The bottom line in Let’s Create! Pottery is that you can kill lots of time without feeling you killed lots of time. The app allows you to cast pottery and take it to market. It isn’t a real market and you only earn virtual dollars to buy more pottery supplies, but what do you expect from your iPad.
Let’s Create! Pottery:
- Provides a realistic 3D pottery wheel.
- Offers fairly sophisticated 3D painting and shading.
- Emulates selling your products on an auction block.
The app could use a little work:
- The learning curve is steep with few useful hints.
- You can’t save your pots.
In addition, I make fun of the app’s name, find all kinds of ambiguity in the concept of creativity and knock both parties in Congress, which may irritate readers who think the fault lies with one party or another.
The same day I downloaded the App of the Week Little Things, I downloaded another app called Let’s Create! Pottery. The comparison caused me to wonder how apps got selected for App of the Week.
Somebody exchanged money under the table or has a cousin who works for Apple and had his mother call her mother to put the pressure on someone at the App Store to pick Little Things over all the better apps that could have been chosen.
I usually understand why apps get selected for App of the Week, but after playing with both Little Things and Let’s Create! Pottery I began to doubt the selection process. Little Things made me want to collapse face down onto the Starbucks table and dissolve into the simulated wood veneer it was so boring. (I can say this now that I’ve written the review and no longer have to pretend to be objective. Or Kind.) A weekend has passed and my mind is only now shaking off the Little Things induced anesthetic stupor. Even last night, I lay in bed wondering if it was worth writing this column if I would continue to be exposed to apps like Little Things and Wasted Time.
But this is America where we have as close to a free market as Apple will allow and that means anyone can develop any app and you have the right to buy it even if it’s a waste of time (and money, since the App Store doesn’t refund).
By contrast, the only thing I don’t enjoy about Let’s Create! Pottery (LCP) is typing its name on the iPad virtual keyboard. This is why I have officially redesignated the app LCP.
What kind of name is LCP? I mean the real name that I don’t want to type anymore. I suspect the developers are actually planning a “Let’s Create!” series which could expand to watercolors, mosaics and maybe even black market religious icons.
When I think of things to create, however, especially things to create with an exclamation point, pottery is way down on the list. We are talking about a reviewer who spent most of his high school career in the principal’s office, after all. When someone suggests “let’s create” I think “a ruckus,” or “mayhem.”
Even if I wasn’t me, however, pottery would still be low on the list of the first things to come to mind when someone shouts “let’s create!” Art might come to mind, or music, or a better world for our kids to live in, or a fence that my blind dog with a death wish Bandit can’t get out of so he can run and sit in the middle of the road and bark while the pick up trucks and SUVs whiz by.
But not pottery.
Why not pottery? Because pottery requires a huge investment. You have to buy a pottery wheel, and a kiln, and a huge sink with big pipes that won’t clog when you wash all that clay off your hands. Not to mention paints and glazes. And then I would be afraid that while I was sitting at the potter’s wheel my dead wife would show up to haunt me like Patrick Swayze showed up to haunt Demi Moore, only my first wife isn’t dead—she’s very much alive—but that doesn’t mean I want her showing up in my expensive new pottery studio.
This is the genius of LCP. You don’t need a wheel, or a kiln, or even to get your hands dirty. You don’t even need talent, All you need is your iPad.
Become both artist and entrepreneur
LCP is the latest in a series of apps designed to bring out the inner artist of people who have no artistic abilities whatever. LCP promises something new, however. This app doesn’t generate space music and space art that only stoners can really love (or former stoners like me, or wannabe stoners who want to think they’re cool but need to stay safe inside the law, their homes and the mundane realities that make them wannabe stoners to start with). This app lets you make shit you can sell.
Sadly, you can’t sell it for real money, just digital money. But this is closer to art that matters, middle class art, the kind of stuff you can show to your dad to prove he didn’t waste the money he spent sending you to college (and, as we all know, it doesn’t matter how much he really spent, he will remember spending four times that much). If this were real pottery, you could give it to your parents and they wouldn’t be afraid their own friends would laugh and say “so that’s what your kid’s doing these days.”
And maybe, just maybe, if you get good enough making digital pottery, you can borrow a couple of thousand from you mother, invest in a real potters wheel and kiln, make and sell real pottery and stop having to wait for the Democrats in Congress to try to cater to Republicans so they will stop stonewalling—which they are never ever going to do until a Republican and person of white color is in the white house—in order to pass a jobs bill so you can get back to work. Let’s face it, the Democrats are too kind to run the country and the Republicans are too mean. Which leaves the rest of us with, well, never mind.
It’s all a matter of perception isn’t it. The Democrats look at a glass half-filled with water and say it’s half empty. The Republicans say, “Who’s been drinking my water.” Why can’t they simply go to the refrigerator and fill the glass?
Realistic pottery wheel
LCP’s pottery wheel is remarkably realistic for a digital simulation. Even the lighting and shading feel real. You use your fingers to shape and fashion a lump of clay into a pot, and, as with real clay, one wrong touch can ruin your creation. You begin with a small, hollow clay cylinder. You use your fingers to pinch, nudge and stretch the clay until your pot looks as close to what you want as you can manage.
Use your fingertips to mold the clay.
I stress the words “as close to what you want” because the clay doesn’t bend to your will. It bends to your fingers. You really have to learn when to pinch, when to nudge and how delicately (or how long) to apply pressure. And don’t think you can get cubist or avant garde because the software operates on the principle of a lathe. What you do on one side is reflected around the axis. I tried a number of different ways to tilt the clay or create bow shapes. The effect of touching the clay remains perfectly symmetrical.
No doubt the designer intended this to make sure novice potters didn’t unintentionally tip or tilt their clay and write technical support blaming the app instead of their marginal pottery skills.
Nor can you fashion the inside of the pot. You are limited to perfectly symmetrical outside casting. It’s hard to consider these as limitations or shortcomings. Considering that this is the first release of a five dollar app, the three dimensional casting simulation is rock solid.
Sophisticated painting and shading; rubber stamp detailing
Once you fire your finished pot in the kiln you will want to paint it. Otherwise you’ll get bored with the app quickly. LCP provides two decorative tools, paints and detail brushes. The paint works like an airbrush more than a paint brush and you have a limited range of primary and secondary colors to choose from. At first you may feel cheated by the limited selection of colors, but because you can build pigment depth with the air brush you will discover how easily the colors mix to provide a wide range of hues.
The colors also include black and lightening. I stress lightening because there is no white. The white color selection adds white to other painted colors to lighten them or add highlights but you can’t lay down a white base coat. The black on the other hand can be used to cover your pot or shade colors you’ve already added.
The advantage of the color painting process is to allow you to create gradients, mix shades and even add rings of color to your finished pot. I was really pleased with the painting tools.
The detailing, however, is brute force. What LCP calls brushes are more like rubber stamp patterns to decorate the pots. You don’t really brush these patterns on, you have to drag your finger to where you want the pattern to appear and it automatically fills in around the pot. Some of the patterns, especially the Japanese patterns, are quite lovely, but applying them is so easy it’s almost disappointing. Maybe more disappointing when you realize the cost of the patterns influence the sale price of your pots more than anything else.
Here lies the game of LCP. You have to buy brushes and colors, and some brushes can be quite expensive. A few run as high as a thousand dollars and most run at least a hundred. So where do you come up with the money for decorative brushes? You have to sell your pottery.
LCP provides a number of decorative patterns, or brushes, at a price.
Disposing of your pots
LCP allows you to market your pottery two ways. You can create your own designs and auction them or you can accept commissions from clients. The auction route will probably be more satisfying for reasons I’ll discuss in another section.
When you finish you can email a snapshot of your pot to friends and then put the pot on the auction block. Once the auction begins the price rises until the highest possible price is achieved and your pot is sold, usually for somewhere between $80 and $400.
Just what determines the final price at auction is a mystery (although this may be the point of an auction). The two factors I have been able to find that most influence the higher sales prices are the height of the pot and the cost of the brush used to decorate. These don’t guarantee a high rate of return, but they seem to help. I’ve yet to see a small pot with cheaper decorations sell for more than one hundred dollars.
LCP lets you put your precious pottery on the auction block
But this reflects the pottery craft business. The more pots you sell the more expensive supplies you can buy, which drives up the price of your pots.
The learning curve
Sadly if you don’t know much about casting pottery LCP isn’t much help. The training process is limited to emails commissioning sales. Each email contains an example of a classic pottery style, starting with a classic wide base and narrow neck. You are asked to cast and paint the pot and email it back to the client. The example photo has stars to tell you how close your pot is to the pot in the picture. As your casting and painting improve, so do the number of stars. You can usually get paid for work that earns at least three stars in both categories.
The emails don’t actually give you any hints or techniques. This becomes especially frustrating in a later assignment which requests a Etruscan style pot with an incurved rim. I still haven’t mastered the incurved rim and I’ve cast dozens of pots trying to. In principle it seems easy, but I can’t find the right touch for the inward curve, including using my pinky and just a nail. The iPad’s touch radius seems too large.
I gave up on the commissions with the kitsch order. The first time my product was sent back and I was asked to look more closely at the example picture (which was difficult because the picture was small with no zoom available). The second time around I realized mine had been too tall, although the proportions were right. By this time I had gotten good with shading on my free lance pots, but nothing I could do could earn anything better than “look closer.”
Can you “look closer” and tell the difference?
I know from years of experience as a teacher that you can only ask a student to look closer twice. After that you have to point out the difference. So a few more specific tips would be helpful.
Can’t save your designs
This is perhaps my biggest complaint about LCP. It doesn’t matter how much you like your pot, once you move on it’s gone for good. The program does let you email a snapshot of your pot to friends, but the snapshot is tiny and loses the drama of seeing the pot at full size. Besides, I don’t know any friend other than Carol who really wants to see my pots.
The tiny email photo doesn’t really show off your work.
I can take screenshots of finished pots, but even those lack the beauty of the pot spinning on the display wheel.
It’s also frustrating to come up with a design that really looks good and not be able to save the shape as a template for future pots. I know real potters have to start from scratch, but we’re not real potters.
It would be nice if the developers could add a full page album. We could save the pots we’re really proud of to browse later for inspiration to improve designs.
Needs a real online marketplace or community
What really makes apps like this stand out (and sell more copies) is an online community where potters can display their work. LCP limits sharing to emails. I suggest an online community because the developers could use this to increase their profit. Not only could potters display their work, but they could download additional pattern kits for real dollars.
Needs white and yellow
This may sound picky, but it’s not. LCP needs to add real white and yellow to it’s color palette. These are important colors and they improve the way other colors can be blended together.
Not of the shortcomings I mention diminish the value of the app, nor should they discourage you from downloading LCP. Casting digital pottery is a great way to kill time, but LCP makes you feel like you did more than just kill time. You actually feel like you created something. I just feel it would be nice to capture what we create with full screen images.
Jenny Manytoes rates Let’s Create! Pottert
Jenny Manytoes not only makes biscuits, she wants me to leave my iPad set to LCP all the time so she can make more biscuits.