Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Ceramic Shop's Holiday Gift Guide

Hey! It's December, which means it's holiday season! On my end, the only seasonal flavor I've experienced thus far has been a few 'accidental' listenings of Mariah Carey's classic, "All I Want for Christmas is You.' That's about to change, though, as I present to you The Ceramic Shop's Holiday Gift Guide!

All I want for Christmas is THIS MUG.

The potter in your life can be, in turns, both easy and difficult to shop for. I've broken down our holiday guide by prices -- $25 and under, $100 and under, 'Fancy', and 'SUPER FANCY' to cover all of your bases, from your workplace Secret Santa who happens to be a potter, to your spouse/child/favorite human. I also have a list of stocking stuffers at the end of the post, which I built with a few of the other potters on our staff. As always, we welcome YOUR suggestions, too! If you're a potter, and you've ever received a particularly thoughtful gift, we would love to hear about it.

I'll open with the obvious -- the Gift Certificate. We carry these in virtually any amount, and you can order them online very easily. We just send you a PDF of the certificate and you can print it out before you go to your next holiday party! 

$25 and under

This is a good price range in which to purchase those cool tools that the ceramic artist might not think to purchase for themselves -- heck, they may not even know that some of this stuff is out there! 

Seger's Pottery Tools are just, well, SO NICE. These silky-smooth wooden implements all feature beautiful grains and innovative designs that are just awesome to use on the wheel. One of these tiny tools will really make your potter pal feel like they are being treated. 

In our brick-and-mortar storefront in Philly, we keep a well-stocked jar of underglaze pencils at our front desk. At least once a day, we have an incredulous customer see them, grab a handful, and proclaim 'I've been looking everywhere for these!' One of the great things about this gift is that the pencils work at a wide variety of temperatures, so if you're not sure if the potter in your life works with low-fire or mid-range clays and glazes, you will be covered by this gift! Great for the practical -- signing work -- to the decorative, pretty much any potter will find a fun use for these. Grab a few different colors!

One of our favorite, sassiest companies out there is Dirty Girl Tools. They make a wide variety of tools that are great for both wheel-throwers and hand builders, and most of them clock in under $25. Well-made and well-thought, these tools are also hilarious. From their 'foot fetish' and 'lip service' ribs intended for wheel finishing, to their 'spanker' series that works great for slab work, these tools -- which, by the way, are all designed by potters -- are a great way to inject some humor into your holiday shopping.

Handbuilders will love love love this gridded canvas -- with this, cutting accurate slabs is a breeze. Because this is just fabric, it can be rolled up and carried right to the studio! 

How about the nicest slip applicator on the market? Xiem's 3-oz. applicator comes with a variety of tips for maximum versatility. This silicone bulb fits comfortably in the hand and can be very tightly controlled, which is great for the serious slip decorator.

$100 and under

If you have a friend who is a wheel-thrower, you might ask them to see if they have a VersaBat system-- because if they do not, ohhhh man, does that make a great gift! This is a bat that fits on to any standard wheel, and has interchangeable inserts that can pop in and pop out for production. You know how round bats take up a ton of space on work shelves? These square inserts pop out of the plastic bat, making storage easy. You also have option to purchase the system with either Hydro-Stone or Medex bats.

The Ceramic Shop's own uWedge work mat is great for anyone working on the wheel or in handbuilding -- and it's a particularly nice gift for the artist working out of a home studio, as it allows them to transforms any stable surface into a wedging area. At $36, this is a reasonably-priced gift that still leaves room in your budget for some extras.

Because I work at the Ceramic Shop, I've been able to slowly add to my ever-growing arsenal of Hydro-Bat hump molds, and it's pretty much been the best thing to happen to my studio practice. I do it all -- I throw on a wheel, I handbuild, I make tiny stuff, I make large stuff -- and these molds are by far the most versatile tools I have in my space. You can use them on a wheel, of course -- they all come with attached grommets for easy fixing to a wheel head -- but you definitely don't have to do that. In fact, I largely just use them on their own, as hump molds. I roll out a slab, slam it over the mold, cut out a cool irregular edge, and with that I am able to produce several large platters each week with VERY little hassle. At any rate, these molds are a great gift for anyone who makes functional work, regardless of their preference for handbuilding or wheel-throwing.


Around this time of year, we get approached by a lot of parents and spouses looking for good 'starter' wheels or kilns for their loved ones. This usually presumes someone will be working out of a home studio, so here are some good pottery wheel choices: 

I have a Shimpo VL Lite wheel and I LOVE IT. Like any Shimpo product, it's reliable and works incredibly well, but one of the things I really love about it is mentioned in its name -- it's a fairly lightweight piece of equipment. You can throw a pretty decent amount of clay on it, yet it's still light enough to carry around -- or, in my case, carry by yourself. You will find the price of this wheel to be on the less expensive end of pottery wheels, because it is a more lightweight piece of equipment -- but honestly, for most potters (and especially for beginner potters!), that's really all they will need. Also note that we can do free shipping on these wheels within the continental US!

Another popular 'starter wheel' is the Artista. This is a tabletop wheel, meaning it's a bit smaller than the typical pottery wheel -- so you can set it up pretty much anywhere! Like the VL Lite, this wheel also ships for free within the continental US. This wheel can be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be -- add-ons include a foot pedal and a set of legs.

Another thoughtful gift for the wheel fanatic is the classic Giffin Grip. This allows for nearly-instantaneous centering on the wheel for trimming your pots, and it really great for trimming off-center or distorted vessels. This is the kind of tool that studios may have as a shared item, so it's particularly awesome when you have one of your own. 

For the ceramic artist who has the studio space to accommodate this, our North Star Ultimate Extruder Package is sure to be a very welcome addition. This is a 4" extruder made by a company that specializes in extruders and slab rollers, and it comes with a pile of dies for endless project possibilities. For installation, this can be drilled into a wall stud or a support beam.


OK. This section is kind of filled with the most awesome stuff you could get for the potter in your life -- namely, high-end equipment. Maybe I'm influenced by all of these seasonal commercials where people are giving cars as gifts; for the potter who has the space, there is -- of course! -- one very solid, very awesome gift:

A serious kiln. 

So, if someone special in your life has been hinting at a kiln, and you are awesome enough to buy that for them, there's a few things you should know. In the first place, you'll need to know the space that the kiln will be going into -- gotta make sure it will fit through the doorway, and everything! -- and you will also need to know the VOLTAGE and PHASING of said space. You definitely want to have the correct specs on this before you order any kiln. By now, you're probably getting the idea that kilns are custom-built, and yes, that's the case -- as such, they usually take about four weeks to fabricate. While this may mean you won't get to physically pass off someone a kiln in time for the actual holiday season, you can just wrap up a card with an image of your purchased kiln and you'll be a true Holiday Hero. 

Now, because a high-end kiln is such a particular thing, I do have to suggest giving us a call at 215-427-9665. One of our knowledgeable sales staff members will be happy to help you choose the right kiln for your epic surprise. We'll discuss different size options, controller options, and shape options, with a line of questioning tailored to the artist's work. We help customers select the perfect kiln on a daily basis, so if you are considering this for a gift, don't hesitate to give us a call!

This category also contains some items that don't require the same degree of customization -- provided your gift recipient has the space for the items I've listed below, you don't need to know any special specs to purchase them!

You'll often hear potters drool over the awesomeness of Brent wheels. Indeed, they are strong, sturdy workhorses that perform wonderfully and last for years and years. One of the most popular models is the strong and silent type, the Brent B Pottery Wheel. Able to handle 150 lbs of clay -- which is a LOT -- this wheel is kind of like an awesome new car -- complete with a 10-year warranty. We do carry several Brent wheel models, though, so if you look through them and are unsure which one might be right, please don't hesitate to give us a call, and we will be happy to help! Again, our number is 215-427-9665.

Much like a Brent wheel, a Brent slab roller is also quite the coveted studio equipment. While our slab rollers come in a variety of sizes, I have always loved the Brent SR-20, which allows you to roll out slabs with a healthy 20" width. This makes everything from large-scale slab building to mass production of tiny tiles a breeze, and the overall unit is so well-built and sturdy that is can be used as a work surface on its own. Like any large piece of equipment, we suggest taking the specs listed on the product page seriously, and ensuring that this will fit in the intended space.


Finally, here's a list of some items that make really great stocking stuffers for the potter in your life. Tiny but powerful, these small items are sure to be appreciated and used in the studio! We know that, because they were chosen by the potters on our staff. 

MKM wooden rollers!
Xiem's awesome retractable scoring tool!
Rubber ribs!
This awesome finishing sponge!
Bat pins!
Catalyst mini-blades!
Waterproof notebooks, great for the glaze room!
This classic wash brush!
This mini clay-gun extruder!

Again, we would love to hear about any gift suggestions that YOU might have! In the meantime, happy holidays!

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