26 October 2010

what to do...what to do.

the list for the holiday pottery making season...one dish set and a couple of special orders to take care of and then off and running. i love lists. i break items up into chunks so i don't make 40 of one thing at a time- i prefer sets of 10 even though i don't get into much of a groove with such a small number. i know potters who make dozens of the same form at a time and enjoy the zen-ness of repetition. not so much for me..a little a.d.d in that department.

at this point, i'm not participating in any holiday art events...just retail sales for now. it was a great summer for pottery buying and i hope that the 'handmade revolution' carries on through the holidays. i have definitely sensed a shift--more consumers are choosing local and handmade and appreciating the connectivity that choice brings.

do your best to buy local and handmade...it will make you happy.

22 October 2010

wow. once again....one hundred blog posts in my mind and nary a word written down. yikes.

i just got back from a 2 week roadtrip to minnesota for a gathering of the potters of the prairie and mountain and had a perfect time. loads of hard work and firing a delicious woodkiln (built/owned by eureka pots- colleen riley and donovan palmquist) and endless talk of all things clay. along with copious amounts of great food and wine. essentially- a potter girl's version of heaven.

as i have blogged about previously...i work alone. always. i am the only one involved in the process of making hh pottery start to finish. the late night kiln tending, broken machines and disappointments are mine to process. i prefer this work environment for the most part but what a joy to share the journey for a stretch.

tama (prairie fire pottery) and i were commenting while loading the soda kiln late one night how delightfully strange it was to have company and companionship in our normally solo endeavors. to be with people that understand the trials and tribulation and joy of making pottery a career is so comforting. they get it..no explanation required.

in addition to colleen, dawn, tama, myself and donovan...the firing of the wood kiln included another 4 clay folk that added an additional layer of experience/approach.

woodfire pots are the result of a team of people and their knowledge, sweat and sometimes blood, nights of lost sleep, high hopes and also well-intentioned misjudgement and folly. each pot holds all of this in its finished form. it is a beautiful and wonderous thing.

i am home now, the car is unpacked and most of the pots awaiting new homes. my mind and heart are full and i'm ready to hit it hard for holiday sales.

i wish for everyone a community like this to restore their spirit and fill their soul.

10 September 2010

working when it's cold

i've heard rumor that it is still hot in parts of the country, but montana...not so much. fall is in the air and although refreshing...can make getting into the shop at night a touch difficult. i hate being cold and am not in the mood (or awake enough) to start a fire. beginning the work day at 5pm (other commitments all day) is tough enough but if it's cold out there....forget it. summer nights are light until 10pm but now it's dark by 8, sigh. tomorrow is a bookstore day (thursdays and saturdays) so my casseroles will have to wait for their bottoms to be rolled and attached.

soon the hose will have to be put away which is a sad day for me. all you heat wave folk...send it our way when you're done with it.


01 September 2010

long studio days

big hours in the shop this week. 15 hours in the studio is a super long day for me. i know clay folk who regularly put in those kind of hours but not this potter. i usually work most every day in the shop (and on my 2 bookstore days, i'm either in there before or after or both)..but rarely more than 8 actual hours in the shop with hands in clay. glazing days are always long as are firing (because i'm usually unloading and glazing one last desperate load before i start the kiln).

having my shop at home means always having work 75 feet away but also always having home only 75 feet from work. i've found a bit of a happy balance over the last decade, but always tell myself i could be working harder. summers are more challenging to stay in the shop with all of the outdoor weeding, walking, painting, etc.

these long, intense days are a great reminder of what is possible though...production wise. i'm off to start my glazing marathon (hoping i can get my load glazed in the next 10 hours so i can start the kiln around 6pm and fire through the night (first time for that).

as usual...stay tuned.

30 August 2010

new leaf

i have not put word to blog in over 3 months...good grief. i probably think of a topic two or more times a week while working in the shop but then like morning fog..it dissipates, never to be retrieved from the corners of my brain. thus..the new leaf to which i refer.

i read a bevy of blogs every day and am always impressed with the clay folk who find the energy/discipline to post frequently so i vow to become more like them. i'm going to make a solid effort to post at least once a week..i know that i've got a lot to say but i often worry that it might be too trivial, but worry no more, i'm putting it out there.

i think that being active with my business facebook page also makes me feel like i'm participating in cyberland but blogging is such a different forum than quick fb updates.
so...stay tuned and feel free to ask any questions of offer suggestions for blog posts.

enjoy your day.

17 May 2010

where old pots go to die..

The 'tired pot' spot at our house is constantly growing. On any given random flat spot around my shop, you will find pots. Don't ask me what's wrong with them because I will sputter and stammer while pointing out the flaws I see. Maybe just a slight glaze fault that relegates it to the 'seconds shelf' (whenever I get that put together). I don't have the public up here very often (as in strangers)..or said pots would be ditched immediately so as not to explain to people why they cannot buy them. Friends have learned not to ask for the most part...just understand that for some reason...this potter's area propogates pots like bunnies.

Any massive flaw or crack or pot that stuck to the shelf is automatically smashed into the shard bucket. As I've been learning about new glazes in my reduction kiln...I have filled countless containers. I happily share these shards with eager mosaic folk if they ask. The bucket above is heading to a kitchen in the next town and I have no doubt that they will create something amazing. Often, the shards just end up sitting at the hopeful artist's house...but as long as they are out of my hair--no problem.

I aspire to have clean tables and often promise myself to deal with pots as they come out of the kiln. Either to the store, to the customer or to the dump..so far, not so good. Often, I just leave the pots I don't like in the kiln and don't deal with them until the following firing where they get stuck on an overflowing shelf next to my kiln. I give a few of these pots away each month to visitors who are happy to take them home. I often dream of cleaning out every pot in my shop and starting over with empty shelves of the fabulous new work that I will be making :)...stay tuned.

27 April 2010

spring things

I love this time of year more than anything. Spring in west glacier is a beautiful thing after the cold and snow of winter. We've been snow free for a couple of weeks now and had quite a beautiful march but now plants are coming up and a few are even blooming.

Pottery-wise, the non-frozen months are just so much easier. The hose laying in front of my shop...ready with fresh water for rinsing and glaze making. No fire in the woodstove to start and stoke...doors open for dogs to meander freely in and out. Outside storage and tables...ooohhhh. good stuff.
(the flying frog was made by my dear friend susan nebeker and I love him leaping in my lavender).

11 April 2010

serendipitous potter moment

I was in the Berkeley area last week visiting a friend and crafting my brains out. On my list of things to do was to drop in on the studios of "Fourth and Clay" to possibly pick up a piece by christa assad. The universe had a different connection in mind, though. As I spoke with the artist staffing the gallery and looked at her pots, I realized that I had purchased one of her beautiful mugs at a clay conference in Portland about 4 years ago..not knowing the potter, just loving the cup.
Leif (husband person) had been chastised for breaking said loved piece over a year ago. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to replace it and to meet the maker who is as lovely as her work.
Thanks Josie, it was a pleasure. To visit Josie's blog:http://josiejurczenia.blogspot.com/

02 March 2010

shifty kiln..

I have fired my kiln about 15 times now and have really noticed some 'shifting o' the brick'. My frame is welded and bolted to the concrete pad but inevitably...when temperatures are over 2000 degrees f. things are going to move.

My reduction has been quite spotty and unpredictable so I decided to stuff any significant spaces with refractory fiber and see if that helps keep the air out..stay tuned, I hope to fire again on Sunday.

05 January 2010

the conundrum that is the special order...

I've long considered writing about clay folk and special/custom orders but it is a vast and controversial topic for artists and i just haven't been up the task. As another year dawns, though..the time has come to flesh out my thoughts a bit. This is a touch like a school assignment for me but I'll get through :)

I have said yes to the majority of special order requests over the last decade...most of which were items that fell well within my abilities/product line. I've made dozens of dinnerware sets..wedding platters..pasta plates..etc and mugs, mugs, mugs. I have worked hard to make people happy and have been fairly compensated for said products.

Along the way, I have had orders that have spawned new ideas/color combinations that I have incorporated into my everyday pots. Ideas that may never have surfaced if I had not taken that particular commission.

I know artists who covet the custom order...love to have them backed up for a year-guaranteed income and whatnot. Some of them believe that it is the best way to grow their business. In my opinion...these are often the more 'left hemisphered' people who are organized and timely with the rest of their lives and carry that over to their business. It is the way it should be...art as business is a damn serious operation and if you care to succeed...take note. That said...being serious and somewhat organized in our approach does not necessarily mean that we have to take on every order.

There is a difference between a 'custom order'and just an order for a said number of pots that I already make on a regular basis. For some reason...I classify them all in the 'special order' category. I believe that I need to change my thinking on this. In my head....they all weigh the same. Somebody waiting for me to make something that will inevitably take 3 tries (even if it is something I make all the time) and will probably take longer than I told them and cause me loads of guilt and often sheepish explanations.
I hate having to call people and tell them that their order bubbled, warped, cracked, or had kiln gropple fall on it. I always go into too much detail with tech talk that they don't understand and frankly are not interested in hearing. One thing that I have learned is that people are soooo nice. It doesn't make me feel any less guilt over taking too long but it is definitely the rare customer who raises a stink. I was mentioning to a friend the other day that maybe it would be easier if someone would just grab me and shake me and yell.

I'm really not a 'debbie downer' in general, but the special order is just tough for me..always has been. I'm sure that all mediums have their downfalls but pots usually have a turn around time of at least a week and a half. Sometimes I wish I worked with fabric or paint where I could immediately alter the piece as opposed to starting completely over. In my opinion..clay is only for the eternal optimist. You have to be a 'chin up' kind of soul to carry on with pottery. I believe the hurdle for me is starting the order immediately. My optimistic side often underestimates the time required to make said piece so I don't start it right away. Am I capable of changing my approach? I've been at this 10 years now...I'm thinking it's just not my forte. or is it that i need to work harder...get more organized? (I'm guessing the answer to that it yes) but do I have to? or can I run my business by carrying a substantial and varied selection on the shelf ready to go but not take the 'special order' i really don't have the answer. I am considering making this the year of no orders...maybe requests but no hard deadlines for one and two pieces.
Just keep my shelves full of options.

Having written the above over a week ago, I have been completely unable to say no to several more orders...napkin rings (with names..) for a great customer who definitely holds the record for largest dinnerware order. (how could I say no?) The January income could use the boost as well.. SIGH. After much rambling, I have a touch more clarity I suppose..I would love to hear how others approach this.