Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Studio Atmosphere and Group Dynamics

As the quarter wraps up, I've been thinking about how my classes this quarter compare to previous quarters. Just the other day, my brother (psst, Gavin, I could link to your blog right here someday), who is teaching his first college class this year, said something about being impressed that my students seem to pitch in to help each other in the studio.

He was referring to students helping during the raku firing, but this quarter's clay class seems to be more helpful in general than previous quarters. Yesterday as I started to load the glaze kiln, two students came over and said "what can I do?" I didn't need to ask.

loading the glaze kiln
This quarter's clay class was a strong group. They worked hard and I didn't have to do a lot of nagging or reminding. In fact, I usually spend the last week or so reminding everyone to clean up their stuff, get it to the kiln, etc. I joke that I become a broken record at this point and just start repeating myself. But this quarter as I started to say it, I realized that there was very little work that hadn't been fired. Tuesday was set aside for glazing, and most of the class was glazing. This is always my expectation, but not always reality.
During the quarter, I felt I was able to do more demonstrations than usual. Fall quarter is a strange one because we gain about a week of real time but November is broken up with quite a few holidays. Most of the days we lose are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This means clay classes, which meet on Tuesday/Thursday, don't lose work days in the studio. This quarter we also added a work day (Veteran's day) and a raku day (students could glaze or work while the kiln was heating up). The total of all these days meant that all students had more time in the studio than they do other quarters.

Both these students put in more more than average...and later took additional clay classes.

More time in the studio translates into more work, which translates into better work. When a bunch of students are working hard and pushing themselves, we get a feeling of friendly competition in the studio to see who can make the most or the biggest work. At the end of the fall quarter, we also have the impending holiday season and student often try to make extra work for Christmas gifts.

homemade holiday stockings
But the time increase alone doesn't seem to account for the positive atmosphere of the studio. Students in this class have consistently volunteered to help with loading and unloading kilns, mixing or sieving glazes, clean up, and other things. I'm not quite sure of the exact formula that creates this studio vibe of helpfulness. A studio class is different from a lecture class and often these classes become more friendly and chatty because students (and instructors) chat while working, but friendly isn't the same as helpful.

They look friendly, I'm not trying to imply they aren't helpful
To some extent, it is the students. Some students just naturally volunteer to clean up and to help out. Sometimes the chemistry between students in a class can cause students to behave a bit differently than they might in another group of people. I've seen this group dynamic take over for the worse, when a couple students complain loudly, others start to join in or when a few students leave a mess, others get the idea messes are okay. I suspect that a few students visibly helping or cleaning up can encourage the rest to behave the same way.

Look, I'm cleaning, you should too.
I also made what I thought was a small change this quarter in the requirements. I'm curious whether this helped shift the group dynamic. Most of the class grade comes from projects and critiques with a couple of short tests. I also give points for helping to load and unload kilns. Extra credit can be earned by helping with the clay sale, raku firing or mixing glaze. This quarter I added the requirement to help with the glaze kiln and bonus points for helping to sieve glaze. I also made a more concerted effort to remind them about these points and mark students off for the points during class. I am curious to know whether increased awareness of these requirements and potential bonus points helped push students to help a bit more in the studio.

There is one other significant factor that impacted this quarter's class. Most quarters I have taught a cluster of classes at the same time, with some Functional Pottery students and some Hand-building students. I don't teach more students, but my class time is divided between the two groups. It shouldn't be surprising that fewer classes and fewer things to demonstrate, describe and explain should result in more attention and more in depth demonstrations or explanations in the remaining class.

cylinder demonstration
Next quarter I plan to teach Functional Pottery on the same days as usual (Tuesday/Thursday) but Hand-building will be offered this quarter on Mondays and Wednesdays. In my teaching load, Hand-building replaces Design, so my attention next quarter will be more focused on the clay students and the clay studio. I anticipate that this extra time will allow me to do more in depth demonstrations and spend more time with the two classes. Additionally, if I am not required to be outside of the studio for the entire morning two days a week (and for me, outside the studio usually means in a different building on campus), I will be more available for students even outside of class hours.

good students make good work

The two classes should mean double the students (or close to double), which will mean more work. If I am correct in a couple of my assumptions, I should be able to get the students next quarter to help out quite a bit with the studio clean up and loading, unloading, and maintaining clay and glaze. First, I will again be clear in requiring and giving points for help with studio tasks. Second, I should have at least a few students continuing from the fall quarter. These intermediate level students should be able to model their helpful and conscientious behavior and thus impact the studio atmosphere and the group dynamics in the classes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Is it possible to do a Thanksgiving post without sounding earnest and a little corny? I'm going to take a hint from one of my favorite websites, thxthxthx: a thank you note a day. I always feel better when I read her thank you notes.

Dear my job,
Thanks for allowing me to watch my students learn how to make and talk about art. It's fun to watch them discover what I already love. Also thanks for being a 9 month position so I can spend the summer making my own work.

Dear House,
Thanks for having an attached studio (heated) even if it sometimes is overtaken by bikes and other things during those months that I don't get to use it as often.

Dear Design and clay classes this year,
Thanks for working hard and creating a positive studio atmosphere where everyone helps each other out. Your attitude makes the class enjoyable for everyone. I hope my classes next quarter are just as much fun.

Dear Sean's shift,
Thanks for being a day shift for the last few months, it's been nice having a full time husband and a second person to help with parenting.

Dear thxthxthx,
Thanks for brightening my day every time I read your post. And thanks for updating frequently. I look forward to buying your forthcoming book.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Raku Firing

Today we had a raku firing in the clay studio on campus. This is about as late in the fall as I have fired the kiln (at least since grad school). It was pretty cold, but we still managed to get decent results and fire four loads. Yes, today was Sunday; we fire on the weekend ever since some from a weekday firing in 2006 (my first year) smoked out our VP's office.

horse hair pots smoking in the YVCC kiln yard

Yesterday it snowed and today was just COLD. I had forgotten that the heat isn't on in campus buildings over the weekend. Unfortunately we didn't have a bisque or glaze kiln loaded. An indoor firing might have helped keep us warm in the studio. The raku kiln is outside and, though warm itself, it didn't radiate enough heat to warm the entire kiln yard. I wore two sweatshirts over my two T-shirts and was still cold, even though I was also wearing a hat and gloves inside.

students waiting in the cold for the kiln to be unloaded
Six of my students came for the firing, 3 from beginning pottery and 3 independent students. We fired four times, starting just after 9am and ending a little before 1pm. We fired regular raku pieces in the raku kiln as well as some smoke fired work in the barrel kilns.

smoke firing in barrel kilns
A couple of students experimented with horse hair (from the student's own horse) and sugar sprinkled on the surface post firing. The firing in these instances really just served to heat the work up so that the horsehair would burn on contact with the pot. They didn't use glaze.

hair recently attached to a horse
horse hair and sugar pot (with paper reducing interior)

Our Kiln

We fired using the studio's permanent top-hat raku kiln. It has a hard brick base with a soft insulating firebrick interior. We put a kaolin fiber lined top on the kiln for firing, but the top is stored under cover the rest of the year.

YVCC's top hat kiln and propane tank
The kiln yard has a counterweighted frame that allows us to put up the top hat while we remove work from the kiln. This is an important feature as the top hat is too heavy for one person to lift up and over hot work.
kiln top being raised before first load

We fire using my own venturi burner and a couple tanks of propane gas. The kiln yard does have an outside gas line, but when I first tried the burner and natural gas line at the school, I wasn't able to get enough pressure for the heat we needed. I have been meaning to try it again; I remember from a few years ago that the gas line was in some way affected by tearing down and replacing Glenn and Anthon Halls. I can't remember now if I tested the natural gas line before or after the buildings were replaced.

But the venturi burner and propane works well for now.
venturi burner
During our firing today we had to switch propane tanks because the one we started with froze up partway through the firing. This usually happens at some point. It doesn't mean the tank is empty, just that the liquid propane has frozen and needs to be thawed before it will go through the burner. Today's frost was more impressive since the entire area was semi-frozen.

frozen tank (on right)


When I first got to campus we needed to set up the kiln. Today's special task was that we also had to remove the snow from the kiln shelves that cover the kiln base and keep the rain (or snow) and leaves out. The kiln yard had accumulated leaves along the wall and snow on top of these leaves so we also had to remove them.

The kiln top is then carried over to the base and attached to the cables and the counterweight is attached. The burner is attached to the propane and the kiln is loaded. This morning a few pieces were ready that had been glazed during the week.

waiting to load kiln

Other works that students glazed today were pre-heated in the bottom of an electric kiln so they wouldn't be wet when we loaded the second, third or fourth loads into the kiln. If the work is wet, especially if it is also thick, it can explode during the firing because the kiln is heated up so quickly. This time around we didn't have any work explode during the firing. No one dropped work either, as sometimes happens.

cracked rim (probably due to heat shock)


Once the kiln is loaded, the burner is lit and the kiln can be heated. The first firing takes about an hour because we need to heat up the whole kiln. This time around I tried to go slowly because the kiln base had been covered in snow and I was concerned that some moisture had gotten into the bricks of the kiln itself.

Once the work has heated up to the appropriate temperature (about 1750 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly cone 08), we turn off the burner, pull open the kiln top and remove the work from the kiln.

kiln just opened (notice the bowl in back was knocked by the top of the kiln and has tipped over)
still glowing hot, pieces are removed from kiln
The work is red hot and needs to be removed with tongs. Then the work is placed in one of several post-firing reduction buckets. The hot pot lights the combustible materials (shredded paper or leaves, usually). Students can thrown more paper on top of the pot, then put the lid on and reduce or smoke the pot in the bucket.

hot pot being placed in a reduction bucket
The post-firing reduction can affect the surface color of the clay or the glaze. Copper in a glaze can "flash" red or golden. If left out in the air, the color is more likely to be green or turquoise. Naked clay (clay without glaze) absorbs the smoke and turns black or grey. Clear glaze cracks and the smoke can be absorbed into the clay exposed by the glaze cracks. A typical raku glaze is usually a shiny or matte copper glaze with swirls or flashes of red, green and turquoise or a clear glaze that appears to have bold black cracks in the surface.

pieces cooling after reduction
Once the first load of work has been removed from the kiln and reduced, the kiln is ready to be loaded again. If the kiln can be emptied and loaded quickly, it will stay hot. The burner is directed at a brick under the shelf in the kiln. This "target brick" retains the heat so that when the gas is turned back on it doesn't necessarily require a flame to light. The second firing takes less time, maybe 30 minutes to heat up the work.
placing hot pot in a reduction bucket
reduction bucket flaming
re-opening a bucket to add another hot piece
Then the work is removed again and the process is repeated. Unless, that is, the propane tank freezes. In that case there is a short intermission while we try to screw the burner into a new tank valve.

moving burner from frozen tank

Horse Hair

When we say "horse hair" we usually mean the surface treatment in which horse hair is used to create small areas or lines of reduction on the clay surface. The work is heated but not put in a post-firing reduction bucket. In our case, the work was not glazed either. The work is taken out of the kiln and horse hair (or steel wool, I've heard) is placed on the surface of the piece.

The hot pot burns the hair which leaves smoke residue on the surface of (or absorbed into) the clay. The coarse horse hair shrinks and twists as it burns, leaving an irregular bumpy line along the surface of the pot.

teetering tower topped by a hot pot
yeah, let's put that hot pot closer to the ground
paper inside the pot (to blacken the interior)
throwing a pencil at your pot brings good luck 
holding horse hair against hot pot
the pot on the right was coated in underglaze before firing
The horse hair reduction line is very dark against the white (or pink) surface of the clay. Both students today reduced their interiors with other combustible materials. Here the hot pots are still smoking and the horse hair is visible hanging over the rim of the white pot. One of the students was, at first, hesitant to hold the burning horse hair against the pot. Eventually they both discovered that the horse hair burns slowly and can be adjusted for location on the pot. One student also threw some sugar on the surface of the pot. The effect is subtle and didn't show up well in my images.

interior of copper glazed pot (with burnt paper scraps)

various copper glazed raku fired pieces

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Artist Statement: From the Ground Up

Apparently the artist statements for this winter's clay show, From the Ground Up at Larson Gallery are due tomorrow. Here is my (illustrated) statement.

Clay seems to me to be the perfect material; it is immediate and tactile. I can create directly and modify in all dimensions. As an expressive medium, clay has always seemed to "fit." Clay gives me the freedom to squish and shape, add and remove, with my hands touching the clay I don't need to use tools to translate what I want to say. Some of this sense of freedom comes from familiarity with the medium and techniques, but even from a young age, I felt comfortable squeezing modeling clay into the shape of a person and then manipulating that human form in expressive ways.

forming a sculpture by hand
Today my ceramic work is primarily abstract and sculptural. I encourage an open interpretation of my forms. I like the viewer to become involved with the work, either by physically handling it or because I have forced them to interpret the work by leaving the subject ambiguous.

My work is inspired mostly by local and exotic plant forms and aquatic flora and fauna. The biological forms I look to for inspiration are at once familar and strange. Nature repeats similar forms in different organisms and in different ecosystems. Though I may not have seen a particular plant or seedpod before, I have seen seedpod and plant forms in general.

plant forms collected for my studio
Similarly, my work is both familiar and strange. Out of context, the subtly or subconsciously familiar forms of my sculpture might be hard to categorize or identify. Direct inspiration for my sculptural forms or surfaces might come from seeds, blossoms or the surface of an orange. I combine these influences into new forms that are essentially abstract and non-representational.

sprig (mold) made from the surface of an orange
People have often asked if my sculptures are meant to represent human anatomy. I don't often draw inspiration from these forms, but the forms I do look at, like the soft bodies of a sea cucumber or cnidaria (like jellyfish) are subtly similar to organs we see in the human form. Biological forms, whether human, animal or plant-life, have complex structures very different from the manmade structures that surround us everyday. Often the complex structures are unfamiliar to us because they are too small or hidden from view by skin or shell or other protective layers. My intent is not for my audience to recognize the forms or surfaces I represent and explore in my work, but to recognize, consciously or subconsciously, that something about the work is familiar.

finished form with shell sprigged surface
I also hope to attract my audience to look closer or spend more time with my work. I use vivid hues and saturated layers of color that are reminiscent of tropical flowers or fish found near a coral reef. The bright, layered colors, complex textures and contrast of shiny and satin surfaces are meant to be eye-catching and appealing. Once I have drawn in my audience I hope to encourage them to question the meaning of the work or what it represents. I want them to recognize, or almost recognize, forms or surfaces they have seen before, but I want the process to be a search and I don’t necessarily need them to discover the same connections I envisioned when I created the work.

finished form with orange sprigged surface and sprayed and painted underglaze

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking Slides (recommendations and my experience)

By popular demand:

Jane asked me to write about taking slides and marketing ceramic work. I feel the best way for me to do this is (as my students know) the long-winded way. I'm going to tell you about my experience and what I do and have done. Today I'll talk about taking slides; I will post on the marketing aspect later.

I welcome suggestions from other 3D (or 2D) artists who are experienced taking slides.

Taking Slides on Film (circa 2001)

I learned to take slides in 2001 or 2002. Way back then I used something call "35 mm film" in a camera that did not require batteries and couldn't be hooked up to a computer. Can anyone remember such a thing?

We had a room in the art building without exterior windows. The windows it did have were covered in dark paper so that no other light could get into the room. There were a couple backgrounds for us to use. There was a wall for the 2D artists to hang their work and grey or black fabric (or was it paper?) could be hung and pulled forward across a table for the 3D work.

Grey background under and behind a raku fired piece from my senior year.

We used tungsten lights and I think we had umbrella filters over the lights. We set the camera on a tripod, relatively far from the work to provide a clearer illusion of depth in the piece. For 3D work the camera was set higher than the work looking down at the work at a 45 degree angle.We used at least two, maybe three lights to illuminate the piece. For 3D work, we placed the piece on the backdrop on a table and arranged the lights to limit glare (hence the indirect light of the filters) and limit cast shadows.

 We used special tungsten film and set the camera's depth-of-field high. This meant the exposure would be long, so we needed to use a cord and plunger to depress the button and take the picture (the cord prevented the camera from shaking on the tripod while the shot was being taken).

After taking a roll or two of the best shots we could imagine, we'd send the film in for processing. I'd inevitably end up printing some slides that didn't work at all.

This slide was digitized using a slide recorder. The black space on the edges is a remnant of this process.

My senior show was in a quality gallery on campus. The white walls, white pedestals and lack of windows allowed me to take slides in the gallery while it was "closed." The slides I took in the gallery are probably the highest quality images I have from college. 

The large space of the gallery also allowed me to capture the scale of this installation.

Reproducing Slides (circa 2003)

Around the time I was applying for graduate school there seemed to be a shift taking place. The world of graduate school admissions and exhibition or fair applications had relied on slides, packets of slides and slide carousels. Speakers were expected to bring a carousel of slides to show (whereas now I bring a Powerpoint presentation on a portable USB drive). I spent many hours labeling, sorting and reproducing slides.
This installation shot was first created as a slide. The slide got dirty before being scanned into a computer. The dirt on the surface of the slide was reproduced as noise or graininess in the digital image.
But the new, upcoming technology was digital. More and more places were asking for digital images on CD (eventually e-mail or online applications, too). At first artists needed both. I spent time in various libraries or computer labs scanning sets of slides to be made into digital files. Later, I vaguely remember sending digital files to a company in Wisconsin to be turned into slides.

The computer allows for manipulation of the image.

Makeshift Studios in Basements, Spare Rooms and Gallery Spaces (2003-2006)

Around this time I didn't have regular access to a designated slide-taking space. At various points I set up makeshift studios in what spaces I could find. In my parent's basement I set up a studio with a piece of grey fabric. I think you can see the texture of that cloth in slides from this time.

I often worked with images in the computer both because various art shows and art fairs were asking for both digital and slide submissions and because digital files were cheaper and easy to duplicate. Digital files were also easy to manipulate to eliminate wrinkles in the background.

This fountain slide shows extra black space on the top and bottom. Slide reproduction called for specific dimensions not required in digital images. The black was added to an image that probably started as a horizontal image with extra grey space. I believe the cord for the fountain plug was obscured digitally after the image was taken.

At graduate school I took slides in a tiny spare room that the clay graduate students set aside for slides. We blocked the windows, bought special grey paper from a photography store for our backdrop and set up clip lights on either side and hung a filter light. As a result of either our limited resources or our impressive ingenuity, our filter light was actually a regular light suspended in a cardboard box with a home furnace filter covering the light on the bottom. I don't think I would advise this method. Nor would I advise our method for dangling the light precariously above our work while we took slides.

An additional problem with taking slides in a clay studio was keeping the dust level down. The paper seemed to be a magnet for clay dust an kiln wash residue.

We kept the camera on a tripod and positioned it as far from the work as would fit in a small room. We adjusted the lights to limit shadows and shine and took our images from a slightly overhead angle with a long depth-of-field and a long exposure time. We started using tungsten lights but once we started using a digital camera, trial and error (rather than any sound knowledge or instruction) seemed to indicate that the light type didn't matter for the quality of the slides taken with a digital camera.

In graduate school I also had occasions to take slides in galleries and outdoors. The results in galleries were not always great. One installation exhibition was difficult to photograph because the works filled the space but also because the gallery was small and the light wasn't great.

hand-made paper and fiber installation
The quality of other photographs taken in galleries seemed to differ greatly based on the lighting in the gallery and whether the lighting was designed for my work alone or for a group of works. I always used a tripod and a long exposure/depth-of-field but I didn't always have a way to control the light in the space.
Installation at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI

detail of an installation in Madison

Right before my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) show, I upgraded my camera from an SLR film camera to a digital camera. The process for taking slides was similar but the results were much faster and less expensive. The biggest savings, as far as cost and effort, seemed to come from not printing (and paying to print) wasted images. I could simply delete them. I also saved time and money by not needing to get special film (or any film). By the time I was applying for teaching positions in 2006, almost all shows and schools were asking for digital application materials (or at the very least they offered this option) so I no longer needed to convert slides to digital and digital images to slides.

Digital image of a piece from my MFA installation

My MFA show at the end of graduate school was an outdoor installation in Allen Centennial Gardens on UW-Madison's campus. I took the advice of the gardener who suggested that the best time to take pictures of flowers was in the early morning or on a cloudy day when the light was soft and wouldn't create strong highlights and shadows.

small low fire sculpture under a daffodil plant

wood fired sculpture in Allen Centennial Gardens

Low-fire sculpture from MFA show

Raku sculpture from MFA Exhibition.
My show was up for a month and I had many opportunities to take pictures of the work. I used my tripod sometimes, I used the close-up feature on my digital camera and I even took "action" shots of people interacting with the work. I also benefited from other people (with better cameras and more experience) taking images for me. My MFA advisor (Jim Escalante) and my father both took beautiful images that were, in several cases, better than the images I took.

hanging object in MFA show (photo by Jim Escalante)

hanging object in MFA show

part of lawn installation in MFA show

Digital Camera outside in the morning (2007-2011)

In Yakima I have been operating on my own and have had to put together my own methods for taking slides. Initially I ignored the problem (taking slides isn't fun or interesting) and ended up with really crummy shots of work that I no longer own. For a show I did at Allied Arts in Richland, I took slides in the gallery but not before I brought the work to the show. The lighting wasn't great and the set up was particularly bad. The gallery is a pretty gallery, but they didn't have good options for displaying 3D work. They put my pieces on glass shelves set across white pedestals. The show looked cluttered and cheap and my slides look unprofessional and the color in my images seems odd.

Gallery shot from Allied Arts show (October 2008)

Image of work from Allied Arts show

The glass shelves wouldn't be my first choice for display

The glass slides didn't help me take slides (also notice the random planter in the background).

After this experience I learned that I needed to plan time to take slides and since then I have built time to take slides into my summer work schedule before I ship or sell the work. I had originally intended to set aside a space in my home studio to block out the light, get lights and set up a slide taking room.
However, as I thought about where I could do this, I thought about how nice the images were from my MFA installation in the garden. I started wondering whether I could take advantage of natural light to take my slides. I tried it and I liked it and this is still how I take my slides.

My summer slide set-up involves a small table, grey paper I originally purchased in graduate school, several clamps and a tripod. I wake up early several mornings in August or September and set up the paper and the table in the backyard near my studio. I clamp one end of paper to a strange metal clothing rack that we discovered in our garage when we bought the house. I set a table in front of the rack and pull the paper down and across the table. I then set the work on the paper and set up the camera on a tripod in front of the work.

Digital image taken using outdoor natural light
I use the timer on my camera to allow me to take long exposure shots (without bumping the camera) and thus increase the depth-of-field. Since I start early in the morning the light is not bright, the exposure usually needs to be longer. I make sure all other light sources are off (like the light in the studio or outdoor lights by the exterior door. When the sun comes up and starts to cast shadows from the trees, I know it is time to stop.
detail of same piece
The early morning light reduces glare on my shiny surfaces and creates an all-over light source which doesn't cast bold shadows onto my paper background. It allows the camera to capture the detail of the pieces and surface qualities and give a sense of the depth of the piece.

I usually take several shots of most pieces. I usually take an image of the whole piece, a detail and sometimes different views of the piece if it is unclear or highly irregular or asymmetrical.

Three images of the same work. I was testing out which angle would best capture the form of the sculpture.

I  set up my camera on the tripod so that it is pointing down at about a 45 degree angle. I want it to be slightly higher than the piece being photographed. I try to capture as little of the grey background as I can and I usually allow a bit more background at the top of the image than at the bottom. Unless it is a detail shot, the piece needs to fit inside the frame of the picture with a little room to spare.

Centering and eliminating extra grey space/background is less important now that I use a digital camera. I can open the files in Photoshop or other photo editing software and I can crop or adjust the image to fit my needs. It is still wise not do do much fussing with the image after it is taken. I want the camera to capture as much detail the first time around. I also don't want it to be obvious that I altered the image--it might make someone wonder if the piece itself was altered.

There are still two things I don't like about the last round of slides and I have a couple strategies in mind to deal with these concerns. First, I am hoping to replace my ~6 year old camera with a new one this year. Having played with some of the more modern digital cameras (or cameras that are more recently in my price range) I think I can get more detail in my images and have more control with a new camera.
I also plan to replace my ancient photo paper. Photo paper is available in grey and black but there is also a type of photo paper that has a gradual change in tone from black to grey. Having seen other slides taken on this paper, I think the results look more professional and cleaner than my (admittedly dirty) grey paper.

My Slide Digital Image Taking Recommendations
  • Take them before it is too late. Even a bad image helps you remember work you made in the past if you no longer own it.
  • Use a quality camera & take high resolution pictures
  • Control the light source (you want to eliminate dramatic shadows or glare on the piece or on the surface)
  • Check that your image looks like the original piece. Increasing the depth-of-field on the camera and taking the shot from a 45 degree angle helps create an accurate sense of the dimensionality of the piece. Decreasing shadows and glare also help the piece "look right". Controling your light source can also help ensure accurate color
  • Set aside a place for taking slides. I highly recommend putting the work on a grey or black background free from dust, wrinkles, or discoloration. The image becomes distracting if we can see molding, wallpaper, shelves or even a pattern or texture in the table or surface. Some people like to take slides on the beach or in the grass. If you do this, it needs to "make sense" for the work. Do you use your functional pitchers in the grass or at the beach? Will your background be a distraction from the work?
  • Take your time. Allow time to check your results (preferrably on a computer or printed out) so you can fix them.

I took this photo with a flash on a wooden table--it isn't application quality, but at least it is a record of the piece.
Someone else took this photo for me. The photo quality isn't high and the yellow wall is distracting.
The shine on the surface is distracting.
The interior is bright red, the wall of the piece is light blue and the background is white--at least in real life.
I'm sure that lady is happy her legs are in my picture. This picture was taken at an art fair.