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Kiln Pointers

How to Market Your Crafts

Use only approved element pins in a kiln--avoid paperclips or nails. The element in this photo burned out due to contact with a non-standard pin.

Gayle Bair: I make my sales more than sales . . . I make them connections with people.


How to Market Your Crafts

Reader Response: Another reason breakers trip; labeling bags of clay

Recent Q&As: Pyrolite and elements; firing rate for crucibles

A Kiln Story: Black Dots on the Kiln Walls

Memorable Quote

News: Silver Clay Classes This Week



By Gayle Bair

Customers: Build a customer base. The island-wide mailing for Bainbridge Island Studio Tour lets my customers know where I am. I make my sales more than sales . . . I make them connections with people. I embraced and supported someone at our site whose husband died just before retiring last year. She is a model of strength and grace. A former vendor at our site has been going through a very difficult time. I embraced and lent her my support.

Selling: Watch someone who knows how to sell. Fifteen years ago I watched and listened to my dear friend, a New York City clothing designer, sell her designer fleece at the farmers market. I was amazed at her skills and try to emulate her sales abilities. She's so good she sells fleece in the summer!

What to say: Figure out what to say to customers by observing what they look at or pick up in your booth. Reaching to touch one of your pieces is an opening to engage them. Ask a question that will open up conversation. Don’t ask, "Can I help you?" That can shut down a conversation with an emphatic "No." A better question is, "Have you seen one of these before?" Whether the answer is yes or no, you can continue the conversation with something unique you do with the piece, or how you use or make it, etc.

Your customers: Be generous to your customers. I give a soap dish to anyone who spends over a certain amount.

Booth Design: Booth design is important. I use neutral tablecloths, risers, shelving, printed labels for unusual things, and if customers look quizzical, I'm right in there giving visual demonstrations. Go to your favorite shop and you will rarely if ever see items slapped on a table on one level. Make it inviting, make the eye work up and down, instead of a rapid clean sweep and off to the next display that is more attractive.

Stay engaged: Staying engaged is exhausting, but so is not selling!



The last Kiln Pointer covered some of the reasons circuit breakers trip. Tony Rodriguez of San Antonio, Texas wrote, “Undersized wire between the fuse box and the kiln receptacle can also make the breaker trip. This is because the wire will heat up.”

A pointer from a teacher at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts show (NCECA): Don’t put low- and high-fire clays in the same classroom area. Low-fire clay pieces that are high-fired can melt onto the kiln shelf and drip onto the kiln bottom and walls. Write the cone number and manufacturer’s clay number on the box and inner plastic bag. Use a permanent felt-tipped marker so the writing doesn’t wipe off the bag.



Q. Can Pyrolite be used to hold the element in sidewall grooves?

A. Pyrolite adhesive should not be used to hold sidewall elements in the grooves. The Pyrolite is intended for lid elements. The sidewall elements are better off without Pyrolite.

Q. Can you tell me what the crucibles you sell are composed of?

A. The crucibles that Paragon sells are made of 99% alumina.

Q. The temperatures and rates certain crucibles should be brought up at from cold vary depending on the crucible. What rate do you recommend for your crucibles?

A. We recommend a rate of 400F per hour or slower.



A repair technician wondered about a kiln someone had brought him. The elements were burned out, and small black dots appeared in the firebrick walls along the element grooves. He had never before seen black dots in the bricks. The dots were spaced neatly throughout the firing chamber. He asked the kiln owner, “What did you do to your kiln?” The black dots were the remains of carpentry finish nails. The customer had used bent nails as element pins. During the firing, the nails burned away, leaving only black dots.

Use only the recommended element pins in a kiln. Nails or paperclips will burn out an element at the point of contact.



“Play is the WD-40, lubricating creative skills into adulthood. When it’s reduced to a secondary role, as when we urge children to put away ‘childish things’ and to ‘get serious’, holistic growth is shut down.” --Nils Lou

Nils Lou, a well known potter and author of “The Play Book,” passed away December 25, 2013. All of us at Paragon extend our deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones. I keep a copy of “The Play Book” near my computer.



Spaces are still available in the following classes taught by Ed and Martha Biggar at the Arlington Civic Center (Arlington, Texas), $215 per class, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tools are furnished.

Thursday, March 27: Combining Swarovski Crystals With Silver Clay

Friday, March 28: Adding Gilder Paste to Silver Clay

Saturday, March 29: Mastering the Lentil Bead

For information, please call Ed Biggar: 276-620-8595 (cell)


After the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) show ended last Friday, the new Paragon president, Todd Lokash, found a restaurant that served vegetarian food. A cab took us through quiet Milwaukee streets at night to a small bar. Neon beer signs glowed from the windows, which pulsed from the loud music. That little bar was the most unlikely setting for a restaurant that served Indian dhal soup.

Todd told me about his childhood adventures, his career, and people he has known. We talked about the future of Paragon, which I think will be bright.

Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd., Mesquite, Texas 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 / / /

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2014, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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