Interesting Care Instructions

King Richard’s Faire is in about a month and lately I’ve been thinking about including information and care instruction cards with my purchases. I wanted to see what other people did, so I looked around on the internet. This opened a huge can of worms as I’ve been reading all kinds of crazy things.

I know. Crazy things written by people on the internet!? Get out. That never happens.

I was hoping that I’d get some easy direction on what to include based on what others do, but instead, I still haven’t decided on whether or not to actually include care instructions. I am leaning towards yes, but I actually noticed that these are completely missing from the online stores and websites of some of my favorite potters. My guess is that they’re relying on common sense and answering questions on a ‘one on one’ basis when they’re asked.

Then there is are a lot of claims that I’ve never heard before, even in the most misinformed and superstitious circles. I plan to blog about it at some point… but I’m not sure I can handle that kind of angry and ranty post right now.

Instead, I want to share some of the other mind boggling things I found: the obvious.

Here are some examples of care instructions that I think would make even the most ignorant of layman face palm. I’ve started off with the worst and tapered off to some that you might see as being necessary when thinking of some people you know.

Maybe you have an Uncle Fred that put laundry detergent in the dishwasher or a friend named Sam who sets the stove on fire a couple times a month.

Avoid Dropping

Let that one sink in.

Hey there! I know you were planning on dropping your pottery ON PURPOSE, because why try to avoid it, right? You bought this specifically for dropping, and you expect it to hold up when you use it for this purpose. So, I’m here to make sure you realize that you’re actually NOT supposed to be trying to drop your pottery. I won’t tell you what happens if you do drop it, but I will tell you: Avoid Dropping.

Furthermore, if I include that, does that mean I need to also say things like, “Not recommended for juggling”? Wow. I’m going to need more space for all of these care instructions!

After I told someone about this, they also helpfully recommended the following: “Avoid throwing, hitting, punching, chewing, attempting to eat, dropping into vats of acid or lava, throwing at people, throwing at pets, throwing at dragons, using to stop cars, using to stop rampaging wild life. Not a substitute for modern medicine, clothing, transportation or travel. Please consult your local pottery expert before use.”

Wash before first use.

…because I would directly eat out of something people at a fair have been picking up all day.

Actually, this is really pushy. Technically you don’t NEED to wash it before your first use.

Maybe you’re one of those people who like to live on the edge. You are the type of person who won’t wash your hands before leaving the restroom. It only says ’employees must wash hands’, and you’re a customer, so that obviously doesn’t apply to you.

So are you going to waste perfectly good room in your sink or dishwasher!? Heck no. It’s a bowl whether or not you wash it before using it. It will hold your cereal just as well either way.


Dry thoroughly before storing.

Wait. There are people who put away their dishes when they are wet!? Dishwashers have ‘dry’ settings. People who wash by hand use ‘drying racks’ or ‘drying towels’ (aka dish towels, as in, for using to dry your dishes).

Who are these people who need to be told both to wash their dishes AND make sure they’re dry before putting them away?

One friend of mine put it to me this way, “Babe. Common sense isn’t common.”

May become hot when used in microwave

Did you know that things become hot when you put them in the microwave?

But wait, ceramic bowls get hotter than a plastic bowl! Maybe we need to let people know that heating up soup in the microwave with their new handmade pottery bowl may result in a really hot bowl.

It is true that some ceramic dishes get hotter than others… but this is not a factor of handmade pottery by any means. For instance, a friend of mine mentioned some dishes she got at Ikea that get hotter than her other dishes. She was okay without the warning. Her first instinct wasn’t to cuddle her dishes full of hot food that just came out of the microwave and is careful when she takes them out.

Sad part is, this is one I’m actually giving some consideration and thought to. Thanks, internet. I think you broke me.

Do not use directly on stovetop.

Apparently some people are confusing pottery with pots. I can see that. These two words use a lot of the same letters.

Yes, I know there are special pots out there that claim they can be safely used directly on the stove top, but this is a special feature. There are also glass pots and pans that can go on the stove, but we know not to put any other glass on the stovetop. In general, if it’s not metal, why would you assume it goes on your stove top?

How are there not more fires and dead people in general?

Dishwasher safe, hand wash recommended…

…and it goes on to say how it’s safer to hand wash things.

Look, I don’t know how things work in your house, but I break more things hand washing. I honestly don’t feel comfortable judging if you’re someone like me, or someone like the people writing this care instruction. That’s right. I found this in multiple places.

Dishwasher means I pick it up and put it in the dishwasher. It stays in there safely washing and drying until I open the dishwasher, lift it, and put it away. I guess I could drop it putting it in the dishwasher or taking it out, but I don’t usually prewash stuff, so it’s not very slippery when I put it in. It’s dry when I take it out.

Hand wash means it soaks and clinks around with whatever else is in my sink being washed (don’t clink too much!). It gets picked up, soapy, and handled while slippery until it’s clean (don’t drop it). Then I rinse it (don’t drop it), inspect it to make sure it’s clean (don’t drop it), and put it on a towel or in a dish rack (don’t knock it off the counter).

It’s not just me either. I’ve had roommates break their share of pottery (and other stuff) handwashing. I haven’t had a single dishwasher casualty yet, and all of the pottery goes in there.

Someone even talked about things ‘clinking around’ in their dishwasher while it was running. Maybe it’s time you got a new dishwasher, or maybe you don’t load things right? If I put a cup in X spot in my dishwasher, it is in X spot when I open it. It’s not a clothes washer… If your dishwasher has a spin cycle, yes, I recommend hand washing.

Now, I do know some pottery is not suitable for the dishwasher and needs to be carefully hand washed, but then your care instructions should say “hand wash only”, and that’s it. If you think your pottery is going to ‘loose life and luster’ over time being washed in the dishwasher (whatever that means), maybe you should say ‘hand wash only’. More importantly though, let’s talk about how your pottery is alive. Personally, if I had sentient pottery, it’d be allowed in the bathtub and shower.

Note to self… Only use literal language when writing care instructions in case someone like me is reading them.


Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me for how I feel about my job. I know I have a good job (better than any ‘regular’ job I’ve had) that is varied, I’m good at, and has many perks. I’d say it’s a million times better than the full time job I had before this one. The next one I land through working hard at this one will probably be even better. Still, I spend every day at it wishing I wasn’t here doing this.

Is it like this for all artists? Are we all doomed to feel like we’re not doing ‘real work’ when we’re doing something other than our art? I look at other people that are amazing and talented who have ‘regular jobs’ and consider their job their actual job and not just their day job. I can’t help but be a bit jealous. Also, I feel like their advice is always, “find a different job” as if the issue is this job I have, and working for another company or in a different position would make this feeling go away. I know at least some other artists ‘get it’, but I also feel like they’ve all either taken the leap into art full time or have found a better balance (or are closer to it).

I envy them, but I also don’t, because I know in most cases it comes at great sacrifice to some very basic things (money, healthcare, food, etc.). I try to think of all the people that have even less fulfilling jobs than me, or are having a hard time getting a job or one that pays enough to put towards their bills. I feel guilty for not being more satisfied with what I have, and I feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’ or ‘the right thing’ (whatever those are) to change things for the better with immediate results.

Every weekend I try my best to forget about this for two days, and every Monday, this feeling follows me out of bed and through every thing I do. I try to ignore the undertone of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and hopelessness enough to get through the work day, make it to my studio, and spend the small amount of time and energy left on what I feel is my real work.

I do it knowing it’s probably not enough to realize any of my goals. I try not to be sad. I hope that if I keep at it, all of the little bits of time I can spare will add up into great things and somehow get me out of this cycle.


Working in a ceramic community again, I’m lucky to be working among a bunch of really supportive people. In general, people who work in clay are pretty awesome and accepting, but in the larger community there are still those that stick their noses in the air with really strong opinions about what is is acceptable as a ceramic artist.

I’ve seen the same thing in the art community at large, people with these specific and narrow definitions of ‘what is art’, looking down their noses at things that challenge their preconceptions. It’s one thing to say you don’t like something, and quite another to completely disregard its validity as the work of an artist.

In general, I usually just avoid these kinds of discussions all together. It’s like when you hear people talking religion and politics. I may be passionate about how I feel, but after I hear what they’re saying, I realize nothing I can say is even remotely likely to change their point of view.

Still I’d like to share this with people. I have heard some people who throw get down on people who hand build. People who throw use the potters wheel to make things out of clay, while those who hand build use other means to make things out of clay.

Specifically I read about a well known potter who throws get down on artists who use molds in their work. Hand builders often use molds, but first off, what is a mold?

It can be a lot of things.

A mold can be something that someone else made that you stick clay in to get a replica. Done!

This kind of mold usage is not you’re going to see artists doing. Instead someone might:

  • make their own molds and use them as components for their work
  • use commercial pre-made molds, but then change what they’ve made with that mold so much that it’s not just a replica
  • use found objects as molds as part of their process

Most hand building automatically includes some kind of mold usage. Instead of using a mold to make a replica, these molds are often just re purposed things you use to help give something it’s basic shape. Hump molds and slump molds are used this way. A hump mold is where you drape clay over something to get a shape. A slump mold is where you drape clay into something to give it a shape. You might use something as simple as the cardboard paper towel roll to help you get a cylinder shape to make something.

To some potters who throw, it’s as if this is cheating. You didn’t pull the clay up with your hands. Instead you used a rolling pin to make a flat slab of clay and then stood it up with a cardboard tube. Cheater! In some artist’s minds this somehow translates into it not being a hand made object.

I propose that using a tool to help build something doesn’t make it not hand made. By their own logic, it would be like saying that a cup isn’t hand made because you made it on the pottery wheel instead of only with your hands.

The punchline is that this same potter who was looking down her nose at mold usage extensively uses press molds. Apparently, in her mind, the stamps and sprigs she’d made didn’t count as molds in her mind. She throws her basic shapes and uses these molds for finishing the surfaces.

As someone who carves surfaces and doesn’t use molds for these designs, I can’t help but laugh.

I sometimes throw on the wheel, but I sometimes use hump and slump molds to get a basic shape. Then I add tripod feet and carve unique designs.

I say a resounding, “Your stamps are molds too! And no, you’re not cheating! Your pots are still hand made.”

I have my own reasons for carving, and she has her own reason for using stamps. They’re different tools, but I don’t think either are more or less valid.

Also, how easy a tool makes a job appear is not a measure of validity. Throwing is difficult to learn, but once it’s learned, you can make hundreds of cups in a couple of hours. That’s why it’s done, not because it’s somehow harder or purer than using a cardboard paper towel roll. Once you’re skilled, it’s actually quicker and easier to throw a cup than to roll out a slab and use a paper towel roll to form a cup.

I’d also propose that using that paper towel roll to make something that doesn’t look like a crappy slab of clay shaped with a paper towel roll is a skill of its own, just like throwing is.

So, no matter what tools you use to make your hand made pottery, sculpture, tiles, etc., I propose that the part that makes it hand made is not the tools. The hand made part has to do with the direct involvement of you, the maker, in creating something.