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lots of mugs

updated mon 16 mar 98


Janet H Walker on sat 14 mar 98

...approached about making 500 mugs for a church ...

I'd suggest spending quite a lot of time with the people doing the
ordering going over their expectations so you can do the most
responsive proposal that you feel comfortable with being able to
produce!! Get everyone involved to collect some mugs that have an
aspect that they are interested in -- be it the form, the color, the
decoration style, the surface. From that, you'll be able to guess
whether the KIND of mugs you make will come close enough to their
inarticulate mental picture of what they want. Just having people
moving the mugs around into categories on the table while they talk
about them will tell you VOLUMES about what they really want. And
it will help them a lot too as they hear their fellow church members
talk. They'll develop a better understanding of their own
requirements and become more likely to be well-behaved customers.

For producing large numbers, and 500 is a really big number for someone
who doesn't normally work in volume, you might investigate locally to
see if someone does slipcasting. you could throw some things and then
get a mold made (handle and all) that would reproduce your thrown design.

For the applied decoration, call some of the decal companies that
advertise in Ceramics Monthly (or have been mentioned on ClayArt)
and get samples. Fire them and see what you think. Make the design
you want, get it approved by the Mug Board back at the church, and
get it produced as a decal.

Now you will have put in the special design time that makes this a
special commemorative mug for the church but you'll have the ability
to churn 'em out finally in a way that won't bog you down forever.

At least, that's how I think idealistically it might work. I've never
made more than five things the same in my whole potting life. 500 is
unthinkable. But I spent time in my research life musing about how
process has to change in order to cope with sheer increase in numbers.
Also, experience in orchestrating brunches for 300 taught me that one's
ordinary processes just don't scale up for numbers a hundred-fold higher.
10-fold is right on the edge for being able to handle it the way
you've always done things; for a hundred-times scale up you just have
to change how you do it. It ain't evil; it's reality.

Jan Walker
Cambridge MA USA

Berry Silverman on sun 15 mar 98

Another suggestion for 500 mugs: When your church group has selected a
mug style, make about a dozen and take them back to see and approve the
range of variation. If you make all 500 identical, they won't complain.
But do prepare them for the likelihood there will be differences. That
way you don't have to throw 600-700 to get 500 they will accept.
Berry in Tucson