I was fortunate enough to be able to be present at the opening on 11 May of artist, Dan Elbourne’s exhibition, Deathgate. This exhibition is a ceramic installation that comprises of 1.3 million individual handmade ceramic pieces.
Each one of which represents one person detained in the Auschwitz network of concentration camps. It was a stroke of serendipity that this opening was able to be the first exhibition to be held in the freshly refurbished Toowoomba Railway Goods Shed. It was the perfect location for the exhibition.
Dan has been studying at the University of Southern Queensland, and this work formed part of his PhD project. Ceramics has been an ideal medium for Dan’s work with multiple components. With earlier projects, Dan used slip casting techniques, but as each piece was representative of a human life, each piece in this project needed to be individually formed.
Ceramics proved an ideal medium for the project in that while it is in its raw state, it can be individually manipulated, but when fired, forms an enduring object that has the potential to outlast us all.
The core of the project is remembrance. Dan conceived of the project while travelling by train in France. He says that you know when it is a good idea if it stays with you. Aesthetically the work is based on the main entrance to Auschwitz II, (also known as the death gate) The size, colour and shape of the stones were refined by observations Dan made when visiting the camps in January 2016.
He had begun the work on 25 June 2015, and it was completed 1,242 days later on 21 November 2018. This time frame corresponds with the mass killings of prisoners in the Auschwitz camps. There was a great deal of physical effort involved in the work, with much of the clay being recycled. The number of pieces had to be recorded, then fired, bagged and stored. Certainly, there were calluses.
Dan described the work as truly terrible:- monotonous, boring, scary, but also powerful. All the time, he worked with the thought that each piece was a person and that they were being killed at such a rate that he could barely keep up with the production.
This exhibition was the first time that Dan was able to view his work ‘in the flesh’. The pieces were laid out in two sections. The largest section represents the 1,100,000 people who died at Auschwitz, and the smaller is the 200,000 survivors. Dan intended that the work would also be considered as a relative fraction of the total amount of Holocaust victims (6 million) and act as a contemplative agent and exercise in empathy.
I personally found it quite moving to consider the mass of pieces, considering each one as a life and the overwhelming number of them. For Dan actually making them, it must have been quite transformative.
During the process, Dan was privileged to meet some Holocaust survivors. The comments of one woman who survived Bergen Belsen remained with him. “Work like this needs to exist as long as denial does.”
Tragically, prejudice and hatred continue with us, and as there are fewer surviving eye-witnesses, the effort must be made to remember the terrible consequences.
Visit Dan Elbourne’s website at: http://www.danelborne.com/deathgate
The Triennale was well-supported by local galleries, TMAG, UTAS and those further afield around Tasmania who planned exhibitions for the Triennale period.
A few local artists worked with Nanna Bayer and Selena de Carvalho on the fire sculpture and preparing plinths for the exhibition display. Waldies School, in Lower Snug, was also a busy hub in the 2 years-long lead-up – meetings, workshops and storage of Triennale paraphernalia.
Excitement built gradually over the preceding year with many people supporting us with early-bird registrations. Social media helped to spread the word and, with a 4-year gap since the last event, people were very keen to come along. Hobart also held a wonderful appeal, especially for those who had not previously visited the state.
The event attendance was close to 700 – around 100 presenters and demonstrators, 60 volunteers and over 540 delegates (mostly full, 4-day attendance, but also including 1, 2 and 3-day attendance).
International: 6% (45 people) from 14 different countries: 19 from New Zealand; 26 from Argentina, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, United Arab Emirates and the USA.
ACT 3% (24), NSW 20% (204), NT 2% (12), QLD 12% (81), SA 4% (30), TAS 18% (125), VIC 20% (141), WA 5% (32)
Connection with the broad ceramics community, stimulating exhibitions, rich and engaging discourse, a broad range of demonstrations from amazing international, national and local makers. We also ensured delegates had opportunities to sell their work through The Pot Shop and the Makers Fair.
We provided spaces for people to relax and gather in the lounge areas (complete with a local barista), the bar and around the forecourt food trucks. There was something for everyone!
I loved the location – Princes Wharf 1. To be on the harbour with the huge Aurora Australis sitting at the wharf, casting its bright orange reflection into the space and the shimmering water constantly changing, I found that a special treat.
We set-out to welcome all, to be as inclusive as possible, to bring together the newbies with the experienced. Within our means, I think we did well.
Potters love to get together. They love to see what’s happening in our world, to catch up with friends and those they know through social media, to meet those they admire. They love to talk, watch others making, be challenged with new ideas, and generally be part of the tribe.
Our pop-up igloo, ‘Ask the Doctor’, where you could consult an expert with a ceramic dilemma, was really cute too.
Pot Luck dinner was a huge success, with the local migrant Resource Centre cooking delicious soup for 600 people. Bowls were swapped (behind the scenes) from one potter to another, and people gathered around the forecourt fires enjoying their steaming hot soup, listening to great local music and enjoying the Hobart welcome. The fire sculpture brought to 1300ºC in the petal kiln over 50 hours was a fantastic spectacle, drawing in the local Hobart community as well as delegates.
The opening of the kiln to reveal the red-hot sculpture was just incredible – a challenging, inspiring and magical project!
Despite starting with a substantial group of interested Tasmanians in the initial planning stages (2 years out), the Tasmanian committee slowly reduced to a core group of 3 amazing people with me joining as Chair in October 2018.
We enjoyed the support of approximately. 60 volunteers in the month leading up to the event, bump-in day, the 4 event days and the bump-out day. Such events would not be possible without this volunteer effort. TACTT was well-funded by national, state and local government which gave a significant boost to the creative program, allowing artists, authors, arts administrators and curators to be paid for their skills and expertise.
Personally no, but it’s not up to me.
Every one of these 15 events has been unique, tapping into the local environment and community. In 2022, it’s Alice Springs’ turn … can’t wait to see those big starry skies and getting to meet the local indigenous communities. I hear they’re excited!
We were very fortunate to have Mollie Bosworth talk about her stunning decorative techniques, for while she has been using and experimenting with mineral salts for many years, she has been reluctant to do workshops due to the toxicity of the materials and the unpredictable results.
As levels of toxicity vary, some being carcinogenic, it is imperative that users know the health and safety recommendations for handling these substances. With these concerns a priority Mollie gave the following tips for working with these materials:
Mollie was introduced to this process in a very old book, which is now difficult to find. A request to a library may locate a copy for borrowing. Written by Norwegian ceramic artist Arne Ase, “Watercolours on Porcelain” is an essential reference and includes health and safety tips on each material.
Also reference the work of:
Mark Goudy & Liza Riddle (California), John Shirley (South Africa), Angela Mellor (Australia/UK), Luca Tripaldi (Italy), Piet Stockmans (Belgium), Astrid Gerhartz (Germany).
The colourants that Mollie spoke about included:-
Some of these are available in garden sections of good hardware stores, while others can be purchased online from chemical suppliers. Usually, the dry or crystalline materials dissolve fully or partially in water, but some require Hydrochloric acid, and gold needs a combination of two acids, termed aqua regia, to dissolve.
As with our basic colouring oxides, these salts look different in different concentrations and work a bit like watercolours. Having obtained the strongest concentration from dissolving a salt in either water or acid, they can be diluted with water to give weaker effects or left to become stronger after evaporation.
Mollie prepared several samples by dividing up areas on thin bisque white clay tiles using a resist liquid, Liquitex* or Latex**. She decorated both moist and dry tiles.
(Apply the resist with cotton buds and throw away, or dip brushes in detergent first for easy cleaning.)
The colourant solution was brushed on horizontally so that areas of single, double, and triple coatings were separated by resist lines.
The acid** was brushed on vertically, over the bands of colour, and we watched the acid displace the colourants. The degree of dampness of the bisque is critical, as moistness encourages diffusion.
We also observed that:
*Liquitex is a gloss medium/varnish available from Art Suppliers, Bunnings, etc. Liquitex is water-soluble, it can be diluted and used as a resist material.
**Latex is also a wax substitute and water-soluble while still liquid.
Another decorative idea shown by Mollie is the technique known by many names, whereby the resist material is applied to raw ware (leather-hard or bone dry) and when the resist is dry the un-masked surface is eroded by repeatedly sponging with a damp sponge to remove areas of raw clay, leaving the resisted areas proud of the surface, in relief. Extension: Apply more resist and repeat to build up a 3D look and vary the translucency - apply up to 3 times. Variation: apply oxide/underglaze to the surface before the resist.
The resist can be peeled off before firing using a scalpel or pin, which enables mistakes to be peeled off too.
** Acid is Phosphoric – 85% food-grade, used to clean commercial kitchens and brewing equipment - watered down. Work with small quantities for ease and safety.
Store liquids in small lidded glass jars with labels.
The salts can be blended for more colour options. If applying one over another, it makes a difference which one is on top. Bisquing between applications may be helpful.
Mollie bisques Southern Ice porcelain to 1000˚ and polishes with diamond pads, grades 120, 240, and 400.
Mollie concluded this part of her demonstration with words of encouragement to test anything that comes within your reach, or go seek unusual materials, rare-earths for instance, to see what they can reveal.
The simplest type of decal is a ‘waterslide laser decal’ printed on a printer where the black ink (toner) contains iron. Mollie uses generic ink cartridges in a basic black (not colour) HP printer.
Finding decal paper got a little more complicated in recent years after the US supplier Bel Decal was put out of business following a successful patent application over the laser decal process.
However, Mollie has tracked down an Australian source, Dr Decal and Mr Hyde, who sells the original paper now called “Bel-type decal paper”. A list of other suppliers below.
A waterslide laser decal is a one-colour decal, black that fires brown. As we know from using iron oxide, when put with a clear glaze, the glaze “eats” the iron, it goes very pale or disappears.
So Mollie uses these decals on bisque ware with no glaze and fires to 1300˚C.
She suggests it may be possible with care to apply decal to a fired glaze and refire to just the temperature at which the glaze begins to soften, perhaps around cone 04 - 1060˚.
It can be tricky to get just the right temp at which the iron will stay on the surface and not get consumed by the glaze as it melts.
Mollie confirmed that Johanna is developing a paper with a flux in the cover coat so that the iron-bearing toner fuses onto the glaze at a much lower temp, like 800-830˚.
Normal decal paper result is dullish, matte colour, while fluxed paper is slightly glossy.
The images for the decals can be created with any image managing software. If you don’t have Photoshop or similar, you can download Gimp for free.
Fill the page with images; duplicates, smaller, larger, leaving just a few millimetres between.
Photographs work well too.
Plain colour decal paper can be used for flat areas of colour or printed on.
Ready-made decal designs called “Open Stock” are available. Bailey Decal (UK) sells packs.
Your own designs can be digitally printed: A3 sheet ($60) John Stewart (NSW), Decal Specialists, Northcote, VIC., and Johanna DeMaine can source screen-printed decals in quantities of 10 A3 sheets from Japan
Laser Decal Papers
Low-fire (fluxed) laser decal paper, and coloured sheet decal paper
Open Stock Decals
Somewhere down the track, you may need to make something to a particular size. And knowing that clay shrinks quite a bit, it is vital to know precisely how much and when in the process the shrinkage happens.
Clay shrinks due to water loss, as well as physical and chemical changes during drying and firing.
This shrinkage is usually expressed as a percentage of the wet size and is typically between 5% and 20%.
Most clay manufactures will have data sheets showing typical shrinkage rates, sometimes expressed as a single wet-to-fired figure, other times as wet-to-dry percentage, bisque shrinkage percentage and firing percentage for various temperatures.
Testing - the surest method
We need at our fingertips some clay “rulers” to measure the particular size needed.
Now you have your clay ruler - see this example from US potter, Jan MacKay
Note: Clays continue to shrink as the kiln temperature increases because some of the particles begin to melt and form a glass that pulls them even closer. With higher temperatures, clay eventually shrinks to a maximum point after which swelling occurs as a precursor to melting.
So for greater accuracy, it is important to know the firing temperature pretty exactly! This fact can be used to some advantage if, for instance, a lid is a bit tight on a container, it can be refired to a slightly higher temperature at which it will shrink a tiny bit more.
How to use the ruler:
Measure the size that needs to be matched WITH THE SHRUNKEN RULER. Let’s say 8.5cm.
When making the clay item measure it with a NORMAL RULER. 8.5 on normal will shrink to 8.5 on the clay rule. Give or take a bit!
It is handy to have a shrinkage bar for all the clays you are using in your studio, in all the various stages of wetness, usually three. That is: straight off the block, wet after being thrown, or leather-hard.
Ceramic Arts Queensland’s Online Shrinkage Calculator
The clay ruler takes into account all of the variables for clays, drying and firing conditions that apply in your studio.
However, if you want to get an estimate of shrinkage, then our new online shrinkage calculator will be useful.
You can find it on our main website under the technical menu or at https://www.ceramicartsqld.org.au/index.php/technical/shrinkage-calc
You first need to find out the shrinkage percentage for your clay at your firing temperature. You do this by looking up the data-sheets from the manufacturer or by talking with your clay supplier.
Open up the CAQ shrinkage calculator page and enter in the FINAL dimensions you want the finished piece to be and the shrinkage percentage.
If the datasheet gives a single figure enter that directly. If it gives two or three percentages for the various stages, click the advanced button and enter them.
The calculator will do the math to get the wet sizes for you to make the piece so that when it shrinks, it will be the size you want - or there-about!
No online system will be more accurate than actually using a clay ruler that has been dried and fired in the way your actual piece will be treated, but the calculator will give you a very approximation or can be used as a basis for further testing.
The online calcualtor main benefit is immediacy. The Ceramic Arts Queensland's online calculator will give you a good estimation immediately, where-as making a shrinkage ruler may take several days.
*If you know what the dry (pre-fired) shrinkage is you can check the dry measurement of the special piece for accuracy before you fire it.
At the closing session of the recent Australian Ceramics Triennale in Hobart, 1-4 May 2019, the 700 strong audience was invited to assemble again in Central Australia. The re-birth of interest in ceramics will undoubtedly see this as a hugely popular destination, favoured as it is with many environmental aspects so compatible with living with, working with and firing clay.
The experience in Hobart confirmed just how wondrous is the level of involvement, creativity, and camaraderie within the growing ceramic community.
Young and old, new-comers and frequent attendees immersed themselves in 4 days of talks, demonstrations and exhibitions. Multiple choices had many moving quickly from place to place, while others settled comfortably to absorb the generous sharing of knowledge and experiences.
Held in the vast Princes Wharf 1 building it was so convenient to have all the conference events under one roof, or almost. Last-minute registrations had the organisers (an amazing team of 4), expanding seating and spaces to absolute capacity, adding two marquees to the perimeter courtyards for demonstrations.
CAQ had a presence, along with other Australian ceramic-interest groups, in the exhibition section of the venue. Representation was limited to those who could deliver their work on set-up day and 14 artists took part: Julie Shephard, Liz Izquierdo, Michaela Kloeckner, Dianne Peach, Sandra Robertson, Megan Puls, Anne Mossman, Larissa Warren, Bill Powell, Sue Fraser, Johanna DeMaine, Evelyne Upton, Molly Bosworth, and the collaborative work of Johanna DeMaine and Tatsuya Tsutsui under the brand name Kayabuki Kobo.
The organisers kept secret the colour of the plinths, except that all the tops were greyish white. The grey/black background of PW1 was illuminated by oranges and yellows, blues and greys of the cleverly designed painted cardboard box plinths. Ours were mid-grey and very complimentary to the work. What we lacked in lighting was compensated for by the corner position, which gave excellent exposure to all. Five pieces were sold along with many appreciative comments.
Other exhibitions in the space included TACA’s “Manifest – the art and design of contemporary Australian ceramics”, curated by Damon Moon, showing selected artist’s works with diverse approaches to the medium, and the “Presenters Exhibition”, showing the work of the national and international speakers and demonstrators.
“Holding Space” displayed works by both current and past Tasmanian ceramic artists/potters, all influential in the development of ceramic knowledge in this state and exposing the exceptional strength of the craft in this comparatively small geographical area.
A cameo collection of pieces by Prue Venables celebrated her award bestowed in 2018 as the 9th ‘Living Treasure – Master of Australian Craft’ by the Australian Design Centre.
The Pot Shop inside the venue and the Saturday Market in the forecourt was where opportunities for delegates to sell, and buy, from an amazing array of wares rarely seen ‘under one roof’.
Eight exhibitions in nearby Salamanca drew delegates to the buzz of this popular recreational precinct, and almost as many galleries were a short walk away in the CBD. The Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery showed five separate groupings of ceramics from their collection spanning decades.
The ‘serious’ business of the conference was presented under daily themes, the first being “Contemporary Meets History”. The custom of Triennale's is to examine all aspects of ceramic practice; the practical, theoretical, philosophical, experimental, conceptual, ephemeral, ethical, and even more mind-bending angles.
There was a lot of valuable talking, mostly in the mornings when our heads were somewhat clearer, with afternoons broken up by moving from Derwent Stage to Kunanyi (Mt Wellington) Stage, demo to demo, browsing exhibitions and trade displays, and of course, meeting old friends and making new ones. It was impossible to do/see it all!
But one session I’m so glad I didn’t miss was the “Glaze Chemistry Workshop” by Curt McDonald from WA. Expecting 20 booked delegates the overflow (double the number including me) were standing, leaning, for hours to hear the presentation. It went all afternoon, and I was lucky to get a chair mid-way through, but honestly, I was prepared to stand for the duration. This old potter, me, doesn’t know it all, and it was so enlightening to hear this complicated topic dealt with in such a rudimentary and methodical manner. Supported by generous handouts and references (mostly from Hamer & Hamer – essential reference book – Curt held our attention to the last second. Not to say we have it all clear in our heads, yet, but we all have a new appreciation of and awe for the depths to which we can go in understanding this fascinating subject.
Another highlight of the event took place on the second last evening in the entry courtyard - the opening of the “petal kiln” designed and fired by Andres Allik. Three days of wood stoking by the dedicated team concluded at 1300˚ and the fibre-lined petals were opened like a flower, sparks rising into the clear, cold night, to reveal the 3m high sculpture made by Nanna Bayer and Selena De Carvalho – as if they didn’t have enough to do getting the whole show on the road!
Skipping to the last day, and getting a wee bit overloaded, the theme was “Onwards and Upwards”. The morning was free for The Makers’ Fair and the adjacent famous Salamanca Market. After lunch, one of the many speakers, Amy Kennedy, talked about her experiences as an Artist in Residence, as she has been engaging in these for many years in many localities around the world.
Tips on how to apply, both for positions and funding, were invaluable. I came away with the feeling though that more preparation was needed in sourcing and applying than in doing the actual residency.
I was surprised by a brief encounter regarding ceramic durability when Ian Clare, demonstrating his making of functional ware, dropped, purposely, a thrown lemon-shaped hand squeezer he’d brought with him. It bounced on the concrete floor! Impressed! The story goes that Ian leaves a small hole in the hollow form until it is almost dry (and shrunk) and then fills it in. “No, it won’t explode in the gloss firing”, Ian says.
The internal air/gas is compressed by the shrinkage in the final firing but not sufficiently to split the form. And when you drop it, the internal pressure seems to counteract the external shock of the drop. Can’t wait to try it with my eggs!
And this brings me to the final Closing Address by Glen Barkley, the Closing Ceremony, and the revelation of where the next gathering will be in 3 years’ time. Glenn’s closing Keynote Address touched on his experiences with clay as a practitioner, lecturer, judge, and curator, amongst other activities he enjoys, all of which influence his various artistic pursuits. Glenn became prominent in recent years for his outspoken appreciation of expressive rather than tidy craftsmanship, and fuelled debate amongst practitioners about the superiority/inferiority of such works, and whether these are ‘cutting edge’ or remnants of similar movements in the 70s: or just playful doodles or “kindergarten” art.
The questions from the audience indicated that this debate is not over yet, and I was tempted to think it a good launching pad for discussion when next, we all meet in Alice Springs. Hope to see you there!
I’d like to start with a caveat as such - I don’t profess to being a professional photographer, but like all potters, I have an ongoing need to document and promote my work through images and a life-long desire to learn. So, I’d like to outline in simple form, the evolution of my photography and share with you my hows and whys and the current results I am achieving.
I currently use a Canon D600 DSLR and have created a flexible setup of lighting and backdrop that is both portable and a size that can handle the scale of my work. Everything from the smallest jewellery piece to pots a metre high.
I use a graduated Infinity backdrop in white to black. It is this backdrop that limits the biggest pot to a metre simply because of its size. It can be used either white foreground to black backdrop (my usual approach), or black to white.
This is governed by the style and tone of the work to be photographed. If you are generally shooting small pieces, then a small light tent is excellent for creating bright but diffused lighting.
My lighting consists of two large and diffused lightboxes and an adjustable 240 LED lamp, also softened with a diffuser cloth. All my lights are lit with daylight 5,000 K bulbs.
The higher the Degrees Kelvin, the whiter the colour temperature and the truer the colour response. Diffusing or scattering of direct light is important in that it limits the shadows cast and allows for strong and clean light.
Even with diffusion, it can be very difficult at times to photograph highly shiny surfaces and glazes without the appearance of hot spots. These are bright white splashes of light that remove the true colour and surface of a piece which distracts from a quality image. This is where I play with the direction of my adjustable intensity LED light by hand holding it on an extension stand to both remove hotspots and diminish or direct shadows.
If a piece is predominantly white or light in colour, I will often create a shadow to define the edge of the piece.
Settings on your camera are vitally important. I shoot at 100 ISO, this decreases the graininess of the shot. As you go higher in ISO, you get more light available but at the cost of quality.
I use a shutter release cable and a tripod to remove all possible shake. This will also allow a very slow shutter speed without sacrificing clarity and allows for even more light to hit the sensor. It also accommodates a higher F Stop.
The F-stop number is determined by the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the aperture. Focal length refers to a lens’ field of view (sometimes called angle of view), which is the width and height of the area that a particular lens can capture in focus.
I generally use a setting of between 9 and 12, this will keep both the front of a pot and the side and back profiles in focus while taking the backdrop out of focus and giving a soft look to it. This will highlight the piece and clean up any marks or scratches on your backdrop while featuring a piece in full focus.
I use the ‘M’ or manual setting on my DSLR to set all these parameters. The distance you set your camera and tripod up is determined by the size of each piece but be wary, if you have a camera with a lens that has a wide-angle available, it can distort verticals in your image. Studies have measured the cone of visual attention of the human eye and found it to be about 55 degrees wide.
On a 35mm full-frame camera, a 43mm lens provides an angle of view of 55 degrees, so that focal length provides exactly the same angle of view that we humans have, so try to keep your lens (if it’s a telephoto) in this zone for accurate renditions.
If you only have a prime 50mm lens, then you can move the tripod back and forth to centre and capture your image. So, these are my general settings. Lens around 50mm field of view, ISO at 100, F Stop between 9 and 12 with the shutter speed determined by the available light.
If you don’t have a DSLR, then the camera on your phone will do if you have good lighting. Some like the Huawei P30 offers a Leica Quad camera with remarkable low light capability, and the new Samsung s10 can provide quality shots with good Bokeh effect.
This smartphone camera will recognise the foreground and background of a photo, and then blur the background, while keeping the foreground in focus digitally. So rather than occurring when the photo is snapped, smartphone bokeh is created after the picture is taken.
As cameras in phones are getting better and better, crop sensor DSLR are becoming very cheap and will allow you to do all your own photographic work for yourself, saving all the packing, travelling and added cost of getting your work professionally shot.
My photography has evolved over time to a standard that I am now, with these methods, comfortable with large size reproduction or publication.
Just a note, if you are shooting your work for magazine standard then be sure to save your files at least at 300 dpi resolution and leave a good amount of space around the actual subject of the shot to allow editors freedom of use.
Taking charge of your own images is very convenient and cost-effective.
I buy all my camera gear and lighting from a New York-based company with an incredible range of inexpensive photography equipment, B&H:
www.bhphotovideo.com. They do a great mail-order service and have all that you’ll need.
My first efforts were quite crude, but I have evolved. You will too.
Every pottery picture tells a story. An essential part of that storytelling is the composition or relationship between the elements within a photograph.
The things that affect composition of a photograph are:
Here are some well-proven guidelines that will make your photographs tell better stories and look truly professional when you use these guidelines thoughtfully.
Once you know the rules of composition, occasionally breaking them can be fun too.
Imagine two horizontal lines and two vertical that divide the scene into nine equal areas. Place key elements on or near the lines or the intersection points. This will result in a balanced image with a clear point of interest. Some cameras show these lines in the view-finder.
Here the main element of the photograph is set to one side, though still positioned according to the rule-of-thirds. The empty space to the left then has a balancing item, the spoon, which also adds further meaning to the story being told by the photographer.
This composition is a classic example of the rule of thirds but has an additional element where the layout of the elements leads the eye in a triangular pattern from one object to the next. Such triangular patterns give a feeling of stability and unity to the image.
The human eye yearns to discover symmetry and balance in nature and things human-made. This photographer has catered to this craving for order, and pattern with two elongated vases set symmetrically side-by-side and then used the colour and form of the flowers to add a quirky twist.
Conforming to the rule-of-thirds, this photograph is framed by two small elements at the lower corners. The eye is invited to look beyond the main image to a blurred background that enhances the colour and tone and invites the viewer to imagine more about the story of the pot.
This composition uses a strong diagonal composition from the top right to bottom left. The positioning of the three ceramic elements dominates the image, the use of light and shade reinforces the diagonal line, and the chop-sticks finish it off. Note the strength of the triangular layout.
Pricing your pottery is always a vexed issue, that never seems to get more comfortable. Markets and tastes are ever-changing, so is the price people are willing to pay for hand-crafted ceramic ware.
Many ceramic artists sell through galleries and retailers of one sort or another, and there are various ways of entering into commercial arrangements with them.
The cleanest method is for the retailer to pay you a wholesale price agreed between you. How much they mark it up becomes their business.
Wholesale pricing is neat because you know what you are getting up-front and more importantly when you are likely to be paid.
You know your production costs - materials and labour - and if you can sell your work for a commercial profit above these costs, then you have some degree of control and certainty. However, most galleries and many retailers want to sell on consignment only.
Here you supply the goods at no up-front cost to them, and the retailer agrees to pay you a percentage of the selling price if and when they sell. The retailer covers its costs with a commission percentage from the selling price.
This is a riskier proposition from your perspective, but often it is the only game in town. On the upside, it is also a way of potentially increasing your returns as it is in everyone’s interest to maximise the sale price.
Commissions are generally 25% - 60% of the sale price. That seems a lot, but galleries and retailers need this sort of margin to pay their rent, pay their staff and to promote and market your work.
Retailers will sometimes seek your guidance on the final selling price for your work.
Let’s say your costs for a piece are $15 for materials, $25 for labour, utilities and packaging and your accountant recommends adding a further 50% to cover other studio costs. That makes a minimum return to you of $60. We’ll ignore GST to keep things simple.
Markups are easy to calculate. In the above example, your costs are $60. To sell at a local market, you might need to markup your costs by 50% to cover your selling expenses, the total is 60 + 30 or $90. If the markup you need is100%, then the sum works out to be 60 + 60 or $120.
With markups, it’s a simple calculation.
With commission sales, it is different.
Say the selling price is $100. With a gallery commission of 50%, they get $50, and you get $50. If the commission is 35%, they get $35, and you get $65.
If you know the selling price, it’s simple to work out what you will be paid. But if you need to figure out what that selling price should be, then things are more complicated.
Let’s take our pot from our previous example, where we want $60 paid to us from the gallery.
If the gallery commission is 50%, we can’t just add 50% to our $60, because that would make the selling price just $90 (60 + 30). When the gallery takes 50% from that final selling price, we only get $45, not the $60 we want.
So we have to multiply our $60 by more than 50% to get that $60 payment after commission.
The table below shows you how much to markup your price to give the gallery the commission percentage the gallery wants, and you get the return you need.
Therefore, if you want $60 and the gallery wants 60% commission, then the markup on your price is 150% or $90, making the final selling price $150.
Ergo, you get $60, the gallery receives $90, and everyone has what they need to stay in business.
Here’s the good news. You have finally gotten most of your pots through all the stages of firing, and there they are, just out of the kiln, laid out on the table, all splendid and finished. A giant sigh of relief now that it’s all over.
Here’s the bad news. It’s not over yet. About a quarter of the work and effort is still to be done. Yes. Welcome to the dispatch preparation, documentation and the packaging part of the exciting wholistic ceramic art production process.
Now if you are lucky, there is someone on your team who is anal-retentive about details and loves nothing more than to have every last part of the process bolted down and perfect. Here are some tips that may save you time.
Look at every vessel just out of the kiln with a fresh eye and sort out any that are not good enough to make the cut. Are there any hairline cracks? Any bumps or inclusions on the clay surface? What about the glaze – is it up to scratch? When you hold the piece, does it feel smooth and finished? What about the foot ring, are there any bits of kiln shelf on it or is it rough and likely scratch a shelf or wooden surface?
Carefully sort through the kiln load and find those that are good enough as they are, those that will be once you fix a few things, those that you need to find a local market to sell them at a discount and those awful enough that they to be binned right now before you have second thoughts.
Grinding, polishing and dusting
Some of my work is porcelain with illustrations on an unglazed surface. The inside is usually glazed, so the piece is functional, but all of the outside surfaces have to be polished with wet and dry sandpaper to achieve a smooth buttery surface. They are lined up on a sink and rubbed with three grades of paper from medium-coarse to ultra-fine. At the same time, the foot ring is sanded until it is smooth.
Each piece is then carefully hand washed and allowed to dry before a final inspection for hairline cracks that generally show up during the washing process.
It is essential to make sure each piece is immaculate and dust-free - no customer or gallery owner expects to wash a piece of newly received ceramic ware.
Accurate documentation of your work is essential so that gallery owners and retail outlets know what you are delivering, what it looks like are sure about things like price, item number, description and even fundamental things like the artist’s name.
Each piece should be identified by an artist’s recognisable seal stamped into the ceramic surface, a signature or mark or if you are a production potter, your business name applied as a stamp inside the foot ring with underglaze and fired into the piece. That way, the ownership is clear even if months go by from the time you deliver to the time it is sold by the retailer.
Our delivery documentation begins by taking an identifying photograph of each piece - or a generic photograph of the line of work if you produce many identical pieces.
You should record the details of each piece manually or electronically - ideally using a word-processing template, a spreadsheet or a database of some kind. That way, you will have all the information you need to printout delivery documents and invoices for your work.
The delivery documents should include the following:
A cover sheet with your name, trading name, ABN number, postal address, contact details and banking details or preferred method of payment (bank-to-bank transfer, cash or cheque)
A complete list of each item in the delivery including the following information on each piece: serial number, item name, price (see below for methods of calculating this), a marketing description, identifying photograph (and a marketing photograph if possible).
A sheet outlining your terms and conditions of sale which you need to prepare with your accountant, lawyer or business advisor
A copy of this documentation should accompany the delivery of the goods and to be safe, a further copy emailed, so you both have records of the documents and the time they were delivered to the gallery or retailer in case of any dispute later on.
Packaging your ceramics for dispatch to customers needs to be approached systematically. The key is to make sure the work is surrounded by material that stops it from moving around, absorbs any vibrations or shocks and has some resistance to crushing forces.
Two methods work well:
A single box method where a well wrapped smaller-sized pot is placed in the centre of a box that is filled with packing material. The carton should be 150 - 200mm bigger than the work in it, and the work must be positioned in the middle.
The box-within-a-box method suitable for larger, or fragile, or more expensive work. Here the work is first packed in a box as above, and then that box is placed within another box filled with packing material.
The ceramics should first be wrapped in tissue paper or foam wrap to prevent scratching and abrasion of the finished surface. Each item, no matter how small should be packed separately.
Make sure any protrusions like spouts etc. are well wrapped too. Wrap the entire pot in several layers of bubble wrap and apply masking tape to secure.
Packing fill materials include poly chips, crumpled newspaper, packing peanuts, foam, airbags or a combination of these. The use of polystyrene sheets to add rigidity around the work is also recommended.
The boxes you use should be made of robust corrugated cardboard - new or undamaged at least. Make sure each item is surrounded by at least 50mm of cushioning and be placed at least 50mm away from the walls of the box.
Tape the box closed with 50mm packaging tape. Run the tape along where the flaps of the carton join, then run two or three runs of tape around the carton, perpendicular to this.
Make sure the box is clearly labelled with the delivery address and your return address and contact details. Remove any old labels if you are recycling. Use stickers to indicate the way up the box is to be transported and make sure that the box is clearly labelled as FRAGILE.
Place any delivery documents in an envelope and tape this to the box.
Think about insurance for valuable items.
If all of this seems too hard, there are packing services that will do the lot for you, and take responsibility for losses and breakages.
Remember to notify your customer that the work is on its way and ask for a confirmation that it arrived safely.
In Instagram, images that “pop-out” is the term for photographs that reach out and grab the attention of users for that 100 milli-seconds people spend deciding if they will look further into a post or just move onto the next.
The image (right) was created by Instagram image guru, Unmesh Dinda of PiXimperfect.
The left one is the beginning of the journey and on the right is an image that “pops”, grabbing attention, forcing you to look a little longer.
The finished image tone is warmer and more appealing. The girl’s eyes are sharper, and their colour more intense. The edges of her mouth are sharper as are her fingernails - all of these details subtly grab your attention.
Unmesh Dinda uses Adobe Photoshop to enhance the image, to resize it and make it perfect for posting on Instagram.
His is a six-step process:
To an experienced Photoshop operator, all of this is simple.
If you want to experiment, then Photoshop Elements is an inexpensive way to get to know how much you can improve almost any photograph with digital editing.
It’s important to remember that in the internet age, your ceramic artworks have two existences. The first is the actual object: it has three dimensions, it’s solid and, well, it’s real.
The second is your work’s alternate life as a digital object. In this existence, your work is just a file that is no more than ones and zeros, but the chances are that the first impression that buyers, judges and gallery owners will have of your work will be that digital version, and they’ll see it and judge it, long before they decide to touch the real object.
Social media gurus say that a blog post with a photograph is ten times more likely to get engagement than one without. And a post with a great photo that catches the eye is sharp and well-composed, and that “pops-out” of the screen, will get even more attention.
Research presented at the 2018 International Conference on Information Management found images heavily liked on Facebook tended to display four qualities: brightness, clarity, liveliness, and ingenuity.
Your camera should be the best you can afford, but with care, even a mobile phone’s built-in camera can produce acceptable results.
Better cameras will allow you to take good photographs under worse lighting conditions. The images will also be sharper and more colourful than those from a phone and be of higher resolution. This is essential if the picture has to be published in a catalogue or magazine.
A tripod is the second most important piece of equipment when photographing products or still life on a tabletop. The tripod can be a small table-top version or a more normal full-sized floor model, but it must allow you to lock your camera securely into position and not let it move.
The benefits of a tripod are many. First, it makes sure your camera is absolutely still when you click the shutter. No more blurry images that so often happen when you hand-hold a camera. You’ll be surprised by the difference this will make. Next, it helps you to frame the photograph precisely, so it is square to the horizon and with enough space or “air” around your work in the photo.
Also, with the camera on a tripod, you will have at least one hand free to help out – maybe to hold a light, or a cutter to shield back-light flare in your lens or to position a reflector board to lighten the shadows thrown by your main light. Using a cable release to trigger the shutter is also a good idea.
Photographs of ceramic art must showcase the vessel, so generally, we use a plain background that is white or grey or has graduated tones from light to dark.
These “infinity” backgrounds put the artwork in focus. Photographic background sheets can be purchased from photographic stores or online from eBay and Amazon for a few dollars if they are paper, or around $50 if they are more durable PVC sheets.
Professional photographers will use an “S” board made of sturdy perspex fixed on a frame, so it is in the form of a flattened “S”. The translucent perspex allows lighting from beneath and behind the board to give shadowless, spotlight effects and also provides for some diffuse reflection of the art-work in the surface of the Perspex, which can look amazing.
For smaller pieces, a lightbox “cube” can be an ideal solution. It has white walls on all sides and an integrated background sheet to give the infinity effect. Most also have integrated lighting via LED strips that you can clip into place. For pieces that have reflective surfaces like gold lustres, the lightbox front can be closed up, and the lens is positioned through a flap that zips open.
Making your own small photo-station within the studio is a great solution. American potter Emily Murphy has published a blog on how to go about it, and the photograph of her setup shows how with a little ingenuity, a compact, low-cost photo-station can fit into your studio workflow.
Lighting your work is of critical importance. First, you need enough light so the camera can take useful photographs. The light can come either from natural sources or from artificial lights. In both cases, you need diffuse, indirect light.
Warren Frederick specialises in the natural lighting of his ceramic work, and his rig, mounted near a window is shown below.
When using artificial light, make sure all the light-bulbs have the same colour-temperature, not a mixture of yellow, fluorescent and daylight bulbs.
Mixing colour temperature will result in an inaccurate rendition of the colours of your work.
Lighting kits with soft-lights and umbrella lights can be hired or purchased quite cheaply if you are planning to do a lot of photography.
These large soft-lights really do make a difference to the look of your work.
Professional photographers will typically light a piece from one side and fill in the shadows on the other side with another light, or a light bounced off of a reflector board or small sheet of polystyrene. They will also use top-lights or back-lights to define the outlines of the work.
This is particularly important if your work has grooves or hatched surfaces as the side and backlights will catch the edges of these, highlighting the ridges and with contrasting shadows in valleys.
For formal art-shots of your work, the classic infinity background gives viewers a chance to judge the piece without undue confusion from other elements in the photograph. These photographs should accurately portray proportion, colour and texture without excessive digital modification or enhancement.
However, for photographs destined for promotional purposes on social media and for websites, then getting noticed is the key.
Many ceramic artists develop a photographic style that is every bit as distinctive as their vessels. For example, Anna-Marie Wallace’s work and photography encompass a particular grey palette, and the work is displayed on natural textures in non-traditional ways to highlight the philosophy behind her work.
If you are not confident of your photographic skills or you have particular works to be entered into a competition, then hiring a professional studio photographer is an option. While expensive, working with a photographer experienced in ceramic art or table-top product shots can bring a whole new level of skill and creativity to bear on your work. Engaging a professional is often the most worthwhile investment you can make in advancing your career as a ceramic artist.
In the next photography article, we’ll look at composition and lighting in more detail.
Katz says that it is possible to formulate mid-fired glazes using only the ingredients found in high-fired glazes by increasing the proportion of the alkaline metal (R2O) to the alkaline earth (RO) in the flux.
Katz does on, “However, increasing R2O is not without consequences. Glasses created with excessive alkali levels (>0.3) are less chemically and mechanically durable.”
While the role of silica, alumina and fluxes is well represented in the UMF or Seger formula, Boron was viewed as a bit player, regarded as a flux not required in Cone 10 - 11 formulations.
The Seger formula was developed by Hermann Seger in the mid-nineteenth century, who proposed that glaze composition was not a matter of ingredients, but of the number of molecules or “moles” of oxides that made up those ingredients.
He divided those oxides up into groups based on the way they worked in the glaze.
Fluxes were the melters and consisted of RO and R2O oxides. Stabilisers were stiffeners to prevent the glaze from running off the surface. These were neutral oxides of the form R2O3. Finally the glass formers or acidic oxides in the form of RO2 which form the non-crystalline glaze structure.
Katz found a linear relationship between melt temperature and additional Boron.
“What we see clearly is that we need roughly a minimum of 0.1 moles, on a UMF basis, of boron for every 50°C reduction in firing temperature from 1300°C.”
Sue McLeod looked at surface properties and durability of glaze formulations at cone 6. She said:
“Since I was working at cone 6, I couldn’t rely on the fluxes alone to sufficiently melt my glazes. I needed to include some Boron, which is a low-temperature glass former.”
A usual source of Boron is Gerstly Borate, a prized but unpredictable mineral that contains two borates, (colemanite and ulexite). These melt separately in the firing, creating a “breaking” effect in the glaze.
Water-soluble sources of Boron (like borax) can migrate into the clay body, changing its melting properties.
This makes frits as the most reliable source of Boron for the working ceramic artist.
How to save money and give your ceramic art that unique touch. When a wide range of commercial glazes are available for speedy delivery at the click of a button, why would you go through the mess and uncertainty of mixing your own?
There are two reasons: cost and control.
The ingredient costs of a glaze may only be 10-20% of the price you pay for a commercial glaze. That’s a real incentive to get started.
Then, getting the glaze precisely the way you want it, and have that result repeatable, is only possible if you control every aspect of it: from formulation to its viscosity or flow characteristics on the bisque ware; or from the surface colour and its texture to the firing temperature.
Cost and control, the two “C”s of roll-your-own glazes.
Glazes are needed because at normal kiln temperatures, the clay body does not vitrify into an impervious structure. Instead it “sinters”, where the edges of the particles in the clay undergo a chemical change and some melting. Under the intense heat of the kiln, these edges fuse together - or sinter - into a matrix-like structure that gives fired clay its rigidity and hardness.
Glazes have both decorative and functional properties. Glazes are mineral oxides mixed together so that at kiln temperatures, they melt into a glass-like surface that protects the clay, making it water-proof and serviceable. Many glazes are formulated to be resistant to organic and non-organic materials that may be stored in them.
Glazes are also beautiful.
Traditional Celadon and Chun glazes subtly enhance the form of traditional ceramic ware. Majolica glazes, perfected in the 15th century, provide a superb platform for decorative art on the clay surface. Delicate and difficult crystalline glazes are a stunning tribute to the potter’s craft while lustre glazes add striking coloured and metallic highlights in a third firing.
Glazes consist of mineral oxides mixed in proportion to produce two things: glass, and other materials that give rise to characteristic colour and surface properties.
“Most glazes have 3 main parts - the blood, bone, and flesh. Here’s how they work:
Fluxing agent or 'lifeblood of the glaze’ – causes the glaze materials to melt and flow together in the kiln firing
Refractory or ‘bone of the glaze’ – resists heat and melting, providing structure and strength to the glaze body
Glass Former or ‘flesh of the glaze’ – creates complexity, depth and unique qualities.”
Putting this in plain language, fluxes are there to make the glaze melt at the required temperature.
Refractory minerals act as stiffeners, preventing the molten glaze from running off the pot.
Glass formers are some of the about seven materials that will cool to form a glass-like surface. For example, potters use Silica which melts at 1,700oC and Boron, which melts at 2,076 °C. Boron though has some surprising properties that also make it a flux that can lower the glaze melting point dramatically.
Glaze ingredients are not mystery materials. They all come from the earth and you might find a rock or two that you can grind up and fire into a beautiful glaze.
Making a glaze is like baking a cake, you need a recipe, the ingredients, tools to mix it, some decorative elements and finally, an oven to bring them all together.
It’s just a process, and if you follow a few simple rules, your home-made glazes will give your work a unique touch and give you an amazing sense of satisfaction.
Getting started with mixing your own glazes can be as simple as finding a good recipe for the kind of glaze you have used before and ordering the materials to mix up a batch.
While there are a lot of common materials used in low, mid and high fired glazes, each has its own needs. Let’s assume you are starting out with mid-fired work.
US glaze researcher Sue McLeod published a getting started list of materials that can be bought for around $180. Australian product names and codes (Walker) have been added to help you if you want to look them up.
You should buy your ingredients from a respected pottery supplier. Some minerals can be more or less contaminated with geologically closely related but unwanted elements.
There are three categories of things you’ll need to buy to get started: storage vessels, mixing equipment and safety equipment.
Starting with the raw ingredients, you’ll need plastic containers with lids to store them, with a set of labels to write the name, product code, date of purchase and original quantity. Good glazing technique is about writing things down and labelling tests, so get used to doing it now.
To store the mixed glazes, you’ll need some sturdy, lidded buckets – some 20 litres ones and some of 5 litres to start with.
To weigh out the glaze ingredients, you’ll need a set of accurate scales. Good quality kitchen scales will do nicely, but for more accurate measurements, then proper triple beam mechanical scales or a set of electronic scales will increase your precision.
To mix the glaze ingredients with water, you can use a wooden paddle or a stirring rod either hand-held or attached to an electric drill or paint mixer.
The mixed glazes then need to be sieved to ensure no large particles have found their way into the mixture. An 80 mesh sieve is a good starting point, and then you’ll need a stiff brush to force the glaze liquid through the mesh, or you can look at a rotary sieve to make the job easier and faster.
Last but not least is the safety equipment you will wear EVERY time you handle glaze materials. A half-face respirator with P2 dust particle filters, a set of protective goggles, full-length rubber gloves and a waterproof apron are the minimum requirements. Remember that glazes and glaze chemical can be toxic when breathed in and some can be dangerous on exposed skin.
The Ceramic Arts Queensland website has one of the largest and most respected glaze recipe databases. Called “Glazy”, you can use it to look up recipes of all kinds by glaze type, firing temperature, kiln atmosphere, colour and material surface.
These have been uploaded either by the database creator, Derek Au, or by users around the world, including an increasing number of Australian potters.
Glazy has a calculator that allows you to find the quantities required for any batch weight, a huge materials database, an analysis engine that looks at the oxide breakdowns of the ingredients and their ratios.
Charts showing the glazes behaviour at various temperatures are provided along with important safety information about the glaze.
In future articles, we will look at the various ways of applying glazes to your work and how to best fire them in your kiln, to produce either highly predictable results, or for ways of leaving your glazes open to chance environmental factors in the kiln.
Happy glazing, go ahead and try, you know you want to. And be safe!
Planning a ceramics studio conversion needs some careful thought. A two-car garage under a suburban home has to be converted into a small pottery teaching studio that could house 6 - 10 students. It would also be used as a private studio two days a week.
The garage floor-space is relatively small for this requirement as it is only 5.8 metres by 5.4 metres – 31 square metres or 350 square feet in area. But the area under the home has some unusual aspects, which we hope the design will be able to leverage. The home is built into a steep hill, so some of the areas under the house are inaccessible.
In an area so small, it is essential to understand what has to be accommodated. In planning your own studio, it is useful to write down all of the requirements and to form an idea of the kind area each will need. In this case, the studio required:
In a commercial pottery studio, throughput and efficiency are primary concerns. In a teaching studio, though, aesthetic factors are important to make the students feel at home. Safety would be essential as beginners often underestimate potential risks associated with the various stages in pottery production.
With so many students, medium-term storage is always at a premium; and cleaning up after a lesson has to be quick and easy. We also have to accommodate wheel work, hand-building, glazing and general decoration, so clear work areas were essential along with lots of tables and chairs.
Areas of significant hazard would ideally be in different zones, so the kiln and the glaze preparation areas needed to be separate.
The flow of materials in a studio is the first place to start with any design. You have to unload heavy bags of clay so the clay storage area should be as close to the delivery door as possible. This way, you minimise effort, and the bags of clay don’t have to be carried through the work areas.
At the other end, finished work needs to be packed and loaded into bulky cartons, so ideally, dispatch should be near to a door as well. With the beginnings and ends defined, what about all the processes in-between?
In a linear studio, raw materials like clay, glazes and other materials are delivered at one end, and the finished works are collected at the other, with all the production stages laid out logically between the two.
In our case with a square space, the more usual u-shaped studio design will apply. So, clay comes in the delivery door, and the work processes meander through the workspace, and the finished goods come out near to that same delivery door. The trick is to make sure work processes can be completed without a lot of needless walking or crisscrossing.
In the attached diagram, there is an idealised workflow for a typical studio.
Space is broken down into zones that can have their own tools, shelving or special requirements like the lighting, bench space and ventilation.
In our case, the zones might work like this:
You can see from the work-flow diagram, there is a lot of shelving used to separate the various zones. For example, there is specially designed “wet” shelves near the wheel and hand-building areas, to help control the speed at which the work goes to leather hard. Then between each process, there are dedicated staging shelves.
So for example, the output of the bisque preparation area is a set of staging shelves that form the input supply for the kiln area. This minimises walking and transporting vessels, reducing breakages and damage and saving time and effort.
The garage under the house has several exciting features that became evident when the floor-space was measured up.
Attached is the rough thumb-sketch with the measurements showing three exciting spaces that would turn the floor area into a handy studio space. There was a small nook near the front door where a wood-work bench now sits. This space could accommodate the kilns.
Luckily it also had a cast concrete ceiling, so there were no fire hazards if the kilns were housed there. It could also be easily vented to the outside for the kiln gas extractor. It could also be walled off from the main space if that became necessary.
A storage space next to the garage floor was defined by house support columns and had a concrete floor. It could make an ideal glaze mixing zone. Also, the house plumbing was accessible from the back of this space.
Finally, there was a long corridor of accessible space running in-line with the front of the house, tall enough to be converted into storage shelves for the student’s work. It would need some work, but it was possible.
The measurements from the rough diary page thumb-nail drawing of the space now needed to be turned into something usable. Initially, these were transferred onto graph paper torn from an old school book (also available from any supermarket or newsagency). The small grids made it easy to get the proportions accurate, but it was time-consuming doing draft after draft as mistakes were made.
There are free online tools for creating two-dimensional and three-dimensional plans – the best known is probably SketchUp. Previously owned by Google, it has been spun-off into a separate business. But the application is free, and there are plenty of online tutorials on how to use it, so it was worth a try for this project. (Get your free SketchUp account at https://www.sketchup.com/products/sketchup-for-web).
After a bit of work, the dimensions on the thumb-nail sketch were transformed into a 2D SketchUp plan. The initial output from SketchUp is shown, and the potential of this particular studio is becoming clear. With a bit more work, the tools within SketchUp can be used to create 3D representations of the space and to look at the studio from a variety of perspectives to make sure the layout would work as intended.
This would be particularly useful if we could place models of the wheels, benches, kilns, shelves and pug-mills into the overall model of the studio.The layout could be tested to see if three or five wheels would fit, the kilns could be placed in the nook, the shelves would be accessible, and people had room to move.
One of the reasons SketchUp is so popular is that it has a “warehouse” of 3D models you can download and drop into your model. The warehouse already had some kilns, tables, cupboards, shelves and even some 3D models of pottery wheels. These were downloaded and placed into the model.
To get the measurements correct, we had to create our own models of critical components. These have been uploaded to the SketchUp warehouse and are available for anyone to use for free. We have done the same with other major pieces of our model – just search the warehouse for “CAQ”, and all the models should appear for you to download.
Now we have the models, we can position them within the studio to see what works. It became clear that only four pottery wheels would fit into the area, and even that was pushing the envelope.
The staging shelves between each of the zones were taking up too much room in the main studio. As the majority of the shelving was to be down the drying corridor, we opted to create four mobile shelving units to allow for flexibility in the main studio space.
In the glazing area, the narrow space meant the shelves and cupboards could only be 500 mm wide. Space was left under these for barrels of mixed glaze and drawer units that will be constructed to hold bulk glazing materials. Oxides, stains and other valuable materials will be stored in shelves on the far wall. A sink unit is to be installed in the back of the glazing area, with a three-stage settling tank unit is to be built underneath the sink for easier maintenance and servicing.
Although there are several power points already installed, the studio space will require three separate fused power lines for the kilns, wheels and the pug mill. Additional overhead lighting is needed for all areas.
The studio is protected from all but the worst easterly weather, so most of the time the garage doors can be left open to provide light and ventilation. There is currently no provision for dust-extraction, a fume cupboard or a spray booth because of space limitations. However, there is a concrete apron in front of the studio that may be pressed into service for dusty or smelly tasks.
Dispatch and photography are on one of the work tables when needed. These activities are of less importance in a teaching studio compared to a production studio.
So while we understood what an ideal studio should look like, perfection had to tempered with practicality in this design. However, in the end, a satisfactory studio concept has emerged from the process.