Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Go Around It

7:4:4:1 plus honey

That's my recipe for lip balm. 7 parts beeswax, 4 parts coconut oil, 4 parts sweet almond oil, 1 part vitamin E oil, pluse a teaspoon of honey. A little spash (maybe 1/2 a teaspoon) of flavoring (these are chocolate) and, in this case, the TEENSIEST bit of gold mica - a bit the size of a grain of rice. I measured this batch in grams, which made 13 tins of balm. That's a lot for just us, so I will freeze most of these & bring them out as I need them. 

I wrote earlier about a creative blockage I've been feeling for a few months now. It's been so hard to push myself into the studio. But making stuff? That's who I am. 

The creative urge itself isn't exactly gone, though; I still feel a desire to make stuff, useful stuff. Since it wasn't working, with clay, I'm making other things: cookies, soap, lip balms. I'm not fighting the blockage; I'm going around it. 

And it's working! I don't know why I've been creatively constipated specifically around clay, though I have some theories. Since I've been making other stuff, some of the blockage around clay has lifted, too. Last night I went in the studio & assembled all the leftover bisqueware - you know, the extra pieces you always have that didn't quite fit in the glaze kiln? Every firing, there's a few. I think I have enough "extra" pieces to fill a glaze by now. It doesn't take a lot of creative mojo to dip a pot in flashing slip, or to wax a bottom, or to mix up wadding, so I started doing those things. Soon I found myself humming, thinking of glaze ideas for the pots. 

Beam says all may yet be well

ETA: This mixture was still too hard! Usable, but not easily. Gonna try a 1:1:1 plus honey (Beeswax, coconut oil, sweet almond oil. Nevermind the vitamin E)

Resolution: Normal


I've been working on my 21 for 2021 list, because that worked so well in 2019, but honestly having trouble coming up with goals! Maybe because all I really want for 2021 is to have a normal year. I don't really care about the "upward" part of "Onward and upward." Mostly I want to have a year in which I make pots, teach classes, see my friends and family, pet my cats, and nobody gets sick. (There are a lot of things I want for the world, too, and while I will do my bit -have been, for years - those are largely out of my control.) 

With that in mind, many of the goals on my list are quite modest. I want to continue to use my Fitdesk 100 miles a week, to write 5 or more postcards to voters every month, to add a fruit or vegetable every meal. In 2019 one of the goals deeply-introverted me set was to do one social thing a month (outside of family), but while I think that was a good idea & helped me strengthen friendships, I probably can't commit to that in the New Year. I don't know when I will be getting the vaccine. 

One of the more ambitious goals on my list is to get my last credit card balance paid off next year. I've been struggling with that debt for idk, like 20 years, and I think I can finally slay that dragon. "Get house painted" is also a big one. (If I can get a painter to return my phone calls, that is!) I've also got continuations of traditions like birthday and anniversary adventures, and a canoe trip - an once-event that has rather fallen by the wayside. 

Those are all personal & household - I also have some professional ones that I'll write about later. 2021 is gonna be all about doable goals. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Week of Reflection 2020

We've almost made it, out the other side of this difficult year. The Week of Reflection has arrived. 

My annual tradition is to use the super-chill week between Christmas and New Year's to assess what worked & what didn't in the old year, and set some intentions for the new. Assessing 2020 is a little different, of course, because what counts as a win - still alive! roof over our heads! income more or less intact! - would be the bare minimum any other year. I can't even take credit for any of those things; it feels like it was just a matter of luck that we didn't get sick, or that the studio where I teach did not have an outbreak. 

Nevertheless! 2020 was not just a pandemic shitshow. I learned some things! In the early months, I learned how to snowshoe, or rather, I learned that I love to snowshoe, since there's not much to learn: it's more or less just walking, with snowshoes strapped on  your feet. I learned how to make royal icing, and to decorate with it; I learned how to roast garlic. Not to be too treacly, but Doug & I learned that we really don't get tired of each other's company! The four months of shutdown went pretty smoothly for us, aside from the natural anxiety of the situation. Maybe because we each have a space - studio & office - to retreat to and to call our own. 

I plan to spend this week thinking about what I would like 2021 to look like, keeping in mind there may be large factors out of my control. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Great Garlic Roast-Off


I am thinking of adding garlic roasters to my line up of items for the spring 2021 season, so I made a couple as class demos, and so that I would be able to take them for a test...roast. The big question: hole in the lid, or no? 

Today is the big day: got the garlic, got the oil, got 2 stoneware roasters, one with hole, one without. Let's give this a whirl. 

I started by removing all the paper skin that I could without disassembling the head. Then I cut off the pointy tips (not the root end!)

Then I put a teaspoon of water into the bowl of each garlic roaster, and placed the garlic root side down into it. I drizzled some olive oil over it (I just used the cheap, pale kind; you may want to use extra virgin) and covered it. I place the roasters in a cold oven, turned it up to 400°, and let it roast for 45 minutes. 

There was not a great deal of difference between the two, but I think the one without the hole was easier to wash - the garlic didn't bake onto the dish. Also, bonus: roasted garlic is amazing! I thought it was just like regular garlic only soft and spreadable, but it's not! It's much milder, nutty and almost sweet. 

One of these heads we spread on bread to enjoy; the other I mixed with some olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese and dressed some pasta & greens with it. 

For the potters: the roaster is thrown in 2 parts: the bowl is a shallow dish with a gallery for the lid to rest on, and took about a pound of clay; the lid was thrown as a deep bowl whose rim matched the outer edge of the gallery (you'll need calipers.) It required about 1.25 pounds of clay. At leatherhard the lid is trimmed to a smooth dome & the knob is added. They are fired together during both the bisque and the glaze firings. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Well, If I Needed A Reason


If I needed a more motivation to get into the studio & make stuff, my youngest feline just provided it. My favorite mug & pitcher are both visible - or, you know, chunks of them are - in the center of the carnage. 

My husband is quick to point out that we don't know it was SkinnyCat who did the deed - it could have been Bobcat Goldthwaite or the ghost of Jacob Marley, who knows? I mean only one creature makes a hobby of knocking things off tables, but - true! - usually small things, not loaded dish-draining racks. 

Ah, well. Cats are spirit guides, sent to make sure we don't get too attached to our material possessions. Anyway, I can always make more. 

This Explains A Lot!

This seems appropriate for the shortest day of the year: just read this fascinating article in The Guardian, suggesting that early humans may have hibernated like bears! You know that winter feeling, that it's so so hard to get going & be productive? You wake up ready for a nap. Or is that just me? I especially have trouble doing anything more strenuous than petting a cat after the sun goes down at, like, 3:56 PM. (NOT JOKING.)

This is a bit problematic for me, as a self-employed potter with a part-time gig teaching classes. The stuff I need to get done doesn't fit in daylight hours! At least now I have an excuse, flimsy as it is. 

Perhaps I shall resort to the strategic use of coffee. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Getting My Sh!t Together

This year has been so weird & unlike any other I have lived that it sometimes felt like I was living in the dot of the "i" in Jeremy Bearimy, not in a good way!  I let a lot of things slide in that feeling of unreality & disconnectedness, but this year was real and it is connected...and now I have to sort out everything that I put off, starting with my accounting. 

In 2019 - a year when my sh!t actually was together and my ducks in tidy rows - I started using QuickBooks Self-Employed and was delighted with how easy it made my taxes. Turns out it only helps if you actually keep up with categorizing the transactions - how wacky! And, boyoboy, were my transactions a mess in 2020. Between the shutdown, the unemployment snafu, losing my wallet, and having my laptop stolen, I was just using whatever card was working & available at the moment I needed it. So, yeah. It's a dumpster fire. 

Nevertheless, the arrival of the 2021 art fair applications has jolted me out of the dot of the i. Life is recommencing! I can't just keep us afloat for today & let tomorrow take care of itself. And oh my god, do I need to put out that dumpster fire in my bookkeeping. 

SO, to-do list for today:

  1. Apply for the Common Ground Country Fair. It's a more complicated application than most & even has some essay questions. 
  2. Work on that QuickBooks Shitshow. Better make a fresh pot of coffee first.
  3. Get some glazing done
  4. Maybe make more cookies? I have a new design I want to try. 
  5. Since life is recommencing, I want to do a thing that worked really well in 2019, and set some intentions: My 21 for 2021. Even though that got laughed out of the universe in 2020, not giving up! 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Holy Crap It's Time Already

In the random way of things - and it is at least a little random - last year I got into every fair to which I applied. Then God said, "HA!" and all of them were cancelled. I took a moment...maybe two...or perhaps as many as four...to be bummed about that, then set it aside & got on with the business of surviving. 

Well, the time has come once again to start the application process. It will be an act of hope, tinged with a bit of anxiety; what if it was a fluke? I know there's a random factor, what if the dice all roll the wrong way for me this time? 

To complicate matters, in August someone stole my laptop, which contained the images which succeeded so well last year. Three of them I had stored in Dropbox, but I have not succeeded in recovering the 4th - so I will not be applying with the exact some images. Maybe there was some alchemic magic in those 4? 

Well. There is one way to find out, I guess. Topping today's to-do list: Apply to the Common Ground Fair

Wish me luck! 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Brain Fog

I have been suffering from a terrible creative constipation since at least September. I managed to make a few ornaments, class demos, & some pretty nice cookies, but anything requiring real focus - basically all of my normal body of work - has been out of reach for me for months. I keep reading about how chronic stress affects creativity (spoiler alert: BADLY) and boy, does it sound familiar. But then I feel guilty: what have I got to complain about? Other people have been harmed so much more. 

I've been lucky. I know this. My teaching job has been back since July (on break now), and my studio is in my home. Though our daily covid-19 case numbers are getting scary (over 600 today), Maine has one of the lowest rates in the country. 

Nevertheless, we are all living the pandemic. I fear for my mom, who's 87, and for my 2 best friends, who both have conditions that put them at higher risk for bad covid outcomes. (Such conditions are very common! Asthma, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, even pregnancy)  One of them is in Minneapolis, an essential worker who has to take public transportation to work every day! Nor does one have to be in a risk group; covid sometimes kills young, otherwise healthy people. 

On the economic side, because things are getting steadily worse here in Maine, I fear my job will be suspended. (I know the governor won't do that unless it's necessary, but I hope it won't be necessary.) Even in good times, worrying is my hobby, which comes in handy when things are not so good. I have saved every spare penny since March, knowing I would have few or no sales events, and that my job could be eliminated at any time. (And it was, for a few months. Nancy Pelosi saved my ass then.) 

Anyway I am getting off track. What I started to say was, my creative juices have basically dried up. I was feeling guilty about this - after all, my go-to fix for troubles is always: I will work harder - but it turns out I'm not alone. Many people are feeling a lack of creativity as a direct side effect of chronic stress. I saw a post on facebook that explained it beautifully, and I wish I could find it, but I can't, so I'll try to sum it up: your brain understands chronic stress as: you are in a dangerous environment. It reallocates resources away from creative energy to keeping you alive. You don't feel like doing anything because your brain is all: Conserve your strength! Keep your head down!

This is somewhat reassuring to me, because that means it will come back. Looking forward to that day when we walk together in the beautiful sun, and we get it together and we get it undone. Hopefully this blog will get more interesting again, too! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


♫ Ooh child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh child
Things'll get brighter
Ooh child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh child
Things'll get brighter
Some day, yeah
We'll put it together and we'll get it undone
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter
Ooh child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh child
Things'll be brighter ♫

Sunday, December 6, 2020

And Now For Something Completely Different


Well. Not completely. 

I watch a lot of cookie decorating videos. I started because they give me ideas for slip trailing, and they sort of became my stress relief. You can only watch so many cookie decorating videos before you want to try it yourself! 

It just so happens that this year I have more time than Christmases past (guess why) so now seemed like the perfect time. I mean, Christmas and cookies go together, right? 

I wanted to do something a little less stereotypical, so I chose a couple of images related to carols: In the Bleak Midwinter (the bare trees), and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. The metallic highlights are cake paint; I might skip that step next time, and also the little churches need work - they are kinda janky! But overall I am quite pleased. 

I've posted the cookie & royal icing recipes over at Wicked Cozy, and some in-process pics. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Snow So Wet It's Almost Rain...

...rain so cold it's almost snow. We are having both at the same time, here in Central Maine, and where am I? Why, carrying bricks from the kiln yard into the studio. I have to get them under a roof before they are frozen under a foot of snow. 

I'm not doing that right this second, of course, but I was, five minutes ago. We've just come off a multi-day dry, relatively warm spell when I could have gotten it done in comfort but nooooo. Laziness doesn't pay, kiddos. It always comes back to bite you in the ass. 

In my defense - not that tu m'accuse, dear reader! - I have been dealing with a very sick cat: several vet visits, pills, even subcutaneous fluids. Which really did make her feel noticeably better! I thought she would recover, but we lost Snowball last night. I had checked on her around 8, and she was resting but her breathing was labored. She was with her favorite co-cat, Jack. When I looked in on them 20 minutes later, she was gone. 

Snowball was 18 years old. The length & comfort of her life will be some comfort to me, maybe in a day or two, I suppose. She came to me 6 years ago after she lost her people, both within a year, and the family could not take her. While it's commonly known that the term for a male cat is a tom, fewer people know that a female cat is called a queen; and if you knew Snowball, you'd know why. Seems appropriate that we'd have bad weather today, like how it always rains in TV funerals. 

Rest easy, sweet girl. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

But What Am I Gonna Do With All These Ornaments?


As the numbers of coronavirus cases rise in Maine, we are implementing extra precautions. One casualty: the Portland Pottery Holiday Show & Sale. Back in October it seemed plausible that it might happen but the virus had other ideas. I am bummed about this but I know other people have suffered real losses, and I can't dwell too much on minor disappointments. (The loss of income is another layer of suckage but my planning assumed poor sales this holiday season, and they have not been as bad as I thought; so I'm covered.) Anyway it will be twice as amazing next year due to pent up demand. 

It leaves just one question: what am I gonna do with all these Christmas ornaments? 

There was a time I would have stuck my nose in the air at the idea of making something as cutesy as Christmas ornaments. What a stick I was! Painting ornaments is a ton of fun & they make people smile. "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution!" and if having fun is some kind of aesthetic sin, I don't want to be taken seriously. Although to be fair I put a lot of that on myself. Glad I relaxed a bit in my old age. 

Monkitree in Gardiner is carrying ornaments in addition to my function ware as part of the Holiday Pottery Shop. If they get a mad run on ornaments, I'm ready for 'em! Otherwise I'll sell what I can online (only 'til December 11, because the USPS is saying they can't guarantee delivery before Chirstmas after that date) and be well ready for next year. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Cyber Monday!

 Happy Cyber Monday, friends! Enter the coupon code CYBERMONDAY at checkout to get 15% your purchase at Fine Mess Pottery, today only!

Let me take a second to walk you through the steps to create a coupon code in Square, because it's not at all intuitive. At the dashboard, there is a menu of tiles on the left.
Choose "online" then "Go to Square Online."
There you will see a menu on the left: click "Items" which will drop down a submenu. From the submenu, choose "Coupons, " then the blue button at the top right which says "Add Coupon." A form will open. From here it's pretty clear:
  1. Type in the code you want people to use as a promo code - something that will reference the reason for the discount.
  2. You can enter a number if you want your coupon's use to be limited; like, "First five customers get 10% off!' or whatever. Or you can leave that field blank if you want anyone who uses the code to get the discount.
  3. Choose a start and end date. These can be the same for a one-day event, like, say Cyber Monday!
  4. Choose your discount. It can be a specific dollar amount, or a percentage, or free shipping.
  5. Choose what it applies to: Everything? Only items from a specific category? Only orders over a certain dollar amount? The default is "Everything," so if that's what you want you don't have to change anything here.
  6. Click "Save" and then share your coupon code with your social media - no one will no to use it if you don't tell them.
Happy Cyber Monday!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Email Marketing: Small Business Saturday!

 Remember last year, when I was making resolutions for this one? You know, "20 for 2020" and all that? That was funny, wasn't it? 😄😄😄 Not at the time, really, but the idea of doing anything other than just clinging on with our fingernails during 2020 turned out to be sort of a tragedy of the absurd. 

Nevertheless, I will probably try to put together a 21 for 2021 list, because it actually was a very successful approach in 2019. I didn't achieve everything on the list, but many I did, and the others I got much closer than I would have otherwise. When I make the list for 2021, it will surely include more regular email marketing. I've been meaning to do this, anyway, but have been reminded & inspired to do it after reading Milly Welsh's book

Toward that end, I sent out a Mailchimp email for Small Business Saturday. I was feeling discouraged because fewer than half the people who receive these even open them - only 49.8%, of the last campaign. (Approximately. 😉) Then I learned that two percent is a more common number, and I felt better! Getting folks to open them is half the battle. 

Only half, of course; in addition to building relationships, reminding my customers that I exist, and telling them where in the real world they can find Fine Mess Pottery, I'd certainly love it if a few sales resulted from this campaign. Since time immemorial (as evidenced by multiple posts over multiple years on this very blog!) that has been my dilemma*: how to turn engagement into sales. Would love any tips on this that you guys have learned from your email marketing experiences. 

Anyway, if you would like to check out the missive, click here. If you'd like to receive updates & news from Fine Mess Pottery, let's take this subscription form for a test drive: 


* indicates required
/ ( mm / dd )

ETA: OMG that actually worked! Thanks you guys! 

*I hate how that word looks! When I learned it in 3rd grade, it was spelled "dilemna" - which I acknowledge makes less phonetic sense, but hey, welcome to the English language, where nothing makes any sense, at least not consistently. The phonetically correct version - which is now the actual correct version - looks ignorant to me. Turns out I am not alone

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Far Apart But Near In Heart: Thanksgiving 2020

In an ordinary year, I would be chopping root vegetables right now, and Doug would be rearranging furniture in preparation for the family. 2020 is no ordinary year, so instead it will be just us today, a small turkey, a couple of side dishes & a pie

It's been a challenging year but we nevertheless have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of a vaccine on its way, and a new administration in January. I'm grateful for loved ones near & far, to still have work, that everyone here is healthy, right down to the turtle. 
I am grateful for all the dedicated medical professionals who have served us this year at great risk to themselves; many of whom are working this very day. 

I am grateful for good coffee, and fluffy pillows. For clay and the alchemy that is firing. For a warm dry home, for fuzzy socks, for the sound of cats purring. 

I miss my family and the busy occasion this ought to be, but we will be together next year. Stay safe & well, my friends, and Happy Thanksgiving to you. 

ETA a secular prayer for Thanksgiving: 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Adapt or Perish: The Covid Edition


One thing I've learned in the Time of Covid is that I could really stand to up my online game up. I try, but there's just so much I don't know! 
Like a lot of artists, when I first started selling online, I kinda thought it would be easy-peasy. List the items, then watch the sales roll in! As we all know by now, there ain't no free lunch for nothin. Getting a website is like opening a store in your basement; nobody is gonna know it is there unless you get the word out. That's where I really need help. 

Luckily there is a solution to not knowing much about a thing you need to know, and that is learning about it. I've been meaning to get this book for a while now: Guide to Marketing Art & Crafts Online. Milly Welsh, the author, is a friend & the webmaster for the Maine Pottery Tour.  

I skimmed through it briefly upon arrival - it is absolutely packed with helpful information - enough, even, that I felt a little overwhelmed. I took some time to digest it, reminded myself that I don't have to do everything, then started reading again. As I said, there's tons in there, but let me share a couple of bits that I found especially helpful: 
  • In the section Make Your Customers Repeat Customers: 
    Provide a great unboxing experience....Sellers who do this right make opening their packages part of the experience. Some examples of improving your unboxing experience are: packaging your products with branded materials inside, including swag (think pens, stickers, & otehr useful items with your branding on them), you can even decorate the outside of your boxes with stickers or graphics.
  • On photographs for retail sites: Show your product in use
    (Honestly that makes sense & it's something I almost never do. Look for that to change!)
  • On Keywords: One thing to consider is that you probably won't be able to compete right away for highly competitive keywords. I'm pretty good at SEO, but even I wouldn't necessarily go after a really broad term like "pottery." Instead I might go after a really specific keyword like "Pottery Coffee Mugs" (because even a term like "coffee mugs" is likely just oing ot be a little too competitive.) 
    Again: makes sense! But I wouldn't have thought of it. 
There's a section on keywords generally & how to use them, a big section on Etsy. You may remember that I hate Etsy (at least as a seller) but I know it's a good option for many people, especially if you are just starting online sales. Milly also explains the strengths & best uses of the various social media platforms, how to use Google Analytics, how to create a Facebook ad, and ways to drive traffic to your website. 
If you, like me, are looking for ways to expand your online sales in these pandemic times, I really recommend it. It's $20, + $4 shipping, at this link.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Procrastination Energy


I haven't fired as often this year as other years, because obviously. I am gearing up to do a glaze firing soon, though, and for weeks have been putting off grinding my kiln shelves. I enjoy nearly every aspect of #claylife - even stuff like mixing glazes, although it took years to appreciate the calm zone of concentration that requires - but I can't really feel the love for kiln maintenance, so I put it off. And put it off, and put it off. 

So I don't feel guilty for not doing the dreary job that I know needs to be done, I do every damn thing else. I can get a crazy-lot of stuff done when I am procrastinating kiln shelves! I built websites & took photos, posted items online, packed & shipped orders, raked my lawn, cleaned my house like crazy, even applied to refinance my mortgage. Anything, anything other than grinding kiln shelves!

Which is silly. So today I put on my big-girl pants & did the deed. The whole thing took less than an hour, and I was extra thorough! Will I remember that it's really no big deal, next time? 

Probably not. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Lot to Learn: A tale of Some Ridiculously, Laughably Terrible Photos

 In olden times, before the internet, I only needed photos of my work (in slide form) to apply to art fairs and send to stores. The photos were representative of the body of work, not necessarily intended to sell that individual piece. Once or twice a year I'd take five or ten pieces to a photographer who specialized in ceramic art, and pay him a hundred bucks or so, and he'd shoot the photos I'd use for my applications. 

Then along came the interwebs, and online sales, and suddenly I needed photos to sell individual pieces. Getting a pro to shoot these was out of the question, in terms of time - I'd have to schedule a shoot after every firing! - and money. Luckily digital photography appeared on the scene at the same time, so I learned to shoot my own photos

I'm not Peter Lee, but I can shoot adequate enough photos of pottery to get me into art fairs, and that's been good enough for me. Today, tho! Today I shot some Christmas ornaments, with the intention to list them online. Damn these were hard to photograph! The first shots were so ridiculously, laughably terrible that I had to show you. 

These were shot in a south-facing room on a sunny day, with three true-white photo bulbs around them. They look like they were shot at midnight in a mine shaft! I think my mistake was choosing a white background for them - just some freezer paper I had around. The camera tried hard to balance the reflected light, and this dreadful gloom was the result. Next time I will choose a grey background.

These are just some fun little doodads - I plan to list them online, but I won't be applying anywhere with ugly sweater ornaments, I assure you, so I don't plan to reshoot; I'll just "fix it in post," as the cool kids say. 

Was it Jimmy Buffet who said, "If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane?" I think that's especially true for laughing at ourselves. Anyway, enjoy my terrible horrible no-good-very-bad photos. I've got some editing to do. 

ETA: You can see the listings, and the photos after editing, here

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Just Saying Hi!

Checking in with my peeps! What is going on with your lives? I hope you are all staying safe out there, wearing your masks, social distancing, all that. Like a lot of families, we have atomized our Thanksgiving plans: each household celebrating individually. Doug & I will have a scaled down dinner; not the whole nine yards, but turkey plus the extras we like best: stuffing & mashed potatoes for him, garlic parmesan brussels sprouts & pumpkin pie for me. 

Though it seems like we are coming into an even worse covid-19 spike than we have seen yet, we all continue to learn how to keep our businesses afloat when in-person events are risky. The Central Maine Clay Artists* , a professional group I belong to, has for the past 11 years rented a vacant storefront for the month of December to hold a pop up shop, the Holiday Pottery Shop. None of us were entirely comfortable with that level of public interaction this year, so we accepted an invite from Clare Marron, the proprietor of Monkitree, a handmade good shop in Gardiner, to host us. 

We'll be setting up late Saturday afternoon, and on Tuesday, the shopping will begin. 

Portland Pottery will forgo our usual end-of-year bash - that one is a no brainer - but is still planning to hold a show & sale. That event happens December 14th - 17th. 

In addition, like many artists, I am trying to do better about my online presence. I know what to do - basically - I just need to do it. Staying afloat during Covid-19 has also required me to be a little creative about my income stream: I make a lot more cat urns now (RIP kitties; sadly just as many die in pandemic years as any other time) and I have been building websites for artists who, until now, didn't think they needed one. If you need a website, BTW, give me a shout! A basic site starts at $300. 

Today I have some pots to ship, some photos to shoot, a website to update, and a class to teach, so I best get going. 

*Go ahead! Click the link! I built the site. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

At Last, New Pots!


It has been sometime since I listed new pots in the online store. I actually took these photos at the end of August, meaning to get them listed, but only just finished up today. Without orders and art fairs to propel me, I have been enjoying (?) a slow making season. I put in the question mark, because while I have been doing more hiking and biking, and I very much enjoy those things, I miss the rhythm of make-glaze-fire-sell, make-glaze-fire-sell. It feels weird to have no particular reason to make stuff! And it has ever been my curse that I have difficulty getting motivated when the shelves are full. 

But there I go, wandering off topic! What I came here to post about it, New Pots In The Shop!! It's not too soon to think about holiday shopping! Here are a couple of my favorites; click the photos to shop. 

You may recognize this one from a post a few weeks ago, naming it my fave from the firing. I have a
policy to sell my favorites (unless they are seconds) since the whole point of being a potter, for me, is for the pots to be out in the world making people happy. I confess I did use this one for a couple of weeks! 

Dotopia! Dots, stamps, slip trailing, a mantle of silver soda glaze...this little sugar bowl has it all. 

Candy strip sugar & creamer! The white glaze got that satiny sheen. like the icing on a danish, that it sometimes does. I love the animated quality, especially of the creamer. 

I also included a few smaller items this time - soap dishes, mini vases. I sometimes hesitate to include lower end items, because my pricing includes shipping, which can make the lower priced items seem disproportionately high. I was recently reminded that I am not my customer, and the world is full of people for whom $22 is not a huge amount! So I listed a few, just to see how it goes. 

You can find the whole lot at this link

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Pottery Stairs Are Out!

Hey all! I've been away from the blog, did you miss me? I wish I could say I was busy doing fabulous things but more just overwhelmed with the state of the world. We are hanging in; I hope all of you, are, too. Money is tight, because all my events were cancelled due the the pandemic, and because the stores that sell my work have not had a great season, either. Nevertheless, I am not complaining! we have everything we need. The pandemic has touched everyone in some way, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to it. 
Anyway, covid, blah-blah-blah. Really I am posting today to let local folks know that the Pottery Stairs are out! I have loads of mugs this time - I know everybody loves mugs, and they are only $5. All transactions are contact-free! 

This will probably be the last time this season for the pottery stairs (although, never say never! If we have a warm fall, maybe once more.) It's not too early to think about Christmas shopping! 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Kitty Update: Oreo & Fiona

ETA: Oreo has been adopted! Fiona is still waiting for her forever home. 

Our cat dish fundraiser was successful! I tried to go in on Tuesday to sponsor a cat, but I forgot about the Covid restrictions, and failed to make an appointment. The shelter is closed on Wednesdays, so today was the big day! I had intended to sponsor a cat named Oreo, who has been at the shelter for 5 long months. 
Let me tell you a little bit about Oreo: she is a 3 year old tuxedo cat. Staff describe her as a silly girl, who is playful and curious, and loves attention from her people. She needs a prescription diet to prevent urinary tract infections, but the diet works well for her & she has not had any problems since starting it. She also needs to be the only pet in the home. But, good news! Between last week & today, someone else had already sponsored her!

So I asked the staff to suggest a cat, and here she is: Fiona!

 Fiona came in as a stray, and staff described her as having "lots of personality. She is 2 1/2 years old, and when I met her, she tried to play through the plexiglass of her cage. (She actually looks a lot like my cat, who - weird coincidence - was originally named Fiona, though we call her Noodle now.)With the proceeds of the fundraiser I was able to sponsor Fiona, plus a little extra to support the shelter. So now there are two kitties at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society whose adoption fees are covered! I want to thank everyone who purchased a dish or shared the post - we did it together! 

The dishes are all on their way to you now. 😊

Thursday, August 20, 2020

It's that time again: Help a cat find a home

You may know that I am something of a cat lady; not entirely on purpose, I have six feline friends who share my home. My capacity to care for cats is maxed out! But I still want to help. Every year for the past couple of years I have done a fundraiser to allow me to sponsor a cat at Kennebec Valley Humane Society. I try to choose a cat whose stay in the shelter has been long, to help them get out of the cage & find a family. 
I got  lots of great cat dishes out of the firing I unloaded last week, so it is time once again for a Cat Dish Fundraiser! 

If  Oreo is still available

Oreo! Isn't she adorable? 
when the fundraiser is over, I think she will be the one. He has been at the shelter since April! If she finds her home before that, well, there are lots of lovely cats waiting. No matter what we will help someone! 
The dishes are $15 each. If I can sell 10, that will cover Oreo's adoption fee (or whichever cat it ends up being) as well as shipping & packaging materials. Check out the dishes here! 

Thanks for looking! If you can buy a dish this time, great! If not, maybe you could share to your social media? The more eyes this reaches, the better. 

Thanks! I will keep you posted. 

We did it! On Tuesday I will pop in to KVHS to sponsor Oreo, or, if she's been adopted, whichever cat has been there the longest. Thank you thank you thank you!!

Monday, August 17, 2020

My Fave from the Firing

 Pretty much a drive-by post, but I wanted to share this: 

It's porcelain with slip trailing. It got only the barest blush of soda, and I just love the delicacy of the color. Being porcelain it has a bit of sheen even without glaze or soda glass. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Not Another Learning Experience! The Pop Up Photo Booth Edition

 I unloaded a firing on Friday. It was supposed to be Wednesday, but my laptop was stolen Tuesday night, so Wednesday & Thursday were burnt up in all the process involved in that - police report, contacting my banks & credit card companies, all that stuff. Boy do I have a lot to say about that experience, but I'm gonna save it for later, because, new pots! It was kind of a shitty week, but at least the kiln didn't let me down.

I spent today photographing pots, some new out of this kiln, some that I've been planning to shoot for a while. I tried a different photo set up: one of those nylon pop up tents. A friend - Libbey Seigars of Whitefield Pottery - gave me one of those pop-up photo tents last year. She wasn't happy with the results she was getting, so didn't want it anymore. It takes me a while to get around to things, but today I finally gave the it a shot. The advantage, I hoped, was that I could just pop the tent up & start shooting, as opposed to my indoor setup which requires me to re-arrange my living room, pin up a backdrop, and set up three lights. I usually don't want to do all that for just a few pots, so I wait until I have a bunch, and then shooting & processing the images - never mind listing the items for sale - becomes an all-day deal.

That was a learning experience, and what I learned was, those pop up photo tents suck! I eventually gave up & just set up my backdrop & lights as usual. The point of the pop up booth was supposed to be that it was easier - just pop it up on a sunny day & start shooting. Well, the pop up part is easy, that much is true. Getting the wrinkles out of the backdrop - even though it was stored carefully - was not. What eventually worked (kind of) was putting it in the dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes. 

Once the only-a-little-wrinkly (me: I'll fix it in post!) backdrop was in place, I had to find a block or something to place the pots on, because the opening for the camera was a lot higher than the floor of the ten, so the camera was looking sharply down on everything. (I put bricks under the backdrop, but the angle was still not great. All of that would have been tolerable if the photos had been good but - guess what? - they weren't! 

Here are two photos of the same pot, one taken in the pop up tent, one taken with my usual photo set up: 

Taken in the pop up photo tent

Take with backdrop & lights

To my eye the second is just infinitely better. I did my best with editing but the pop up photos all had a bluish quality, and correcting it made the color of the pots wrong.

Anyway, I gave up on it. I like to learn new things but I just had too many pots to shoot to mess around much with it, and anyway I already have a system that works. 

Anybody want a free pop up photo tent? 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Facemask Fun

Part of our new normal in these pandemic days is the wearing of facemasks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. We all want to get back to our jobs or schools, our sports and concerts, church services and idk, dart leagues. Trivia nights! Car pools! Movie theatres! All that stuff.

One of the easiest and most important things we can be doing is wearing face covering every time we are in public. Do I love wearing a mask? Why no! No I do not. Do I do it anyway? I do indeed. Because masks work!

If we want our economy back, and to resume our normal activities, we gotta wear the masks. So we might as well have some fun with it! I even have a favorite Etsy seller of masks - I've bought two from her so far.
My current fave mask
I decided to get in on the designing fun with Teespring. I've used teespring in the past to design t-shirts; I enjoy playing around with ideas, then I post them and every few weeks somebody buys one & I get ten bucks. It's like money for nothing, because creating the design was just playing anyway.

I designed a few masks! One is a plaid I made using an online tool, the others are images I had stored on my laptop from other, long-ago project. Check em out! Or, even better, design your own. We're potters (most of us here, anyway) but our creativity squirts out in all kinds of ways.

Have fun, and wear your masks! XO

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Social Distance in the Studio

6 feet between wheels! 
Monday was our first day of classes at Portland Pottery after our long break due to the pandemic. Classes are smaller, only 9 students, and everything is rearranged to allow 6 ft of distance, and - of course! - masks are required in the studio. Bottles of sanitizer and liquid soap are everywhere, and the garage door and windows are thrown open. Maine. like several other New England states, is going in the right direction on Covid-19 infections; the number of new cases has been falling for some time now. That said, within Maine, Cumberland County (where Portland Pottery is located) is still the hottest spot for contagion - unlike Kennebec where I live, which has few cases and no know community transmission. The students, bless them, were all co-operative in wearing masks and other precautions.

Am I a little anxious about being in close-ish quarters with groups of people I don't really know? Yeah, a little bit. Masks are imperfect, aerosol contagion, blah-blah-blah. I don't know if there are enough precautions in the world to make me feel 100% safe, but rationally we are about as safe here in Maine as it is possible to get, in the US anyway, and we can't stay in forever. Portland Pottery closed even before Governor Mills order to do so, and I trust if things go south they will do so again.

Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how do you feel about being back in class? Gotta say, I LOVE being back. I didn't know how much I missed my community until I was back in it. A beginning student made a breakthru in class yesterday (small, hard to describe - had to do with centering hand position) and I had forgotten how much I LOVE being a part of moments like that. So, yeah: happy and excited, in addition to anxious.

My art fairs are of course all still cancelled, and the stores that carry me are not, by & large, having a great season, so I am still not sure how this winter is going to work out, but for now we are ok; more than OK, moving forward. I did get tired of reminding people in public spaces to distance, so I designed a t-shirt:
6 feet distance please and thank you

I have an order to deliver (YAY) and a firing scheduled next week. I continue to keep the rest of the country in my thoughts as we all struggle towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Blood for Luck!

I've always heard that if you cut yourself loading, it's a blessing on the firing. Does that work for kiln maintenance, too? This was actually a very tiny cut, maybe an inch long, but I am offering this blood to the kiln gods in hopes of gaining their favor.

The other way to gain favor - or so they say - is to break something while firing. (A pot, you goofus! not a bone.) I'd rather have a little scratch! But chances are I'll also break a piece while loading.

I'm not actually loading today - I am cleaning the burner channels of accumulated soda glass. It's hard, gritty work on a hot day. I am thinking that when I rebuild my kiln - maybe next year (LOL I say that every year) I may place the soda ports higher. That would work better for spraying soda, instead of using the Gail Nichols soda salad method. This would be a big change, as the spray method results in a more even coating of soda - which is both the benefit and the drawback. (The other benefit is not having to chisel out built up soda glass from the burner channel! So I may be the tiniest bit biased right this second.)

Anyway! Just wanted to let you all know I am still here! Classes are expected to re-start at Portland Pottery the first week of July, about which I am both very excited and a little nervous. Masks required, of course; the way I see it masks are the difference between returning to some normalcy, and going right back to where we were in March. I am thinking of face masks as an accessory now. Let me recommend Etsy! (Here are some nice ones.) I didn't love Etsy as a seller but as a buyer it's great.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hi Kellie, Here's a Big Bowl!

It's 12" in diameter - through it is slightly oval - and about 4" high. The egg is for scale, but I will include the egg if you want it!! 😄

The price is $60. Let me know if it will work for you, and thanks for asking. 🌝

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

You did it - Thank you!

Edited to add: Thank you all so much! I woke up to enough money for groceries! We're being told that Maine DOL should have our cases resolved within a week, so I have all I need. I really, really appreciate your help. 

...but I need help.

It feels wrong to even be thinking about myself & my family during this time when there are people who can't even safely jog or eat ice cream or sleep in their own beds. I know the world is full of much bigger problems than mine, and I wouldn't be asking if I could think of a better solution.

Here's my trouble: as is probably true in your area also, all my art fairs & sales events for the 2020 summer season are canceled. The stores that carry my work, if they are open, obviously don't have much in the way of customers. Even given all that, I was lucky. A few years ago, Portland Pottery asked if I would like to change from being a contractor to a regular employee. I did, and it has protected me during this time because I've been able to collect unemployment. (What normally happens is, the money I make from summer sales covers the winter months, too, in addition to my teaching income. One of the studios I teach at has gone under, so that income stream is gone for good...I don't know what is going to happen this winter. But I digress: my problem is much shorter term than that.)

So, anyway: we've been living on unemployment, and staying in communication with Portland Pottery about when it will be safe to re-open. Like everyone, I want to get back to work! But I don't want to put my student, myself, or my family at risk to do it.

Oops, digressed again. This is really about unemployment, and the Maine Department of Labor. Recently the MDOL discovered there were scammers amid the 100,000 unemployment claims they have processed since March. They froze everyone's payments while they search for the scammers. (I could make an argument that by doing so, they gave the scammers the heads' up to close their accounts & disappear, making it harder to find them, but I'm sure they had their reasons.) They told us it would be 48 hours, then 72; now they just say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I know with 100% certainty that my claim will be okayed, once they get to it, because it is as straightforward as they come, but while we are waiting for that we still need to eat. 

Normally I would just put groceries on a credit card, because as I said I am positive they will restore my claim, but last week I lost my wallet...at the dump. By the time I realized it was missing & went back, it had (I assume) been bulldozed into the mountain of garbage. (Or possibly the mountain of rusted pointy things. There are several mountains at the landfill.) Still waiting for replacement cards to come, but the banks are busy fielding Covid-19 related calls, too.

Anyway.  I am so so sorry to even ask, but I need $100 for groceries. If you have money to spare, I would greatly appreciate any help. Even a couple dollars helps! If you don't - if your family is struggling, too - please don't even think about it! Once I have enough for groceries, I will delete this post.

You can contribute at this link: paypal.me/LoriKeenanWatts Again, that's if you can. Thank you all so much for an help you can give. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Satin Matte Black ^10 Reduction

Just storing this glaze recipe here so I can't lose it.

Black Satin Matte BATCH SIZE 5000
Percentages Grams
Custer Feld 20% 1000
Soda spar (minspar) 20% 1000
Whiting 2% 100
Dolomite 15% 750
Talc 13% 650
OM4 10% 500
Flint 325 20% 1000
Chrome Oxide Green 1% 50
Red Iron Oxide (domestic) 3% 150
Cobalt Oxide 3% 150
Manganese Dioxide 2% 100
Very reliable, forgiving, smooth, true black. Iron spotting will occur over brown claybodies. Can be runny in combination with other glazes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

No Common Ground

This one hurts.

The Common Ground Country Fair has cancelled its live event, previously scheduled for September, and will hold a virtual fair instead. That's just the lectures & demos; there will be no craft sale.

While I am disappointed, even before this decision I was wondering if people would be willing to brave crowded public events as soon as September. The incompetence of the federal response to the pandemic - and it's so terrible I wonder if it is incompetence, because they couldn't have done any worse if they were trying - means we have not seen any real signs of slowing in the disease. Here in Maine things look better, because Covid-19 got here somewhat later than in other states, so our response was relatively earlier; and because the governor jumped right on it. But, as the meme goes, having some states on lockdown & not others is like having a peeing section in a pool.

The Common Ground has offered us the option of having our booth fees refunded or donating them to the organization; and while I would love to be that kind of generous, I don't feel I can be when I don't know when I will have work again. They also offered us the option of carrying over booth fees until next year, but didn't offer to waive jurying for 2020 acceptees. I think that would have been a nice gesture, since we already paid for jurying, and all of us out here are hurting, too - would have been nice to have one thing we could rely on, for when the world starts turning again.

Anyway. Hope your lockdown is going well. Stay safe, friends, and hang in there.