Plate Setters

I recently had a question from potter Joel Cherrico asking me about the plate setters I use for dinnerware sets, (that I don’t actually like to make… sorry folks they are just too time consuming).

I think I got these setters from my favorite ceramic supplier, Sheffield Pottery.  The plates are currently used daily in our kitchen.

Dinner Plates on Setters_lucy fagellaPlate setters

For more on dinnerware sets see a post I wrote a couple of years ago on what a potter makes per hour.  I gauged it on a dinnerware set.  

Some Goodies for My Holiday Sale

This weekend is my Open Studio/Holiday Sale… actually fellow Greenfield potter, and friend, Tiffany Hilton and I decided to have our sales the same weekend…   We figured why not advertise together, put our mailing lists together for the post card, and call it a tour.  So I sent in some information to the local paper and called it, ” A Tour of  Two Potters”  ( kinda catchy, huh) well the paper obviously liked it,  and wrote a nice blurb using that as the title, with a subtitle, “Two excellent Greenfield potters” – along with a photo of my teapots in process!  Oh and speaking of blurbs… the December issue of Ceramics Monthly gave the, “Homegrown for the Table” show at Pinch in Northampton a little write-up, with a photo of my work!

 Here is a taste of what you will see at my studio this weekend!

Addendum to the Dinnerware Set

I have been getting quite a few comments on the hourly rate of a potter.  Molly Cantor helped me to realize that I didn’t add in a few things like rent/mortgage, kiln repairs, show fees, advertising, web design fees etc.  Whoa… if I add all these in I think the hourly rate goes down to $5.00 an hour or less.   So why is it we potters are potters????   We really do love our work I guess!  I know I do!!!

What does a potter make per hour? Dinnerware set: Final Results

I know it’s been a long time for those results on the dinnerware set for my family… but you know business gets in the way!  So here are the results,  and the total time it takes to make 15 dinner plates and 15 dessert plates. (actual set came to 12 of each)

There is a little pin-holing on some of the plates… the flow of the glaze just isn’t the same as on a vertical surface.  The glaze just didn’t move, so the resulting thickness left some pin-holing.  So the out of the 30 plates originally thrown, three really bit the dust.  I did get my intended set of 12, because they are not totally up to my standards I might not want to look at them everyday in my kitchen. So I might just put them on my seconds table at my next sale!

dinnerware stack

dinner set 1


12 hours:  throwing and trimming

12 hours: loading, firing, unloading bisque firing

1 hour: glaze testing

5 hours: glazing, (does not include making the glazes, which I tend to forget in my total calculations often) Remember there are also two layers of glaze, and resist design.

45 hours: three glaze firings, loading and unloading included (one glaze firing cannot accommodate 30 plates.  I have plate stackers, but can only fit eight at a time)

If you want to see the detail of each step, look up dinnerware or porcelain place settings, in tags and categories.

Notice I italicized the firings for those of you who think that should not be included, because yes I can do other things during that time, I do not have to sit in front of the kiln, stare at it, and stoke it like a wood firing.  But I do have to be present and turn up switches, and make sure the studio doesn’t burn down!

So if we include all the time calculated above it took a total of:  75 hours… that would be approximately 3 1/4 hours per plate.  If  I charge $40 per dinnerplate, and $30 per lunch plate, I get an average $11 per hour. Porcelain clay is 60 cents per lb.  A dinner plate is 4lbs… that’s 2.40 per plate.  Glaze is hard to calculate per plate, but lets say 50 cents per plate.  Firing cost is approximately $25 per kiln load, so lets again say 50 cents per plate, that’s a $1.00.  If I substract $3.40 from $11 I make $7.60 per hour… hummmn… a BFA from Alfred University, plus 25+ years of experience… Now you will know why I don’t make dinnerware sets for customers!!!

Dinnerware Set Glazing

Well it is about time I’m glazing that dinnerware set for my family.  If you’ve followed my blog in the past you are aware that I started making a dinnerware set back in January (check catagory cloud, or tags for dinnerware)  It was during my slow time, well of course it got busy, and I am now just getting to the glazing five months later. 

As with the making of the plates I haved noted the time it takes for each step of the way.  With hopes that non potters will come to undersand the price difference from Target to real handmade pottery.  And that students of pottery will see that the whole process of becoming a professional potter takes PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE.

Tuesday May 5th,   music playing while glazing today… I went from retro, George Michael, to reggae, Michael Franti,  The Cure, to Pink, anything danceable, to keep me grooving for this long process!

11:45- 1:00 … take plates from dusty shelves, dust each one and wax resist all 30 of the plates bottoms.

1:10- 1:40… Apply first layer of glaze. (waxy blush glaze)

1:40-2:35… brush on wax resist decoration, and wipe feet of each plate from any glaze that stuck.

2:35- 3:05… eat lunch.

3:10-4:15… dip all 30 plates in second glaze. (black oil, albany slip glaze)

So, the glazing part of this has taken approximately 4 1/2 hours.  Next is loading the kiln and firing.

dinnerware set waiting to be glazedWaxed bottomsappying wax resist decorationDipping the plates in the black oil glaze

Dinner Plate Test Results

Here are some images of the test plate results.  

The first pictured is the beautiful, but troublesome white on white test plate.  As I said in the last post, no crazing occurred until two weeks later and one time in the dishwasher.  It was so soft looking and subtle… now all you see is crazing. 

The second pictured is the dark, lustrous, trouble free oil spot glaze with a hint of waxy blush for a little lift.  This has been through many dishwashings, and lots of use in the past month.  It has clearly proven itself as the winner of the dinner plate contest for our kitchen.


Glazing Dinner Plates

It is now the first of March…..and we are back to the dinner plates. 

Dinner plates for a potter’s home are usually a mix of favorites from your own work, (or seconds in my case from my own work) or favorites from other potters.  I like the mix…. but my partner wants a set.  So now how does a potter make a set that they will enjoy looking at for years to come?  

My thoughts on this are… do not use your best selling glaze… after seeing it daily in your studio for a couple of years you usually get sick of it,  and don’t want to see it daily at your meals.  So I would love to see my dinner plates in one of my infrequently used glazes… which I love.  Those two choices are white on white, (customers don’t even see this glaze when there at a show of mine, it has no shout out, BUY ME value). It is very subtle and food looks great on it, (so when at a show I put a red apple or tomato on it).   The other glaze I love is of course another of the ones that customers pass by, except other potters or artist customers…  they love as much as I do,  and of course that would be a dark brown… a great Albany Slip Oil Spot brown!  Food also looks great on it.

So in between my my work in February I tested some new clear glazes (since my clear tends to craze when applied over the off white glaze for the white on white effect.) My apprentice Pam and I found three nice clears with no crazing when dipped over off white (waxy blush) glaze. So Pam mixed up a 10,000 gram batch of the best from the three.  I tested both the white on white combo, and the black oil off white combo on small plates.  They both look beautiful.  I tend to like the white on white better (remember I work in porcelain).  The family voted on the white also, but there was one problem after the vote, a week later, and after the dishwasher… the whole plate crazed, not a nice crackle type glaze but a circular crazing… a glaze just not fitting the clay body at all!

So now my next step is to apply the clear glaze super thin over the off white , wait two weeks, and throw it in the dishwasher! 

Hopefully I’ll have more on this with photos next post!