Wednesday, May 28, 2008

dead birds

We are crawling to the finish line right now at the studio, and by that I mean almost all of the spring orders I took at Philadelphia are shipped. I say "crawling" because there have been the inevitable plethora of small issues and problems that delay orders: poppy plates that keep sagging and sticking to the kiln shelf--but only in the white glaze--, a blue glaze that keeps pin holing and requiring a second round of firing, my matte white glaze that started pin holing on flat surfaces--only on flat surfaces--, birds that fall over on cake stands during firing.

This has become a huge problem, these birds that up and die during firing. For a long time now I've been adding the birds on right before glaze firing, and it's not a problem. I do it that way so I can make a bunch of plates and stack them during bisque firing, then I can turn them into any kind of cake stand I want. But all of the sudden, the birds started falling over. First just here and there, now all the time. And only on my biggest, most expensive size, not my small or medium size. After a packed kiln of dead bird cake stands came out-- and for good measure some injured birds too, (birds with these crazy glaze crawls under them)-- I gave up my method and made a round of plates with deep divots carved in, birds added while green, and dried slowly to prevent cracking. The way you are "supposed" to do it. Sara glazed up a bunch yesterday and they are in the kiln right now.

When we were loading them in the kiln last night, I said to Sara, "I think we need to make a sacrifice or do some kind of ritual to make sure these birdies come out right". Sara, in her very practical way, said, "I think we need to procure some Xanax so you can take one before we unload on Wednesday." I laughed. Then about a minute later I asked hopefully, "Do you know where to get some?"

When I first started making pottery 15 years ago, I had a good friend who told me her mother used to be a potter. Her mom was serious enough with it that she had a garage studio with a wheel and a kiln. "Then one day," my friend told me, "she just stopped making pottery. She just walked out of the studio and never went back." "Why?" I asked. My friend shrugged, "She didn't want to talk about it, and I stopped asking." At the time, I could not begin to understand this, it made absolutely no sense to me. I think I get it now!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

no baby, no cry

Today I had an appointment to show my work to a merchandiser at a particular museum in a particular park in San Francisco. That's not the story though. The story is that as I was walking along, pushing a couple of crates on a dolly toward the Museum on a beautiful sunny afternoon, I looked around and realized I was totally surrounded by women, my age, pushing baby carriages. I though to myself, "I'm pushing babies too, but my babies are nice and quiet, and when they are bad, I throw them on the ground and jump up and down on them". It left me feeling more than just a little bit smug.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

another round of shameless self-promotion

First, sfgirlbybay did a nice little post on me.

I'm having an open studio this weekend at my place.

And my friend, designer Carol Young, put some of my pots in a photo shoot:

...which is just kinda cool!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

another rule of wholesale

Right now things are so hopping at the studio, one of my two kilns are always firing. I'm so glad my power bill is on auto-pay so I don't have to see how much energy I'm using. Can I just say that any ceramicist who says they are "green" is full of shit? Okay, got that off my chest. Back to the subject at hand. Things are hopping not only because I have a lot of wholesale orders, but I overbooked my orders and so we are behind. Not too bad, but still lagging.

For years with wholesale, I would pretty much wing it: I would take whatever orders came and try to space them out so I didn't get too bunched up. But when I hit Philadelphia the last time I decided to get a system. I sat down and tried to figure out how much pottery I could pump out in a week. I figured I could do $2000 a week, and I booked the time accordingly. I printed out a little calendar, and every time I took an order I would put the total on that week. When the total reached $2000-- more or less-- I would move on to the next week. Great system, if you know your limits, which I clearly do not. As it turns out, I overestimated just a teeny, tiny bit. I'm seeing the result right now. Late orders.

I try as hard as I can to intimidate my wholesale buyers so they won't bother me with pesky questions like, "where is my order?" and I have caller ID to screen out those calls. But still, it's kind of a drag to be late. Mostly because I have a strong desire to be organized and efficient, and when orders are running late I feel twinges of failure and guilt.

If you want to tackle the beast that is wholesale, you must be organized and realistic about how much you can create in a given amount of time. Us artistic types always think we can do more than is humanly possible; that's just a given. Know that this is true for you also, and when you consider what you can make in a week, cut it in half. Just do it! Because when you think about all the extra stuff that comes up, not to mention the days when you simply can't make anything, cutting your expectations in half is a kindness to yourself, and to those pesky wholesale buyers.

Friday, May 02, 2008

seconds sale this weekend

Because I am a crazed perfectionist, I generate a lot of seconds. Some are great, some need to get a new home before I smash them. Come by this weekend a adopt a few!
Click here for details!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Last weekend I had a gigantic order for the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, and it was faster to drive to Yosemite and drop it off than to spend the day packing and shipping it, so that's what I did. I took my husband with me since it happened to be our wedding anniversary too. We rented one of those canvas tents that are usually packed with people during the summer, but on a Sunday-Monday in early spring it was pretty quiet. the dogwood trees were blooming like crazy so I was in heaven.

The scale of things in Yosemite is huge-- the rock faces, the waterfalls, the valley floor itself. One of the reasons why I am so inspired by nature is because nature is one of the few places where I can really forget about myself. You are no more insignificant than when you are out in nature because you are no more than a part of nature. Your human significance means absolutely nothing, you can be wiped out as quickly as anything else out there. Being out there, I can be reminded of my insignificance and I can easily forget about myself, my problems, my stress, my concerns. When I can let go of myself I am happy. I wanted to be in concert with Yosemite by letting go of my fear and worry and letting my imagination be as big as Half Dome. When I got back to the studio on Tuesday I threw aa big bowl and giant vase that I sculpted to look like a rock face. We'll see where it takes me.