Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Goal Setting: 19 for 2019

I've been listening to a podcast called Happier in the studio. It's all about small habits & practices that contribute to a happier life. Since I listen to several episodes at a time, so many ideas flying at me can get a little overwhelming, but there are valuable nuggets in there. One that came up a couple episodes ago was 19 in 2019, a list of 19 things you want to do in the new year. It was remarkably clarifying for me, as much for the things that didn't make the list as for the things that did. In considering the candidates, I had to weigh whether committing to doing this thing was realistic. and if not why not. Several of the things I'd like to do I left off the list - get the house painted, take a yoga class - after realizing that, though I might like to do those things, there are reasons why I haven't already. I haven't had the house painted because I don't have money for that. I haven't done it myself because there are more urgent/ important demands on my time. I don't take a yoga class because more committed blocks in my schedule make it harder to find days to fire. And so on. I had a feeling of releasing burdens by acknowledging that some things just are not going to happen, for legit reasons.

Here's my list, with the studio-related items highlighted. As you see, I was (so far!) only able to come up with 17. This is also a relief: there isn't really much about my life that I would like to change.

  1. Pedal 100 miles a week
  2. At least one canoe trip
  3. Finish the kitchen counter
  4. Learn how to felt soap
  5. Get credit card down 30%
  6. One social thing per month
  7. Studio work & firings on schedule
  8. Declutter hallway desk
  9. 20 hrs per week in the studio
  10. Use Instagram better for business
  11. Pour concrete front walkway
  12. 5 postcards to voters per month
  13. Almost-daily 2 minutes of yoga
  14. 1 blog post /wk
  15. Drink more water
  16. Increase online sales
    • Keep better track of inventory
  17. NCECA
  18. .

 A couple of these I feel funny, surely I shouldn't have to set a goal to get myself in the studio 20 hours a week! It's my vocation, and my calling, and more than that it's my freakin' job! Should that happen effortlessly? But when I looked at the other things in my schedule - teaching 6 classes, 6 hours of commuting a week, household stuff, helping out my elderly mom - I realized, no wonder I have a hard time finding enough time! Again, it was with a sense of laying a burden down: I'm not just lazy or disorganized or a fuck-up - I have a lot on my plate. So setting that goal no longer seems silly.

Anyway, as Gretchen Rubin says at the end of every Happier podcast: Onward & upward! Next thing to do is make a list of what I need to get these things accomplished.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Trimming Hack: Throw a Wet Clay Chuck

I enjoy almost every aspect of ceramics. I love throwing, I love handbuilding. I love pulling handles and stamping and slip trailing. I love glazing, and loading the kiln, and firing. I can even enjoy the quiet focus - the zone - of mixing glazes.

What's missing from that list? I do not love trimming. I find it tedious, so anything that I can throw without a trimmed foot, I do. Bowls need to be trimmed, because the extra clay is holding up the curve of the bowl while it's still wet. Cylinders, on the other hand, I can get all the clay up into the wall, and pull the whole wall to the thickness that I want.

And that's a good thing, because cylinders are a bear to trim - anything that the rim is not the widest point is more difficult. Nevertheless I occasionally get a whim - or a compulsion, more like - to make mugs with foot rings. Cylinders, in other words, that need to be trimmed.

Like yesterday! So today I had the job of trimming these shapes which, when placed rim down on the wheel would have high centers of gravity & little stability. Here's how I deal with that:

First, I center a hump that is narrower that the mouth of the mugs at the top, and wider at the bottom. I's also taller than the interior shape of the mugs.
Next I place the mug upside down over the hump, adjusting it this way & that until the bottom is horizontal and the mug is centered. Then I give the bottom a little spank, to suction it onto the hump. 
Then I just trim as usual. This photo is deceptive - trimming is a 2-handed operation for me - but I needed one hand to hold the phone. 
And, boom, foot ring. 
If your mugs are not all the same height & width - I was playing around with different proportions yesterday - you can just recenter the same hump a little taller or wider or whatever is appropriate for the next pot on deck.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Two of These Things

♫ Two of these things
Belong together
Two of these things
Are kind of the same
But one of these things is not like the other ones
Tell me which one
And win the game! ♪

I used to make clay fruit - apples & pears, mostly -  not out of any great creative compulsion, but often just to amuse myself. I wasn't aiming for a trompe l'oeil effect; what I liked was getting the shape & surface right, then choosing a glaringly incorrect color. I'd forgotten that - even that I used to make them - until I was cleaning out some kitchen drawers & found this one. It happens to be a perfect albino twin to the two real apples I had on hand.

Hope your Wednesday has been great. 🌝🍎

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Committed: See You In MPLS!!

Just booked my flight for NCECA, which is in Minneapolis this year. I can't afford to go to NCECA every year, but since I lived in the Twin Cities for several years, and haven't been back in almost 20 years, I couldn't resist the opportunity.

Our first real snowstorm of the year is happening right now (18-24" predicted, although forecast have been a little less reliable since the federal government has been shut down - some of the folks who interpret the data are furloughed, I guess? IDK) This weather is making me remember that Minneapolis is not a garden spot, in March! It will still be deep winter, in fact; but it's not the weather I am travelling for.

Workshops, demos, discussions, exhibits, those are all marvelous reasons to attend the conference, but I am mostly excited to see old friends, and maybe make some new ones.

I've been listening to a new podcast in the studio - this one is called "Happier," and it's all about little actions and habits that make overall for a happier life. A theme the main presenter, Gretchen Rubin, keeps returning to is the idea that relationships are one of, if not the, key feature in happy lives. During the Week of Reflection, I arrived at the conclusion that I don't put enough effort into maintaining friendships, and resolved to do better. Here's me, keeping a promise!

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


My wheel has started to make a horrible grinding noise, like so:
The annoyingness ...that's a word, right? Hmm, maybe not. How about the "irritateousity?" Wait, no, "vexatiousness!" That is a word!...OK, the vexatiousness of this sound does not quite come through in the clip; it's so loud IRL that I can't hear my podcast while I am centering. I have a vague sense that it's something to do with bearings...anybody know how to fix this?

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Notebook

Great movie, right? But that's not the one I'm talking about.

I keep a notebook with me at every art fair, to jot down ideas to improve the display, or note what's selling, or sketch pieces I want to make when I get back in the studio, or just keep my mind occupied during the slow times. I believe boredom has its own sinkhole energy that people can smell or feel, and that they will stay out of any booth exuding it. Yes, I know this is absurd! Sitting during a dead spell at an art fair does strange things to your mind. Also, it's true, absurd or not.

But I digress.

The point was, I was reading over these notes, and I see a pattern over the last year: at every event, I noted that people were buying small items - under $20 or $30. In some cases, like the Common Ground Fair, which is an enormous event involving a LOT of walking around, this seemed to explain itself. But the Portland Fine Craft Show? The Holiday Pottery Shop? That is new or far more pronounced this year than other years.

Although I am not an economist ( I don't even play one on TV!) I can think of some reasons for this, such as the shadow of an impending economic slump. For the purposes of this blog, the reasons for that don't matter (because I'm not an economist! I might have some ideas but seriously, wtf do I know?) What matters is my response. If I know smaller things have been selling, I should expand my offerings of smaller things.

So, my job for today: think of some items (that I will like making! that still matters) that I can make & sell for under $20. Buttons, Christmas ornaments, press-molded soap dishes...stuff like that. What are your small-ticket items?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Be It Resolved 2019

New Year's Resolutions are awesome! Don't let anybody tell you different. They get a bad rap, because people make unrealistic resolutions, or focus on the end result rather than the behavioral changes or the necessary steps. I always make resolutions - some more successful than others, but choosing them is fun, and trying to keep them is also fun! It's kind of like gamifying my life. So, without further ado, my resolutions for 2019:


  • The first one's easy: pedal 100 miles per week on the FitDesk. It's easy because I am already doing that, without even thinking about it. It's good to have an easy one to set me up for success. 
  • The second is harder, but more fun: I didn't see nearly enough of friends last year. Social things tend to fall to the wayside without a concrete plan to make them happen. So, here's the plan: one social event per month. Movies with Cheryl & Sarah, drinks with Deb, something artsy or athletic with Helen, literally anything at all with MF...these are all things I want to do, and I mean to do, but without a plan they just don't happen. Now they will.
  • I used to have a tradition of learning one new specific skill every year. Nothing profound - one year I learned to make cheesecake, another year I learned to ski (not very well!!) The year I tried to learn to juggle blew a big hole in my streak, but I've decided to revive it: this year I am going to learn to felt soap. I'm told it's super easy, and there's nothing wrong with choosing something easy! We don't want another juggling debacle. 

  • More studio time! I sat down with my schedule this week, trying to plan out production & firing...and MAN! No wonder it feels like I never have enough studio time! I just...really don't have enough time for all the stuff I have to do. I am hoping the FitDesk will help - don't have to find time to work out any more - as will Mobot. But to get enough studio time, I'm still going to have to de-prioritize something else. I'm still cogitating on this one - what can go without making me some version of crazy? 
    • Contained in the above paragraph is part of the solution: make a schedule & stick to it. It's harder to go down a rabbit hole of household projects if it says right on the schedule that I am supposed to be in the studio right now. 
  • I need to get better at assessing opportunities - so many times I have a show or sale that I know would have gone better if I had brought the right inventory. Example: the Common Ground Fair. Now, I did well at that fair, but I would have done better if I'd had more small items, and looking back, that was entirely predictable - it's actually an agricultural fair (that doesn't do it justice, but the point is, it isn't primarily an art fair) and it's HUGE, and the parking is sometimes miles away - so unsurprisingly, people don't want to carry big serving bowls around. Often you can make a good guess as to what will sell; I just need to make a more deliberate effort to do that. 
Many of my resolutions seem to come down to "I will work harder!" like Boxer from Animal Farm. Story of a potter's life, right? Nevertheless, I wish you all the best in this year of 2019.