Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There are Flaws, and then there are Flaws....

And if you are a production potter, you will have flaws.

No, I don't mean in your personality. There may be a flaw or two there as well, nobody is perfect, but I mean in your work.

What got me started musing about flaws was some pieces that came out of the kiln last week that I really debated over. A mug had a glaze skip at the top of the handle. The white glaze I use so much has a tendency to crawl if it is on too thick, or if the glaze coat is damaged before the piece is fired. In this case, because I dip the rim of the mug, then dip the outside of the mug, creating a bit of overlap near the rim, I think it was a bit too thick and probably the glaze coat cracked before the mug went in the kiln.

The skip was almost round, and about 1/4 inch across. It was clearly visible but would not effect how the mug performed. I reluctantly decided it was a second, but I must admit, I was tempted. I've seen worse glaze skips both on other potters' work and on so-called 'fine china' for sale at high prices in upscale stores. I don't think that is right, but on the other hand, if the skip is clearly visible and you buy the piece anyway, you have only yourself to blame so maybe it is alright.

Another flaw that I struggle with is pinholes. In fact, if I ever get dragged, whimpering pitifully, to a small white room all to myself some day, it will be because of pinholes. One dog-gone little pinny and a nice piece is ruined....  so is it OK to put it out for sale? Maybe, maybe not. In a decorative item such as a mounted tile or a vase, maybe. On the outside of a serving piece, maybe. But inside a bowl or other thing meant to be used for food, no.

Specks are almost as bad as pinholes. I use a lot of cobalt for blue decoration, and somehow tiny bits of it get where I don't want them. A nice plate can be totally spoiled by a blue dot or two in what is supposed to be a white background. For the life of me I don't know how to prevent them and sometimes I just decide to live with them. But this past week I had a butter dish that has a veritable splash of blue dots just under the handle; how the heck did that happen?

Then there are the not-flaws that look like flaws. I get very cranky if my dipping tongs leave a scratch of metal on the surface of a piece. It doesn't look like anything at the time, but will fire up a dark line, and you'd be surprised how many people ask me if it is a crack. So if I see such a line in time, I make sure to sand it off. But.... sometimes I don't catch them. Similar to the marks left by tongs are the lines you sometimes get where a glaze thickness changes. If you hesitate while moving a piece through the glaze batch, you may get a line which is visible when you hold the piece under the light just right. I usually consider that to be OK, but I've had customers firmly reject those pieces. And of course, if they find anything they think wrong, they probably won't buy at all and will tell all their friends and.....

And how about a rough spot on an edge? Often these are an excess of stain and can be sanded off, but they are so easy to miss. Then a customer runs their finger over the rim and ouch.... and 'ouch' for you, too. Or a rough spot on a foot ring that you didn't sand well enough. I once lost a large order because the customer's husband found a small rough area on one footring on one plate. Now I am obsessive about feeling footrings very carefully. Hard on the hand, if you actually find a burr, but much easier on the temper!

Luckily, lots of things from the kiln last week were without flaw. My batter bowls looked pretty good:

And I had matching maple syrup jugs and pancake warmers, so I was all set for the Maple Run Studio Tour which was this past weekend. Sales weren't great, but it was because of the rotten weather (snow and rain and ice and mud, yes, we had them all) not because of flaws in my pottery.

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