Tuesday, July 28, 2015

At Last an Art Fair

The last art fair I did was 12 years ago, the now defunct Maine Festival. A few months before that I did the ACC Baltimore wholesale/retail show - the year the city got three feet of snow. It sucked, as you can imagine, and I ate out of vending machines for three days. I didn't swear off art fairs, exactly, but between this, that, and the other thing, I haven't done any since 2003.

Partly I just got spoiled, living in St. Paul, a few hours drive from a score of top-shelf art fairs. It's disheartening to do the same amount of work for the small local festivals and come home with a tenth of the money. And, perhaps most importantly, my van died, and I didn't have the money to replace it.

This summer I've been invited to participate in the Designing Women show in Manchester, about 15 minutes from where I am sitting. The proximity makes it possible: I still just have a compact car - a Kia Optima, if you're wondering. (Okay, you probably weren't wondering.) I can make multiple trips, and I'll almost certainly have to make at least two - one for the display and one for the ware. Or rent a van for the day. Or buy a pick-up! I really want to buy a pick-up - honestly it's harder to be an artist without a truck - but that's probably not in the cards.

Anyway! I need to do a firing for the event - I have some inventory but am trying to create a more unified body of work, for display purposes - so I've been making, making, making, like a mad thing, to fill a kiln for my August 15th firing. But! I still need to build a display! I'd like to build this one, but I probably won't have time for that, so I will most likely either reconstruct my old display or purchase some pre-made folding shelves. I hate those - they look so generic - but I've often been guilty of letting the awesome be the enemy of the serviceable, and thereby missing opportunities.

This morning I need to finish up some wine chillers and sugar bowls, then it's off to class with me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Might Take a Train, Might Take a Plane

...but if I have to walk, I'm gonna go there just the same.

Just got some exciting news: I've been selected to be a demonstrator in the Process Room at the 2016 NCECA conference in Kansas City! The Process Room features artists doing 30-minute demos of building or decorating techniques - if you were in Providence you recall the room was constantly full to overflowing.

I'll be demonstrating the thrown-and-stretched butter dishes I wrote about a few years ago.

If I were in my depressed/cynical mode, I would make note that this is not a paid gig, and that it's surprising to me how many organizations are happy to ask artists to work for free, including organizations of and for artists. (*cough*Ceramics Monthly*cough* ) But hey! I applied knowing it was not paid, save for my NCECA membership, and I am damn glad to be doing it. This might be the ONE time that the exposure really is the important part.

Muddy Waters has more to say on the subject:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

New pots!

Sorry to go dark for so long - several of you have emailed me to see if I'm okay, since my last post was about depression, among other things. Thank you for your kindness. I am okay - wouldn't exactly say I've got my groove back, which is why I can't seem to get a post past the draft stage, but doing alright.

And making pots! I unloaded a kiln on Wednesday. Many pots have already been delivered, but I photographed a few today. I'll post them on the website later & update here with links when that is done:

It was one of those firings with a higher than usual number of WOW pots, and a higher than usual number of seconds: warps, cracks, soda-foam-globs. I delivered many of the best ones to Handworks Gallery in Blue Hill, Maine, yesterday. Doug and I made a day of it and visited the reversing falls there, and found the most beautiful starfish!
We don't see starfish much. I mean, we live inland, but I grew up right on the coast, in Scarborough, and I can only remember seeing starfish once, on a trip to Mount Desert Island. I'm told they prefer deep water, and the water at the reversing falls gets very deep at high tide.

I think of starfish being kind of a tan-brown color, but they were amazing jewel tones: amethyst, peach, ruby, charcoal.
All in all a great day.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dementors and Grindylows

 J.K. Rowling has said that when she wrote the dementors in the Harry Potter series, she meant for them to describe what depression feels like: the despair, the hopelessness, the replaying of bad memories. That all sounds about right, but when I visualize depression, I think of another dark inhabitant of Rowling's fictional world: Grindylows.
For those unfamiliar, Grindyows are water demons that grab the ankles of unsuspecting swimmers and drag them to the bottom. This, to me, is depression: you know you are going down, and you fight, and maybe you break free; but the longer you have to fight, the less able you are.
Here's another rendition
If you haven't guessed, I've been kicking at my own personal grindylow for some months now. It was a loooooong winter, and a cold one - those things matter - and once the spiral starts, any disappointment seems to contribute. It can be difficult to tease out what is a symptom and what a cause. It got bad, this time: I was able to rally for my classes, and to organize the pottery tour, but outside of those obligations,  I pretty much just went to bed. And then, in that cause-symptom spiral, felt even worse, because I must be a lazy piece of shit, right?

And so on.

Most of the time I felt no desire to make things. I feared, as those of us in the creative professions sometimes do, that I had lost it: lost the mojo that made me who I am, because that drive was as gone. Terrifying and depressing, awesome.Not to mention the economic consequences: one more anxiety, one piece of evidence that I am not a competent adult, blah-blah-blah, did I mention Grindylows are chatty? They have opinions about me: hateful opinions, all of them.

I've been managing this illness (more or less) with exercise and relaxation techniques for 15 years, but I finally - finally - decided after being unable to kick free for months that it was time to go back on meds. I've contacted my doctor's office but haven't been able to even set an appointment yet (long boring story)...so I wait. I've been waiting over a month, just to set an appointment. (No wonder people go to the emergency room for stupid things! They probably just give up waiting for their own doctors.)

In the meantime, I've started to feel its grip weakening. Remission, too, is a spiral: if you can feel a little better, you can be a little more active, which makes you feel a little better. If you can address even a small thing that seemed overwhelming, you can feel empowered to address another. And so on! Like this:

(There's a great post at Captain Awkward about breaking the low mood cycle, where I got that "chart.")

My remission is still fragile but it does seem to have some momentum: I spent a few hours at the wheel yesterday, in the summer studio, and a few more decorating.

 tl;dr: I've been feeling low for a while but starting to feel better, and look! I made some pots yesterday!

Friday, May 8, 2015

$1 Shipping Sale

Finally, I listed new pots on my website! I have been needing to repopulate that pages since December. I thouhgt I was going to be very very clever and offer a promo code to FB fans and blog friends. but that...was an unmitigated disaster.


Okay, maybe not unmitigated...but who ever heard of a mitigated disaster?

The html I found for making your own paypal promo codes, just made up its own shipping rates. And then charged handling, also seemingly randomly. I'm sure there's a way to alter it to make it work right but if I knew how to do that I wouldn't have to borrow someone else's code in the first place!

Anyway! The promo code thing is out (and why don't you get on that, Paypal?) but I can still have a $1 shipping sale! All stoneware items ship for $1 anywhere in the continental US. Here are the new items:

See them all here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday Inspiration: Ursula Hargens

See more of Ursula's lovely, botanically-inspired work here and here.

Lazy Evening

Last night was the first of many, I hope, warm evenings on the deck, drinking seltzer and being lazy.

Lazy looks different for the self-employed, however, as I'm sure my potter-ful readership is aware. For us, lazy often means "working on something other than the most important thing we could be working on;" or "working on something less physically taxing than the thing we should be working on."

For me, sitting on the deck with my seltzer water, it was Zazzle. I made a Zazzle store a few years ago, because I like to snap some photos once in a while, and once in a while I get a pretty good one, and Zazzle is something I could do with those that doesn't involve a whole new artistic business. I've never gotten a check from Zazzle, but I do occasionally get an email that I sold something. The way it works it, you have to reach a threshold of $25 $50 before they send you a check, and since I was mostly selling greeting cards, the royalty on which is something like 11¢, well, I ain't there yet. (Zazzle increased the threshold! Must have been too many people getting checks.)
But as I said, my "products" were almost all cards, or mousepads. Sad to say, the mousepad is nearly dead; and cards have that tiny royalty. You know what is not dead? Phone cases! A friend visiting during the pottery tour mentioned that he had phone cases listed on Zazzle.

So that was what I spent my lazy evening doing: choosing images and listing custom phone cases. Check them out: 
Stony Shore

Wild Mushroom

Rusty Gear


Gazing Kitty

B&W Boots

2 Sheep

BTW: do people really spend $56 on a phone case? If so I feel much better about charging $80 for a lidded casserole.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adding Promo Codes to Paypal Buttons

So, I was shopping online the other day, and looking to buy a t-shirt from The Gap. I found the shirt I was looking for, and I was sorely tempted to buy two, because I have one already and I know they are very soft, fit perfectly, blah-blah-blah. Didn't want to spend quite that much though, so I settled on a color, and went to on the complete the transaction. When I was partway through, it asked me for a promo code.

Huh. I know, generally, what a promo code is, but I had never used one. Just out of curiosity, I googled "GAP discount promo code" and discovered a code for that day, that I could type in and save 40%. Just because. No special reason.

I bought two shirts.

And I started thinking, what if I wanted to offer facebook fans a promo code? Or people who sign up for my as-yet-imaginary newsletter? Surely Paypal offers a way to do this.

Sadly, no, actually they don't. However! I discovered that you can add html code to your paypal button, to allow for the entry of promo discount codes. At webdesigneretc.co, John Futia has a code generator you can utilize.
This is good timing, because I have lots of nice pots left over from the pottery tour, and my website badly needs new items. I plan to spend some time this week updating, and maybe try out this discount-code code. Here's a test button I made; you can check out how it works with completing the transaction.

The coupon code is COUPON

Enter Coupon code

Whaddaya think? Pretty neat, huh? If I were doing this for real, I would use a script obfuscator, so people couldn't get the promo just by looking at the source code.

PS. That shirt is ridiculously cheap now. Maybe I should go buy some more! With a promo code! If it gets any less, they pay me to take it.
PPS. Okay, so it's doing this weird thing where it adds a dollar shipping and handling, which, NO. Obviously I will need to add shipping to pots, more than a dollar, but I thought that would be a separate line. Hmm. So, still needs work. I play with it this week, see what we get.

Also, Water is Wet!

CNN is reporting a study which found that we are happier when we are creating.

Well, duh.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Loken Pottery in the KJ!

The Pottery Tour brought a reporter from the Kennebec Journal to Neal and Barb Loken's studio! There's a nice story in Monday's edition:

FARMINGDALE — Barbara Loken is quick to say that her husband, Neal, is the serious potter in the household.
He has been making pottery for 45 years, studied it in Japan and makes lamps, teapots and dishware at their home workshop on Bowman Street. On Sunday, she showed off her “Hog Wash” product — a soap dispenser depicting a pig washing under an arm pit.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Smack in the Middle: Maine Pottery Tour 2015

It's 8 am on Sunday, the beginning of Day 2 still three hours away. I'm having my coffee and trying to type around a cat (we have five now - more on that later - so my lap is basically always occupied) and thinking about what's working so far, and what isn't.

The Kennebec Journal covered the Pottery Tour - my photo was in the article. I hung posters and sent postcards and distributed maps. We had absolutely perfect weather. And still, I did not have as many visitors as last year.

Maybe because we had so many new studios this year, people opted to visit potters they hadn't seen before. Maybe because it was the first summery-feeling day in living memory (okay, since, like, last September) and folks chose to put their docks or boats in, (those who have docks or boats) or do yardwork (those who don't) Any of those options bode well for today, which is supposed to be warmer but not as sunny.

Speaking of today: I am thinking I may move a set of shelves closer to the street, and get some balloons - sometimes the movement grabs the eyes of passers-by in a way that signage does not. 

In other news, just a few weeks we adopted Finn McCool, Bastet has seen fit to put another cat in our path: Snowball's people - friends of my mother -  passed away within a few months of each other, and their children were not in a good situation to care for her. Who ya gonna call?
Snowball and me
Snowball is 14, and has had a lot of changes in a very short time, but given all that she is adjusting very well. There has been no conflict with the other cats in the household, she eats well (does she ever!) and enjoys petting and attention.Welcome, Snowball, to the House of Many Cats!

ETA: And the verdict is, moderately sucky. It's about 4 times better than the worst pottery tour I've had, and about 1/4 of the best. Silver lining: I have lots of inventory to fill stores, and restock my badly neglected website!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Clay TV?

Ugh, I don't know about this:
The Great British Pottery Throw Down is part of a new season of BBC Two season programmes announced on Tuesday.
Made by the team behind The Great British Bake Off, the six-part series aims to find pottery's hottest stars.....the channel hopes The Great British Pottery Throw Down will repeat the success of The Great British Bake Off, which migrated to BBC One.
Cox will be joined by Keith Brymer-Jones and Kate Malone - two of the UK's pottery scene's most renowned potters.
Each week, the 10 contestants will create a "Main Make", wherein the potters hope to translate a slab of clay into glazed glory, culminating in the reveal straight from the kiln.
Those whose clay creations fail to impress will leave the studio until the final, when one person proves themselves to be master of the wheel.
Cox said: "Clay, mess, passionate potters and the team behind Bake Off. What's not to love?
"There's something really raw and exciting about grabbing a lump of clay and creating something unique out of it."
"Pottery's hottest stars." LOL ALL DAY.
I'm not a big reality TV fan in any case. I think it's degrading, boring, and often fake. I hate that it turns everything into a competition, and am not excited to see my passion represented in it. I mean, think of ten fine potters you know. Could you possibly choose a best one? Based on one work, that was made under a time constraint?
Still, silver lining: at least people meeting us for the first time will have some reference other than "Ghost."
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