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.