Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Packaging Tutorial

During a discussion between potters about the percentage of breakage when shipping pottery, I discovered there is a real need for a packaging tutorial. We have been shipping pottery for years and have yet to have a buyer report breakage. I know our time is coming, but in the mean time, I want to share my method for shipping fragile items.

The first step is to wrap my items in bubble wrap and the box pack them in a small box. I want to be sure that they fit this small box securely and fill in with packing materials so the pieces cannot shift in the box.

Then, I find a box that is larger than the small box by at least 4 inches in each direction.

I put at least 2 inches of polystyrene peanuts in the bottom of my outer box. The inner box is then placed inside the larger box with an equal clearance on each side.

When I am sure the inner box is well packed, I seal it and then fill around the box with peanuts. Notice that the inner box is cradled all around by at least a two inch cushion.

I tuck the receipt, thank you card, or extra something on top of the inner box so it won't get lost in the sea of peanuts.

Almost done! At this point I fill the box with peanuts. I press around the sides of the inner box to be sure there are no air pockets where peanuts can settle in shipping. I mound the peanuts up so the box will be over filled.

Now it is time to ask for help. I usually have someone hold the box closed and I tack the flaps shut with some tape. Then I really work to squeeze the flaps together and tape like mad! I want to be sure there are no areas poking out that can catch on the machinery and cause the box to fail.

Finally, the address is added and the box is covered in the word FRAGILE. I don't buy stickers, but the box pictured is a recycled box and came with the lovely FRAGILE sticker, which I always read as fra-GEE-lay.

I know some people have issues with polystyrene peanuts. I do, too. I cannot in good conscience throw them away. I receive mounds of peanuts in my other business and I reuse every one. If you get peanuts in a package, you can always take them to a local independent mail shop and they will reuse them. When I get an excess, I call my local Pack and Mail and they will come pick them up. Be on the lookout for a new product - bubble paper! I am beginning to receive shipments packed in bubble paper and it seems as effective as polystyrene peanuts.

Feeling Selfish

These tumblers were only in our etsy shop for a couple of hours before they sold. Stamped "MINE" and "NOT YOURS", they bring out the toddler in all of us! Now I am feeling selfish and sad to let them go. Goodbye selfish cups! I'd really like to keep you! I know I'll make some more, but you will always be my first.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


These tiles are tests of the same glaze - Xavier's Warm Green Jade - on two clay bodies - a buff and a brownstone.

Last month, I mixed up a round of new glazes to test and possibly add to our studio line. One of the glazes I mixed was Xavier's Warm Green Jade. Initially, I added too much water and the glaze was very thin. I did my first test tile on a buff clay, which resulted in the tile on the left. It suits the name - a warm green glaze.

After the glaze settled out, I poured some of the water off of the top. I mixed it again and dipped a second test tile, this time a brownstone clay which is my preferred clay body. The glaze went on much thicker this time, resulting in the tile on the right.

So, the mystery is... is the difference due solely to the thickness of the glaze, or it is due to something settling out? Was it not settled enough when I poured off the water? I plan to make a large bucket of this glaze, since I love it, but I want to continue to get the results on the right.

Xavier's Warm Green Jade
Custer Feldspar 22
Ferro Frit 3134 16
Whiting 12
EPK-Kaolin 20
Talc 9
Silica 21
Copper Carbonate 3
Rutile 5

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shopping Spree!

A girlfriend called to see what I was going to be up to while the kids were in school - my so called "day off". "I'm going shopping in Ashville!" I replied. She regretted she couldn't go and I thought she probably didn't have in mind what I did.

I hopped in the car and headed over the mountain into North Carolina. An hour later I pulled up in front of Highwater Clays. I was giddy! I got a squeaky shopping cart and perused the aisles for over an hour! I bought EPK! Rutile! Gerstley borate! Red Iron Oxide! Talc! It went on an on and I was so happy. I restocked my glaze supply shelves and got the supply run buzz!

I have been doing some more typical shopping, too. Christmas shopping! Here are a couple of things I have bought on etsy. Click the pictures to visit the seller's stores.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Custom, Custom, Custom

We enjoy doing custom orders for people, but lately, we have been covered up with them! I do not get over anxious about making the items perfect. I am comfortable knowing they like our style enough to trust us to create something just for them.

We are just about dug out from the avalanche and we are feeling less panicky about the length of our list. Ticked off our list this week are bowls, a tea set, and a number of family portrait ornaments. Still remaining are more bowls, monogrammed ornaments, and mugs. Back to the studio to keep plugging away!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Product Shots for the Not So Dumb

I get questions all the time about how to shoot ceramics without an expensive or involved set up. I have looked online for a tutorial to share with my fellow mudders, but I cannot seem to locate one. So, I decided to create a tutorial here. I am using Photoshop 7.0 on my beloved iBook.

My set up is very basic. I have an inexpensive Kodak EasyShare camera and a piece of white poster board. I shoot my product shots outdoors at dawn, when the sky is bright but the sun is not yet casting shadows. As seen in the first screen shot, I just prop my poster board up (in this case against a dead potted plant) and set my pieces on it.
Once my photo is imported, my first step is to go under Image > Adjustments and select Curves. If your version of Photoshop does not have curves, you can do the same adjustments by choosing Levels and continue following along.
I little box will pop up. just under the Options button there are three boxes with what look like droppers in them. Click on the white dropper. We are going to set the white point. We are going to click on the darkest area of the picture that should be white.
In this case, I clicked on a spot just above and to the left of the top of the sake bottle. For some reason, my cursor does not appear in the screen shot. Bummer.
Now it is time to crop my photo. I know Etsy says to crop photos to square, but I do not. I believe most people view the site in gallery mode which is the default. Also, the front page and treasuries are seen in a gallery view, so I crop with those views in mind. In the tools menu on the left hand side of the page, I selected the upper left tool, which is the rectangular marquee tool. I simply click and drag my mouse to create the box shape I want.
Then under the Image menu, choose Crop.
Once the image is cropped, remember to go again under the Image menu and choose Image Size. Etsy requires out images to be under 1000 pixels wide, so I always set my width at the maximum of 1000 pixels. Click OK and save. You should have your product shot.
Below is the image ready to list on Etsy: a fabulous Pumpkin Pie Sake Set glazed in a rich orange and then dipped in whipped cream white. It's perfect for getting you warm during those first autumn cold snaps.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On Trunkt!

Yesterday we applied to be on Trunkt. The answer came back within a couple of hours - so fast I thought it must be a mistake! I read and reread the email to be sure and then went to Trunkt where I could see our portfolio! So cool!
We have been thinking about applying to Trunkt for ages. We are confident in our craftsmanship and artistic abilities. We love what we do. We regularly pull things out of the kiln jumping up and down and shouting, "This rocks! I love it!" So why is it so hard to put ourselves out there? If we were rejected from Trunkt, it wouldn't change the quality of our work. So why did we wait so long to apply?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Front Page Honors

Yesterday I saw a forum thread on Etsy about the awesomeness of the front page. Naturally, I had to go check it out. It was a grouping I curated! I have had items on the front page, but I was more excited to see artists I admire up there because of my treasury. Several items sold and I felt wonderful all day!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


In honor of the Etsy Mud Team's Mud in the Trees Event, all of our personalized ceramics are $5 off through November 11th. The EMT's Event will run November 4-11 and during that week, anyone who purchases from a participating EMT shop will be entered into a drawing to win a free handmade ornament. You will be able to view available ornaments on the EMT site and mark your favorites, if you'd like.

My hand-painted, customized ornament orders are starting to flood in. I have several in the queue already, but I will take discounted orders until November 11th. I can work from photographs for the Family Portrait Ornaments or take descriptions. The Monogrammed Ornaments can be done in any color scheme.

I love doing the family portrait ornaments. I feel so connected to a family after looking at their photos and creating cartoon versions of the family. I often add the family pets and once they included hamsters! It is so nice to hear back from families who say that Grandma cried she was so pleased or sister gave it a place of honor and displays it year round. Even though the orders for ornaments get overwhelming around the first of December, every year I take so much joy from them.