Brenda and I are not the type of folks who sit up on New Years Eve to greet the new year...we might make an exception for 2021...probably more of a celebration that this one is over.
So it's been two weeks since we've had a AT&T crew here. They put the fiber on the poles and in the ground and it's sitting at the wall of the office waiting...for a crew to hook it up. My calls have been escalated to a manager. It seems that the crews have not been updating their progress in our file...AT&T thinks nothing has happened since mid-July. So they have us down for the next step in NOVEMBER as they are waiting for stuff to be completed...as in the pole work and the under gounding that has been completed already. Glad I tracked this down. Good grief.
Made a small error in an ICANN verification for one of our websites and killed the site. So there was a 2 hour block of time spent (not invested) in getting back to where I was and not getting to go where I need to go. At least the tech on the call was helpful.
Big news from last week was deciding that we needed samples for a new class we're putting together...decided on Tuesday evening...made the samples on Wednesday...finished them on Thursday...dried them and fired them the first time Saturday evening...glazed and fired them on Sunday to send some home with Katy for photos. I certainly wish all my projects were that quick.
I'm sure I'll talk more about the class shortly. We're working on another piece (in the kiln this evening) for a workshop that might go out to market next week.
Speaking of workshops and such...we're doing a Trunk Show at Friends and Fiberworks (Ashville, NC) on Wednesday next and then a workshop for a university research group on Friday...ramping up for LAMBTOWN in just a couple weeks. It might seem that there is a lot of time when you are doing everything virtually, but I'm finding that the planning part of a video shoot is a huge component and with LIVE gigs, there is little room for error...you just can't go back and capture the moment. We spend more time managing the virtual projects and planning same than with a face to face show.
Okay...I rambled a bit...more than I would normally.
Remember way back when things were “normal?” You know about eight(ish) months ago? It seems like so long ago yet the beginning of this whole covid pandemic deal was only 8-9 months ago. Our lives have certainly changed.
Brenda and I have taken the opportunity to look at what we do and what we want to do and then to make the changes that might get us on a slightly different path. Some of the changes we’ve made around our two brands LickinFlames and The Hobnob Collection, have been about how we can take those products to market in new ways. BC (before Covid) it was unusual for someone to have a virtual LIVE sale on line…here and there, sure, but nothing to the extent we see today. Now, it’s about the only way to get your fix other than going into your local shop (yarn or otherwise). Of course, anybody and everybody had an Etsy shop or a website of their own…but LIVE? Video? It’s a brave new world.
There will be winners during the Covid era and there will be losers. Some of that…maybe most of that…will be determined by one’s ability to and willingness to adapt to change. For example: I love to make pots and play in mud all day. If that’s all I did I’d be happy. Just pile the finished pieces by the side of the road with a jar…folks could come by, take what they needed and leave a bit of coin…happy camper me. But get real…that’s not the way the BC world worked and it certainly wouldn’t work today. I have always needed to get out and let people stop by the booth and touch the pieces and hear the story about their creation. Well that was BC…and during CE (the Covid Era) nearly all of the shows we were to attend were closed/cancelled/postponed to 2021 and shops?...shuttered for the most part. So what’s a person to do? Adapt.
I’ve always referred to the building that I make the pottery in as “The Studio.” The building we assemble, clean, pack, receive and store our finished bits in has been called “The Workshop.” We’ve relabeled the pottery making building to “The Mudroom.” The Workshop remains the same but we have developed a new space for video…that is now “The Studio.” Why did we need to start calling the spaces by names anyway…so we could tell each other where we were and where something might be sitting. Seriously…we needed a way to talk about the locations.
The Studio is a dedicated area for our video work…we have a separate dedicated room for photography…The Studio is all about video. At the moment, as aftermath from an event over the weekend, we have five tripods set up with three devices mounted on them. Our pipe and drape backdrop and tables and covers, along with the product displays and mannequins are the same as we would use at a face-to-face show, but duplicates. We don’t see video going away…ever…so we approached this new Studio with some kind of permanence. We brought fiber optics to our property (several 100 hours of labor and many $$ worth of equipment) and we did that so we could broadcast a strong video stream to improve the viewer experience.
I never thought about video becoming such an important component of our little business in the middle of the forest...but it has become vital. It has caused me to rethink lots of the details of our work. It wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve chosen to use great equipment and cameras and every little “bit” shows under the lights (who knew my black shirts would show the dogs fur)…adapting to change.
So while I’m blathering about in the importance of video…I must say that our website (http://www.lickinflames.com) is critical and THAT is driven by better photos. I can’t win…cameras everywhere. Using the videos, blogs, social media and the website has taken up the slack from packing up the rig and leaving at dawn for shows in far away lands and many McD/Flying J’s later (my excuse for Cinnabons for breakfast). Now I get up and get to figure out locations, platforms and compatibility.
…and then there is that computer storage…I thought my 3T of storage would be enough. At the time I set that up it was all about storing photos for a website. Now…several websites, three carts to feed, 4 social posting sites and video shoots 3-4 times a week sucked up 3T…what next?...and then there is the backup protocol. The Cloud was not an option without fiber (DSL is too slow for uploading)…so does this take us to a free-wheeling work-from-anywhere realm? Really? What happened to making mudpies?
Life as a potter used to be so so very simple. Sing along…”The clay on the wheel goes round and round…round and round…round and round…”
So the goats get moved later thisday. They will be in charge of eating all the green stuff with the hope of mitigating future fires. Our local organic farmer, Tim, runs this herd from property to property to help us all with the fuel load on our properties. He keeps his milking herd on his place.
This week (hopefully Thatday) should see the next to last AT&T crew come by to set the equipment in place for the Fiber Optics line being installed. It's taken about two months to get us to this point. But we're close...very close. Once the equipment is set, the rest of the set up is handled remotely from an office (I hear it's Houston calling). This could take place by Otherday.
In conjunction with that AT&T thing...we have a couple of guys stopping by to tidy up the Ethernet lines and putting them underground to the workshop and the studio. Maybe next Someday.
Testing for the new grey glaze continue this week. I wasn't thrilled with the first volley of tests last week... too pinkish /purplish...and not particularly good pink or purple at that. I was going to set up more tests towards the end of the week, but PG&E has decided to kill our power for a couple of days so I set the tests in motion today. I did have a gorgeous purple come from an intentional test and one grey-like tile that was the basis for the tests done today. So it wasn't a complete loss (testing never is...you learn from tests). The tests for a new red glaze? I don't want to talk about it...just leave me alone in my pathetic existence. Glaze development is just so damnably humbling.
This week is going to be about patience...lots and lots of it...big dollops of it...scoops, shovel fulls maybe even a backhoe bucket worth.
Three ATT crews are on site dropping a fiber optics line into the property. Yesterday they put up the ropes and pulleys to do the pull along 25 (or so) poles to get to the property. Today they put in the fiber. They may finish that today and then we wait again. The next team will test the line all the way back to Nevada City...the second next crew will install the modem and internal bits...and the last crew will do the install remotely from Houston.
When they're all finished, I will have the ethernet connections tucked in underground in the tubes to the studio and the workshop (with a spare to and from each space)...and then it will look all nice and pretty.
When it's all finished we will have six points in our WiFi system and more speed in the wire capacity than all the devices we have (or will have) hooked up. No more herky jerky video sent out...now reception on the end?...I can't control that...but we'll be sending TV quality stuff.
Why all this you ask? When COVID came to visit us all, our business needed to pivot to video. Face-to-face shows were cancelled and virtual shows are trying to fill in the gap. Virtual shows are all about LIVE video presentations. Because we live in an under served rural location, cable is not available and fiber was a dream when we first moved here. DSL is a horrible way to send video of any quality.
So one of the silver linings in the COVID pandemic for us has been bringing fiber to the property.
Now if patience could be another silver lining, I'd appreciate that. I was in a hurry the day that they were handing out patience and didn't bother to stop at that checkpoint.
Well, Fiberworld2020 has been put to bed...sort of anyway. We still have a raft of things to ship to folks. We also have to put the shop back into order. But the show has closed and we're exhausted.
It was a great show for us. We met a ton of new people. We found that our video concepts are great. Our video execution improved through the show and Brenda...my my my...Brenda was a beast on the second computer keeping everything together and keeping Jim on point.
But in all the crazy of the show, our guests stood out as highlights for us...Roy Clemes of Clemes.com, Linda Dean of LindaDeanCrochet.com, Tamara Kelly of MooglyBlog.com, Charlie Moore representing Anzula.com and Michael del Vecchio (author, designer and sales rep). The guest appearance were the highlight of our time each day. I was reminded each day of the reason we love the fiber community...great people with wonderful stories to share.
After the first two days when our transmission was pixelated at times and when the fire 4 miles from the house was a huge issue, our DSL improved slightly allowing our video quality to improve. When the fire was most active, everyone in the area was on DSL with multiple devices and the speed of the service just plummeted. Just about everyone around us uses VoIP...so even our phones are DSL based. But it got better over time...but we now see the importance of fiber...it might be installed this next week.
We are really looking forward to Fiberworld2021... over the next few days, we will be putting our thoughts about changes to our model we want to make for next year. Luckily, both Brenda and I like the project management aspect of video production...who knew 2020 would find us "live" for 3-4 hours every day? It's another Crazy2020 thing.
Day three of Fiberworld2020 is in the bag. We are back at our house and studio again and except for smoke in the air, we seem to be in fine shape.
On our Fiberworld2020 docket for tomorrow...
At 8 AM and 11 AM...we have FLASH Sales of one-of-a-kind yarnbowls. We will be featuring the new Hobnob collection.
Jim has scheduled conversations with Tamara Kelly...the creative behind Moogly. At 2 PM Pacific, Tamara and Jim will be talking about her blog, her projects, and all things Crochet Guild of America.
You can tune into the conversation by going to a Zoom room #948 3113 1191 and using the passcode Fiber101 when prompted. You do not need to purchase a ticket to come and visit the LickinFlames booth.
It's going to be a packed day...lots of fun...and packed.
But when I talk about us being in fine shape...what am I talking about? The Jones Fire burning outside of Nevada City and Grass Valley is about 5 miles from the house. On Tuesday, the wind started to blow and a raft of evacuation notices started moving our way. Years ago, we decided that if the evacs or warnings came up to the road at the bottom of our drive, we would bug out. Guess what...late in the afternoon, we had the car loaded and left to spend the night with a friend about 10 miles further. We spent two nights away but came back during the day. The warnings have all been lifted.
And of course the fire has had a profound effect on our ability to broadcast our video at fiberworld2020. We have DSL and with ALL the neighbors having 2,4 and 6,7 devices searching for information on the fire, the DSL speeds just became crazy slow for the show (POINT 11) on Wednesday morning as we tried to open our booth. That's some serious slow .11 is sort of like zero.
But the fire crews are doing a great job knocking the fire down It's being fought primarily by air and ground support...we normally hear the fires are ground crews supported by air...the other way around on this one. While some buildings were lost, NO lives and the effort was herculean...spectacular effort.
Last week I was excited because the fiber installation took another step forward with the promise of the install of the equipment boxes. Check!
The crew showed up at 7:15 in the morning. Four folks to install one box and some rails and tubes. Then we waited for a phone call from AT&T to do the actual install of the fiber. The last link in the chain...
Raku went down as planned...8 loads...but ...the afternoons just make the process un-enjoyable. It was hot. Sometimes when you suck the joy out of pottery...it shows in the finished product. Both the raku firings and the carbon painting the next day were great.
Stoneware firings went down also...three of them. Gorgeous pieces!
The booth was set up in the open bay of the workshop and all the cameras for this weeks Fiberworld2020 event were installed and tested. Some worked and some didn't...changes were frequent. Plans were altered. Brenda and I both spent time emailing and talking with out respective guests for FW2020. She is actually letting me talk with TWO guests and to sit in on a third interview.
For those of you who have met me...you know I can talk for hours about nothing. So you see that I'm interviewing folks and thinking that the conversation will go on forever...but...that also means that Brenda will be producing the segment and will have control over the production board...basically a fancy on-off switch. So while I might think I'm in control...hope...Brenda will be.
So last week really comes down to this week...and it all starts on Wednesday at 1:00 (Pacific)...and our first FLASH SALE is at 1:30...Yarn Bowls! The bowls have been chosed and are on the table ready to do...we're not quite ready...but the bowls are.
The big news this past week was the delay in mounting the equipment boxes on the house for the fiber install...so we're pushing that fiber install right to the deadline...kicked the can down the road just a bit.
The good news is that boxes get installed on Monday morning...at 7 AM...SEVEN IN THE MORNING. Seriously! I want this stuff so badly if they had said 3 AM I would have agreed. Do you think they knew that when they scheduled me for SEVEN in the morning? What a way to start a week.
The week will be all about testing systems for our booth at FiberWorld2020 (.com). We have the new fiber to worry about of course, but we've been working on "Plan C" which is running the show over a hotspot (we have a dedicated one in addition to the our phones...and "Plan B" which is running the show over a Ethernet wired WIFI plugged into our current DSL service. The CAT6 wires for "Plan B" are currently running through the property between buildings (across paths and gardens and driveway).
The Plans are all put together and wires are laid to make them work. The technology works well without a load. Now the fun begins...testing by uploading a simple video stream...then the "full monty"...5 cameras in the same feed. Fingers and toes are all crossed that it works WITHOUT the fiber (just DSL or hotspot)...because we don't know exactly when the fiber will go live. We're hoping this week...but we are working on the other Plans just in case.
In any event...the show will go on.
Our workshop on making a notions dish has a materials deadline of Thursday the 13th...information on that workshop is found on the http://www.fiberworld2020.com website.
During the show we will have FIVE quests in the booth (all remote)...and SIX different FLASH sales...and demos...and tours...and doorprizes...and...give-a-ways...and knitnites...we open at 7 in the morning (come by and experience the pain with me)...and will be LIVE for some 11 hours each day.
All this planning and testing AND four kiln loads of glaze this week...seriously...
Somehow, The Far Side comic just seemed so appropriate this week. Gary Larson just makes me laugh.
Another crazy week has been put to bed. We did a bazillion little things to move the ball forward…setting ourselves up for a killer week coming up.
Our #1 raku kiln broke a hinge…I don’t weld…Geoff is coming over on Tuesday evening to repair the hinge. I told him I have a fun project to talk to him about while he’s here…we’ll see where that takes us.
AT&T sent a contractor to make sure we have a “clear path” for our new fiber to be laid. Check. The report was sent and…
…another contractor is scheduled for Tuesday to measure the amount of wire needed for the project…and he said that install folks normally follow him by 2 to 7 days. Could we be seeing (and using) fiber by the end of the week?! Fingers crossed.
One of our local farms, First Rain Farm (@firstrainfarms on Insta), runs goats on properties to knock down the hazardous underbrush. It's a fire prevention thing. Owner Tim stopped by on Saturday and the goat herd will be making its first appearance on our property in early September. It will be an annual event! My neighbors will be part of the project. Now if they were Angora or Pygora we’d be talking fiber but NubianX…nope…just weed eaters...unless you like milk, which First Rain does provide for customers.
Monday is a major photo shoot day. Well, maybe not so major, but a key photo shoot and shots will taken to fill in some of our booth for FiberWorld2020. Our booth “load in” is tomorrow and the next day and now that all the pictures are taken, cropped and labeled, we’re onto filling out forms (the bad part). We’ll have a run-through for FiberWorld this next weekend.
Most of our guests to be at our booth during FiberWorld are confirmed…still under wraps but we’re excited.
We’re firm on what our “Flash Sales” will have in them but the timing is still being decided…there will be SIX flash sales…two with items unavailable on our website!
…and our class time was assigned…Thursday at 7:00 PM (Eastern). “Let’s Make A Notions Dish” has a cutoff of the Wednesday before…so put that in your plans…last day would be 8-12-2020. Signup for classes and workshops is live now at https://fiberworld2020.com.
We also started a Give-A-Way on Instagram (@lickinflames) offering up a raku yarn bowl as the gift (picture in this blog). Easy to enter…FREE!...including the shipping. Just go over to our Instagram page and follow the directions. You can search on @lickinflames to find the give-a-way rules.
…and last, but certainly not the least of the events of this past week…I masked up and ventured into the hardware store. I needed a “union” for one of our bigger water lines and was procrastinating on getting it…and to my surprise…everyone at the store was masked…EVERYONE! The store doesn’t require them…but people were doing well (on Friday anyway).
So the craziness of last week has set this one up to be a wild ride…for some reason, “Buckle Up and Drive” comes to mind.
After a wrote and published last weeks blog post, a number of news groups had guests on that talked about the same approach...wear the mask or suffer not having access to services. Businesses that don't require masks are really hurting themselves and the owners will suffer in the longer game.
Wednesday's "Shenanigans of a Studio Potter" LIVE program is continuing for another month. We will probably shift the technology over sometime later in August...the fiber should be on site sooner than later, but at the least, the WIFI system we currently use will be upgraded and extended in advance of the fiber, giving us a better platform for both recording and LIVE events.
Coming up on August 19-23 (yes...five days of fiber fun) is FIBERWORLD2020... www.fiberworld2020.com...a virtual fiber festival replete with classes, runway shows (including one for pets), give-a-ways and door prizes and over 50 vendors of all types...including LickinFlames. I've done a number of virtual shows but this one is different...very cool technology, extremely thoughtful... over the top inclusive process...they really REALLY care about people and fiber.
We're going to have a ton of surprises during the event including live guests, NEW product introductions, FLASH sales (including OOAK exclusives), tours of the studio and care to guess who one of the presenters is? Yeah, I know, clay at a fiber event...thank goodness it's virtual... but LickinFlames is presenting one of the virtual workshops... we will be making adult mudpies together. Sign up for that one early, the seating is limited (sounds weird for a virtual class, but we limit our classes so I can put more attention to each student).
We'll be posting our schedule (and the event's schedule) as it gets closer to the event...but be warned...it's going to be a wild five days. FUN!