Sunday, February 28, 2010

Liveblogging the Great Clean Up!

Well, sort of.  Blogging as I go, anyway. 

My studio is splashed all over with dry glaze and littered with dirty brushes and tubs. (Can't wait until summer when I can again glaze on the deck, and clean up with a hose!) Every surface in my dining room is covered with pottery waiting for a home! It's time to take a day away from making and selling and just start straightening things up. I am not the neatest person in the world -- maybe not even in the top ten - but mess does bother me, and I can't concentrate with my house looking like this.

So, first order of business: sort pots. At least half of these belong to a wholesale order. Others go to various consignment locations. I need to get those marked and packed, so I know what's left. Off to do that. 

This is more complicated than it seems. Each consignment location has an inventory form, and they prefer that the inventory lists be presented on their own form. If it were up to me I wouldn't bother with the forms at all, as I trust in the good intentions of all concerned. But they want it all documented, as it protects them, too. In fact I did have a far-away consignment outlet to which I sent much more inventory than I ever received payment for, and they were asking for more; which is why I don't do far away consignment anymore. That, and sometimes getting nailed for return shipping as well! But anyway, I am now trying to dig out all of the appropriate forms. Arrgh! I need a printer. The I could just keep an electronic copy of each, and let Mr. iMac keep track of them for me. Isn't that what computers are for?

Finding these is turning into a dusty job. 

Alright, nevermind that, I'll just hand write them for now. Those can go to the car.

Which leaves me with the wholesale pieces. Those are easier, as I have a list right here to hand. Just gotta check 'em off & pack 'em up. Grab me a sticky label & a sharpie, and....done. 

Now I can see what inventory I have available to approach new locations, or to list on 1000 Markets. (Did I mention I opened a 1000 Market shop? Oh.) Not that much, actually, but I will take it down cellar (as we say in Maine; we also say "up attic" but mine is not easily accessible) to the overstock shelf. Here's my dining room, reclaimed. 

But that's the afternoon, nearly done, and Q still needs a walk. No wonder I never get anything done, it all just takes so long! I guess I will tackle the studio this evening. Or not.

And you thought a potter's life was all mud wrestling, and glamour.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pots from Sunday's Firing

I took these rather hurriedly yesterday, as it was nearly 4 pm and I was losing my light. Overall I was pleased with the firing, especially the reds. My rutile blues were a little puny -- the glaze had frozen and thawed, and I should have added a little vinegar before use. In fact I did add a little vinegar halfway through glazing, and I can definitely see which pots were glazed before, and which after! Vinegar is a flocculent, which means it causes particles to stay in suspension longer, and will have the effect of making glaze seem thicker, although there is there same proportion of material to water.

Some of these pots are destined for Attrezzi; some for KRA and other consignment; and one I owe to my sister, since last summer. But some will find their way to my new 1000 Markets online shop! (I just never give up -- moron that later.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mud Season Comes Early

Had a little misadventure at Watershed today when I went to unload the kiln.

The firing was fine, my celadons & iron yellows particularly nice, as were the pots in Waxy White; it's the first time I have used that glaze on brown clay. The rutile blues were a little puny. I'll post some photos, after I have a bath and a nap, because!

As I usually do, I drove my 98 Dodge Neon right across the lawn up to the kiln. The lawn didn't look any different than usual; wetter, sure, but not especially muddy. When I was as young as you are, I would have toted those bins right across that expanse of grass, but I am 45 and don't have to upper bod strength that I used to. (Also, one arm still doesn't work quite as well as it should.) Normally this poses no problem, but mid-coast Maine has had a great deal of rain in the last couple of days. I got the car loaded up, but as I was backing out, the front end suddenly dropped about 10 inches, and the tires just spun uselessly. Each tire had been engulfed by its own miniature sinkhole - caused perhaps by mole tunnels? We don't know - so the chassis was resting on the ground, the wheels up to the axels in mud, where there had previously been turf. Watershed's director, Tyler Gulden, came out to push, but the tires had nothing to grab on to. Jenipher Cooley, the adminstrative assistant (herself glowingly pregnant), brought her Jeep around to pull me out, but we couldn't get to the tow hooks, as there was no space between the front end and the ground. I dragged out the little toy jack that came with the car, but the ground near the tires was so soft the the jack mostly managed to push down Maine a little bit, without raising the car much of any at all. 

At last there was nothing for it but to call a mechanic, who came out with a giant jack and a winch.  The car popped right out, fortunately, and it only set me back $40. Q the wonder dog waited patiently on the back seat throughout. 

I want to shout out a special thanks to Tyler and Jen, who took time out of their busy day, and got muddy while Watershed has no running water due to a power outage. You two are real troopers. 

Don't touch that dial! Pots later. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Picture Perfect Firing

The firing was without incident -- like you see in the pictures. Or, like you would see, if anyone ever made movies about firings, which are notably less sexy than throwing, more akin to watching paint dry for the movie-going public. The kiln climbed quickly and (relatively) evenly in oxidation until 012,  right on the dot of which I put it into a heavy body reduction, which looked like this:

I kept the damper in until 05 was touching, then backed off into its much lighter climbing reduction until 8 was over. This is right by the book, and the way that I intend to fire every time; but usually something happens, like I go for a walk and 012 is a puddle; or the top is so much hotter that the bottom has barely got red heat by the time the upper 012 goes. A similar set of mishaps can happen at glaze reduction, but not this time. This time we (that would be the royal "we") were right on the money. I am a tiny bit superstitious, though...You know how, if a piece looks too good going into the kiln, you won't like it when it comes out? What if a firing looks too good? what if nothing stupid happens, like a forgotten cone pack, or, I don't know, a low pressure system that messes with your reduction? Is it cursed?

It's not. I'm sure it's not. I am only worrying about this because I don't have anything real to worry about.
Thanks to the IPTOG, I will not be able to unload until Thursday. (These four-day weekends seem to be getting shorter and shorter.) Can't wait!

Friday, February 19, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different...

One of the best things about being a homeowner, even - no, wait, especially of an old home - is that you can do whatever you want without the consideration of having to undo it later. I like the idea of my home being noticably that of an artist, so luckily my creativity, usually channelled towards clay, sometimes squirts out in other directions.

I got these great switchplates from Lisa Ferrara, the papermaker who does such great work at Ember Grove.
(if you like these, check them out at KRA.)

I really love Lisa's work and plan to get more of these in future; but at $20-$30 dollars each, they will be carrying me out of here feet first before I get all of my old plastic switchplates replaced. I happened to have some ModgePodge lying around (what, like you don't?) so I started going to town with whatever materials I had: gouache, scrapbooking paper, stickers. Next one will incorporate some dried palnt material from the remains of last summer's garden.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I'm sorry, Etsy: It’s not you, it’s me.

There comes a time when you just have to admit that it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve tried twittering, facebooking, improving my photos, increasing and endlessly tweaking my listings, and renewing over and over, all in the hope of making things work with you, and it isn’t working out. I just feel like I am doing all the giving.

I’ll always remember the good times. Back when I used to get excited about every view and heart. My first sale! Remember that? I spent all the proceeds on shipping supplies. I still have most of those.

Oh, I know, I came running back once before. I swore it would be different this time. I would keep it light. Just a showcase, I said. A place to list my overstock. No more pressuring you to be something that you aren’t. But when I sat down to list new items and a deep feeling of futility came over me, I knew: It’s over. I’m not made for that kind of relationship. I need to see some sales, or why bother?

Really it’s best for you, too, Etsy. Everyone says there are too many sellers here. I know how to fix that, by one.

I know there are thousands of special somebodies out there for you, people for whom you are exactly the right fit. You will make those somebodies very happy.

What’s that? No, I’m not with Artfire. I think I need to just be with my blog for awhile. I’m not leaving in a huff: I’ll let my listings expire.

I’ve learned so much from you! I hope we can stay friends. You’ll always be my favorite source for handmade soap. You know I wish you all the best.

Love always,


Sunday, February 7, 2010

A New Football for Charlie Brown

In my endless quest to fulfill the fantasy of effortless online sales, I have created a Zazzle store! The Zazzle concept is a little different, and not at all suitable for selling pottery; but as I am also an amateur photographer, I decided to give it a shot. After all, those images are not doing me any good sitting on my hard drive, amirite? And selling them as prints requires a whole 'nother level of commitment in terms of ancillary purchases, not to mention the cost of the prints themselves, and keeping them organized. But Zazzle is a way to make them available that, once set up, doesn't require any further effort from me. 

Here's how it works: I upload images, and choose products which can be made from them: tote bags, keychains, refrigerator magnets, mousepads, and, funnily enough, coffee mugs, and a boatload of other stuff. Shoppers purchase items customized with an artist's imagery, but not actually made by an artist. The artist gets a royalty, which is not very damn much, but read the part about the images "just sitting on my hard drive" again. (I admit to feeling a tiny pinch of guilt over participating in the sales of mass-produced crap, of which there is already plenty in the world.

Here's the good part. If nothing sells, I am out absolutely nothing. I am still in possession of the images & the right to use them. All I've lost is a morning at the computer. 

Wish me luck. This time I"ll kick that football from here to Australia! 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oldest Trick in the Book

...but I had forgotten about it! I was asked to make some sample vessel sinks for a company that does designer plumbing fixtures, and I was totally stressing about how to get the drain hole right. I know the shrinkage rate of my clay (14.25%) but the tolerances are quite small and the math was yielding measurements with a lot of digits behind the decimal points. Someone -- one of the Twitterati*, actually -- reminded me of this simple device for converting wet size to finished size for any given claybody. This just needs to be bisqued and fired like any other piece, and then I can get the measurments that I need to make the opening at the bottom of the bowl fit a standard drain.  

*The things I learn on Twitter! I also found out that my persistant eye twitch, which always used to happen when I got overtired, is in fact caused by low potassium. Eat a banana and it's gone! Eat a couple per week and it enver happnes at all. Off topic, I know. But interesting! I've been puttin gup with that damn twitch for a decade now, or more.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Matching Handles

I don't have an extruder, so when I want to make matching handles with a vertical bead, I use my wheel. I can throw a ring large enough to cut handles for about eight mugs in the diameter of the wheelhead, or use a larger bat if I need more. After I cut the necessary length, I give it a few quick pulls to straighten the curvature that comes form being made as part of a circle, and to smooth out the slight roughness on the underside. Quick & easy, and no extruder to take apart and clean!

Tattoo or Not Tattoo?

So I got this brainwave of a marketing idea. Yesterday I thought it was the cleverest thing ever, but I woke up this morning thinking it might possibly the most stupid. Those two thoughts cannot simultaneously be true!

What I thought of was having temporary tattoos made that say Fine Mess Pottery. You know, get the name out there in a fun way. I even went so far as to design a colorful image that might work...but are the people who would wear a temporary tattoo the same people who are interested in pottery? And how would I find those people, to give them the tats? I could include on as a thank you gift whenever I ship out orders, but that doesn't happen often enough to justify buying a thousand rub-on tattoos. Maybe hand them out at NCECA? If I can afford to go to NCECA.

But I am still tempted. It seems fun and sort of outside-the-box; but sometimes things are outside the box because that's where they should stay. What do you think? Would you wear a Fine Mess Pottery tattoo for a day?