Selling pottery, photography, and why potters don't like making plates

Pottery Studio News

This month I decided to conquer my fear of making plates. I have made small side plates in the past without any problem, but never full sized dinner plates. There are a number of reasons many potters don’t like making plates. Firstly they use a large amount of clay, and create lots of scrap clay during the trimming process which needs to be recycled.

 

They also require being made on batts, which I don’t usually use. Narrower pottery can be lifted straight from the wheel after throwing. I decided to make some plywood batts which are attached to the wheel by first throwing a thin pad of clay on the wheel, then making grooves in it which keep the batt in place by suction.

I spent a few hours hand cutting up a big sheet of thick plywood into eight batts that are twelve inches in diameter. Throwing the plates was fairly straight forward, but I’m not sure my trimming was that great, they seem fairly heavy and I doubt they will be going on sale. I think they are also a little too shallow, I wouldn’t wan’t everyones gravy sliding off on the way to the table. It took me a few attempts to find the right size of clay needed – I’ve ended up using 2kg lumps.

Edit: I’ve improved my skills since writing this and have just written an article about how to use a pottery wheel for beginners

The other reason many potters don’t like making plates is they take up so much kiln space. I would really need some sort of plate setter kiln furniture if I decided to make plates for sale. Currently they are just going to have to sit on the shelf, where they will take up lots of space compared with bowls or mugs.

Apart from plates I got a new Xiem slip trailer which I have been trying out. The mugs in the photo were done with my old slip trailer which produces fairly fat lines. They haven’t been glazed or fired yet. The Xiem tool does produce really fine lines, though I had to make up some really thick slip to achieve them. I think I will need lots of practice to get nice flowing lines. It requires moving the trailer at a constant speed with the tip just off the surface of the pot, whilst applying constant gentle pressure to the bulb. It can be frustrating, especially when you get an unexpected spurt of slip which ruins everything.

Why I Decided to Start Selling Pottery on Folksy and Improve my Photography

I have recently set up another site selling pottery on Folksy. This is a portal for crafts people, very similar to Etsy but focuses on UK artists.

Why set up a Folksy shop?

I’ve realised through looking through my visitor stats that around half my visitors on Etsy are from the USA. It seems I need to make myself more appealing to foreign visitors on there, and also open some other domestic channels for English people who maybe wouldn’t use an American site like Etsy.

I realise people may be put off ordering from a different country, the extra postage cost alone might put them off – the postage outside Europe is around the same price as some of my small items. I suppose some people may be worried about damage, when items are being transported that far.

I have made a couple of sales to the USA, so some people must be willing to pay the extra postage. I think i’ll put a message on my items description reinforcing I post items worldwide, and have done it successfully previously.

New pottery nearly ready

I have a kiln load ready to fire at the moment. It contains some new kind of work involving lots of slip trailing work. I’m quite excited to see how they come out. Hopefully I will be happy enough with some of the designs that when I start making again I can do some repeat ware.

So far everything I have done has been an experimental one-off. This has mean lots of interesting experiments, but very time consuming to photograph and write descriptions for every item. Doing a few repeat items would cut my ‘admin’ time down a lot. I also have some yarn bowls to fire, which have been requested by a customer. It’s the first time I have done them, and was an interesting project, I hope they come out nicely!

New photography equipment

When I set up the Folksy shop, I did a few experiments with different background setups. I like some of the really natural looking product photography I have seen, and haven’t been happy with the white background stuff I have done previously. While it would be nice to use natural light, it is quite unpredictable in Sheffield, and I need to keep a consistent look between items. This lead me to purchasing a light tent – basically a thin white small square tent, and a couple of photography lights. I think the whole setup cost around £30 on Amazon.

Setting up the backgrounds

For the Folksy shoot I put my dads old table top – which has handy screw off legs – on the bottom on the tent. I think he made the table from a kit in the 1970’s, and it has a nice matt patina from years of use. With other shoots I’d used one light on each side of the tent to minimise shadows, but this time I just used one light from the right. I think this give a nice natural look, almost as if there is a window just to the right of the table.

Possible improvements

I’m not that happy about the back wall, the tent shows its creases on close ups which I think looks a bit tacky though I suppose not many people would notice. I have some old bits old skirting board in the garage which I’m constructing a kind of shabby-chic wood panelled backdrop with to hide the creases. I’m still using my phone to take the photos. I have toyed with the idea of getting a second hand SLR camera but don’t really have the money and I think the lighting setup probably makes a bigger difference to the end shot.

Selling pottery in local gift shops

If I can decide on some nice designs for repeat ware I will start looking for some gift / home shops locally that might be willing to sell my pottery. I think I would probably just approach them with mugs initially, and try and sort out some nice packaging for them. If any gift shop owners in Sheffield are reading this and would be interested please contact me!


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