Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Social Distance in the Studio

6 feet between wheels! 
Monday was our first day of classes at Portland Pottery after our long break due to the pandemic. Classes are smaller, only 9 students, and everything is rearranged to allow 6 ft of distance, and - of course! - masks are required in the studio. Bottles of sanitizer and liquid soap are everywhere, and the garage door and windows are thrown open. Maine. like several other New England states, is going in the right direction on Covid-19 infections; the number of new cases has been falling for some time now. That said, within Maine, Cumberland County (where Portland Pottery is located) is still the hottest spot for contagion - unlike Kennebec where I live, which has few cases and no know community transmission. The students, bless them, were all co-operative in wearing masks and other precautions.

Am I a little anxious about being in close-ish quarters with groups of people I don't really know? Yeah, a little bit. Masks are imperfect, aerosol contagion, blah-blah-blah. I don't know if there are enough precautions in the world to make me feel 100% safe, but rationally we are about as safe here in Maine as it is possible to get, in the US anyway, and we can't stay in forever. Portland Pottery closed even before Governor Mills order to do so, and I trust if things go south they will do so again.

Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how do you feel about being back in class? Gotta say, I LOVE being back. I didn't know how much I missed my community until I was back in it. A beginning student made a breakthru in class yesterday (small, hard to describe - had to do with centering hand position) and I had forgotten how much I LOVE being a part of moments like that. So, yeah: happy and excited, in addition to anxious.

My art fairs are of course all still cancelled, and the stores that carry me are not, by & large, having a great season, so I am still not sure how this winter is going to work out, but for now we are ok; more than OK, moving forward. I did get tired of reminding people in public spaces to distance, so I designed a t-shirt:
6 feet distance please and thank you

I have an order to deliver (YAY) and a firing scheduled next week. I continue to keep the rest of the country in my thoughts as we all struggle towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Blood for Luck!

I've always heard that if you cut yourself loading, it's a blessing on the firing. Does that work for kiln maintenance, too? This was actually a very tiny cut, maybe an inch long, but I am offering this blood to the kiln gods in hopes of gaining their favor.

The other way to gain favor - or so they say - is to break something while firing. (A pot, you goofus! not a bone.) I'd rather have a little scratch! But chances are I'll also break a piece while loading.

I'm not actually loading today - I am cleaning the burner channels of accumulated soda glass. It's hard, gritty work on a hot day. I am thinking that when I rebuild my kiln - maybe next year (LOL I say that every year) I may place the soda ports higher. That would work better for spraying soda, instead of using the Gail Nichols soda salad method. This would be a big change, as the spray method results in a more even coating of soda - which is both the benefit and the drawback. (The other benefit is not having to chisel out built up soda glass from the burner channel! So I may be the tiniest bit biased right this second.)

Anyway! Just wanted to let you all know I am still here! Classes are expected to re-start at Portland Pottery the first week of July, about which I am both very excited and a little nervous. Masks required, of course; the way I see it masks are the difference between returning to some normalcy, and going right back to where we were in March. I am thinking of face masks as an accessory now. Let me recommend Etsy! (Here are some nice ones.) I didn't love Etsy as a seller but as a buyer it's great.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hi Kellie, Here's a Big Bowl!

It's 12" in diameter - through it is slightly oval - and about 4" high. The egg is for scale, but I will include the egg if you want it!! 😄

The price is $60. Let me know if it will work for you, and thanks for asking. 🌝








Wednesday, June 3, 2020

You did it - Thank you!

Edited to add: Thank you all so much! I woke up to enough money for groceries! We're being told that Maine DOL should have our cases resolved within a week, so I have all I need. I really, really appreciate your help. 


...but I need help.

It feels wrong to even be thinking about myself & my family during this time when there are people who can't even safely jog or eat ice cream or sleep in their own beds. I know the world is full of much bigger problems than mine, and I wouldn't be asking if I could think of a better solution.

Here's my trouble: as is probably true in your area also, all my art fairs & sales events for the 2020 summer season are canceled. The stores that carry my work, if they are open, obviously don't have much in the way of customers. Even given all that, I was lucky. A few years ago, Portland Pottery asked if I would like to change from being a contractor to a regular employee. I did, and it has protected me during this time because I've been able to collect unemployment. (What normally happens is, the money I make from summer sales covers the winter months, too, in addition to my teaching income. One of the studios I teach at has gone under, so that income stream is gone for good...I don't know what is going to happen this winter. But I digress: my problem is much shorter term than that.)

So, anyway: we've been living on unemployment, and staying in communication with Portland Pottery about when it will be safe to re-open. Like everyone, I want to get back to work! But I don't want to put my student, myself, or my family at risk to do it.

Oops, digressed again. This is really about unemployment, and the Maine Department of Labor. Recently the MDOL discovered there were scammers amid the 100,000 unemployment claims they have processed since March. They froze everyone's payments while they search for the scammers. (I could make an argument that by doing so, they gave the scammers the heads' up to close their accounts & disappear, making it harder to find them, but I'm sure they had their reasons.) They told us it would be 48 hours, then 72; now they just say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I know with 100% certainty that my claim will be okayed, once they get to it, because it is as straightforward as they come, but while we are waiting for that we still need to eat. 

Normally I would just put groceries on a credit card, because as I said I am positive they will restore my claim, but last week I lost my wallet...at the dump. By the time I realized it was missing & went back, it had (I assume) been bulldozed into the mountain of garbage. (Or possibly the mountain of rusted pointy things. There are several mountains at the landfill.) Still waiting for replacement cards to come, but the banks are busy fielding Covid-19 related calls, too.

Anyway.  I am so so sorry to even ask, but I need $100 for groceries. If you have money to spare, I would greatly appreciate any help. Even a couple dollars helps! If you don't - if your family is struggling, too - please don't even think about it! Once I have enough for groceries, I will delete this post.

You can contribute at this link: paypal.me/LoriKeenanWatts Again, that's if you can. Thank you all so much for an help you can give. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Satin Matte Black ^10 Reduction

Just storing this glaze recipe here so I can't lose it.

Black Satin Matte BATCH SIZE 5000
Percentages Grams
Custer Feld 20% 1000
Soda spar (minspar) 20% 1000
Whiting 2% 100
Dolomite 15% 750
Talc 13% 650
OM4 10% 500
Flint 325 20% 1000
Chrome Oxide Green 1% 50
Red Iron Oxide (domestic) 3% 150
Cobalt Oxide 3% 150
Manganese Dioxide 2% 100
   
   
   
   
Very reliable, forgiving, smooth, true black. Iron spotting will occur over brown claybodies. Can be runny in combination with other glazes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

No Common Ground

This one hurts.

The Common Ground Country Fair has cancelled its live event, previously scheduled for September, and will hold a virtual fair instead. That's just the lectures & demos; there will be no craft sale.

While I am disappointed, even before this decision I was wondering if people would be willing to brave crowded public events as soon as September. The incompetence of the federal response to the pandemic - and it's so terrible I wonder if it is incompetence, because they couldn't have done any worse if they were trying - means we have not seen any real signs of slowing in the disease. Here in Maine things look better, because Covid-19 got here somewhat later than in other states, so our response was relatively earlier; and because the governor jumped right on it. But, as the meme goes, having some states on lockdown & not others is like having a peeing section in a pool.

The Common Ground has offered us the option of having our booth fees refunded or donating them to the organization; and while I would love to be that kind of generous, I don't feel I can be when I don't know when I will have work again. They also offered us the option of carrying over booth fees until next year, but didn't offer to waive jurying for 2020 acceptees. I think that would have been a nice gesture, since we already paid for jurying, and all of us out here are hurting, too - would have been nice to have one thing we could rely on, for when the world starts turning again.

Anyway. Hope your lockdown is going well. Stay safe, friends, and hang in there.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Casualty of the Pandemic

I just learned that Hallowell Clay Works, one of the studios I taught at pre-pandemic, is closing its doors. I imagine this is only one of many businesses that will shut down as a result of Covid-19, and I know people have lost far more precious things, but I am feeling it all the same.

Like all the best teaching studios, Hallowell Clay Works is a community. Clay has a really steep learning curve, and having supportive people around you to celebrate your successes - sometimes point out to you your successes! - and sympathize with the failures, helps you over that hump. I've never known anything that can knit a group of strangers into a group of friends faster than a pottery class.

Malley Weber, the proprietor, is a remarkable person: clever, creative, resourceful. This is not the first incarnation Hallowell Clay Works has had and I trust it will not be the last.

This is the first Covid-related change around me that isn't just hitting the pause button; this is the first thing that won't be the same as it was, whenever the crazy is over. Though it has been 5 weeks since we hit pause on our lives here, my head still swims with the speed of it: one day I was excited about all my new accounts & upcoming shows, delighted that I had the perfect number of classes - could basically write my own ticket on that score -and thinking about refinancing my house. The next day all that was over. Some of it didn't know it was over yet, but it was over - it just didn't have to good sense to fall down.

Ugh, this is a bummer of a post, when in fact I have a great deal to be thankful for: my own health, and my family's; I am stuck at home, true, but I have a studio to work in, and a garden, and all the books anyone could want. The money will start to get iffy eventually but we are ok for now.

I hope all of you are coping, staying well and staying safe. Just stay well. Just live. The rest we figure out later.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bummer but no choice

Surprising exactly no one, yesterday I officially cancelled the 2020 Maine Pottery Tour. It had been obvious for a while that I needed to do it, but I kept hoping for a miracle. I can't tell you how bummed I am about this! 2020 seemed to be gearing up to be the best year yet for the Maine Pottery Tour - we had more studio than ever, and were getting some really great publicity. I was going to be on the radio, on Maine Public's Maine Calling program!

All that went out the window.

This fucking virus. I am 100% on board with the stay-home approach, but that doesn't mean I am not vastly disappointed. It doesn't make sense to be angry at a microbe - it's just doing what it does. It's like being angry at the weather. But emotions don't always make sense, so yes, I am angry at corona. Angry, and worried, and downright scared.

I got my jury results from the Saint Louis Art Fair - I was actually kind of relieved to get a rejection, as I feel like an acceptance into such a great show might have jinxed the nation, causing the pandemic to extend all the way to September. But I was rejected, so HEY UNIVERSE, YOU CAN QUIT WITH THE COVID-19 NOW.

Anyway. I hope all of you are staying home & staying safe. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Year of Yes OH WAIT

True Story: In 1996 I had a spectacular year. I won a big grant, I published an article in Ceramics Monthly, and I got into every show I applied for. I bought a house, I was hired to teach at the Northern Clay Center, I had two solo shows and took on 10 new wholesale accounts. Everything was coming up roses and daffodils, everything I touched turned to gold; I couldn't lose.

I may be gilding this a bit, in memory - but it was a hell of a winning streak. Then my life fell apart, from the marriage outward. The marriage was probably dead in 1997, but it took 3 years to fall down (and another for us to bury it.) During those 3 years I had far less time and energy to devote to business, and while I kept making and selling pots, and I kept teaching classes, I really wasn't able to build on the successes I had in golden 1996. The culmination of the collapse was when I gave up, ended the marriage, sold the house, and moved back to Maine, where I essentially had to start over again. In spite of that gloomy sentence, this was a good thing! I established my studio, got a teaching gig or two, met Doug, bought my house...put my life back together, remembering to build in a lot more laughter and joy, this time.

But, professionally, I never had another year like 1996, when I just couldn't lose.

Until now.

Who knows why? (Random, I guess? But I am tempted to credit my 19 for 2019 goal list.) For whatever reason, 2020 was shaping up to be another Year of Yes. All the doors were opening, all the lights were turning green. Remembering 1996 I had a bit of superstitious dread: what shit would the universe throw at me this time?

Although I admit I did not have "global pandemic" on my bingo card.

So, the Year of Yes has morphed into the year of hold on, just hold on. My classes have been suspended, some sales events cancelled, stores are OBVIOUSLY not selling as much. I have postponed the pottery tour, and I am still in hopes that by June we will be returning to normalcy...we'll see how that works out. Doug & I are hunkered down for a long spell of isolation. It's not so bad together, but of course we are worried about money - us and everyone. In Maine the governor & legislature are working on unemployment packages for people like us - if this had to happen, thank God it happened under Governor Mills, and not her predecessor. We aren't getting any leadership from the federal government, so the cities and states have to step up.

Anyway. At least I can make pots, mix glazes, and do kiln maintenance. I've also been journaling this experience - if you're bored, you can read about it here.

Be well. Stay home.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Things to do while Social Distancing

Though I remain moderately freaked out by the speed of current events, like everyone else, I am muddling through. Both my teaching gigs, Portland Pottery and Hallowell Clay Works, have put classes on hold. I fully support those decisions; which is not to say it doesn't suck, because it does!

I'm getting my mind around it, though. I am lucky, in one way: even if I can't work my teaching jobs, I can still work in my studio. My to do list for the next 2 weeks:

  1. Replenish glazes
  2. Rebuild bag wall
  3. Grind kiln shelves
  4. Finish orders
  5. Make fun pots
  6. Reclaim clay
  7. Make soap
 I have lots of projects around the house I can work on also - notably it's getting warm enough to start spiffying up the deck & the yard. Maybe finish painting the bathroom!

Here is how I am thinking of it: in wartime, soldiers risk life & limb, and they do it far away from their homes & families. All we have to do is stay home and chill. Yes, the money part sucks, but we can make that up later. For now, staying out of public spaces is the best way to keep ourselves & our more vulnerable neighbors, friends, and loved ones safe.

Be well, clay friends, & keep washing your hands. We'll get through this.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Pottery Tour Postponed

I want to post this everywhere I can, to get the word out:
Due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus, and following guidance from the Maine CDC to socially isolate for a period, we have decided to postpone the Maine Pottery Tour until June 6 & 7. This was not an easy decision but we are prioritizing health & safety. 
Eternal optimist that I am (when I am not in the grip of grindylows and dementors) I immediately jumped to the silver lining: my garden will be so much more beautiful for my guests! And now I have 5 extra weeks to get the word out.

I am optimistic, but not stupid - I know that epidemiologists' projections may be wrong, and the outbreak may drag on longer than expected. I will review this decision in May; if things still seem too risky, I will cancel the event. But we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.