‘Not Made in China’-The Journey of 300 Plates

‘Made in China’.  Yep, we’ve all seen the sticker or stamp on the bottom of affordable goods, and we all have tons of the stuff in our homes.  Whether it’s by necessity due to budget constraints or whether we haven’t really thought about the what it all means, I ask ya…

Have you ever wondered what ‘Not Made in China’ looks like?  Just keep reading and you’ll see!

One day, I was working in the pottery shop preparing for a festival.  It was fall, so I had the windows open & the music going when the phone rang.   It was two nice ladies on speaker phone from our neighboring big city of Atlanta (I normally call it Hotlanta, makes me sound cooler).  They said they were looking online for Georgia potters and found my website!  After I got over the excitement that lil ol’ me was found on the big ol’  internet, we started talking about their needs.  They wanted gifts for conference attendees, a plate for each person.  Sounded interesting!  I was so touched that there are actually companies out there who want to support small, local business, woohoo!!

They asked if I could make 300 plates.  We all laughed a little as I said “by when?”.  I was immediately excited but knew I’d better pull out the calendar and do the math on this project to guarantee completion by the conference.

And this is where I begin to explain that pottery that is “Not Made in China” takes a bit more time…it’s a labor of love with hands that touch each piece, through each step.

There’s the makin’, the dryin’, the trimmin’, the dryin’, the firin’, the glazin’, and the firin’ again….

Would you like to SEE the whole story…?  And I don’t mind telling you the ending in advance-we got it done!  And have plans to do it AGAIN!

Soooo, here’s my beginning starting with a fresh bag o’ clay.

For this project, I needed about 24 bags of clay…

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 to make 300 of these 2 pounders…

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Each ball of clay was then slapped down on the wheel and formed into a plate.  Video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lg4Jv1Vt74

After the plate is made, it needs to dry…

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….until it is leather hard.  Then, it’s ready for trimmming. Video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJB1cuPpcRQ

After trimming, it’s time to wait until plates are COMPLETELY dry.  If any moisture remains, the plate will explode in the kiln.  Below are pics of the specially constructed drying racks for this project!

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Once completely dry, the plates are ready for their first firing.  I was able to load around 60 plates in the kiln during this ‘bisque’ firing where the temp reaches approx. 2200 degrees and take 8 hours to do so.  It takes about 12 hours to cool.

hot kiln

Once cool, it’s time to sand any rough spots & wax the bottom of each plate to prevent glaze from adhering to bottom of the plate which would fuse the plate to the kiln shelf during glaze firing.    My kiln holds 28 plates during the glaze firing since the plates can not be stacked or touch at all or they will fuse to one another.

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After waxing the bottom of each plate, they are rinsed to remove any dust and to ensure consistent glaze coverage.  Since I had so many plates, I dipped each plate in glaze and then allowed them to dry.

Here are some plates that are glazed but not fired yet, they are waiting on another layer of blue.

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Here are some plates cooling after the glaze firing which takes about 10 hours to reach 2400 degrees, and then they take 12-15 hours to cool.

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After the plates cool, they are ready to be packaged individually for the recipients…

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And once all the plates are packaged with lots of bubble wrap, blue tissue, and business cards they are transported to Hotlanta, I mean Atlanta!

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WOW! What a journey.  Loved the experience!! AND the fact that I’ll be doing this again for the same company.

Super huge thanks to….

RouteMatch Software for supporting small business!  Woohoo!

My daughter Bella, for helping me cut up the clay and form 2lb clay morsels, haha.  She’s a pro!

My mama for jumping in after retiring from her ‘real job’ and helping me sand, wax, and pack each plate with care.

My dad for brainstorming the shelving with me and loading/unloading/driving the plates with me for delivery!

Sunrise Grocery for loaning us their truck for delivering after I discovered my miscalculation in using my van, oopsies.

Stone Mountain Clay & Glaze Company for excellent customer service and products, they rock!

My local and not-so-local supporters of small business!!  Couldn’t survive without you!!

SOOO, now ya know what ‘Not Made in China’ looks like.

Each piece is specially, handcrafted just for you!  Thank you!!

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