Monday, February 8, 2016

Fire Monkey Shines

In the Chinese Lunar calendar, today is the first day of the year of the Fire Monkey!

I'm not one for superstition; good thing, too, because the Fire Monkey sounds like a handful. The Monkey is always clever and adventurous; fire can make him irascible and unpredictable. The year is associated with fast-moving change, that the quick of wit can successfully navigate and benefit from.

That's what the literature says; take it for what it's worth. I prefer to think of ours as a tribe of Fire Monkeys, and if so, this is our year to shine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yesterday In Bed I Lay


Yesterday I was stuck in bed with either a cold or the flu - I can never tell the difference. I'd have been kicking myself for declining the free flu shot because I hate shots, but I was too wrung out. It was the kind of illness where you feel fine until you try to get up, and then you are weak as a kitten.

It was probably better that I stayed in bed anyway. I don't have anything urgent on my to-do list, and because I stayed down I am feeling much better today. And - as the self-employed among my readership will recognize - even when I am too sick to work, I get some work done.

Yesterday I crossed off a task that has been on my list for a while, and create my new Etsy shop, Sweet Life Bath and Body. Check it out, if you are into that sort of thing.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

WELL THAT SUCKED

Pasty, lutefisk-looking pots
The Demon Crudebake has been at work.

Ugh, it's been so long since I had a bad firing I forgot how much it sucks. I was prepared for this one to be less than stellar; I knew the kiln wasn't firing right: climbing very slowly, and unevenly. When I shut it off I knew I'd have some refires in there...Wasn't quite expecting three-quarters of the kiln to be refires, but there it is.
Pots from the top shelf

So, here's the weird thing: it looks like a draw issue. The top shelf was good - juicy, even. Everything below it was as pasty as the denizens of Lake Wobegone. Even those top-shelf pots, you can see their bottoms quarters got less soda.

 Insufficient draw would make sense, because when I rebuilt the stack I rebuilt it two courses shorter, because it drew a little too hard before. Except, I've fired it since then, and it went perfectly. My firing in December was great! It's a mystery.

For now I'll be grateful that I got just enough pots to pay or the propane, and that I know (or hope I know!!) the cause and cure. I don't have anyone urgently waiting for pots now, so it is not a bad time to do kiln repair. I needed to rebuild the bag walls anyway, so looks like a trip to INFAB is on my list this week.


Notes from the Martha Grover Workshop


Yesterday Portland Pottery hosted Martha Grover, Maine's returning prodigal potter. (We didn't kill any fatted calves - I'm still using mine - but there were some excellent sandwiches on offer in the cafe.)

If you get a chance to see Martha in action, go. She is informative and engaging, generous with her techniques and recipes, and utterly inspiring. She throws porcelain, then stretches and cuts and alters but somehow preserves the very soft, almost skin-like freshness of the material. She works much stiffer than I am used to, and gently persuades the forms into rolling curves. I came away with that feeling - you know that feeling? The almost achy need to go home and start making stuff coupled with a faint wash of despair: "I will never make anything that amazing ever in my life."

Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, we had a ton of fun. It was an interactive workshop, so participants had a chance to try some techniques on the spot. I wasn't delighted with my efforts, but of course I wouldn't expect to be; the workshop is more about learning than producing anything great. I tried to get the hang of the double-ended handle...mixed results, but I plan to keep trying.
Martha has a few workshops coming up - check them out here, maybe there's one near you.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Find Me at NCECA

I just found my name in the preliminary program at nceca.net:

Thursday March 17th
4:00pm - 4:30pm
2505 A/B (Level 2)
Process: That's a Stretch
By Lori Watts
If you've ever wondered how the guys at the pizza shop get the dough so thin, this demo is for you! Watts will throw the
pieces of a butterdish and then slap, flip, and swing them into oval shapes.

Come see me!

Serenit-Tea Now!

Serenit-Tea Soap

I remember when January was a sleepy time for me... what happened to that? Well, I guess it's better as a business person to trade your slow times for business, or busy-ness. I've got a firing coming up (which was supposed to happen tomorrow, but yeahno), plane tickets to purchase, classes to teach, the pottery tour to prepare for, mug season with CMCA coming up, and - drum roll please - I'm launching an Etsy store for soap on February 1. Oh, wait, I already announced that! Anyway, I am photographing the soaps for that.

The one above is called Sereni-Tea, and has a lovely relaxing scent of bamboo and white tea, with some floral notes. It's a very light scent, which doesn't cling. It's on the curing rack now, and should be ready to use by the store's grand opening.

Off to do some glazing! If you are in the blizzard affected areas, be safe! Stay home & make stuff.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Postcards, Business Cards, and Plane Tickets, Oh My!

Though it's still two months away, I have NCECA on my mind in a big way. I have a list of things that need to get done before then, from business cards to plane tickets. Seriously, it's been so long since I purchased a plane ticket that I don't know how anymore. I keep checking back on expedia and kayak.com and a few others, but it feels like this can't be the way people do it. As a side note, did you know that airfare sites will save your IP data and what dates you were looking for, and then charge you more for the specific dates you searched?? Seems like that ought to be illegal, a crime of general assholery. So, do your searches from your own computer, but when you are ready to buy your ticket, do it from someone else's, or from the public library.

In addition, to take full advantage of my brief turn on the stage, I need to have postcards made, with contact information. Postcards are just generally a good idea; I'll have business cards also, but postcards get taped up onto studio walls and stuck on people's refrigerators - they stick around longer, and keep your work visible.
The usual approach to postcards is to choose one good, representative piece, put that image on one side, and your contact info on the back. Regular readers of this blog know that I am almost constitutionally incapable of just doing things the tried-and-true way, without at least trying a different approach. Sometimes this works for me, as it did with my art fair display(or is. Or will. It's a work in progress.) Sometimes i learn that the conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason, and my novel idea falls flat. In any case, I am at it again: I like the way my work looks in grouping, so I decided to go with a collage, above or my postcard image. The collage also lets me put the business name (Fine Mess Pottery, in case you forgot :) )on the front, in a way that's more casual than the Black-Times-Roman, all-caps text along the bottom that you often see. Those always look like they should be engraved on a tomb, to me. My work is casual and fun and not at all funereal; why can't the design of the postcard reflect some of those qualities?

The back will have my name, the business name again, the website and email address and hmmm...I suppose I ought to put a phone number.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Goal Setting, January Too Oh! Won Six


Bisquing today. It's nice to hear the hiss of the burners again. Usually I don't fire in January, but this year I have an order waiting - nice - and it's not nearly so cold, also nice. While the kiln is firing, clay work is on hold, so now is a good time to clean, and to do a little goal setting.

2014 was the Year of Always Working. I can't say I loved the Year of Always Working, so 2015 was the year of rebalanced working, to concentrate on efforts that result in income. I am leery to change anything, since this approach has been effective, but I miss some of my old pursuits. I hardly blogged at all last year, for example. That is only partly a result of the rebalance; the other part is that I started to become aware that people read this blog - kind of a lot of people! And it made me self-conscious if I didn't have something new and fabulous to post. I didn't want to disappoint people with a lot blah-blah posts (like this one! :) ) but the tutorials are much more time consuming, so...anyway, short story long, I was overthinking it. Just going back to posting whatever I feel like, hopefully at least every week.

January is also when I assess accounts. I used to think any account is a good account, but that is sadly not true. A consignment account that does not send regular checks is not a good account, no matter how much I like the people, or the aesthetic of the store. That doesn't mean they can't become a good account, maybe with a different mix of work. Stores more than an hour or so away from me are tough to refresh, though, and there's no guarantee that the new work will do any better. In general it's better (for me) to do wholesale if the location is more than an hour away. I do make exceptions to this; sometimes I come to regret them.

It looks like one nearby consignment account will be converting to wholesale (yay) and I am asking another, far away, if they will go that route. I have a line on a consignment gallery only about a half hour from home, though they don't have a website or, apparently, email (whyyyyyyy?) and the number I have for them just rings and rings. I'd like to add one more wholesale account, perhaps out of state, for the spring season.

As I can never have too much inventory, one area I can improve on is winter production. It's easy to dial back in the winter months, because there's no pressure, but before I know it spring is here, and I am scrambling to get work fired for stores. This winter I will complete one firing cycle every...six weeks? That seems reasonable, one in about a week and then next in March, then at the beginning of May. That will have me going into summer with plenty of work for my established accounts, and for responding to opportunities as they arise.

Now: art fairs. Should I do one? Should I do more than one? I need to decide this week if I am applying for the Portland Fine Craft Show in August. This will be the second year of this show, and while I heard mixed things from artists last year, I think it has the potential to be great. But then I remember I don't have a truck, and Portland is an hour away...it would be a pretty big headache to do it, involving bringing the display and bins of pots down in multiple trips over the course of a week when I go down to teach my classes. When I was younger I would have said Hang the hassle! Full speed ahead! But I did lots of dumb things when I was young, so maybe that shouldn't be my standard.

Probably I should just apply, and then decide, if accepted.




Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Roll and a Roll


After the installation of the storm door, which has been on the to-do list for ten years, I finally finished a wallpaper frieze in the guest room that I planned at least nine years ago. Like a lot of postponed projects, it was not difficult to do - it was getting started that was hard. That and, until recently, I didn't have $40 laying around to buy wallpaper. But hey, two items crossed off the long-term to do list! I'm on a roll.

Speaking of rolls, it took three full rolls of wallpaper to completed the project, and then I had to buy a fourth one and use only about three feet of it. But - silver lining, y'all - the wallpaper is flocked with a low relief pattern, so the leftover roll makes a nice clay texture tool (at least until it disintegrates from repeated dampness.)

It works best on a horizontal surface, So, I roll my slab first (remembering to roll in several different directions, and flip it over frequently while rolling, to evenly and thoroughly compress my slab.) Then I lay the wallpaper strip on the slab, and roll the pin over it. The relief is pretty shallow, so I need to roll firmly.


Then peel the wallpaper up....


Then cut the slab to size, and use it to build a cylinder.



The relief is quite shallow, as I said, so I might want to use some iron oxide to make it pop a bit if I am planning to use glaze on that area.

I've used the same 16" length of wallpaper to make 3 or 4 cylinders now, with no noticeable deterioration, so it looks like it will last a good long time. Lowe's sells these frieze rolls in many different patterns, about $10 a roll.

They make good wall decor, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dream it, Plan it, Bless it with Sweat

As someone once said, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Further to that, a plan not followed by work is nothing at all; might as well be mouse farts. I am a fine goal-setter, and an even better planner, but sometimes I fall down when it comes to doing the work. So this is my motto for 2016:

Dream it, plan it, bless it with sweat.

It might seem corny to have a motto, but I have sometimes found that it serves as a touchstone for when you come to a decision point. My personal favorite, one that I come back to again and again, is: how hard can it be? It reminds me that I am good at figuring stuff out on the fly, and encourages me to start projects even if I don't know exactly what I am doing. Which is a good thing, because if I waited until I knew what I was doing I'd never start anything.

So there it is, all my New Year's resolutions in a nutshell: dream it, plan it, bless it with sweat.

Also, eat more fruit.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

One More New Thing in The New Year

I really, really need a new laptop, preferably before but possibly shortly after I put my fist through this one. I really can't complain - which doesn't stop me, not at all - because this machine was several years old when I bought it in 2011. (Hint: It's an IBM, not a Lenovo.) All of the software is maxed out; it can't take anything newer. The browsers make me pull my hair with waiting. And now I can't upload files to my website anymore, or type the letter "f" without both hands. The letter A is a little hinky, too.
The good news is, I have proceeds from holiday sales (which, of course, I would have preferred to spend on something else!) The bad news is, I haven't a clue what sort of laptop to buy. I see there are lots in my range, and even below; but how do I know they aren't crap?

So, putting it to all of you: I have $300(ish) to spend, though I'd rather spend less: what kind of laptop should I get? What kind do you use?

ETA: Luckily I was able to repair my two funky keys, so I can stop spelling funky with a "ph." (Not to mention "phuck this shit."And I found a work-around for uploading files: Filezilla! How did I not know about this? Anyway, crisis averted, so I can spend my $300 on what I had originally planned: a dishwasher!

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