What are Seconds?
Every time you unload a kiln it’s like opening a present; sometimes you get what you asked for, sometimes it’s a well-intentioned disaster. In our case, it’s nearly always a mixed bag. There are many reasons a piece might be determined to be of ‘Seconds’ quality. At our studio we have five major categories for making that decision: Clay / Forming / Glazing / Firing / Post-fire.
All Categories have sub-categories and some of those have further subcategories! It’s diving into this meticulous data that helps us understand why an issue occurs so that we can fix whatever is going on. Clay is an ever-changing material and our production techniques are ever-evolving to increase quality and efficiency.
All Seconds are fully functional and are fine to go into the dishwasher / microwave, so we don’t want to recycle them (that’s what happens to the really wonky wares, or ‘Thirds’). So, what’s to be done with these beautiful but slightly flawed works?
Our solution is a combination of in-person Factory-Sales, where folks can rummage through bins of product and our online Studio-sale, in which our fulfillment team carefully curated boxes that combine Seconds with glaze experiments, discontinued designs or standard pieces with discontinued finishes. Both solutions help us to reduce waste, while getting perfectly usable products to customers at a discounted rate: a big win-win!
A Closer Look at Some Common Flaws
These arise from issues with the moisture content in our pressed clay. Small, shallow, non-structural cracks get to stay as seconds since they do not affect durability. Think of them as stretch-marks on your clay, ain’t no need to photoshop these beauties!
We use a high-fired porcelain clay to produce our products. even the tiniest grain of contaminant can create specks of color on an otherwise pristine surface. Being a small producer, we are actually okay with the occasional speck, some of our favorite pieces have a speck or two or even three! But sometimes the speck is too big, or there are too many or it just somehow looks too off, these speckly friends make it into the seconds stack!
One or two pinholes on the surface of a piece is something we may allow to pass inspection, they create no functional issues and are one of those tiny moments that help remind you that this wasn’t made by automatons in some unknown country. That being said, we do have our limits as to what we allow through QC. A constellation of pinholes is something you may find on a Felt+Fat second.
With handles that are included in our slip-cast mug molds (as opposed to handles that are attached after casting) sometimes a mold gets under-filled and creates a deep divot (small divots are okay) or it gets overfilled and creates a tiny, hairline crack, either way, those mugs make their way into the Seconds!
Nicks, Dents and Chips
Our products get touched by a lot of hands, between forming, trimming, glazing and firing, so there are a lot of small opportunities for them to get beat up along the way and sometimes those imperfections don’t get caught until being checked over by our quality control team. Thankfully we can still find a home for these misfit wares.
Bloating typically occurs because of some errant material trapped in the clay that doesn’t present itself until after firing, sometimes it’s just one bloat, sometimes it’s a few. If they’re small enough they get to pass on to life in the Seconds bin.
Clay is weird and porcelain is the weirdest of clays because it has a muscle memory of sorts. If the lip of a cup or bowl gets warped while wet, even if you manage to get it back to round again, it remembers later while in the glaze firing and comes out with a warbly edge. It can be hard to avoid with some forms, and we’re okay with a slight irregularity from time to time, but if a lip gets too out of line we have to send the piece off to live with its misfit brethren.