NCECA! Be there or be Square!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

As many of you know, this week brings to us the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is a time to meet, greet and soak up some educational content.

In the spirit of education we encourage each and everyone one of you to attend our talk in Ballroom B at 11am on Thursday the 1st of April. My partner Dave and I will be presenting a lecture entitled Sexy Bodies-Making Excellent Clay. We are going to talk about the science behind clays and how to make the better. It is going to be a wicked awesome talk and we hope to see you there. We would love to meet all of you so stop by after and introduce yourself.

We also encourage you to stop by Ballroom B on Friday April 2nd, from 10-11:30 for the Panel: Ceramic Technology- Material Issues. Moderated by Jonathan Kaplan, with John Britt, Angela Fina, and Jeff Zameck. We think there will be some interesting discussions about the importance of processing and technology in clays and materials.

We hope to see you all in Philly and please stop us and say hello!

See you there 


That's Swell

Scott Amron has invented these coffee cup selves that swell to insulate when the cup is filled with hot liquids. They have the neat feature of being reflexive to things like the temperature differential of logos. So you get a vague bloated version of your logo to show off to your customers.

These are pretty cool, but it does seem that these are for one time use and is something that has to be "pre installed" on cups. Amron declares that they are recyclable, so it has that going for it.

Thanks Mrs. Rose



Big Nothing

The Tata Kaapi Coffee Company in Bangalore, India has created the worlds Largest Coffee Cup. The diner style mug is 20 Feet tall, 14 feet Wide and has a Five Foot Handle and is made out of....fiberglass...

/sad trombone



Oh Deer

This adorable flask and cup set come to us from designer Fenke Schwan. Titled "Schnaps with Bambi", The inlayed image combined with the glazed and unglazed surfaces, makes for a charming little item.



Oh Snap!

This Salt and Pepper set comes to us via Israel. (Check out their website for some great pictures of designers in the studio).

Made and designed by Mey and Boaz Kahn, this sweet little set bust be snapped in half to function. They won the 1st price winner among 4843 participants of the Macef and Designboom international competition "Dinning in 2015" that took part in Milan, in February 2008. 

A nice little object and fun to boot. 



Egg Roll

I think the title says all that we need to know about this porcelain salt shaker by Markus Gläser/MichaelKibler.



Splish-Splash of Color.

This one's going out to Mrs. Rose. 

These sinks are by the Spanish group Disegno Ceramica. The come in sink and shower pan designs, and by my mind are pretty awesome. 

I sort of love were sinks have gone. One can argue that bathroom/kitchen materials have gone crazy. That may very well be true. I don't care for granite counters and I'm not the biggest of the new kind of sinks with the "bowl on the counter" appearance; But for the most part I really like when fixtures get playful.

I also love color. I was talking with a coworker yesterday about painting. His son is trying to pick a color for his bedroom and my co-worker said "as long as it isn't purple" I grunted vaguely and thought of our new purple stair well.

Adding color and playfulness to bathroom fixtures is a great addition to bathrooms.



It's Educational

As many of you know, my day job is in ceramic science. Specifically the application of ceramic science to ceramic art. Part of that is teaching glaze clac here in Alfred. 

We are lucky to have the opportunity to offer our students the chance to study such a specialized subject. I also know that it something that a lot of people want to get some experience with, but don't have the opportunity.  Well now you do. 

This summer at Castle Hill-Truro Center for the Arts on beautiful Cape Cod Massachusetts, I will be teaching a class on ceramic science for the artist. The class is called Rumor Milling and will be from June 14th-18th. We will examine all aspects of ceramic science and how it applies to the artist. The class is taught from an advanced beginner's perspective, so no existing knowledge of glaze science is needed. Having  mixed a glaze before is all the experience required.  We will also talk about dispelling those pesky myths that pepper ceramics.

So please join in. it is going to be a lot of fun and if you might just learn something.

Get all of the information and register at Castle Hill's Website.



I'm up for a discussion. 

Is this oil plate by Aldo Bakker interesting or flawed?




At first, this creamer appears to be unlike any other pouring vessel. 

Upon examination, we come to find that it has a secret. A gravitational secret. 

That is, the sugar bowl, hidden on top, that pivots as the cream is poured. Keeping the sugar level and dry. 

Pretty Sweet! Ha! Get it? Sweet? 

Anyhoo you can find this crafty little devil, by Caroline McGrath here

Thanks to Pete for the heads up. 


Get a Handle on Things

These nylon teacup handles make me want to accessorize just about everything with a hint of function. 
Coat Rack? Make it "FUNctional". 
Dog? Running around too much? Give her a handle. 
Potted Plant? Give it a sip. 
Truly a million uses. 

Buy your's here... When they become available



Makin' It

Hey All, 

My friend David Peir, has a cool article posted from Ceramics Monthly. It profiles his experience turning is amazing pots into a production line. 

I tried to post the link to Ceramic Arts Daily, but there seem to be problems with it. So I have reprinted then entire article.

*UPDATE* Working link to the article: Here

I won't go off on too much of a tangent, but this is something that I have been encouraging a lot of my pottery friends to pursue. I know that we all like handmade pots, but I stand fast to the notion that all of you who make pots are really designers who make their own products.

On a side note. I'm taking off for a long weekend,so I will see you all Monday.

Going Industrial: The Expectation and Reality of Embracing Mass Production

At the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Art conference in 2006, a colleague mentioned to me that he had spoken with Ed Weiner at Maryland China about the possibility of self-financed mass production. I had always imagined selling or leasing my designs to someone else, but I quickly came around to the idea of paying for the venture myself. I spoke with Ed and, before long, I paid $500 to have a prototype of my coffee cup produced. I had a lot of confidence in my design, since hundreds of people had paid $75 retail for one without a saucer. Although the mass-produced cups wouldn’t have the brightly colored glazes of my originals, I figured thousands of people might pay $20 for one with a saucer that doubled as a lid. I felt that the commission that Maryland China would charge was well worth the security of dealing with a long-standing family business in the United States, as opposed to sending my money overseas without much recourse. If I had felt qualified to deal with Chinese factories, I would have done it earlier on my own. Maryland China also has relationships with factories that use a wide range of materials and processes, so they can choose the right factory for the job. They have extensive experience with importation and get volume discounts on freight rates from the port.
This prototype, which Pier ended up producing himself, includes a 
sprue (the extra reservoir at the top of the mold) that is inset from 
the edge of the lip in order to define the curved shape of the lip. 
Without this, too much variation in that curve was happening in the 
manufacturing process.This prototype, which Pier ended up producing himself, includes a sprue that is inset from the edge of the lip in order to define the curved shape of the lip.
The Process (as I imagined it)
  • Pay the development fee and send one of the cups I had cast myself.
  • Receive the perfect prototype.
  • Use my savings to order a minimum production run of 2400 pieces, which would arrive in a few months and be warehoused and shipped by a third party, leaving me with all of the time I had before-but with an extra income stream.
Like most of the big projects I’ve taken on, being overly optimistic was necessary to get me started.
The Process (as it was in reality)
The first thing that went wrong with the plan was that the factory wasn’t able to make the accurate scaled-up replica necessary to accommodate the porcelain shrinkage. The model maker “fixed” my design by making the body round, among other changes, when, in fact, the oval shape is an important visual and functional feature of my design. So, I had to spend 30-40 hours to make the master model myself. The next prototype followed my design much better, but the wavy rim had been cut without an understanding of the design. If even the model maker couldn’t execute this element correctly, I could see that my old studio method of doing it by eye wouldn’t work in the factory. The line of the lip needed to be dictated by the casting process, so I quickly came up with the idea of adding an additional top mold piece that, when removed first, would provide a guide for accurate rim cutting. The third prototype finally met all of my requirements. On the positive side, except for some shipping costs, all three prototypes were covered in the development fee. Without my previous experience with mold-making and casting, the development process for my unusual design would have been just about impossible.

This article appeared in Ceramics Monthly magazine’s February 2010 issue. To get great content like this delivered right to your door, subscribe today!

Looking down into the mold, with the top section removed, you can 
see the notches used to register the mold sections.
Looking down into the mold, with the top section removed, you can see the notches used to register the mold sections.
I was impressed by the whiteness and translucency of the porcelain. I requested bisque samples and found that all of my glazes worked great without modification. The Chinese porcelain was better than any material I could get for use in my own studio.
There were some small compromises to the form that mass production dictated. The transition from the handle to the body at the top is seamless in my studio cups, whereas the factory cups have a visible line. Inside the cup, where the bottom of the handle joins the body, there is a small pocket. It is easy to clean, but it is disconcerting to some that the surface can’t all be seen. We ended up casting the cups a little thicker than the factory usually does, in part to reduce the size of that pocket. The thicker cast actually makes the cups more functional in most respects, such as heat retention and strength, so it is only the remaining pocket that is a compromise.
When I learned of the quantity discount on a larger order, I increased my order to 4600 pieces, including 1000 unglazed. About four months later, the shipment arrived (to my billing address, rather than to the storage space as I had desired). When I opened the first box, I was very pleased. The result was better than I had originally imagined. Later, upon examination of more of the cups, I found that quality control was not what I would have hoped, and there were many pieces that could not be sold at full price. Many also required a little foot polishing to make them table-safe. I later negotiated a credit for some of the most defective pieces, and the quality control in later orders improved dramatically. I learned that the contract needs to be explicit about acceptable defect rates.
I realize now that factories will never come close to 100% perfection at an affordable cost. This revealed the biggest flaw in my original idea of how the whole venture would work. The flaws meant that a third party fulfillment agent, without expertise in ceramics, was impractical. The economics of the resale still worked out well, but I would have to do more of the work myself.
The saucers are pressure cast, a process in which very thick slip 
is forced into this gang mold under high pressure, and is released 
through vent holes on the bottoms of the saucers.The saucers are pressure cast, a process in which very thick slip is forced into this gang mold under high pressure, and is released through vent holes on the bottoms of the saucers.
In the end, Lux-Delux Design became a one-man show. I designed the logo, photographed the cups, built the website to sell them, I warehouse the cups in my house, and I do most of the packing and shipping myself. At the beginning, there was a lot to figure out: quality grading, pricing, web design, web placement, packing and shipping methods, freight shipping for larger orders, customs and duties for international customers, inventory systems, taxes, decals, return policies, and many other details. After two years of selling them online, I now have the process refined to where it takes me an average of just over one hour a day to deal with all of the coffee cup business. I occasionally hire a neighbor for a little help, and sometimes it takes up an entire day or two. I’ve found it lucrative enough that I ordered more of the 12 oz. cups from the factory, as well as adding a smaller 8 oz. cup.
My coffee cup website is a critical part of my mass-production success. I have always been comfortable working with computers and have enjoyed building up my photography and writing skills over my years as a potter. Selling on the Internet is not the only way to approach a mass-production project, but it is an approach that has allowed me to make use of my creativity and several skills that I enjoy.
<p>The Ultimate Coffee Cup (8 oz. version) stacked to show 
how the saucer doubles as a lid.</p>The Ultimate Coffee Cup (8 oz. version) stacked to show how the saucer doubles as a lid.
It is important to be realistic about what you can and cannot do yourself, and to take into account the costs of hiring others to do the things you cannot. Someone else might find success by directly approaching museum shops and other resellers, perhaps using the prototype to line up orders before investing too much money.
I’ve found that I enjoy interacting with my customers by email, and I am more comfortable being in control of the image projected over the Internet. I am pleased knowing that thousands of people now get to enjoy my design, and the cups are a pretty good approximation of what I would have made with my own hands. I didn’t have to cast thousands myself, freeing up time for my studio and other projects.
The cups have received exposure on consumer product and design blogs, which my studio pottery never would have received. That exposure has elicited interest for my design-for-fee services, so my self-financed mass production has been an unusual entry into the design world, allowing me to spend more time doing what I’ve always enjoyed the most. Perhaps the most practical result of this project is that my income is more stable than it would be if I were only selling my higher priced studio work.
For further information on the Ultimate Coffee Cup, see www.lux-delux.com.
the author David Pier, a frequent contributor to CM, is a ceramics consultant and potter living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Because of this project, he has been able to pursue his new invention, the Hound-Round dog exercise wheel (www.houndround.com).


Pottery for the People

Dan Finnegan, one of ceramic's OB's (Original Bloggers). Got his hands on some Porcelain for the People and turned it out. He made some lovely clam shell boxes. I can't wait to see how he finishes them. I love the variation of finish that people have been giving to the clay.  Whether chunky or refined the clay really sings.

I hear from some little birds that we have been getting shout-outs down south. At both the Alabama Clay Conference and the  North Carolina Potters Conference. The buzz was in the air about Matt and Dave's Clays. We love that kind of buzz. And it is only rolling on, as we will be at NCECA in Philadelphia. We have a big presentation planned and we hope to see you all there. Details to follow.


Bugging Out

I received a bunch of responses about the world's thinnest bowl yesterday. My two favorite being from my non-ceramic friend Ani, who asked "Why?". I guess it is just a clay thing.
My other favorite was from The Ridou Report Blog. Esa over there. posted these picture of looking at some bowls for their thinnest. Only to find a high fashion model, willing and able to make the bowl a little cooler.
Thanks Esa! Great Pictures.


Thin Rice (bowl)

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - A Taiwan potter is producing razor-thin ceramic bowls, raising a historic Chinese art form to a fragile, new high and aiming to sell the 0.2-mm (0.008 inch) thick wares in China at a hefty price.
Taipei-area potter Huang Cheng-nan has made eight of what he says are the world's thinnest bowls, some suitable for a scoop of rice and one big enough to mix punch.
But even the clink of a spoon could shatter the ceramics, the smaller of which sell for T$200,000 ($6,350).
"I've been at this for more than 10 years, but I've only made them successfully since last year," Huang, 55, said in his studio where he broke thousands of pieces before cracking the technique. "The difficulty is extreme. A lot of bowls get broken."
Chinese have made ceramics over about 2,000 years for utilitarian and religious purposes as well as for decoration, with very thin bowls especially prized. These wares are often characterized by ornate paintings, support legs and lids with handles.
Huang, a ceramics maker by trade, got started on his bowls after he saw ultra-thin, record-breaking wares in China and brought some back to Taiwan to study. He says his bowls are more than twice as thin as the thinnest in China.
"You wouldn't want to eat out of one," Huang quipped. "That would cause breakage."

Huang imports specialized clay and hires painters to do patterns on the white bowls.
His shop in Yingge, a Taipei suburb known for ceramics production, aims to exhibit at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai in May. After that he will set a price for the larger bowls and offer it for sale in China.
(Reporting by Christine Lu, Ben Tai and Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)


Bowled Over

Hi all, 

Sorry for the absenteeism yesterday. I had to make a run out of town, so I was out the door before I had a chance to post. Not to worry, I'm here now. 

This morning we see the work of Spanish designer, Manuel Estrada. These bowls fall in the realm of the impractical, but I'm not sure that would categorize them as un-functional. I suppose that they are exposed to the difficult contrast of wares that are made by a non-ceramicist. I think we need the fresh blood, as it challenges us to think in new and abstract ways. But there is something to be said for understanding function.

Plus I love Sushi Mario.



Center of attention

I stumbled across this neat little center piece on a post from Apartment Therapy. The original story was discussing a blog named homehomemade.com and their attempt to recreate a pricey Marc Jacobs candelabra set. I have no problem with the original or it's price, I love the concept as it it. It is a playful and interesting center piece. An aftermath of the baccanale. 

I've been thinking a lot about re-purposing recently. We are laying out plans for our downstairs bathroom. Mrs. Rose and I are looking at a nice porcelian floor tile and talking about accents. I have been thinking "Why not China Paint or Decal the accents?" It's not like we don't have the tools and the know how.



Walk it off

This set, called the Ambula. It is neither functional nor practical, but it is fun...if you are into that kind of thing. 
Designed by Finding Cheska, you can find it here




You're in hot water now

I know these are old and dated but I always have a soft spot for thermally activated mugs. 

This one in particular more poignant then the rest. It contains the entire Bill of Rights that disappears right before your eyes

I'm one of the classic civil libertarians. Don't trust the government and always watch out. This mug will help to keep you on your toes. Or it means that warm liquids are trying to keep us down... Hard to say.