8.5 years. 230,000 beer mugs. 500,000 lbs of clay.
These numbers in a way sum up my day job at a production pottery that I recently left to pursue my own studio work, full time. This pottery specializes in coffee mugs, beer mugs and steins, and the number 230,000 represents roughly how many of these beer mugs I made (all wheel thrown) over the 8.5 years of my employment, which was roughly 500,000 pounds of clay. If I make pots for another 33 years (supposing a retirement age of 65, which I hope to make it to, and then subsequently not retire) I would have to go through about 15,000 pounds of clay a year to again thrown 500,000 pounds of clay. It is somewhat unbelievable to have made that many beer mugs, thrown that much clay, spent all those hours at the wheel. Now, it is liberating to think that perhaps the hardest physical work of my career is behind me.
The past eight and a half years were marked by highs and lows, aches and pains. I once threw 60 beer mugs in an hour; I also dealt with tendonitis and carpal tunnel issues. One day I threw 325 pots in a day, about 650 pounds of clay, but I often felt burnt out after a day hunching over the wheel. There were many benefits to these years at the production pottery; I learned a lot about kiln repair in my early years there, I rapidly gained throwing skill, and now I have a level of comfort with clay which allows me to experiment and push forms in which ever way I want to.
In the end the numbers are an interesting way to put the past years in perspective, but this is the perspective of the machine, the data gathered by the computer to optimize productivity. This is the perspective of the widget calculator.
As I look back on these years of production I hope that I am through with these numbers, these numeral summarizations of a life, of nearly a decade. I hope that the next decade is summarized in different ways: 17 revelations in slip decoration, 42 failed glaze recipes, 3 successful glaze recipes, 100,000 hours of quality studio time, 300,000 hours of life, 500 pounds of tomatoes, and perhaps only another 60,000 pounds of clay. I hope it is measured in the growth of plants, the warming of a cool morning into a beautiful afternoon, in the passage of water, in the laughter of friends and family, in the cumulative effects of observation and dedication to a craft. I hope in the end those 230,000 beer mugs seem a distant memory, something hazy and out of focus, and what I see as I look behind me is something much less quantifiable, something that cannot be added, divided and subtracted, something that can only be enjoyed, intimately, like the carefully crafted handle on your favorite coffee mug.
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Linda Pratt (Wednesday, 06 June 2012 14:38)
Hello Nick: I saw your pottery for the first time at the recent St. Anthony Park fair, and wanted to let you know that I feel you have set a new and wondrous benchmark for beauty in pottery. In all respects -- design, color, proportion, detail, and practicality -- your work stands wonderfully apart. And now that I have read your blog entry of May 8th., I can better understand how those astonishingly long and productive hours spent working in a potter's equivalent of a puppy mill have contributed to your intimate knowledge of your medium. I hope that you are enjoying unbounded success!
pistolwoman (Thursday, 14 June 2012 02:16)
Can you please post more of your work? I am a fan especially with your pottery, huge huge fan that is :)
Sandra (Friday, 16 November 2012 08:18)
A new direction has created a beautiful move in your work!
Lani Bankers (Wednesday, 23 January 2013 13:52)
Your work first caught my attention at Grand Hand Gallery. I immediately liked and bought a handled, small soup bowl/mug. I brought it home and my husband liked it very much, as well. I guess that's when we began 'stalking' you (not really!!) or at least finding art festivals where you were showing. Since then, we've purchased 2 small bowls and 1 large one and pretty sure we're not done. BTW, I notice you made Denver's Cherry Creek Art Festival. We've been to it a couple of times and not just anyone gets into that. Congratulations, Nick!!
Michelle (Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:36)
Nick, your work is truly beautiful. I found your work at the Bell Street Gallery on Madeline Island and was filled with awe when I saw it. I acquired a fabulous tea pot which I will enjoy everyday. I have been in the art world, working at various museums and making my own art, including pottery, and I can confidently say that your pottery stands apart as one of the best I've seen. I look forward to seeing and collecting more of your work.
Lauren (Tuesday, 07 October 2014 10:28)
Damn, you deserve success, not only for the hours you put in but for the stunning work you produce. Best of luck! I vote best blog entry ever.
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