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problem clay and unresponsive suppliers

updated sun 31 aug 97 on tue 5 aug 97

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for re-hashing old business, but it's relevent to the current
discussions of problem clay.

Recently John Baymore wrote on Compu-serve:
snip 8<----- Then Laguna bought Miller. I have had nothing but trouble
since then. Really BAD trouble. Destroying the pieces for entire
exhibitions! My guess is that the quality control seems to be poor.I have
shifted companies now to order stock clay through Sheffield Pottery Supply.
Their quality control is impecable. And their service is superb. ------>8
I replied personally and would now like to share my experinece with the

We have had some of the same problems and arrived at the same conclusion. I
still have about 3,000 lbs. of Miller clay that I swear at every time I walk
by. Their representative stopped by to see why I had dropped them. I showed
him the pile and samples of the defects. In the end he said: "Well, we
usually just take bad stuff and throw it back into the mixer, a little at a
time. Now this stuff is SO BAD I don't think we can get away with that.
Therefore... we have no use for it, so we won't take it back. My suggestion
is that if you've had good luck with Sheffield you should stick with them."

Sheffield did nail me once (and I've had a few very minor problems that had
minimal impact) with low-fire white mixed in a batch of T3. When I brought
the clay back and showed them samples, they admitted responsibility for the
error. They brought me into the mixing area and stopped the mixer and
pugmill. They laid out the samples of the defect and asked me to explain the
mixing crew the impact of that mistake when it gets sent out to a customer .
They opened their file and showed me the mix ticket for that batch. They
explained how there was supposed to be a level 3 cleaning between batches,
breaking down and scraping out the equipment. They showed me the notation
that explained that the fork lift operator dumped the dry mix into the mixer
thinking the cleaning had already taken place. They explained that they had
decided to let it go through, and put on a specially marked pallet, for one
customer who only uses this clay in a school where they low-fire it. They
also said that in error, they broke into that pallet when picking my order
and so it was a "double screw-up". They replaced the clay, including what was
used, and gave me a $100.00 credit as a peace offering. In addition, I
believe they initiated a flagging system next to the mixer to show the status
of the cleaning. This should avoid this type of error happening in the

Now THAT'S what I like. You may remember a few companies whose standard
practice was to deny that any problems existed . Of course there are going to
be mistakes along the way, I sometimes make them too. The people at Sheffield
gained a lot of respect in my eyes that day. They took full accountability
for the error, showed me how it happened, and explained what measures they
have taken to ensure that it won't happen again. Their handling of the
problem was admirable and they proved that they were the kind of company that
I want to deal with.

So ....if you're experiencing problems take all the proper measures to ensure
that it isn't a problem with your process. Talk to others who may be getting
the same supplies as you are. If the problem is pervasive and recurring, talk
frankly to the company representative and look for the three R's.
Are they accepting Responsibility for their actions?
Do they show true concern, empathy, or Remorse?
Have they made effort to Repair the problem and to ensure that it won't
happen in the future?

If so, you've got a company that has integrity. If not....try to find one
that does.

John Baymore also wrote on Clayart:
8<-----I have switched suppliers and clay for the stock bodies I use.It
feels really good. So vote with your feet. If we did more of that, the
companies would straighten out quickly. -------->8
Smart man, that John.
I did that starting in Jan. of 1995.
The impact to date:
Sheffield Purchases $10,659.49 and counting
Miller/Laguna Purchases $0.00.

To all you suppliers out there, Don't you wish your customers would say such
nice things about your company? Treat them right, and they will!

Sending My Message Loud and Clear,
Don Kopyscinski
Bear Hills Pottery
Having a wonderfully productive and fun summer in,
Newtown, CT

stevemills on thu 7 aug 97

The problem referred to is not confined to the US believe me. What they
all seem to forget (with notable exceptions) is that bad news travels
Steve Mills
@Bath Potters Supplies
Dorset Close
Tel:(44) (0)1225 337046
Fax:(44) (0)1225 462712