Friday, February 13, 2009

Customer Concerns Outcome

In meeting with the customer I let her go first and point out her concerns. Now, I have to say, I had a hard time keeping a poker face because there was nothing wrong with the pieces !!! Not even any wear. So after the customer had her say, I told her that I was fully prepared to re-imburse the cost of all the pottery ( the reason why I offered the money right away is because there was no actual problem with my wares -it is her perception and if someone has convinced themselves of something - how do you deal with that without sounding like you are trying to baffel them with B.S.? )Well, she didn't want the money. She said she loves my work and enjoys using the pieces and then she started packing the pottery back up again and not in a good, satisfied customer way. I asked her if she would like me to replace the pottery??? and we went back into a discussion of what she perceived was "wrong" with it.
The reason why I didn't really want to replace the pottery is because: how do you fix something thats not broken? For whatever reason, this customer is mistaken thinking her pottery has gone through some transformation. This customer believes that one of the very qualities that I treasure in this glaze is a fault and that somehow her pottery has changed. Near the end of our conversation I did re-assure her if the glaze was wearing off that there isn't any lead, barium, lithium, ect. in the glaze that could do any harm to someone using these pieces.
I don't have a picture of these particular pieces before they came into her possession so I don't have anything to back-up my claim. But I know that the glaze is not "wearing" or "peeling". She believes the glaze has changed, I don't. What I do know is that I might have to make these pieces several times in order to try to control the outcome to meet her expectations.
So what is our obligation to our customers - how long is the warrenty and how do we protect ourselves. I do have a "pottery instuction guide" that I give out at craft sales and through the gift shop that carries my work. I have been told on several occations that it is too cautious. Mybe not cautious enough ? I know that part of my role is to educate the public. I have taught pottery classes for more than 17 years and most of the time when I start talking technical, most of the students eyes loose focus and they start fidgeting.
So, if you are a potter or a person who buys and/or uses pottery please feel free to comment.

Last Comparison Photo

Here are two handbuilt wall vases. I am posting them side by side to show (again) the range of this glaze. The application of the glaze and the look of the fired pot are very connected; thick/thin glaze batch, how long the piece is submerged for, how you pull the piece out of the slurry and let the excess run off, what kind of surface texture you are putting it on,your body color, your firing and cooling schedual and how full the kiln is, all contribute to the finished apperance. Each piece is alittle different and unique. A quality that I value in all handmade things - pottery especially. Thats why we do this, us potters. In fact, after doing repetitive work some potters have to be very carefull they don't turn themelves into machines. Keep it fresh, use clays and glazes that help you do that... make work you love. If someone buys it, you hope they are noticing those same qualities and it touches something with them, resonates, and they take it home, use it and it adds to their life, increases their pleasure in the food, flowers ect. that they are using it for. One persons creation collaborating with anothers to create an enjoyable experience!

maybe less glare here

This is the same never used, new dish. Less glare on the rim.
When I am compareing these pots to the ones that have been in use - in one case, for probably 5 years... I don't see a problem and I am bewildered.
I wish that I had taken the book this glaze came from with me to the meeting with the customer. The book is Mastering Cone 6 Glazes, by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy.
The name of the glaze is Variegated Slate Blue. There is a picture of a sake jug on page 88, for those of you that have this book... please look now, I'll wait !
For those of you that don't have the book ( why not ? - just kidding )here is the books web page with the picture I am refering to.
O.K., where's the beef ?

Reference pots in the studio

This is the edge of a small dish that is recently out of the kiln and has never been used. The first one is under the lip on the outside. The second one is a close-up of the inner lip edge. I hope that everyone viewing these pictures can see the details. I'm not great with this camera and since I know what I am looking at, I'm not sure if it is obvious to others.

Small Platter again

Not a very good picture - over exposed because of the bright sunlight but out of the sun wasn't quite showing what I wanted. I was trying to get another shot of the lip surface to show the customers area of concern - The customer has probably had this little platter for 5 years. I can tell by the raised slip trailing - kinda nice to revisit old pots and see that your skills have progressed and improved. But the decoration wasn't her concern it was her percieved wearing of the glaze and if you compare her pots with the next ones I hope you will see how confused I was that she brought this to my attention. I'm not seeing what she was seeing.

Small Platter

Here is the edge of the small platter and some of the horizontal surface. It is about an inch deep and has some raised slip trailing on the surface. I am trying to show in these close-up pictures, the gradation of color of this glaze. On the edges it is a toasty brown on this clay body and then it can go this beautiful turquoise matt and then a glossy green/blue where it is thicker. There is also a sort of moss green on the inner shoulder of the piece. At one point in our meeting the customer was running her finger over this part as she was telling me that she thought the glaze was wearing off. I know that pieces come out of the kiln like this - I have them for sale in my studio and I have now checked back with my copy of the book that the glaze was published in and there is the exact same progression of color at the top of the sake jar in the authors example of this glaze. I would have to assue that if the glaze was "wearing off", say, in the dishwasher, the wear would be all over and the glossyness would be dulled. Or perhaps there would be tool marks or scrapes if a knife or metal utensil was scratching a non-durable surface. But there, as you can see, isn't any of that.

Dip Bowl

Here is a side and inside view of the dip bowl.
I remember unloading the dip bowl. I thought it was a real gem - the glaze is just what I look for & really stood out as special, I remember marveling at the turquoise on the outside - oh, that was one of her perceived problems, the pottery was not the same color on the inside as the out side so she thought it was wearing off... and after owning this bowl for about 2 years, she's just noticed this now, after "using it all the time" ??? jeesh

Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder

A customer recently contacted me about some concerns she had regarding pottery of mine that she has had for sometime. Her concern was that she felt the glaze was "wearing off". She used other words over the phone to describe what she felt was happening - "peeling" was the only other one I can remember right now... it was hard to concentrate with the blood pounding in my ears. I have used this glaze quite a bit and if it was starting to fail... it could be devastating to my business. I am posting some pictures here of two of the pieces that I have brought back to the studio with me after meeting with her. I will also post some pictures of pieces in my studio thatt have been glazed with the same glaze, over the same clay body but have never been used or subjected to any dishwasher abrasives, ect.
This first one is a 2 cup dip bowl I would estimate she has had this for at least two years and she says she uses these pieces "all the time". Over the phone she had also said that one of her concerns was that the glaze is a different color on the outside than the inside.