Monday, October 29, 2007

christa assad @ the de young museum

Christa is in town at the moment because one of her collectors, Sandy Besser, is making a gift of his extensive art collection to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. So one of Christa’s iron teapots is going to be in the de Young! Christa is my very favorite potter, such an amazing talent, so she deserves it. Christa moved away from San Francisco last spring to teach at the Kansas City Art Institute… we miss her so much. I miss her so much!

The teapot that will be donated to the de Young is, of course, beautiful. But I think I have the best Christa iron teapot in the world.Don't you agree?

Friday, October 26, 2007

if throwing were a superpower...

I’d be freakin’ Wonder Woman!

I’ve been dying to use blogger’s new video feature. I have a bunch of video from Japan but it’s mostly drunken, goofy, and amusing only to those who were present. Then today, as I was banging out plates that will become cake stands for Miette, I suddenly realized throwing on the wheel is the perfect video subject for my blog.

I did it on my digital camera and I’ve never edited video in my life—until today that is—so if the quality is hurting some people’s eyes, well, sorry. Also, my college radio station is blasting in the background, so you might want to turn down your volume. I'm going to try again and learn to do it better, but I was so excited to get this up today that it just is what it is. Uploading the video through blogger is proven to be more difficult. So I gave up and uploaded it to youtube—another first.

Production throwing can be boring, the same form over and over. It’s easy to get sloppy. I always try to make it a challenge for myself. I time myself to see how fast I can do it, and I attempt to make each piece perfect. I used to laugh when people would say, “Throwing seems so meditative!” Potters must hear that 500 times a year. But now that I have actually taken up meditation—the sitting down, hands on knees, eyes closed kind—I realize that throwing is meditative. Whatever thought I was pursuing in my head fades out as the wheel starts up. And then when I finish the piece, my thoughts tune back in.Watching someone throw is a mesmerizing activity. I never get bored with it—the watching or the doing!

Monday, October 22, 2007

strategies & plans

I brush all the glazes onto my work, and that’s part of how I get such beautiful and smooth finishes. Most of my glazes take 5 coats. It’s a tedious and time-consuming job, and nobody in their right mind does it that way. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. When I hired Sara I knew she would question my brushing method, and after a few months, she did. She doesn’t like to mess around with stupid stuff. It’s actually a relief to have someone pushing you to do things differently sometimes. I really hate the way I glaze but I’m too lazy and stubborn to try a different way. We mixed up enough glaze to fill 5 gallon buckets, and Sara started testing. To my relief it hasn’t been a big deal so far. Most of the glazes have taken to it pretty well and it cuts our glaze time in half if not more.

Meanwhile I’ve been pondering what’s next. Vanessa from Miette came in today to order a ton of stuff for their stores and within an hour of her departure I was buzzing away on the wheel, working on her order. I was thinking about the Philadelphia Rosen show, a wholesale show in Philadelphia which I applied and was accepted to. It will be a better fit for me than New York because everything has to be handmade in the States and it caters to more of a gallery crowd. But… I don’t really want to go. I’m not that crazy about marketing myself to wholesale buyers. It’s only been the last couple of years that I started doing primarily wholesale, and I don’t love it. I’ve gotten by for years without it, but I also did more retail shows to support myself. Well, I’ve dropped almost all of my retail shows because they suck so much, so something has to replace that. This Christmas season will be the first ever where I haven’t scheduled a show.

I’m totally on the fence, an irritating place to be. On one hand, I feel I should go, get myself out there in the world, connect with certain buyers and the magazine editors and writers who go to those things. And keep the money coming in if nothing else. On the other hand when I think of all the $350 orders for funky little galleries and gift shops that I'll have to fill – places that will never order again—I get bored just thinking about it. I kind of want to steer myself away from things that bore me. Stress and anger usually follow boredom very quickly in my life. Unfortunately nobody can really tell me what I should do. I keep looking at the unsigned Rosen contract and wonder if that’s a little red flag I see waving there at me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

new work

Here we are, finally, with some new work. I have my kokeshi dolls and another piece that is kind of like a piece of wood. First the kokeshi dolls: When I was in Japan I went to an antique/junk store and they had a large collection of these wooden dolls, called kokeshi dolls. They are all very simple in design, and I was really taken by their simplicity. Little details, like the shape of the hair and body or the expression on the face would create different characters for these dolls. I bought a few thinking I would give them to some of the little girls in my life—of course that hasn’t happened—but it hit me as I was riding back to Kanayama on my bicycle that they would be great inspiration for some ceramic work.

Wooden kokeshi dolls were originally made to be toys for children, but there is a big, crazy world of kokeshi doll collecting out there, and I'm not sure if you would find any in toy stores anymore. My ceramic ones are made from porcelain, and they don’t feel like toys. They are totally non-functional really, just pieces to look at. I don’t think I’ve ever really made a piece strictly for looking at. It’s a new world for me. I like my pots to do something, but perhaps I should get over that. Anyway, I'm selling these girls off right here.

Speaking of standing around and looking pretty, I’m a little bit in love with this other piece. I’m calling it a “wood altar” because it seems like a place where something ritualistic might happen, a rite of passage. This is also porcelain, and I only glazed the flowers to make sure they would stick to the piece. Again, it’s basically non-functional. I want to make more things like this, but I want it to be thin enough to be translucent. Lately I am very interested in the idea of shadows and translucency. This is a piece I will probably keep for a while, or I may never sell. Sometimes I can hang on to pieces for years, and then the right person will talk me out of it. This piece also looks magical with a candle lit at the bottom.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

the fear

Is there anything more boring, yet at the same time, as utterly compelling as the sound of your own inner voice, reciting in every detail, you how doomed you really are? Annie Lamott, one of my favorite Bay Area writers, calls this inner voice “Radio K-FKD”. It will play 24 hours, 7 days a week if you let it, with no commercial interruptions.

I call this voice “The Fear”. The Fear is a simple animal: It’s scared that if I don’t I move my money into a higher-interest savings account, and soon, I will go broke; terrified that if I don’t come up with new designs tomorrow, everyone is going to get bored with my old crap; and really worried that I say I can’t afford health insurance yet I drop thousands on wine, shoes, plane tickets and dry-farmed-locally-and-sustainably-produced- heirloom tomatoes. Do you have your priorities straight missy? Are you doing what a responsible adult would be doing with her life? Maybe you should go get a job. Pottery Barn is dying to hire you ! As a sales rep of course...

The fear is like a bad date: relentlessly reciting the stories it thinks will get your attention, with little regard for truth. I’m like, “Give it up dude! You suck, you’re boring, and you ain’t even cute! Why are you still here?" I’ve always been receptive to listening to the fear, and believing the fear is in reaction to reality. But as my reality gets better and the fear still talks about the same old crap, I’m really starting to wonder if it ever knew what it was talking about in the first place.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

meant to be

Hello, how cute are these plates? These are a special order for somebody, 12 in all. I always make extras of special orders, and in this case I made an extra 3 plates. Three cracked during the bisque, so every plate left was precious if I wanted the 12 for the order. All three plates cracked in the exact same place in relation to the position of the birds. Hmmm. Another plate got whacked on the edge of something and had a small chip on the underside, which I sanded down so you couldn’t tell. Sara suggested an experiment: why don’t we fill in the crack with this stuff called Magic Mender and see if the crack would still show up through the glaze? This glaze is very thick and it wasn’t impossible that her idea would work.

Now this is the funny thing; I’ve learned over and over that when a piece is going wrong—cracks, chips, warps, etc.—that piece is just not meant to be. It’s like trying to fix up a cake that already fell in the oven. But I try anyway. We filled in the crack with Magic Mender and a half hour later as Sara was glazing it, it went flying out of her hands and shattered on the floor. Sara was devastated, but I knew right away it was the cracked plate. It just committed suicide right in front of us. When the glaze firing came out two days later, one of the birds had migrated across the plate. Again, I knew it had to be the chipped plate, and it was. I glued a dogwood flower to the plate where the bird should be and gave it to my friend. Then I made FOUR more bird plates.