing a lot of throwing this week. I think mugs and bowls mostly.

I also have to complete the two special orders I have going through my studio. 3 wheat serving bowls and 6 handled jugs. The serving bowls need to be sanded, stained, glazed and hi-fired, and the jugs are dry and ready to bisque fire.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Good Morning!

It is Monday, and on Mondays I do my office work. This includes any marketing I need to do, adding items to Etsy, updating my web page, anything my paying job requires, anything my volunteer job requires, my personal bills and any other office work my hubby can think of. It is also the day I do laundry and grocery shop. So, you can see my Mondays are very busy...but I plan it this way so that the rest of my week can be spent productively. This is the plan, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

My goal today is to add 4 items to my Etsy store. I would like to add 1 red clay item, 1 stoneware item, 1 porcelain item and 1 item of choice.

My goal for the week is to bisque fire every piece of greenware I have that is ready. This will probably take two loads. I have 2 special orders that need to go in and then items that my friend wants me to fire. She has been far more productive than I have lately rendering me very jealous.

For fun this week I purchased 3 bags of porcelain over the weekend that I want to make pendants with. The only cone 6 porcelain my supplier had in stock was these 3 bags that she received in error. They had been sitting around for a while and were quite stiff. She sold them to me for half price at $5 a bag. I will need to soften them up before I use them. My daughter makes beaded jewelry and is starting her own Etsy store and we would like to combine our two talents to create a different line of jewelry. She also is thinking of adding beads to some of my vases, maybe adding a beaded collar around the neck. This will be fun for both of us and I am looking forward to it.