Sunday, April 03, 2011

the cost

I just had to deal with a very clueless customer. He ordered a set of dinner plates from me that he clearly thought were too expensive because he wanted a discount (I didn't give him one,) then started hounding me within a week about when they would be done, and groused bitterly about how long he had to wait. This customer, by the way, will never be allowed to order anything from me again, I keep a blacklist right next to my bed and his name is on it. I made an attempt to explain the process of making a set of anything ceramic, why it costs what it does, and why it takes longer than 5 days, but I don't think I got through to him. In fact, this person seemed to think I was taking his money and putting him on the back burner just to make him wait even longer. Which, after that conversation, I did.

It must be said that this customer type is very rare for me, most of my people are incredibly patient and tolerant of delays. Recently, I was trying to send out a bird creamer/sugar set to a customer. It's almost always small stuff that ties me up in knots. First, the creamer comes out and the yellow glaze on the bird ran over onto the robin egg blue of the creamer itself. The yellow glaze is very runny, and you have to glaze it in a very particular way to mitigate the running issue. Sold that one as a second, contacted the customer that the order would be late, and went for round two.

This time, the bird comes out perfect, but there is a big pinhole on the side of the piece. At this point, it's been 14 days since the order was placed. I fill in the pinhole with a mix of clay and glaze-- a trick I learned from Joanna Mendicino-- and pop it into my baby kiln which can do a firing cycle in 12 hours from pressing the button to pulling out the pieces. The creamer comes out great-- no more pinhole-- but I put the handle up against the side of the kiln like a total rookie, so now I have some kiln brick attached to the handle. I stomp around in a circle of fury for 10 seconds, then grind the kiln brick off, touch it up with some more glaze, back into the baby kiln. Next day, a perfect piece. Final count for this one $44 creamer: 16 days, 2 separate pieces, 5 firings, including the bisque firing.

And for those of you wondering, this customer was totally cool about it and thanked me for my quality control. You are welcome! And the plates? Out of the seven I made, the four I actually needed came out perfect, shipped off to the persnickety customer, for which I received a half-hearted "thank you." You're welcome... I think.

11 comments:

  1. ok, wait I want to hear more about this clay and glaze pinhole filler! Do you smudge in the clay then put glaze on top?

    Great blog post. Thank goodness most customers are very understanding.

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  2. No, you mix the clay and glaze together. On white glaze, I leave it at that. On colored glazes I'll do another swipe of just glaze on top of that!

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  3. I'm pretty sure you just stole my heart with this "I keep a blacklist right next to my bed and his name is on it."

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  4. I will try that. Thanks! monica, no doubt. :)

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  5. What a poignant account of what it takes to make quality work and get it out there. Thanks.

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  6. special orders always give me anxiety... i almost don't want to take them.

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  7. What a great post. Commissions always cause me stress. I've started making two of any commission. The pressure is off and odds are alls usually well, one for the customer and the other one goes to the Gallery!

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  8. Brings back memeories, of when I used to do custom work. Not no more! I always spent 3 times as long as I would on a similarly-valued spontaneous piece, so I came to see it was actaully coting me money, in the form of studio working time.
    Not to mention the stomach acid.

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  9. I'm the lucky recipient of the "runny" yellow bird! I love the imperfection because it makes the creamer perfect! Thanks so much. I'll be back!

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  10. My husband was so smitten with the mug I made him that he declared it priceless and one of his most treasured possessions.

    Little does he know that if I were getting paid for all the hours of work involved in making that treasure we'd have a trip to Tahiti in the bank. The insurance value alone would be staggering....

    Hours...upon hours. My goodness.

    My sympathies for having to deal with such a door knob. Your work is amazing and I have admired it for years.

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