Oh, holiday season! What a blessing you are Blessing, of course, for anyone who sells things, because that's a time when lots of people buy things! Like the Grinch, I know, of course, that Christmas means "a little bit more;" but anyone who sells things for a living can't pretend the shopping aspect of the holiday season is unimportant.
One of the things people like to buy in the lead-up to Christmas is tree ornaments. These can veer into the hokey; indeed the hokeyness can be part of the charm, connecting us with generations of traditional imagery. As an artist, though, I am always looking to put a fresh creative spin on things. Stars are part of Christmas imagery? Cool, let's run with that, see where we get.
I live in Maine, which informs some of my creatives choices, so where I got with that was starfish! I took a clay cast of a dried starfish I stole from my sister's house, then used that to make multiples. They are soda-fired porcelain so the colors range from dry or glossy white to salmon to toasty brown. They resemble real starfish, actually.
They are a little fragile, but no more so than the delicate glass bulbs adorning Christmas trees everywhere. The making is pretty easy - squash some clay in the mold, pop it out, fettle & sponge the edges; drill a tiny hole. They do have a high-ish breakage rate, but they take up virtually no space in the kiln, my major expense. With all that in mind, I think I can keep the price pretty low - I'm thinking $12 retail
I'll have these for sale at the Portland Pottery Holiday Sale, December 13-15th, and hopefully some at Hallowell Clayworks.
I haven't done a Thursday Inspiration for a while, on the advice of Mr. Business Guy, who pointed out how much time I was spending on business activities that do not, in fact, generate any income, while neglecting others that would. I couldn't resist this one, though - Noelle Hoover, a potter I discovered via Pinterest in a show at AKAR that is all handmade butter dishes.
I gotta say, these butter dishes are WAY underpriced, IMHO. $60! And the gallery takes half, so $30 for all that work. Now, they are slip cast, so the cost on labor is amortized over many pieces - but she still had to do the finish work on the castings, assemble, glaze, and fire these pieces.
Unsurprisingly, they all sold out of that show.
Here are a few more works:
I can't take credit for this one - learned this from my students (who maybe got it off Pinterest? don't know.) It's genius, though - the balloon is squishy enough that as the pot shrinks it compresses, so you can just leave it in, keeping the pot round as it dries.
To be fair I have not tried this myself - as I was typing the last paragraph, it occurred to me that the balloon *might* be squishy enough to distort right along with the pot, if say, the pot dried to fast or something like that.
Anyway, it's any idea. I will let you know how this student pot turns out.
My dining room has looked like this for a week!
My making cycle is about 5 weeks long; one of those weeks is devoted to distribution. That's what this week has been: finding homes for the pots from the last firing, and, in this case, the ware from seasonal stores (common in Maine) that are closing until spring.
I should finally get my dining room back today (not that we ever dine in it, except at Thanksgiving.) Today we the last step in the distribution process - photographing the pots I've chosen for the online shop, and creating their listings. Should have those links for you later!
Last week I was soliciting names for my new wholesale line. This week I have one! I got lots of good suggestions, but nothing that rang the bell until one of my students came up with "Dotopia." SO, Dotopia it is! I had my first sales meeting for this line yesterday. It went - well, not swimmingly, as I didn't come away with any order, but the buyer was very excited about the work, just not in a time frame to order right now. Was also a little hesitant about the $400 minimum order. I thought that was standard? But it's been several years since I have pursued wholesale in a formal way, as opposed to here-are-some-pots, do-you-want-them? I don't have a minimum in that case, because these are established accounts, and the pots are already made.
Potters out there who wholesale: you have a minimum order, right? How much do you ask?
If you own or buy for a store, and you think you might like to carry this work, here's the spec (HAHA get it spec/speck? as in dots!! I slay me 😂)...anyway the spec sheet for Dotopia!
I told you I had a good firing, right? But I don't think I mentioned that in that good firing were the first pots of my new line! UGH A LINE, right? Sounds so...production-y. I'm a studio potter! But I do produce things. I've got this idea that I can straddle the, er, line, and using a simplified design scheme, create a body of work in which the items are more or less reproduceable. Soda firing guarantees that each pot will be one of a kind, anyway.
I haven't settled on a name for my new line...I'm thinking Dot Cottage, for the pattern & the color scheme, but am open to suggestions!
Way back when this blog was new, I used to post almost every day, although the posts were not all particularly useful or profound. Sometimes I just typed out my to-do list.
This was before I knew anyone was reading - the internet can feel like shouting into a void, and that's not always bad! Like singing in the shower, writing without an audience is freeing in that it doesn't matter if your posts are good or not! To push through this inertia (which I am hoping is not the leading edge of depression!) I am going to post my to-do lists again for a while.
So, 3 days in the studio: yesterday, today, & tomorrow:
Yesterday: I had some deck clean-up to do before I could even get started. Half-full, rained-in plastic bins with sodden packing materials, pots that have been sitting out for weeks gathering just general outdoor dirt - it doesn't seem like that should have taken hours, but it did. I also selected some pots for the Portland Pottery Café, priced & packed those & typed up an invoice.
Today: I have even more grinding, sorting, pricing & packing to do. I have a few pots to bring to Monkitree - got some really great butter dishes out of this kiln. After that (if it doesn't take all day, which it probably will) I need to clean up the winter studio - during the months of disuse, somehow it becomes even less tidy than when I am in there working? Stuff kind of piles up in there. It's time to bring the wheel back inside & start the next making cycle, so I need to clear myself some space.
Tomorrow: Assuming I get all that stuff done (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA as if) and further assuming the weather is decent as predicted, I might just go for a hike! I've actually never been to Cadillac Mountain, and October is a fine time to hike - not too hot & the crowds have gone home.
There's lots more I could be doing - photographing pots! posting items to the online shop! replenishing low glazes! - but overwhelming myself with tasks seems, lately at least, to be a recipe for none of them getting done. I've got some household stuff to do, too, so if I can complete this list + that one, I will pat myself on the back and allow myself to be happy.
I've had sort of a bumpy fall, for no good reason - just have been in a holding pattern for a few weeks now, able to make myself do the tasks necessary to keep the lights on & the pets fed but not much more than that. You may have noticed the dearth of posts! Recently I've been overwhelmed trying to do even stuff like respond to emails or [shudder] phone calls. Could be upset over events in the national arena, could be the leading edge of a depressive episode - I'm not sure. Depression is something I struggle with periodically, as regular readers know.
I received a little boost on Tuesday, though, when I unloaded a really great firing! While soda usually generates more seconds than your standard stoneware firing, only two out of maybe 60 pots were unacceptable from this firing. I was pleased by the even-but-not-too-even soda distribution - just uneven enough to create a handsome directional effect, just a little silver kiss, on most of the ware.
We (that's the royal "we!") have a little tradition here at Fine Mess Pottery: we (snicker! 😉) choose one mug from the lot, and use it for a few weeks, until the next firing, after which we wash it well & stick a price tag on it! I find it helps me identify the functional strengths & weaknesses on my work...and it's fun. If you ever start making pots that you are not drawn to use, change it up. You aren't making good pots.
Sometimes it only takes a little boost to break a down spiral. Here's hoping! I am pedaling my FitDesk right now (exercise has been shown to be helpful in staving off depression!), using my temporary new mug, and planning my day.
Maine Craft Weekend is coming up, October 5 & 6th! Here at FIne Mess Pottery I am celebrating with my annual Pots by the Pound Sale.
Because I now teach 6 classes, I have what might be a literal ton of demo pots. And that's only the ones that I fire! I do a lot of demos, usually planning at least 2 per class, plus demos by request. Some just get wedged up, but many go through the whole process (there are a lot of glazing techniques to demo also!) In addition, every firing produces a few pots that are just not quite up to snuff. You know the story: soda blobs, tiny cracks in a rim, pasty color. I wouldn't sell any pot that's functionally compromised, but lots of things that make a pot not-great don't affect function at all. The demos, of course, may not even have flaws, they just aren't a fit with my body of work.
All that is to say, I have a lot of pots to shift! Here's how Pots by the Pound works:
Each pot will have a colored sticker, coding a price per pound: red for $1 a pound, blue for $2 a pound, yellow for $5 a pound, green for FREE! (Yes, there will be a few free ones.)
Customers make their choices, then we weigh all the same-color-code pots together. Weight is rounded up to nearest pound.
Price is determined by multiplying the weight of the group of pots by the price code of their sticker. So, if your pile of blue-sticker pots is 3.5 pounds, that rounds up to 4; 4 x $2 is $8.
This event has been a great lot of fun in previous years, both for me & for shoppers. I hope my local peeps will stop by. Early October is a great time for a road trip in Maine.
If she had asked me, I would have told Jesse not to do it; putting underglaze on top of glaze, I would have predicted, would have crusty, unpleasant results. And I would have been so wrong! She did it, and - surprise! - the underglaze maintained its brilliant, right-out-of-the-jar colors, but took the waxy sheen of the glaze. Not all of them - blue turned watercolor-y and periwinkle, the black & brown were...not great - but the hot colors were amazing. Red & orange & yellow like I've never seen in reduction. So I tried it, with the few underglazes I had lying around, and had the same results! All of the underglazes used were Amaco's Velvet series; I applied mine in 3 coats. (Jesse didn't know exactly but she said "thick." I used Flame Orange, Radiant Red, and Royal Blue. As you can see, the Royal Blue turned more of a watercolor-y periwinkle; the others are right-out-of-the-jar hues.
Amaco's velvet underglaze on Waxy White Glaze on Laugna's 570 porcelain
We only tried one glaze (so far!), and that is this one:
Waxy White (not sure the origin, but I got it at Portland Pottery)
As anyone who lives in an old house knows, they always need something. Some needs are immediate: leaky roof! Furnace quit! Others wait until you have the time & money, or else the luck, to make it happen.
So it is with studio outbuildings. I have a weakness for old things, in the process of enacting the 2nd law of thermodynamics; it's hard for me to feel creative in a new, perfect space. Someone once said of the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, its own studio located in an old chicken barn: "It's conceptually impossible to mess it up." Which somehow (at Watershed, at least) makes it feel conceptually impossible to mess up. You can't make a mistake! You can only have a learning experience.
But I digress! What I wanted to tell you was, a combination of luck & time came together to provide for me a new door on my summer studio! The old one was a solid interior door Doug found in our cellar (repository of many unexpected things.) After 10 years the elements, alas, had had their way with it and it was falling apart.
In June I found an old mullion-window door at a yard sale for $5. Now, I have a few yard-sale weaknesses: small kitchen appliances are top of the list (NO LORI YOU DON'T NEED A SINGLE-HOT-DOG STEAMER) but old doors and windows call to me also. I mostly manage to resist, but this one was too perfect. The mullion panes and the very low price decided me.
Unfortunately for me there are many more things to consider when choosing a door than price! (And windows.) This door was too tall & a little too wide for any of the potential places I could use it, and the hinges were on the wrong side. Luckily we own a circular saw, and several screwdrivers! After making the necessary changes, I have a new studio door that lets in light, and allows me to see out even when its too chilly to prop it open. From the outside it lends the studio a beckoning cosiness: "Come in, Lori, make beautiful things, leave the turmoil of the world outside..."
In fact, I think I hear it right now! I've got butter dishes to finish and jaunty jars to begin.
Happy Labor Day, all! May all your labors be happy ones. And all your days.