Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Up on the Roof

A predicted 4 day dry stretch seems like a good time to address the state of my studio roof. 

This is sort of a new experience for me, as my typical approach would be to wait until a thing is a Problem, with a capitol P, before solving it. I could have just plopped a tarp over it, or replaced the torn shingles, to keep the water out, but carpenter ants have gotten into the wood, & while I could have postponed the fix it was not gonna get better by itself. So, dry weather predicted? Time to tackle the roof. 

My only problem is, I don't really know what I am doing. I do find myself in this situation semi-regularly: a job that needs doing, but no money to hire it out, & no skills to do it myself. My usual approach has been to just do it anyway, & figure it out as I go along. How hard can it be? has been my catchphrase for decades, though some things can, in fact, be pretty damn hard! For example I have no idea if I am going about this job correctly. I climbed up on the roof with the circular saw & cut out the punky section; next it's back up the ladder with a tape measure, then off to Lowes to buy some...idk, plywood, I guess?... to fill the gap. 

And maybe there's some kind of product, like caulk, to seal up the joint between the boards? I mean, there's definitely caulk, i know there's caulk, but is there a special kind of...roof caulk? You know, like how there's moisturizer for you face & there's moisturizer for your elbow but they are different? Maybe caulk is like that. 

Or maybe I am overthinking it. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

3 Days in the Studio

 Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow:

Yesterday was mostly teaching classes - not a lot of studio work. I did some minor clean up from the pottery tour,

& sent off some photos & a blurb to promote a workshop I am teaching at Hallowell Clay Works. Oh! That reminds me. Want to take a slip workshop? It's Sunday, May 22nd, from 2 - 5. 

Today has some teaching also! I don't normally teach on Wednesdays but I am subbing a class this morning. This afternoon I'll be sorting, pricing, & packing pots to go to Mainely Gallery, in Belfast. That'll take most of the afternoon, but I might get to end my workday at a reasonable time & read my new book, The Investigator

Tomorrow I am delivering said pots! It is looking like a gorgeous day for a drive; maybe Doug will come with me & poke around the cute little town of Belfast, Maine. Not too long, though; I have to be in Portland to teach by 6 pm. 

Friday & Saturday I have to do a serious house cleaning. I mostly neglected cleaning in the 3 weeks prior to the pottery tour, and it shows! Then my mom & the fam are coming on Sunday for Mother's Day. Busy week! 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Time to say Goodbye

And, unlike the old song says, goodbye does mean forever. Goodbye does mean we'll never be together again! It's time to let go of my old art fair set up. I built it in 1994, and while it served me well for many years it has gotten increasingly rickety (not unlike myself) and I have had to resort to more and more desperate measures to make sure it is stable enough to hold the ware for the duration of an event. Last weekend I nailed parts of it together. There was a moment when I was contemplating duct tape. It's time to let it go.

Here's how it looked, in better days...
 The question is, do I build another one? If so, for what specific uses? If it is to be solely a studio evnt display, that has a different set of parameters than an art fair display, that needs to be fairly lightweight, portable, and quick to set up. 

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about booth displays. Lately I am thinking about whether I want to do art fairs at all, given my own increasingly rickety self. Art fairs are a lot of work! And, honestly, I got spoiled in St. Paul; there were maybe 20 top-shelf art fairs within a day's drive; here there's one. Craft Boston used to be, but for the last at-least 5 years it has been sucking mud; the PMA show is headed that way also. 
Most of the good shows that I used to do, when I lived in St Paul are still running, but driving 2 or 3 days, staying in motels (I'm too old to sleep in a tent on the ground, at least when I am working), eating out - fast food is both nastier & more expensive than home-food - the calculation is different. The absolute most I could hope to make from a good show is probably around $5000 - & that would be a rarity. Subtract the booth fee & the studio time, & the classes I'd have to miss & the travelling expenses...not looking like such a great dice to roll now. 

OTOH, I used to love the art fair lifestyle. Seeing new cities, a group of friends I only saw during that season, trying new restaurants...I didn't even mind the driving. I'd try to find a Spanish-language radio station & listen hard to see if I could understand any of it. 

Anyway. The Maine Pottery Tour is over for another year. My event was successful, about 70 visitors & the same sales as last year - which is good, because last year landed in kind of a unique moment, when for about 5 minutes we thought the pandemic which had been keeping us away from public activities for a year was over. (It's still not, of course, but the pottery tour is mostly an outside event, & even a big turnout isn't densely packed, so I felt ok about doing the tour.) Anyway, maybe we've just finally hit a critical mass of people who know about hte tour, return every year, & help spread the word.

This week is always funny for me, because I've spent the last 4 months thinking about & working on the tour in basically all my "free" (lol) time, and now there's a space where that used to be. I have orders to fill & pots to list online & stores to approach, not to mention classes to teach!  - believe me I have plenty to do - but I am going to take a moment to appreciate the not-urgency of those tasks. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Pottery Tour is in the KJ!

 Featured are my friend Diane Harwood, at her studio in Winthrop, and Nick Skelton, whose studio, The Art Walk, is also located in Winthrop. If you scroll down the article a bit, I am quoted! 

Here's the link.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Here we go!

It's probably not a great sign, that I am still tired from yesterday! & this year Doug can't be here to help me set up the EZ-up (not all that E-Z, honestly, but doable, even with just one person.) 

Still, every year I for get something, & it's fine. 

Still to do:

  • Put up the tent & shelves. This is the biggie.
  • Price pots. I was going to do that last night but it was so cold & after dinner I was so tired! 
  • Place the pottery tour signs
  • Bring out all the sales materials: bags, wrapping paper, receipt book, Square device. 
Those are the crucial things. Once those are done I can do the less critical stuff. 

Right after I finish my coffee. 

If you're in Maine, I hope you'll come visit one or more of the stops on the tour this weekend. Lots of great stuff to see! 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Getting Ready!

 

A peek into the spyhole! Unloading Saturday at 11

This might be my busiest day of the year: the day before the Maine Pottery Tour! (& yet here I am blogging, lol.) No matter how prepared I think I am, there is always too much to do on this day. Get change, print flyers, price pots, double check the Square app, set up the road signs. I would normally set up the shelves on Friday but we are meant to get high winds today, so that seems like a Bad Plan. Guess I'll just have to get up way early tomorrow!

Anyway. I was pretty excited to see how nice things look thru the spy, can't wait to unload with visitors tomorrow!! 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Off the Bench at Last


Put me in, coach! 

Because I can fit more pots in the bisque firings than the glaze firings, there are always a few leftover pieces of bisque ware. I keep them against the day that I need to do a firing but don’t quite have enough stuff to fill it. That day has come! After my mishap last weekend - dropping a board of pots on another board of pots, after the last day I could throw & have stuff dry enough to bisque- it was looking like this firing would be short. Normally I would just wait, & for when I had made more stuff, but this time I have a hard deadline: I’ve promised visitors that we will unload a firing Day One of the Maine Pottery Tour. 

Time to call in the benchwarmers! As you can see, some have been waiting a very long time for their moment to arrive.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Squish Happens


 

I spent all day yesterday in the studio, attaching handles, decorating, throwing for a couple of hours; I even thought I'd get ahead of the game & pull the handles I'd need to attach later. I did all that with a little tickle of worry in my mind: I promised I'd unload a kiln for the pottery tour, which means I have to load Wednesday & bisque Thursday at the latest, in order to fire a glaze next Wednesday to unload Saturday the 30th. Would I have enough stuff? 

But I felt pretty good about my progress, until this morning when I went in to attach the handles I'd pulled. When I grabbed the board of mugs, somehow it became unbalanced & slipped from my hands, landing on the board of big bowls below it. FUUUUUCK!!

I was pretty irate, for a minute, but whaddaya gonna do? This stuff sometimes happens, and melting down over does not make it unhappen, no matter how hard I try. So, I'll still fire, but it'll be a light load. 

I handled the 2 surviving mugs, trimmed & decorated the surviving bowls, and I'll throw some little vases that can dry in time to load Wednesday. 

I'm reflecting back to a time when I would have spent the day angry & bemoaning the lost pieces. An important lesson it took me way to long to learn: not all ware is going to  make it to the kiln, & not all ware that comes out of the kiln is going to be successful. Letting go means you don't lose the day & your good mood, also. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Third Firing is in the Books!

 Despite having the mother of all colds (definitely not covid; I have tested 3 times now - 2 at-home & one pcr), I could not wait to unload the third glaze firing of the new soda kiln this morning. Got some amazing color - kind of a bronze-y gold - on the bare bmix body; and the Bauer orange, that reliable standby, got almost uniformly glossy & bright. See for yourself!

There were a couple disappointing factors, tho - some of the pieces were made before I started slow-drying anything with slip decoration, and as a result there was a little bit of popping off. Slow drying seems to have solved this problem, so yay; but of course those individual pieces will have to be seconds. 

And speaking of seconds, some of the Dotopia pieces - the ones with Oribe dots, as opposed to yellow dots - some of those will have to be 2nds also, because a lot of the dots jumped right off the ware & onto the kiln shelves (mostly) or other pots. This is a super annoying new problem, which I suspect is caused by a change I made it response to advice, and upped my bisque temperature from ^08 to ^05. I can't see any advantage to this - just higher fuel costs - & now it has made my glaze behave badly. So, not to put to fine a point on it, fuck that. 
Some dot pots that didn't have that annoying problem


You might think I am unhappy with this firing but - au contraire! - I am quite delighted. I got a lot of good pots, I know (at least I think I know) how to correct the problems, and best of all I feel like I am getting a good handle on how to fire this kiln. I think the level of reduction & amount of soda were just about perfect. 

I am always happy when I am learning new things. 

Some of these pots are off to Mainely Gallery in Belfast; a few - mostly mugs - are headed for Bay View Company; and the rest will be available for sale here at my studio during the Maine Pottery Tour. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Coffee Pour Over Cone

 I've resisted making these for a long time, because I figured like lots of specific-use items, there were some specs I didn't know, & wouldn't know until I went to use it. I didn't (& don't) have time right now to do the experimenting that would be necessary to make coffee pour-over cones that work well. 
But, then I got a jump start from my colleague at Portland Pottery: fellow instructor Brian Buckland. Brian had drawn this image on the whiteboard in our shared classroom: 


Brian makes these a lot - you can purchase one of his here & here, if you've been wanting one! or visit his studio in Buxton during the Maine Pottery Tour. Anyway, Brian is incredible generous with knowledge & information, & he filled in the last 2 pieces I needed: how much clay to start with (2 pounds) , & how big is the hole in the bottom (1/4 inch.) 

Here's my first attempt: 


I took a slightly different approach to the base - I gave the tray a little upward curve, thinking it would seat itself better on a wider range of mug widths. I think I will leave the outer surface of the try unglazed, to create a little more friction so it won't slip around while in use. I also made a more conventional one, with a flat tray at the bottom, but that still needs to be trimmed. Looking forward to testing out both of them, & maybe making more if they work out well - hopefully I will have one or two in the kiln I unload during the pottery tour. 

We get by with a little help from our friends! 


Friday, March 25, 2022

Website Design Refresh!

 Oh, I've been sitting on this so hard, because we were waiting until it was ready for the big unveil! Milly Welsh of Zebralove Web Solutions has built a new, updated website for the Maine Pottery Tour

Important features: a pop-out page for each studio, with a little blurb about them and/or their pottery tour event, and a search function so if folks are looking for info about a particular studio. Behind the scenes, Milly has built in a function so potters can update their own listing, uploading the photos they want & writing the blurbs themselves. This is great for me, obviously, but also for the potters of the tour - they are in complete control of how they are presented to the world. Here's my page.

The tour is April 30th & May 1st - we usually schedule it the first full weekend in May but this year that's Mother's Day, & I'd lose half the studios if I chose that weekend. 54 studios this year! Hope to see you there. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Ancient Clay

The 2,400-Year-Old Giant Clay Vase Discovered in Peru

Yeah, pretty sure that's not a vase. 
Also - not to doubt the archaeologists, I'm sure they thought of this - but a vessel this big, you'd build an ad-hoc kiln around it, which would be dismantled once the piece was fired; so the fact that there were no "remains of stoves" (LOL) doesn't seem conclusive, as to where it was fired. 

Anyway I thought it was an interesting story. 



Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Thick of it: Maine Pottery Tour

When I went through my email this morning I had ten, count em, TEN, action items - & that was just Maine Pottery Tour related items. My brakes are making that ominous grinding sound. I still have some stuff to work out with the kiln. Nevermind basic housecleaning, that ain't happening. Not today, anyway, and tomorrow's not looking good either. 

I am working on an ad for the next issue of Downeast, & putting together the Maine Public sponsorship package. I am building the online map of the tour. I am unloading the kiln & making pots for spring orders! I am teaching classes, as always. 

I am starting to feel the squeeze. This is my song, these days:

 



Anyway! The Pottery Tour is only 7 weeks away now. You should visit! I'll post links to the map...but not today. Maybe that'll be on my action list for tomorrow. 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Burner, Blower, Damper

After fumbling around a bit early in the firing- this is only the second time I’ve fired this kiln, due to some unexpected burner issues- I’ve found a sweet spot of good reduction & rapid climb. Just recording it here, for future reference.

It’s been a rough couple of months, which I’ll tell ya more about later, but something finally went right.

This load is about half my work & half student work. Unloading Wednesday!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Friday To Do

 I used to write my to-do lists here all the time! Before I became aware that people were actually reading this blog, & got self-conscious about what I posted. I am going to try a return to more mundane posting, because honestly I don't have profound thoughts or even very interesting happenings to post very often. 

Today I am preparing for the firing that I hope to do on Sunday (or possibly Wednesday.) There's alot to prior to a firing, so let's get to it:

  1. Dig out kiln 🙄
  2. Mix wadding
  3. Grind shelves? I might not need to do this; I have way more shelves than I usually need, so probably have enough fresh clean shelves to load. But I gotta check
  4. Check propane. Which means creating a path thru the snow to the tank. MORE SHOVELING
    • I might have to call the propane folks! 
  5. Start loading
  6. Pottery tour stuff! Today I am scheduling Facebook posts about the studios on the tour. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Things & Stuff

 It's been almost a month since I posted - mostly a cold, snowy, sleety month. I read once that humans have hibernation in our genetic history and some months I really feel it. When it's snowing hard & in the single digits, every fiber of your being tells you to stay where you are warm & safe & dry; but you go out to shovel, because if you wait it's gonna be so much worse. 

That's not to say I haven't been busy! As I do every year, I began putting together the Maine Pottery Tour in January. This year we are funded by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission - yay - but that funding is so far just a (very reliable!) promise; I don't expect to see the money until June, after the pottery tour is over. Still, it will pay for updates & upgrades to the website, much more advertising, a bit for our previously-volunteer publicist, and a small stipend for me. (Not even that small, by my standards, tbh!) 

I want to fire this weekend, but the kiln is snowed in; we got 2 feet of snow in a 7-day stretch here in Augusta, & digging out has been slow. Hopefully the warm temperatures today thru Saturday will take care of some of it for me. 

I did buy myself a little day-brightener: a giant rolling pin for slab work! I got spoiled by the heavy maple pins at Portland Pottery & finally decided after all these years that I deserve one of my own. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Win for the New Year

 

Remember back in November when I was struggling with that grant application, for funding for the Maine Pottery Tour from the Maine Arts Commission? I received notification this week: my project was funded! I am, as you might expect, super excited about this; it'll mean getting paid for my organizing work, and also much more money for advertising & other efforts to get the word out. 

Nice to get a win right out of the gate. I don't want to jinx anything but 2022 might be the best year we've had in a while. It's the Year of the Tiger, in the Chinese zodiac; the tiger is emblematic of courage, strength, the defeat of evil (& couldn't we ALL use some of that! ) The water Tiger specifically is about self esteem & about learning. 

Anyway! if you are a Maine potter or ceramic sculptor & want your studio to be a stop on the Maine Pottery Tour, give me a shout at info[at]finemesspottery[dot]com. Looking forward to our best year yet!