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Frequently Asked Questions

Products

I am looking for a varnish/glaze to coat ceramics that does not need firing.  It needs to be safe to use with products holding food and drink, and washable (preferably dishwasher safe).

There are non-fire varnishes that can "come into contact with food" but typically these brush on or spray varnishes need to be "wiped clean" and can only hold dry foods (like crisps or nibbles) but not anything wet. DecoArt offer spray varnishes and brush on varnishes.  The spray varnishes are flammable, harmful if swallowed etc and you will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.  The rest of the colours, mediums and brush on varnishes conform to strict US standards and are certified as non-toxic which means they are suitable for children.  We would only recommend non-fire varnishes for coating decorative or onamental pieces.

We sell food-safe oven paints - but not food-safe varnishes.

What are decals and how do I use them?

Decals (or transfers) can be used as a low fire, post glazing decorating technique.  Alternatively these decals can be placed between layers of glass (before firing) or used on copper blanks for enamelling.  Why not introduce workshops and/or fire with lustres at the same time.
 
Directions:  (1) Cut decal to desired size or shape.  (2) Soak decal in warm water until the film slides on the paper backing. (3) Work quickly to position the decal. (4) Remove water and bubbles with a damp sponge.  (5) Allow to dry.  (6) Fire item at 100-150°C per hour up to 750 to 780°C.

I want to make my own decals.  How do I do this?

Many of our customers use a company called Digital Ceramics at www.digitalceramics.com.  They make custom made decals and transfers.

Can I buy the bulk buys or do I need to become a member of the Guild?

The Guild BULK BUY packs are part of the Guild Bread and Butter range.  Although the packs are available for anyone to buy, Guild Members pay a lower price. 

How do I attach the mirror on your princess mirror?

We recommend a normal craft PVA glue for attaching the mirrors for example, the Decopatch glue varnish would work.

Do the glazes stain clothing?

The underglazes and glazes tend to dry out like powder and are easily removed from clothing.  We can’t speak for all brands of colour but the majority of pottery colours do not stain clothes making it ideal for children’s parties.

What's the difference between slow drying silver clay and just silver clay?

Slow drying clay does exactly what it says.  It takes longer to dry which makes it perfect for novice silver clay users.  For more advanced users it allows additional time to shape and mould each masterpiece.

Shopping

Deliveries and Collections

Why can't you give me a delivery cost at the time of ordering?

Unfortunately, we are not able to give an accurate delivery price upfront.  This is because our IT system cannot automatically calculate dimensions or weight of each varying order. 

Most delivery companies will quote prices based on the weight and dimension of each box and the postcode region or country.  Therefore, once an order has been packed we are able to price the delivery or can ask for quotations.  There are weight restrictions too.  For example, pallets are restricted to 500kg and each courier package must weigh no more than 25kg.  We do this as part of our customer service - it just means a small wait while we obtain the best price we can.

Why are your delivery costs higher than places like Amazon?

We do not ship the same volume of orders as Amazon and we have purposely kept our bisque prices low.  If we were to offer a FREE Delivery option on all orders (no matter what size), we would need to increase our base prices to compensate for the charges and packaging materials.

Also, when shipping fragile items like ceramics and glass, it is best to use a specialist transport service to avoid breakages and disappointments (i.e. all of our pallets are shipped on a non-stackable service).  This means that orders take up extra space during transportation and therefore cost slightly more than a standard service.  Additionally, we like to use reputable transport companies with a reliable service.  Currently, the majority of standard consignments are shipped by FEDEX and most of our pallet orders are shipped by Pallet Track Network. 

Can you offer FREE or Subsidised Delivery charges?

We are pleased that we can offer a reduced delivery charge for orders over £500 and a FREE pallet (UK destinations only) for orders over £900.  However, we can only manage to do this as picking and packing pallet orders are less labour intensive and require less packaging.  We are happy to subsidise overseas orders where possible so please allow us a little time to obtain additional quotations.

Can I organise my own courier?

Some of our customers like to organise and use their own couriers.  If you would like to choose this option, please let us know at the time of ordering.  It is really important to mention that the order will be COLLECTED BY ANOTHER COURIER.  This is because orders packed for a car collection are packaged completely differently than those collected by a haulier.

Can I collect the goods from your building to save on delivery charges?

It is not a problem to collect orders.  Please call the office to place your order and let the sales team know that the order will be collected by hand. 

Would it be possible to turn up unannounced to buy goods?

It is possible to order "on the spot".  However, we are primarily a wholesaler and distributor and therefore we do not have a shop facility.  There is a pottery showroom where bisque products can be viewed but our other product ranges are not on display.  To avoid delays, set realistic expectations and help with planning, we would encourage you to order your goods in advance. 

Also, we do despatch orders on a first come, first served basis.   Therefore, if there are other orders already in the system, their despatch will take priority and you may have to wait.

Late and Urgent Orders

If I need an order urgently, would you be able to ship it quickly?

We try to despatch orders the same day or next day, but we cannot deliver on the same day.  During busy periods (like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Summer Holidays and Christmas) we may have a higher than average volume of orders in our system.  Please let us know if your order is urgent and we will do our best to ship your goods. 

Please also remember that although we maybe able to despatch your orders quickly, the couriers will not guarantee a next day service due to traffic and weather conditions, staffing levels etc.

Therefore, where possible, we recommend that you allow extra time as a contingency.

Order & Payment Queries

I made a mistake when I placed my order.  Is there anything I can do?

If you have made a mistake, and do not wish to keep your order, then please contact us as soon as possible.  You are welcome to return the goods.  Please organise for the items to be carefully packaged and returned at your own expense to Unit 37d Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RT.  If the goods arrive back damaged and cannot be resold, we will be unable to process a refund.  Goods will be credited within 2-3 days of their return.  Remember to include your contact details and invoice number on the return package for identification purposes.

Do you have a Euro Account?

Unfortunately we do not have a Euro account.  However we can take payment by credit card, debit card or bank transfer.  If you want to make a bank (BACS) transfer then please remember to make sure the bank does not deduct transfer and/or currency exchange charges from the sterling amount due.
 
Do you ship overseas?

Yes we do.  It is not a problem to supply goods overseas except USA & Canada.   We have despatched goods to businesses as far a field as Singapore and UAE but more commonly we ship to Europe.  Click here for more information about despatching orders.

Can I order an electrical appliance from you with appropriate wiring for my country?

All of the electrical appliances we stock are wired for UK use.  However, some of our manufacturers are able to supply country-specific wiring e.g. Nabertherm (our kiln manufacturer).  Therefore, it is best to call or e-mail us with your individual enquiry.

I am coming over to the UK.  Can I collect an order whilst I am over and take it back with me to save on delivery charges?

This is classed as an INDIRECT EXPORT.  HM Revenue and Customs stipulate that proof of travel is required to show that the goods are going overseas if you do not wish to pay VAT.  Therefore, if we photocopy your flight or ferry ticket when you collect the goods we will be able to zero the VAT on your order.   Please tell us in advance whether you plan to do this so that we can make the arrangements on our accounts package before we load an order.  If you fail to provide a copy of your tickets, then we will need to completely reload the order to add the VAT. This will result in a delay before you can take the order out of the building. 


Kilns

What is included in the kiln price?

All kilns come with a 3 year warranty and both Nabertherm & Potterycrafts have a UK support team.  Included in the kiln price is £100 worth of free bisque (based on retail prices) and two FREE spaces on our "Amazing Glazing" course.  We can also send a few bottles of underglaze and glaze to try.  If you have limited knowledge of using a kiln and associated products, then please let us know and we will be happy to support you whilst you learn.  For example, we provide step-by-step instructions on programming the kiln for use with our products.
 
Finally, a few reminders:

  • Please remember that you need to ensure your insurance policy (this includes a home policy if you are based from home) is changed to reflect that you are using a kiln.  
  • Please check the dimensions of every doorway and corridor to make sure that the kiln will fit through.  Remember to include lift doors etc
  • Please check with an electrician that the ampage of the kiln will not affect the electrical supply at the site. 
  • If you order a 13amp kiln, we do not recommend the use of extension leads with the kilns.

What if the doorway or corridor is too small to fit the kiln?

Please speak to us if you envisage problems.  Our manufacturers have support teams based in the UK so we should be able to organise for the kilns to be fitted on site or seek advice regarding installation.

Will my kiln produce dangerous fumes?

Kilns are an electrical appliance and they will not emit toxic fumes.  However, the products or the items fired may well cause problems.  Most of the products we sell at Country Love Crafts are lead-free and non-toxic.  For more information and guidelines on this topic, go to The Health and Safety Executive website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/ or Orton.  If you are keen to vent the kiln, we do sell a kiln vent kit manufactured by Orton.  There are also some good firing tips on this website. 

How much does it cost to run a kiln?

This does depend on the size of the kiln, how many items are inside the kiln (if the kiln is fully loaded it will take longer to penetrate heat into the wares) and the cost you are paying per unit of electricity.  However, on average the small 40 litre (hobby or small business kiln) from Nabertherm costs about £2 per firing and the larger 190 litre (studio kiln) costs about £7-£10 per firing.

Can you please tell me which kiln would be suitable to fire bone china and porcelain? 

Our expertise is with firing earthenware pottery.  We have very little knowledge of firing bone china but know that temperatures can range from 900°C to 1400°C.
 
Before we can advise whether the kiln is suitable or not, we will need to know the recommended firing cycle including temperatures for the bone china or porcelain (this is to make sure that the digital controller is suitable).  We will also need to know the recommended firing temperatures of the underglazes and/or glazes applied used to decorate the bone china or porcelain.  Armed with this information, we can then give you some idea of suitability.

What is batt wash and would you recommend it?

Batt wash is a white powder that is mixed to a single cream consistency and then is applied by brush to batts (kiln shelves).  The batt wash forms a protective layer on the kiln shelves.

We do sell Batt Wash but actually don't recommend batt washing shelves for two reasons:

  1. After a while it begins to peel and flakes can drop off during the firing process and embed themselves in the fired pieces below. 
  2. After the first application, the shelves have to be regularly re batt-washed.  Some businesses need to re-coat as often as every 4-6 weeks (as they regularly use their kilns). It can be more cost effective to buy a new kiln shelf rather than spending the time maintaining the shelves with batt wash.

What are plate cranks and how many plates can I fit inside a kiln?

A plate crank (click on link to see image) is typically used to fire plates. Plate cranks are stacked on top of each other to make a tower. The plates fit between each layer enabling more efficient use of kiln space. Remember to dry foot plates before placing them on top of each crank.

The number of plates you can fit inside a kiln (and the number of plate cranks) depends on the width of the plate and the width of the kiln.  The plate needs to be at least 1-2cm smaller than the crank to allow for thermal expansion during the firing process.  The height of the cranks will vary too. 
 
Using an average width tea plate as an example (and the small hobby kilns), you will fit in 4 cranks, possibly 5 plates in the Potterycrafts kiln.  In the Nabertherm you will fit 5 cranks, possibly 6 plates.  If you can fit two plates side by side on a shelf you will be able to fire 6 plates in both kilns.  If you can overlap the plates (by using stilts and props to create height) then you may be able to fit 2 or 3 plates per shelf.  Therefore you can fit in a maximum of 9 plates, but it is likely to be less than this in the 40 or 45 litre kiln.

Plates do not fit well in any size kiln as they are wide and short (so they take up a lot of shelf space but need good air circulation plus heat from an element).  It is generally recommended that the shortest shelf layer needs to be a minimum of 4-5cm high.  This means that you will not be able to add another shelf layer in the 40 or 45 litre kilns.

Will I need to service my kiln?

Not many businesses have their kiln serviced these days - particularly if the kiln is performing well, and you are achieving good firing results.  However, we would recommend having any electrical item regularly PAT tested in line with legal recommendations - go to http://www.hse.gov.uk/ for further information.

Kilns are like motor cars and will deteriorate visually (or cosmetically) quite quickly due to the extreme firing temperatures.  However, on the whole most kilns will function well for many years, even decades.

If you would like to get your kiln serviced, there are a number of companies that offer this service (and we have a list should you need one)  To help you with your budgeting, there is generally a call out fee of £150 and then an hourly rate of about £30-£50 per hour.

Am I right to be scared about firing a kiln?

The firing temperatures of kilns are high making them potentially dangerous.  Most domestic ovens have a top temperature of about 300°C and these applicances are also potentially dangerous - pottery kilns can fire up to 1300°C. 

However, most approved kiln manufacturers have excellent safety features and it is rare to hear about fires caused by kilns.  There have been two fires reported by our customers in the last 8 years.  Both incidents have been as a result of human error (e.g. flammable products left on or around the kiln during the firing process).

Remember to let your insurance company know if you have a kiln on site.  If you take the risk and decide not to let your insurance company know, or if you neglect to tell them you have changed the model or size of your kiln, your insurance policy will be invalidated and you will not be able to make a claim if your property is damaged as a result of the kiln.

The following details are explained to delegates during our New Business Course:  

Kilns can be broken down into six basic components:  outer casing, firing bricks, elements, thermocouple, electrical panel and controller. Of these components, the thermocouple and elements are classed as "wear and tear" items and can easily be replaced by a qualified electrician (please check with your kiln manufacturer first if the kiln is under warranty).  Other than the outer casing and bricks, your firing results will be affected if components start to fail.

If you are concerned about the safety of the kiln, we would also recommend reading the guidelines set out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - click here for a direct link.  Whilst we always suggest that kiln users read this document, we are aware that the guidelines are not always followed.  For example, we know a number of businesses who place their kilns on 4 patio slabs to protect their wooden floor.

Glazing and Firing

I have a dipping glaze that has little brownish ball shaped bits floating on the surface.

This sounds like lumps of mould.  Initially, try using a household sieve to remove any lumps.  To prevent mould from reoccurring add a small amount of household bleach or use Milton Sterilising Fluid and follow the ratio guidelines recommended on the bottle.
 
The bacteria are probably feeding on the gumming agent of the glaze.  It is worth noting that moulds can breed in freezing conditions, in areas with high humidity or areas that are poorly ventilated. 

Can I use a pencil to draw my design on bisque - if not, what is best for writing and drawing on bisque?

Overly sharp pencils and excessive marks from pencil lead or pen ink can cause glaze and underglaze to repel.  Additionally, some pencils contain a waxy component that can also repel glaze and underglaze.  Unfortunately, these problems only become apparent after firing.  Furthermore, pencil lead can sometimes cause crawling from the area where the accumulation of lead is most prominent.   Lead-free or unleaded glazes/underglazes will repel marks on bisque more easily than a leaded version.  

We recommend using a non-permanent felt tip pen to write or draw on bisque. To prevent potential problems with any bisque-marking device, remember to press lightly and avoid over application.  If you really would prefer to use pencils, why not test a selection pencils (from various manufacturers) on a piece of broken bisque to see if they fire out and/or do not affect the colour and glaze applications - soft pencils like #2 should work best.

I have glazed and fired a customer's mug.  The customer has complained that you can see fingerprints where the handle was added.  What can I do?

It is not unusual to see a fingerprint mark or dent in bisque.  This is generally where a handle has been added to a mug, teapot, vase etc during the manufacturing process. 

Many customers like this feature as it clearly shows that an item has been hand-made.  However, there is a small minority of customers who do not like it.  Unfortunately, once an item has been fired there is nothing that can be done.  If you know that a customer has a preference not to see the fingerprint mark or dent, then we recommend sanding the item to a slightly smoother finish prior to decorating, glazing and firing.  This will remove most of the fine lines but it will not completely remove the fingerprint dent.  Be careful not to make the item too smooth as glaze will adhere better to a slightly rougher surface.

Business

Who can I use to get insurance for my business?

Try these:
www.craftinsurance.co.uk   0800 919359 Ian Wallace
www.barrs-insurances.co.uk   0118 99723810
summers@eclipse.co.uk   01202 870700 Philip Maunder

I want to start my own business, where do I begin?
 
If you are looking to start a mobile pottery painting business, I would strongly recommend attending our New Business Course.  The course is very relaxed - it is informal but informative.  There is no hard sell.

I want to build a website but I don't know where to begin.

If you want to try yourself, have a look at:  www.weebly.com or www.webs.com or www.spanglefish.com.
If you want someone to give you basic guidance and a basic website for £150, Philip Black can assist remotely.  To see an example of a basic site produced by Philip, click here. To find out what is included in the price click here.