It’s going to be a wild ride this 2021…not a scary/bad ride like 2020…but still wild. There will be some ups and downs I’m sure, every year adds something to the up and something to the down side…but…
…we made it through 2020…AND…
…we’ll make it through 2021.
We were offered a rare opportunity to change our catalog a bit through the Covid Darkness. Not much was selling anyway, so why not make things that I wanted to make without the pressure of sales. I took that opportunity and continue to work on new items. It’s fun to be free. I’m blessed that the response to the new material has been so strong. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be making some exciting pieces this year and can’t wait to show them…when and where? We can’t know that yet, but soon.
The last few weeks we’ve been playing with combinations of glazes which we have in our pallet and retesting the bases. It’s silly putty work…just a lot of routine. But that allowed me play with the interaction between the bases. Months ago I acquired some interesting new glaze components and am playing with those to find new colors…some which are usually avoided by potters. There are some wild things happening on the glaze side of the pottery work. I’m excited to put them onto the new forms.
All of this new stuff has been happening in our “Hobnob Collection”…all stoneware. But we have two collections we work on. The other is “LickinFlames.”
We are not neglecting new ideas for LickinFlames but what I want to work on is expensive. A single valve for the experimental work is about $200 and who knows if it will work. And that’s just one valve…there are several…and gas tanks…and oxygen tanks. But if I can pull it together AND if the hints that the old-school chemist talked about from his Doctoral research can be applied to Raku…it could just be a superlative OMG experience.
Then there is the notion of using native material in my glazes. I’ve always driven by cuts in roadways and marveled at the colors. Most of us are attracted to the reds, yellows and black that we see as we roar along. Those are mostly iron with impurities…easy enough to incorporate as colors into the glaze. But I’m more interested in the rock as glaze components. I’m shopping for equipment and tools to process the rock…again…it’s only money. But how cool would it be to be able to fire my yard onto my pottery.
And lastly, we’ve decided to start our new series of making videos. The working title is simply “MakeIt”…we’ll see if we can come up with a better title. It’s a one episode a month deal where I will take a “deep dive” into one of our products and show its process and progress from before the bag of clay is opened, through the forming, finishing and decorating…right up to the point of the piece “going out the door” and finding it’s new forever home.
I didn’t like 2020…most of us didn’t. But I think we put the negative space to a good use and now are excited to see just how many of these wild and crazy ideas get squeezed through the studio.
Both of my parents were educators. My Mom was a first grade and my Dad was the Head Librarian at the local High School. As we grew up, the family calendars were in sync by default. All of our vacations were at the same time. We started School at the “first of the year” (note the quotes…important notation in a bit) and we all had the same “end of the year” (more quotes).
I was not raised in a house that recognized January as the actual beginning of the year as it always occurred in that break of time between the first and second half of the year. January 1st (and therefore New Years Eve) meant almost nothing to me, and still doesn’t.
In my brain I saw the year as Sept-Christmas…Christmas break…Christmas break to mid-June…and Summer. Christmas break was not even time on my calendar…it was just a block of “bonus days” between the two part of the year…and summer was the extended version of that magical block of bonus days. My year started in September…not January. As I got a bit older I started to notice that other people referred to the September-June cycle as the “School Year.” To me…the school year was just the year as my family celebrated it.
I don’t think it was until I started my short lived teaching career that I realized that other people also had calendars that didn’t revolved around January 1st. It was the two week mid-October “Harvest Break” at school to allow the community to harvest the potato crop that got me thinking about other non-Gregorian calendar years.
Now we live in “Fire Country” in the Sierra foothills of California. One of my recent calendar overlays is that of Fire Season and non-Fire Season…and then there is the pottery calendar…and the cabin-time calendar…October and November is a calendar within the calendars...January through April are sort of our summer bonus days of yesteryear. My simplified School Year is now complicated as delightfully bazaar.
Bazaar would be a good word to describe this year of 2020 on ANY calendar. Have you ever noticed how close calendar sounds to caldera? If you are a rapper you can easily get calendar and dumpster fire to rhyme. The pictures are a smattering of weird stuff...our Granddaughter riding her new Harley trike...four wannabe cool dudes who have neither shoes nor pride...and truth as explained by Congress...all in the same year.
But I still don’t really worry about New Years Day…my response would have to be something like “On which calendar.” Thank goodness there is my phone which tells me what day it is…AND…the day of the week. If it were not for my phone I don’t think I would care about the day or the week…but then maybe it doesn't matter all that much.
I am unfinished; I’ve got so much left to learn. - Ben Platt
This line is from a song that I’ve been listening too, Grow as We Go. While it’s written as a love song, it’s a great line that just sort speaks to me about my work in clay.
One of the great things about clay is that it is a huge and diverse field of materials and technique. When you think you have run the gambit within one material be it terra cotta or porcelain, you can change to a different medium, say stoneware. And within each of the various temperature groups there are dozens of variables from color through texture. Thousands of variables…and within the whole array of variables there is an interesting subset…native material that the potter collects and processes “in house.”
And that subset also applies to glaze material.
Our area is not known for great native clay to make the pottery. There is clay in the area and a vein actually runs through our property but it sucks. That’s a mild statement. It’s just not going to get pursued by this potter for making pottery. However, that same clay which is so unsuitable for a clay body might work as a glaze component. That glaze component possibility makes me hear the words, “I’ve got so much left to learn.”
...and about those photos...my Mom made the birdbath in the first photo back in the 1960s...and using that piece as a source or a muse of sorts, I have been working on the two other forms...also to be used as birdbaths.
We finished participating in the Vogue Knitting Virtual event over the weekend and oh my, what a turnout. The two demonstrations went very well from our end. We were pleased with our relaxed approach. We’ve learned a lot from doing so many video productions over the last several months. Of course it didn’t hurt that Jim has been shooting video for about two years just using the phone…then GoPro…then laptop/phone and so forth. Because of the early video work, and the editing that was undertaken, the post capture side of the equation is now allowing us to feel comfortable. When we think about it, the whole virtual thing is one simple task hooked to the next. Nothing was that difficult when we broke it down into little bites.
The biggest revelation of the weekend was just how much of our line is NOT listed on our website…maybe half…could be more but certainly not less than. That then begs the question about putting it all together and getting more of the work on line. All 600+ SKUs I ask? Yes came the answer from the other room.
So if we’re going to shoot that many photos and edit same…and from different angles with “lifestyle” shots included, do we have to then consider changing the template for our website? We’ve been using the same template for about three years. Answer from the other room?…Yes was heard. Then the question came up…should we change from our current platform and shop for a more flexible and/or robust equivalent…I’m still waiting for an answer from the other room on that question.
At least on the surface, changing platforms at the same time would seem to make some sort of torturous sense. But it seems like a lot of work in addition to the massive undertaking of photos, editing, copy and uploading. I’m not sure that we see anything majorly wrong with what we’re using. But, is the “not sure that we see anything majorly wrong” an excuse or a serious concern. I’m hoping that the other room sees it the same way I do.
Puppy news…she’s growing…she’s learned that our 15 yo Brittany has drawn some lines in the sand that little girls should not cross. Nipping at the face is not good…chewing on the feathers on your sister’s toes seems to be okay. Water sharing is good. Food sharing is not good. Nap time is not for jumping on the sister. If Dad has to change his sleep schedule, the least puppy can do is to take house training seriously…thank goodness she is beginning to understand this concept. Oh…and it rained today…what a freaky experience. It's funny how Madison will play for an hour with a empty box and her fancy dancy toy?...5 minutes tops. She finds joy in the most simple things.
We will get through this next year like most of us made it through the last. We do however, need to remember to enjoy that which is around us. The little things can bring great joy. Keep it simple.
Now we look to the spring. Winter is upon us and we kind of figured that it would be “show-less”…and it is and will be. Nothing will be face-to-face in the wintertime this season. So we wait for the spring to unfold.
And in the true Covid form…Maryland Sheep and Wool has cancelled for 2021. So the first of the “big ones” on an East Coast calendar will not be that shot in the arm that I’m sure some had been hoping for. Of course, in the West, The Dallas Fort Worth Fiber Festival shoulda/coulda been that big shot in the arm…but it’s been cancelled also. But you already heard that STITCHES West was cancelled right?The only "shot in the arm" that we might hope to see this winter/spring is a virus vaccination.
The 2021 spring shows are either dead or treading water way out in the middle of the lake. It looks pretty bleak.
The good news? Well, my Mom would have said, “This too shall pass.”
What Mom forgot to mention was just how long it might take for “this” to pass. It might take the better part of next year for this virus to really get reasonably controlled. Of course that is if the vast majority of the population “plays fair.” So far that has not been the case…it seems that “fair” means “me” to a lot of folks. The best case scenario tells me that even if the vaccine becomes wildly (or widely) available in the mid-year, experts are now saying that wearing a mask, distance management and hand washing may be a good until the virus has reached “herd” and that the herd is following protocol…and that could be in the fall 2021. We continue to do our part…limited to essential travel, and doing masks and hand sanitizers. I protect you and you protect me.
In puppy news…10 ½ weeks old and her personality is beginning to reveal itself. I’m tired most of the time. The 2-3 hours between trips to the out of doors all day and all night is killing me…she eats as much as Montana (our Brittany)…runs around like a crazy girl...knows how to signal that she wants to go in the door…we’re working on the signaling for going out the door (if you get my drift). She and Montana (15 yo) are doing surprisingly well, although yesterday Montana showed her that she still has teeth…Madison took the hint well. If it’s quiet in the house, better find her. She is sneaky. and everything is a chew toy...including me.
The fall colors have been extended this year. We still have had just a smidge of rain and no real winds to talk about…so the leaves have by and large stayed on the bushes and trees and are falling off as they choose. We have had some stunning colors and the starkness of December flora has not settled in yet.
My early pottery work (after the first two years of embarrassing pots), was inspired by this time of year through early spring…when the combination of stark gets mashed up with the remnants or beginning of color. I’m finding myself working with that same muse again but in a minimalist and gestural way. It’s going to be interesting to see where all this takes me.
Well we made it through Thanksgiving…filets replaced turkey…the part I will miss is the turkey sandwiches. I can smell turkey in the oven in the near future. Oh yeah…and the pie. I’m not sure which I missed more; the pumpkin pie or the whipped cream (with significant dollop) that is a requisite addition too said pie. The filet was excellent however and the company was great. It was Brenda and I.
We unloaded a couple of kiln loads. The bisque load had mugs and small shawl pins parts and bits for the obvara demonstration on Saturday. The second load had one of the Grandson’s works in it…and they came out great. So all that went well.
The obvara demonstration went well on our end and poorly on the promoters end. Some technical issues were discovered on Friday and we received an email Saturday morning that we couldn’t use phones as cameras…huh?...our video set up is heavily iOS…so we had to scramble and bumped up the time line by 3 hours (we should have done 3 ½) so that we could shoot a video to replace the show live. What a horrible experience. Five hours of stress.
However, when you look at the adaptability that was displayed in the shop, we can stand tall on the day. It was one of those days when we learned something. In this case we learned that we really are able to change up our system pretty quickly and that we have just about all the little bits of adapters and wire to hook anything to everything. It was also one of those rare days when we worked in all the workspaces…the mudroom, the kiln yard, the workshop and the video studio. Crazy. Just crazy.
Thursday will find us in the studio showing “The Missoula Cowl Kit”…it’s a project between Mountain colors and LickinFlames. We’ll also be introducing a brand new cooperative effort between Lisa Souza Dyeworks, Linda Dean Crochet and ourselves. The new kit was debuted today. Also…the cotton washcloth kit…and “The Cooperation Shawl” kit…is there a theme here? KITS! We’ll also show some mugs and cups…just because. But you get the drift, Thursday is about kits.
The Thursday show starts at 2:00 PM Pacific. We’ve scheduled 45 minutes. We’re using Facebook as the feed.
Also…I drove down to San Jose over the weekend to look at a puppy. When I held her for the first time...she almost instantly fell asleep. She will be doing her first cameo on camera spot on Thursday. We think she has star qualities. However, as with all things puppy, stay tuned for mayhem.
Kit’s and a puppy? You sure? I caught her dragging a project bag across the floor earlier this morning. Pass on the puppy option? Good choice.