Advice for Potters

You might think that after all these years, I would not be much interested in new how-to-make-pots sorts of books, but I do like to look at them. First, I turn every page and look at the ceramics that have been included. Then I go to the chapter on how to set up your studio. I usually read that chapter first, or if there are profiles of successful potters, I read those first, and then how to set up your studio. I love these chapters.

So, that is exactly how I began with The Potter’s Complete Studio Handbook: The Essential, Start-to-Finish Guide for Ceramics Artists by Kristin Mülller and Jeff Zamek. Looking at the pieces, I was delighted to see Louise King’s enchanting Mud Ponies!  A Mud Pony appears on the back cover, and in two interior photos. There are some nice jugs and a pretty casserole, but the photographs and line drawings are primarily about process and not the finished results. This is not a book you would look to for a sense of history.

The how-to-set-up-your-studio chapter comes at the beginning of the book, which is unusual, as most how-to books place this chapter towards the end. It is a delight for the voyeuristic potter. Maybe I suffer from a bit of masochism as well as voyeurism, as I especially like to look at floor plans of studios. The one Müller and Zamek present is 14 feet by 24 feet, some might call it modestly sized, with loads of shelving, a separate kiln room, 4 work tables plus a wedging table, glaze material storage, two sinks, one wheel and a sculpture stand.  There aren’t any display fixtures and the studio is not equipped with a slab roller or pug mill, but it is a very nice workspace and so orderly. There is a photo of what they call a home studio that appears to be in a basement. The floor is so clean you could spread a linen tablecloth out and have a picnic on it. Even the wheel is gleaming.

Well, who doesn’t want a larger, better-organized studio? I am happy with my whitewashed walls, display space, and pretty glass doors to the metal kiln shed in the garden, but you would never consider a picnic in my workspace. I half heartedly battle the webs that invading spiders make here when the weather turns cold, and yes, there is dust, and always a bit of chaos going on, to say nothing of the overflowing buckets of clay scraps to be recycled.

Interestingly, Müller and Zamek focus on electric kilns. I say interestingly because Müller fires in a 35 foot long anagama/noborigama hybrid wood burning kiln and Zamek, who has written 3 earlier books, has a ceramics consulting business, and helps potters with their gas-fired kilns. Perhaps they plan a future book on fuel-fired kilns.

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