Getting Organized

I've learned from a wide variety of teachers over the years. I was taught throwing, technique, glaze formulation, concept, and style from half a dozen teachers in high school and college. But, after school, when it started becoming clear that this pottery thing was in my bones and I should really get serious about it, I turned to the internet to figure out how to be a professional artist. I found the blog of Mea Rhee, and from her I learned the nuts and bolts of being a potter.

This is how Mea Rhee organizes her production into 2-day to-do lists. Each block is a list of pots to throw one day and trim the next.

She's a very organized person, which I think we have in common. I love a good to do list or spreadsheet. One of my favorite things she does is carefully track her own production ability. She knows exactly how much work she can produce in a given time, and how long she needs to work to have enough inventory for a show. I've poured over her 2-day to-do lists and show inventory sheets.

I've decided that now is the time to organize and quantify my production abilities. I have a big holiday season coming up, and then a huge show at the end of winter. My goal is to sell $10,000 worth of pottery this holiday season, and then do it again at the Seattle Home and Garden Show at the end of February. Step one is making all those pots. In order to sell them, I've got to make them.

I'm in my studio 6 days a week. But I can't plan on a full, uninterrupted 8 hours of work time in a day. I take some time each morning to clean and organize the mess I made the day before. I'll probably need to set pots I threw the day before in front of a fan or heater with their bottoms up before they're ready to trim. I'll need to reclaim clay or mix new slip. I'll have people come into the gallery that need my help. I'll need to take breaks. I'll remember something I should have done yesterday and stop to do it before I forget again. Some days are shorter than others.

So, let's say 4 hours of actual work time. What can I get done in 4 hours?

I wonder how many tiny pots I can throw off the hump in one day. They seem to go so quickly. Sounds like a fun challenge!

Plates are quicker, and vases are slower. I've always found tall, thin shapes more challenging. I'll need to consider extra time for handles. Making and attaching those are a whole day on their own. I know I can throw 20 easy things like plates, cups, or small-medium bowls. Probably 12 vases or larger things, and probably 40ish little things off the hump.

I'm going to assume I can trim and decorate pieces at the same rate I throw ... which may not be entirely accurate. But, for now that's the best assumption I have to go on. Trimming doesn't take long with most shapes (plates being the exception, but they make up for it in quick throwing) and I've got my decorating technique down to a quick little assembly line. The hardest part is getting everything to the right stage of leather-hard and keeping it there for a day.

I'll test these numbers in the coming weeks and check back in here.

The last step: Signing the bottom. All the finishing touches, from the trimming to the color to my signature are done when the clay is leather-hard.

Let me know if this is something you do in your own practice. Have you made production plans leading up to a big show? Do you know how much work you can make in a given time period? How useful have you found this information?



Whidbey Island, WA

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