Saturday, April 25, 2009

what a potter wants

Today, Saturday, I was at our sale over at Fourth and Clay with my clay gals. It was the end of the afternoon and we were cash happy after a pretty successful first day of selling off our seconds. We were kind of hanging out, chatting, and drinking wine. A familiar and comforting scene.
I said, "Is it okay if I come in later tomorrow? I want to get some work done in my studio in the morning before I head over."

Christa was like, "Oh yeah, come in whenever."

Rae pipes up and says, "Yeah, like we don't want to be working in our studios tomorrow." The sale is held at Christa, Rae, and Josie's studio and definitely takes over their whole work space.

I said, (a tad defensively) "Well, I'm off for three days of vacation next week! I need to work!" Rae just rolls her eyes.

Moral of the story: ceramic artists only want to do one thing. Make pots. Fuck vacations, or whatever they're called.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

seconds on fourth

Yes, I did just have a seconds sale less than a month ago at my own studio, and I've been unloading a ton of stuff of my etsy site too. But seconds are one of those things that I have a major talent for making, and it's a good thing I know some other fabulous potters who have a stash of seconds they've been squirreling away for our second annual Seconds on Fourth Sale. This is a sale hosted by the Fourth and Clay gals: Rae Dunn, Josie Jurczenia, and Christa Assad. Who was recently featured on the cover of Craft Magazine. The lovely Sara Paloma and amazing Sharon Virtue will also be there. And me too, of course. Click here for all the details!

Monday, April 20, 2009

insane beauty

Yup, that's me. (an ad for Philadelphia Craft Market that's ben making it to some print magazines. Click to read the little blurb)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

look familiar?

I was in San Luis Obispo this weekend with my sister, Brena. We were wandering around a gift store when she sucked in her breath. She had spotted this:

No, it's not mine. It's some cheap crap from China created by the Grasslands Divison of Amscan, a company I could only find after doing an image search of the item I found in this gift store. I like mine much better:

Of course, their version was $7.95, while mine is $140. And theirs is a miniature version, about 4" and 5" high. Check out the similarity in photography. This is theirs:
and mine:

Or maybe I'm just totally paranoid.


The first time I made this piece was about 5 years ago. I threw this vase shape: bulbous on the bottom, with a flared, tall opening. And then the piece sat around. I didn't really know what to do with it and I wasn't coming up with a good design for this shape. I had an idea that the flared part should represent a flower opening, but my initial designs were not working for me. This was when I was developing the whole seed and pod line, and I was having a lot of fun playing around with my razor blade and re-shaping the openings of pots. Rather than trash this piece, I decided to do a version of the pomegranate with it, and 20 minutes later I had my first Sprout, as I like to call this vase. And I loved it. I think it is sophisticated, sculptural piece, that functions beautifully as both a vase and a work of art. That's the history of the piece, because like with almost all of my pieces, there is a story behind the design.

The incident this weekend led me back to a note I received about a week ago from another Etsy seller (edited for clarity, and to protect the possibly innocent):

Whoa, I thought your work was on the front page of Etsy, but I guess it was someone else. It seems this potter has been adapting a few styles from you, and possibly me. What do you think, as an artist and a potter? Does this ruffle your feathers at all? I really don't know what to think.

This note has nothing to do with the sprout piece, but another piece of mine that is extremely popular, and is such a classic design that I do not feel I have any copyright protection over it, I just have my own take on it. So I shrugged off the alert. But let me say this in bold type: I do not feel that way about most of my work. This is where the rubber really meets the road: getting ripped off sucks. My feathers get ruffled, and yeah, I get pissed. This is not the first time I've seen a cheap replica of my work coming out of China, and I always get this sick feeling in my stomach. It's a combination of anger, helplessness, and the creepy feeling of being stalked by people who specialize in ripping off intellectual property.

But I've learned to be realistic-- people who don't trust their own design instincts or are too lazy to develop them are out there, they work for big companies that are easy to name, and they are trolling my work and the work of others for "inspiration" as I write this right now. They are copycats, and copycats are just as disdained in the grown-up world as they are in first grade. I will continue to make great work, and copycats will continue to rip me off, and others. Rae Dunn, to name one person who is so relentlessly ripped off she started manufacturing a line in China so she could rip herself off before the copycats could. And people still copy her.

There is emulation, and learning from the work of others. That's one thing. Students may be forgiven for their trespasses on the road to developing their own style. I may see echoes of my work in the work of others, but my work contains echoes too. That is the nature of art-- there is hardly anything that has not been done before. But the line is there. Just like Justice Stewart said in a Supreme Court ruling about obscenity in 1964, pornography may be hard to define, but he knows it when he sees it. And while some may try to blur that line as they "subconsciously" appropriate your work, as an artist you know when the line has been crossed. We all know when we've been totally ripped off. And right now, I feel a little bit shredded.

For another discussion about ceramic artists getting the shaft in the world of design, read this old post.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


It was kind of an amazing day. I've been alone at the studio all week; one assistant has family in town, the other has been sick. I'm so rarely alone in the studio anymore that when it happens, I really dig it. I blast the music and get into my own personal groove, no interruptions.

Today I sat down to work on a project that has been in the works-- in my head-- for at least two years. A set of nesting bowls in the 12-15 range, working up to 20-22. I want them to be part of my new lichen collection, a collection of this ultra-thin porcelain work I've been babying along the last year. I threw this set in stoneware just to check the weight and size on everything before committing it to porcelain. God, I love throwing so much, I really really do. Everything else in my life hit the back burner today as I hummed along happily on my wheel:

The biggest bowl was so damn satisfying. I could stick my whole head in there, if I wanted to. You can barely see the smallest bowl here, which looked like this when I was throwing it:

Then I beat it out of the studio at 4 sharp to head over to San Francisco and deliver some work to a customer and then sally on over to Rena Bransten gallery to see one of my assistant's, Marci Washington, solo painting show. Whoa. I've seen Marci's work online, but seeing it in person was very powerful and impressive. Her work is extremely creepy, but it really speaks to me, and her statement about her work is very intelligent and thoughtful. The painting below was one of my favorites.
It's called Escape Into the Woods-Purging the Black Infection. I don't know if I would want it hanging in my bedroom, but I really liked it, especially in the context of the entire show. Please take a tour of it right here!

Monday, April 06, 2009

refining me, refining you

People who work with in ceramics already know the truth about clay: you can call it "mud", which is a kind of jokey put-down which belies the reality of this material. But really, clay is an entity. What do I mean by that? I mean, clay is not an uninformed, unformed substance. It's also not a living being either. Got no lungs, doesn't breathe. It is somewhere in between. An entity only partially understood by even brilliant potters.

Clay is one thing. Glaze is another. Combining the two is a path taken by crazy people. If you are a potter, and you think you are sane, you are sadly mistaken. Let me be the one to tell you: Everyone around you knows the truth about the state of your sanity. You are fooling no one.

As a potter, your job is to make things out of clay, and learn to have a certain mastery over the outcome. With every firing, you learn something else. And yet, you don't know shit. With every firing, you make new decisions about your future path-- how you will apply this particular glaze, what the clay body can handle, how much abuse they both can take, how thick you can lay it on. You see the results of your attempts, and you shift your ideas and approach accordingly. You think you are shifting according to what you want,which is the perfect firing, the perfect outcome, the perfect piece.

It occurred to me that my clay actually wants something too. I spend almost everyday with this thing, this being, this clay. I think I'm telling it what to do, and becoming its master. But I actually think it's telling me what to do. And if I don't listen, I'm in big trouble.

Of course the bottom line question always is-- when the clay starts talking, are you a genius, or are you just fucking nuts?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

spring online sale

Did I mention I'm having a huge sale at my etsy store? You know me and my... glaze problems, which means lots of SECONDS. I'm unloading all of them this week, and I must say things are getting snapped up, which makes me very happy. But there's more more and more, so if you've been wanting something special, chances are it's in the shop, or it will be in the shop, or it's in the kiln right now, doing something crazy that will make it a second. And these are good seconds, stuff with small issues. There are lots of the standards, brand-new prototypes, and some things that are perfect but just need to go live somewhere else. And they deserve a good home, so hop over there and give them one!

The dreaded Bird Cake Stand in Robin Egg Blue $110
You know you need one!
And I have more in white (of course).
And in more sizes too...

An amazing one-of-a-kind Lotus Flower Serving Plate $175
Freakin' amazing if I do say so myself.

Swallowtail Lidded Vessel $46
Gorgeous details.

Red Poppy Plate $62
Do not try to resist.