Managing: Capitoline Wolves

Since I had a big budget for this commission, I wanted to pay fabricators at a good rate as well. My sense is that artists, designers, and craftspeople should all rise up together in terms of our labor conditions. When one of us is paid well for a job, we should all be paid well. I met one of the fabricators, Ian McMahon when I was a visiting artist at Alfred in 2015. I kept in touch with Ian and his partner, Ashley Lyon, as I was impressed by what they both made, conceptually and technically, and by their ambition and generosity of spirit. I thought: these are incredible people. I want to do more together, one day. Ian connected me to a woodworker, Mahlon Huston, and Ashley connected me to a ceramicist, Alex Zablocki. In the following examples, I want to share some of the correspondence that was required to coordinate with many people so that art students and emerging artists have a sense what is required to find, contact, and work with fabricators in a respectful and clear way. I made the mirrorized glass “face” of the wolves and the copper bowls for time keeping myself, but everything else required coordination.

I wrote to Ashley to see if she knew anyone who might be able to fabricate my design in ceramics. I wanted to work with someone who was local, or close to local, and Alfred, New York was a lot closer to Ithaca, New York, than New York City was to Ithaca, New York, where the work would be installed.

July 6, 2016


I hope the summer is treating you well! Congrats on your new job and your amazing shows. I've been following your work from FB and am so honored to have a framed print of Yours! Whenever I make a print that you want, or another edition, come get it.

I'm writing now because I am looking to find someone to throw a breast-like shaped bowl and then cast 56–60 copies of it, in stoneware, this summer. I can send drawings to give exact measurements, but it's about 8" wide in diameter at the widest and 10" deep, tapering down. Do you know anyone who'd be up for this job? I'd love to talk to them soon, and get a quote.

Ian has connected me to Mahlon, who will be making the table that these shapes fit into, and he's welding the legs, so you may have heard something about it. It's due the first week of Sept at the latest, or Aug 16, ideally, and it will be transported to Ithaca.

Hoping to hear from you,


PS: so you know the whole story, here it is....

I've been commissioned to make a big series of tables for a performance at Cornell, and I'm maxing out the budget to make this table I've always wanted to make that has bowls / breasts in it, based on the she-wolf that raised Romulus and Remus. It's made of cherry with steel legs and the cherry has 8 holes cut out with a recessed lip for 8 bowls to rest in. Images of an earlier version are here: Capitoline%20Wolves.pdf?dl=0

Ashley then generously put me in touch with Alex Zablocki, a ceramicist working at Alfred with her at the time. I wrote to Alex, to see if I could hire him.

July 18, 2016


Please see a near-final design for the breast bowls, in 3 formats for easy viewing (I hope). I wanted to share this with you to ask about the depth the cherry wood should be routed, and how the connection from the flange to the wood will work in the design.

To figure this out, I need to know:

- how thick will the bowls be? I want them to be sturdy, but not overly-heavy. This will impact how deep the cut into the cherry wood is, and the design, of course...

- what kind of radius can the ceramic make, as it transitions from the flange / lip to the breast shape?

See the attached drawings to get a sense of the clay thickness / curve I am wondering about... right now I designed it as though the clay flange would be .875” thick, which is very unlikely. Once I know the thickness and the radius it needs (I imagine it can’t make a 90 degree angle), I will send the final design. These are 8” in diameter, going down to 4.5” and then 1” and the whole thing is 9” deep. The cherry wood is 1.75” thick, so I will design it to rest in there snugly.



From there, I talked to Alex on the phone, and he asked for 1⁄2 of the money up front. I had not been paid by Cornell yet, but I paid him anyway, as I wanted to respect his labor. I learned later that this was a very bad practice for me, as I was going into debt in order to be more punctual with payment that the commissioning organization. More on that, later.

hey caroline,

here is the break down for the project hope this all makes sense let me know if you have any questions the only thing that might change slightly is the material cost i really need to start making them to see if i will need more clay, i think it should be fine but we can talk more about that later this is a great start i think

I usually do 1/2 up front 1//2 upon completion. Will this work for you? I will keep you updated throughout the process

Excited to be a part of this project



Breast shaped pots for tables project


Making = 30/hrs $1500

Clay Mixing = 4.5/hrs $225

Testing/Maintenance= 5/hrs $250

Materials= $275

Total hrs= 39.5 @ $50/hr= $1,975

Materials + $ 275

Total Cost= $ 2,250

Extra info: Clay needed 550lbs Custom Red Stoneware: material per pot = $6.25 x 44 pots = $275 (material cost) Clay= $12.50 per 25lbs roughly 1 bag/ 22 bags needed 22 × 25 = 550 lbs ( this is only for the 44 pots, I know I will need to make at least 60 to account for cracking, warping, slumping, etc ... or any other mishaps that can happen throughout the drying and firing process.)

I have decided not to charge for firing since I will be firing it here at Alfred. Though the project will require two gas firings which will consist of loading, unloading of work, kiln clean up/ maintenance prior to and after firing along with making sure the kilns reach temperature (each kiln will take roughly about 8-10 hours to fire to temperature). I would normally charge around $150- 200 dollars for this depending on the job, but since we are not paying for gas of course there will be no charge for that so that's good. I factored in the labor involved in loading and unloading/maintenance into the testing and maintenance category above.

Ian did the welding for the project, but asked me to go through his friend Mahlon, as the primary contact person for the project. Here is what I wrote to him:

July 10, 2016


I am not completely done with the table top design, but since you still don't have your wood, I figured I can take a few extra days! That said, I finished the leg designs, as I want Ian to be able to move forward as soon as possible, as I know he is gone in August.

Please find the designs attached, both to scale (in illustrator) and letter sized for easy printing. Feel free to call me anytime today or tomorrow to discuss.

The legs should be: - 2” square stock steel - 14 pieces of straight legs - 14 pieces of bent “wolf” legs (enough for 7 tables it might become 5 tables, but I'm happy to have 2 extra sets of legs) - 27-1/2” tall (to become 29” tall when the 1-1/2 boards are on top)

The things you and I need to agree on are:

- the exact size of holes for hardware that lines up with the inset hardware or plate under the table - legs welded to 4” plates (or another size plate that works for the hardware / plate under table) - flat black / oil finish?

Once we are on the same page, you can hand this to Ian and supervise his work.

Thanks for all you do,


After many conversations over the phone and by text message, I sent the final design to Mahlon.

July 19, 2016


Please find the final designs attached. You will see three images, each in three formats. Images of the connection / recessed area for the ceramic bowls, images of the table alone, and images of the tables as they connect to one another. I will have a final rendering by tonight or tomorrow, as well.

You will see that I’ve removed the curve, going back to a simple table size of 36” x 72,” which means you may have extra wood. I’m hoping this means you may have overestimated the amount of wood for the job, so you may have material to give me for my own use since the table is smaller now. You will also notice that I added a small hole near the “head” of the wolf, as I will personally be making a mirror frame that will hang from that area.

We can go over all of these details:

  • table top = 36” × 72”, 1.75” thick cherry

  • holes = 6.125” holes with .5“ offset paths around them, routed at .5625” deep, making 8.125” diam. recessed circles routed out around holes (for ceramic bowls)

  • steel legs = connect to inset hardware with 4” × 4” plates (or other size, that Ian and Mahlon determine)

  • tiny hole = 3/8” hole drilled through cherry with 1/2” routed circle around it, 1/8” deep, making 1.375” diam. recessed circle (for mirror attachment)

  • notch = cut into table all the way through to mark pentagonal alignment of 5 tables

We still need to figure out:

  • The finish (matte / luster / oil?)

  • the bread board (please send me a drawing of this)

  • if you think the legs are too far from the edge at the “head” side of the table (will it tip over?!)

  • the metal plate / hardware (how the hardware is recessed to bolt / screw the legs on and off)

So thankful for your work, and looking forward to seeing this realized,


Mahlon sent me the final budget estimate, far over the $8,000 that I had from Cornell for the project. I decided to go forward with it, anyway.

8-3-16 Updated Estimate Caroline Woolard




PROJECT: Cherry Tables SERVICES TO: Caroline Woolard SERVICE TIME DEFINITION COMPLETE BUILD 120hrs A completed build of design as agreed by Caroline Woolard and myself and finished to the highest standard LABOR HOURLY RATE TOTAL LABOR


120 HOURS $40.00 PER HOUR $4,800.00



LUMBER 650 Board ft. of 8/4 Cherry @ $9.50per board ft. $6,175.00

PLY WOOD 2 Sheets .” Maple @ $60.00 $120.00 STEEL LEGS 28- 2” square stock steel legs $1300.00

ANGLE IRON 38.5’ of 1” x1” x3/16” @ $1.75 per foot $67.00 TEMPLATE Laser cut template for the routing of the holes $40.00

TOTAL $7,702.00 TOTAL COST OF MATERIAL AND LABOR LABOR $4,800.00 DELIVERY $250.00 MATERIAL $7,702.00 TOTAL $12,752.00 PAID $8,175.00 OWED $4,577.00

Mahlon, Alex, and Ian were able to work together to make the pieces come together in a beautifully cooperative way. I believe this was possible because they had experience working together in the past, and both knew Ian and Ashley.

Mahlon and Alex,

Thanks for your work so far—I’m really glad to be working with you two.

Here are 3 things that I hope you two sync up on:

  1. review the drawings I’ve sent you (and new renderings, attached, nearly done, to give you a sense of the way the final design will work and look)

  2. the color of the clay body / cherry finish (they should have similar luster / matte quality)

  3. the amount of tolerance between the ceramic bowl and the hole / recessed area in the cherry (right now I designed the hole and recessed area in the wood to have 1/16” extra all around)

Call me if you have a question.



The project at Cornell came with a total budget of $8,000, but I wanted to pay everyone well, and was committed to my design being done at a large scale. Rather than scal ing back the project, after seeing the costs for fabrication, unwisely, I decided to spend more money than I was given. I ended up spending $20,000 more than I should have, which I put on my credit card. I ignored the credit card payments and the $20,000 ballooned into $40,000 over two years. I learned never to go beyond the budget allocated, to always pay myself for my time, and to negotiate increased budgets with institutions going forward. To make things worse, with this project, I did not make an agreement with the fabricators about giving them a 1099 at the end of the year, so I was not able to deduct the expense I had for the project of paying them. This meant that Cornell paid me, and I paid the fabricators, and then I was taxed on the money that looked like income, but was actually an expense—paying fabricators. I learned to save 20% of any project for 1099 income as I will lose it when I have to pay taxes. I also learned to ask the commissioning organization to pay for materials and fabricators directly, rather than paying me to pay them. This way, it is their tax problem. Also, commissions never pay for your laptop, your software, your studio, your healthcare, your accountant, or your tools, so I try to leave a 10% contingency that allows wiggle room for surprises and these very real costs of overhead.

I learned never to go beyond the budget allocated, to always pay myself for my time, and to negotiate increased budgets with institutions going forward.

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