Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spray Booth Blues

When I was in my old studio, before I had my darling daughter, I decided that dipping and brushing glazes onto my pots was not for me. My drawing skills are not great, my painterly skills are average, and my imagination just simply did not seem to run like the wind when it came time to put glaze to bisque. I dreaded it. It was predictable. Boring.

I needed some inspiration, and I needed a new technique that would allow some unpredictability and excitement in my glazing practice. Throw some of this process out of my control. Allow for some spontaneity. I chose spraying as my new technique and I began to look at the tools I had on hand, and the tools that I might need. Turns out, when you have a window, a compressor, a box fan and a respirator, you have what you need. And I was off and running.
Not the prettiest, but it did work. And it made a mess.
In my new studio space, I had specifically designed a location for my spray booth that was going to be a "real" spray booth. I wanted to be able to smoothly transition from one work space to the next, not have overlapping purposes that inevitably meant the set up and tear down cycle that added time to my creative process.

Well, sometimes all the planning in the world doesn't help one bit when it comes to real life. The space that I thought was going to be really nice and big and have great work flow, just isn't quite what I had imagined it to be. My drawings and scales were accurate, but my mind's eye was just a touch out of focus. That whole wall that was going to be ware shelves, glaze booth, and glaze storage ended up with a big ol' foundation wall sticking out 6 inches and about 42 inches tall making it not nearly as much floor space, or streamlined as I'd hoped. So in any case, the placement of the booth was simply not going to go there. It had to go in front of the other window, which is lower to the floor and much easier to get to. Now I had to build my booth.

Thanks to some input from some friends on Facebook, I'd gotten a couple really great ideas for temporary booths that helped me get some work completed as soon as possible. The first was two large storage bins that I then cut up and reassembled because I really thought a hard-sided booth was in order. Easier to clean, help prevent blowback, and I thought the clear bins would at least allow some light through.
Good Ol' Box Fan is back, and I am using a plaster hump mold to catch the glaze drippings.

Shown with a large pot for scale.
The problem became storage. Where the heck did this thing go when I wasn't using it? It can't stay outside after being rinsed down because it will blow away, and besides it's ugly. I don't want to be known as the "Junkyard Potter" in my new neighborhood.

What I tried next was a super-sized plastic garment bag hung from the ceiling. I cut a hole out of the back and thought it would be much easier to store because it's soft and would roll up and I could clip it to the closet rod I had it hanging from.
Plastic Garment bag as spray booth.
And, I have to say, if I never had to move this to get it out of the way or clean it, this would have worked really well. You zip it up after you're done spraying and the mess stays inside. IF you don't have to move it. But I did. So instead I got a big mess of dried atomized glaze everywhere. Not to mention having to climb up to take it down. Ugh. Not healthy, and damned messy.

So I had to decide. Was it really important to be able to set up and break down the spray booth every time? Well, no, actually the opposite would be much more attractive. I would really love to have a spray booth that doesn't have to be set up and torn down. ever. The reality was I had to be in front of that window to exhaust to the outside, which was why I wanted the stuff to get moved out of the way - so I could have as much natural light as possible. Also, storage and horizontal surface space is very precious. Finished pots and pots-in-progress have to be put on a flat horizontal surface. Display is important, but worksurface is crucial. I needed to keep the shelf that I'd been using as my glaze booth surface available to use for other things.

And then it occurred to me. I had this plastic storage cupboard that I'd started to use for a damp/dry box. But it's just a touch to narrow. My bats fit, but the door doesn't quite close all the way. I was going to just start using it when I was using my bat inserts for things like cups and small bowls. But it would be empty wasted space for most of the time. Epiphany! And with a little modification and some studio rearranging (again), I now have a permanent, hard-sided, easy-to-clean spray booth.
The new booth!
This is the perfect size, the height to window ratio is dang near perfect and with some further alterations, this is going to work just great. The furnace filters fit just right in my new opening, the plastic back that I had to take off fits perfectly on top of the fan in the window to prevent blowback, and there are shelves to store all the bottles and spray gun and whatever other things I decide to stash in there. Nevermind that it's plastic and can be easily cleaned.

As for my alterations? I am going to figure out how to raise that shelf to fit more evenly with the bottom of the fan. Right now it's about 4" too low. I am also going to drill a hook  or a cup holder in there, either on the door or on the side to hold my spray gun when I'm turning a pot over or getting more glaze.

As for my Spray Booth Blues? I think I've rocked them right out of here, though I'll be sure to let you know after I've actually gotten in there and used the dang thing!!


Liam Manning said...

Thanks so much for your post, I found it super helpful! My friend has been wondering about spray booths in san jose and I wanted to learn more about them. Do you know about how much they cost? I'd appreciate any feedback you have, thanks!

Zephyr Valley Pottery said...

Hi Liam, sorry I'm late! Ran straight into busy holiday rush then a bout with pneumonia. Ick. Anyway, better now and back to work, so I wanted to answer your question.
I made this booth out of the least expensive parts I could buy. The outer shell, or booth part, is a plastic put-it-together-yourself storage unit from Lowes, I think it was about $120. The only other purchases I made were a cheap box fan, less than $10, and a large furnace filter that could be washed/sprayed down between glazing sessions. A correctly chosen respirator for super fine particles is also a must, because even tho most of the spray goes out the window via the box fan, some of it still hangs out in the air. Also making sure that any blow back is blocked is huge.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope that helps!