Total Pageviews

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I got help!

Today I got back into the studio and got to work. I feel great about what I got done, but of course I wanted to do more.

I am ready for BIG production though because I got highly productive Studio help from Cristin who we met when she was working at Webster's. She wedged a lot of clay today and did a pretty good job of it for her first time. I have 4 buckets of wedged clay for the weekend. It was nice to have the help. Ro and I both got a lot done for different parts of the business at the same time.

Ro's mission today was to send out thank you notes and a discount coupon to our customers from the year. If you want to receive this sort of thing from us, you should go join our  mailing list. You have to opt in :) we'll never send out mass mailings without the list again. We did one today to invite people, but that's it!

Today I made 35 bowls, most of which will end up as Soup Mugs. You can't see then because they are under all that plastic.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Mugs I like on Etsy

I hear a lot about how some potters don't want to be associated with Etsy because of the overall quality of the work on Etsy. True, it is an open market, any first-pottery-class entrepreneur can sign up for a shop and sell, so yes, there are quite a few bad pots. BUT there are also some really fine pieces.

Here are 7 mugs all from different artists I'd be willing to pay for. Click on any of them to link to their respective shops.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

YES we can get it there in time for Christmas!

I was really concerned about our sales this year through the holidays. A lot has changed for us this year. We started using Etsy and we dropped a few of our regular events. As we finished our annual fall sale we had to decide what was next. Did we want to get involved in some small local events? Did we want to have an in home sale like we have for the past couple years, or did we want to rely on Etsy and the online sales? Relying primarily on one source of income is risky business, but based on our sales history and researching other successful Etsy sellers who had been at it a while we decided that it was likely that we would do well enough on Etsy to make it through the month and we concentrated on getting pieces ready to post and taking special orders. So far it has been right on track for our predictions and if anything we've failed to maximize our sales by being somewhat understocked. We're already plotting next years season and when I start throwing again tomorrow morning it will be for post holiday sales and stocking for next year. By the time I reach retirement I'll have it all worked out so we can make a decent steady income 8P

Truly I feel like the online sales through Etsy has made it possible to be a potter and have time to have a life outside the studio. The last 15 years has been frantic and I think Etsy has given me an opportunity to make a decent income without sprinting back and forth between a show and the studio, never having more that a few days off and hardly ever in a row. We will see how the next year unfolds as we intentionally try to widen our online audience and be stocked well in advance of any shows we do on the road. Looking back I am pleased with the direction our business has gone and can't wait to see where it goes in the future.

But right now the answer to all the questions is "YES, we CAN get it there for Christmas"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Scattered. Pots, shipping and Thermocouple FAIL

I haven't felt very focused the last couple days in the studio. There is a lot going on and I am not sure where to put my attention, so sometimes I put it on snoozing on the couch when I should be working :) That said.

I had a Thermocouple burn out in one of the kilns about a week ago, luckily I had ordered one in advance and was expecting it soon. I then went and ordered another one and complained to the seller that the first one hadn't arrived yet. She agreed to send it priority mail at no extra charge, which was mighty fine of her since she was already charging men more than priority mail would have cost. $8 for shipping! (total of $16 for both of them even though the actual postage on both totaled barely $8) Well the priority one arrived in 3 days and the one she had sent by first class still had not. It arrived today. Then I discovered I had ordered the wrong one. Yep..all that waiting and I got one that was too short.  Ro and I looked at it and decided that although it was not going to stick as far into the kiln as it should it would probably do for a bisc.. We ordered some more through Bailey and she installed the short one for now.  Speaking of get Bailey to ship in less than 3 days you have to pay them a RUSH fee of $5, then if you want it shipped fedex or via express mail they overcharge a lot. As someone who does a lot of shipping I know that a couple thermocouples shipped overnight shouldn't be more than $25 from NY to PA, probably $20 by Express Mail.. But they wanted $45! I don't mind an extra buck or 2 for packaging etc..but that was just greed.

Back to the positive

Ro is such a blessing to me. I have very little fine sensitivity left in my fingers and she has learned how to do many of the repairs I find it difficult to do without much sensation in my messing with wee little screws and wires.

I have no idea if having it barely poking into the chamber will affect the way the thing reads or not, but we're going to give it a try tomorrow.
I spent a lot of time yesterday pulling handles, then throwing some assorted requests including some big bowls, plates including plates that were supposed to get medallions. Today I threw butterkeepers and then this evening trimmed them as well as the pieces I threw yesterday and added handles to the XL soup mugs and some XXL round mugs. When it came time to trim the plates I realized they were too wet still and they would have to wait..and I noticed I put the wrong rim on the plates to get the medallions. UGH. More plates tomorrow, then I'll be be throwing sugars and creamers too. AND I should start glazing. Etsy is hungry and needs more pots. We took 2 shopping carts of boxes into the Weis Market USPS counter today. Looks like I have at least one cartload for tomorrow already. My shipping supplies are dwindling so I ordered more boxes, peanuts and bubblewrap today. This should get us through the holidays, but I won't complain if it doesn't.

You see...scattered, not much focus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Great Flood of 2010

Imagine my surprise when I found this is the basement and studio this morning.

Ro put on the brown dairy boots and fished out the sump pump.we got it before the water hit the bottoms of the kilns, though the pedals on the wheels will have to dry out before they are used. The work will certainly stay wet for a while. The skies  must have opened up last night. When we went to bed 11ish all was well.

We're pumping out the hole in the window where the exhaust from the kiln usually goes. I guess this is more important and makes more sense than sending it through the septic system. As you can see from the last photo our neighbor's backyard stream is being fed by drainage from the development on the ridge above his house. It looks like a waterfall right now. And of course, it just started snowing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Results: My Thanksgiving.

I'm so thankful for not only the national, but international audience Etsy and the internet has provided for me. It's such a pleasure to have my work in the hands of folks who love and appreciate it and in turn be able to honor my own financial obligations. It has been a long journey.

We knew the level of sales on Etsy would increase over the holidays so we stocked up. It's a good thing we did!
We gave a 10% discount to folks who ordered over the holiday weekend since we would not be in town to ship until Monday. The first things that sold were the seconds. Discounted discounts are pretty sweet. Then the regularly priced pieces started to sell, a few big pieces, a few multiple piece orders. Ro has been listing and relisting items we had multiples of. There will be new pieces in a few days too. Here's the pile of boxes for shipment. I had to make 2 trips since I ran out of tape before I finished packing. It filled 3 grocery carts going into the USPS counter at the Weis Markets. Pretty nice.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Desiderata- Max Ehrmann

I absolutely love this poem.
It's part of the missing manual for living that none of us got at birth..

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Scenic New Jersey?

Here we are in Toms River NJ, Thanksgiving morning. I love coming to NJ, mostly for the amazing food and baked goods, but the boardwalk is a blast and the beaches are fantastic..even at this time of year there is something about standing on a cold sandy beach that is cathartic. 

I think I've recovered from the drive, which was peaceful and beautiful right up until we got to Rt 206 and then the Parkway. Then of course the statewide roadrage became evident and people starting acting like asses.

I think the best driving advice I ever gave my son was “never drive like you're in a hurry” It's one thing to drive with purpose and energy, and another to get the crazed feeling that often goes with it that can make you think that your little mission to get someplace is any more important than your fellow traveler's. It is absolutely evident why NJ automobile insurance rates are the highest in the country.

All that aside, there is something that NJ residents should be angry about and it has nothing to do with driving or even the idiots that are on the Jersey Shore show. It has to do with the lack of pride the state shows in cleaning up it's storefront..

Everyone business owner knows that you must keep the storefront looking good. It should be uncluttered, neat and clean. It's the first step in attracting people to come in.

About 20 miles into the state on Rt 80 I saw a sign for “scenic overlook” so I say to Ro “Hey, lets check it out!”

We did and as we drove up the long steep driveway I thought hey this is going to be good. It was scenic for sure. It was good... sort of.

As you can see, there is some absolutely gorgeous stonework here.

and the place has been horribly vandalized and not cleaned up. This is such a shame.

Who is in charge of this? The overlook is supposed to be closed at night when this damage typically occurs. How much would it take to block this off from cars at night? 

You can leave stuff like this alone..after all what is it to you if you're only concerned with getting from place to place as fast as you can, before the other guy.

But if you want to present a nice storefront, and be proud of what the state calls a scenic overlook, write the Governor, write to your Senators and Congressmen. The government cares when the people care. Somebody ought to care...I'll bet if a local politician made a call to action there could even be volunteers found to do the cleanup.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

10% off Hughes Pottery Wed-Sun

We're heading out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday. Usually we offer something special to our Etsy shoppers to encourage buying while we're gone. This time it's 10% off anything in the store between 10AM EST Wednesday morning and 11PM EST on Sunday night. We'll ship Monday morning. The shop is set to automatically give the discount during that time (a new feature!)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Delta Student Visit

We just survived a visit from one of The Delta Program's art classes. Teacher Holly Foy brought in a bunch of students to talk about the business end of Art. We talked, fed them cookies and cider and took them on a short studio tour four at a time. All in all, it went very nicely, and they ate all the cookies! MAYBE they even learned something!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Post Sale Report

After a few days of rest and recovery from the preparation and execution of our open studio event. I can now look back and pass judgment.

It was an absolute success!
What are the criteria?
1) Sales
2) Visitors
3) Amount of leftovers

We had plenty of sales to meet our goals. I joked that this was the property tax sale, and it was. I paid on Monday and I'll be damned if the money hasn't already cleared. It was like a giant vacuum with it's nozzle in my bank account.
Saturday was the big day with 90% of total sales, Sunday was very leisurely.which was good because Saturday wore us out. We actually went to be about 8PM and slept for a full 12 hours.

We had a ton of people who stayed to visit and enjoy the food. Rowan actually had to make a second Bread Pudding for Sunday and somehow all the leftover pumpkin seed brittle disappeared when Julie went back home. Hmmm.

We had a few kids come on Saturday and Sunday and help decorate  the patio. I thought they did a marvelous job :)

The only thing I wish we had done differently was to break down the display sooner. We plan on putting the rest of it into the online sales site but here were some issues that got in the way. First was Ro's power cord finally died, so we had to order another one. The next thing was she felt really sick and wanted a day of rest. So I did what I had to, and assumed we could break down the display together when she was feeling better. I was wrong. The winds picked up and knocked poles out of the tent, knocked mugs off the shelf and onto other pieces on the table. We only lost a few pieces, but it could have been avoided.

Winds of Destruction

Wind is the adversary of the outdoor display. Ro woke up to the sound of smashing pots. We lost a few. The wind gusted so strongly it knocked mugs off a shelf and into other mugs.

We carried the rest inside and partially dropped the tent until we can take the whole thing down. Guess I should go back to bed. ZZZzzzz

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pottery Sale Nov 13 and 14

 There's a lot of preparation that goes into one of our home pottery sales. Rowan always cooks up a storm. We always try to do a major housecleaning (sometimes we succeed) and then there's the big rush of production, the setting up of the tent, arranging the pots, the hundreds of trips up and down the stairs to bring out the new work, cleaning the old work, the facebook and other online marketing, the postcards and of course placing the signs out by the road to let people know we're going to be open.

This year we had a lot of extra challenges. We had cleared out a 12x15 storage unit, sorted the attic, brought home all kinds of things including Rowan's glass studio from The Oasis. Our patio and living room has been stuffed full of miscellaneous stuff and half sorted boxes since September. Ro sorted through all of it, mostly by herself while I spent my time making pottery for the PA Renaissance Faire, Etsy and this home studio sale.

Today Morgan and Troy came and carried the last of the heavy items to the attic and basement, then they set up the sale tent. When we went for the signs we found they were in great disrepair. Paint had peeled. Flat balloons had adhered to the face of one of them, the bases had absorbed water and had bloated. Ro came to the rescue again and put them back into good working order. A fresh coat of paint did wonders.

There is more glazing to do and still some housecleaning, but it seems like our home is a home again and we are just about ready for guests. Ro has already made pumpkin seed brittle and is in the kitchen baking a cake right now.


Rowan did a beautiful thing for me the other day. While going through all the boxes in the attic she came across a treasure from the small farm I grew up on. My mother had a box of arrowheads she had secreted away that she, her father and other family members had found when the fields were plowed up over the last couple hundred years. Rowan took these arrowheads and mounted them in a shadowbox so we could display them. It brings back so many memories from my childhood.

The story I received from my mother was that the beautiful little valley we lived in along Spring Creek in Lemont PA was a favorite camping spot for Indian tribes as they moved from place to place. Is it true? I don't know, but they sure lost a lot of arrowheads. This is only part of the collection.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Clearing the shelves

 Today's work seemed to take forever. This morning I packed up a bunch of Etsy Orders and sent them out, had a lovely visit with Baby Ella and Laura and Gretchen at Webster's on Aaron.

When I finally made it home I got to work.I trimmed the medium jars, lids and added the handles, then trimmed and handled the soup mugs. It doesn't take up much room in the paragraph, but there were 8 jars and 24 soup mugs. By the end I was beat. Then Ro, bless her dedicated heart came down and added Oak Leaves and Acorns to some of them!

As a last act of dedication to my craft and production I took the last three 5lb balls I had wedged up and threw the first of the large jars I wanted to do. Tomorrow I'll face the wedging for the rest and the plates. Then there will be glazing too. I anticipate being very tired tomorrow night.

The very last picture is a prototype of a Greenman Mortar and Pestle I'm working on. I still need to make the pestle, but it will be easy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still working hard!

The sale is next weekend and I can't make anything else for it, but after our studio sale will be fall Etsy Sales and I want to have a good jump on that. Here is what we have done and have in progress right now.

House Ro damn near finished all the sorting of stuff that has been cluttering our living room. A combination of items brought home from the storage unit we cleared out and personal items from the Creative Oasis. All have found a space in the attic. She as done 98% of this on her own, only using me occasionally for muscle and more often using Morgan for muscle. In anycase we were able to comfortably have Catherine and her boyfriend over for dinner tonight. She made Escarole soup and Pasta. It was delicious and RO made the escarole soup vegetarian so I could experience it. No little meatballs in mine :)

Still do do is her glass studio which will have to go to the scary side of the basement for storage. I am guessing that I'll be helping with some of that tomorrow. We also need to scrub down the kitchen and bathroom. Then we will be more or less ready for company.

In the studio I have 74 round mugs to glaze, 20 of which are a special order. 16 Rice Bowls, no notches and about 40 Tankards to glaze too. I finished up 8 small canister pots, and made 8 medium sized ones today. I also threw 24 bowls for soup mugs and 32 cereal bowls. Most of this is in the bisc kiln now. It's been a very good production week and I plan of continuing to produce like this right through until Christmas when I plan on a mini vacation.

Tomorrow will be trimming the medium jars and adding handles to the lids, then throwing the large jars and some plates, maybe some butter keepers too. Then I think there will be glazing for a couple days and while the basement is so damn hot, I'll head upstairs to help clean. Usually the bathroom scrubbing is mine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Feeling Good in High Production

Our annual Fall Studio Sale is next weekend. Nov 13 and 14. I've been worried about how much stock I would have for it with all the other things going on in our lives. Over the last couple days with Rowan's help, I've made a lot of the pieces I was worried about not having. 56 mugs, 40 tankards, 8 bowls and 8 Apple bakers. Tomorrow will be some Canister sets, some more bowls and some soup mugs. We still have considerable stock that came home from the PA Renaissance Faire, so I think the tables will be full enough to satisfy our visitors. I sure hope so...although without a doubt someone will ask for a piece I just don't have.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surprises from our Escape last week

Last week Ro and I took an afternoon and went out to Black Moshannon state park. In addition to a lovely stream and delightful fall colors we came across these old stones along the side of the road which are mile markers from the early 1800's.

I had ridden by them many times as a child, my mother had told me what they were and pointed them out, but we never stopped. Now that I am a middle aged man...I thought that maybe I should stop and share the experience with my lovely wife. The really cool thing is I think the other end of the Philadelphia Erie Turnpike ran very close to her old home in Waterford, PA, very near Erie. I wonder if the route can still be followed?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Making the most of your workspace- A blog for other Potters

Many of us who do clay work are crammed into small basements or garages and we just don't have much table space in addition to wheel space. Here is my solution to not having much table space available.
When Ro and I are both working, perhaps she is wedging or making sprigs and I am doing handles, I pull out this trusty tabletop I bought from Lowe's and put it across my splash pan. It's big enough for a bucket of water, a big ball of clay and about 20 handles. Cheap and easy. Any wide board would do, but the longer a rectangle of wood gets the more likely you are to to tip it over, so I went with the round table.