Sunday, May 19, 2024

My YouTube Discovery!

 You're gonna laugh, because you've probably known this for years, but it's a revelation to me: hashtags make ALL the difference on YouTube! 

Anecdata: I made a throwing video last week, the remnant of a live wheelcam event. I don't know if anyone watched live - there's probably some way to discover that, but I don't know how - but in the days afterward, it gained 2000 views. That's a lot, for me - it's an order of magnitude more than any other video I've posted, and some of those have been up for years. Greatly encouraged, a week later I made another. 

It got 24 views. And four of those were me. 

At first I threw up my hands: social media, whaddaya gonna do? Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn't. But it nagged at me, & I ruminated on it, & remembered: the first one, I chose some hashtags. I didn't really think anything of it, just did it because I was prompted to. I didn't do so for the next one, not for any reason, just clicked by the prompt. I went back yesterday & edited the post to include hashtags, and now it has 1.2k views! The hashtags are not especially clever or amazing, just stuff like #pottery and #potters wheel. 

Anyway! Just wanted to share that here. Part of our journey here has always been the business of art, and in this-here 21st century that includes social media. I don't have a great grasp on it - the best I got is "post a lot more than you think you need to" - but when I learn something, I share it with you. 

Here's the video! This might not be the audience for it, as it's just me making pitchers, and most of my readers are potters - watching someone throw is not as fascinating for us as it is for other people. But in case you want to check it out: 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Tending My Brand Garden

I read this phrase today and it made me laugh: "tending your brand garden." Not sure why it was funny to me...maybe because I am far lazier as a gardener than as a small business owner. In fact I barely have time to garden, because I am a small business owner. 

Nevertheless it's a pretty good metaphor! One I feel I am conquering lately - a pretty rare feeling for me. I'm photographing, I'm writing, I'm making videos, I'm posting, I'm interacting, I'm getting responses! I'm watering my brand flowers or whatever. Now I need to do all that & also make more stuff. And also teach my classes. 

Sometimes I think what we do is almost literally impossible - except some people are doing it! Are they just that amazing, are they just lucky, or is it an illusion that looks quite different from the inside? I suspect that last; it's possible they also feel like they are dancing as fast as they can, even while they  make it look effortless. 
Anyway! Tend your brand garden, even if it's all dandelions. 

Oh, speaking of watering! There's a new post on my Patreon, free to all members. Check it out! If I get to 20 paid subscriber I will publicly do a happy dance. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake


When your 90-year-old mother asks for cheescake for Mother's Day, you make a cheesecake. It's the law. It might even be in the Bible. I know this is not remotely pottery related! I couldn't even bake it in a stoneware pan - you need a springform pan for cheesecake. but I made a cheesecake, it was amazing, and I want to share it with you. 

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake


  • 1/2 package of chocolate wafer cookies
  • 3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
You'll also need cooking spray
  • 3 packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels, melted in double boiler
Preheat oven the 325°.
Grind cookies in food processor to coarse crumbs. Melt butter in microwave (takes about 30 -45 seconds) Mix crumbs, butter, brown sugar, and chopped almonds well in batter bowl. Spray interior of springform pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom of springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, then remove from over & place on cooling rack. 

Meanwhile, put softened cream cheese in bowl & beat with stand mixer or hand mixer until creamy. Add sugar & beat until uniform beige color. Add eggs, milk, and almond extract; beat until well blended. Mix in melted chocolate. 
Pour into crust.
Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes (at least, that's what the original recipe said. In my oven, it was more like 45 minutes.) until the center barely jiggles. Turn off oven, crack open door but leave cheesecake inside for an hour or more, to cool slowly. 
Cover with foil & place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

Enjoy. I plan to have the last piece for breakfast! 

PS! I meant to mention, I swapped out the amaretto for almond extract, because we're an alcohol-free household. Tastes exactly the same!
Just seeing if you're paying attention. 😄

Friday, May 10, 2024

My First Live Wheelcam Event

Many people love to watch potters throw! With that in mind, I did my first live wheelcam event today, throwing bowls & mugs for about 40 minutes. You can see this video below, but if you'd like to get invites to future wheelcam events, subscribe to my Patreon page at the $5/month level. Bonus: if I get enough subscribers I can buy a quieter wheel! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

D-Days & Z-Days

I borrowed a term from Appalachian Trail thru-hikers: zero days. On the trail it means you achieve zero miles that day, but it's the day you get everything else done: shower, laundry, food shopping. For me it's more literal: a day I get zero accomplished. Although it never quite works out that way: there're always the everyday chores, like dishes & litterboxes, as well as other errands that can't be avoided, so in a way it's the same: I get zero done in the studio. A Z-day.

The "D" in D-days refers to dopamine, the hormone of motivation and accomplishment. I am a dopamine queen, and I love the satisfaction of getting things done - which is 3 times better when it's studio stuff, since there's immediate gratification, creativity, and longterm accomplishment all generating that brain reward. 

Side note: do not get me started on the other happiness brain chemicals! They are each amazing in their own way. 

Normally I love D-days & hate Z-days, but I do keep in mind that those zeros happen for a reason. In this case, this is the first day since - well, don't know when! - that I haven't had to be busy, due to the Maine Pottery Tour, or my classes. I thought I was going to be doing all the stuff that gets put off in the runup to the tour: lowkey studio tasks like kiln maintenance and mixing glazes, sketches of new sliptrail designs, a good, long, meditative throwing day...but after doing the basic household cleaning, getting my car registered (there's a fun story there for another day!) and taking it to the garage for an inspection sticker, I turned on Young Sheldon and put up my feet. That was 3 hours ago. 

Z-days are still not my faves, but I recognize when my mind is telling me it needs a break. I'll be back at it tomorrow - I can feel those new designs, restless in the back of my mind; those sketches are definitely happening soon. In the meantime, another episode is in order, then smoothies for dinner. 

I'll be back on the D train tomorrow. 

Oh, yeah: if you feel like it you could subscribe to my Patreon page! Just putting this here so I feel like I got something done today. 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Today is the Day: Maine Pottery Tour 2024

Though I got off to a rocky start this year, and continued to a rocky middle, the end looks to be strong- we are set up & ready for the tour, with SO MANY demo & development bargain pots. While I wish I had gotten my shit together earlier so I could be unloading a kiln today, the fact is most of what I sell at the pottery tour are bargain pots anyway.

Weather looks good (today anyway!) We still need to put out the signs & get the snacks but other than that we are ready to roll. 
If you are in Maine this weekend, come see me at Fine Mess Pottery. Plan your pottery road trip at the website. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

How to Make Pour Over Coffee


The first time I encountered a pour over coffee, I was in a painfully hip coffeeshop in the painfully hip Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is absolutely awash in coffeeshops. I picked one at random.
When my order arrived, it was a carafe of hot water, a ramekin of grounds, a stoneware cone with a filter, and a cup. I was like...what? I have to make it myself?

It came without cream, which I asked for, but when I asked for sugar they acted like they'd never heard of sugar in coffee! Nevertheless it was an excellent cup.

A few years later, I learned from a fellow instructor at Portland Pottery the correct dimensions for how to throw coffee cones on the wheel. I make them regularly now.
I also regularly encounter people who don't know how to use them, although it couldn't be simpler, so I put together this little video. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll show you A) how to throw a pour over cone; B) how to handbuild one and C) how to make a form to use in handbuilding a pour over cone.
I expect to have 3 or 4 pour overs in my next firing, happening (hopefully!) the third week in May.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Full Court Press


This did not clarify things even a little

First, a confession: I have no idea what phrase "full court press" means. I know it's some sports thing...maybe basketball?...and I know it has come to mean giving something all of your effort, on all fronts. Or at least I think that's what it means. If only I had a device through which I could access the answers to these questions! OH WAIT

OK I googled it, read the definition, and I still don't know what it means, so, moving right along

After my weeks-long bout of dopamine deficiency, my motivation and energy have returned and it feels like a miracle, and like all good miracles, it came with an epiphany: I know what I need to do, I know what the next steps are for Fine Mess Pottery! Like all good epiphanies, it felt like I had always known it; like the conclusion of a particularly corny fantasy series, the answer has been inside me all along.

This is a long & overblown way of saying, I just need to do more promoting. Like, a lot more.  2-3 Facebook & Instagram posts a day, maybe 10 Threads - those can just be random thoughts, too much promotion turns followers into unfollowers - a blog post or two every week, at least one free & one paid Patreon post a week, 4 newsletters a year. 
Like all good epiphanies, this one comes at an inconvenient time. The next four days are totally devoted to the Maine Pottery Tour, & likely any posting I do will be related to that; but I want to create a posting schedule & strategy as soon as I have time. 

Speaking of the tour, I hope to see you this weekend! 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Happy Accidents

Remember the firing when I accidentally shot the brass sprayer wand into the kiln? That was funny*! It could have been much, much worse, but as it was only the pieces wearing flashing slip were affected, like these seashell refrigerator magnets. They were supposed to be tan, grey, & bone - you know, seashell colors! The copper in the brass that fumed the kiln when that wand melted turned them all varying shades of grayish blue. Worse, it fluxed the flashing slip so that the wadding fused to the backs. 

Well, I decided blue is not the worst color for a seashell - and wadding is soft & easy to grind off, deliberately. I got to grinding & finished by gluing magnets to the back. The epoxy is curing now - these will be available for the Maine Pottery Tour, next weekend. 

*No it wasn't.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

Bonus for Pottery Patrons!

I have an exclusive offer for Patrons at the $5/month & up levels: get 10% off your purchases at Fine Mess Pottery during the Maine Pottery Tour

Check it out at this link to become a patron or learn more. Thanks in advance for your support! 

Signs of Spring: Cleaning up the Summer Studio

It's one week before the Maine Pottery Tour, and I am determined not to put off all the hard work until the day before. One of the most daunting tasks? Clearing out the summer studio of it's months-long accumulation of junk, actual trash, leaves & dirt. It's meant to be upwards of 60° & sunny today - perfect outdoor cleanup & hauling weather. I mean, I can think of things I'd rather be doing, but duty calls. I once read a quote from David Campbell: "Discipline is remembering what you want."I unfortunately can't remember what he actually did that was noteworthy, but the quote itself makes sense: when I keep my mind on the outcome I want - eyes on the prize, you could say - it's pretty easy to motivate myself to do the work that needs to be done. 

Usually. Longtime readers will remember that I sometimes struggle with depression. When that rears its ugly head, it can interfere with my discipline, because not only do I not remember what I want, I don't actually want anything! Not enough to make an effort for it. I had a longish bout with this in the early spring, that I finally connected with the creeping-up of my dosage of the weed gummies (legal in Maine) that help me sleep. For a couple of years, I've been taking a 5 mg dose nightly, & sleep-wise, it's been magical: I fall asleep & I stay asleep for 7-8 hours. In March, trying for a bargain, I bought a bag of 20 mg gummies, thinking I would cut them in 1/4s; but sometimes I forgot & bit them in half. Once or twice i even took a whole one. This bumped up my tolerance FAST & as a result I was taking a lot more than previously. Turns out that stereotype about weed is at least partly true, or true in some cases. It interferes with dopamine production - dopamine being both the motivation & reward hormone for accomplishment. I knew it didn't feel like my normal depressive episode, because there was no attendant Black Despair - I just felt no desire to do anything, and no little zing of satisfaction when I did manage to get something accomplished. None of usual tricks to break my low mood cycle worked. I went through my days feeling like I was dragging a jersey barrier behind me. 

Anyway! A couple weeks ago I dropped back down to my micro-dose, and my attitude & energy levels returned to normal, but by then I was badly behind on tasks that needed to be done. Now I am scrambling to catch up, but some things I am just going to have to let slide. 

Not the summer studio, though! That will get done today. I also have mugs that need handles & decoration, & a few shelves left to grind & wash. I hope you find some time to get outside today, & do something more fun than grinding kiln shelves! 


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