Sunday, December 28, 2008
Take your situation, all your circumstances,
Put it on you like it's made to fit you right
Take your friends and family, take the mile around you
Take the time thats left and step inside your life
Slip it like a glove around you
Don't you miss this love that's found you
Look at all that's real
Climb in , wear it a like a suit around your heart
You've been thinking you could not be where you are
Every morning don't be thinking where you might have been
Every morning, shake it out and step into your skin
There is no mistaking, this is where you've got to
Here's the life that you have dragged around so far
Cause you could stretch it out and make it fit you better
If you put it on and start with where you are
Don't be halfway out and dreaming
Don't be lost in doubt and scheming
Look at all that's real
Climb in , wear it a like a suit around your heart
You've been thinking you could not be where you are
Every morning don't be thinking where you might have been
Every morning, shake it out and step into your skin
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I feel like I've been whining and moaning and enumerating the reasons why I can't move forward, so I decided to try listing some actions that I could take to grow Fine Mess Pottery. In the interest of brainstorming, I am not going to censor my list as to whether these are good or effective uses of my time; only looking for ideas that have the advantage of being possible for me to accomplish right now.
- One thing seems clear; I need to make more stuff. Simple as that. If all of my inventory is out or sold, I won't have any with which to respond to new opportunities, and no sense of pressure to create new opportunities. My studio work is being de-prioritized behind errands and housecleaning, whereas I would never call in sick to my PT job because the rugs needed vacuumed. I am neat, but not a freak; I can tolerate my house being a little messier. I think.
- Since I spend so much time online anyway, I could find a way to channel some of that into FMP. I have an Etsy page, for example; I just never use it. I also have a retail site. I could easily build a wholesale site to make ordering easy. Just BTW, would any readers like to share their Etsy experiences?
- While it's true that consignment is not going to be the whole answer, I am probably not maxed out on consignment in my area yet; and new consignment outlets are relatively easy to obtain. I hate to do it but some pruning is probably also in order: I need to pull my work from a couple of places where it's gathering dust.
- Here's a very concrete goal: six (successful) sculptural pieces by March, to approach galleries - I have three in mind. I'll need a dozen or more for the exhibit.
Okay - it's a start.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I spent mine making ceramic chocolates, something I've sort of wanted to do for a while. It was pretty spontaneous, so I just used what I had around for the slips. These are still green; we'll wait and see how the surfaces turn out after firing.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Of course, that's the conclusion I always reach, which is why I am still not doing art fairs, despite that we'd both enjoy it. It may be that it won't happen until we just decide that it is happening, whatever it takes. And start mapping out what it will take.
I do know that I don't care to do rinky-dink fairs, ever again: they are no less work than the good fairs, with a lot less return. I haven't applied for St. Louis or the Uptown for years, and my work has changed alot. Maybe I couldn't get in anymore. One circuit I won't be applying to is the American Craft Council -- I've lost my regard for that organization, which seems to have squeezed out small studios in favor of big production shops. They won't be getting my $2000 booth fees.
Of course, it's only one option, or it might be part of a multipronged stategy. I still have some other ideas to consider.
Friday, December 19, 2008
For some reason, I find that I only spend about 10 hours a week in the studio on average. This seems like a ridiculously small number, given that my part-time job and classes gobble only about three days of each week, so I decided to try and figure out where all my time is going. I have to be a little careful what I write here, because of a minor stalking incident, but in general:
- I get up quite early, between 5 and 6 am. I feed the critters, make coffee, do any dishes that have accumulated in the sink, and head upstairs to the office to check my email. Hubby is still asleep.
- Here's where things bog down a little. While I drink my coffee, I'll check the email at several addresses, read several news sites, and my favorite blogs. This can take over an hour. Who am I kidding? This sometimes takes two hours, or more.
- Breakfast, bath and dress. Take the dog for a walk. Call my mom, or my mother-in-law, or any friend I haven't talked to in a while. By now it's, say, 9:30. More coffee, check email, write To Do List.
- The list always includes what I call the Home Blessing (thanks, FlyLady!), 15 or 60 minutes of cleaning the house, depending on the day. Some days that can go longer, if I've had to skip a few.
- There are usually some errands on the list, like grocery shopping or going to the Post Office. This season there are lots more errands, what with shopping, sending cards, and so on. If it's nearby, I'll walk, and bring the dog. That makes it take longer, of course, but it's better for me and Qq definitely needs the excercise.
- Lunchtime! Also time for a break. I'll usually sit and read for a while in the early afternoon.
- Now hubby is up and we spend some time together before he begins his workday.
- Now it's around 1:30 or two. If I have pots to price or pack, or invoices to print, or studio bills to pay, I'll probably do it now.
- By three I'm finally in the studio! I'll probably work an hour and a half or two before it's time to start dinner.
- After dinner, I might get back into the studio. Or hubby and I might take the dog out, or walk down to our local pub; or I might go to the gym.
- By eight or nine I am either online again, or reading my book, or we're watching a movie.
This is a typical day only to the extent that I even have a "typical" day. Some days I will spend the whole day glazing, or tending the kiln; other days it's my turn to gallery-sit, or I have to go to my part-time gig, and teach a class in the evening, so I might not get into the studio at all. Nevertheless, this exercise has been very helpful! It seems part of my problem is a very leisurely approach to time management. It's a nice way to live, though -- do I want to change it?
I guess that's the next question to tackle.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A good friend of mine, whom I’ll call Mr. Business Guy, had some thoughts on the matter. (As an aside, how odd it is to see one’s college buddies grow up! I used to have bottle-rocket wars with this guy; now he’s somebody’s CEO.) He pointed out that I always have exactly as much money as I need. There’s some fluctuation, of course, but at the end of every month, I’m never seriously behind on anything, nor is ever there any significant amount to carry over into the next month or save (ha!). Mr. Business Guy observed that it is unlikely to be a coincidence that the income and expenses are always exactly the same. Whether I am aware of doing so or not, I am choosing how much money to make; which suggests that I could choose some other number… say, more.
This makes a kind of sense. Somewhat analogously, I sell all the pots I make, with the obvious exceptions of firing failures, and a few painfully ugly, but necessary, experiments. Though I love making, I tend to do so when I have a particular reason: an order due, a show, an outlet needing work. Could I sell more if I could make more? Maybe. Could I make more than I do? I certainly could, without the inconvenient job, but not (immediately) enough more to make up the income. Could I make more without quitting the job? It seems like the answer should be yes, but somehow I don’t seem to have the time. What am I doing with all my time?
That’s the question, and what I’ll tackle about next.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This will consume more than one post, and truthfully, it happens more than once a year. It goes kinda like this: until 2000, before my divorce and move to Maine, I was a full-time potter. I did wholesale and retail artfairs and taught a few classes a week. Since the move, I've been a part-time potter with a part-time job. It's not the worst job in the world, and in this economy God knows I am grateful to have it. Without it I wouldn't have been able to buy my home. Nevertheless, the idea when I got the job was that it would be temporary, until I could get my studio business going full steam again...and eight years later, that hasn't really happened. Lots of good things have happened: Bought a house and a gas kiln (such as it is), got married, my work has improved. But though I have a nice life, I am really no closer to being a full time potter than I was in 2000. < So I can't help but wonder if I am going about this wrongly. Right now I get my pottery income from private sales, a number of consignment outlets, and a couple of small wholesale account. Consignment is a fairly limited model, as I have found consigning outside of my immediate area to be unworkable. You either have to pay for shipping or (depending on where it is) take a day to deliver the work. If it isn't somewhere that you can visit periodically, they might not even have your work on the sales floor. And then you have to pay to have it shipped back if it doesn't sell. The checks are unpredictable, and you have to have thousands of dollars in inventory out in the world while you are waiting to get paid for it.
Add to that, I also have a body of sculptural work that I really never do anything with. I'd like to display it but I can't seem to get enough cash together to get it professionally photographed, and amass enough of the pieces to make a good show; or, really, scrape together the guts to approach a venue. I don't even know how. So, maybe that's a place to start: a specific goal: show this work.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
So much of what we do as potters isn't making pots. Packing, shipping, contacting sales outlets, travelling. Tonight I was enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while pricing work for the Portland Pottery Show, opening on Thursday. Most of these are from my most recent firing. The firing was perfectly fine but glazes have lost my heart a bit since I started soda firing, I must admit. Still, good reds and celadons, I really can't complain.Just for fun, here's a shot of the Emily Loelhe mug, slipcast earthenware, from which I was enjoying my hot chocolate. It's less blurry in real life.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Because of firing times and conflicts, we're firing stoneware rather than soda this weekend, so I get to use my Shinos. Above is the low cone pack: 012, 05, 3 & 6. The birthday candle is so I can see the pack thru the spy while I am loading, and the kiln is still (obviously) cold and dark. I'm all done glazing, I just have to spray-starch everything for transport, then wrap it up and drive it to the kiln.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
It’s Glaze week! Portland Pottery students are glazing all the work from this session in preparation for the Holiday Show and Sale, and then the year-end break. Adam, Kelly, Wil, and Karen are working like Santa’s Elves to squeeze through two glaze firings before the show opens on December 11th. Here’s Adam, loading.
I look forward to the holiday break every year, although I miss my students, especially long-timers like Holly and my book-buddy Gail. Every year I swear I will devote the extra time to the studio…with mixed success.
It’s glaze week here at Fine Mess Pottery, too, as Doug and I prepare to fire the soda kiln on Friday. Our work styles are so different: I plod along steadily, spending a couple hours in the studio everyday, until I have enough for a load. Doug starts working the week before the firing, and makes dozens of slab-built pots in several six or eight hour stretches. Lately he’s been working on square drinking tumblers, a simple, functional shape dressed up with a decorative medallion on the front.
We’ll have the pots from this weekend’s firing at the PP show.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Here's how I keep track of my rings while I am working in clay. I used to put them in my pocket, but I was always worried that they would fall out while I was at the wheel, so I'd have to keep checking. This way I can feel the weight reassuring me that, indeed, the rings are still there. Not only that, but I am still wearing them!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I am wracking my brains to figure out how this could have happened. Obviously, this former bowl (and two others in the same firing) was made out of a lower temperature clay than the Cone 10 stoneware that this soda firing called for -- but how? I know all were made from recycled clay; I know I used a low-fire body in my studio briefly, about a year ago, and hubby has been experimenting with a local earthenware clay. But we were very careful to keep the earthenware separate (at least, we thought we were), and it's very visibly obvious in the green state that it is not stoneware. So...I don't know. Obviously we screwed up.
The good news is that none of the pieces which I really needed from the firing were damaged, and we were able to save the shelves.
More careful in future!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The other obsession I passed on? Star Trek, TNG! They've never seen any of the Star Trek series. It's so much fun to have someone who really wants to know all the details of the Star Trek universe.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I like to tell my students that functional pottery is artwork which is not finished until it is in use. With that in mind, I thought I'd share an image of one of my baking dishes in use, and a recipe.
In Maine in the fall, apples are plentiful and unbelievably good -- fresh and tart. I got a big bag from the Apple Man -- just this old fellow who walks around town selling apples.
My First Ever Apple Crisp
- 4 cups chopped MacIntosh Apples (about 5)
- 2/3 c. brown sugar (pack)
- 1/2 c. flour
- 1/2 c. rolled oats
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/3 c. softened butter
Place apples in baking dish. In mixing bowl, blend other ingredients until crumbly. Spread over apples. Starting in cold oven, bake 40-45 minutes. Serve immediately.
I have a confession to make: I am planning to have some of this for breakfast tomorrow. Come on, all those oats and apples, it has to be healthy.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Decorating with thick slip is one of the most relaxing things I do in the studio. Making all those tiny dots or squiggles can be quite hypnotic. I use a white and a brown trailing slip, one each made from the clay bodies that I use in the studio, which are Miller Clay's B-mix 10, and their #700. I used to mix clay from my own recipe; I stopped, but that is a whole 'nother post. Today I mixed up brown trailing slip.
Every studio should have a blender. I got mine at the Salvation Army for $4, (after hubby fried my old one, also a thrift store find.) I also use a palette knife, just in case I have to stick something in the blender to work the clay mass loose. Even if the appliance is unplugged, those blades are sharp! I fill the blender about halfway up with slurry from my recycle bucket, then hit "liquefy" on the settings. I'll have to add water a couple of times, trying to get to a cake-batter consistency.After pouring it into a plastic tub, I thump the container on the tabletop maybe about twenty times, to get the air bubbles to rise up and pop. This is an important step; if you skip it you will be slipping along, making tiny little dots, when your bottle will suddenly make a flatulent noise and spit out a messy splatter of slip, and you'll have to sponge it all off and start over again.
My brown slip trailing bottle has two tips. (I use seperate bottles for the white slip.) The broad tip is great for fluid lines; the pointy tip makes dots.
And here's another 'tip' for you: you can star making those fluid lines off the side when you are decorating a platter, so that the "starting blob" is left on the tabletop not on the platter.
I get inspired to do slip work looking at Steven Hill's platters, like this one.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Let's call the mugs A, B, C, and D, from the top.
I apologize for the blurry shots -- my photographer husband would be mortified. But they get the idea across. I should note for my customer that although all four of my fingers fit into the handles of all four mugs, as she prefers, Mug B has the smallest handle. If she has large hands, B might not be the best choice. Other readers can vote on their preference in the poll to the right.
Friday, October 24, 2008
To Do List:
- Pack & ship pots
- Throw replacement wedding platter
- Put handles on mugs
- Load bisque
- Photograph mugs for J. Reed
- Pick up pots at KRA
- Bring pots to Wyler
I got off to a slow start this morning, as I woke up to a freezing cold house. Some crucial part of the furnace had given up the ghost overnight. It was far too cold to work in the studio, so I huddled in our office with the only space heater, writing an entry in my other blog. When that was done, I vacuumed, made beds, and generally picked up the house, keeping moving to stay warm. I couldn't leave, because I was waiting for the furnace guy to come and charge me $250.
Even without a heating crisis, I have a bad habit of putting household tasks before my studio work. I'm not Felix Unger, but I feel guilty if I am potting away when the carpets need vacuumed or there are dishes in the sink. My hubby has no such compunctions, so why do I?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I'll send Karen this link to choose, but in the meantime I've been playing around with the Blogger widgets, so I've added a poll, to the right: Which casserole would you choose for Martha and Mary?
Best wishes always to two of the most loving people I've ever met.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
What, exactly, is body reduction? Since glaze colors develop during the glaze reduction phase of the firing, why can't I skip this step?
Body reduction is the reduction of oxygen to the kiln relatively early in the firing. Typically I enter body reduction NO LATER than cone 010, and put the kiln into a slightly reducing atmosphere at 05, where it will stay until glaze reduction, around cone 8. It must occur prior to glaze sintering, because the function of body reduction is to act on the iron in the clay body (hence the name), which will become unavailable to the action of the flame once sintering has begun. That said, glazes are certainly not unaffected by body reduction. Remember that glaze is not a two dimensional surface. The interior of the glaze layer, which is to say, the part nearest the clay, also must be reduced prior to sintering, or again, the skin of the glaze will prevent the flame from acting upon it. Copper reds are particularly prone to fail if body reduction occurs too late, regardless of what happens during the final reduction phase. (Possibly they just tend to sinter at an earlier stage.) Depending upon how high you bisque, your clay body, and at what stage your earliest glaze begins to sinter, you could enter body reduction around 012, possibly; too early and your ware will experience bloating. Which is better than you experiencing bloating. Well, sort of. Your ware is ruined, your just have to eat better.
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Thursday, October 9, 2008
We spent the afternoon glazing for this weekend's firing. Nothing like enjoying the warm sunshine while getting work done, and the best part? No mopping afterwards. We'll be loading early in the AM, cutting the candle to a (relatively) brief four hours, hopefully firing off by eight or so.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Having two or more clay bodies in the mix produces some interesting results, and, rarely, will create a body which is better than either of the two parent bodies. This variation is one reason I recycle, the others being a temperamental aversion to waste, and my fabled frugality.
*The exceptions I mentioned earlier are clay which is only a little too wet, such as a bit of cut-off rim. I keep a small bowl lined with a piece of canvas near my wheel for these bits. The canvas wicks away just enough water that these don't have to go through the recycle process. Believe it or not, it makes a difference!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I have been so disorganized lately! Gotta get back into my list-making habit:
- Set up for Audubon show
- Unload bisque kiln
- Trim bowls
- Throw casseroles for CMC
One note: I haven't done a serious art fair since the 2003Baltimore ACC show (when the city got three feet of snow and shut down entirely. I ate out of vending machines for days.) My display was old then, and looking at it set up at at Gilsland Farms, it is looking shabby and half-assed. I almost think I shouldn't have done the show if that's the best I could do; but they invited me, and so...anyway, it's there now, and I resolve to redesign and rebuild the display before the MECA show in December.
- Wax pots
- Apply to MECA show
- Gallery sitting
- Post new pots on the retail site
- Trim, stamp, handle casseroles
- Glaze for October 10th firing
- Pack up Audubon show
I also need to make time for a longer-term goal, to create a body of sculptural work to perhaps have a show in the spring. Somehow everything else seems to take priority.
Beginning classes start again on Monday, intermediates on Tuesday.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I finally had to concede to chilly evenings -- my favorite studio time -- and move my wheel to its winter quarters. I'm sorry to see the summer end, but the move to my larger indoor studio is energizing in itself, and has inspired some larger pots.
With winter in mind, I made these large baking dishes, since I find the one I made myself so very useful.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Every spring the garden lures me out of my studio. I’m always surprised when it happens, because the compulsion to make abates for nothing else, but every year, I spend a few weeks with my hands in a different kind of earth, without a thought of handles, lids, colorants, cones or reduction in my head. It’s a damned inconvenient time for the muse to go on sabbatical, too, with summer events approaching and seasonal stores opening. Why does she abandon me like that?
I’ve started to think that maybe she doesn’t. It could just be that gardening satisfies the same impulses that lead me to make pots. Like ceramics, gardening is a creative activity which blends art and science, allowing the two halves of my brain to work together instead of in opposition, or with one dormant, as so many activities seem to require. Using form and color to conjure feelings in the viewer; digging deep into technical knowledge to achieve a desired result; and responding to the random elements that keep our profession always challenging: gardening is similar to pottery in all of these respects.
I am looking at a bed of yarrow, bleeding hearts, and snow-on-the-mountain; all chosen for the combination of finely divided, almost Victorian foliage and blooms: a romantic mood carefully created. A piece of pottery might invoke similar feelings; say, this Ingrid Bathe porcelain tea bowl, pinched translucently thin and rimed with a delicate blue tracery of decal, from which I am enjoying my lavender tea. Like the bowl, the plants were chosen for function as well as beauty: they will thrive in the dappled sun on this slope of the yard, and out-compete most weeds.
In another, shadier corner the broad bluish foliage of hosta and lush, verdant ferns instill a meditative mood. Springy moss underfoot absorbs sound; this space always seems quieter than the rest of the world. How would I create this feeling, in a pot? Maybe with a wood-fired jar, large and quickly thrown, free of decoration save the marks of the flame. Such a piece requires a thoughtful eye to appreciate it. Like ferns, it whispers rather than shouts with color, like poppies do, or majolica.
Though I have sometimes compared gardening to painting (as in: I need a bold splash of red right there), ceramics is the more apt comparison, as the science needs to be right or the result will be disappointing. Just as plants won’t thrive, or, often, even survive in the wrong climate conditions, some surfaces simply can’t be achieved in the wrong firing conditions. Substitute zones for cones, and you’ve got the idea. Basil will fail in poorly drained soil, even if the light conditions are correct, and copper reds will be maroon if over-reduced. No amount of will or wish can make plants or glazes behave contrary to their chemistry, so it’s best to learn those chemical natures and use the information to achieve your results. There are folks who simply purchase glazes, and then program their kilns to fire to the desired cone; these potters may enjoy successes but they are relying on others’ science, and are limited by it. If a surface suggests itself which can’t be found pre-made in a jar, the potter uses what can be, and many potential great pots become adequate instead. Analogously, some gardeners don’t trouble to learn about soil composition or growing zones, and instead buy annuals and replant their gardens each year. Annuals are bright and beautiful, and bloom all summer, but I wouldn’t want to limit my botanical vocabulary to them. My neighbor, who is a gardener of annual plants, would say that the limited parameters make her garden more like a haiku: within strict limits, infinite freedom. Perhaps the same can be said of the pots made with purchased glazes. In any case, that is a topic for another essay.
It’s summer now (oh yes it is) and the gardening frenzy has passed. Except for pulling the occasional weed, there won’t be much to do out there until it’s time to put the garden to bed in the fall. So I’m back in the studio, working with renewed energy, and seeing so familiar forms. Does the spiral handle on that jar suggest the coil of a new fern frond? And the slip pattern on those mugs makes me think of the speckles in the throat of the lily. Everything I make these days seems botanically inspired. I guess making pots is similar to gardening in one further degree: we have to respect and work within the seasonal rhythms of it. My other interests strengthen and invigorate my work as a potter, and the time I spend out of the studio, far from detracting from my work, provides raw idea material to turn into art. The muse didn’t abandon me, but instead just took a vacation. Luckily she took me with her, and we both returned renewed and refreshed.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I haven't been blogging, but I have been potting! Above is a wedding platter I was commissioned to make for a former student, who will be having not one, not two, but three wedding ceremonies, scattered throughout the end of summer. This is larger than I normally throw, requiring 25 pounds of clay and hopefully, if I did my math right, firing down to 18' in diameter.
I have other orders to fulfill as well, notably one for the soon-to-open Center for Maine Craft, an exciting project of the Maine Crafts Association. The Center is currently under construction and is slated to opoen in November of this year.
Studio to-do list:
• Put handles on leatherhard mugs
• Throw 2-quart casseroles
• Sort inventory