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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Big List, NOT a bucket list.

A bucket list implies "before you die." I want this stuff to start happening now.

Along with the yearly review of things business which I covered in the previous posting. I have a list of other things I want to be able to do. Some of them have been waiting for a long time. I don't know how I am going to accomplish them, but I want them done..and with the house and studio oriented tasks the sooner the better.

There has to be a way right?

House and Studio:
My first and most important wish is to get the studio out of our basement and into an outbuilding. The trouble is we don't have an outbuilding. So we'd have to build one. Our dream building will have about double the space we currently have in the basement. many windows, at least one garage door and a small area for retail. We found the perfect building while at the local Grange Fair. a two car garage with a little extra room for about $13,000 delivered. It was huge and could be insulated, wired for electricity and the space divided. Unfortunately we also would need to excavate, pour a concrete pad. Get running water and have some sort of drain system..though I think a floor drain would work for us. I estimate the final cost at around $30,000. This, in case you wondered, is about 2400 mugs at wholesale prices.*sigh*

The most important home repairs we need all take place in the old section of our basement. The first is we have a massive crack in our foundation which is where our basement flooding problem comes from. I don't have any ideas on this one. I guess we need to have someone come and look at it. When it pours it actually looks like a little waterfall. Fortunately there is a floor drain for small rainstorms, but when we have 4 or 5 day monsoons we have to head downstairs with a sump pump and a shop vac. It gets old really fast. Truly it is also dangerous because it has come within inches of a 2000 degree kiln. if water seeped into the hot kiln I think it would be like a boiler explosion. The house would just be gone and parts of us scattered over Port Matilda PA. If the kilns were in a new outbuilding I could tolerate a little flooding.

Next is a water softener. The water in our house is so hard we've had to replace two kitchen faucets since we moved here 4 years ago.The water to our bathroom sink is at a trickle and we regularly soak our shower head in CLR to keep it flowing. This is driving me crazy.

The next thing is we need to rearrange the floor plan of the house. Some of the folks who have been to our house know where we're coming from. We have some ideas, but need to consult someone as to the actual possibilities. I think there are walls to be moved. Some of it I know we could do ourselves, but some of it is way out of our expertise.

Once this list is kicked, there will be celebrating to do, and the thing we want to do more than anything is travel. On the list of places to go:

All of our National Parks,

I'd prefer to do most of it on the road. A pickup and an RV. However this will require 2 things we don't have. One is an RV, the other is the several weeks a year to take off across the country. I suppose if my house list gets accomplished we'll be able to work out the time and the RV because we'll be on a roll of amazing things happening.

Then of course we'd like to head back to Ireland. We're just not done with that lovely country yet. Then Scotland and Wales.

Rowan would like to get back to Greece, and then of course Turkey is right next door, and we have friends who have offered us lodging there.

Life is short and we work too much. How can we make this happen?


Monday, December 26, 2011

Hughes Pottery Yearly Review

Charles Hughes

Every year at this time I go through a period of yearly review.

The last few years I've had the pleasure of adding my beloved wife and partner to this review. Where were we last year? Where are we now? How was the time in between?

Rowan Rose
 Last year we decided that we work way too hard for not enough return, so we decided we were going to work smarter. Mainly by trying to work steadily throughout the year, whether we had show deadlines or not. Slow and steady wins the race right?

Sort of. We did this thing. Made a list, followed it, kept working, but then something crazy happened. Our sales increased. So when the show deadlines came up, we had to rush anyway. By the end of the year, we were working from 10AM till we were done. moving from task to task and integrating errands, lunch and whatever else came up into the middle of the day, returning home, I'd often crash about 4-5PM, nap for an hour, then eat dinner and head back to the studio from 7-12, then crawl into bed, thoroughly exhausted. This got old. We kept doing it, and saying "we need to get this under control" but we didn't and the orders came in, and the sales increased and we found ourselves paying most of the bills on time, but we still had no time for ourselves.

The bad thing about having a life with no time off is that eventually the body rebels and you have to take a break. We notice 2 things starting to happen when we're overworking. We get sick, and before that, we stop thinking and planning and acting and start reacting instead,. That leaves us feeling buffeted by life events and we feel like passengers on a runaway train.

Day to day, this comes out in less frequent grocery shopping and more frequent grabbing a bite out as well as endless exhaustion. We cook here in the Hughes/Rose household. We cook really well, but sometimes we just stare blankly at each other and head down the street to the Brothers Pizza, and when we're rested and thinking we plan out serving sizes, and when we're exhausted we just order stuff that sounds good, eat it without much tasting, then psych ourselves up for another 5 hours of work. It fuels the motor, but certainly not well.

So after much discussion about our future this year we agree on a few things.
1)We work too long and hard.
2) we need to manage our available time better.

We need to set a work schedule. A real work schedule, and we need to stick to it.

We need to do errands before or after work hours like everyone else and pay attention to the things that make our lives worth living. Love, family, hobbies, outside interests.We also need to schedule days off, vacation days. Days that we don't work, days that we can use for relaxation, or household projects. I think if we do these things our productivity will be focused and our lives will achieve better balance..and we might even enjoy it more.

It will be the grand experiment for the year.

There are more questions that we're considering, such as the universe seems to be calling us to do more wholesale and less consignment, only one consignment shop place left on our list beside the Shop at the Renaissance Faires. We had 4 new wholesale accounts open this year. We went through another year on Etsy and found we are making 60% our income online now.. Just 3 years ago it was 0%.

Times are changing. Starting Jan 3, it'll be 8-5 with an hour of breaks and on the 6th we're going to take our first guilt free scheduled vacation day.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maker's Marks

Over the years I've had many maker's marks, initially pretty crude, a scratched in crescent moon with my first name "Charles" scratched in beside it..That was back in 91-94, then I started scratching in "Hughes" .Then off and on over the next 10-12 years I scratched in my last name or wrote it with Iron Oxide, or sometimes Cobalt Oxide. Somewhere in early 2000 I started using what I call the radiant "H" an "H" with hash marks radiating out from around it. Then I started using a stamp that said "Hughes" but it broke eventually and I stopped. Then I thought I should make a new one, so I made one that said "CGH", Charles Gordon Hughes and I've been using it off and on with the Radiant H for a few years.

A few years ago I got married to a lovely lady who has an awesome artists name, Rowan Rose.  I taught her to throw and how to glaze and do all the things I do (except pull handles..she just doesn't want to pull handles).We made her a great maker's mark too, two R's back to back. Now in the last year or so we've been working together a lot more. and we decided we'd better start to reflect that in the work. So we came up with a new mark that combines my Radiant H and her RR.It's an H with two R's coming off of it. You'll start to see it a lot more.The work we do together is amazing. She needs to share the credit :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gurgle Gurgle

 Rowan heard a strange noise coming from the vent fan for the kilns today. It distinctly gurgled.We've noticed some extra fumes from the kiln lately, so we decided to investigate. Looking at the space between the kilns we looked at ourselves and called in Morgan my son to squeeze in between the kilns and dismantle the hoses and check for leaks and water. Both hoses were leaking, One was full of water from our last flood a few weeks ago. He was a real trooper and spent a lot of time under the kilns on the dusty floor and it looks like we have solid vent hoses again.It should make a big difference for us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Fridays just aren't what they used to be

It was a pretty productive day here at Hughes Pottery. I woke up rested and feeling pretty good. Made some lovely leftover roasted fingerling potatoes into homefries, cooked up a couple eggs. Stashed the leftovers for the lovely Rowan who got to sleep in a little bit longer today and was just waking up when I packed up a couple of Etsy orders and headed out to run a few errands.

Errand number one was getting the packages to the USPS. That accomplished, I decided to head around the corner to the hair salon, so I could get this mighty mop on top of my head trimmed down. It looked for a while like I was going to have to wait a week as my usual stylist was booked and then closing on a house early next week. I put on my most pitiful puppy dog eyes, and aided by the shaggy mop that makes me look like an ungroomed English Sheep Dog she relented and squeezed me into a slot tomorrow morning just before a bride.

I promised her I would try to be low stress and then I went on my way to the next errand, an oil change, then to the discount store for one more plastic tub for glaze chemicals. and finally home. Where I was greeted by Rowan who had a steely glint in her eye and laid out the story of how her mission of fresh photos for the Etsy shop had been abandoned in favor of organizing and cleaning the office.

I retreated to the safety of the studio.

In the studio I organized a bit, transferred the 25lbs of Rutile into the new tub and got started using up the buckets of wedged clay that awaited me.

Today's work!

Overall it was a successful throwing day, but then I realized the biscuit kiln was almost cooled, and I had all these pieces left over from the previous firing that hadn't made it into the kiln.

So I suspect tomorrow morning and afternoon will be me trimming and finishing pieces while Rowan unloads and waxes the bottoms of the biscware, and tomorrow evening into night will be glazing and loading a kiln. It's funny how it all seems to need doing all at once.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Making of our Oak and Acorn Plates

An Oak Leaf and Acorn Plate by Rowan Rose and Charles Hughes of Hughes Pottery   
Follow this link to our Facebook Fan Page to see step by step photos!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Turning of the seasons

Ahhh the summer has passed and Fall is here. Looking back to late spring and the beginning of summer it seems like a whole new world for us.

In June and July we were dealing with some online sales problems that had us terrified. There is always a summer lull in online sales since folks are out busy doing the summer folks do their pottery shopping at events, and our early summer events were hit or miss.2 in a row at the same site brought us beautiful weather and strong sales for one, and a heatwave so strong in the next that no one could stand to be out and moving during the second one.

 Looking back I think we didn't have a chance. First thing was the Google Panda update, we had to optimize for it, It seems better now, but it didn't solve our problems. The biggest problem we had was the internal search at Etsy was being experimented with.

August was better, great in fact, and magically the online sales started to reappear. Towards the beginning of August Etsy announced they had hired on a team of search engine specialists to make relevancy the basis of search results. Previously it was weighted strongly towards renewed and recently listed relevant items. They say that the site overall had record sales during July, but our records show we were down by over 65%.

As we went into September we had high hopes for business at The PA Renaissance Faire, but the hurricanes on the east coast had other plans.Fortunately the online sales are back to normal levels. and the weather has been steadily improving and now that the hurricanes have subsided, folks are coming back to the Renaissance Faire and are loving our work.

This is the most gratifying thing about making and selling pottery for us. We love making things, we love making them well, and constantly searching for new expressions of beauty and functionality in our work. It's humbling to think that folks love our work enough that we can make a living from it

Our Fall Pottery Events

Weekends Aug - Oct 31 we have the PA Renaissance Faire, the booth is beside the Privies on Privy lane.

 Nov 5,6 we have our Studio Sale 9-5 both days, with a huge spread of complimentary goodies. All are welcome for the food, pottery or both!

We're working on special orders for some individuals, several local businesses and a large special order for a Church.

We're stocking up for our studio sale, and trying to get Etsy stocked up for the upcoming holiday season. Last year we barely kept up, This year we're thinking ahead.

With all that on the agenda I just got a ton of clay and we're going to get into it this week. I anticipate another one in late October

And now it's time to get to it :) It's time to make beautiful things for you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lighting at Events UPDATE

The original post is here:

as an update. Our neighbors at Pennsic had a huge well lit tent with minimal effort. They were using this clever system.

a 25 foot flat extension cord with some of these attached every 18 inches.Strung right down the peak of the roof. They are available through this link at Amazon . With 32 watt curly bulbs mimicking 100 watt incandescent lighting you can get a lot of light from this system.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did a Panda eat my store??

It's good to do what you love for a living, but only if it is a living. We've been living the dream.

The last couple of years, we at Hughes Pottery have been feeling pretty good about the way the economy has been treating us. 

While we have, like most of the US also been suffering in various ways, like a beautiful house we couldn't sell that was eating up over $1000 a month until we just couldn't do it anymore, we have also been experiencing a shift in our business practices that gave us a lot of hope for the future. Our business increased, while so many were losing jobs. People were buying more pottery. We don't know why. Here is an overview of where we came from.

4 Years ago, 100% of our sales came from doing various festivals and fairs around the country. This was pretty good and after expenses we got to keep about 50% of the retail sold. But sales were starting to decrease and in the middle of 3 years ago we knew there had to be some major changes.
My brilliant wife said "We need to diversify our income streams and keep more of what we sell!"

So we set out to do that. We stopped doing the lowest producing events, and started figuring out how to do online sales. We started stocking the bigger events with more work, and while we had a representative manage the distant events, we went to other smaller local events to keep the cash flowing. We also started looking for wholesale opportunities with local businesses, All of these changes started to make a difference, but the biggest one started to come to fruition in January of 2010.

We were at an even in MA, selling our wares, when suddenly my smart phone began chirping at me. Several sales had come through on Paypal. How awesome! Mavelous! Here we were at an event in MA making money, we had a rep in FL making money and suddenly we were also making money online! So my brilliant wife Rowan started poking around in the forums on Etsy and started paying a lot more attention to it. By the next month it had become a challenge to get more work up and see how well this online sales thing could work. It became amazing, we watched sales increased steadily until summer, when we really couldn't stock it as well, or pay as much attention to it because of all the summer shows and traveling.

After summer we started restocking the shop and sales started to increase again until we started thinking maybe..just maybe this could support us entirely and then we could pay off debts and take a vacation and have savings and stuff...but it turned out to only be a Christmas sales season fantasy...sales dropped again, but were steadily higher than the previous year. We made an extraordinary effort and doubled the stock available... no dramatic changes in sales, but at least we were not frantic to keep up anymore.

Then came summer.

My expectation: Sales would drop a little bit because it is summer..people are busy, people are doing things, people are buying at craft fairs and other outdoor festivals. However, I expected we would see a similar level of sales to the previous year, simply based on having a lot more available stock, more than double!

The reality: Sales plummeted in June and July, I am not sure what to expect from August. I sure as hell hope to see increases again in September.

Thankfully we have big events in August that traditionally do very well..hopefully enough to make up for June and July and lead us into September.

So what happened? There are several things we're looking at.

1) It's'll all be OK come fall.
2) Etsy has been going through a lot of changes, introducing some social networking features and changing a lot of things internally that could affect how many Etsy visitors are being exposed to our site.  Etsy also just recently got a new CEO..and while it's always exciting to have new leadership, it's also frightening. They could make things better..or horribly worse.
we've been reading in the Etsy forums about other people having drastic decreases in their normally steady summertime online sales. While we believe it, we don't know if it is a true trend. There is only limited information available to us, but the Etsy weather report indicates a 4% decrease in sales for June sitewide.

3) Two major changes from Google. One an algorithm change in the early spring, then what they called the Panda update. All the reading we've done indicates out shop is very compliant and shouldn't be ignored by the google bots.

In the end, we just don't know..but hope it will be back to normal soon. Our lives and livlihood depend on it.

If anyone has insight..please feel free to comment.

The Goblet King Prepares for WAR!

We're getting ready for War..The Pennsic War. This large goblet will be one of the centerpieces of our display. Wish us well, and if you have need of our pottery while we are at war, please visit our online store.

While we will be pretending to be in medieval times, we'll still be updating and checking in with pictures and updates from the war on our Facebook business page. Visit us there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's show time!

Sweet Tea Pitcher at
If you've been following along, you've seen the massive run of production We've been doing over the last few weeks. It's all over now, Since June 21st we've gone through about 800lbs of clay and produced roughly 275 pieces. Now I know some people who can throw that many in a day without a fuss, but I'm not one of them. This took an effort and overfilled the studio.Now we go see if anyone likes what we do enough to part with their hard earned cash. So far there are five 18 gallon totes full of pottery, I there is enough work left to fill another 1 and there is a kiln cooling this morning which should fill another 2..There is also a stack of greenware waiting to be biscuit fired that includes a few plate orders due in August as well as more soup mugs and some tumblers.

In theory this should get us through this weekend, plus the next two weeks. and still leave about 1/2 the stock available. We'll be coming home on the 18th to start throwing again, where I hope to get another 150-250 pieces thrown to take to the last and biggest event we do for the first two weeks in August..When that wraps up, all the stock will be headed to The PA Renaissance Faire for the fall, and we'll come home and start producing for it as well as keeping Etsy stock built up in preparation for the Holiday season. Then we'll be wishing you a happy new year :)

Now I've got to go pack, price load and organize.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kiln loading troubles!

This is all the space we have left! 

and all these pots to load (scroll down)
And these

And these are going in the glaze kiln

Am I done yet?

This is the kind of week where I have a lot of conflicting feelings about what I do for a living. I feel rushed. Very rushed. Summers are brutal for us. There is something to be said for a 9-5 with a regular paycheck.and paid vacations. That said..I wouldn't give this up, it's not just a job.

This is our current situation, and it makes me sad to know that by the time I can think clearly again summer will be over.

Last week we had The Celtic Fling at The PA Renaissance Fairgrounds..  We were fully stocked, we had the event and left our work there..about 160 pieces or so. Why did we leave the pieces? Because The PA Renaissance Faire starts before we will be able to come back with even more pieces. So we decided this year to leave our stock so we won't have to do a crazy mad dash back from Pennsic in the middle of the night like we did last year. Instead we're doing a crazy mad dash to create even more work for the other events we're selling at, plus enough to keep the Hughes Pottery Etsy shop stocked and fulfill the special orders that have been coming in.

On a related note...Catherine just came back from Ocean City again. She brought back the same boy as she did last year.. As a friend. he's helping her move. She's decided to move to Baltimore. She got hired at a car dealership, has an apartment lined up. She broke up with her current BF, ditched the sublet she had lined up here in State College. She and her moving buddy left yesterday. We wish her well..and she is well warned there can be no rescues if it doesn't work out.

Over the last 2 weeks we've made about 200 pieces. Over the next week while I am firing all those I hope to get another 100 made even though it will be as hot as 7 hells in the studio with all the firing.

In a few days we'll be headed for an event in ME, The Great Northeastern war. From there we'll head to NY for Sirius Rising at The Brushwood Folklore Center, and then we'll be home for about 2 weeks, but our stock will stay at Brushwood with Jessa and Sarasvatis's Call  for Summer Fest.

While Summerfest is happening, we'll be home doing another mad dash to get even more pottery made, then Jessa will bring stock to Pennsic, and we will also bring stock to Pennsic and we'll be there for about 2 weeks.

Then I hope to have a few days vacation. Each year I say this, and each year something has happened to squash my hopes. I had my first vacation as an adult as a was our honeymoon. We went to Ireland. I'm hoping for something a little less extravagant...maybe a cabin in the woods with a lake nearby. Something. peaceful that doesn't involve us working 18 hour days.

Friday, June 24, 2011

2 shots of the setup for Celtic Fling

 Pottery and clothing are all in place. Just a bit of the ceiling cloth to staple up before the patrons arrive :) Big thanks to Jessa for doing the setup and making this happen!

Much New Work

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Supplies and Scheduling.

Quite an adventure around here the last couple days. Ro had been at an event close by so I picked her up then we went into Bernville, PA to R.I.C.H. Inc and saw the new facilities  and picked up 2300lbs of goodness. We got home late Monday night just catching a buckets-drenching downpour which of course also soaked some of my bags of glaze materials. We tarped the back of the truck and hoped for sun the next day to dry the bags before we tried to move them.It almost worked. By the time I had found my son AKA "The Forklift" and friend Troy to move the materials the bags were mostly dry, but one of them had split, so I practically made a new bag out of packing tape.

It took those two 19 year old men 18 minutes to get everything into the basement. Then we spent the next hour putting things away.

I got some trimming done later that evening but most of the work was still too wet to finish, so today I'll start out trimming and handling, then later on I'll start another round of throwing.

There is a lot on the list for the next couple weeks. We don't have a lot of time to stock up for the rest of the summer's  events, so they essentially must be made over the next few weeks.

Our Schedule:
July 8-10th  The Great Northeastern War in Hebron ME
July 11-17th Sirius Rising in Sherman NY
July 18-24th Summerfest in Sherman NY
Aug 2-14th The Pennsic War near Slippery Rock PA
overlapping one weekend with
Then The PA Renaissance Faire Aug 13- Oct 30th

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bumping around the house

It's been a quiet couple of days. Ro has been out of town since Tuesday and I have been left to my own devices. I've been working in the studio, cleaning up the house, ordering supplies, packing Etsy orders and sitting with the forlorn Pepper who misses his best Mistress, but will put up with his Master. Poor Puppy.

So I did get into the studio and make a whole bunch of stuff yesterday, today I spent trimming and adding handles. I only have bowls left to trim for the morning.

I'm pretty pleased with both the Teapots and the Pitchers. I'm looking forward to finishing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

a BIG oops

Usually things run pretty smoothly around here. We're busy, I rarely take a break for more than a few hours. Work happens everyday and the biggest problem we have is selling more and keeping stocked and remembering to get to bed by midnight. (1:20AM).

Today was a slow day for me. I sent out some packages from yesterday. No sales today at all, but suddenly around 5PM I got emails and phone calls from customers.

I had screwed up. I put the labels on the wrong packages. So Ohio's purchase went to Virginia...Virginia went to Ohio.

The worst part was knowing I had screwed up. The best part is they were exceptionally gracious about it. To solve the problem they will be relabeling the boxes and shipping to each other. I will pay the shipping. As a gesture of goodwill I also refunded their original shipping charges. They'll probably also get a nice fat coupon soon for a percentage off.

How would you have handled it?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Penn Mo Firebrick to Rich Inc, Clay Supplier moving

For the last 5 years or so my clay supplier has been John Fulton of Penn Mo Firebrick in Harrisburg, PA.

He won me over with very personalized service, providing me with both Miller and Standard Ceramics clays and he was close enough I could pick up some tools and a pallet of clay and glaze supplies in the back of my pickup while running back and forth from either the PA Renaissance Faire or dropping work off with one of my associates who would take the pieces out to various shows and conventions.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from John saying he was going to be moving the business and operating under new ownership, Rich Inc, they specialize in refractory and furnace supplies and now clay and pottery supplies and  operate out of Bernville PA. They're almost done with the move and I'll be picking up my first ton of clay from them next Friday. If anyone in eastern PA is looking for supplies, this is the man to call. He'll hook you up and get you what you need.

John Fulton Sales Rep (610) 488-1052 
You can also email  him

Unfortunately they don't have a website yet, but they are friendly and helpful and the call won't be as painful as you might think :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Electricity at Shows and Events.

Many of the shows we attend as merchants give us a long selling day. Many are  private events and we camp with or behind our booth. One thing always gets us some special attention. While everyone else is burning noisy propane lanterns or wee battery powered fluorescent lights, we have bright lights that make the pieces easy to see. I got the secret from my friend Kerry of Firehorse Pottery, but I'm constantly being asked about it.

We have a regular car battery that we picked up for $69 two years ago (2009) a 750watt Power inverter (mine even has a USB port), a power strip, and extension cord and at home, a 2amp slow trickle car battery charger. Typically we go to an event, use the inverter to first power the 110 volt plug-in high powered air mattress pump, then set it up for lights, computer and cell phone charging. Typically we get 3 evenings of light using 2 full spectrum fluorescent lights that burn about 38 Watts each, a few hours of laptop charging, and nearly unlimited cell phone charging. Some of the events we do are over a week long though and we plan on picking up a second battery later this year to help carry us through the long shows.

Kerry uses a Marine Deep Cycle battery, which will apparently last longer, but I found it too heavy to manage. I'd rather have 2 lighter batteries.

When it's all over, we go home and slow charge the battery to get it ready for the next event. It's really nice and over time it's less expensive and more convenient than running extension cords and purchasing electric from the campground.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Father's Day Tankard

We're pretty excited to have just pulled the first few "Dad" mugs from the kiln. I think they're looking pretty good! Since they're hot..and we're hot (overheated that is) and we're going to a hot event this weekend we're running the TOOHOT coupon special for 15% off in the Etsy Shop. The code will be good until Monday at midnight :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day, May Day we have two kilns down!

We just returned from an event in Standardsville, Virginia at a beautiful campsite called Heavenly Acres just outside the Shenendoah National Park. This was a small camping event. A Spring Festival, Beltane, or Mayday Festival. Yes, there was a Maypole. These types of events are really fun for us because it involves a weekend locked away from most of our work. I'll admit, we cheat. I have a smartphone and can tether my laptop to it and we were able to do a little bit on facebook and a little bit with the Etsy Store.
As an event, this type of thing is pretty fun, and lower pressure than the average art fair. We're set up in a 10x20 garage style tent with part of it blocked off for us to sleep in. Pretty convenient eh? Roll out of bed, and open the shop :) It was also very convenient that the hospitality tent was right next door so I could toddle over at anytime day or night for coffee, cookies or other delightful snacks. The flush toilets were also directly behind us. Overall, I'd say we were in as much comfort as was available..

Directly in front of us was a big sand circle for a bonfire where there was drumming and dancing till the wee hours and just past that was a stage where we were treated to nightly concerts, all from the comfort of our booth.

The weather was nearly perfect, though it did get into the 40's at night and it did rain a bit during pack-down, but we didn't mind too much since we had to come home and set up the tent for our annual Mother's Day Home Studio Sale. It was a damn fine weekend, and sales were above average..just like the show :) Which was a good thing because we had kiln problems awaiting us when we got home.
I don't want to go into it too much because I made the problem worse, but the basics are that I lost an element in a glaze fire last week. Then in our other newly repaired kiln I lost another one. Now There are two kilns down, and while trying to jury-rig one of them I broke the new element. So now I am down 3 elements and have to try to get them here from Canada in under a week. In the meantime I wired together the ends of a burned out element to try to squeeze one more glaze fire out of this kiln before the sale this weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hughes Pottery gets a nice mention

Got this in an email.... I can't disagree

A day in the life of Joe Republican

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. And fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs.

Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry. In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills.

Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe is home from work.

He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good.

He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drowning in Receipts

What's an overworked and overwhelmed potter on the go to do?

I think I've just solved one of my biggest problems ever. Business receipts and financial documentation. I'm constantly on the fly, never caught up and always worried about it. Recently tI've discovered two new business tools that I am starting to use. They are effective and priced right for my very small pottery business.
The first is, their tagline is Free yourself from accounting. I signed up a couple months ago when it was a free service. They are now only giving 30 days free, but 
they have managed to prove themselves to me. I'll be signing up for the $9.95/month service, because it is automatic and effective.Since most of my income is now through online transactions, Outright accesses and catalogs my merchant accounts (like Paypal)  whenever I log in. Other transactions can be entered manually or imported as CSV files (like from Which is how I'll be handling the next big problem..RECEIPTS!

The second tool is A service to take the piles of receipts you and I haven't sorted and scan and catalog them according to standard IRS deduction categories. You take the stack of receipts, put them into a prepaid envelope (like returning Netflix) and send it off. A few days later it is scanned and sorted. The information is then available for you to download and import into your accounting software, including my new

I signed up for the $50/month plan to get caught up, then will be downgrading to the $9.95 plan. All my accounting needs will be taken care of for $20/month.between these two online services.

I feel so much lighter already!

I encourage you to investigate them yourselves, and if you are interested in signing up let me know and I'll send you an invite, because I can get bonuses for referrals :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mixed Results

Look closely and you can see the horrible deformities of the bloated clay body

The Good Big Bowl, surrounded by bad little ones.
A few weeks ago I was writing about how we were suffering from bloating in the clay body we were using. I had a lot of clay pre-wedged for use and some of it was fine and some of it was bloating. I feel like we've worked through most of the problems, but some bowls I had suspected of being from the bad batch came through today and truly they were the worst of the pieces we've seen so far. Alongside them were some perfectly beautiful mugs from a different batch of clay.

Now we're faced with a dilemma, how to proceed. My wife and I are in disagreement on how to handle it. She wants to return the whole  rest of the batch and get a new batch from a new mix. Where I see how this would solve our problem it will also take a couple weeks for that to happen  as well as a lot of labor and time on our part. Then what do I do in the meantime? Fall behind in production schedule with no hope of getting anything done. If I continue to work through the current batch I will get mostly good pots and some that aren't, but it won't  put me behind while the new batches are mixed and sent and we drive down and pick it up.

I kind of feel like we've worked through the worst of it and will probably have no more problems. At least now I know to track the inventory numbers along with what I'm making so I will know what to report back to the clay company.

Monday, March 21, 2011

AH HA! I think I found the source of the bloating blister problem

I was trimming pieces today and I found some questionable material revealed under the blade of my tool. I'm going to pack it up and send it to the clay company unfired and see what they say about it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Did you miss us?

When you last heard from us we were frantically producing wares to take to Mississippi for the SCA's Gulf Wars event. It was not going as planned.

The biggest problem among many was we had a couple bad boxes of clay that were producing bloated pottery. big gaseous warts that would split open right on the piece itself! With the result that most of what I produced the first two weeks I threw turned out to be garbage, or at least fodder for our chimney mosaic project. A very few pieces ended up in our Etsy online store as seconds, but most were unsafe to put out for public use.

So we ended up rushing and rushing and not sleeping and trying desperately to get together 3-4 K of pottery to take to Mississippi and hand over to Jessa who is the boss of the shop that carries our work and her clothing all around to time travel events such as Gulf Wars and The Bay Area Renaissance Festival.

Our plan was to drive down over two days, drop off the pieces and visit with Jessa and our friend Kerry of Fire Horse Pottery  then head into New Orleans for a day, a night or two depending on the prices of hotels, and head back to PA by Thursday. It was a lovely time, Spring was evident, the weather was warm and we managed to find some screamingly good hotel deals on the trip.

We met in Hattiesburg at a lovely little Thai restaurant called Jutamas had a great visit and then headed towards NOLA. We  ended up just outside the city in a Comfort Inn, spent the night and headed in to NOLA in the morning.

First stop was the Visitors Center, to get a tourist map and to take a quick trip across the street from them to see the old city cemetary that has the grave of The VooDoo Queen of New Orleans as well as a 9 foot pyramid that will be the final resting place of Nicolas Cage.

Then we headed to The French Quarter, and had a Margaritaville, Rum based Brunch and went wandering the streets, window shopping, listening to the live music that appeared every few blocks and lazing the afternoon away. We had lunch at the Market Cafe, Crawdads for Rowan and A greek Salad for me, as well as an additional infusion of alcohol. Overall a pretty nice day. A few hours later we drove off into the sunset (OW!) and headed to our next adventure in Biloxi.

Biloxi was a mixed bag for fun.. I have a soft spot for Biloxi having visited it several times before Hurricane Katrina wiped 90% of it off the map. It houses the brand new George Ohr museum which was one of the things wiped off the map during Katrina.. It has the first Casinos I ever visited..and had slots loose enough I could play on $20 for hours.

I visited Biloxi two years after Katrina and it was still a wasteland of downed buildings, garbage and scrap heaps along the beaches, it was heartbreaking.

This time it looked like a bustling city. There were still some empty lots and foundations, but most of the downtown area looked vital. Many of the Casinos were rebuilt and there was a lot of traffic. We had trouble getting a good price on a hotel room in the middle of the week (used to get a spa room in a casino for $69 on a Wednesday) so we opted for a couple hours of slots ( a whole lot tighter than they used to be) and that was enough fun for us, meaning I wasn't gonna give the one armed bandit another bill without getting at least some good bonus action... we found a convenient waffle house for a 10:30PM dinner and headed towards home, hoping to find a good hotel in a couple hours. 2:00 AM we finally found a place.. the road we were on was desolate, but it gave us a good jump on the rest of the trip.

The drive home wasn't as much fun as the drive down, but we had some great conversation and saw some great sights and by the time we rolled into our driveway last night at 10:00 we were so glad to be back to our home and ready to face our regular day. Next time..I want a real vacation. without rush, struggle or 2 day time limits. I know Rowan feels the same way. Mixing work and play isn't the same as just play, no matter how we try to justify it

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Only Days Remaining

There are only a few days remaining before I have to deliver pottery to Elliot who will taking it to The Bay Area Renaissance Faire.

I've had all kind of trouble with kilns the last few weeks, an overfiring occurred that I thought we had fixed, then we had another one. This ruined a lot of the pottery I had made to go to the Bay Area Fair, so I'm running shorter than I wanted to. It also ruined a lot of the shelves so I spent some time grinding them down and Ro rewashed them.
The Pitchers that stuck

I think we lost the top element and I know we had the wrong thermocouple in it, so Ro traded out the top thermcouple in the kiln, and also put in a witness cone so hopefully we can watch it and makes sure it fires properly.

If it works ok for the bisc I might try another glaze fire in it, but I am pretty sure we also lost the top I think it is going to put us even more behind than I already am. This is very upsetting since I won't have another chance to send stock down without making the trip myself, so I, or hopefully we might end up taking a trip to either Florida or Mississippi next month.. I am against doing this because it'll be very expensive, but I have also made a commitment to provide the stock, so I am willing to do it.

regular round mug surrounded by xl ones
pile of cleaned shelves
xl mugs
So my last effort at production that made it into the bisc kiln was these giant round mugs. You can see in the picture how much larger they are than our 16-18oz size. These usually end up holding 28-32 oz depending on how much I have stretched out the bellies.

I finished out today by throwing rice bowls, apple bakers and 2 boards full of soup mug bowls. Even though they won't be ready to go to Florida, production is still a huge priority. I need to get enough to keep the Etsy store stocked and possibly enough for a few small SCA events. It never ends.

monsters surrounding the regular one

These are all in the last bisc too