Sunday, September 27, 2009

just checking

(I just edited in this teapot as both Juana and Gabe suggested)

I needed to see a grouping of the first pots that I will have in my shop. I am working on descriptions as we speak (I am imagining I am having a conversation with you all as I do this) and the thoughts are flowing, but it is long work.

Are there any pots you wouldn't put in in this first listing of items in the shop? Are there other things you think it is important for people to see? I have photographed something like 70 pots and I plan on trickling a few in several times a week for the next 4 months until I start reposting the old ones. I will also photograph new things once my kiln gets fired.

What do you think of the mix, some electric fired some wood fired? What about the mix of forms? Mugs, cups, a tea bowl, bowls, bottles and a set of cruets. I am holding back on two sets of two plates and three sets of two bowls, two covered jars, a teapot, a flower brick, and of course plenty more cups, bowls, and mugs. Do I need to put any of these others in my first listing, or what do you think I should list next? Feedback please!

Friday, September 25, 2009


OK, folks. I took the plunge. No items yet, and not everything fleshed out, but the etsy shop is up and running.

Look for it as the seller "carterthepotter" and tell me what you think. Be as critical as you can. I will try to add the things like shop policies and sections soon, as well as getting the items up for sale.

How the hell do I get a widget for the shop put on this blog? Carrie? Gabe? Anyone?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Description Detail

I've added this into the 'description section' for everything functional. So far, I think its pretty thorough..


“wide, “tall

Coated in glossy clear glaze to highlight the detailed imagery on the front, I left the base unglazed so you can see the organic red clay I work with. I love the contrast of the shiny, highly detailed surface next to the raw red clay.

My process:

All of my work is either hand built from single slabs of clay, or thrown on an electric potter’s wheel. The clay has been textured through my hands as well as a few tools and sponges. I hand paint all of my work using slips and colorful under glazes. I also draw on the surface while the clay is still slightly damp using wooden carving tools. I treat the surface of each individual piece much like a painting - creating one of a kind and small series. Each piece is coated with studio made, food-safe clear glaze and fired in an electric kiln making them strong and safe to use on a daily basis.

The firing:

I use a red clay that is fired to cone 04, a temperature close to 2,000 degrees. I prefer this technique because lower temperatures means less firing time and less energy used.

Use and Care:

My pots are for everyday use as well as inspirational additions to your home. I recommend hand washing and avoiding microwave use to ensure the longevity of the pot. *Avoid extreme temperature changes*.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

carter's seller image

This was my idea for that tiny little square image that folks have next to their name in that right hand column of their shop and that comes up with a search on sellers. I thought it would make sense to use my "chop" to let folks know how I sign my work. Good idea or bad idea. Anyone out there?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

carter's new Profile (not shop statement)

Gabe and Sarah have cautioned me to be pithy and succinct which is super important for the statement that people see when entering my shop, but I feel that if someone wants to read my profile they are only clicking on the link because they care what I have to say. So I think I can afford to be a little more detailed and philosophical (If I am wrong please tell me!). OK, so here goes:

"I believe that the world is filled with magical and splendorous beauty. This is especially true of the natural world. Handmade crafts and food, the visual and performing arts, and love and human kindness are some of the things that humans do which tap into this transcendent quality. I make pots in an attempt to explore this. But beauty is not something that can always be approached from head on. My experience with clay has led me to pursue it only indirectly; never staring too hard, as it were, but keeping it in the corner of my eye. It is almost as if you need to move sideways lest you scare these elusive qualities from your work. So, I try not to be too specific with my designs. Each pot is a fresh attempt at bringing new magic into the world, and my choice of glazes (and especially the wood kiln) only adds to the serendipity. This way the collaboration of my hands and the clay will always lead to new expressions and the surprise of quiet beauty never becomes trite or common."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Carter Banner Remix

Well, i didn't really do much of anything. But I like matching your name with the color of the middle cup. The font is Nueva Std. -- I have to say though, I actually like your fonts better than mine. I am running Photoshop Elements 6 and now see that it is very limited in creative fonts for a $100 program. Sometimes a cheaper program does just fine. (Although this actually may be a cheap program too-- a friend of mine has Photoshop and I think it was like 5x's what I have).  Good exercise though!

banner trading!

(This image has been updated since I first posted it. I took
Carrie's advice and "enhanced" it. Looks much brighter now)

New thought after reading Carrie's comments on my first banner post. If people are willing to give it a try, we can each put up a potential banner image and then have the others play around with putting in the text. you should be able to save the images from the blog to your computer where you can then use your own software to add font, colors and text. Here is the image I used on the last post. Have at it!

OK, since I am busy editing this post, let me ask this question: does this survey of glaze effects really work? Would I be better served by a survey of pot forms? I can't decide on anything these days.....

carter's new banner idea

Click on images for LARGER VIEW.

I forgot to use capitals in a bunch of these but I don't mind it as much as I thought I would.

So how about these ones?

If anyone knows of some free software that lets you compose an image from several ones I would be interested. My old low budget crap can only manipulate single images. I think I decided that my detail shot in the first post was probably not something that most folks would know how to read.

Thursday, September 17, 2009



Click on the images for a LARGER VERSION.

Ok folks, my photo manipulations are pretty weak on this computer but this is a start. Tell me what works and what doesn't. Is the background properly suggestive? What about calling it "carter gillies pottery"? How do the scripts and colors work?

Shop/Return Policies?

Carrie you may have the best answer to this.. I did not know what would be the best policy to have for returns.. this is what I put in my 'msg to buyers' box. Oh yeah, and I upped the shipping cost to $5 upon you recommendation.

"Thanks for purchasing my creations! I hope you are happy with your order. My return policy does not include shipping cost - but 100% refund for the product if you are unsatisfied. All items returned must be sent back to me within 30 days of the initial transaction to refund the purchase."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Test Run!

Alright folks.. completed monster photo shoot around 9:00.. downloaded all the pics onto my computer, officially listed 8 items for sale on Etsy.. made a whimsical bio, stretched the banner photo.. and here is the finished product - well.. finished for tonight that is;)


Saturday, September 12, 2009


Perhaps it might be easier to start with a shop statement, since this is a pared down version of the profile.

Carter's shop statement:

" Welcome to my shop! This is where I sell top notch crockery for your home and kitchen needs. I make eclectic functional pots on the potters wheel, but love to jazz them up by adding decorative touches such as funky handles on vases, or by altering shapes to out of round. The pots end up pretty loose in character and my glazes accentuate the spontaneous nature of the way I work. No two pots are exactly the same because making them different keeps me interested in the process. I am a firm believer in the handmade ethic, and after 3 years of pottery graduate school, I am convinced that a well crafted artistically designed piece of pottery can add immeasurable value to how we live our lives. I hope you agree!"


Hey guys!

It just occurred to me after reading Gabe's comment on my post on "carter's profile/bio" that perhaps the person the profile is about is the least qualified to actually write it. There is so much invested in this kind of personal statement that you end up writing it to please yourself, and the audience is frequently left either bored or bewildered. We may know the kinds of things we want to say about ourselves, but actually doing it is too personal to get any perspective or objectivity. As you may have noticed in my attempt in the previous post, I was desperate to make a case for doing things the way that I do them. No one else really cares, and they shouldn't have to read this expansive self justification. If anyone has read artist statements by students (and many professionals) you would cringe at the barrage of bullshit and academic tripe. You don't want your etsy statement to read like one of those. It should be friendly and helpful, not overbearing.


Lets go ahead and make a stab at writing our own profiles, but let each of the others edit or rewrite them based on the ideas we had. With this outside perspective on what works we won't be as tempted to blindly cling to some personally important phrase that no one else gives a hoot about. Of course it is up to us in the end to choose what statement we want to be represented by, but if my own experience is any indication, most of us probably have an enormous blindspot where what we say about ourselves is concerned. I was actually all set to commit to what I had written, since it certainly summed up everything I wanted to say. In the end it is a little like a person who has bad breath: It smells alright to that person, but everyone else flinches when he opens his mouth. Philosophers call this the kimche self.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Old Cat Died Brand

What with the back-and-forth about naming, Carter suggested that Carrie and I share the process we went through to name Old Cat Died. (Thanks, Carter, for your praise - we think it's a good name too.)

The funny thing is, though, unlike Carter and Juana, with their lists of possible names, the name "Old Cat Died" actually came well before we actually started selling pottery, and well before we had an etsy page.

Several years ago, when Carrie and I were dating, we went to a festival in Durham, NC, the Festival for the Eno. (Side story - then, just as now, I never carried cash. Unfortunately, we discovered that you could not buy tickets with a card. Carrie had to pay with a check for us to get in. She still periodically reminds me that I never paid her back. But then, I didn't pay for her coffee on our first date either.)

At the festival, we saw a fantastic jug band called the Carolina Chocolate Drops. We so loved this group - three young African American musicians steeped in the traditions of black folk music and playing it with an energy it probably hasn't seen since the 1920s - that we bought their album right away and listened to it nonstop for weeks.

One of the songs on that album was a traditional dance tune called "Old Cat Died." The lyrics are about as simple as you can get: "Old cat died, kitten got cold, she don't come around here no more." Something about that song struck us, and Carrie made up her mind that one day she was going to have a business called Old Cat Died. She didn't know what - a gallery, a studio, a cafe, a bookstore. But whatever business we started would be Old Cat Died.

Something we never considered - the initials are OCD. I find this very ironic for personal reasons. Something else we never considered - when you Google "old cat died," you get some really sad stories. And another thing - Old Cat Died would have been a terrible name for a cafe.

What we did realize, and the reason we were drawn to the title, is that Old Cat Died is a great story in itself, a capsule story. It can be interpreted into an inspiring speech about moving on after tragedy, or into a cautionary tale about being good to your mother. It could be a social commentary, a spiritual parable, a super-condensed poem. It's funny, sad, gnomic and zen-arific. As a literary critic, I like playing the interpretation game with Old Cat Died, and I like learning what other people hear when they hear "Old Cat Died."

Most people laugh. Why not?


I hope you guys are working on these things (shop names, statements, images etc.). If you are, why not put what you have on the blog to get some feedback?

OK, so here is my first run at my bio statement:

"As an artist who is serious enough about clay to have gone to grad school, earned an MFA, and who continues to share his passion for the art by teaching others, I am committed to craftsmanship and well executed artistry. But I don't just make pots because it is a job I have trained for. I enjoy being creative and working with clay, and hopefully this is evident in my work. If I was independently wealthy I would still make pots but give them away to people who I know would appreciate them. And as one of my instructors, the great potter Ron Meyers, is able to show in his own work, striving to make the best pots possible doesn't necessarily mean making sober ultra serious work. It can also mean that the pots have a casual, unpretentious and playful character. I like to think of my work as "top notch crockery" because on the one hand my pots are good pots, but on the other hand I don't take myself or my work so seriously that I can't have fun at my own expense. When I am teaching others I make the point that the most important thing they can do with clay is have fun. A foundation of good skills and craftsmanship is an open door to the experimentation and creative inspiration that makes working with clay so enjoyable. So how would I describe myself as an artist? Seriously casual, dedicatedly loose, strictly unpremeditated, and above all committed to experimentation. And the pots that result from this confluence of contrariness? One of a kind eclectic functional pots that show the hand of the maker in the process of their production. Strong rib marks, finger impressions where the pot was picked up, distortions and manipulations that take the pot out of perfect round, visible seams where attachments were joined, and glazes that respond to the strong character of the forms are some of the qualities that I enjoy. I hope you enjoy them as well!"

OK, so what do you think? I need your feedback, but how do you think some one who doesn't know me will respond? Will they even understand what I am trying to convey?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's in a name?

When I signed up for Etsy, I registered with lotsofpots. I was warned many times that once I registerred, I could not go back and change my name. So maybe I am stuck with that name. However, I've been thinking that even if I cannot change the name, I could possibly register again with a different email address. I have a couple of old email addresses redirected to my gmail account, so I can use one of those.

lotsofpots is kind of corny, and as carter said, it says more about quantity than quality. i am afraid it will also be deceiving, since i do not make lots of pots, to begin with. i might want a name that has a Spanish word or two, but do not want to make it harder to spell for people. maybe CincoGoodPots would be more honest than lotsofpots.

other ideas:
ThrownAndDrawn (it is hard to say for me, but, you might not be for native speakers)
PicoPots (my dog)
Emuel likes PotsWana (he says it is a play of words, my misspelled name that together with pots sounds like the country, Botswana-- !?! He likes calling me that!)

None of tham might work, so i'll keep thinking, but i want feedback, please.

Making pots as communication

Morning all,

An interesting video with Warren McKenzie appeared on 2 blogs this morning. You can find it on Ron Philbeck's blog and on Scott Cooper's "this week at st earth". Warren talks about a conversation that came up in the workshop at Nancy Green's that Juana and, I believe, Theresa attended. One of the statements he makes is that we make pots as a form of communication. This is a great perspective. What do you want your pots to say? How are others supposed to react to your pots? This relates specifically to what we are doing on etsy because we are asking strangers to spend money on what we do, and to find a place in their homes for the creative output of our hands and inspiration. So how do we present this conversation over the screen of a computer and on the internet? Well, informative and interesting images are a great start, but you also need to use sufficiently engaging words to draw in your potential customers. A memorable shop name creates an identity in people's minds. A banner that makes a strong statement of the nature of your shop is also important. A well written profile that doesn't bore; If you write something that makes people feel they know something about you and that as a result they also LIKE you, then they will have more reason to like what you are doing and perhaps spend the money to buy some of your work. If your profile is strictly business, dry technical information, then people will rarely get excited about you. That may appeal to other pottery geeks, or someone purchasing for business uses, but the main etsy public are probably not as engaged by the esoterica of what we do. Same goes for item descriptions. If you say too much, the viewer may tune you out, but if you don't say enough you are not giving adequate information for them to base a purchase on.

Since you guys already have you stores set up post something on the blog so we can discuss what works and possible changes or additions.

Happy potting, all. Let me know if you are having any difficulties putting posts on the blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

shop names for carter

When I started looking at things on etsy I used "carterthepotter" as my identity for selecting items and shops as favorites. That turns out to be a pretty good one I think, and I may end up using it for my shop name- easy to remember, easy to spell, has my name in it- all good things. What do you think?

Some other ideas I have had:


Well, that is enough for now. PLEASE comment if there are any that stand out for you. Of course many of these are just sketches of ideas for a name and are not necessarily appropriate in themselves. My desire is to have a name that represents someone who is serious enough about clay to have gone to grad school and mastered the art, but who sees potting as a fun activity and not just a job. So, serious but not serious. It could also be a name that expresses my philosophical bent or maybe the attitude of my pots and throwing technique. It should not be a tight name, but speak of a certain eccentricity. What else do you think my shop name should say?

"oldcatdied" is a great name because it is a name with a story, and the work itself tells a story. Easy to remember, easy to spell, a well chosen shop name. What are some of the other options you guys considered?

"snugglechicken" is a name with a whole lot of personality. It is a name loaded with emotional content. It is not a guy potter's kind of name. It is not a tight super serious potter's kind of name. Snugglechicken is lighthearted and maybe a little kooky. It describes an attitude of quiet fun that stops well short of the outrageousness of someone like Keen Zero.

What do you want your name to say about your work?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Here is that list I cooked up yesterday:

brookhousepottery 255 sales 1/12/08
dbabcock 703 sales 8/30/06
kimwestad 1006 sales 9/13/06
morrispottery 545 sales 3/13/07
jdwolfpottery 1126 sales 7/23/07
edclay 122 sales 4/23/08
marymeestudio 497 sales 12/19/06
karinlorenc 318 sales 4/1/08
stonewareporcelain 268 sales 6/27/07
mudstuffing 1316 sales 3/29/07

These are all artists that are doing something right, and it is not just a matter of being a really good potter. In fact I would not hesitate to say that most of us are way better potters than most of them are. So quality of pottery aside, these artists are really good at some other skills and this is what really sells their pots. Selling to an audience over the internet is way different from selling to someone in person, or having the buyer be able to pick the pots up and handle them directly. What makes these artists so successful?

And now for the bad news:

williambaker 13 sales 4/10/08
jbpots 13 sales 5/7/09 (actually 13 pots isn't so bad)
jakesclayart 3 sales 7/8/08
shellenchentow 6 sales 11/07/08
greewoodstudio 91 sales 12/26/07 (91 isn't so bad but why not more?)
joytanner 48 sales 5/11/08 (for as much promoting as she does on
her blog why only 48?)
phillipspottery 24 sales 6/24/08
haalexander 8 sales 11/26/07
kovarikpottery 18 sales 9/26/07

These cold etsy artists are not necessarily bad artists or potters, but for some reasons they can't sell their pots on the internet. I would say that Brandon Phillips is every bit as good a potter as I am (probably much better if I am being totally honest), so if he can't sell his work how can I hope to? Well, especially on the internet you need to cultivate sales carefully. The pots don't sell themselves the way they do at a show where you can pick them up and handle them. So each of these artists has in some way not put the work in a position where the internet audience feels comfortable buying it. OR, as we discussed, the work may have been significantly hidden or inaccessible. For instance, if you have a shop with nothing in it you can't sell anything. If you don't have customers redirected to your shop from other sources, such as a blog, website, facebook page, you will need to depend on them finding you directly from the etsy site. This means you need good search words and tags, an easily remembered shop name, and a frequency of listings that make it easy for people to spot your work when they are browsing the categories. I don't think we stressed enough the importance of this kind of regular positioning. If you don't have enough items to post a new listing every few days you can still refresh an old item before the 4 months are up just so people can continue finding you easily. Of course this costs 20cents every time you do it, but you can build the cost of doing this into your price. Say I have 100 pots I want to sell on etsy. I won't list them all at once, but will let them trickle in so that I get maximum exposure. Maybe start out with a dozen or so, so that the storefront doesn't look too shabby to begin with. Then maybe add one new pot every day, or two or more new pots every other day so that they won't look lonely when they appear. I think a small number of items stands out more than just a single one spread out over the 40 or so pages that turn up new every day.

But what if you only have 10 pots? Once you have posted them they start to drift to the back of the line unless you refresh them constantly. Maybe you would want to open your store with all ten, and every few days refresh a few of them to keep them current on the front pages. Maybe instead of charging $14 for a cup you charge $17 so that you have built in 15 refreshings into the cost. Of course if no one buys it you are out the $3.20 to have listed it and refreshed it those many times, but you can consider it an investment into your web presence, as an advertising expense for people to actually get to see your work online. They may not buy that individual pot, but perhaps some one saw it, clicked on your shop and bought something else. So reposting an item is not a waste if it brings you traffic. Look at the success of your shop as a whole, not just that this item didn't sell. Maybe only refresh the pots that get the most views since they are driving more potential customers to your site.

All for now. Got to get on with my day. Good luck everyone!

Monday, September 7, 2009


My idea was to have a means for us to continue thinking about and receiving feedback concerning this ETSY experiment we are engaged in. My hope is that we can each publish things such as our shop statements, profile, and test images and descriptions of our wares for us all to give the poster some feedback before committing it to the etsy shop itself. I get the sense that a lot of etsy shops are flying blind and don't get much traffic as a result. If we are serious about this experiment we should at least have shops that look well considered and moderately professional.