Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Resolution: Less Waste

When I asked a young friend of mine if she made New Year's resolutions, she told me no, but she had made a New Decade's resolution: to cease using single-use plastics by 2030. This is an ambitious and laudable goal! Though I'd like to think I could do this, it feels overwhelming; but it did inspire me to think about the ways in which I could reduce waste in my life.

Here's an easy one: I can remember to bring a ceramic cup with me when I get coffee out! Coffee is one of my small indulgences. Every day at home, naturally! If you are like me, several times a week you also find yourself with a disposable cup in hand, enjoying a java out in the world. Take a second to picture the pile those cups would make at the end of the year! Disposable coffee cups aren’t good candidates for recycling, because they are either Styrofoam or lined with a thin layer of plastic.
That’s a lot of waste, but there’s good news, friend! A ceramiccup requires only 18 uses to break even with paper in terms of water use andenergy consumption. After that, every time you use a ceramic cup instead of paper, you are helping to save the planet. Once or twice a week I get a coffee out - usually at my favorite Portland coffee shop, Coffee By Design; and usually because I am between classes or other appointments in Portland, killing time. I am a potter! It is an easy matter for me to bring my own mug.

Think about it: after only 18 uses, a ceramic mug is gentler on the environment than paper, in terms of energy consumption, water, and waste. Everything after that is basically an environmental freebie! Plastic breaks even with paper after only 8 uses, but plastic will get brittle &; crack much, MUCH sooner than stoneware - a stoneware mug's useful life is basically forever. All the forever we have, anyway.

You probably already have a stoneware mug - I know my readers are mostly potters! - but just in case, here's a link to my new ones online.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Rolled the Dice

...Or else I set $40 on fire. I applied for the St Louis Art Fair, which happens in September. Every year I have an argument with myself about whether I should apply to the top-shelf fairs I used to go to, when  lived in St. Paul. I didn’t know how easy I had it, back then! At least 10 of the top 50 best art fairs are within a ½ day’s drive of St. Paul. The closest one to me here is the Smithsonian, which I don’t apply to because it’s very unlikely I could get in. Also the jury fee is $50, the lowest booth fee is $1300, and getting a hotel and food in DC for 3 or 4 days would be a crazy expense. Also, the *average* sales total is about 6k. Since jewelers always make the most, and since there are always a few big studios that make like 50k, that means the little people like me are making between $0 – 3000, for a show that costs about 2500 to do.

Anyway. The last time I did St Louis, I made upwards of $5000, and would have made more except I sold out of everything! I had one pot left at the end of the show. Can I expect to sell almost literally everything, again? Probably not, but I can bring more pots! One good thing is, the organizers of this event did not get greedy, and the show still has less than 200 booths. Also, St Louis in  September? I could probably find camping nearby, or a hostel. (I also have friends in St Louis, having lived there many moons ago; but it seems rude to ask for hospitality, when I know the art fair will be so much work that I will not be able to spend any time visiting my hosts.)

Of course, I might not get in! I have a better chance than with the Smithsonian, but any good fair, you have to assume you might get juried out. I probably could get into the Uptown, but the last time I was
there I grossed $2k, which was great for a fair I did not have to travel to, not so great for one 1500 miles away. I still do have a lot of good friends in and around the Twin Cities, some close enough that they wouldn't mind housing me even if I basically just slept at their house & drank their coffee, so I could eliminate that expense, but travelling 1500 miles is still going to be a spendy proposition, in terms of both time & money.
I also applied to 3 local shows, one is June, one in August, one at the end of September. There are not a lot of great shows in Maine, and it has taken me some time to make the mental adjustment that most shows here are going to mean weeks of preparation and three days of flat-out backbreaking work to net a frustratingly small amount of money. 

Why did I choose this stupid field*? I should have become a visual merchandiser. Or idk, a dentist, a money manager, an engineer.
Just kidding, we all know I never had much choice in the matter. Clay chose me, and I'm lucky it did. 

*Again, I know it is bad branding to admit I don't make much money! I know we are all supposed to pretend to be super-successful all the time. But fuck it, somebody has to be honest, otherwise we all secretly feel like losers. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Wow Already? Again: Time to Apply for Next Summer's Fairs!

Last year's images

This year's images
This year's images
A potter is always living in the future. (Well: and also the past, in a different way. But that's a ramble for another time.) From a making point of view, for sure: the things I throw today, in my mind, they are already glazed and fired - I have a surface in mind for them, although it is fair to say the kiln often has other ideas. In business terms as well - in snowy January, I must decide which art fairs I want to swelter at next summer. Some of the fairs are even further out than that - two I am applying to are in September and October.

Last year I got a rude surprise when I didn't get into two big events I was counting on. (See, this is why I am terrible at business and possibly also life; I know I am supposed to pretend to be amazing and always successful; just openly failing like a common person, that is not good branding! But it's just you & me here...well, us & the whole damn internet...)


I got a surprise, not the good kind, when I got juried out (well: wait-listed, which in the end is the same thing) of two good shows. I made the best of it & actually had a great summer with no pressure of upcoming events, but I would not like a repeat for next summer! Getting juried out is not the end of the world, it happens to most of us at times, but it shook my confidence a little to get the boot twice the same year. Maybe my slides sucked? Maybe the pots suck?!? MAYBE I SUCK?!?!?!

So I am having to do a little work here to push those doubts aside. There's an element of the random; this was probably just that...but it couldn't hurt to be extra deliberative when choosing my images this year.

At the top of this post are the 4 images I used to apply last year; below them are the 4 I used on some applications this year, and 4 more I used for other shows. I was trying for a greater unity among the images this year. There are still lots of shows to apply to, so if you have some insight on which set of images might work better, I am all ears!

So far I have applied to the Common Ground Country Fair, The Portland Fine Craft Show, and started the complicated application for Belfast Arts in the Park, which requires filling out an in-site form, emailing images separately, and sending a 2 checks by snail mail. I'm also considering Art Providence - would love to hear from anyone who has done that show if it was worth it.

There are some smaller events, like the Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival, whose applications are not yet open. I'm considering giving that one a try - it's only a few miles from my house, the booth fee is tiny, and I have heard good things about it. 

ETA: A reader commented that there is a Facebook group, Art Fair Reviews, that might be helpful. (Thanks, Susan!) Boy was she right! I joined the group and immediately got the information I needed specifically about Art Providence, which was , don't. Or that was my take. I saw comments like, "We almost made our expenses" and "we made our expenses, but only because we didn't need to get a hotel" and "It was our worst show of the year." Everyone says it's well organized, with excellent quality vendors; nobody says they sold well. So, I am crossing them off my list.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Wow, Already? Time to Think about the Maine Pottery Tour

Though the ground is still covered in snow, we know spring is on the way. How do we know? Well, I mean, I guess because it always has, and the earth is still moving around the sun on the same trajectory it always does; but also because potters are starting to email me about the Maine Pottery Tour!

The 2020 Maine Pottery Tour is off to a very promising start - this is maybe the earliest I've received inquiries, and I have received a lot of them. It won't work out for everyone, of course - timing or conflicts or production or costs, there are always things that can stand in the way. Probably some will be joining the 40 or so studios that are already a part of the Maine Pottery Tour, so yay! I already have confirmation that the Watershed center for Ceramic Arts will be on the tour this year, a nice boost because that organization has a huge reach among people who are interested in clay, in Maine and elsewhere.

So! It seems an excellent time to mention it here, to my mostly-potter readership: Do you have a pottery studio in Maine? Would you like to be a part of the Maine Pottery Tour? The tour happens May 2nd & 3rd this year...I've never been completely happy with the dates, as they land just before our yards & gardens begin to look nice - but the following weekend is Mother's Day, and lots of potters are mothers. Or have mothers. Or their children have mothers. So, lots of conflicts there. I might consider a later weekend some year, depending on input from studios. But for now, the first weekend in May is it.

But I digress. Are you a Maine potter? Wanna be on the tour? Give me a shout at and let me know. (Ditto if you are a Maine business (or any business, really) who would like to sponsor the the tour.) The cost for studios to be on the map is $25, and includes a link on the website, a place on the online map and on the thousands of flyers we print & distribute, 50 postccards to send to your mailing list, and, if you get me images, a mention on our facebook page. There's also the opportunity to buy-in with us on a Maine Public Radio sponsorship - I think the interest this year is so much higher because we started that program last year.

If you are just a pottery aficianado, help spread the word to your favorite Maine potters & ceramics sculptors.
Yes, I'm gonna say it already: Can't wait 'til spring.

Roar like a Rat

The Roaring 20s are opening in the Year of the Rat - the Metal Rat, to be exact. Don't @ me about the 20s actually starting next year. Years are real, as they represent an astrological event; decades are entirely a cultural construct. And we don't really know exactly when the Common Era began, so this year, last year, next year, whatever; you go ahead and start your decade whenever you like.

Back to the Metal Rat. We have some pretty negative associations with rats - filth, disease, poverty - but that is not the case in the symbolism of the Chinese calendar. The Rat is a symbol of strong vitality, intelligence, cuteness (!), success, leadership, and prosperity.

I was born in a Year of the Dragon, so:

In 2020 the Rat will bring luck and money for those born in the year of the Dragon....The Dragon horoscope 2020 predicts that this year, you will become more sure of yourself and assert your originality, especially in your career, where your qualities will be acknowledged by your superiors and colleagues.
Assert my originality! That sounds good, right? There's some other, less awesome stuff there as well, but let's accentuate the positive.

Here I am, ready to roar like a rat!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Dare to Update!

Though I have my own website, I run the online shop through SquareUp, the same folks who provide credit cards processing when I am at art fairs. I used to use paypal for this, but that meant building a page for each item I wanted to list; obviously that is a bunch more work! For several months now, SquareUp has been...not nagging, exactly...let's say encouraging me to switch over to their partner, Weebly, to host the online store.

I was pretty resistant to this idea! I didn't want to try & learn a bunch of new stuff in the middle of the holiday season, and I am enough of a crotchety boomer to be irritated when things change that were working just fine before.

Even a crotchety boomer can learn! I made the switch today, and so glad I did. First, there really wasn't a whole lot to learn - if I had wanted to, I could have just clicked the button & the site would migrate, and I could just toddle off, never having to change a thing. I was tempted to do exactly that, but I'm glad I didn't. The new site looks the same as the old site, but has some cool new features. I've just started exploring, but so far I have discovered:

  1. I can share specific sections of the site now! So when I do the cat-dish fundraiser, or want to talk about handmade tools, or the Fine Mess Glazebook, I no longer have to say, "Click the link & then scroll down to..." I can share a link to the exact section I am talking about. 
  2. I can now offer gift cards! I don't know why this pleases me so much; it makes me feel...I don't know, real. To celebrate my realness, I'm going to offer blog readers a promo code for 10% off. Enter this code: BLOGREADER to get 10% off. Code good until the end of January; the gift card never expires. Well, until I do, I guess. 
I know there's more - I've still got some poking around to do. But I know lots of you used SquareUp, also, so if you've been hesitating, don't. I took the leap, and it was fine!