Thursday, July 22, 2010

new vases

I made these vases for the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival, and I really love them. They are a take off on the "lichen" series, with their thin, uneven edges. I added the veining for some textural interest and to give them an organic edge.

It's weird where ideas come from. These vases started because I was throwing a bottle prototype for a company and the bottle needed to be very tall and skinny. I don't really throw tall and skinny so it was a bit of a challenge. I had to make a go at it three times to figure out how to throw a tall, skinny thing that didn't look all lumpy and crappy. Once I figured it out, I was in love with the process. It requires a bit more patience. I usually throw more open things that take me a few minutes to form, but to get the profile I wanted with these I couldn't push the clay around too much, too fast. It's slower, but you must remain engaged or you lose the straight lines. It's good for my brain to experience what it's like to be patient every once in a while. Such a rarity.

So when I got the perfect bottle I continued on with some vases. They came out to be about 6" for the smallest, and about 15" for the tallest. I sold most of them at Palo Alto but I do have the white one and the green one pictured here. The green one never made it to Palo Alto because I forgot to load it into the kiln, a fact I realized at about 3 AM. It's my "bad boyfriend" glaze, and I must say it's on very bad behavior here. A few bubbles, which I generally just have to accept, and it turned an ugly brown on the inside with a rash of bubbles all over. Oh well, who looks at the inside of a vase anyway? The white one is just lovely, it floats.

I'll put these babies up for sale on Etsy and on my website as soon as I figure out a good name for them. I've been calling them "Asparagus Vases" because of their shape, but that name is not holding. I have a little contest happening on my facebook page right now for naming rights. Put in your ideas and maybe you'll get a free one!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

dark thoughts

I've mentioned many times over the years how much I love being a part of the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. It's a beautiful setting, good friends showing alongside me, and customers who are educated about art and buy work. When I first started showing at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival, it was the late 90's and Palo Alto was flush with dot com cash. Palo Alto has always been a solid show but those days were very high rolling. I would always bring my best one-of-a-kind work, and it would sell. Things have been slowly shifting over the past 5 years, and I really started noticing two years ago how I was mostly selling my less expensive "standards" while my high priced, unique, one-of-a-kind work sat on the shelf. Not unexpected considering what was happening in the world, and the shifting demographic of Palo Alto itself, but for some reason I still always felt surprised. This year I planned for it, spending less time on really expensive stuff (over $400) and making some more mid-range work, in the $100-$250 range.

While it was still a very good show-- I still always sell more here than I ever have at any other show-- there were big, long periods of slowness, very unusual for Palo Alto. That left me with plenty of time to start having some very dark thoughts about the future. For the first time I started questioning my prices-- are they too high? I always put a lot of thought into how I price my work but I started picking things up and thinking "This is $175? That's an insane amount of money for this little thing!" I watched people time and time again ask about prices on stuff, nod soberly when I told them the cost, then walk away with nothing.

And there's more, of course. I think one of my biggest worries about the future of being a self-supporting artist is the changing nature in how young people-- my future customers-- are growing up and how they live now. There is little emphasis and education on art in schools while kids are driven to work their asses off on extra-curricular activities. Then, as they get older, these same kids incur huge debts in college and spend the first part of their adult lives paying off incredible loans. The contemplative life where the arts and culture can be appreciated simply does not figure into the American lifestyle as I think about what's coming in the future. I think art and culture is being set aside for the people who actually have the luxury of time, and that is the money rich. The rest of the population is expected to work harder, stay inside the home and watch television and play on the internet for entertainment, and shop Ikea if they want to express taste or style. In fact--and this is where it gets really dark--I think this whole emphasis on "design" in places like Target and Ikea is a cultural conspiracy to convince people that hand crafted art is irrelevant and out of reach. And with the way our society is changing with the lack of public funds, maybe it is becoming out of reach for everyone but money wealthy.

As I gloomed on these dark thoughts while remaining perky and friendly with people who walked into my booth, I felt like we are all on this ship sailing into a future nobody would recognize as desirable and nobody wants. But we are all so busy with the minutiae of our own lives we haven't looked up long enough to see that we are lost, our ship is falling apart, and we are about to go over some seriously steep waterfalls.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

this weekend

My favorite retail show of the year is this weekend, the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. I love this show because the selling is good, the customers love ceramics, I get to hang out with my pottery posse, and it's in the summer. I'm usually kind of losing my mind before Palo Alto, but this year I'm pretty together. I actually started packing today, which I don't think has ever happened this far in advance. You can take a peek here at some of the work I'll be bringing. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

new nested bowls

I love to make items that nest inside each other. Nested pieces are a visual surprise and delightful to me, and I think most people agree. The first thing I ever made that nested were the lotus bowls, about 14 years ago. I was obsessed with the lotus flower at that time, and I was trying to figure out a way to emulate its shape in clay. At that time I was just starting to carve edges of bowls to make flower bowls, and I was very pleased with the concept of carving away to make new shapes. I tried to make a bowl with carved and layered petals on the inside, but the results were not pleasing. All of the sudden I realized I should make the bowls separately to get the layered effect I wanted, and I had my first set of nesting bowls. They were a set of four. I wish I knew where they are now, I probably sold them for $50.

I've made dozens of different kinds of nesting bowls and plates since then. My most recent thing was a set of nesting ranunculus bowls. Most people don't know what a ranunculus is, so I may need to change the name to "rose nesting bowls" so I can stop explaining to people what they are. Ranunculus are very rosy in a way, though a lot more interesting to my eye.

The bowls were inspired after a visit to Neicy Frey's painting studio in Spokane, Washington. Neicy paints big beautiful canvases of brightly colored and delicately rendered flowers, including the ranunculus. Did I mention that the ranunculus is one of my favorite flowers? When I got back to my own studio it hit me to make some ranunculus bowls that nest. It was so obvious, I couldn't believe I had not thought of it before.

The ranunculus bowls turned out to be one of the more difficult things I've made in a while. Making bowls nest is easy when the rims are open-- all you have to do is measure the height and width. But to make these bowls really work, I had to make them curve in, so I had to measure height and width on the inside and outside. It was very slow going. I made several sets of three and five, a set of seven and a set of eight. The set of eight is a little big and scary, and at this moment I still have no idea what color to glaze them.

I made sets on two different occasions to test out the measuring formula, and strangely enough the first round I made fit better than the second round. This confirms my theory yet again that the best work is always done when one is freshly inspired and not yet weighed down too much with the possibilities of what can go wrong or trying to avoid a problem that one had the last time.

These bowls are on sale here and here. And I will have all of them at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival next weekend if you want to stop by and check them out!