Thursday, February 26, 2009

a little bit of art every day

After several more frustrating days in the studio training my new glaze assistant, I realized that-- once again-- expectations are outstripping what reality can provide. I had to take a breathe and accept that replacing Sara is not a 3 or 4 week process, it's more like 3-4 months. Maybe more. Meanwhile, my constant struggle to have time to make pieces that are not just feeding that production machine is a battle that continues. I had this fantasy that hiring two new people to cover all of my production elements would free me up to become queen of the art manor, like now. Now, dammit!

For me, whining about not having time to make art is on par with that girlfriend of yours who whines about the bad boy she's been dating for years even though he keeps cheating on her. She goes on and on and nothing changes. People probably get sick of listening to me, and I get sick of listening to myself because I know, deep down, that the more you complain and talk about something, the less likely anything will get done about it. I just decided that rather than waiting for that perfect, golden time where I'll have all the time I need to make the things I want to make, I just have to make a little bit of art everyday. Because the time to make art is right now, not sometime off in the future when I have "time". By the time the stars line up properly to give me the perfect space, all of my ideas will be long gone, having become bored standing around in my brain waiting to be born. So that's my new motto: A little bit of art everyday.

Speaking of art, I managed to go to New York City for a few days after the Philly show. I toured most of the Chelsea galleries and finally visited the Museum of Art and Design. I really like that museum a lot, though I wish it were about 3 times as big. Also, their museum store should be selling my work. I saw some great pieces that totally inspired me. The thought I came away with is that being an artist, in a lot of ways, means being obsessed with an idea. And taking the time to explore that idea, not letting it go until you get a piece that satisfies and pleases you. Even if that idea is completely nuts.

I was anxious to get my hands in clay after that, and I am fortunate to have a very good friend who teaches at the Greenwich House Pottery. This person was actually the first person to give me a nudge toward clay, and here is is throwing cups. I have been visiting his classes and giving throwing demos when I'm in town, which pleases me to no end since I am a natural-born showoff, and I like to show him what his encouragement has wrought. And I really enjoy introducing students to my throwing method, where I basically use no water once I've centered the pot. This was a method taught to me by Bob Pool, who I assisted many years ago. My friend likes to tease me about my method-- his technique is the opposite-- but I think he likes his students to see there is more than one way to make a pot, and they are usually fascinated by what I'm doing. I threw a few things in the cause of a demo, but I was really doing it for myself, and happy I had a place to do it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ms. smith's neighborhood

I closed the Philly show a few days ago. I try to be a good neighbor at the trade shows. To my mind, that means pretty much minding my own business and staying out of other people’s booths. A polite yet distant friendliness is what I strive for. A long weekend or week can be made even longer by an overly-talkative or worse yet, a bitter and mopey neighbor.

At the Philly show, I did pretty well on neighbors. Tabbatha Henry was a bit down the aisle from me and established herself as the ideal neighbor. She came over to chat for brief periods, offered food, made wry comments on the buyers, and didn't complain.

I have had terrible neighbors before. Once, when I was still doing the New York Gift Show, I had a neighbor on the left is that was the worst kind of neighbor, and completely unaware that he was a bad neighbor and everyone on the aisle wanted him dead. He was a manic type who seemed gregarious and outgoing at first, but it was a thinly disguised act to mask a frantic show-off. He continually popped into my booth—and I do mean “pop” in the literal sense, his energy level verged on the frenzied—and attacked me with non-sequitors:

“I’m dying for a frozen yogurt! Aren’t you?” (I detest frozen yogurt and the whole idea of it).
“Oh my god you are so cute! Do you hate it when people tell you that?” (Um. No.)
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” (this actually sung to me in a show-tune fashion).
“I am so obsessed with Rome!” (a cable TV series I’ve never seen).
“I wish I were selling my pants! Everyone keeps asking me about them!” This on the first day, when he was wearing a pair of vintage houndstooth pants, very Yves Saint Laurent circa 1972. With a pink top and a pink tie.

Add to this picture a high voice that carried, a selling pitch that didn’t vary, a southern accent (fake?), frequent cell phone calls that included frenetic pacing back and forth in front of my booth, and you have someone who is amusing to write about, but torture to experience in real life. He also walked the aisle like he was participating in a fashion show and he was on the catwalk, complete with tiny little hips. I don't like to use the word "hate" because it's such a strong word and he was really not worthy of my hate. But I hated the little bitch. And I know he hated me too, though he addressed me as "my friend", as in "Well, my friend, you're having a good day!" Of course I was having a less than good day, but my friend didn't really care about that.

The trade shows are just tough places to be. You're stuck in a 10' x 10' space for about 8 hours a day, and you have to always ready to be friendly and chat up the customers. This last show was especially tough, as there were very few buyers who attended, and I found myself gazing off into space for long periods of time. It helps to be able to chat with the people around you, but you can find yourself chatting with people who are just taking your energy and attention. Which is why I tend to keep to myself.

Anyway dear readers, I just wanted to check in and let you know I survived the show, and I can't wait to get back into the studio and back to work!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

old problems, new solutions

It's been a race to the finish line all week. I kissed my work good-bye and put it on a truck first thing Tuesday morning, and it will be waiting for me in my booth in Philadelphia when I arrive this Wednesday. Do you remember last year when I stupidly shipped through the show's Exhibitor Services and my work was destroyed? That will not be happening this year. Another artist from the Bay Area rented a truck and is bringing in a bunch of people's work, including mine, and I'm feeling very confident all will arrive safely. And I got everything else done: the wholesale catalog, the website update, the communications with my wholesale buyers, and the myriad other small details.

Meanwhile, I've been training my two new people; one on production throwing, the other on production glazing. Training someone in glazing is very challenging for me. It's the end of the line with the creative process and when things die at this point I've lost all the investment. I'm a picky bitch and I want glazing done the way I taught you, which means perfectly and efficiently. It's a constant push to mold new people, especially people who have never worked in a production environment. I have to be fully present, mentally and physically, and ready to address every single detail, down to how to put the lids on the correct glaze buckets. I had to tell my new glaze assistant that there will come a day soon where she realizes I'm actually a nice person and she will probably like me, but that time has not come yet.

Despite the tension, it's also good to have new eyeballs in the studio, because new people have new ideas and a fresh way of approaching problems. One issue Sara and I had for a while is glazing my large split pods. They are 9" high, round, and full of air. Dipping them with tongs or by hand is impossible, so our solution has been to brush glaze them. Alexis was not having it. She obsessed on the problem for a day or two and then came up with the solution: a heavy duty wire, like from the handle of a 5-gallon bucket, balancing the pod on it right between the split, securing it with your thumbs on the top. It was the perfect solution and we got a two beautifully dipped large pods for the first time ever!