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skirts/building a kiln for self/taylor's post

updated fri 22 oct 04


mel jacobson on wed 20 oct 04

i saw a history channel film on `skirts`.

the long skirt was a famous bone breaker.
woman shortened skirts to protect themselves from falling.
it was a hard fight, but, they won. often the answer to
questions are about `very practical matters`.
health and safety. just like being a potter. your nose
will always drip when making a tall bottle. so, put a stick
with a tissue on the end near your nose. (i have the patent pending.)

i cannot tell you folks how many times in my life
i have talked to, listened to and helped folks with
college questions, admission questions, mfa questions.
thousands i would imagine.

rarely does anyone come to me and say:

`mel, help me design a kiln and a studio, i want
to be a potter. i want a place, just like yours.`

they want to go to school to do what i do.
and, usually they are driving a car worth at least
30,000 bucks.

i did not go to school to do what i do. i built a kiln
in my garage. made pots in the basement. then built
a studio. made pots to earn money to pay for the kiln
and studio. i went to the university and got a masters degree in
education, as i could not teach and earn money without
that degree. (over thirty five years it almost doubled my income.)
that degree was a quick snap/no admissions baloney. no slides.

i went to japan to learn repeat throwing. technique.
learned a great deal more, but that was my intent..and
i did that. (the hopkins schools did not give me one grad credit/
credit for my year and half in japan. but, i got all the credits. for me.)

i met a guy last year that has an MFA, taught college and
never has had his own kiln, or wheel. now retired and has no
place to work. he has a part time job(a small metals shop) to earn enough
to live. wants to make pots, but can't. or, he has to go
to the community center. sad.
why did he not build a place to work at home? i do not

same for many of you out there. you haul your butts to
some junior college, community center or co-op and spend
hours in travel, and of course the most cannot
tend to your work except at pre/ordained times. pots get dry,
or are too wet to you cover them...then of course
there is the community kiln. or/why not stick pins in your eye?
same thing. pain. schools and centers should not be your private
studio. places to learn should be that, then move on.

if you want my total, honest, no bs advice.
screw school, build a studio. take charge of your own
life, your own work, your own kiln. but, do you know what?
some will scream at me...`i cannot afford that, where would i put
it??, my spouse does not like dirt, blah blah blah`. but they are
willing to spend 80,000 bucks on an mfa. take out a loan. the american
way. credit card it, or bank roll it. ultimate stupidity.

start small, electric kiln, used, a wheel, or slab station.
make work, sell it...start small, like a business, it will
grow. soon you will not have a sales problem, you will
have a production will think, could i use an
apprentice? god, i have so much work to make...orders to
get did this happen? who the hell is going to cook dinner?
but, in the end, and this i know for sure, for it has been me, for
now almost 50 years. `man, did i have a good day today,
and, i never left my own property.` and, the best was:
i got to spend time with four very brown children next door.
we had candy on the deck. obduly, naffie, rose and abby. what
a bunch. they make me smile til it hurts. and, they never lie to me,
stab me in the back, steal from me, or want my job at the high school.
best co/workers i have ever had.

Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S.A.
web site:
or try:

Bonnie Staffel on thu 21 oct 04

make work, sell it...start small, like a business, it will
grow. soon you will not have a sales problem, you will
have a production problem...>

That was my story back in 1949. A long counter was added in my kitchen, a
friend built a 1-brick high electric kiln, bought commercial glazes and
experimented. Wanted a wheel, hubby constructed one from an old Edison
Phonograph with pulleys for changing speeds. Rube Goldberg would have been
jealous. Friend added a ring on the kiln and then I wanted a real wheel.
So made coffee cups for a local beauty salon with customers' names in gold.
Sold them for a couple of dollars each. Saved up enough money to buy a
Fetzer stand up kick wheel for $150 plus shipping. Funny story on this was
we lived on the third floor of this old Victorian house my father owned.
When we (Bill and I) got the wheel up to the door, there was just no room to
get it through without taking it apart on those stairs. It was big, made of
oak and the flywheel weighed 75#. Removed the treadle and had to saw off
the leaning board. I held while he operated on the wheel. Finally got
it down the hall and into my tiny studio. The beauty shop sold the work I
produced. I was in business.


Bonnie Staffel of Charlevoix, MI
Potters Council member