Homemade Studio Tools, Part 1…

I’ve only been blogging for 4+ months and one of my favorite things to find on other peoples’ blogs is homemade tools, inventive solutions to common studio problems that usually don’t have a commercial solution or if there is one, it’s too expensive. Ceramics Monthly has a section called “suggestions” that has these types of things and each month they choose a “Tip Of The Month” and award that person a free issue. These usually appeal to a subset of the ceramics community because everyone doesn’t necessarily have the same impediments while working. For instance the winner this month in the issue with Diana Fayt’s cool pieces on the cover was someone who had suggested using a shop vac to hold small vessels from the base and dip them in glaze thereby negating the need for tongs or fingerprints, etc. This is clever but doesn’t appeal to those who have large pieces or potters who spray their glaze. Consequently, the broader the appeal the more useful the tool to most people. So here’s mine; each summer (and this has become worse with a frugivorous fruit bat child in the house), my studio (and house in general) has a mild infestation of fruit flies. The don’t bite but when you’re trying to concentrate they can be distracting and once there is a certain amount it can difficult and annoying to deal with… so, the fruit fly trap. It is very inexpensive and easy to construct although there are some subtleties I will let you in on. First, get an empty jar (short squat jars will not work) and put just enough vinegar to cover the bottom ( 1-2 tablespoons for you cooks). Then get a piece of scrap paper and twist it into a funnel shape with the small end of the funnel having a small opening (big enough for a fruitfly to go through comfortably), then tape the cone shape in place with masking tape or scotch tape. Next, set the cone in the jar so that the opening is suspended above the liquid (it is very important not to have the tip of the funnel in the vinegar). Make sure the part of the funnel resting on the rim of the jar has no gaps (you can tape here if you like), then just sit back and you will notice many fruit flies getting into the jar but not being able to get out. This is based on the infamous minnow trap which is essentially a wire mesh funnel that allows minnows in but not out. Voila, you have your trap.


Now here’s some inside info that could only be learned from trial and error… tear the edge of the paper before taping the funnel and write something like “FRUIT THIS WAY” on the outside of the funnel. DO NOT print words on the side with a printer, the flies will become suspicious and be reluctant to enter… same with the straight cut edge to the top of the funnel. Remember fruit flies have a short life span and are unlikely to waste this short time on earth if they think something’s amiss. That’s it! Considering the broad appeal as I know almost everyone has these problems in the studio, I might have to submit this idea to Ceramics Monthly. Do you think it’s worth a free issue? Here’s some more bowl decorating…



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8 Responses to “Homemade Studio Tools, Part 1…”

  1. gary Says:

    My man, do you do this surface decorating by using wax resist and rubbing off clay with a soft sponge?

  2. Jerry Says:

    Those traps work like a charm! It is amazing how quickly you can amass huge numbers of fruit flies. Speaking from experience, I would not recommend putting the jar in the microwave to dispatch the little buggers. It ain’t pretty.

  3. judy Shreve Says:

    This reminds me of that old MaryTylerMoore show. She was horrified when she got weevils in her flour in her pantry. So she put the flour in a container & moved it to a shelf in her coat closet and labeled it ‘sugar,’ so the weevils couldn’t find it.

  4. Amy H Says:

    this is great! I think it’s definitely worthy of submission (the environment of pottery-making), although what about putting this in a piece of pottery instead of a jar? (This might be more appealing to the judges!)

  5. prumorrison Says:

    yeah , feel your pain with the fruit fly, we’ve got little brown fruity type things flying about our studio, dont think they’re true fruit flyers, too far in the north of aus but they bite and buz around in my line of vision, i’ll try the trap on the suckers they might fall for it but I get the feeling they know stuff

  6. Meredith Says:

    I will be making one of these soon!
    Thanks for the great tip!
    I am sending you a no prize prize!
    You can have my CM- I am not crazy about them these days…..

  7. Sherman Hall Says:

    Hmmm. Can you put the flies to work decorating pots after trapping them. I know three days is a short training period, but if you could talk about that little bit, I think there’s a free subscription in it for you.—Sherman Hall, Editor, Ceramics Monthly

    • jim Says:

      hi sherman… i’m glad you weighed in on this, you didn’t think i painted those squiggly lines all over my pots by hand with a paintbrush, did you? that would be crazy!

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