My first workshop was my Great grandfather’s smokehouse and tool room. I knocked out a dividing wall and combined the two into one room with about 120 square feet of floor space. After building workbenches and pot drying racks I was left with only a 4×12 open floor. Initially this was fine but I soon longed for more elbow room. I made thousands of pots in my first shop and learned a great deal about organization and economy of movement. The main drawback to the small shop was that it was not insulated and extremely well ventilated. I learned a valuable lesson one exceptionally cold winter when about a half kiln load of green ware froze and ruined. I tried to insulate the room but with limited success.
I visited the shops of potters I envied and picked their brains about what they liked and what they would change about their workspace. I decided on a long narrow shop reminiscent of a chicken house that Mark Hewitt converted complete with a red dirt floor. Matt Jones also advised that we need wall space more so than floor space. My in-laws had several large pine trees cut down on their property and were gracious enough to offer them to me for lumber. This wood along with some salvaged windows my dad had bought somewhere many years ago were the basis of my new workshop. The windows are very large so I placed them on the southern and eastern exposure to gain as much passive solar warmth and ambient light as possible. This has proven to be a good thing because the temperature of my well insulated shop has never dropped below 40 degrees . My shop was built by myself and my dad along with a long list of friends who I can’t thank enough. Country folk seem to be self-sufficient by default and I have lots of friends who are proficient at a myriad of skills. I have been using the “new” shop now for 5 years and I am slowing figuring out how to optimize it to the fullest. The damp dirt floor is easy on the back and legs, is not dusty and seems to even out the temperature and humidity changes. My dad and I built workbenches higher than usual for back comfort and I salvaged adjustable racks for the pots to dry upon. I now utilize ware boards to store the pots on between operations so I don’t have to handle them as often and this system of carrying multiple pots at once speeds up the process of trimming, handling, decorating, glazing, and loading the kiln. The bigger shop affords me the luxury of not having to reconfigure my work space for each task and I can complete each process when the time is right. The shop even has a few conveniences of home, hot water, a 1953 IHC refrigerator, and an old leather recliner where one can research, contemplate and even take a nap if so warranted.