Monday, February 25, 2008

back to reality

Have I mentioned lately how hard it is to be me? These trade shows can be really taxing. One of the things I find most difficult is coming home, back to reality. Not that I don't want to be home-- I do. But I have found over the past several years that when I come back after my trips, my groove is way off. I suppose it's normal, but knowing that I fall into the category of normal doesn't make it any easier. Part of the problem is that I extend these business trips back east because I have a lot of friends I want to catch up with, along with some important family members. So I can be gone for two to three weeks, which is just a long time to be away. And frankly, while these trade shows are worth it for my business, I have yet to have a super-successful wholesale show where I feel elated afterwards. You know when you have a really awesome show and you feel all the love from your clients and you can't wait to get back to the studio and make some new stuff? Well, a middling show like the one I just had in Philly generates, like, the opposite reaction in me.

I'm not looking for sympathy, but I do want to whine a bit. I can't help but question sometimes if I'm doing what I should be doing in my life. Maybe I need to completely ditch wholesale or maybe I need to invest more money into it; maybe I need to put all of my energy into creating a new line or maybe I just need to get pregnant and make sculpture. I must be totally warped to think that sounds easier right now. I did ask my husband recently if he would support me for a year if I closed my studio and wrote a novel. His answer was "yes", as long as I did all the cooking and cleaning. That sounded really great for about five minutes until I started thinking about the torture I go through as a writer. A year? Try two or three, darlin' . I mean, that's a real hell right there. Pottery hell is a goddamn picnic in fantasyland compared to writer's hell. But I have that ticket in my back pocket if I ever need it. And today it's burning a tiny little whole in my pants.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Yesterday was the close of the Philadelphia Rosen show, and with the help of my best friend from high school, Melissa, we shut that baby down and escaped in exactly an hour after close and bolted to the nearest bar where we could get fancy girl drinks and food. And catch up. I only have the privilege of seeing Missy about once a year, if that.

So I know you all are dying for a report on the show. I'll start by saying I have no regrets, but it was a bit disappointing. I took enough orders to make it worth it and met some people who could become amazing clients, but I was hoping for more. I guess I always am.

And it was just a long haul. My first task upon flying to JFK was to get my booth tables and displays out of storage from my friend's place in New Jersey, where they have been sitting since I last did the New York Gift shows, and transport them to Philadelphia. Renting a car one-way was unbelievably expensive, so I figured out a way to take the train with all my stuff. I want you to picture this for a moment: Short girl (me) pushing along a large baby blue hard luggage case (nicknamed "the vending machine" by my husband) stuffed to the gills with clothing, shoes, and pottery; also dragging a luggage rack strapped with 2 six-foot folding tables and wood display boxes, track lighting, a very delicate set of posters rolled up in a cardboard tube, and finally an extremely heavy computer bag slung over my shoulders, rolling through the train terminal. I looked absolutely ridiculous. I looked like a Sherpa, except Sherpas are way cooler. A red cap helped escort me and my baggage to check-in, and as we were walking along he gave me a sidelong glance and asked, “Are these all display units?” “Yup,” I said. “Your boss should be shot for sending you out with all of this stuff” he said. I gave him my biggest smile, “You’re looking right at her”.

Linda, of Little Flower Designs, was on hand at the 30th Street Station in Philly to transport me and my stuff to the Penn Convention Center nearby. We arrived at my booth where the rest of my pottery was already waiting, having been freighted through with Exhibitor Services the previous week. We set up the curtains, tables, and displays, then cracked open my bins to start unloading my pots. I noticed right away something was broken, and I was like, "Hmmm... darn". Coincidentally, or maybe not, it was the infamous leaf platter, and the thought ran through my head that maybe that piece is cursed. As I started going through the bin, I saw that actually a few things were broken. And then Linda said, "Um, there is some broken stuff in here, too". My heart started dropping as we unloaded more, and the extent of the damage became clear: None of my four dogwood cake stands had survived, along with many items that had been chipped, squashed, and completely pulverized. And when I say pulverized, I mean some of the shards were powder. In the end I lost fully two bins of work. I spent thousands of dollars to be at this wholesale show, and I didn't have some of my best samples.

I have shipped a lot of work to a lot of shows, and this had never happened to me before. It took every ounce of of me to decide right at that moment that what was done, was done. The pots were broken and there was no way to get them back. I had to live with it with full acceptance. I called Exhibitor Services and we had a discussion about the damage to my pottery, and then Linda and I finished setting up, putting aside the pots that could be repaired with glue, and she drove me out to where I was staying with a friend's mother. The next day I brought back what I managed to fix, bought a bunch of flowers to artfully disguise the cracks and chips, and in the end I don't think my sales were impacted at all by the loss of some of my samples. I will post some pictures of the booth when I get home in five more days.

I wanted to share this experience with you because I think that it is important to recognize that we choose how to react to situations of adversity. I think most people would have freaked out in this situation and that would have been a perfectly normal and understandable reaction. But, freaking out drains my energy and puts me in a negative space of helplessness and rage, and I think that's true for most people. I fail at this practice of acceptance all the time, but I also have successes. My husband, Andrew, is a fabulous role model for this behavior and I have learned so much from him in the past 14 years. I think it's important for me to role model this for other people whenever possible because anybody can learn how to deal with hardship in a mode of acceptance. Now these are broken pots, right? Not an organ transplant or a broken back, so I don't want anyone to think I'm up on a high horse and babbling about how we must accept what is. I have a very wonderful life and I must say that broken pots are among the worst things that happen to me in an average week, but I know that this is not true for many people. I hope I can help people with the everyday injustices and bullshit... that's all.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Oh my god, look at that messy studio. I made the picture small so the details of messiness cannot be easily discerned. I have been on a throwing mission the past several days. Goal: throw 30 cake plates in each of my three sizes before I leave for the Philadelphia show this Tuesday. That's 90 plates for you math challenged types. I've been doing thirty a day. Since I have a great intern right now I make him wedge it all up for me, which he does cheerfully. Look at that clay waiting for me. Friday, I threw 150 pounds of clay in three and a half hours. I was feeling mighty sore that evening and had to roll around on the yoga ball for a while to get over it. And take a hot bath. And then immediately go to bed. I'm getting old.

So, taking off Tuesday morning. I have to fly through New York City so I can pick up my booth that is stored there in my friend's garage, and of course goof around for a day and a half in my second favorite city (after Oakland). Then I'm going on to Philadelphia, where Linda of Little Flower Designs is going to meet me and help me set up. It's good to have friends and people who help me out.

Then another week of goofing off before flying home and facing the mountain of orders I'm sure I will have...

I would also appreciate it if any of you back east people know of some great art exhibits (especially ceramics) I should see while in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. D.C.

Friday, February 01, 2008

one piece, one glaze

Yesterday I put this pot up on my etsy site. It's a really old piece, I think I made it in 2003. Back then, one of my main muses was the lily pad and lotus flower, and I made a lot of raised relief designs with slip trailing, emulating the veins of a lily pad. Very labor-intensive, but the results were lovely. The shape of this pot was also very standard for me. I wanted a continuous and unbroken line where the lid met the pot. There was something about a typical pot where the shoulder has a little rise where the lid can rest that I just did not like. The shape seemed too conventional and brought down my design. I always had to fire the lids separate from the pot, which is kind of a no-no, but it worked for me.

This pot was glazed during a period of time when my matte green glaze was not firing out at all, it was coming out a grayish-green, like on this piece here, and it was making me completely insane. I could not appreciate it the way it was, all I saw was the way it should be. Man, the pots I marked down because the color did not satisfy me! It's kinda sad the way I tossed my children into the cold when they didn't please me, but good for the people who found them all covered in dust at my studio sales. That matte green glaze has made me insane several times over the years; it is an utterly beautiful and completely undependable glaze. I have referred to it in the past as my bad boyfriend glaze.

One time I wholesaled this matte green for a season, and I sold the hell out of it. When I started firing off orders, the glaze started bubbling. All over, really bad. The galleries get it, they love the wabi-sabi of bubbles, but the retail home accessories store in Dallas, Texas does not get it. I could not get a single piece out of the kiln without a bubble on it. Nowadays I only use it for my own customers, and I don't worry if there is a bubble or two on it. It's a picky glaze that likes to be treated like it's a superstar and doesn't want to be part of a production line. Hey, I get it. I don't call it my bad boyfriend glaze anymore, it's my special baby.