We were awarded a 2023 Business Oregon Sustainability Fund Grant!

We were awarded a 2023 Business Oregon Sustainability Fund Grant!

Last August we were thrilled to be awarded a grant from the Business Oregon Sustainability Fund!

This grant supports existing small businesses with the goal of:

  • improving the sustainability of production practices
  • improving health and safety
  • expanding production capacity
  • increasing reach and sales out of the state of Oregon

Over the last 6 months, we've been using this funding to purchase equipment and make changes that we wouldn't otherwise have the cash for, including:

Purchasing a new (and much bigger!) clay recycling machine.

This is called a pug mill. Our production process produces a lot of clay trimmings and off cuts and we need to reprocess hundreds of pounds of clay a week. It can mix 250 lbs of clay at a time, while also removing air bubbles, extruding out fresh, 5” round logs of clay, ready to use for the next batch of work. Recycling clay is one of the most time consuming (not to mention labor intensive and rather boring) parts of our work, and we are so excited to have this machine.
Side note, our new pug mill has had a few technical issues, so its actually back in California getting repairs right now, but we are really excited to get it back as soon as possible. Fingers crossed we only have to get this 1000lb machine into our elevator one more time!

    Installing two high-quality air filtration units in the studio

    For years we’ve done our best to keep our work areas well mopped and clean, clay (silica) dust is challenging to avoid completely. Small particles can hang in the air for up to 48 hours and long term exposure can cause silicosis. Eep, no thank you! Overall, we've been doing a pretty darn good job of mitigating these risks, but air filters have been on the wishlist for a long time. We are THRILLED to finally have these air filters up and running, keeping our lungs well protected.

      We’ve built out a bigger and better drying room for our dinnerware!

      A heavy duty dehumidifier + a gigantic fan + a little heat, all in a plastic wrapped room. This is helping us to get plates and bowls out of molds quicker, which helps minimize warping and allows us to trim pieces the same day they’re made. Thanks Jared for your handiwork!

        Commission a custom batting machine

        This type of equipment is not commonly used (at least not as far as we can tell, and especially not at our small scale of production). Another ceramic company kindly shared images of their design with us and we worked with a ceramic equipment engineer to make something similar. This is the sort of thing that we would never have been able to do without grant funding. When we make dinnerware, we need to prepare smooth, flat, round paddies of clay. Proper clay prep leads to less warping and less loss in the glaze firing. We’ve been doing it by hand and it’s been one of the more laborious parts of our process. The batting machine allows us to streamline the paddy preparation process and frees our team up to focus on the more enjoyable parts of making dinnerware. Care for our hardworking bodies is something that we greatly value at Wolf Ceramics. This new machine helps us protect our wrists and shoulders from overuse injuries!

        Finally, we’re using some of the money from this grant to invest in our team

        This consists of some management skill training, development of better production tracking systems, as well as coaching to dial in our mission, vision and core values.

        Bottom line, this funding has enabled us to invest in several projects and pieces of equipment that we wouldn't otherwise be able to afford at this time, upgrading our health and safety at the studio, improving ergonomics of several of our production practices, and helping us to become a stronger team. Many of these things will continue to take a lot of time and energy to fully incorporate into our production process, as testing and developing our processes takes time. We feel lucky to get this opportunity!

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