We chatted with Cade, East Fork potter and Small Batch Studio Manager, about quality control and what makes a second.
Each time we unwrap a new delivery from the workshop to stock the shelves at the store in downtown Asheville, I’m awestruck by the precision and consistency of East Fork’s potters.
I’m not a potter myself, but many of the imperfections on the East Fork seconds and sample pots I’ve seen have been so subtle I’ve needed a potter to point them out to me. To prepare for our seconds sale coming up, I chatted with Cade, East Fork potter and Small Batch Studio Manager, about quality control.
When the potters unload the kilns, everything is laid out and each pot is inspected for flaws. After a bisque firing (before the pots are glazed), they’re looking for cracks in mug handles or plate foots and warping in form shape, most typically roundness - a pot with a wonky rim is called “out-of-round” and placed on the seconds shelves in the back corner of the workshop.
After a glaze firing, they check for various glaze flaws. East Fork makes our own glazes and we welcome (very) minor variations in color from batch to batch; glaze differences we consider “flaws” are things like burns marks, thin spots, or sharp points within glaze surfaces. Most flaws in East Fork seconds are cosmetic errors rather than structural issues that affect the integrity of the pot, hence our excitement to have sales when the seconds shelves start sagging.
Pots at East Fork are individually dipped into buckets of homemade glaze. This dipping method allows glazes to have subtle, dynamic movement on the pot which we find pleasing. But a little goes a long way - too much movement and the glaze can appear overly uneven.
When I asked Cade about the causes for flaws in seconds, she said they could typically be traced back to human error or variations in studio climate: wiping off a bit too much glaze after dipping can create thin spots in glaze surfaces while changes in temperature or humidity at the workshop can cause warping while pots dry before they’re bisque fired. Slight variations in clay body color can often be traced back to how tightly the kiln was packed, while streaking in glazes is often related to variations in glaze viscosity - if a batch of glaze is a bit on the runnier side, it can cause streaking. Some of this is unavoidable; glazes at East Fork are applied by hand, rather than with an industrial sprayers, which causes some of our most matte glazes, like Eggshell and Morel, to have some flow and movement. We think this looks lovely; some don't.
All this talk of human error aside, the workshop is only averaging around 2.5% of seconds for each kiln unloading. Starting with this batch, seconds and samples sold from the East Fork workshop will be marked with two dashes underneath the stamp.