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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summertime and my long term love affair

I miss summertime...the classic summertime of my youth, and I miss water, my first summer love.

When I was a younger teen, I spent most of my summers in the water, either at Whipple Dam, or simply in the stream behind my house. There were neighborhood kids coming and going and we spent hours each day splashing, creating engineering projects to divert or dam the water for swimming, or fish corrals, or even making our own waterfalls. I had a lot of good stuff going on!

The last summer I remember having any leisure was the summer before I entered college. I was working overnights from 11-7 at a convenience store usually 6-7 days a week, but I could make bedtime at 7:30 AM or 3:PM so I spent my mornings and afternoons at a local state park with a sandy beach area and started doing sand sculpture before the beach goers would arrive. My favorite was to do reclining sunbathers and watch all the little kids get excited about the people buried in the sand. It was only a little traumatic for them to reach out and touch a part and have it slide off.

After entering college I took summer sessions and continued to work 20-30 hours a week while in school.

After school, I go involved with selling my pottery and teaching classes and I started to realize that for me, summer vacations were a myth. Hell, weekends were a myth.

25 years later I still have no summers. Pottery has turned out to be a more than full time occupation. I look forward to warm weather and summer primarily because it is when folks in the NE go out to fairs and festivals and buy our things.

Pottery was such an obsession when I started..more of a calling than a job. I was happy to do it 15 hours a day 7 days a week, but now it's slowed to an intense love affair..I want 8 hours a day maybe 6 days a week with actual meal breaks.

 I used to think about what it would be like attending some of these events as a patron, but after a couple of attempts I realized I would have to do it at a show I have never attended as an artist merchant, because I know I would head for the folks I know and hang out in the back like the displaced merchant I am.

So I think this summer despite it being a crazy busy time for us, we're going to have to remember to take a couple days and enjoy the beauty around us. Life is short and I'm tired of forgoing the pleasures. There is always more work. I think it's time to forgo some of it and revisit my summer lover. She's waiting nearby... Tionesta Lake is only 1/4 mile up the street has pontoon boats to rent. There are two places within 1/2 mile of our house that offer canoe and kayak rental for the river that is practically in our backyard.

When I need a break from all that shimmering liquid beauty, I know just where to go! Into the woods! I just saw a mushroom walk is being offered on June 20 in Cook Forest. I want to do that!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Frenetic, Frantic and other big F words

2014 Version 1: Panoramic photo. Fabric covering the studs on the walls, raw plywood floor and draped tables

2015 Version 2: Insulated and finished!
You know, some days I wonder how we keep up with it all. There has been so much going on in the last couple weeks, all of it on a deadline and much of it seemingly out of our direct control.

The major things have been about getting our little Tionesta Market Village store ready to open for the season. Doing some final repairs on the house we have for sale in State College and making a lot of work to stock the store and also make work for our wholesale clients.

We've been back and forth to the old house a lot! Somehow we got all the construction and studio work done between trips. I think it has all started to come together.

The store is now much brighter and we got the tables off the floor and added many shelves. We actually have more work in it and it also appears to be more spacious. I had 3 people shopping comfortably at the same time on Sunday. 

 I'm looking forward to really focusing on the studio work! I've always tried to plan my life so only one major thing happens at a time and the last few years I've failed miserably. That's where that last F word shows up. Wow. Overwhelmed!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reflections on NW PA Living: 5 ways to tap into the growing tourist market in northwestern PA.

Photo by Rowan Rose

It’s beautiful in NW PA isn't it? It's one of the reasons we moved here with our pottery business!

There is access to everything you could want to do outdoors and it’s peaceful in a way city dwellers will never know. 

Outdoors tourism is the natural industry of our area. When you live in an area that requires tourist dollars for your local economy to thrive, it is important to make sure every dollar that walks through your town has the potential to end up passing through your business and sticking to your fingers. Town leaders always talk about revitalization, to revitalize, residents in historic towns have to be willing to live in the present and look to the future while preserving the very best of local history.

All those people who made your town thrive were scrambling to make a future.

My wife and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to better market our pottery. We have both spent  years traveling all over the east coast to sell pottery.  There was a time when I was on the road 40 weekends a year, going from New Hampshire to Florida. We've been in a lot of small towns and even while selling our pottery at festivals, we are also being tourists and visitors. It gave us a good perspective for looking at towns from an outsiders point of view. We are practiced at searching for businesses to take care of our needs and have spent a huge amount of money at some businesses because they took certain steps to raise their visibility, offer hospitality and inspired us to have confidence the them.

Photographer Unknown, but what a great picture!
One of the things I have noticed about small towns is they are fierce about their independence and frugality runs in their veins like blood. You hear things like “what do you need that for?” “That’s not the way we do things here!” “It was good enough for me, good enough for my folks and their folks, why do you want to change things?” These are great tenacious characteristics but often the very thing that can keep success just out of reach. The independence and need to preserve the past in an unchanging way stifles new growth and leads to a slow disintegration of otherwise valuable assets. Our economy in the US is based on growth. Small towns are a microcosm of the nation. We must grow and change. The growth must be controlled and guided, but it must happen.

A little story from my past.

 I grew up in Lemont, a small town outside of Penn State University and State College, PA. My family wasn't affiliated with the university but they had deep roots in Lemont going back to the late 1700’s. While I was growing up, we had some of the only undeveloped land left in Lemont and my mother and grandmother had that old school, fierce, small town independence. Any new growth project the township sponsored was a waste of tax money. Any changes to the scenery was an unfortunate shame. Everything should always stay as it was.

That beautiful property had passed from generation to generation and gradually become more and more a burden as it passed from a 1790’s homestead to farm, to rental farm, and finally into disuse.

 That was the part I remember most vividly.

 My mother told me stories of active farming and big family gardens, horses, pigs and chickens. They were beautiful, wondrous stories of the past, presented with bright eyes in full glorious color and the clear beauty of happy memories. But they were only memories. The 13 acres that remained were expensive to maintain and slowly falling into disrepair because no one was actively caring for, or using the land. We didn't think too much about it, that’s just the way things looked. At the time the land finally passed to my aging mother it was too late. The only value left was in the land. The antiques stored in outbuildings had been compromised along with the integrity of the buildings.
At the time PA had a draconian death tax on the assessed value of the property, so taxes forced my mother to have to sell the property to pay the taxes. It's a neo-Victorian development now, and occasionally I look back and realize that instead of the total destruction of the our collective family memories we could have re-purposed and reinvented the land and made it useful and productive again. If only the idea of preservation of the past had been backed by new vision for the future, we would still be living there.

Since moving to the NW region of PA, I see a lot of similarities to growing up on that dying farm. There is a great reverence for the past and people don’t seem to notice the slow degradation of something that was once grand and vibrant. In their memories everything is perfect and we can’t change things because that will disturb the vision of the past they hold so dear.
Distressed buildings are cool right? Very rustic.So what if that place doesn’t actually look open, or have a sign. Everyone knows about it right? And who wants a bunch of people in town anyway? It’s quiet around here and we like it that way! Except that the services the town offers slowly degrade and soon it’s so quiet you can’t even get a coffee and a sandwich without driving 30 miles.

It is unlikely that any big manufacturing will come back to the area, most of our employment opportunities in the future will come from the service or recreation industries. People who need to escape from urban life will come to our small towns in droves if we can offer them the things they need and are used to having.  If we give them a reason hunters, hikers, fishermen, birders, campers, leaf-lookers and their families will come and spend their time and hard earned money.

Here are things you can do to increase your business's appeal to tourists and visitors.

  1. WWW:  If you do nothing else, this is the most important thing to do. If they can’t find you, they can’t give you money! Get a professional website of some sort. Here is the one my wife made for The Tionesta Market Village.  It can be simple, but it should be clean, direct and have all the important and most current contact information as well as hours of operation. Remember this is for people who don’t know you, or the area. No one stops at a gas station to look at the Yellowpages anymore. Families on the road use their smartphones, or they do research from their home computers. People use Google, Yelp. Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor to look for interesting regional activities, services and restaurants. Make sure your business is listed on all these sites! This can make your business a destination, not just a lucky find. Once you have a web presence, expand into social media to keep contact and let your customers know what the specials are, or what the latest event is.

  2. Beautification:   A welcoming, clean and tidy storefront inspires confidence for new customers. A craftsman knows the details are important. Tidy your storefront, Wash the windows, replace or repair your sign. Add a coat of fresh paint, add some landscaping, sweep your sidewalk and show that you care about the appearance of your business. If you can’t clean your front door or windows, no one is going to believe you keep a sanitary kitchen. Disrepair isn’t rustic. It’s neglect and you pay for it in consumer confidence.

  1. Hospitality: Be friendly to everyone! Don’t politicize your business. You want money from both sides of the aisle. Be welcoming! Be open, be courteous, treat all your visitors like the welcome guests they are! Not everyone who walks in your door will be an immediate customer, but eventually they might be! Make sure they are willing to come back!

  1. Be positive: Take down all those handwritten, negatively worded signs. Those who really need to read them don't and it just makes you look grumpy to everyone else. The only signs you should see are for the services you offer, exits, or directions to the restrooms. Which of course you should offer to anyone who walks in your door. These are people and people need restrooms, it doesn’t matter if they buy something or not.

  2. Take Credit Cards: Remember, today’s economy is not the economy of 30 years ago. Money flows differently and cash is not as convenient as it used to be. Many people never see an actual paycheck because they have direct deposit and many haven’t written an actual check in years. Debit and Credit cards are king. Tourists and visitors carry limited amounts of cash but may have fat bank accounts. If you are worried about that 1.75 to 3% charge, raise your prices by 5% and your costs are more than covered. Customers are willing to pay for convenience, not having to go to an ATM or bank to complete the transaction is convenience. You won’t be sorry.

     No one will ever complain that you do accept credit cards, but they will often walk away if you don’t.  Make those dollars stick to your fingers!

    These ideas are just a start. There are a lot of great resources available. Check out the PA Wilds Resources website. If you don't have a business yet, there are still plenty of consumer needs to be met! What can you bring to your town?  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How the Sheetz Convenience Store Chain Earned My Loyalty

A little story from my life about learning to be kind and learning to treat everyone, not just customers well. After spending 25 years traveling under the worst of conditions to try to make a living, the importance of businesses with open hearts and restrooms has become evident.
I am a long term fan of convenience stores. As a young teenager, I used to walk about ¾ of a mile every night with a friend who needed to take the family dog out for a walk. By our design, the halfway point was a convenience store. We’d buy a couple candy bars and a soda and walk back towards home, stop at a local park and talk about our families and lives. It was a nightly ritual for a couple years. I’m sure it was one of the reasons we made it through those rough teenage years. I loved those walks. The trouble always came when we would get out there and discover one of us had to pee or worse. They didn’t offer a restroom to customers, so we were stuck until we could get to a place to relieve ourselves ¾ of a mile away or if necessary behind a tree in the park.
A few years later after graduating from High School I found myself employed by that same chain of convenience stores and was eventually made manager of the very store I walked to night after night. The story was the same. Our DM told us in no uncertain terms, that no customer could enter the back room, or bathroom for insurance reasons. If something happened to them, we would not be covered. If any employee violated the rule, they would be fired.
One day while awaiting my DM to turn in the weekly paperwork,  I was faced with a person, not a customer with a bathroom emergency. I stated our policy and turned her away, but she didn’t go. She begged, she pleaded. I turned her away again. I felt so torn, because I knew how rough it could be, but I was under orders and was expecting the DM any minute. So I stuck to the company line and did the wrong thing by turning her away again. She was crying now and I felt like an ass. She cussed me out between the tears and turned to walk out the door as a stain appeared on her skirt and stockings. and a puddle formed on our floor. She fled.
When the DM appeared a few minutes later, with mop in hand I told him about the woman and her cursing me out and he told me I did the right thing, that he would have fired me on the spot if he found her in the bathroom.
It was then I knew something was very wrong… I knew I had done the wrong thing, I had saved my job, but that was no way to treat another human being.
I began violating the rule on a daily basis. The company I worked for knew nothing about hospitality, but I did.
I left the job eventually and went to college and by the time I left the university that convenience store chain was starting to have financial difficulties and was selling off stores to private owners, A few years ago they finally declared bankruptcy. Now only a few private stores remain.
This was in the early 1990’s  and another convenience store chain was spreading across PA. It was called Sheetz.
Over the last 20 years I have become a devotee of Sheetz it only took a few months of traveling the roads of PA as an artist attending craft fairs to know Sheetz was the best place to stop. Fresh cooked food 24 hours a day, restrooms 24 hours a day. Gas, Oil and wiper fluid 24 hours a day. I was so sad anytime I traveled too far north, or too far south because the Sheetz stores would disappear to be replaced by private stores or chains that hadn’t caught up yet. The only chain that could stand toe to toe with Sheetz was WaWa which primarily based around Philadelphia and farther east into NJ.
How times have changed. Now everyone is doing it. Even grocery, department and home improvement stores have restrooms. Gas station convenience stores have large clean restrooms, many make fresh food and all of them are welcoming, but Sheetz is still my favorite. They earned my loyalty with their willingness to take care of my needs.  We have a long term relationship. Because they earned my loyalty. My expense reports show Sheetz gets the majority of my money when I travel.
This is the story I think of every time I see a store or business with a hand scrawled sign informing people there are no public restrooms. It’s sad. It’s petty. We all know its inconvenient for a business owner, but everyone needs a place to pee. Its one of the most basic of human needs and we all need it at one time or another. These places will never earn my loyalty. They don’t know how to treat human beings.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pottery! Spring! Growth!

Catherine and Justin
It was just winter and everything was in a holding pattern. Suddenly everything outside is growing and everything in my life is growing. The last 2 weeks:

Easter with the in-laws, this involved copious amounts of baking which was then followed up with a Baby shower for my stepdaughter! This
was held during the same visit as Easter because heck, we were all together anyway!

We spent some time doing last minute renovations and staging to put our former house back on the market, this including the demolition of our beloved pizza oven.

Then putting our house back on the market!
Seriously, click the link. 5 tons of pottery a year came out of this basement.

The moment that was complete, we jumped right into insulating and putting up drywall in our small seasonal storefront.Last year when we opened we only had 3 days to get ready so we just draped fabric on the walls. Its going to be a lot better this year. The plan is to use a lot of shelving on the walls and minimize tables since it is such a small area to serve a lot of shoppers. It should be a lot better!
Morgan hanging drywall

The shop with naked fabric draped walls

Then of course, finally, the important things, like making stuff! One of my great pleasures is my son returning from special effects school with a drive to sculpt. He's been doing his own wild thing, then also working with us in the studio to add original sculptures to mugs. These are 25-30 oz mugs. All will have some kind of amazing sculpt.

a work in progress

Sunday, April 5, 2015

In Between Jobs

I've heard a lot of people say they are in between jobs. I'm in that position now.

 No, not unemployed, but I have one box of clay left, I always feel a little bit strange when I find myself in this place. Like if I go ahead and use it, I'll starve to death for lack of clay. Like it's not enough to do anything significant. Like If I don't order more, I'll get thrown out of pottery club.

There will be more on the way next week and then I'll feel like a clay glutton, I'll use it indescriminently, I'll make bunches of stuff, some of it really large and use it like there is no end to my supply.

Am I alone in this?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Looking back at Wholesale

I received a private message from a potter wondering about how our decision to add wholesale accounts worked out. Its taken me a few days to kind of reflect on what it has done for us. I'll fill in a little background.

 Retail is great for us during the warmer months in the NE and thanks to Etsy and online marketing it continues right through the Christmas sales season.

 But we found ourselves wondering how the hell to survive from Christmas to May. Five months of very few sales and just when the heating and electric bills go crazy!

Also, during a rainy year, sales suffer at outdoor retail events, a great show that pays a lot of bills can produce nothing for you and the phone company still wants their money.

So we needed to find a way to smooth out cash flow so there was regular income without having to run someplace different every weekend. Shows get old as you get old.

So we signed up for BMAC, Buyers Market of American Craft, now known as the American Made show. It was really too expensive for us since it took place in the financial doom time of year. We did a very successful Kickstarter to raise the money to pay for it and off we went to Philadelphia.

It was an eye opener. We got a lot of orders, mostly small orders and a really exciting account with the Gaelsong catalog for our premier line of Oak pieces. It was pretty amazing overall. Mixing those wholesale accounts in with our regular retail helped a lot!

Pub Club Old Forge Brewing Company

Coffee Club Webster's Bookstore and Cafe
2 years later we still have a couple of those original accounts, but not Gaelsong. We have continued to have add small accounts here and there and our hometown wholesale accounts have continued to thrive and expand even through we moved away last year.  Cafes and Brewpubs seem to work out really well for us! We currently make for Websters Cafe and Bookstore in State College, PA, Cafe Lemont in Lemont, PA and Ottos Brewpub in State College PA. In addition to that we have an account with someone who does Renaissance Fairs and Conventions all over the country.

So I don't think we could survive on wholesale accounts alone, but it adds to the income stream and fills in gaps between retail sales. We need a blend of retail and wholesale to keep the cash flowing. We don't count too strongly on any one venue. Diverse and multiple income streams. Multiple wholesale accounts just in case one or two drop out. Website, Etsy, fairs, festivals and a seasonal storefront from May to November. 

The  big selling season is still too short, and first quarter is still difficult, but we are constantly searching for ways to make the cash flow more evenly. So this year we scheduled a big one of a kind event during February that helped a lot! It's still retail, but it's self-generated retail. Not part of the national or regional shopping trend. The one of a kind work was received very well by our customers and also gave us a chance to explore and grow artistically. Overall a joyous experience for everyone!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Icy Doom

The title pretty much sums it up. That's what we have going on outside right now. It snowed this morning, it sleeted this afternoon, then it rained and then it froze while raining. I suspect we'll see some snow on top of all this ice by morning, then we'll really have some exciting things going on! It makes me glad we have 4 feet of plowed snow as a guardrail since we live at a downhill T intersection.

So what do do on days like this? Lock myself into the studio and fill the tables all while enjoying the residual heat from the kiln that fired overnight.

All those mugs are for our own stock. We have no big wholesale orders just yet, but I expect about 1/2 way through March we'll start getting requests. In the meantime I'm trying to build up stock on our best sellers and offset the rush I am sure we'll be feeling a little later in the year when the north thaws out and folks start traveling again.

After doing so many textured pots for the Forest Spirit pots last month I can't seem to leave the texture tool alone. I am using it, then making the pots I need to, then going back for more texture. I'm having a lot of fun!

Those bigger pieces on the table are fun too. They're going to end up as special bowls for allowing bread dough to rise. It's a special request from a customer, and while I normally don't work too far outside our standard catalog these looked kind of fun. They're going to end up about 10" wide and 10" deep plus a bit of a foot. the inside of the bottom is curved like any bowl would be. I hope they work out well.

I'm really enjoying doing some bigger work and I keep drifting into fantasies of starting to work really large on a regular basis. I'm really excited when I see big pots from folks like Daniel Johnston , Mark Hewitt, and Svend Bayer but I'm afraid to shake things up too far. I'm more or less a mug maker..I can't make enough mugs and even my regular retail customers keep coming back for more year after year, but I think I may start doing some larger pitchers, Ive always had a love for pitchers and I really have neglected them over the years.

What do you think? Go big or go home? Will my customers still love me?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Online Marketing for? or to? Potters.

I think online marketing is tough for potters.

I think we do it pretty well, but I notice some problems that we have that I don't think other folks have, especially those who are resellers. Resellers have a pretty straightforward deal, I have this thing, it's a cool thing and I can send it to you now at a fair price.

Potters seek out other potters, like no other group I can think of. We're very incestuous as a group, a huge number of the fans of our Facebook page are potters, I'm a huge fan of other potters Facebook pages. We just love to see what other clay people are up to.
Cone 6 Fake Ash with Cobalt or Runny Blue-Grey Coffee Mug?

Sometimes when I go to compose a post, I forget that I am sharing my story to more than the other potters. I'm telling a creative clay story for the people who are interested and want to buy things. The general public wants a story of a creative person, living a creative life and making beautiful things.They want a peek into the process and a glimpse of the dream. We should be selling to the people who say "bake" not "fire" Not the folks who know the terms Hare's Fur, Soda Fire, Oribe, or Cone 12 flat.

It took my wife about 10 minutes of looking through other potter's Etsy listing tags to figure out a major reason why some folks had more online sales than others.

The folks who had less sales were marketing to other potters, and while that is cool, potters like to buy pots too, once they get over their need to make it, not buy it. They talk about firing temperatures, type of clay, specific name of the glaze, all cool stuff to know if you are a potter talking to other potters. Or listing technical information for a show. Perhaps its not the most important thing when trying to address the general public. The general public searches for terms like "Brown and Blue Coffee Mug" while potters search for "Cone 10 Stoneware wood fired mug" Maybe we should include all those tags to get the full range of customer.

Potters, especially academic potters do themselves a disservice this way. Just like back in English Composition class, you need to know who your audience is.  Who are you talking to? Will they know the terms you are putting in that tag cloud?

Any thoughts on this? Share them in the comments. Are you a potter or a customer who loves pottery?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Feb 18 9PM Eastern Time The Big Day

Feb 18, 2015 9PM Eastern Time 

at our website.

We've worked hard. Laughed. giggled, sweated, and cried. The final kiln is loaded.

This has been so much fun. More fun than the everyday work we have been doing for the last few years. There's always a thrill in doing new work. A carbonation of the creative spirit.

 We are Carbonated!

There will be somewhere around 80 pieces.

All of them one of a kind. All of them with the theme of Forest Spirit. Some will have faces and leaves like the traditional Greenman, some will simply have texture and leaves. None will be repeated. Some are sold in sets, most are individually sold.

More previews can be found on our Facebook page, in the 
event called Forest Spirit

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This little TC mug

This mug has some history, it's 12, maybe 13 years old. I just glazed it a couple of days ago. I've been carrying it around for a long time, waiting for the right glaze for it. I think I made the right decision. I got it from an art center I used to help run called The Creative Oasis in State College PA. 

It was made by Tony Clennell as a demonstration piece. It sat on our museum shelf with pieces from Seth Cardew, Mel Jacobson, Ian Stainton, Jack Troy, retired PSU instructor David DonTigney as well as pieces from our own instructors. Unfortunately we had to close the Oasis so I gathered the biscware and hauled it around for years. After unpacking the studio when we moved to Tionesta PA, I put the pieces on the shelf absolutely determined to finish them so they would have a useful life.

So I knew Tony was a woodfire potter and this little guy should have ash on it, the trouble is it's cone 6 clay, no one woodfires at cone 6.

So recently I feel like I've been having a mid-career crisis. After doing production work for years, some of the shine was wearing off the 70 hour work weeks. I wanted a return to my roots. Cone 10, gas, wood and salt. Ash glaze. But that doesn't fit in with our business right now so the next best thing is changing everything that can be changed without building a new kiln and disappointing our customers who have come to love everything we're doing now. I needed to have a frivolous relationship..a fling with something new, so, as you do, I hit the internet and searched for my glaze-lover. I searched and searched and made some advances..tested the possibilities. Then I found it.

 For years I have wanted a fake ash glaze at cone 6, so I look and I test and I look and I test and fail and fail and fail.

 This time something happened. I risked a very precious piece on a hunch and after adding a very thin application and a double dip on the rim, this beauty showed up in the kiln. Perfect. I've been drinking tea from it since I pulled it out. It's amazing to me that this much variation came from just one glaze. Anyone who does cone 6 knows that the layers make the magic. This is one glaze and it fits like skin, not a glass over clay.

I'll be mixing up more of this glaze and perhaps doing a delicate blue version too, but I love the glaze as is, just for me. 

I believe this may be a glaze from John Britt but it has not been confirmed.
 Golden Fake Ash cone 6

28.0 Redart
24.5 Dolomite
21.0 Ball Clay
10.0 Gerstley Borate
9.5 Strontium Carbonate
5.0 Bone Ash
2.0 Lithium Carbonate

Monday, January 12, 2015

Snow Jobs

Our lovely Tionesta home has been getting a few inches of snow every day. Not a huge dump and go blizzard, but a steady build. My commute has been a cold 20 steps to the studio with a carafe of hot tea and a dog who thinks snow is the best thing ever.

This weather has made it easier for me to decide to settle in, hunker down and be a homebody. I'm loving it. Rowan has been taking the time to create some really lovely homemade meals that we have been willing to go back to and consume every bit of the leftovers. There is no need to go out until we need groceries or the USPS.

Our promise to ourselves to work smarter has been in effect for a week now, it's been pretty good. We've been getting to bed before midnight and getting up between 6 and 8 and getting to work soon after. We work until early evening usually between 5 and 7 and I finally have had some time to relax, reflect and think. Its been a long time since I haven't felt completely exhausted and overburdened. This is nice and I want to keep it up as long as possible.

The best part is we have been getting a lot of work done. Rowan has even found more time to be creative in the studio. She's been making new things, working with me on the Forest Spirit things. We're building good stock and I feel on track for making this year one of working from a perspective of joy rather than burden.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'm so excited for this year!

At this time of the year, it's traditional to reflect upon the last year and to make plans for the new year. The funny thing is, I often find that this is one of the only times of the year this is possible for us. This is usually the only true downtime we have!

As I look back the whole year is a blur. Last January we were finishing up some pottery orders and getting ready to move. This year we won't have to move, we also have no big pottery orders waiting. It is a clean slate. Which is nice. Also a little scary because there is no guaranteed income, but we won't dwell on will come, it always does.

 Last year we packed up all our things and moved from State College Pennsylvania to a small town called Tionesta, also in Pennsylvania. You can check out some of our previous blog posts to learn about our adventures in moving and getting set up here.

So what did we do over this last year? It has been a pretty amazing year. We moved, set up the new studio, set up a new house. We opened a new store. We got our old house ready for the market while doing all of these things. We did all the shows we normally do, we did all the wholesale orders we normally do plus some huge new ones. Most importantly we lived to tell about it. Barely. As the year came to a close, Rowan  and I took the time to be horribly sick over the Christmas holiday, which made us stop.


Which is really good because since we started working again, we've been much more conscious  about keeping the work day reasonable. Plenty of work has been done, and we've watched several movies, had evenings of television and have gotten to bed long before total exhaustion.This is new for us. 6.5 years ago we got married and immediately dove into workaholism.I think we can do better for ourselves.

So what is on our agenda for the upcoming year? 

I hope this year is the fulfillment of our goal to work smarter and with more joy. We need to remember that we are a married couple and still in love, and hopefully we can find our humanity again. I feel like we have been operating in crisis mode for several years. People ask what our inspiration for working so hard is, we joke that it is fear of poverty. Its not a joke. We always feel that if we don't work until we're ready to drop we're not trying hard enough. I think that we might be misguided. After 40-50 hours a week there are diminishing returns and no enjoyment of life. That is why not having a bunch of orders lined up right now, is a really good thing. It gives us the chance to work slowly and steadily, to get ahead, so that when all the big orders start coming in we are prepared. We spent all of last year behind and were rushing from crisis to crisis and order to order just trying to keep up. 
Some of the work I am most looking forward to doing, is more of the Forest Spirit Pottery. We actually just made our first new batch of it and we're thrilled. If you have been following along on our Facebook page you may have noticed that we had a one-of-a-kind online-only event in November focusing on the Greenman inspired Forest Spirit Pottery. It was a big hit for us because it allowed us to be entirely creative, we worked outside our normal production catalog and let our artistic spirits free! The best part is it proved to us that we can present one of a kind work to our fans and they loved and approved it! I want more of this kind of artistic joy for us!