Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Fattie of the Firing

It's fun to look through the pots after unloading and try to choose a favorite - what I call the "fattie." If I'm lucky, choosing the fattie will be a difficult task! This as such a firing. While photographing pots yesterday I had a chance to mull it over.
This Jaunty Jar is s strong contender! It almost appears to be inhaling.
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I love the luscious quality of the glaze, edged with the silver/charcoal of trapped carbon.
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This quiet little pot still managed to grab my attention.
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I have a weakness for butterdishes - making them and using them - and this one took the soda glass so perfectly.
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There were tons of great mugs in this load! 

Can a set collectively be The Fattie?
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Blue, and soda, and excessive slip trailing, and roses! This vases combines many of my favorite clay qualities.
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Detail
The Fattie is ultimately a subjective choice, and factors play in that don't come through in photos, like a silky surface or perfect weight: substantial but not clunky. In the end I settled on the butterdish: that is my Fattie of the Firing. All the factors came together, plus one: the lid fits so perfectly: it neither shifts not sticks, and it fits almost the same in either direction! (They almost always fit better one way than the other.)
All of these are currently available in my online store, but I will need inventory for my December shows, so they will probably only there until the beginning of December.

Do you choose a favorite? Do you keep it or sell it? (I always sell my favorites! Sometimes I charge a little more for them, though.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Peek Thru the Spyhole


Yesterday's firing was textbook; like ya see in the pictures, if anybody made movies about firing. Almost perfectly even, light to moderate reduction the whole way...I'm almost worried that it was too perfect, that the demons who torment potters will have a nasty surprise inside for me.

But that's silly...right?

I'll find out on Wednesday.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

It's a Fine Mess, Indeed


Most people think throwing is the messiest part of being a potter. Not so! I can throw all day, and, with the help of a towel across my lap, come away with only a few flecks & streak of clay. The same for my studio: as long as I am careful to empty my splash pan, the mess stays on the wheel.

Glazing is a whole 'nother story. My clothes, the floor, my face, even my hair: all typically gets splashed. It is the finest mess of all, however, because it means soon there will be new pots! I finished loading in the dark (so early, lately!) and bricked up; the kiln is candling now. Unloading hopefully on Wednesday!

oh - don't forget to turn your clock back tonight.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

ACA: CYA, and all the rest of you

I know many potters and artists read this blog, and many of you are self-employed. If that's you, you need to know: Affordable Care Act enrollment begins today! The enrollment period is only 45 days this year, half as long as in previous years, and for some reason they are shutting down the website for 12 hours every Sunday. (I know that sounds crazy, but I fact-checked it: the healthcare.gov website is closed for maintenance for 12 hours every Sunday during the enrollment period. That's stupid, but whatever, we'll work around it!) Enrollment is not difficult but it's kind of long & tedious, and it's easier if you have last year's tax returns handy - it'll save you a little bit of figuring.

The budget is lower for getting the word out this year, so I wanted to use this vehicle to reach however many I can. I hope you will do the same! If there are potters or other artists, or other self-employed people on your Facebook friends list, or among your Twitter followers, make sure they know it's time to enroll!

Click here to begin your ACA enrollment.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Not Just Better: SuperBetter!

My track record with productivity tools is...not great. I mean, nothing disastrous happens but usually I find them to be more effort than they are worth. I still swear by my paper monthly planner - I hate electronic calendars. The little day squares are so tiny! I keep track of everything on my planner - Exercise. When orders, checks, and bills are due. Appointments and social events, obvs. Even my daily weigh-in!

In that light I should be reluctant to gush about yet another e-tool for self-improvement. Except, that doesn't really capture SuperBetter. It's more about reaching goals, even if the goal is "beating depression" or "forgiving yourself for not being perfect." More tangible goals work, too. Mine is to grow my pottery business.

Here's what I love about SuperBetter: it's set up like a game. You have bad guys to battle, quests to win, power ups to help you with all that. It's fun, and it's specific: when you can't think of what the next step might be, SuperBetter has an idea for you.

This week my SuperBetter quests are about getting shit done in the studio and about self-care, so important for everyone, and crucial to me to avoid my old nemesis, depression, as we turn into the dark half of the year. So far it's fun! You can set your quests, power-ups, and bad guys to battle yourself, or the game has some built-ins of each. Today I battled The Sticky Chair, for example, and was able to get moving and get things done. My power-ups include 2 Minutes of Yoga, and Cuddle a Cat. Give it a try! If you want me to be your ally within the game, invite me at info@finemesspottery.com.

Speaking of cats, we've had one hanging around all day for a few months now. We dubbed him Skinny Cat because, well, he's skinny. At first we weren't too worried about Skinny Cat, because he wasn't interested in food we offered him, and his fur smelled nice - like a perfumed hand had been petting him. Just this last week or two, though, he seemed to be here all the time: I'd come in from glazing around 9:30, and Skinny Cat was still in the yard. My husband got up and 5:30 in the morning, and Skinny Cat was still there. He'd started to try and snake past our feet to get into the house, and to beg for food. (Yes, we fed him...) Last week was a very rainy one, and Skinny Cat came into the studio soaking wet on Wednesday. Thursday evening he still hadn't gone home, despite torrential rain all day. We started to think he must be living in our shed - but he was wet & it was getting colder, so Thursday night we brought him in the house.

We had to keep him apart from the other cats, who have hated him through the windows for months. Finn, my laid-back tuxedo, is particularly offended by Skinny Cat. Adopting him was never an option, but we talked about bringing him to the shelter. I know how awful it feels when a cat is missing, though, and I wanted to give him another chance to go home, if he had one. Friday was dry and relatively warm, so I put Skinny back outside - with a collar on. My thinking was, if he comes back without the collar - or doesn't come back - I will know that he has people. He stuck around all day Friday, but when we made no move to let him in Friday night, he wandered off.

This morning, for the first time since August, Skinny Cat is not here. His people must have seen the collar, & decided to keep him in. SO glad I gave him a chance to go home! I hope finding the collar on their cat was not too upsetting to his people; I just couldn't think of any other way to find out if  he was somebody's cat. Seems like Skinny Cat had his happy ending all along, though, so, that can be my Daily Gratitude.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Potter is a Person in your Neighborhood


I frequently get calls and emails asking if I give lessons. I don't - not at my studio, anyway. I do teach both wheel-throwing and handbuilding at Portland Pottery, which is nearly 60 miles away but until recently the only option, other than colleges & universities, for those wanting to take pottery lessons in southern and central Maine.

That's all changing! A couple of years ago some enterprising folk opened Chase's Garage in York, a smaller studio with a gas-fired stoneware kiln. Last year my friend Malley Weber re-opened and expanded her teaching studio, Hallowell Clay Works, moving it to Water Street in Hallowell. I wrote a bit about HCW last year when it opened.

Over the last several months two more teaching studios have opened near me: Neighborhood Clay in Damariscotta, and Community Clay in Rockport. I just wanted to say, welcome to the neighborhood! It's always good to bring joy, creativity, and learning to more people.

In other news, I just found out that the Maine Pottery Tour, my pet project in late winter and spring for several years now, was listed in the 2018 Ceramic Arts Yearbook and Annual Buyers Guide.

That's us at #10!

The guide goes out (went out already, actually) to Ceramics Monthly  & Pottery Making Illustrated subscribers, and will be distributed at the 2018 NCECA conference.

Cool, right? This has the potential to bring a whole new audience to the Pottery Tour.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pots by the Pound and Other News


Fall has brought a flurry of activity with it! We got a last blast of summer weather last week, including one day in the upper 80s. This was fabulous for the tomato garden, and I am daily processing and freezing that harvest. Ditto the pole beans!

Claywise, I am getting ready for the next big thing: Maine Craft Weekend. I've skipped it for the last couple of years, but this year I decided to take a different approach. Instead of treating it like a little brother to the Maine Pottery Tour - getting out the good shelves, etc. - I decided to hold a much needed studio clearance sale.

"Clearance sale" sounds so janky, with a side of desperate. To make it a little more fun, I added a twist: I am holding a Pots by the Pound sale. Here's how it works:

Pots with red stickers are $1; pots with blue stickers are $2; pots with yellow stickers are $5; and so on. Customers choose their pots, then weigh them, all together - red stickers with red, blue with blue, etc. Got five pounds of red-sticker'd pots? That'll be five bucks please. I'm counting on the fun and the novelty to bring people out, and my promotional efforts, of course! I really do have a lot of seconds and demo pots that I am tired of looking at.

Once that is done, I have four events to gear up for: the Holiday Pottery Shop(Starting late November), the Portland Pottery Holiday Show (Dec 14 - 16), Art on the Hill (Dec 1-3) and...wait for it...ACC Baltimore!

I used to do this big wholesale show every year. It made my financial life much smoother: write the orders in late February, spend the next few months filling them, call them back for holiday orders. I knew that I could count on at least as much as the orders I had written coming in for those months.

The last time I did ACC Baltimore, the show coincided with the North American Blizzard of 2003. As you can imagine, the blizzard put a damper on the event. Baltimore is not like St. Paul or even Portland; they don't expect 30 inches of snow. The whole damn city was shut down for four days.

Now, being snowed in at home is one thing. You saw it coming, you dutifully bought your milk and bread the day before, you hunker down with your books and wait it out. Being snowed in in a hotel room...that's a whole 'nother thing. When I say the city was shut down, I'm telling you, even the Seven-Elevens were closed! I ate out of vending machines the whole time, with the pickings getting slimmer by the minute.

They didn't cancel the show. Of course they didn't. So we dragged our asses and our wares into the hall to await all the people who weren't there because travelling in a blizzard is a Bad Idea and they wisely stayed home.

Anyway! That sucked really hard, I lost a bunch of money, and later that year my van broke down. I haven't had an appropriate art-fair pony since then, until now. Now I ride the Grey Lady into battle!

If you can't tell, I am pretty excited about this! Art fairs were once my main gig, and though it's hard work, it's also exciting and ever-changing and immerses you in an intense, if brief, community with your fellow artisans. The thought of returning in part to that life gladdens my heart...and makes my back ache, in anticipation.

But first things first! Today I am painting my ware shelves and making wine chillers and sugar bowls, and sending out postcards for Pots by the Pound. Hope to see you here!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thrown & Assembled Birdbath


This one has been on the list in my head for a looooooong time; although to be fair, it is a long list. It finally came to be as part of a class project.

I have many, many repeat students at Portland Pottery. They know how to throw and slab build and attach handles; in many ways, they are grown-up potters! (They are, in fact, grown-ups, all; I am not currently teaching any kids classes.) It's easy for students, having gained enough skill that they are pleased with their results, to coast along at a static skill level. To break that plateau and insure that they continue learning and continue improving, I often create skill challenges to give them a little push.

This one was a challenge to make a pot that would be taller than 18", after firing. In my case I achieved this with three bottomless thrown cylinders stacked together - the bowl was fired separately. I haven't yet epoxied it in place. I intend to, but right now the fit of the foot into the rim of the stand is enough to keep it secure.

The exterior is unglazed, with just a little iron oxide to warm up to color of the clay.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Art on the Hill


A few weeks ago, after a long break from art fairs due to lack of an appropriate vehicle, I did a sidewalk show - the Portland Fine Craft Show.  I worked like a mad bastard to get ready for the show, schlepped and hoisted and waited and smiled in what I hoped was a welcoming and not maniacal way during the show, and remembered the deep satisfaction that comes with art fairs.

I remembered: work is awesome. (A friend of mine is fond of saying, "Work is great. It's jobs that suck. " I know what he means!)  Working your ass off for weeks and then seeing, directly, the reward for that work - that is a fabulous feeling. I also was reminded: I work better with a specific event or goal in mind. Or at least I work harder!

That is the way of it, with self-employment: you eat what you kill. Maybe that's why I always got restless, in conventional employment situations; it's hard to feel the direct connection between how hard you work and the rewards you reap.

With all that in mind, and with the trusty Grey Lady always ready for saddle or pack, I registered for another fair: Art on the Hill, put on by the Society of East End Artists at the East End Community School in Portland. This is the school at the end of the Portland peninsula that used to known as Jack Junior.

Summer's not even technically done yet, but with this goal in mind (and, of course, the Portland Pottery show, and the Holiday Pop up Shop) the urge to make is coming on strong.  I know how events sneak up on me! Time can change from "more than plenty" to "oops too late!" in the space of a day. (Or, in the words of Hermione Granger's homework planner, ""Don't leave it till later, you big second-rater!"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What I found on my Vacation; or Welcome Home, Fish-Boy!

One thing I hope I have learned from many years of self-employment is that even if you love your work, you gotta take a break. With that in mind, this past week has been my vacation! Other people taught my classes, and I took a break from all things pottery-related. Well - almost all things. I did spend an afternoon cleaning & organizing the studio so it would be ready when I am.

Instead, I did some hiking and some biking, and caught up on projects that have been nagging at my mind for some time. I cleaned out two big storage closets that seemed full but in fact still had plenty of space - just needed to be organized. I donated six bags of office clothing to Goodwill, despite a nagging superstitious fear that in doing so I may have precipitated some unforeseen event that will cause me to again have to get an office job.

Doug & I also just did some tooling around, visiting yard sales & junk shops, a favorite pasttime. One of those was one I visited in the spring, on my way to Blue Hill to deliver pots, and it was then that I encountered Fish Boy - a piece of yard statuary depicting a cherub embracing someone's ichthyologically incorrect idea of a fish.
I was immediately enchanted by Fish Boy, due to his charming oddity, but also because saving fish is Doug's business. He's a consultant for riverine ecosystem restoration. Fish Boy seemed made for us, but at $185 he ws right out of the budget. Nope, uh-uh, no way. So I reluctantly left him behind and went on my way.

Yesterday, when we returned to the junk barn (not sure it has a name), I remembered Fish Boy, and went to look; but he was gone from his place in a dusty corner. I mentioned this to Doug, and the Junk Barn lady heard me. She pointed out Fish Boy, out near the roadway, welcoming visitors. We had driven right past him.

I went out to look, and discovered that his price tag now read $48. This would still be a splurge for me, on something very silly. But I mean...it was so perfect.

I dragged Doug out to look at it with me. He declared it the ugliest thing he had ever seen. This just made Fish Boy more appealing to me. I went back in and asked the shop owner if there was any possibility that Fish Boy could be had for less.
"Forty dollars," came the answer.

Sold.

Now Fish Boy enjoys a place of honor in my overgrown garden among the sedum and echinachea.

My vacation has been a marvel, and now I'm excited to get back to work.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tonight, We Ride



Saddle up the Nopetopus and nope on outta there.

I am always telling my students that saying no is a very useful skill as a potter. People hear you are taking pottery lessons, and they start asking you for things. Can you duplicate this item I found at Williams-Sonoma? Can you make sushi plates glazed to match the koi in my pond (yes, that happened)? Can you make me a stein with a hinged lid and a lion roaring on top?

I get requests all the time that I could maybe do, but I just...don't want to. I have reasons sometimes - my studio is not a good space to give lessons, for example. But this shirt is a reminder...I don't need a good reason. "I don't want to" is reason enough.

"Nope" is a complete sentence.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Smell of the Crowd

The crowd actually smelled pretty good yesterday at the Portland Fine Craft Show. It was a hell of a long day - I had to get up around 4 in order to be in Portland in time to set up for the show. We got a great day though, low 70s & dry.
The night before I remembered around 8 pm that we would be on asphalt - no way to stake the tent. I scrambled to Lowe's to find a weighting solution that wouldn't be too ugly. I ended up with white sandbags, about 40 pounds each. Good thing, too! Though it wasn't super windy, city streets can channel breeze in such a way that it gets magnified. I had no trouble - 40 lbs per leg seemed to do the trick - but I saw several people who had to grip onto their tents when we'd get a gust.

I did a firing specifically for this show, and was glad I did - it was a good one, crisp bright colors and some lovely juicy rivers of soda. My bet was a little off, though: I leaned towards mugs and ice cream bowls & other small things, and people wanted serving bowls, vases, and jaunty jars. If I'd had more of the larger items, I could definitely have sold more.

This was The Grey Lady's maiden art fair, and it reminded me of the days when that was my life: make, fire, load, travel, sell, come home & start all over again. Damn, it is a lot of work! Someone I had forgotten that: a shit-ton of work, and all crammed into a few days.

 Also, I need to figure out how to load the truck more efficiently: if this had been a better show for me I wouldn't have had enough work. It didn't suck but I wasn't dancing in the street. Wait, yes, I was, but only because the music moved me to do so. It was an amazing violin and synth duo, I am still trying to figure out the group's name.

But I digress. If it had been one of the more high volume shows I have done - The Uptown Art fair, or The Saint Louis Art Fair - I wouldn't have had enough work there. So I gotta figure that out, how to get more stuff in the small bed of my truck.

Next up I find homes for the leftover inventory. Not too worried about that - it really was a good firing, so I think my wholesale accounts will be happy, but I've got to unpack everything & figure out what is going where.


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