Things to discuss when potters get in touch (for kiln owners)
Written by Kiln Share
No matter whether you are an experienced kiln sharer or a newbie kiln owner who's new to kiln hire, it's vital to discuss several things with each potter who contacts you about renting space in your kiln.
The questions you ask before going any further will help you to decide if you want to fire their work and will significantly reduce the risk of firing problems or complications down the line!
Rather than learning the hard way (like so many kiln owners have!), take a few minutes to read this blog post that lists some important topics to discuss before firing...
Note: Most of the time, local potters will first send a message to ask about pricing. It's a good idea to have a price list ready for when this happens (you can mention rental fees on your listing page if you want). For help and advice about setting prices when hiring space in your kiln, read this page. You can always charge more than you think :)
# Turnover firing times
Remember to discuss realistic timing expectations when potters get in touch with you about hiring space in your kiln - although you are renting your kiln as a service, you shouldn't have to feel pressured to do this any quicker than usual! Be sure to chat about; the wait before they can get space in your kiln, how long a firing takes PLUS the time it takes for your kiln to cool down before you can unload the fired work, ready for pick up.
If your kiln is busy firing your own work or you are away, just let the potter know that they may have to wait several weeks before they can hire your equipment.
Chatting about timescales helps reduce issues when potters are looking to fire their work within a certain time frame for a show or special event. It will also help newbie potters to understand how long firing their work might take (as some may have no idea about the firing process!).
Top tip: It's always good to remind the potter when discussing timelines that their work must be 'bone dry' before you can fire it. This will help them to adjust their own time frame accordingly.
# Type of clay
Although this topic might seem obvious to most kiln owners, it's a very good idea to check and then double-check with the potter as to what clay type they have used to make their work. Firing mixed clay types or firing to the wrong schedule could lead to major consequences for your kiln and a conversation about damage payments that you'd rather not have!
If you only allow certain clay types to be fired in your kiln, make this clear to the potter as soon as possible (your listing page is a good place to note this rule). Some potters might even swap clay types so they can get work fired in your kiln if you are the only listing nearby. You might even be able to sell them a bag or two of clay or bulk order together from a supplier to save money.
Top tip: It can be a good idea to ask the potter for a photo of their clay packaging so you can see what brand / clay type they have used. The packaging also always lists the firing instructions which can be very useful when working out how best to rent space in your kiln!
# Type of glaze
Again, although obvious to most kiln owners, it's vital you check what glazes the potter has used. Not following glaze firing instructions could result in the potter's work not firing as expected or worse, running glazes could cause damage to your kiln's shelves. It is always good-practice to fire a test tile using the potter's glaze before firing the potter's work in your kiln if you have never fired their glaze type before.
Many kiln owners on Kiln Share set a rule that other potters work must be fired on 'cookies'. This is a simple and effective way to reduce firing issues if you are unfamiliar with the glaze type they have used, or are worried about how it has been applied. You could sell these 'cookies' to potters or ask them to use their own.
If a local potters gets in touch about renting space for a bisque fire, why not recommend glazes that you are comfortable firing in your kiln (you could even offer to sell glaze to them). It's likely that the potter might be glad to use a recommended glaze brand or type...especially if they can see how the colours turned out on your own work.
Top tip: Just like asking for a photo of the potter's clay packaging, it can be a good idea to do the same when checking the potter's glaze brand / type. You never know what the firing rules might say, even if you're an experienced kiln owner!
# LIABILITY & DAMAGES
Before renting kiln space to a local potter it's a good idea to discuss liability and damages just in case anything goes wrong during the firing! From dripping glazes that damage kiln shelves to hairline cracks appearing or glaze colours not coming out as expected, it's important you and potter have an agreement together.
There is always a small risk every time items are fired - this is an unavoidable part of the ceramic making process. For this reason, before renting space in your kiln, make it clear to the potter that you are not responsible for damages to their work and likewise, they are responsible for paying for damage to your kiln, (caused by their work), should this occur. Being clear, open and honest about liability and damages from the start reduces issues later down the line!
Some kiln owners ask for a short contract to be signed before firing or even a deposit to be paid. Others have a more relaxed approach of chatting about damage fees and liability before firing up their kiln. Whatever way you choose, make talking about damages and responsibility part of your conversation every time local potters get in touch to hire your kiln.
Top tip: If you're thinking about creating a firing contract, it doesn't need to be long. Just a few lines about responsibility and damages with a space for you and the potter to sign is more than enough! This text should help get you started: "(KILN OWNER NAME) cannot accept any responsibility for any damage to your work resulting from firing. Should any kiln damage occur during this firing, (POTTER'S NAME) will be liable to pay repair fees."
WRITTEN BY MIKE
Like so many hobby potters, I don't own my own kiln! I created Kiln Share to help make kiln hire more accessible for potters around the world whilst supporting kiln owners to earn extra income!
If you think something in this blog post could be improved or added, please contact me.
Happy kiln sharing!