I have to admit, reading about James Watkins’s spacious Lubbock, Texas, studio in the September 2021 Ceramics Monthly made me a tiny bit jealous! But after I let go of those envious feelings, I appreciated all the great tips he has for setting up a studio smartly. So I thought I would share an excerpt today. Have a look (and try not to be too jealous!)! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
PS. To learn more about James’s process, check out the full article in the September 2021 issue of Ceramics Monthly!
My studio is located behind my home in Lubbock, Texas. The rectangular building consists of three spaces divided by walls and overhead doors. The studio has a workroom, a combined kiln room/glaze room, and a gallery. The workroom and glaze/kiln room each have an overhead door to the outside as well as a shared overhead door connecting the two spaces. The size of the total space is 2500 square feet. The layout allows me to make, fire, glaze, and display the work in a sequential, linear order. I like that in my studio, the kiln/glaze room and gallery are physically separate spaces, which makes it easier to keep them clean and organized. My current studio has been influenced by every studio that I studied in as a student and every studio that I taught in as a professor.
I have three pottery wheels in the workroom area of my studio, allowing me to work on three pieces at the same time. While one piece is drying to leather hard, I work on a new piece. I work this way because the large double-walled caldrons and large bottle forms are made using the coil method, which requires that the piece dries enough that the walls can support extra weight before adding another coil to make the vessels taller. Building several forms simultaneously allows me to have pieces in multiple stages of drying and always have a piece ready to work on.
My workroom also has six worktables, three large movable ware racks, an air compressor, a shop vac, a glaze ball mill, a slab roller, a sand blaster used to create contrasting textures on fired work, and a lift table that allows me to lift and maneuver heavy pieces into the kiln. In one corner of the room, I have a photography station that consists of a large photo tent with lights and umbrellas to diffuse and direct the light. I store my wet clay in large, lidded plastic storage containers that stack on top of each other. To keep things clean and minimize dust, I vacuum the work area and wet mop the floor after each work session.
I move large, heavy, leather-hard pieces directly from the potter’s wheel to the cool kiln using a lift table and allow the pieces to dry slowly inside the kiln until they are ready to be fired. I do this because the larger pieces are stronger when they are leather hard and less likely to break or crack when lifting and loading them into the kiln.
The glaze/kiln room has three electric kilns of different sizes, one large downdraft gas kiln, one large raku gas kiln, and a clay mixer. I intend to install a spray booth in this room in the future, too.
Designing the studio with three separate spaces, two of which are connected by overhead doors, increased efficiency and lowered the heating and cooling costs. The doors allow me to close off the areas that are not in use. While each space has its own heating and cooling, when the weather is cooperative, I open the overhead doors to the outside as well as the door between the work room and kiln room to allow the breeze to flow through the studio. In the winter, when firing the kilns, I open the interior overhead door to the kiln room, which allows me to use the kiln heat instead of using the heater to warm up the room where I make and dry the work. The last room, the gallery, is separated from the kiln/glaze room by a wall and has its own HVAC system. This space becomes a clean room to contemplate the finished work and arrive at innovative ideas from studying previously made pieces.