Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Work cycles

We're all different.  Thank goodness.  The world would be very dull if we weren't.  For every human characteristic there seems to be a continuum and where you are on it can have wide-reaching effects.  Artists and other creative people have a reputation for not being good at admin and it's often said that I am unusual in not only being very good at it but actually enjoying it.  It's true.  I've always enjoyed being organised. 
It's just as well.  Balancing all the different components of my working life needs careful planning and an eye for far-reaching implications when surprises turn up.  Some of that is because I do different things within my working life - pottery, textiles, cards, working within organisations, to name but four.  The rest is to do with the constraints of making pottery generally and, I have to admit, some created by the particular work that I choose to do.

Working in two clays in a smallish workshop with one wheel means that I can't just swap between clays on a daily or even weekly basis.  There's a day's organisation in cleaning all the tools, the work area, etc between using one clay and another and it's not a job I enjoy.

Another factor is what happens in the kiln.  Within the glazes that I use, different glazes require slightly different firing temperatures and since my kiln fires unevenly (as most seem to, to some extent or other) I achieve this with mixed firings.  Also, in the grand scheme of things it's not big - about 10.5 cu ft - but you can get a lot of pots in there and I can't imagine ever needing to fire a whole kiln full of one type of pot.  As an example, if I fired nothing but mugs, I'd probably be looking at more than 90 mugs (although I would have a shelf left over that wouldn't be high enough for any more mugs but would take cereal bowls.)  I never need 90 mugs at once.  I always need 45 mugs, 20 cereal bowls, a dozen dinner plates, a few salt pigs and some fruit bowls.  And in case you're wondering, no, I wouldn't get all of those in one firing either!

So, firings are necessarily very mixed.  I do also fire to two slightly different temperatures, so that's another element of variety added to the mix.  It will now be clear why I need to have lots of all sizes of pots in both clays to start firing.

So, at last, I come to the point of the title, work cycles.  My pottery work cycle is that I spend a couple of months or more at a time making pots in one clay.  During this time I may have enough of the other pots to fire but often not.  Then eventually I have made all the white clay pots I'm going to, as you see in the picture above, and I can start on the other colour of clay.  That's where I am now.  This morning I began throwing pots in the brown clay.  It feels really good to be at that moving forward sort of stage, especially as the weather has been so springlike and there is a general feeling of regeneration.  I've been busy with a few other things for about 10 days so it's also good to get back into the pottery in general.

What next?  Well, next there need to be enough pots in brown clay ready to fire so that I can actually start on some firings.  After that ...  well, that's for another day, I think.

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