Artist Q&A: Advice on Gaining Efficiency in the Studio from Hanako Nakazato

Gaining Efficiency in the Studio

Hanako Nakazato altering bowls and demonstrating efficiency in the studio

Ceramic Arts Network: Often it is difficult to streamline a studio practice. How do you tackle efficiency in the studio?

Hanako Nakazato: Organize, don’t agonize—that is the most basic work philosophy that I follow. During busy production times (pretty much all the time in Japan) every minute and second counts, so I cannot afford to waste any time if I want to be efficient in the studio. I usually count backwards from my deadlines (exhibitions and orders) and designate a certain amount of time for each stage: packing, cooling, firing, glazing, loading, drying, trimming, and throwing. I add some extra days as a cushion to account for unexpected events. Usually my production cycle is 20–30 days in order to have 2 glaze firings: generally 2 weeks of wet-clay workdays and 2 more weeks for finishing, firing, packing, and shipping.

My kiln holds about 500–700 pieces in one bisque, which allows me to have two glaze firings. I make sure to have various shapes in different diameters and heights so they all fit nicely together in the tightly packed kiln.

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I have a blackboard in front of my wheel, with illustrations of what I am making for the month’s production, so it is clear what I will be making each day. This blackboard really helps keep me on task and as a result, have work efficiently in the studio. I start with making bigger pieces that require more time for drying, so I can meet the deadline. My ware boards are 6 feet long and I’ve calculated that I need to produce 60–70 boards full of pots to fill the bisque kiln.

As a production potter, efficiency in the studio is very important, I created a damp room with a built-in pipe rack for drying pots slowly and evenly and I also have large indoor and outdoor racks that hold many ware boards at once for quick drying. I designed my studio in three units, based on my workflow. On one end is the throwing room, which also has clay bins and the damp room. The center room houses the kiln, pipe racks, and open space for glazing. On the other end is a showroom that also serves as an office and packing space. I keep my workspace pretty clean and organized to keep everything running smoothly, and efficiently in the studio.

Honeycomb plate, 6¼ in. (16 cm) in diameter, stoneware, blue-gray glaze, fired in an electric kiln, 2015.

Nakazato stacking Chakra plates after trimming them.

Interested in more from Hanako Nakazato? Click here to read her entire article in the June/July/August 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly.

**First published in 2018.
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