My wife and I were given the opportunity through a wholesale contract with a large retailer to scale up our vision of what a pottery should look like. We designed and made over 20,000 pieces in the first year. Two years into the project, I can tell you it was not easy.While others have been all-to-willing to release control of the manufacturing and exploit cheap labor overseas we were not. It is not easy to stick to your vision, especially when it seems that all the trends are moving in another direction.
We wanted a pottery that we could feel good about building. We wanted to have the manufacturing be a continuation of the studio pottery that I had worked on for the past 25 years. We wanted to pay our workers well and have an open process that others could learn from if they wished. We wanted processes that allowed us to continually develop new items and do custom orders in the quantities needed for hotels and restaurants. Most of all, we wanted the quality of the finished pieces to be exceptional.
Scaling up means that all the processes need to be tightly controlled. Small mistakes that happen in a single person studio can be disastrous when you are producing 150–200 finished pieces a day. Mixing a 40,000 gram batch of glaze slightly wrong can be costly. Before we scaled up I gathered all the information I could. I took penetrometer readings on the clay. I did viscosity and specific gravity tests on the glazes. I started keeping close track of the firing curves on the kilns. I started writing down everything I knew about the processes. I could go on and on with this but hopefully you get the idea.
When we finalized the contract and started to build out a bigger studio we had a huge learning curve. All of our help was new, the kilns were new and all the product was new. We had to cull a lot of pottery early on as we were learning. I took lots of notes and gave encouragement wherever I could. It was difficult but we made and delivered what I think are thousands of very nice pieces. As we made the proprietary pieces for the order we continued with making new and original pieces for a number of restaurants. I talked extensively with the chefs about what they needed and what they liked and how and what people were eating. After about one year into the contract, with the added capabilities, we took everything that we learned and developed our own line of dinnerware that we could have full control over and change as we saw fit. Hopefully our vision is manifest in the pieces that we have created. You can find us at JeredsPottery.com