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Monday, June 29, 2009

Teen Raku Camp and The Raku BBQ

Today I start teaching a 3 day teen camp to culminate in a Raku Pottery. This camp is truly designed with Teens in mind. The class meets M,T,W from 1-4pm, then again on Sunday at 1 for the firing. No crack of dawn stuff for my teens :) Then of course there is the adult-authority sanctioned playing with fire on Sunday. Art, smoke and fire. who could ask for anything more..oh wait! and endless food for teenage bellies

The firing is going to be held in conjunction with what we are calling the Raku BBQ and Birthday Celebration. The class will fire their pieces just as the BBQ gets started, they can stay for sodas burgers, dogs and kebabs etc then as the day progresses more of my friends will show up to help me celebrate my 40th Birthday. 40! let me say again 40!

Anyway, here are some pictures of what I am working on...the vases are all for the Raku firing.

The Chip n dip is a special order and the udu's are just fun.

Udu's are quiet gentle drums great for apartment dwellers. I keep experimenting with shapes and sizes to get the sound I like best. These are going to be really sweet!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A break in the action

The last couple of days have been very productive. I've made and finished a lot of pieces and I have a bunch in the bisque kiln now. Today I threw my first round of garlic bakers.They'll be big enough for one or 2 heads of garlic. You can see the plate part on the right and the dome lid on the left..except for that one darn cereal bowl that is blocking the view..oops. The other picture looks like my regular round mugs, but they really hold about 1 qt..maybe a little more. Pennsic is coming, people will want them.

Now I have to decide what I must do... I need some plates, I need some chip n dips. I need garlic jars and I need butter keepers and wee bowls. Always wee bowls. When I can't think to decide what is next is when I wonder if maybe I am simply done for the night. Somehow I feel like I have a little more potting left in me.

Looks like one of the two shows running this week was essentially rained out. Bummer..we have 2 next week too. Pray for sun and a light breeze.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Morning Coffee and Isolation

I'm having some morning coffee is my favorite local place, Webster's Cafe. Using their Wi-Fi to read my morning news. My news isn't like other peoples. I check the Yahoo Headlines and Featured links, but then I quickly head to my favorite Google Application "Reader" which monitors all my favorite peoples blogs from all the different blog sites on the internet. I have everyone from multiply, a bunch from Live Journal, a bunch from Blogger, and by far the most I have belong to other potters, probably about 60 at this point and from all over the world. So every morning I get my coffee and see what's happening in my world. This morning there are quite a few entries, a potters rant about how badly we need healthcare reform, a nice posting about a new restaurant that came to town, a summarization of someones week at a clay oriented workshop. All kinds of fun stuff! These blogs are keeping me professionally connected. It's like a daily dose of Ceramics Monthly (pottery trade journal that potters crave like crack)

I realized last week why I was having so much trouble staying focused on the work.'s not desperate...I have a lot of stock out there, but my goal is to stay ahead. So what gives?

I'm lonely! Isolated.

I used to work in The Creative Oasis all day between customers, but then I moved my studio home and I had Ro in and out all day. Now Ro is spending a lot of time at The Oasis and I am alone most of the day..

I also used to go to a lot of events to sell and I would see my fellow vendor friends and meet customers who often become friends. I don't go out nearly as often. *sigh*

People on Facebook have been asking how I get any work done because I post stuff all day...I do it in between things, often with one finger that I have wiped clean.. it's been my link to people. I like people. I rarely see people now..unless I come to Webster's, or on Wednesdays to teach my class. Now for some people that would be fine...but not for I want, I crave that contact.

The internet has me connected to the outside world, fortunately to people I know...this isn't some sordid anonymous chat room pick up :) This is real people..who are also trapped in an office, or at home.

Is that sad? or is it a fantastic solution for a little social contact while working alone?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The End

It's the End of Days. School Days. I forgot. My kid pulled into the driveway at noon today with a girl and I thought he was trying to pull a fast one on me...but let out at 10:30, it was the final day. Hopefully when the grades come in we'll find he is a senior :)

It was a busy day, Wednesdays usually are. Somehow I really get it together to throw on Wednesdays..and then I have to ditch throwing to go teach at The Creative Oasis, then I come home determined to finish my work and sometimes I do..but sometimes I just slack off till morning. I at least have to check on pieces tonight and probably trim some of them. There's supposed to be a salt firing this weekend and I am not sure I'll really have anything for it, which kind of makes me sad but that's the way it goes.

Tomorrow should be a very busy day for me, I have a lot of pieces to finish and more to start. It never ends..luckily :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nice day, work hard, play hard.

Our dear friend Mari was here visiting all week. We've been running around and working hard the whole time she was here, so today we decided to take a break and do something fun. I took us all out into the Rothrock State Forest to see the Mountain Laurel bloom. Now I didn't get pictures of the Mountain Laurel( I did STEAL this one from Ro's camera), but I did get pictures of us stopping at Doan's Bones, a BBQ place right beside Whipple's Dam State Park..

When we came back from our adventures, I went back to work and decided that I wanted to do a Raku firing tonight, so I went out and heated up the kiln and when it was dark, we did the's so dramatic that way. Ro took some pictures of the actual firing (here's a few)
I also unloaded a glaze kiln today. It turned out very well. There are a few shots of those two..I think the pitcher..the blue pitcher..turned out well.

Tomorrow Rowan leaves for a week away camping. Mari heads back home and I am on my own for about a week (excluding the horrible teenagers)

Monday I'll be driving my pots down to Harrisburg to meet Jessa so she can take them off to a festival for the week. We'll also be displaying at the KY Renaissance fair at the same time. I am hoping between the two festivals this upcoming weekend and the two the following weekend we can get our finances in order. Things haven't been the same since we had all 3 vehicles in the shop at the same time in April. ARGH.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A pretty nice day

Got a lot done today in the studio, a board and a half of mugs, trimmed all the wee bowls and got a bisque kiln unloaded, pots signed and waxed with help from Ro and Mari. Mari is visiting from NJ and it's really nice to have her here.

Tomorrow I expect to glaze and load a kiln, then trim and handle mugs. If there's any more time maybe I'll throw more.


Monday, June 8, 2009

The Results

We followed the plan and we succeeded! It was a mildly successful weekend. Not nearly what Mother's Day brought us, but those that came bought pottery and left me know how much they loved what I do. It's a really nice feeling to get that feedback. Thanks to everyone to came!

I'm back at it now making more mugs. Celtic Fling is coming up at the PA Ren Fairegrounds and I want to be sure I have some of everything to offer!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Plan

After a stressful day of feeling conflicted and worried about our situation, here is the plan for action:

Since I have a weekend free, lots of pottery, lots of traffic AND the weather looks good, We're going to have a weekend sale.

As an added bonus, Morgan cut the lawn yesterday, so things are looking pretty good out there. The tent will go up later today, the signs will go out tonight and we'll set up the tables. It'll be great!

In the meantime I've just finished my morning blog-read..I follow about 50 potters blogs. Most of the time it's very inspiring to see what my fellow potters are up to. Sometimes I see new forms or finishes that inspire me, sometimes I see a marketing idea that inspires me. Sometimes I see the struggles. Most of them are pretty good about not putting too much of that in. This one potter, and I know I have mentioned him before is living a fairly idyllic life. I want my life to be as balanced as his seems to be. His name is Joe Bennion and he is living in Spring City, UT. I've been following his work off and on for about 10 years. I found his--> blog today <--to be particularly inspiring since he was talking about the balance between work and play.

Now onto production. Last night Rowan and I discussed the idea we hatched about a year ago to move into more kitchen and food oriented items for our sales at home and perhaps some of the galleries. Items like Berry Bowls and Butter Keepers, tumblers have become part of what we do, now we're going to add garlic bakers, garlic jars, brie bakers, and maybe chicken bakers to the list. She wasn't so keen on the chicken bakers, but I read about them fairly often so I'm going to make a few and see how it goes. If I ate chicken, I'd want to try one out. I also have a request for some Chip N what the heck..I'll do a few of those too. Don't get me wrong..I am NEVER going to be a straight production potter, I pay attention to too many details for that. I feel like I've finally thrown off the aesthetic of the one of a kind, every detail perfect, and thought about, meditated on and finally executed piece which is promptly admired and locked behind glass, to one where the piece is designed, thought about, executed well, looks beautiful and most importantly is put into everyday use by a customer. I want to make pieces that touch people in their daily lives. Pieces for touching, using and enriching daily life.

This is my plan and goal.

That said, it's time to get busy and make some pieces.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Assessing and Reassessing MONEY

Mreow! phasers set to stun!

How many times have you heard the quote" an unexamined life isn't worth living"? It's attributed to Plato, though I first came across it in a biography of Thomas Jefferson. I take it to heart. One thing I constantly do is assess and reassess my life. Am I happy? If so, why? If not, why?

Lately I find myself generally happy..a condition I can describe best as neutral-positive. I'm not ambivalent (neutral), I'm not sparkly happy positive either, it's somewhere in between, but every once in a while I hit the neutral-negative to NEGATIVE zone and that causes me to reassess. Today I slipped from neutral-positive to neutral-negative and before I crash I wanted to do a little introspection and figure out just what's going on.

Usually it's some kind of conflict that makes me the most unhappy. Like when my wife and I have a fundamental disagreement, or there is some kind of stress that affects me and one of the businesses I am involved with. The behavior of a coworker or a a looming overdue task. The biggest one of all is always about money. Money issues can make my mood crash like nothing else.

The question is why? I am told that many successful people have been monetary failures several times. I have been on the verge several times, but I can go from feeling like the King of Potters to someone not worthy,a complete failure! All over a few unexpected bills.

So realistically am I a complete failure? Heck no! I have a booming business even in this recession. I've sold more pottery and had higher sales than every before. I am very pleased with the quality and quantity of work I am producing this year.

Of course my expenses are higher too. I have a mortgage and a car payment and cable and high speed internet, an electric bill that supports 2 kilns,a student loan payment, a gas bill for the stove and outdoor kiln, insurance for the vehicles as well as a small accident policy. 2 teenagers, one who is JUST now finding a job (YAY Morgan, gotta pay your share of that insurance). And it all adds up.AND I never had all that before...*sigh* do we need that cable?

I think one of the problems is we have less shows than in the past. We dropped a few from the schedule that were not performing really well and that has left monetary gaps where there was a dribble of income before but freed us up from having to split stock and rush to be in 2 and sometimes 3 places at once for not much return, but it affected cash flow. And flow is the problem. when I look at the numbers 1/2 of my income comes between July and October which is essentially 1/4 of the year. NOT good!

SO now I have to figure out how to boost the dead zones to keep it all going. The home based studio sales have been good. We added a few local SCA events which have helped. In fact I was totally blown away by how successful these small shows have been, but we're still falling a little short and I am getting really exasperated. I complained to Ro the other day, "How can I have sold ($BIG$) in pottery this month and still be broke? Which is of course easy to do...I mean look at all these big companies dropping like flies, it all comes down to spending less than you make. The trouble is I like the life I have now and want to make more rather than cut costs.

So I need to sell more of my work. Really it shouldn't be that hard. If I could get 1/2 of 1% of the residential population in the state college area to buy a piece from me I'd be set for years. If I could sell 50 pieces a week on average spread out over all my outlets, I'd truly have it made...only 50 pieces.

I think we're going to do another sale at home this weekend. Throw out the sign and hope for passers by. Even if we only sell a few pieces it'll be less expense than packing up and driving to a small SCA event and much less hassle than an art fair.

The best part is it takes some of the helpless feeling away. Something I am really lucky to be able to do. Someone making an hourly wage can't just decide to try to increase their salary instantly. And I don't know if I can, but I can try :)