Saturday, June 30, 2007

countdown to japan

In less than 24 hours I will be on a plane to Japan! The last couple of days have been totally hectic as I try and sew up the studio and prepare Sara to take over while I’m gone. But I’ve finally had time to start getting excited and look forward to some serious clay time. I will be posting about all the people I meet and the things I see while I’m there, so check in on me and send me your comments and emails.

I still haven’t finished packing…

Monday, June 25, 2007

online sale this week

There’s the leaf platter again. I pulled myself together yesterday and managed to take pictures of some work and post it on my new etsy shop, where one of the first leaf platters is for sale. So as it turns out, I will be having a sale this week after all! I’ll be posting new work everyday through Friday; some one-of-a kind pieces, some discounted work, and some just plain old beautiful things. Check it out!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

giving up again

I just spent an aggravating morning trying to photograph my work for an online sale I've been promising for weeks. I'm not really prepared to photograph everything; I don't have the right background and the light is bouncing all over the place... I finally stopped and realized that once again, I've filled up my plate with too too much. I just can't pull it off right now and oh well! I'm going to stop ruining an otherwise beautiful day and give it up.

Then I got an email from someone in England who said they saw my work on a site called whip up. I cruised over there to see what was posted about my pots and check out the comments. I am constantly amazed at the kind and generous things people say about my work, without even seeing it in person. This is what I love about blogging; it really connects me with a world I would not otherwise have the time or ability to communicate with. One commenter left something that I thought was wonderful:
I keep this quote from painter Robert Rauschenberg above my desk: “An idea is a trick to actually reach that solitary point of creativity. . . . I don’t really trust ideas–especially good ones. Rather, I put my trust in the materials that confront me, because they put me in touch with the unknown.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

the learning curve

The five-figure order finally left the station this week. On Monday, I took the three-hour drive up to the factory to give the final seal of approval before shipment. After the last box was sealed, Hector and I promptly drank a bottle of Patron tequila to celebrate. It wasn't the biggest bottle of tequila one can buy; it wasn’t the smallest either.

I’ve been getting lots of supportive and amazing emails in the last weeks as the five-figure order has hit bumps, slowly derailed, gone off the tracks, and almost burst into flames. I haven’t been posting about every twist and turn and permeation the order has taken because it’s basically the Melrose Place of pottery: every little messed-up thing that you think couldn’t possibly happen… happened. I had a draft going where I detailed everything that went wrong, but it’s too long and agonizing for even me to read. I will happily send a copy to the hardcore who love watching train wrecks.

The best thing about pushing this order through was realizing the power I have to utilize some amazing resources. Of course I have my man Hector at the factory, my main resource. Not only is he the very best at what he does, he cares about me and my pottery. When the first glaze came in and didn’t work, and then the second custom batch didn’t work either, he didn’t hit the panic button even once. He worked with it: thinned it out, double-dipped it, fired it to a higher temperature, talked to the glaze tech, and in the end totally made it work. A lot of people could have said, “Get back to me when you work it out”, and that would have been totally legit. I don’t pay Hector enough to deal with the problems that came up, but he dealt with it.

And then there are the guys at Spectrum Glaze. They created the original glaze the client wanted, but what I didn't know until I ran more thorough tests is that this glaze turns a crazy color of blue where it gets thick. The final platter was supposed to be olive green. Of course, I didn’t run these tests until about 10 days before the order was supposed to ship, I was so confident I had a handle on everything. I was on vacation when I realized this glaze wasn’t going to cut it no matter what Hector did to it. I cried for about 5 minutes then called up the owner of Spectrum, Bob Arnfield. Within 48 hours his techs mixed up 4 batches of glaze they thought would meet my needs, photographed them, and sent me the results via email. By the time I got off vacation I had two batches of test glaze waiting for me at the studio. They shipped me 150 pounds of my choice glaze 2 days later via express mail and gave me a steep discount. Despite the problems we ran into with this glaze too, in the end it did the job and I will sing the praises of Spectrum until the day I die.

And of course I could not have gotten through this without my amazing husband, friends and people who read this blog. I got calls, supportive emails, and lots of bitch time as I agonized over every aspect of this order that did no turn out as I expected. Thank you.

When was celebrating with Hector it was half-hearted; I was still feeling doomed, certain the client would send my leaf platters right back to me and yank my five-figure fee. I was so out of touch with reality that I couldn't even begin to see how beautiful the platters actually are. On the drive home the next day, I had to repeat all kinds of mantras to keep myself from driving off the road, then play really loud aggressive music to turn down the noise in my head. I grumped at Sara when I got to my studio, but thankfully we are very much alike and she blew me off. The next day I had some time to myself to work; orders are pretty much wrapped up and I guess I’m supposed to be flying to Japan in a week. I made some stuff, and my feeling of doom lifted. Today, I made more stuff and almost lost myself in it. I think I remember that feeling now: it's my version of happiness and it's the best thing I know.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

optimism looms

Today I decided it was time to get back to the life I was meant to lead, which is to say, not on the verge of puking every 10 minutes when I think about what a failure I am. I woke up at 1 AM last night yelling "shit!" because I forgot to close my venting kiln lid at 11 PM. (A venting kiln is a kiln that is firing and you keep the lid cracked for 3 hours or so to vent out the fumes-- I keep it cracked until the kiln is at 1000 degrees). As I walked down the street to my studio, I looked at the stars and felt the warm air and begged with god. "Cut me a fucking break" is what I actually said. I know I've been saying "fuck" a lot in the last few posts, and maybe that offends some people, but I hope not. Because it truly is one of my favorite swear words.

This morning I slept in. I had a horrible dream right before I woke up that I was on a cross-country forced march with a bunch of people and one of my ex-boyfriends. We were kind of together but he brought along his new girlfriend on the forced march. They were all happy; I was miserable. It was one of those dreams where I was so mad I had to finish the dream in my head after I woke up, because naturally I woke up just as I was about to punch him in the face.

I felt better after I slept in and told Andrew about the dream. I got up, ate some dry toast, (still nauseous) and went to the studio. I immediately got a check-in call from my man Hector at the factory, which gave me a shred of hope that I will not go down in flames. I had already decided that the day would be devoted to throwing. No orders, just getting centered with the clay. I threw a bunch of small bowls which will be transformed into flowers, a few vases that will be prototypes for a new design that has been laying on my brain, a bunch of random cups because I felt like it, and massive platter that measured 16" across and took 10 pounds of clay. I really want to start throwing huge stuff, no more dainty little things.
.... okay, some dainty things but gigantic stuff too.

I went home around noon and read some of my current book, choked down some lunch (still pukey), then fell asleep. When I woke up I called my health club on a whim and sure enough, they had an open massage appointment in 30 minutes. I love my health club, I adore my health club. I will tell you about my trainer Coco, one day, because she is a serious piece of work. I jumped on my bicycle and pedaled down to Club One, where Tammy gave me the most loving 1-hour neck massage I ever received from a stranger, and verbally reminded me that all will be well. After I got back to the studio, I had a few times where I had a surge of panic and horrible thoughts about my future, but then realized how boring that was and threw some more pots.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ready to jump

Today was another in what is becoming a series of difficult days. The details are boring, only because I've been talking about it so much I can't stand to go over it again right now. Suffice to say that when it's all over, and my world is right again, I will write a post about the hell that my life has become. I overstate it, I know. I should be grateful for my many blessings, thank god or whoever that I have the ability to do what I do, and my problems are small compared to so many who are really suffering with disease, starvation, blah blah blah. My man at the factory, Hector, suggested I meditate. Things have gotten so bad I'm actually considering it.

This afternoon, as I wrapped up a gigantic order for a fab new store in New York, Antara Home, my angst was so deep I left the studio and called my pal, Laura Zindel. Laura used to be a Bay Area potter, and I still have the bottle with a hand drawn dung beetle on it that I traded for at a show the very first time we met. That was almost 10 years ago. Laura now lives in Vermont and no longer hand draws each dung beetle on her pots, because her business has gotten so big and demand is such that she has a full-on factory/production studio happening. I knew she was the right person to talk me off the ledge, because she has been there when shit ain't goin' right, and you have a client breathing down your neck, and the fucking glaze is fucked and turning black, or the plates are warping and cracking, or the kiln decided to go insane and overfire everything.

Laura told me a hideous story about trying to fill a monster order for-- a girl's favorite store-- Anthropologie. I hope Laura will tell the story when she guest blogs on Diana Fayt's blog next month, because it truly illustrates the expression, "watch what you wish for". I've been praying for the Anthropologies, the Barneys, all the big stores and names to come knocking, and I've been dutifully preparing myself for just that. But I'm gradually realizing, big orders don't equal big happiness. In fact, it can just equal big stress. I think I can handle it, but right now I'm still on the learning curve. And wondering if I know what I really want. I think I do, but when I realize the pressure that comes with running a big, successful production pottery business, I wonder if growth is the answer for me, and if my marriage could survive it. I'm going to finish off the bottle of wine I started and think about it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

no such thing as bad publicity

I got some good press from California Home + Design, a nice glossy regional magazine. Of course I was totally horrified by the picture they used of me and asked the same question I always ask when photos of me are published, "Why do they have to pick a picture of me that looks so bad?" I'm really vain so I always want to look fabulous in pictures, but unfortunately I'm not all that photogenic. I'm so happy when I see a decent picture of myself. By the way, I'm not writing any of this to fish for compliments, I know the picture could have been a lot worse. An article was written about me in the San Francisco Chronicle a couple of years back and the picture they used of me was so bad and I looked about 20 pounds heavier than I was. And it wasn't me being paranoid about looking fat, because right after the picture was published I had a show and bunches of people looked at the article and looked at me and said, "Wow, you've really lost some weight!" Christa loves this picture, she said I looked really tough and like I was about to punch somebody. In our world, that's kind of cool. And the weird thing was, there was an article on the last page of the magazine about Beatrice Wood. I've never paid any attention to Beatrice Wood until I read her autobiography I Shock Myself earlier this year and realized how much we have in common. That was a neat little connection. Click on the picture if you want to read the article.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

kansas city

Work at the studio is totally backed up at the moment: wholesale and retail orders in various stages of being ready to ship, a show in Santa Monica this weekend, the five-figure order still pending, and some where in there I'm getting ready to leave for Japan on July 1st. I can't think of a better time to take off for 5 days and move my girl Christa cross country in a U-Haul to her new hometown and new job at the Art Institute in Kansas City. We talked so much as we drove across the midwest, the radio was not turned on even once. By the time we crossed the last bridge into Missouri, the studio and all my stress was so far behind me and I was completely in the moment. Christa and I are always so busy with work at our studios; downtime to talk about life outside ceramics is an indulgence and a pleasure.

First stop was Andy Brayman's ceramic studio/playland where Christa's new studio will be located. I rarely get jealous over what other people have, but I was feeling the twinge when I walked into Andy's place. The space is enormous, three floors. There was all the ceramic equipment and accouterments one could want in life, plus motorcycles, skateboards, tons of design books, a freight elevator, two loading docks, roll-up doors... not to mention interns. I ask again, where are my interns, dammit? He has a pottery decal business going on top of his ceramic work, and I was totally inspired thinking about what I could create with decals on my pottery. All of those really intricate designs I don't have the patience to carve on my pottery I could just draw out and stick it on...

Too many adventures were packed into the trip to even begin to recount here, but it involved people, animals, boats, bbq, and beer. I met some amazing artists and new pals, got some serious quality time with one of my special friends, was thoroughly charmed by Kansas City, and came back to my stress-packed life thinking that maybe it ain't so bad.