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Ok, so I'm here pretending to be a permie, but I'm actually an artist who decided to learn how to grow some food.

My artistic heart is married to clay.  And I would love for a ceramic studio to part of our viable enterprises on the farm.  And here's why I think it could be a good money maker:

1- the fairly obvious one - Selling big beautiful bowls at a craft market, or alongside food at whatever other market we're selling stuff at.  You can bring a few items that will be relatively "big ticket" (although semi-fragile) but won't be a huge deal to set out among other things.  Like, the vase that holds your cut flowers could also be for sale. 

2 - I REALLY LIKE THIS ONE!  As the container for foods at similar market situation.  A production potter can make a small, 1-6 serving cup in a matter of seconds.  Add a streamlined firing process (and firing large quantities of things at once is central to the type of kiln I'm most interested in building), and viola!  Handmade, beautiful, re useable, and maybe most importantly SPECIAL container in which to sell soup, saurkraut, berries, chickory tea....You could charge $5 for a bowl of soup, and $7 for a bowl of soup in a special keepable bowl.  Don'tcha think more people would buy the soup for the deal of the bowl?  Is this legal?  (that's my new mantra I think)

3 - As the container for bulk foods.  More for on farm storage at first....I'm thinking of the large crocks that you don't see around too often any more.  They were probably transported on barges back before there were railroads.  They are strong, hold a whole lot in a secure way with the right lid, and add greatly to the thermal mass of the stuff they're storing.  This can be an advantage over glass or plastic if you're storing something fermented.  An on farm ceramic studio could probably make just a few of these a year for specific customers. 

4 - Pipes, especially short, sturdy, irrigation or plumbing main pipes.  Something that would connect to a trough...?  I don't really know, but I think it has potential. 

5 - Tiles - for your roof, floor, counter.....customized....come press your baby's hand print in the tile before we fire it...Seriously! 

Other stuff?

We have natural deposits of clay here....not in areas that would miss it....(road cuts and slips - easily acessible!) 

I think the best firing option for our situation is a woodfired Anangama kiln.  We have a good slope and the right rock.  The idea is that the heat of the fire builds as it moves up through several chambers.  (this is just a random example)



You can make them reaaaallly big.....and only fire them every two years.  Then you sell that stuff, and make more stuff and carefully load the kiln from the back forward, and have a giant 5 day fire two years later.  The melted ash is the glaze.  Finished pieces have a very rustic, beautiful look.  Japanese elegance....
 
Robert Ray
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They have a big fund raiser locally where potters create bowls and they are placed on a table and as you walk through you pick a bowl that catches your fancy and then head for the soup. Always a great success and the money goes to local food banks.
  I think it would be great at a farmers market event.
 
                    
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Oh that sounds great lapinerobert!  I think I've heard of things along those lines.  Is there something about the fund raiser aspect that makes it special legally?  I guess as long as the soup satisfied food safety stuff, a ceramic bowl would be a pretty sensible clean container.  So long as it's not re-filled at the same market (dirty), I think. 

A lot of the ceramic stands I've seen are just loads of ceramics and nothing else.  It seems like a pain to unload and load all that stuff, plus sort of too specialized?  (I guess that's a personal pet peeve of mine about market stalls in general.  You know - JUST tiny pewter jewelry? ONLY knitted baby clothing?) 

We want to have crafts alongside our food offerings at markets - but the container thing has possibilities.  Stacking functions - the containers you bring your food to market in could be for sale. 
 
Jami McBride
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Here in Oregon if your gong to sell food you have to have a certified kitchen.  It's a pain I've head from everyone dealing with this issue.  So you'll want to check this out in your area first.  You may be able to get around the kitchen thing by serving just drinks in mugs, tea in teacups, etc. so ask about this.

I love the idea of soup in a bowl, but I'd want matching bowls (soup for 4 please)!
And functional pieces - yes please!  A crock with a lid and insert disk for smashing down the sauerkraut.  Square stackable containers with lids for food storage in the fridge. 
Fancy serving dishes with lids.  How about cool candle holders with candles in them. 
Around here things with faces on them sell best. 

Sounds like your talking about Raku method of firing.  Items made this way are munch prettier, but also much more fragile.  All my Raku eventually has structural issues and I only use it for decoration (look don't touch).  But I still can't resist buying it.

There are some amazing Raku artists in Hawaii. 

Pottery is a love of mine ♥ although I don't want to pursue it as a craft or art, I'll leave that to one's such as yourself.

Below a couple of fun things I saw at my last art fair.....


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Robert Ray
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What about a set of bowls and the ingredients from your garden to make the soup?
Or a crock with cabbage for kraut?
Soap dish with home made soap?
 
                          
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I got interested in the idea of a solar ceramics kiln not long ago, reading about parabolic mirrors and fresnel lenses. Seems like if you can get the sun hot enough to melt glass in seconds, or even concrete in a couple of minutes, you ought to be able to get it hot enough to fire ceramics. But searches have turned up plenty of plans for solar wood drying kilns and nada for solar ceramics kilns. Any thoughts?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Kerrick: A kiln needs very uniform heat, otherwise things warp (just as true for ceramics as for wood). Parabolic mirrors make for very concentrated heat.

The temperatures in question are kind of dangerous, and require careful design. Here's a setup that might work OK. It's based on a device called a "rapid thermal annealer," which I used in my time researching semiconductor materials.

Below is a very cartoonish representation of it all. At the center is a ceramic piece, being sintered.

The black box around that is a susceptor, built of something that can stand the heat, and conduct heat very well (to radiate uniformly onto the ceramic). Bonus points if it absorbs sunlight well. My first thoughts on what to make it out of were graphite or silicon carbide. Graphite would only work if you could keep the inside fairly well evacuated, or under a gas like nitrogen or CO2.

Around that all is a double layer of glass, with water circulated fairly quickly between the two layers. This water jacket is to keep the glass from melting. It doesn't need to be curved, or to be on all sides, of course: it might be one flat pane at the bottom of a big, white, fluffy box. The water coming out might be fairly hot, so it could be a worthwhile byproduct of the system.

The gray thing around that is the parabolic reflector.

If you try to build one, be very, very careful, and start small...the RTA machine I used had a susceptor about the size of two postage stamps.
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Jami - Raku is a low fire technique, which is why the finished peices are fragile, porous, and not food safe.  Pretty for the wall, though!  Those heads are cute!  I'm more into functional things. 

Anagama kilns produce extremely hot temperatures, the clay (and you have to use the right formulation of clay or it will turn into a glassy puddle) is actually more similar to stone when it's done firing - hence the term "stone ware".  Not porous, very hard, very durable, and food safe for all kinds of things. 

The elementary school near us has a certified kitchen available for rent at fairly low costs, and that solves A LOT of problems and opens up A LOT of avenues for us.   

The idea of a solar powered kiln is neat, and I hope people continue to experiment with high tech things like that.....but.....

We have about 37 acres of forest for fuel sources.  We could just collect limbs that fall off after a heavy snow and have enough wood to fire this kiln (we've never cut down a single tree specifically for "fire" wood - it's a by-product of other forestry activities).  I know some people are all about "no wood burning" (and that makes sense in cities) but I'm not in that camp, as it is an incredibly abundant material here.  If you get the fire hot enough (like, the thousands of degrees that you have to get in order to fire one of these kilns properly) it's going to be a very clean burn, anyway. 

Also, with just about any other firing technique you wouldn't have the melted ash functioning as the glaze. You've got to find other metals that will melt into a stiff glass at slightly lower temperatures than the clay on which they rest.  That leads to a whole can o worms -- mining, transporting, and mixing various minerals in exacccctly the right proportions.  Lots of testing to get it right.  LOTS of testing, leading to lots of those same expensive materials being wasted on the wrong recipe.  I feel that the ash is a more predictable and less material intensive choice.  And, it's beautiful. 

from wikipedia "anagama kiln":  "Burning wood not only produces heat of up to 2,500 °F (1400 °C), it also produces fly ash and volatile salts. wood ash settles on the pieces during the firing, and the complex interaction between flame, ash, and the minerals of the clay body forms a natural ash glaze. This glaze may show great variation in color, texture, and thickness, ranging from smooth and glossy to rough and sharp. The placement of pieces within the kiln distinctly affects the pottery's appearance, as pieces closer to the firebox may receive heavy coats of ash, or even be immersed in embers, while others deeper in the kiln may only be softly touched by ash effects."

You can't this look from an electric or gas kiln, or anything other than wood fired.


this guy probably sat in the embers - chunky and rough - the kind of thing associated with traditional rustic japanese pottery 


and this one has just light touches.  that brown drip is an ash drip.  You can't plan things like that!


and again, a chunkier example.  You'd have to spend years "getting to know" your kiln to begin to predict firing results.  The best ceramicists are elders. 
 
                          
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Joel, that sounds really interesting--and I can't seem to see the diagram you're describing; I wonder if it's because my computer is acting up or if it didn't upload. The materials sound difficult to come by, and of course parabolic mirrors are reasonably easy to hurt oneself with. Still, an interesting project, I think--and especially useful for folks who don't have an endless supply of wood.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Thanks! I just fixed the illustration.

Your ceramics are beautiful. They'd be a great way to sell baked goods, too: pie in its own pie dish, etc. You could charge a deposit on them.

I also think preserves, sealed with wax or fat, would be a good gift in that sort of pottery: orange marmalade under beeswax in a wabi-sabi tea cup, or duck confit in a traditional ceramic crock.
 
Matthew Fallon
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i'm mostly a wood and bamboo guy these days, but really, i love working with any and all natural materials,and clay is one i've wanted to get my hands into for a while now. one of these days...
i 'sort of' did at one point...i was given upwards of 100 "slip molds"  where you pour in the slip clay,let it skin over then pour out the rest,dry,paint/glaze,fire.
i didnt care for it  ,it was not really creative,just a process. if i was casting my OWN molds thatd change things..

i have a realllly great book about making clay instruments. "From Mud to Music" by barry hall. it comes with an audio CD that corresponds to each instrument thats featured in the book...really cool stuff...i'd want to get or make an extruder,for making flutes/dijeridoos.and definitely make drums as well.
an old aquaintence here from the drum circles has an art studio/gallery/school for kids.with wheels and kilns and all..rather than set up a whole nother ceramic shop at home,i'll talk to him about collaborating,when i'm ready..

 
Jami McBride
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I have another wonderful do-hicky you can make and sell (I'd love one anyway).

A butter keeper! 
Sits on one's counter so beauty is important. 
It is for real butter and not substitutes.  You can view a vid of a purchased one here:
http://gnowfglins.com/2010/01/27/video-butter-keeper/

Maybe fill it with herb butters for your customers.
 
Ken Peavey
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About the only exposure I've had to ceramics is that scene from Ghost.

I've looked at sauerkraut crocks, the prices are insane.  I can get by with a 5 gallon plastic bucket costing less than 5 bucks before I spend a couple of hundred on a crock.  Would be nice to have, but not at the top of my list right now due to the price.

Crop rotation with legumes for nitrogen fixation comes to mind in this plan.  How about some bean crocks sold alongside dried beans.  There are heirloom beans with distinctive coloration, perhaps you could match the crock to the bean.  Take a look at calypso, tiger eye, hidatsu shield, vermont cranberry, Jacob's cattle and Christmas lima.

Tomato+pepper+onion+herbs+old family recipe=salsa.  Extend that to the much needed Salsa Ramekin.  This one would be easy to produce in volume due to size and simplicity.  Would be handy with homemade herbal dressing/dip mixes.

Mortar and pestle for teas or aromatic oil uses?  I don't know a thing about this.  Nothing.  Just tossing it out.  There are some sort of aromatic oil burner/infuser thingamajigs.  I think my sister has one.

Candle holders for natural beeswax candles.

I like the idea of using local materials such as the local clay you spoke of.  I would question impurities and potential contamination issues.  Does the stuff have lead, mercury, other heavy metals or chemical contaminants such as roadside herbicides?  Can this survive the firing process?  Can it get through a food grade glazing?

How about decorative wall tile?  Would that fit into your program?  It may not have the functional use you prefer.

I'm sure there are a gozillion ideas and its impossible to chase them all. Whatever you decide on pursuing, I wish you the best.

 
Jami McBride
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Some more ideas are:

Mushroom keeper - I have a round one for keeping my mushrooms in the fridge from going slimy.  Ceramic crocks (with lids) breath and this gives it a benefit over other containers for mushrooms, lettuce and such.  I would really love a square mushroom keeper so it would fit better in my rectangle fridge.

Garlic roaster - again mine is round.  A great little do-dah for roasting chillies, garlic and the like.

My daughter made me a nice ceramic match holder for the fireplace.  I don't want to 'see' the matches and her holder adds artistic interest while hiding the matches and their strike pad. 
 
Ken Peavey
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Marina, in the OP you spoke of pipes.  Take a quick look at thecreative watering techniques thread.  I put in a post about Pitcher Irrigation, about half way down.

I've used the industry standard unglazed terra cotta pot found at Home Depot for a couple bucks.  While they do the job, there are changes that can be made which would add function.   All that is needed is a porous container with a fill hole and cover.
-the bottom hole needs to go.  I have to plug it up.  I've used corks but they rot over time.
-Round is ok, but a long, narrow shape would service more area.  A foot long would be excellent.
-The thing does not need to be especially deep.  It just needs to be subsurface to release the water.  3-4 inches would probably be fine.
-A fill hole needs to be above the surface, not shaped in a manner that it can be snapped off, and should be a couple inches across for easy filling with a hose or water jug.
-A bright, easy to find lid that does not slide off.
-It needs to hold about gallon.
-Flat sides would allow easy removal.  Does not have to be perfect
-a mostly flat bottom makes for easy installation
-the wall thickness of the terra cotta pots seems to work fine

an interior volume of .12 cuft=about a gallon=207cuin
figure a foot long, 4-5" wide, 5-6" deep would be about right
Raise the fill hole an inch or two, no overhang, paint the cap and give the cap a pinch when making it so it can be lifted easily
I'm guessing 10 pounds of clay?

For simpler fabrication, roll out the clay like a pie crust, lift up the sides like a taco, pinch the ends together so it does not leak.  Leaking at the top is of little concern, the thing will drain below any leaks in a couple hours.  Spout and cap can be done with a cookie cutter.

The beautiful people would pay a lot more for something like this than they would for a $2 terra cotta pot. 

hmmm...is this patentable?



 
                    
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Wow, everyone, thank you for all the input!  Really amazing ideas in this thread

To clarify, I did not make any of the ceramics I posted.  I just found random images of "anagama kiln pottery" off google.  Sorry!  Don't want to take undue credit.  I could post some pictures of stuff I made in college, in gas and electric kilns....  Experiencing the firing process of one of those wood fired kilns is a dream of mine.  There are lots of anagama kilns and firings happening in Oregon on a regular basis.  I plan to attend one, one of these years. 

Ken- the watering devices are great ideas.  I've seen different variations of those, not all of them satisfy the list you made, that's very helpful....in the drylands permaculture video Mollison made there were rather large clay pots buried in the ground next to perennials in India.  The lady-gardener just took the lid off and filled it in ground manually.  Said that it system cut their watering requirements significantly. 

Mushroom keeper
  seems like that would work for more than just mushrooms!  awesome! 

Garlic roaster
  I had one of these but it got lost somewhere between the east and west coast.  Useful, cute, and simple.  Perfect. 


I like the idea of using local materials such as the local clay you spoke of.  I would question impurities and potential contamination issues.  Does the stuff have lead, mercury, other heavy metals or chemical contaminants such as roadside herbicides?  Can this survive the firing process?  Can it get through a food grade glazing?


Gee, um, those are all very good questions.  The deposit I plan to mine for material is next to a private road on a friend's property that's just as out in the sticks as mine is.  So no herbicides or chemicals to worry about.  Metals, that's something to consider and I'm sure you can get it tested....but I'm fairly sure that pure clay deposits are generally free of the ones you need to worry about.  Glaze is actually a thin layer of glass melted on the surface of the clay, I believe even the melted wood ash glaze would be totally non-porous (unless it's pitted or uneven or something), and I know that it is food safe, so your food wouldn't be touching the clay directly. 

Tiles fit into the idea, but they're kind of a pain, especially when they're big.  You have to turn them all the time as they dry so they don't warp and crack all apart.  And they take up a lot of horizontal shelf space in a kiln.  I'm not against them, but....hmmm..if you threw a flat disk on a wheel and then cut that square, that would compact the clay enough to minimize cracking..maybe...ok sorry I'll stop thinking aloud in the thread.

A butter keeper! 
  Awesome!  I love butter!  I love that keeper!

I also think preserves, sealed with wax or fat, would be a good gift in that sort of pottery: orange marmalade under beeswax in a wabi-sabi tea cup, or duck confit in a traditional ceramic crock.
 

I LOVE ideas like this...but I hardly think I can sell them to the public.    Maybe someday, WTSHTF, ifyaknowhatImsayin.  California seems to have really strict laws regarding what you can sell as food.  Giant ag state, garrr....

I had the idea of a bed warmer?  Like one of those rubber hot water bottles, but a flat ceramic bottle, and you can take it out of the bed before you get in.  It would really need to NOT leak. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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3 - As the container for bulk foods.


Your conjecture about barges is absolutely right. Before the ISO container or the oil drum, there was the amphora. Amphorae were earthenware, though, not stoneware, unless I'm mistaken. On occasion, an amphora is found full on the bottom of the Mediterranean, having survived not only a shipwreck, but a thousand or more years at the bottom of the sea.

I think an amphora of wine or of olive oil would sell for quite a high price, to the right customer. Especially if the container is beautiful, and the product is high-quality.

Ken Peavey wrote:Mortar and pestle for teas or aromatic oil uses?


I like this idea quite a lot. And the strength and impermeability of stoneware would really come in handy.

I love the wheel design from China. The pestle is shaped sort of like a track & field discus, but with handles like a rolling pin, and the mortar has a groove that the rim of the wheel fits into. As it rolls, it crushes stuff at the bottom of the groove, and shears whatever works its way up the sides, fitting into the groove more snugly as the largest particles are broken up. I imagine they could be made with a wheel diameter anywhere between an inch and four feet, depending on the use. It would be handy to have some of these around on a farm. I have never seen one in a store, which might mean I'm the only market from them outside TCM practitioners, or might mean you'd have a niche market.

Since I brought up TCM, Medicinal herbs might sell very well alongside the apparatus for them.
 
                    
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Do you have a picture of one of those chinese herb grinders, Joel?  I'm trying....sometimes the words into image thing is tough for me. 
 
Jami McBride
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One more suggestion.... for the health concerned - muffin tins (ceramic) and you may be able to attach a package of home-made dry muffin mix without a cert-kitchen permit!

I wish I had one right now - hahaha

I have 3 individual muffin cups that look just like mini terracotta clay pots without the drain holes.  They work great, but are not as convenient as the connected cups in a 'tin'.
 
                    
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Oh wow, yes, ceramic muffin tins would be divine.  I have cast iron ones and they're great. 

The issue with home grown operations making ceramic bake ware is that you have to supply all kinds of warnings with the product. 

The main danger is that if the cook pot is washed and then heated quickly again before all the water evaporates out of it, the boiling water molecules in the walls of your pot will cause it to explode.  The water won't penetrate areas where there are glaze, but the bottom of all ceramic things has to be unglazed or it will stick to the shelf on which it's fired.  Commercial plates and the like are glazed on all sides, and sit on pointy little "kiln posts" so that only tiny parts of the porous ceramic are exposed. 

Explosions = no bueno in a kitchen. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I couldn't find anything about them online.

To be honest, I only saw a few of them in a museum, so they might not be all that popular even in China.

Here's an illustration, though.
wheel_grinder.PNG
[Thumbnail for wheel_grinder.PNG]
 
Jami McBride
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Hum... Marina my clay muffin pots don't look glazed, but there are sealed in some way.  It's not an on-the-surface, shinny coating.  More like it soaked in.  It smells very familiar, but I can't place the smell.  Could have been put on after firing. 

Anyway, I grease them real good inside and the lip before putting in the batter. 

Other people on the Net claim to use regular unglazed flower pots for this same purpose, and those are not exploding either.
 
                    
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If the ceramic material is totally dry, there's no danger of exploding. 

Thanks for the illustration Joel.
 
Robert Ray
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This might work in a farmers market www.thissustainablehouse.com.au/garden/41-irrigation/85-claypotirrig
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Not sure how I forgot this one until now, since you have hot, dry summers:

Zeer pots: a stoneware container with a lid, in a larger earthenware container with wet sand in between. It will keep your farm products cool in a retail setting, and you can sell the devices, maybe to other farmer's market retailers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pot-in-pot_refrigerator
 
jacque greenleaf
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Unglazed water/wine carafes - evaporation through the walls cools the contents.

Bowls for the hungry - a group of artists has been selling these for years at the Oregon Food Bank's Waterfront Blues Festival - http://ladlespdx.com/empty_bowls.html

And you could offer community anagama firings - http://www.lillianpitt.com/art/clay.html

I'm no artist, clay or otherwise, but I'd love to take part in something like this. Wonder how the liability works...
 
                    
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Oh right, I've seen those things, Joel.  From a link I saw somewhere on this board I think.  Really amazing simple technology.  And yes we're probably going to end up making and using things like that to keep our stuff fresh at markets. 

Liability?    That's one of those words I don't enjoy thinking about. 
 
Leah Sattler
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I don't know if you would even consider such a thing but I think it fits with the overall idea. as I am sure they have elsewhere there are shops in the area here where you can go in, pick out your ceramic project, paint it and have them fire it adn pick it up at a later date. its fun for kids and grown ups! this would take considerably more input but I think it has potential for considerably more and consistent income in comparison to simply making and selling your own artwork also. 

An enviroment that fosters a bit more artsy and or eco feel.... maybe making/incorporateing more useful end products could be a good niche. the shop I have experience in has primarily small figurines and trinkets to choose from. I would have enjoyed being able to purchase and finish things like crocks and storage containers etc......stuff that I could really use.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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As far as childrens' eco products, their own flower pot or irrigation pot.

There's a good irrigation pot design in this video, at around 11:20:

Global Gardener: Urban farms
 
                          
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We have an annual maple breakfast and this year we sold ceramic pancake platters. 

In past years we've made mugs and bowls. 

My students made a lot of them.  We sold them to pay for music at the farmer's market here in Skowhegan, Maine. 

It was fun and the students enjoyed it. 
 
                                                                    
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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I think your idea is an excellent one.

Plastics came on the scene and largely replaced ceramics.

Plastics come from petrolium and I don't feel safe letting them come in contact with my food or the food of my animals.
There is a lot of research to back this up of late on the topic of "BPA Plastic."

The market you breech is the "organic container" market.
We see a lot of organic foods in non organic containers.
You have the ability to also make the container organic.
I know that "organic" is a legal term but let's put that aside in order to have a discussion.

That is a powerful capability that few possess.

I also think that this is something that would be good to do during our winters when there is little farming to do.  We do the Maple Syrup making but that is not extremely time consuming. 

I suppose glass is the container of choice but a glass operation is not something I can figure out very readily.

The application targets for ceramic are vast if you only look at plastic in contact with food.  Watering devices and feeding devices for chickens, dogs, cats are needed also.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.


 
                              
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Robert Ray wrote:
They have a big fund raiser locally where potters create bowls and they are placed on a table and as you walk through you pick a bowl that catches your fancy and then head for the soup. Always a great success and the money goes to local food banks.
  I think it would be great at a farmers market event.


Yep, I think its called Empty Bowl? I need to go look-I've certainly heard of it and would really like to do an event here locally. I'm a potter too.
Leigh
 
                              
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Kerrick wrote:
I got interested in the idea of a solar ceramics kiln not long ago, reading about parabolic mirrors and fresnel lenses. Seems like if you can get the sun hot enough to melt glass in seconds, or even concrete in a couple of minutes, you ought to be able to get it hot enough to fire ceramics. But searches have turned up plenty of plans for solar wood drying kilns and nada for solar ceramics kilns. Any thoughts?


You have to bring the heat up slowly, to peak temp, otherwise your pieces can break from... from... grrr, my brain is total mush tonight!

Ah! Thermal Shock! Its called thermal shock!

Anyway, thats why you wont see plans for fireing ceramics-it wont work.

Leigh
 
                              
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Jami McBride wrote:
I have another wonderful do-hicky you can make and sell (I'd love one anyway).

A butter keeper! 
Sits on one's counter so beauty is important. 
It is for real butter and not substitutes.  You can view a vid of a purchased one here:
http://gnowfglins.com/2010/01/27/video-butter-keeper/

Maybe fill it with herb butters for your customers.


Yep, we always called them butter dishes. They can be really pretty.
Leigh
 
                              
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Kerrick wrote:
Joel, that sounds really interesting--and I can't seem to see the diagram you're describing; I wonder if it's because my computer is acting up or if it didn't upload. The materials sound difficult to come by, and of course parabolic mirrors are reasonably easy to hurt oneself with. Still, an interesting project, I think--and especially useful for folks who don't have an endless supply of wood.


Another alternative energy source some folks near Asheville NC have been working on is methane gas from the local landfill. They use it to power a high fire kiln and at least some of the other stuff at the site-such as hot water heating. Its called EnergyXchange, and I know they have a website, I just can't find it among my mess of Favorites.
Leigh
 
                              
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marina phillips wrote:
Gee, um, those are all very good questions.  The deposit I plan to mine for material is next to a private road on a friend's property that's just as out in the sticks as mine is.  So no herbicides or chemicals to worry about.  Metals, that's something to consider and I'm sure you can get it tested....but I'm fairly sure that pure clay deposits are generally free of the ones you need to worry about.  Glaze is actually a thin layer of glass melted on the surface of the clay, I believe even the melted wood ash glaze would be totally non-porous (unless it's pitted or uneven or something), and I know that it is food safe, so your food wouldn't be touching the clay directly. 


Thats not necessarily the case. While lead isn't normally a problem in naturally occuring clays in the US, there are plenty of places where it is. One way to make sure... contact your local extension office and ask them about getting a soil sample test done, for heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. They will tell you what they need from you to do the test. Usually its free, sometimes a small fee-or at lest it USED to be free here-I dont know about California.
Leigh
 
                              
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marina phillips wrote:
Tiles fit into the idea, but they're kind of a pain, especially when they're big.  You have to turn them all the time as they dry so they don't warp and crack all apart.  And they take up a lot of horizontal shelf space in a kiln.  I'm not against them, but....hmmm..if you threw a flat disk on a wheel and then cut that square, that would compact the clay enough to minimize cracking..maybe...ok sorry I'll stop thinking aloud in the thread.


Have you used tile setters? They save alot of room in the kiln. I've seen ones where the tiles are set on edge, rather than flat, like in the pic. 

Also, do you make flat tiles? If so, you can sandwich them between layers of wallboard, up to three to four layers without distorting the damp tiles.
Leigh
tilesetters.jpg
[Thumbnail for tilesetters.jpg]
 
                              
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marina phillips wrote:
Oh wow, yes, ceramic muffin tins would be divine.  I have cast iron ones and they're great. 

The issue with home grown operations making ceramic bake ware is that you have to supply all kinds of warnings with the product. 

The main danger is that if the cook pot is washed and then heated quickly again before all the water evaporates out of it, the boiling water molecules in the walls of your pot will cause it to explode.  The water won't penetrate areas where there are glaze, but the bottom of all ceramic things has to be unglazed or it will stick to the shelf on which it's fired.  Commercial plates and the like are glazed on all sides, and sit on pointy little "kiln posts" so that only tiny parts of the porous ceramic are exposed. 

Explosions = no bueno in a kitchen. 


Something I've done, is to put together a "Care Of" sheet, to give to anyone who bought my functional work, which included basic use directions, etc. Thus avoiding booms in the kitchen.
Leigh
 
                              
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Your conjecture about barges is absolutely right. Before the ISO container or the oil drum, there was the amphora. Amphorae were earthenware, though, not stoneware, unless I'm mistaken. On occasion, an amphora is found full on the bottom of the Mediterranean, having survived not only a shipwreck, but a thousand or more years at the bottom of the sea.

I think an amphora of wine or of olive oil would sell for quite a high price, to the right customer. Especially if the container is beautiful, and the product is high-quality.

I like this idea quite a lot. And the strength and impermeability of stoneware would really come in handy.


Somewhere much closer, both in time AND distance, are the potterys along the Ohio River Valley, and the stoneware  potters of North Carolina. Take a look at the history of these too areas-stoneware kilns abounded in both areas, and still do today in North Carolina.

And on the amphora-yes, beautiful vessels, but I would suggest a flat bottom rather than the traditional pointed one.
Leigh
 
                              
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Leah Sattler wrote:
I don't know if you would even consider such a thing but I think it fits with the overall idea. as I am sure they have elsewhere there are shops in the area here where you can go in, pick out your ceramic project, paint it and have them fire it adn pick it up at a later date. its fun for kids and grown ups! this would take considerably more input but I think it has potential for considerably more and consistent income in comparison to simply making and selling your own artwork also. 

An enviroment that fosters a bit more artsy and or eco feel.... maybe making/incorporateing more useful end products could be a good niche. the shop I have experience in has primarily small figurines and trinkets to choose from. I would have enjoyed being able to purchase and finish things like crocks and storage containers etc......stuff that I could really use.


All of these shops I've seen, use an electric kiln. So the most you could do would be middle range temp firings-which still includes stonewares and porcelain. But for the most part, they are aimed at kids and adults who want kitch stuff to set on a shelf.
Leigh
 
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