28 July 2009

staying up late

over the past ten years, i have spent my fair share of time fighting to stay awake as the kiln plugs along, running out to the shop to check it every fifteen minutes. praying for the cone to bend, NOW dammit. i also have to get up often in the middle of the night to turn up a bisque firing. if leif owes me favors (we play cribbage for favors), it is a small slice of heaven to poke him in the shoulder in the wee hours and have him run out for me. sometimes...if he's really out of it, i can convince him to do it even if it's not his turn.

i hate trying to stay awake...it is painful and i'm sure kills brain cells. 2 days ago when i fired my big kiln for the fifth time...i purposefully started as early as possible so not to suffer the late night drama. i shut her down at the blisteringly early time of 10pm and then leif's plane was hours late....we went to bed at 3am...not good. as i was driving to the airport, feeling sorry for myself i was shocked to see so many people who apparently regularly stay up this late as a part of their job. the flight attendants and crew were waiting on the curb for their shuttle, the shuttle drivers (several of them over 65 i'm sure), rent a car folks and the dude at the parking toll booth were all on the job. i now am remembering that my mom used to drive railroad crews and she would get called in the middle of the night to transport people. all i have to do is check a kiln for crying out loud...she had to keep a suburban full of big rr boys between the yellow lines while having terrible night vision.

i'm feeling less sorry for myself now...at least i get to be at home while i'm trying to stay awake and nobody dies if i doze off for a few. as i enter into my second decade of potting though, i am making an effort to get my work down in a somewhat normal time frame and not trying to pull crazy hours before a deadline...i'll keep you posted.

24 July 2009

selling pots

(the above totem is by my friend susan nebeker and i posted it here because it just makes me happy.)

tonight i'll be selling my pots at the west glacier farmer's market....it's only the second time i have participated but it seems like a good venue for the amount of work involved. it is only a couple of miles down the road which for me makes it very appealing. i don't really care to haul pots all over the valley for other markets. at the last one here, i sold a totem to a nice woman from california which made it well worth my time. there are locals who drop in but it is predominantly tourists who can't resist the lure of the white tents. the woman next to me last time was selling homemade pies for 11 dollars and the line was constant until she sold out.

selling and marketing are two areas where many artists lose their way. to be a self-employed potter means that you not only have to have the ability to create the work, you also have to have a little business sense so that you can make a living. it's definitely tough and a constant conversation with people in the arts.

i have always refused to really 'market' myself....i figured that if people liked my work, they would buy it. this approach has worked for me for a long time but what i'm learning now is that you can't always count on that (especially when people are holding their wallets a bit closer). It helps to really get yourself out there so more people have an opportunity to appreciate it and also to educate the public, as much as possible, about the value of handmade objects.

currently, i sell in my own retail space in whitefish (located in the bookstore), a co-op in kalispell, a lovely gallery in bigfork, a gift store inside glacier park and then i'm working on my online etsy store. heidihaugen.etsy.com i have been struggling with inventory for months now but feel as if i'm getting into a bit of a rhythm with my new kiln and porcelain adventure.

it has been rough to be low on product during the busiest tourist months but that is the way my cookie crumbled this year...tis the nature of the business. enjoy.

21 July 2009

working alone..

after bitching about not having a clay posse to call my own...i must say that for regular work...i prefer to be alone and at this point, cannot imagine sharing my studio space with another potter.

i spend the majority of my time by myself, with the dogs. leif is gone for most of july and august at his fire lookout (speaking of alone time..) and the rest of the year is a carpenter with a serious addiction to hockey playing. we live in the boonies and i usually go to town once or twice a week.

i see neighborhood friends here and there and go to post office to get the mail and maybe to the glacier mercantile for a tootsie roll but there is usually not much 'people time' in my day. i also do the occasional customer visit or "show and tell" for the neighbors' relatives.

i've functioned this way for quite a long time now. i work at the bookstore in whitefish 4 days a month which is where i lease retail space for my pots and conduct a good portion of my business. it is also where i talk endlessly and meet up with my mom and friends who drop in.

i am a very outgoing and social person in general but fell in love with being alone at 19 when i was a nanny in boston with 2 small children. i am so thankful to have learned to appreciate being by myself at that age...i feel it has served me well. i definitely think that spending so much time alone has fostered some rusting of my social skills..which actually can be funny to me and leif later. (i.e....'i can't believe you said that'...or 'you got all red when they started talking to you'...')

my intention with addressing 'aloneness' stemmed from my creation of a heidi haugen pottery facebook page and how odd it is...along with this blog....to keep in touch with people regularly about my daily goings on. it makes me think about my life differently when i am allowing others a glimpse into my dysfuntional functioning.

i don't talk with too many people about the details of my work...it's just too much information most of the time and requires too much explaining. i don't even talk with leif very much about it..funny. that's why i need to hang out with my distant claybuds a couple of times a year and now that i've discovered lots of other clay artists blogs, i'm feeling a touch more connected.

i'm acually heading to town now...taking grandma to her 'lunch bunch'....she's 93!

16 July 2009

know thine kilns

so yesterday i was checking on a bisque and when i looked through the peep, i could tell there was no heat up top. as i looked closer....i could see that the first element was not glowing. the load had been in for 10 hours so i just shut it down.

my big electric kiln is a skutt 1227 that i've had for probably 9 years. i have screwed up this thing from one end to the other over the years, beginning with wiring it backwards when i first brought it in my shop...that lasted for a year with super long firings before i figured out how to read the wiring diagram in the manual. the upside of so many mistakes is that i am able to rewire this thing in my sleep...also on the positive side is that i have not died of electrocution at some point.

i change my elements once a year (100 firings) and don't keep extras on hand. i do have other replacement parts handy and that was a treat today as i just replaced the wires that connect the element pigtails to the switch. i like to use split bolt connectors because i suck at crimping but sometimes they don't foster the best connection. anyhow....kiln breaker off...opening all cover boxes to make sure nothing major has come apart (or melted), notice that the connectors are discolored, replace them, tighten everything up and wahoo....when i fired it up, elements back to buzzing and hot.

my best advice to beginning clay folk is to learn your equipment. understand how it works and don't hesitate to jump in and figure it out (breaker off/ safety first). i live in the sticks so there are no options for repair people to come and change out my elements. knowledge of your machines is a very empowering thing...maybe you'll have an easier learning curve than i did but once again...i seem to learn best after i screw something up first.

14 July 2009

missing bowls

bowls are probably the form i enjoy making most. they are also the best selling item (next to mugs) and especially big ones this time of year for wedding gifts. i have not been making too many of for the past 2 months or so because i just haven't felt like i've found a great liner glaze for this porcelain. most of my glazes are crazing and i must say.....not a fan.

the celedon and yellow salt are hanging in there pretty well after more silica and now the shaner's clear should be another option. anywhichway...i'm back on the bowls and couldn't be happier.

the cakestand adventure continues and they are improving. wider bases and stoneware instead of porcelain. they're enjoyable and easyish to make. they just take forever to dry.

these are totem birdbaths waiting for the bisque fire. i've sold 3 totems this month which is great. i need to crank out a ton of beads and other components before the summer slips away.

12 July 2009

where's my posse?

i have really just begun to discover the amazing blogosphere that is out there. i especially enjoy the writing of other artists and getting a glimpse of their everyday lives in the studio. it is so refreshing hear of their struggles and successes and to know that i am not alone in this world of 'clay as a career'.

i live in the sticks....which i adore and enjoy working alone. our 'urban area' is a valley that includes more than 4 towns and a population of less than 60,000. i love living here, it is where i grew up and where i am most comfortable but i must say.....i totally miss having a clay posse of my own. i am soo jealous of the clay folk that live near other clay folk that they enjoy. i most often travel to meet up with my potter people....portland or minnesota. fyi..that's really far. the internet has lessened my isolation but i dream of having a regular gang of clay friends that hang out and offer critiques and good creative energy, and endless technical discussions about glaze chemistry and kilnbuilding.

there are some lovely artists here but i have just not found more than 1 or 2 that are really in the same space as i am...and it seems like people are just so busy. david shaner worked down the road from me (35 miles or so) and i've heard stories of their potter's coffee hour...i just missed out by a couple decades or so.....what a treat that would have been.

i'm going to do my best to start gathering what flock i can find and start handing out potter posse badges...


11 July 2009


so i've used the same chair at my wheel for almost 10 years. it has cracked in 1/2 twice, the rails keep popping out and now it has lost a very important screw. it has earned retirement but finding a suitable replacement is tough. my neighbor gave me a sweet little chair that i thought i could just switch out but oh my god, no. the new one feels like concrete on my butt and it's a different height. the old one has those awesome carve-outs that make it soo comfy..having the proper seat at your wheel definitely affects your throwing.

take care of your chairs, people.