Saturday, May 17, 2014

The $65 Flop

Back in June of 2012 I went back to Illinois to visit and while there went to a paint-your-own-pottery place with my Mom, Sister, and Niece. For those not familiar, paint-your-own-pottery places (PYOPP) work like this: You walk in - no reservations necessary - pick out a piece of over-priced greenware, pay the studio day fee, and paint your piece using the paint, brushes, and misc. supplies provided by the studio. The PYOPP dip-glazes and fires the piece and a week later, you go back and pick up your finished masterpiece.

So the four of us went and it was a lovely day, three generations together, puttering with paint. I however apparently did more puttering then painting as at the end of our studio session my bowl was not finished. Niece was also not finished (she was doing a rather detailed design though) so we all went back again the next day for a few hours so that the two of us could finish our designs. And though Niece completed her piece, I did not. I had decided on doing a stained-glass look, a ridiculous choice of design given the time factor. So while the other three pieces stayed at the PYOPP to be glazed and fired, my bowl left with me, to be finished later back in Pennsylvania.

The day before I boarded the plane back to PA, we returned to the PYOPP to pick up the three finished pieces. They looked fantastic! The difference in colors between the raw ceramic paint and the fired paint is amazing! I was bummed I didn't finish my bowl in time but knew there was a ceramics store in my hometown that would have the paint and kiln needed to finish it. Not wanting to risk my bowl breaking on the plane, Mom went to the trouble of having it securely packed & mailed back to me. (Thanks, Mom!).

My bowl and I back home in Pennsylvania, I made my way into the ceramics store downtown. This is a "real" ceramics store. They sell greenware and painting supplies and offer the occasional class. They are not a PYOPP. The two ladies working there when I went in were a bit condescending and quite a bit anti-PYOPP. They did not carry the brand of paint I needed to match what I already had on the bowl, and every time I picked a close-enough color from their sample board they told me "Sorry, we are out of stock on that color". I finally picked out four in-stock colors that were a pretty good match, plus a black, and left, silently vowing never to go back to that store.

This was the same summer we moved from an apartment in town to a house on the river. Grateful, blessed, lucky - yes! But also - BUSY! Moving ain't easy. ;)
As time and circumstance allowed, I finally finished painting the bowl. All that was left to do was to get it glazed and fired ...
As I did not want to go back to the ceramics store downtown I was keeping my eyes open for a PYOPP. Somwhere that would adopt my bowl and dip & fire it with the rest of their batch. When I finally happened on such a place, on the way home from a job, they were in the process of changing locations. The owner was very nice, told me sure, we'll do it for you, but wait 'til next week until we are in our new location ... The next week we of course were not working in that area so by the time I was able to get to the new location, with the bowl, months had passed. And the store was closed early for the day. Sigh.

Many more months later, we have another job in that area so I bring the bowl with me. I am going to drop this damn thing off today no matter what!
The lady working that day was very nice, said she had a batch going in the kiln that night so she would dip my bowl right away and get it in that batch.
Two days later she called and said it was ready for pick-up. But due to job rescheduling, it was two weeks before I was able to return to the store to pick it up.

When I returned to pick it up, my bowl was a beacon, calling to me from its shelf, a stand-out amid all the other less vibrantly colored pieces. I was ecstatic. Look at how the colors came out! So not only did I happily pay their small studio fee for glazing & firing the bowl, I also picked out a matching raw mug. I figured I could paint it with the paint I had left over from the bowl and have them fire it. But I hadn't really LOOKED at the bowl yet. It wasn't until I was back in the work van on the way home that I unwrapped it and really inspected it. Oh dear!!! What a mess!!

Here is what my bowl looked like before I dropped it off to be glazed and fired:

And here is what it looked like when I picked it up after glazing and firing:

OMG!! It looks likes a kindergartner did it! Horrible! Not only did the black lines bleed out, the glaze was bubbled and blistered all over.

After I got home I did some research and found numerous reasons for glaze bubbling/blistering. Contaminates in the glaze, glaze not mixed thoroughly, glaze is applied too heavily, glaze itself is too thick, dirty kiln, improper heating/cooling ...
All of which point to the store's procedures and not me. I was not a happy camper at this point. A lot of time and expense went into this piece and now it is ruined. Aside from the black bleeding out and making it look like crap, it also feels bad to the touch.

Two days later I took it back to the PYOPP wanting some answers. I had with me "before" pictures - what it looked like before the tidy black lines I slaved over ran amok. The woman who happened to be working that day was very nice but was also rather nonchalant and unsympathetic. She said it appeared that 1) there were contaminates in the glaze making it bubble/blister and 2) their glaze must have reacted negatively to the paint I used causing the black to bleed.
She did say she could try to sand down the blisters and reglaze / refire the bowl which was a nice offer but since the bowl was still a disaster because of the black bleeding it wasn't worth the effort so I told her no thank you. I then returned the matching mug I had bought (was not going to waste time painting it if I couldn't trust them to finish it without ruining it) and got the $6 back they charged for dipping and firing it.

I thought, to be able to paint a piece at home and then bring it to them and have them glaze and fire it for only $6 (their studio fee for day) - what a good deal! But not if they are going to ruin it in the process. So I think my ceramic painting days are over.

All that said ... I think PYOPP are a great idea and loads of fun - as long as you paint there with their supplies. If you do it on your own and bring it to them just for the finishing the outcome is risky and they won't stand behind it.

And oh .. if you tally up the cost of the greenware bowl, the two days of studio fees in Illinois, the packing and shipping to PA, the cost of paint for me to finish it on my own, and the fee at the PYOPP place here in PA, this bowl has $65 in to it. Minus the $6 they refunded me. So that makes it "only" a $59 bowl. Lesson learned. ;)


Softailrider1 said...

That was a really creative design on the bowl. So very sorry that local shop screwed it up beyond fixing. Bummer.

ChasinRainbows2 said...

Just before our daughter moved to Turkey (AirForce) all the women related to her (mom, gmthr, aunt, mil, sil, sil) and her 2-4 year old children made a day of it at a do it yourself pottery store. We had a blast and fortunately, the firing came out well, also. I'm sorry yours did not turn out as well, but love the design and colors. Smiles

ColsCreations said...

Thanks, Sue. Sounds like you had a really nice "girls day out". These places ARE fun, I would go again. But working from home and bringing your piece in to have finished - not such a good idea as I've learned. ;)