Been mostly hunkered down in the studio with my trailing bottles and buckets of glaze, dipping, drawing, waxing, dipping some more. I expect to come in juuuust under the wire, and deliver my order on its actual due date, November 15th.
When he placed the order, the shopkeeper asked me, "Are you a typical potter?" By itself it's an unanswerable question, so I hesitated. "Potters are always late," he clarified.
Did not know that! If that's the case, I used to be a typical potter. I wanted the orders so badly that I would underestimate my turnaround times: Want a full-kiln order four weeks from today? Sure!! I wasn't lying, not on purpose; I was telling myself I would pull all-nighters and neglect all my other responsibilities to keep my promise. I meant well, but as a practical matter, that just ain't happening. Sleep is only briefly optional, and the rest of la-la-la-la life goes on as well.
During my brief stint as a store owner, I discovered how damaging a missed deadline can be. You have an extremely limited retail season, in the winter, and every day you don't have work is a day you can't sell it. You also have a limited buying budget, and you've committed a chunk of it to buying this person's work, and you'll be expected to pay for it whether it arrives on time or not. By the time you know it will be late - often you find out when it just doesn't arrive on the due date - it's too late to purchase someone else's work to fill your store. If you are on a tight margin, late orders can be the difference between breaking even and not. (Never mind making money. That part never happened to me, not as a store owner.)
I can sometimes do four weeks, for a smallish order, if the order comes in at just the right time in the firing cycle. Six weeks is more likely, and eight weeks is optimal. Better to give a realistic timeline, and meet it, than to promise the moon and lose the account. I'll deliver partial orders if necessary, but I'll never deliver late. Not anymore.
Glazing is the step that bumps right up against the deadline. By the time I am glazing I know when I have to fire in order to unload, sort, and price the work and get it to where it is going on time. My glazing days are often long ones, but once I get in the glazing zone, I lose track of time. I put on Pandora - yesterday I was listening to what I think of as sad-sack radio, a station built around Dwight Yoakam and similar musicians - and crooning, " ♫...watch your broken dreams dance in and out of the beeeeeeeeeams...of a neon moon....♪" For hours. Poor Doug, having to listen to that.
Loading today, firing Wednesday, and unloading Saturday for Sunday delivery.
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.