100 Tea Cups

This project started when I received an email from my website titled “100 Tea Cups.” I receive online scams all the time and the title of this email had me thinking it was yet another attempt to extract cash from an artist. Some of you may remember the blog post I wrote about online artist scams awhile back, if not, here’s the LINK. I opened the email to read a query for someone who was referred to me by a “friend.” There was no mention of who that friend might be. This email was an inquiry as to whether I would be interested in producing 100 Tea Cups for a zen study center in New York. The work would have to arrive at the study center 2 weeks from the date of the email. I did some research on the center and found a very impressive website that seemed to match up with other details in the email. So I started to feel this might be a legitimate inquiry. But I immediately thought about the schedule working back allowing time for shipping, packing the work, firing and glazing time (2 glaze firing as I fire my tea wares in my small kiln), bisque firing, drying time, trimming time, throwing time, I had to subtract several days that I would be teaching a workshop and time for other ongoing duties here at the studio. No way I thought…I decided I would not be able to deliver the project on time.

I sent an email back respectfully declining the project with a mention that if their schedule could accomodate a few extra days that I feel I would be able to do the work. Almost instantly I received an email back with an affirmative response. That was too easy, I should have asked for more time…

I started to work early the next day constructing a daily schedule to get the work out the door on time….To make a long story a bit shorter, I got the work done and with the help of Denise we managed to get the boxes out the door with 15 minutes to spare for the UPS pick up…It was a good feeling.

Trimming finished.

100 Tea Cups, selected, cleaned and the foot rings have been polished, ready for packing.

All bubble wrapped with easy release tape so the wrap can be used again.

Shrink wrapped in bundles of four with cardboard dividers.

The bundles are then shrink wrapped to a 12″ x 12″ piece of cardboard cut to fit snuggly inside a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ box which isolates the cups to the center of the box. I put two bundles per box. Please note that vertical cardboard dividers are taller than the wrapped cups, this is to allow space between the two bundles of cups and to help support the bundle above. I put a few inches of biodegradable packing peanuts in the bottom of the box and slide the first bundle down to sit firmly on the first layer of peanuts. I then fill the space between the bundles and the sides of the box. I’m a big believer in firmly compacting the peanuts for a “firmer” finished box. In goes the next bundle to be supported by the peanuts and the vertical cardboard dividers below. Again, I fill and compact the remaining voids around the bundles, close the lid and tape using a good packing tape. Note: I like to over fill the top of the box with the packing material, just a bit, so that when the lid is taped closed the lid cannot be depressed. Postage paid and labels printed, online, they are now ready to leave the studio…Now to wait to hear of their safe and timely delivery.

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Close-up of an Artist Scam…

I have been receiving artist email scams from all around the world for over 15 years. These scams all take the same approach. Generally they state that they want to purchase work from your website, they are vague as to what work, they involve the buyer relocating from one part of the world to another, they aren’t concerned about the price of the work, their husband will send the check, they will have their shipper (who is moving all their household items to their new residence) contact you to make arrangements to pick-up the artwork to be shipped to their new home. They also include lots of extra personal information about the buyer’s sister, her upcoming wedding, a near miscarriage, a broken leg, a sick child and they are always in a rush to complete the transaction… well you get the point.

Even though these scams have been around for a long time, I still receive emails and calls from other artists asking me to review an email they’ve received regarding an online purchase of their work. These scams work because they play to our base desires, as artists, to have our work acknowledged and purchased. Simple, if it seems too good to be true, trust me, it is. Even when I explain that the email, they just received, is a scam and not a real inquiry into the purchase of their work, I inevitably get push back from the artist questioning my motives for suggesting that they were on the cusp of being a scam victim.

These scams generally play out that the buyer will send a Cashier’s Check in an amount substantially higher than the retail price of the artwork being purchased. The buyer will state that their shipper will contact you soon with instructions on how the artwork will be picked up. When the shipper calls they will instruct the artist to send the overage, from the Cashier’s Check, to them via Western Union. This amount is necessary for them (the shipper) to schedule the pick-up of the art work. The artist is scammed when they deposit the Cashier’s Check and withdraw cash to send to Western Union. Cash sent to Western Union, that has been received on the other end by the recipient, cannot be reversed. Two week later the artist gets notice from their bank that the Cashier’s Check was no good (suprise!). The deposit is reversed and the artist is out the real cash they sent through Western Union, and there is nothing they can do about it. Again, this is a scam, there is no buyer, there is no shipper and the check is not real.

I recently received, yet another, scam email from a person claiming to be a women from New York that would soon be relocating to London and she wanted to purchase some work for her new home there. This time I thought I would play along with the scam for a while to see if I could actually get this person to send me a check to see how convincing the check might look. The back and forth emails played out just as I’ve described above. The piece she was interested in, from my website, was a $300 retail piece, she asked what the price was, I told her $2400. A few more emails and a few days later I received   a Cashier’s Check from her husband in London in the amount of $3900.

Being in business for as long as I have and being like most people I’ve seen thousands of checks, Money Orders and Cashier’s Check, I have to say that the check I received was very convincing. It had several security features, a see through watermark, security printing on the back and micro printing along the top border, seems to be a real check…I think it would convince most people. But wait, there are other things to look at on this check that point to it being a fake document. See more below:

Below is a mark-up of the various areas of this check that are inconsistent with a real Cashier’s Check:

In an attempt to make the check seem legitimate and to reconcile the J.P.Morgan Chase Bank routing #, there is a statement in the lower left corner that says, “Issued by Integrated Payments Systems Inc., Englewood, Colorado. JP Morgan Chase, N.A. Denver, Colorado” A quick Google search will show the Integrated Payments Systems is a real company that processes and prints online payments and payrolls. You will also find that the use of this company’s service has been linked to various online scams.

A few last remarks…This may surprise you, it did me. I contacted Colonial Bank and told them I was preparing to post a blog about artist online scams and could they share any information they might have on the subject. Two things they said struck me. First, the paper of the fake Cashier’s Check is real and can be obtained by anyone from the web, this is why it looked so convincing, upon first glance. Second, and this is the big one, the person at Colonial Bank said it was their policy and most all other bank’s policy to either cash or deposit “all” checks as long as the customer has an account balance at least equal to the amount of the check. I will quote the gentleman from Colonial Bank…”If the check is returned back to us as a fake we simply reverse the transaction with our customer and our customer is responsible for any negative balance.” I think this is the reason these scams work, the checks look real, the banks will negotiate them and it can take up to 3 weeks to clear a Cashier’s Check. This is why the scammers are always in a hurry.

Finally, if you receive one of these scam emails simply paste the sender’s email address into google and search, chances are very good you will find dozens if not hundreds of posts in various places on the web about others who have been contacted by the same person.

I know this was a long post, thanks for sticking with me and I hope you pass this along next time you hear of an artist friend who’s all excited about the email they just recieved from their website about a big online purchase from someone who’s moving to a new house somewhere in the world.

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Shino Over

I thought I would post the following images of Chawan and Yunomi I’ve made over the years using Shino over other glazes. The old saying is “shino first or suffer the curse”, the curse being bubbles and blisters in and on the finished glaze surface of a pot. I’ve been working with shino over other glazes for the last 16 years and the sample shown here represent works that span that time period. All the examples were fired to ∆10 (2345F) in reduction in my 20 cubic foot updraft natural gas kiln. (I apologize, in advance, for the poor quality of some of the images. They were taken before I developed the necessary photography skills, way back then).

***Please Click on Images to Enlarge***

Thanks for looking and don’t hesitate to leave any questions you may have in the comment section below this post.

White Shino over Chun Red, notice the 3-D effect of the folded over shino in the first image

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over V.C. Satin Doll Black.

Troy Shino over Ash Tenmoku.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip. The left image is the first firing and the right image is the same piece twice fired.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip.

Red Shino over Alberta Slip and a Rutile glaze.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip and Tenmoku.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip.

Red Shino over Crackle Slip over Alberta Slip.

Shino over Alberta Slip.

Shino over Alberta Slip and Tenmoku.

Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip.

Close-up of Shino with Soda Ash over Ash Tenmoku.

Cup on the right: Malcolm Davis CT Shino with Soda Ash over Alberta Slip

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How I Pack a Yunomi for Shipment.

The following is how I pack a Yunomi for shipment. I’ve been packing and shipping my ceramic works throughout the country and around the world since I started selling online in 1996. To date, I have only had one piece break out of the 1000’s of pieces shipped, a record that I am quite proud of.

I generally ship Domestic via USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation, which costs an addition $.75, but is well worth it. I ship International via USPS  First-Class Mail International Parcel. This is the best international option for content values below $400.00 and packages weighing up to 4 pounds. There is no tracking or delivery confirmation and packages arrive anywhere in the world,  generally within 5-14 business days.

I wrap the Yunomi in a double layer of tissue paper, secured with scotch tape.

Next, I wrap the cup in bubble wrap. I prefer the small bubbles as they protect much better. I also include one of my business cards. Note: Wrap so that the bubbles are inside and the smooth side is out, the tape sticks much better.

Next, I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the interior dimensions of the box, in this case, 6″ x 6″. I secure the tissue and bubble wrapped Yunomi to the center of the cardboard with packing tape.

Next, I fill the box with about 2″ of recycled and biodegradable “loose fill” cushioning material.

Next, I insert the cup into the box, notice how the cardboard keeps the cup centered in the box, this is important.

Next, I add more packing material and compress it to firmly protect all sides of the piece.

Next, I slightly over-fill the remainder of the box with packing material that will be compressed when the box is closed.

Next, I tape across the lid in both directions and I tape all exposed edges with the packing tape. When properly packed all sides of the box will be solid with no soft spots.

All ready to go….I put a layer of the clear packing tape over the address label to protect it from moisture. I also add Priority Mail and Fragile stickers. I often wonder if the fragile notices do any good, but I do think it makes an impression on the receiver’s end.

I love my tape gun…..

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Lots to Look at on a Petite Piece

This stoneware Yunomi Tea Cup is glazed with Turquoise Copper Matte and Nuka and reduction fired in my custom designed gas updraft kiln high (7800 ft) in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado.

This Petite Jewel Like Yunomi has an unctuous feel in the hand and an incredible visual depth to the glaze finish that demands close and careful viewing. The AMAZING and UNEXPECTED red band is a result of the two glazes overlapping and the Nuka causing the copper in the Turquoise Matte to reduce, which achieves this result. Very beautiful where the copper in the turquoise matte reduced and created an almost brick red color and the teal line between the turquoise and the red is an added bonus. Lot to study in this small tea cup.

Dimensions: 2-1/2″h. x 2-3/4″dia. @ widest point.
Volume: 3.75 ounces/ 110 ml

***If you double click on the images they will zoom.***





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Shots of Pots on the Cheap and Low Tech

 I’ve been shooting images of my ceramic works for the last 20 years. I learned out of necessity, simply because, I wasn’t going to pay the high prices that “professional” photographers wanted for less than expected results with strings attached. I tried working with several photographers but I was really never happy with their results and the whole “who owns the negatives” thing was always a problem.

I teach a workshop for artists titled, “Photograph Your Work”, several times a year at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA. The two day workshop covers a lot of ground relative to the proper way to shoot images of 2D and 3D works of art. The ridiculously simple and cheap set-up in the images below will give you an idea of the concepts of how to use the gray background paper, how to set-up the lighting using a bounce board and how to create the classic gradient using a background sweep.

I use this set-up for small guinomi sake cups all the way up to my larger sculpture pieces, some as tall as 60.” If you understand the principals in the images below, you will be able to exploit this set-up’s flexibility.

I use a Nikon D40 Digital SLR with an 18-55mm lens

I use 2 – 500 watt, GE PhotoFloods (Tungsten), color temp. 3400K

I use a Neutral Gray or Dove Gray PhotoPaper Background (I don’t use a gradient paper, the gradient is created by the light being “cut-off” by the back of the “bounce Board.”)

I shoot on Manual setting at f25 with the exposure set using an 18% Gray Card. Then I disregard my light meter, as it will indicate a different exposure for every different piece, depending its lightness or darkness.

Remember to set you camera’s white balance to 3400k or tungsten or incandescent, whatever your camera uses.

As I think a picture is worth a 1000 words, please view the images below and ask me questions. Please consider subscribing to my blog, that way you will receive emails of other’s questions and my responses.

A sample of an image taken with this set-up. Also, the images in the header of this blog were also shot with this method.

Posted in Glazes and Techniques | 33 Comments

Collecting Nuka…

Here’s today’s Ash Tenmoku and Nuka glazed Matcha Chawan from last week’s firing. I was fired to ∆10 (2345F) in reduction in my small kiln. It measures 3″ h. x 5-3/8″ and feels real nice in the hands. I never seem to tire of this combination, while it’s only two glazes, every piece fires differently and I’m learning to control the flow of the nuka a bit, by using ridges and marks put in the clay when the bowl is made to “collect” the Nuka as it flows. The pattern on this bowl is a result of collecting the nuka in deep throw rings. Please let me know what you think and/or let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks for visiting…

Tenmoku and Nuka Matcha ChawanTenmoku and Nuka Matcha ChawanTenmoku and Nuka Matcha Chawan

Posted in Glazes and Techniques, Uncategorized | 16 Comments