Friday, April 29, 2016

Loose Stack, Good Stack!

I decided to wait unloading the kiln until tomorrow morning, so I could do it as a Pottery Tour event, but I couldn't wait that long to take a peek; so peek I did. Looks good! Specifically, the soda vapor looks unusually evenly distributed.

You might remember that this load was stacked loosely, because I didn't have enough pots to stack it tightly. I also was taking the opportunity to test the theory that a loose stack might give me better soda distribution. It kind of looked like that is correct, so I posted it to the Soda & Salt Fire facebook group, and lo, turns out everybody, or almost everybody, already knew that! Well, that's me, always the last to know.

I'm kind of excited about this information, because it means that I can fire more often. I always feel guilty firing when the kiln is not packed solid, because I thought I was wasting propane heating up empty air. But it's not a waste if it gives me better pots.

So, hey, learning experience - in a good way, for a change!

If you are local to me, or want to hop a jet for Augusta, ME (we do have an airport) come visit me for the Pottery Tour tomorrow. I'll be unloading the kiln early, because I can hardly wait to see the rest!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two Days!

Two days until the pottery tour on Saturday! As usual I have a crazy lot to do, too much, actually, to get done. And my lawnmower broke. Repeating to myself: It'll be fine. This is not a crisis. I don't have Ebola, I'm not in Syria: those are crises. This is not. 

Messy lawn, whatevs.

I fired the kiln yesterday, in spite of a couple of hilarious (well, sort of)  mistakes I made in loading, due to being in a rush. I forgot to put one of the cone packs in, so I was flying blind on one side...and on the side that did have cones, I had all of the cones facing the same direction! Duh. That wasn't too big a deal, once I realized what had happened...I just had to keep moving my head from side to side while looking in the spy, so I could see which cone was which.

Thinking I may have to build one more layer on to the stack? It is the same height it was before the rebuild but doesn't fire quite the same. Yesterday it struggled to reach temperature, took 14 hours when it should have been done in less than 12. I know that weather can affect the firing as well, and it was a bright, high-pressure day, but it seems like I had this problem last time, too, and I was firing in the rain.

Some potters keep kiln logs, for this very reason. Maybe I should do that! HAHAHAA! J/k, not gonna happen. Sometimes you just gotta accept that you are who you are, and deal with the consequences of that.

Anyway, it's all good. In two days I will be wondering what I was all lathered up about.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tight Schedule, Loose Firing

Trying to squeeze out a firing before the Maine Pottery Tour, with not quite enough time and not quite enough pots means a loose stack and a tight schedule.

I got the kiln loaded last night, but today and tomorrow are taken up with classes. When I get home late Tuesday night, I will brick up the door and light the burners. Wednesday I will fire it off, and then late Friday, I will unload. Or...

I debated (am still debating) doing the unloading as a pottery tour event. It's a chance for visitors to see that exciting moment of the great reveal - kind of a natural for the tour, actually. But I don't have a lot of inventory - my constant problem - so Day 1 would start out a little thin. The opening could be right away Saturday morning, but pots are never ready to go right out of the kiln, they need spiffying up; mostly they need the bottoms sanded.

And then there's the chance that the firing will not be good. The kiln has been a little weird since I rebuilt the stack, so there is that possibility. That wouldn't be the end of the world, but it could be embarrassing.

One good thing: this is a chance to test a theory that I have, that tight stacking might interfere with the flow of vapor through the kiln, resulting in dry areas.Will let you know how that turns out.

I keep reminding myself: either way it will be fine. Things usually are, even things that I get all wound up about.

Even when things go wrong, they are usually fine.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Pottery Tour Giveaway

Trying a new incentive to bring visitors for the Maine Pottery Tour: all guests at my studio can enter to win this soda-fired lidded casserole dish. I'll have entry slip for people to fill out (suddenly realized: I can add them to my mailing list as well!! Oh wait, I guess that's obvious) and do the drawing Sunday at 3 pm, an hour before closing.

The Pottery Tour, if you don't already know, if April 30 - May 1 this year. We have 35 participating studios. If you'd like to download a map to plan your pottery road trip, you can do that here.

I'll be open 10- 5 on Saturday, 11- 4 on Sunday during the tour.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

EZ Up Bait & Switch: A Mini Rant



Do you see a "free shipping" option there? No, neither do I. I wasn't a math major but pretty sure all those numbers are higher than zero. Those are the only shipping options on the page.

I'm kind of irritated right this second, because I'm trying to purchase an EZ-Up canopy, and the website offers free shipping on all orders over $99. My order is well over $99! But when you get to the checkout page, it's like they forgot they ever mentioned free shipping. What the hell?

If they really had never mentioned free shipping, I probably would just wince and pay it. But as it is, I feel tricked, and I balked. I called, but no one's home on the weekends.

Come on, EZ Up, this is bullshit. If you advertise free shipping, you have to actually make free shipping available. Get your act together.

ETA: Screw it, I just went & bought one on Amazon. It's not my favorite place to shop, but when Amazon says the shipping is free, the shipping is by-God free. The tent - same model, new- was also, cheaper by $18.

Friday, April 8, 2016

2016 Maine Pottery Tour

Three weeks, less a bit, until the 2016 Maine Pottery Tour! This year it's a bit early - April 30 - May 1 - to avoid  conflict with Mother's Day weekend. I was actually fine with Mother's Day weekend, but then I am not a mother. My Mom is, though, and she has Opinions. Also, many of the potters on the tour are either moms or dads who like to keep Mother's Day for family. Cool, I get it; the week before it is!

This is either the fifth or the sixth year, depending on how you count, that I have been organizing the tour. We have 35 studios this year. To see an interactive map of the pottery tour, click here.

Check out the Facebook page to see peeks of what's on offer on the tour this year.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Tidbits

Often, when you attend a workshop or lecture, the best thing you learn is not necessarily the topic of the presentation. I call these little gems "tidbits," and I learned a great one at NCECA.

I was watching George Rodriguez in the Process Room - George makes these sculptural pieces that are just encrusted with springs. He said he preferred having the sprigs already made so he could work more immediately, instead of having to make a sprig, put it on, make another, put it on, and so on.

I like to work with sprigs, too, and I also find the making of the somewhat disruptive to my creative process - but they are tiny, and dry out quickly. Wrapping them in a bunch of plastic would work but it's sort of clumsy to dig into the wrap to use them.

So, here's the great idea that possibly everyone else has already thought of: a damp box! Not a giant cabinet lined with thick plastic, just a little rubbermaid container from the grocery store with a couple inches of plaster poured into the box. The plaster holds water but keeps it away from the pieces, the plastic prevents the moisture from escaping, so you get a perfect little humid environment. George said he has kept pieces for weeks in his damp box.

I made myself one, though I have yet to use it. It occurred to me while I was making that this would be even better for my students. My studio is at home, so timing is not a problem for me; but they only have a few hours a week in which to work. (Yes, they can come in during open studio hours, but most of them have other pesky obligations like work and families) It often happens that they will pull six handles, but only have time to attach four before 9 pm rolls around. Damp box to the rescue! Those last two handles will now keep until next week's class.

Here's mine. Just needs a cup of water, and it's ready to be of service!

Friday, April 1, 2016

EZ Livin'

I used to have an EZ-Up. It was sort of my co-pilot, my sidekick, my compagnon de voyage. Together we traveled to art fairs in the Upper Midwest and around the country. It never had much to say, but it let me choose the music, and didn't shirk its job when the time came. It got destroyed a few years ago...let's say in a strong wind, although the story is much stupider than that...and I haven't replaced it.
Last year when I did my first art fair in forever, I borrowed my friend Karen's EZ Up shelter. She has, (I think??) a Vista; a nice little shelter, lightweight, with a wheeled carrying case, and it did, in fact, go up quite easily. The Vista is only $149.
The drawback to the Vista is that it feels a little flimsy - which matters if I am going to be using it alot; and also, the angled legs mean you don't actually get 100 square feet of coverage. So I am leaning towards either the 100s - which is $329, billed as being for entrepreneurs, and includes sidewalls - or the Enterprise, which is a sturdier shelter at $490, is billed as a "commercial grade" shelter, and is also named for a certain starship I am known to admire. Not that that would be the deciding point! But It would be fun to say, "Customers on the starboard bow."
Why now? Because the Maine Pottery Tour is coming up, and I think having the pop-up tent will increase sales alot - maybe almost enough to pay for the shelter, just due to increased visibility.

But here's where I run into trouble: in comparing the 100s and the Enterprise, and I don't see anything to make the latter worth its 50% higher price. So I feel like maybe I am missing something?

Is this a trick question?
So, bringing it to you, dear readers: what shelter do you use? What do you like or dislike about it?