If you had told me that once I retired, I would start a little online product-based business, I wouldn't have believed you.
But that is indeed what I have started to do.
I would have been equally shocked to know it's not fully based in ceramics.
I planned on using my newfound time to create online ceramic courses and workshops and finally figuring out how to effectively sell my ceramics online but now you’ll find me in my sewing room creating and selling a pottery tool that I created out of necessity and when I shared how I used it on social media, people wanted to know where to get one.
I created The Spin Wiper Glazing Cover out of my own needs in finding a solution to easing one of the tedious steps of the ceramic process.
If “Necessity is the mother of Invention”, then this mother created an invention out of necessity!
HOW IT STARTED...
When I was teaching a youth clay camp for the Mississauga Potters' Guild for the first time, I was learning how to manage all the steps that would not be followed through by the participants beyond creation, as the one week session did not allow time for drying, bisque firing, glazing and glaze firing by the fifth day. The plan was to have each of the 8 participants draw images of their 10-12 initialed pots and select and write down the names of up to two glazes to get the desired results from the test tile matrix on the wall. This was different from my day job where students in my Visual Arts classes painted on glazes and were told why they were not to paint the bottoms. I used a sponge to spot check before placing items in the kiln. Dipping a class-load of work was not in my work experience, so I learned the hard way.
I was overwhelmed with the shear volume of work that had to be prepared each with its own complexity of combinations. I painted on wax to all the bottoms, and after dipping each piece in the noted glaze choice, I then used a sponge to wipe it clean and dipped again if a combo was selected.
If you are not familiar with ceramics, this wiping step which removes glaze from the bottom of pots is required so the work doesn't fuse to the kiln shelf when fired damaging both the shelf and the work.
It was hours of work! I mean HOURS!!!
Heck it was summertime! I wanted to be outside enjoying the weather.
That year, my friend and fellow instructor, Vicki Ruple Lepe, showed me a quick way of cleaning the bottom of pieces after they were dipped in glaze without waxing. If you're a purist, you might think this is against the rules, but heck! rules are meant to be broken! Rather than using a sponge in her hand, she used a dampened dish drying mat on the table to wipe against.
The next year, I changed things up!
Participants would add colour using coloured slips and the work would be completed in transparent glaze. I stopped waxing the bottoms of work before dipping into the glaze. When possible, I avoided fully submerging the pieces. When needed, I dipped the base in water to make it less absorbent before the glaze dip.
After I dipped the pieces, I would hold them in the tongs and wipe them on a dampened dish drying mat. Frustratingly, I always had to have my other hand free to hold the mat so I wouldn’t move. To solve that issue, I clamped the mat to a bat and the weigh to the bat helped to hold it in place. I then wondered, "What would happen if I attached it to the wheel and leveraged the power of movement to assist me"? The clamps ended up being a bit of a hazard both to my hands and the work, but it was fast and efficient, and I could see that this was my “Eureka Moment”.
My mind was in overdrive, brainstorming ways to design and sew this wheel attachment. As soon as I got home, I cut apart our dish drying mat and made the first prototype. The next day, I purchased brand new materials and made a few more prototypes and knew I had the secret sauce!
It fit like a glove, and functioned exactly how I imagined it would.
I now use my Spin Wipers to complete the glazing process in the Summer Camps and in all my own work throughout the year. My fellow Camp Instructor used it too and we both saved a ton of time.
How do I use it?
I attach the bat to the wheel and then cover it with the Spin Wiper. I lightly dampen it with water from a spray bottle. I then hold the dipped object at 3 or 9 o’clock on the wheel (according to your dominate hand and wheel rotation) to achieve a smooth and consistent parallel glaze line. My glazes are quite stable and don't run.
Don't over wet it or a build-up of water will arise on the back. If that happens, don't touch the area, let it dry to return back to normal.
Be sure to use a cookie under your work until you are certain that this line height works for your glazes.
If you want a higher glaze line you can add a circular upholstery foam disc underneath.
I have three Spin Wipers in rotation, each a different colour to use with specific glazes (i.e. Blue for Transparent and White glaze, Grey for Grey and Blue glazes and Red for anything with Red Iron Oxide).
I posted a video about the SPIN WIPER on Instagram, and that reel has taken off and has been viewed over half-a-million times. The response from clay folks around the world has been tremendous.
I released by first batch of ten and they all SOLD OUT!
The interest and demand continues.
I am learning a ton about business, marketing, and customer service through this experience.
Most importantly, I want to help potters build momentum in their own practice. The Spin Wiper can help.
My plan is to continue to create them myself, in small batches of 10.
I just completed the next batch.
Join my mailing list to get the dibs first on the release date.
To see what it’s all about, check out the SPIN WIPER here.