Saturday, November 29, 2014

Drive-by Soaping

Buttercream soap! Unfortunately it won't be ready to use until December 21.

I am squeezing in a couple of hours of studio work this morning before I have to work my day at the Holiday Pottery Shop, located in Hallowell this year. I am bisquing tomorrow and hoping - most likely in vain - that the ware I finish this morning will be dry in time. Can't put off the bisque, because the glaze firing has to happen December 8 in order to be ready for Portland Pottery's Holiday Show, my last event of the season. After that I'll be restocking the online Pottery Shop - it was just getting too picked over and needed refreshing, but all the ware I have right now is committed elsewhere.

After a day sick in bed yesterday still feeling a little rocky but up and about. Hope you all had a fabulous holiday!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It Finally Happened

No, not the zombie apocalypse.The Cubs didn't win the World Series. I didn't learn how to use an iPod. No, the true long awaited event is this: the bill basket is empty.

It went down like this:

I deposited a check into my household account. I try to treat my business like a business, and give myself a monthly payday; in addition, I get paid for teaching at Portland Pottery. So with all that there are five or six paydays of varying amounts every month. Usually I deposit my check and then reach into the bill basket to determine which envelope most needs my attention, and which can be deferred. And lo, there were no envelopes.

I'd caught up.

I've heard of that - people who have money they haven't even spent yet! - but thought it was mythical, like the Yeti. It didn't last, of course: bills came in, I wrote checks, and so on. But then on the next payday, there were again no bills waiting!

I'm not rolling in clover, mind you; there are big expenses in the offing. My car is making a funny noise, and one of my cats has a tooth that I think needs to be removed; and Portland Pottery takes a five-week break through December, so those paychecks will soon be suspended. But I still take it as proof that the scheme I arrived at (with the invaluable help of business consultant Maureen Renner, for whom arts businesses are a specialty: just sayin) is working! It works! (And it isn't, actually, even fully in place yet; I flinched at the last minute and didn't increase my prices as much as the equation called for, fearing a total sales-stall. I did have a scary moment in the spring when I thought I was going to be buried in a mountain of unsold pots but then things evened out and even picked up.)

Also necessary has been the work-without-ceasing piece of it, but I can handle that, as long as it doesn't come with a side helping of poverty.

Speaking of work, I am trying to squeeze in one more firing before Portland Pottery's big Holiday Sale, which opens on the 11th of December. This will be a big mug-and-bowl firing,  with a few taller vases, because those are things I can make quickly without compromising on the aesthetics. Here are the pots on the drying board:

The red poppies, in the back, are Amaco's Radiant Red, which I have had good luck with even at ^10. These will be the first real pots I have used it on, as opposed to tests. Keeping fingers crossed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So, you saw this, right?

Bon Appetit magazine recently ran an article about restaurants using handmade ware in place of the chilly, manufactured white china you usually find when eating out. Awesome, right? Awesome, right!! The article seemed to be written by someone not particularly familiar with handmade ceramics, or maybe just written for people less familiar. (For one thing it makes no distinction between stoneware and earthenware. You can put high-fire stoneware in the dishwasher all day long. Not that you'd want to. But IF you did want to. Anyway.) It's a brief article, that contains a shout-out to Portland's own Eventide.

Here's hoping this is, in fact, a trend! But here's the funny part: Since this article came out, I've received two emails asking me to DONATE pottery to newly opening restaurants, for the exposure, dontcha know.

Let me think about 

Now, I'm happy to donate ware to a handful of charitable auctions every year. That's one way I can support charities. But I don't do it for the dubious benefit of exposure, and I'm damned if I am going to start donating to businesses.

I wanted to write back saying that a business I am associated with holds a huge social event every December, and would the restauranteur care to cater this event, for free, for the exposure? How many takers do you think I'd get?

You know what I do for exposure? I write this blog. I market my work in stores and galleries. I advertise. I go to trade shows (or at least, I used to, and may again.)What I don't do? Give it away and hope somebody sees it and wants to buy it.

Artists are notoriously bad at business, and I might be the poster child (er...poster lady of a certain age); but jeez, even I ain't falling for this. I hope nobody does.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clay All Day, Soap All Night

 Although sometimes it's the other way around. Timing is everything. And in November, time is short.

I finished loading the kiln last night around 7:30. I won't have a full day to fire until Saturday, so I am considering doing an overnight firing tonight.

There was a time when that would have been no big deal...those days are gone! On the other hand, it's not like I wouldn't get any sleep; it would just be fragmented. Still, just thinking about it makes me tired.

Usually I have lots of ware leftover after filling the glaze kiln, because I can fit so much more in the bisque. I had several items explode in the bisque this time, though - when was the last time that happened? I can't even remember. That's what comes of hurrying. This time I only had these few pots to left out:

I've also been making soap whenever I get a chance, so much that I ran out of coconut oil, which is my signal to go online and order new scents and colors at the same time. Shopping for soap scents is big fun! I've got several fruity scents, some sweets like Buttercream Frosting, a sea breeze type,and a more masculine musky fragrance on the way. For the first time I have a soap order, which is obviously cool - selling things keeps me in business - but also a little nerve-racking: what if the batch doesn't turn out well? Same concerns, I suppose, that I have when I take orders for pottery.

So, assuming that I do actually fire overnight, I'll be unloading this kiln Sunday morning. Much of it is off to Rochester, NY and to Blue Hill, but I'll still have plenty for the Holiday Pottery Shop.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

PLATE is Live!

PLATE: A Celebration is live online at MudFire! So excited to be a part of this show. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you see the works that have already sold. None of mine yet, but I'm just pleased as punch that wares are selling from this show. And it only opened yesterday!

So, what else is new? My ongoing flirtation with burnout continues, and it's still working, sort of. I am teaching a raku workshop today, and glazing with the hope of firing the soda kiln on Wednesday. I need to send wares to Belfast, Rockland, Portland, and Rochester, NY.

Plans for this year's Holiday Pottery Shop are chugging along: we have a location! We will be at 184 Water Street in Hallowell. The shop will open early this year; the plan is to have the doors open by November 14th.

Also looking forward to Portland Pottery's First Friday event, which will feature works by faculty and staff. That's November 7th from 5-8.

And in between clay work, I'm still making soap. Because the bars need to cure for a few weeks before they are ready to use, I need to be making now so they will be ready for December. Here's a peek at the curing rack: the green soaps in the center - Mango Sage - and the white & blue ones to the right - Cool Coconut - will be ready by Cyber Monday.

 Keep on keepin' on.