Thursday, December 31, 2015

One More New Thing in The New Year

I really, really need a new laptop, preferably before but possibly shortly after I put my fist through this one. I really can't complain - which doesn't stop me, not at all - because this machine was several years old when I bought it in 2011. (Hint: It's an IBM, not a Lenovo.) All of the software is maxed out; it can't take anything newer. The browsers make me pull my hair with waiting. And now I can't upload files to my website anymore, or type the letter "f" without both hands. The letter A is a little hinky, too.
The good news is, I have proceeds from holiday sales (which, of course, I would have preferred to spend on something else!) The bad news is, I haven't a clue what sort of laptop to buy. I see there are lots in my range, and even below; but how do I know they aren't crap?

So, putting it to all of you: I have $300(ish) to spend, though I'd rather spend less: what kind of laptop should I get? What kind do you use?

ETA: Luckily I was able to repair my two funky keys, so I can stop spelling funky with a "ph." (Not to mention "phuck this shit."And I found a work-around for uploading files: Filezilla! How did I not know about this? Anyway, crisis averted, so I can spend my $300 on what I had originally planned: a dishwasher!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Make Anything

When I was an undergrad, I frequently used to run into this problem: when I really should be studying for my art history test, I really wanted to be reading my anthropology homework. Neither one was a waste of time, but one - the one with the imminent exam - was clearly the better use of my time. Caught between should and would, I sometimes ended up doing neither.

I can get that way in the studio, too. This week, for example, I really should be throwing small things, if I want to stick to my firing plan. But I really want to make vases. Nothing small seems inspiring right now.

I know I make better pots if I make what I feel like, and given my recurring issue - not enough inventory - making anything is better than making nothing. So, vases it is, even if I have to put off the firing in order to give them time to dry. The two above are thrown and altered. I find more and more that I know exactly how I will glaze them while I am building or even while I am throwing; these will have vertical stripes to one side of the slip-dot line.

So much for my schedule! Or maybe I just need to tweak the plan.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Minor Reflections

Y'all know I love the week between Christmas and New Year's. It feel like a time out of time, a chance to catch your breath. I have taken to calling it the Week of Reflection, and I use it to consider the events of the past year, and how I hope the New Year will be different, or the same.

This year, though, I don't have a lot to reflect about. I plan to continue the pots-by-the-pound pricing, because that's working, so why mess with it? My revised time distribution has me spending the majority of my time on my two highest priority tasks: making pots, and seeking accounts which can support higher prices. I am still selling pretty much everything I can make, and while I am doing far better than past years, I'm still struggling by most people's standards. So I need to either A) make more stuff or B) get more money for the stuff I make. I've made a lot of progress, so I think the plan for 2016 is to stay the course.

Looming large in the road ahead, of course, is NCECA, and my process-room demo! Funnily enough, that will be a bunch of time spent that is neither making pots or seeking accounts. Don't care, doing it anyway.

I am also opening an Etsy shop for my soaps & other body products. I don't make quite enough of them to sell wholesale or consignment, but I make more than I can use, or sell within my circle of acquaintances. I haven't loved Etsy in the past (well, I have loved shopping Etsy! Just not being an Etsy seller) but I think soap will be a little different; it's not like each bar needs its own listing. I can create a single listing for each variety and they just keep renewing it when I make a new batch.

I've been meaning, also, to create a quarterly e-newsletter, to reach former customers and students, remind them I exist every once in a while. Maybe 2016 will be the year that happens.

I do want to work on discipline in the coming year. I'm not entirely sure how to address it, the past I haven't stuck well to strict schedules. I'm open to suggestions! Anybody else have a problem getting themselves into the studio as much as they need to be? How did you address it?

I have a firing coming up in the January 8th; once that's done I can repopulate the online Pottery Shop. I sold much of the inventory, and it needed refreshing anyway.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One Hope, One Plan, One Crazy Idea

In the New Year, I hope I can get back to blogging more again.

In the New Year, I plan to make a schedule for my firing cycles, to even out my inventory, so I am not caught with no pots when opportunities arise.

And the crazy idea? Well...

Remember this guy?  Hans Chew, a college student at the School of Arts Singapore, customized a vending machine to dispense handmade ceramics as a kind of performance art pondering the commoditization of art. ("Can we really put a monetary value to art?" the article asks. Answer: Yes. For good or ill, we do it every day, because that's our job.)

Seriously, though, Chew seems like a thoughtful kid, and when I first read about him last spring I admired his cleverness and wit. And then forgot all about him.

Until yesterday, when I was talking with my friend and fellow potter, Mary Kay Spencer of The Potter's House. MK is also my temporary business partner for a few weeks each year, when we, along with the other members of Central Maine Clay Artists, open a pop-up pottery store in whatever vacant store front we can find. The store is doing well this year, and as always we start to imagine keeping it open year round, and as always we run into the pesky problem of staffing. If only we could open a self-serve store! Or, I know, a vending machine! For mugs and other small items. We were joking, but it made me remember Hans Chew. I also thought of the Cupcake ATMs that have been so successful for Sprinkles. Maybe, I thought, out of a joke comes a good idea.

Maybe not, too: it's a little crazy. There's a lot I still don't know. I do know you can get vending machines with big-ish compartments, that rotate to sliding doors instead of dropping the products. I know there are a couple for sale on Ebay right now for $700-800.

I was thinking of it as a summer thing - I can think of an outdoor location where it would be perfect. But it weighs, like, 800 pounds, so moving it would be a world of hassle and expense.

I don't know...I'll bring it up to the group, but maybe there are just too many obstacles. But that's the way of it with ideas; you gotta have bad ones - and sometimes chase them down blind alleys - to have good ones.

If this happens, I promise you will hear it here first.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

So Hot Right Now

Extra, extra, read all about it! Handmade ceramics are all the rage, it says so right here in the New York Times! Right up there with artisanal chocolates and, I dunno, handcrafted gin, I guess. Here's my favorite part:
Julie Carlson, editor in chief of the design website Remodelista, has chronicled the rise... “It’s hard to keep track of them,” she added of new ceramists. “In the beginning, it seemed like there were just a few, but now there are more than we can cover, and more than we can invite to our markets.”
When??? When, in the history of the world, were there ever "just a few" potters?  If you are editor-in-chief of a home design magazine, it seems pretty odd that studio potters would seem like a new thing to you. GET OUT OF NEW YORK FOR A FEW MINUTES. There are all sorts of people out here. Actually probably have always been tons of potters in New York, too.

But it's churlish to complain, given the lovely moment of attention we are enjoying. Let's go see if we can turn it into coffee and heating oil and maybe a dishwasher! Ooo, and you know who else is so hot right now? Hansel, from Zoolander! We're in good company.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Brief Stroll Down the Road Not Taken

I am sometimes asked what I would have been, if I hadn't been an artist. The answer changes: sometimes I think I would have made a fine dog trainer (behaviorist, please) or bartender or engineer - I like to solve problems. Most often, though, I think if I hadn't been a potter, I would have been a window dresser. It was my favorite job at KRA, back in the day. I love making the little tableaus; it engages both creativity and resourcefulness, and is satisfyingly physical work.

I had a chance to utilize those skills again for the Portland Pottery holiday window. A group of us created this display using pedestals, hula hoops, Christmas lights and ornaments. Pottery, also! And a branch or two for good measure. The occasion is, of course, Portland Pottery's 25th annual Holiday Show, opening December 17th. (The party is from 6-9. You should come!) The show is up until the 20th.

In other news, the Holiday Pottery Shop is having its best year ever; I'm making soap like a soap-making machine that makes a lot of soap; and getting ready for a firing, hopefully in a couple of weeks.