Sunday, February 10, 2013

Packing Work

Here in the studio, we are making large numbers of items that will eventually all be shipped out. One way that we stay organized is packing units ahead of time. This keeps the studio uncluttered and makes shipping time a breeze.

We start by gathering our materials for packing. We use a half inch masking tape, packing tape, bubble wrap, cardboard separators, and labels in this process.

Each piece gets wrapped in bubble wrap that is secured with masking tape. We used to use packing tape for this, but we found it frustrating to open. The masking tape is so much easier on our customers!

The shot glasses are sold in sets of four, so they are bundled together with a cardboard separator keeping them in place. The bundle is held together by either packing tape of plastic wrap. Since I (Lisa) cannot seem to make that stretch wrap work at all, I use packing tape. On the outside of each bundle, we put a label.

Our labels clearly state who we are, what items are inside, and we include a QR code that leads to our website. I make sure to buy permanent labels - the removable ones fall off if exposed to variable temperatures. The square ones are great! I got them from Avery and they are backed with silver so they are opaque. I just run them through my printer when I need them.

We use totes and bins to store the pieces until they are shipped. Each of these bins holds 25 sets of shot glasses. When we pack these to ship out, there is at least 2 inches of peanuts between the items and the side of the box. When there are multiple units in a box, we use sheets of cardboard to separate them from each other. 
We use new, 200 pound test boxes and we stock about 30 different sizes. When we order boxes, we make sure we have a box on hand that will work for any item we ship.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Coming Soon!

Recently, as we worked on one skully cup after another, an image popped into my head. 
The image was not a piece of pottery, but a tool.

I grabbed Alex, gave him an idea of what I needed, and he went to work. The man is a great woodworker, too! Within an hour, he had a prototype tool made. The first one needed some tweaking, but after a couple of tries, we ended up with a tool - a wooden press mold of sorts - that helped us create the first trays for our skully cups. 

I love the pillowy nature of the trays! 
We scaled the tool up to make trays for lowballs and highballs, too. 
These will all be sold for the first time beginning February 10, at 7pm, on

These all came to be as a result of that meditative way of working that we've been talking about. While my hands went through the repetitive task of throwing cups, my mind was free to both wander and wonder, stumbling over the answer to the question of trays.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Production as Meditation

We have made a big shift since our last sale. We have fully embraced production pottery as our primary way of working. This has made us streamline and analyze efficiency of movement, but it has also freed us to be more creative. Wait. What?! How's that so?

When we sit down to work on wholesale orders, we focus on one thing for hours. This time is largely spent relying on muscle memory. While our hands complete the work, our minds are free to wander. This process is so meditative and relaxing that we find our sketchbooks filling with new ideas. These ideas are given time to flesh out while we trust that our hands remember what they are supposed to be doing.

When we sit down to throw 50 - 100 cups at a time, we waste no time. Every moment of that throwing time is spent moving toward our goal. As we work, we tend to get faster and more efficient, so as our output increase, so does the time saved by working in large quantities.

Now, what do we do with that time earned by becoming production machines? We work on things that are just for us. No, not just for us to keep, but we work on things that we do not have to sell to be flush this month. Working in production frees us to create without regard for how something will be received. We can make because we love to make and not because we need to sell.

Then, there is the benefit of all that time spent in a meditative state. We are happy and content. We are doing what we love and making a living doing it. We are focusing on the things that fill us with joy and leaving behind the worries that drag us into angst. Life is good. We are at peace.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Efficiency and Passion

 We mentioned a couple of weeks back that we have a large wholesale order of 760 pieces that we had to complete in less than a month. Well, we have completed the making of the pieces and are just glazing and firing now. 

We are not production potters and have not ever worked on large quantites of the same item for extended periods. Prior to this, we might throw 24 skully shot glasses at a time and then move on to something else. We have been driven by distraction and whimsy.

The first thing we discovered was a need to efficiency of space. As we worked and paths constantly crossed to get this or that, I began to look at our studio space with a critical eye. I realized that we were wasting time by constantly moving from one side of the studio to the other.

One thing we had done was ask areas to multitask in inefficient ways. For instance, above my glaze making area, I had some shipping supplies and things we tuck into packages like business cards and bookmarks. Well, we don't pack over there, so this was a time and space waster. We flip flopped the shipping supplies with glaze colorants, which made much more sense. 

I think this will be an ongoing process, but I've learned to pay more attention to how we move in the studio and analyze our space more often. just because we have always done something one way, doesn't mean it is the best way to do it.

A big lesson came in making. This was also a surprise. We realized that in making very large series of items, we could  quickly pinpoint where mistakes were being made in both efficiency of movement and craftsmanship. By moving so quickly through making, firing, glazing, and making again, we could be more easily why processes succeeded or failed. This meant that we drastically reduced the number of seconds over the course of the project. It also means that seconds are now reduced from here on out, which means more profit and less waste.

The final lesson came in learning to breathe. Before we got this job, we already had tickets to an Oktoberfest celebration and the National Storytelling Festival. We said from Day One that we would not let this project consume every waking moment for its duration. We committed to down time and days off even if it meant a few late nights or extremely early mornings. 

When I was in school, one of my college professors said to me several times, with a rich middle eastern accent, "Lisa! You feel-a bad, you make-a bad clay. Go home!" That become my mantra over the years and let me know when it was time to refuel. If we don't recharge, we make-a bad clay. What we do take energy and passion and in order to mete out energy and passion all day, we have to receive it, too. For us, that meant spending a day tasting countless beers with our friends and a weekend in Jonesborough, TN listening to storytellers at the National Storytelling Festival.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We've been making little jars that we like to use for Herbed Salt or dry rubs.
 The little jars come with handmade olive wood spoons and a recipe for Herbed Salt.

You could use the jars for sugar or stevia, too.

The jars usually hold a cup to a cup and a half.
We glaze them in all sorts of colors and patterns.

This photo was taken at The Yellow Daisy Festival and shows the little recipe cards on baker's twine.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Production Mode

It has been a long time wince we wrote on this blog, but Alex and I have been hard at work. Right now we are in full production mode. We just wrapped up the Yellow Daisy Festival near Atlanta and arrived home to a 750+ piece wholesale order! This all came on the heels of a summer filled with wedding registries.

We've never really wanted to do production work, but we're finding it very satisfying. There is something about seeing rows and rows of identical pots that fills us with pride.

As for this big order, we'll let you know later where to find these pots. We are making tons of Skully Shot Glasses, prep bowls, olive dishes, platters, Sari Print dishes, and Beetles and Butterflies Dishes. We'll also have new wall pillows and suribachis! So, stay tuned. Hopefully, we'll be able to blog about the process of churning out over 750 pots in less than a month.