October 21, 2013 § 4 Comments
I am doing a bit of metaphorical fire-fighting in the workshop at the moment. It has been a busy couple of months with a lot to keep on top of. Keeping the workshop running smoothly has been a challenge – having pots for orders to be delivered to shops as well as feeling that I have enough pots to take to these three autumn fairs that I am currently in the middle of (each of which is two weeks apart!). A key issue has been scheduling the kiln firings. The kiln, obviously, has a finite capacity and, as I begin to make larger pieces, the number of pots that I can fit into it becomes ever more limited. So, to get the required pots at a particular time takes strict organising. This isn’t my forte but my lovely blackboards have helped. I now write down in the diary for the month ahead what needs to be made, when and, crucially, the all important firing schedule – and then transfer this information onto the two blackboards in my workshop.
I bought the kiln sometime in the spring of last year and really had no idea how to judge the capacity in terms of what I required. I bought it from Northern Kilns after a telephone conversation with them and a look at their website. In an attempt to make my choice, I took all my bowls and mugs and jugs out of the cupboards and lay them on the floor in various configurations to mimic the sizes of the different kilns. When they delivered the one I ordered to my workshop my jaw hit the floor. I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. I thought, ‘I’m never going to fill that in a million years!’ Now I feel it needs a companion.
This picture (the only one I have that includes my kiln) was taken a few weeks after moving into my current workshop. The workshop looks nothing like this now. To see what it does look like, you could come to one of the 3 open days that my workshop complex (Dockfield Road Creative Arts Hub, Dockfield Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD17 7AD) is having in the run-up to Christmas.
Sunday 17th November
Saturday 30th November
Sunday 8th December
Maybe see you then…
October 14, 2013 § Leave a comment
I thought I’d tidy the blog up a bit this evening – get rid of past selling events, up-date my stockists list and tell you about up-coming events.
One of the key things I have tried to do this year is increase my number of stockists, which is why I attended the British Craft Trade Fair, in April, and Pulse, in May. This is an up-to-date list of my current stockists:
The Arc Gallery, Chester
Atelier Home and Garden, Kirk Hammerton, York
Hesta Scene?, Caldbeck, Cumbria
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (delivering on Friday), Wakefield
Masham Gallery, Masham
Staacks, West Kirby
Handmade in Bradford, Bradford
The Imaginarium Gallery, Haworth
The Moreton Gallery, Moreton in Marsh
The Beetroot Tree Gallery, Draycott
Market Place Gallery, Olney
Maud and Mabel, London
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
Ruthin Craft Centre, Ruthin
Oriel Myrddin Gallery (delivering on Friday), Carmarthen
I also wanted to let you know about the 3 open studio days at Dockfield Road Creative Arts (where my workshop is). They will be:
Saturday 17th November
Sunday 30th November
Saturday 8th December
I will post more information nearer the time but I wanted to give you notice in case you wanted to put it in your diaries…
October 7, 2013 § 1 Comment
I have been beavering away these past few months, pretty much holed-up in my workshop. I have enjoyed it – I have enjoyed being in the workshop, I have enjoyed the work and I have enjoyed the learning and discovery.
Things take shape gradually out of the day-to-day running of the workshop. The thing that has struck me most has been the natural desire to streamline what goes on in there, in both a practical, making sense and in terms of business. It all needs to work as efficiently as it can. Streamlining is my word of the moment. Time, streamlining time is vital; and blackboard paint has been a miracle find resulting in two blackboards in the workshop – one for quantities of pots to be made (left), the other a list of jobs to do for that week (right).
I know what I am doing each day of the week, weeks in advance, which has given me so much more control (and as a consequence my heart isn’t pounding with anxiety all the time like it used to do). As a result, I know how much stock I have for the three fairs I have coming up, how much I need to make and how the firing schedule will work to make it all happen. Well, that’s the theory…
I am streamlining the making, too. The shapes are becoming more consistent and each takes less time to make. I am trying hard to increase my speed while keeping the quality high. With this in mind I am trialing a change of shape with my bowls.
The footring is a beautiful thing giving balance, poise and lift to a bowl – but they don’t half take a long time to make. So I have made some bowls without footrings to take to the three fairs that are coming up and I am going to see what their reception is. I want to make a well-crafted, elegant bowl that speaks of function and is a pleasure to use – and that takes two to three minutes to turn instead of the 15 to 20 that the bowls with the footrings were taking. I would like to be able to offer a discount to someone if they bought 4 or 6 bowls, encouraging the purchase of a set, and with a faster turnover this should be possible.
Being full-time understandably, but slightly unexpected in its force, focuses the business mind. How much clay am I using? How much am I recycling? How long is each pot taking to make? How long are orders taking to pack? Am I charging enough for packaging? Can I reduce the time it takes to glaze the pots? Are each of my three glazes working? These questions are constantly there and it is good and healthy that they are. It all needs to work.
It’s a hugely rewarding process of making and selling – I’m so pleased to have taken the leap…