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.
The new kit that I have been talking about for a month made its debut this past Saturday at the Holiday Show. The yarn samples came in on Friday and it was the first time we (or anyone for that matter) had seen the kits in their complete forms. We had pictures and color samples shared back and forth, but the finished pieces were put together on Friday and it was pretty exciting. The Missoula Cowl Kit turned out to be better than my wildest dreams. Perfect. I’m thankful for the partnership that has developed with Mountain Colors.
This year has been hard for so many, it might be difficult to be thankful or to find that thankful spirit within, but if we peel back just a bit, there is always a silver lining in that seemingly dark cloud. Even in a pandemic, when everything seems doom and gloom…there are potters working on LIME colored glazes.
But before I forget…Happy Thanksgiving! Brenda and I wish you all the warm fuzzy stuff of a family get-together even if you hang out on zoom and facetime.
It’s just Brenda and I for Thanksgiving this year…well not quite…we’re dog sitting. It’s a Covid thing. It looks like a quiet Christmas too, with Katy coming up and spending some time. But the crazy days of a normal holiday season…nope. Just not happening.
Starting Friday we’re participating in the SF Etsy Street Team Virtual Market. You can find out more about that event on the team Facebook page. The rest of our retail event information is sent through our newsletter and you can sign up for that HERE.
Once Upon A Time…thinking back to our growing business in the early 80’s, this time of year was absolutely bonkers. We were lucky to get Turkey Day at all…but once we finished shipping for the year (about the 15th of December), we collapsed. For a few years we were doing the Los Angeles Gift Show and the Beckman Show in LA…in July…with Santas and Reindeer prancing around (remember it was JULY…and HOT in SoCal) and booths all dolled up for Christmas…that started “the Season”…in JULY…seriously?! Then it was pedal to the metal until December 15th. By the time Christmas came around and the real Santa was landing on the roof…I really didn’t care. I just was burned out with anything red, green or white and if there was a bell or a bow…well bah humbug with that too.
This next weekend we will be stepping into the opening salvo of the “new” retail season. All the sales events will be virtual this year. Our video equipment is set up with all the cameras and lights and monitors and mixers and mics and cords running everywhere…wireless? HAHAHA hohoho. The crazy of the early 80’s has been replaced by a new array of crazy…seeing dog hair on my shirts in the monitor…now that drives me crazy. Did you know you can Photoshop dog hair from a photo easy-peezy but not quite so easy from LIVE video? It’s a different kind of crazy this year.
It certainly continues to be different this year.
When we turn the cameras off, perhaps it can be a time of reflection for us all. I’ll try if you do.
What a blast! The VOGUE LIVE virtual show this past weekend was just a lot of fun. Best part? Our tech side of the project worked just fine. We had just a small issue when we set it up but we resolved it by showtime. Something changed from testing the day before and we needed to figure that out, but we’ve learned that showing up early for the start is a requirement…not an option. Yes we learned this the hard way from shows gone by.
The big news this week is our Annual Studio Sale on Saturday the 21st…we start at 2:00 PM Pacific and it will run until about 3:30…depending on vocal chords. It’s a virtual sale of course and we’ll be broadcasting on Facebook LIVE…free to watch and win! We have unloaded four kiln loads of work just for this show…NEW stuff…pictures today are from the first of those kilns...and we may see a new colorway making its appearance in the form of a new kit…yes a kit. It’s a cowl with yarn from Mountain Colors…all inside a mug available in four colorways! Our new color? Well watch on Saturday…
SATURDAY…Annual Studio Holiday Show 2:00 PM Pacific… Facebook LIVE
Do you have a preferred platform for virtual sales? We’ve used both Zoom and Facebook and find that each has advantages and limitations on our end, but what do you think? Our equipment can be set for either platform and we have bandwidth with the addition of fiber to the property a couple months ago, but your opinion would be welcomed.
This week will see us getting the details ready for the show on Saturday. We’ll do a walk through on Friday and then I’ll start to fine tune the tools. On top of that we’re working on our schedule for later in 2021…yes 2021. Sounds crazy but it’s going to happen…2021 will get here sooner than we think but not nearly as fast as we might like. I'm pretty much done with 2020. Right?!
I’m not complaining mind you, but the news about vaccines that may become available soon is complicating the planning for us…will shows look strategically at their dates and the effects of the vaccinations? Will there be enough folks vaccinated? As of a few minutes ago, the reporting is that there is not enough vaccination contracted for to cover the “first tier”…let alone people like me (Tier 2)…or the general population (Tier 4)…so what will the shows do...will they cancel or postpone based on what the data looks like now...or gamble a bit on vaccines and plan for what might be in summer or fall? Ultimately, what will our schedule look like? I don’t know but I’m working on plans to get us where we hope/want to be seen. Let’s cross our fingers that it will all come together.
I’m afraid that 2021 will start, in a best case scenario; as a pretty rough ride for many folks...families...small businesses...
We're planning on wearing masks through 2021...even after vaccinations.
The funky new word "cray" can not fully explain the past couple of weeks...times like this deserve the fully "crazy."
We shot four videos this past week...this week will see five. We're capturing two segments of our series "Intentional Creativity with Ceramics," two segments with Vogue Knitting LIVE and of course..."Shenanigans of a Studio Potter" at it's normal Wednesday, 5 PM Pacific time.
Luckily the studio is set for the Vogue bits...Shenanigans is a casual iPhone pickup...but the IC bit...well that takes some reset of equipment and space...in the mudroom no less.
But the mudroom is crammed with projects at the moment. We're working on a pair of custome colorways for a client so glaze testing is underway. We're also making 50 mugs for a last minute idea for a client so those are taking up space. And of course our Annual Holiday Studio Sale is on the 21st and pieces are being glazes for that.
There is no room in the mudroom for anything else...it's crammed with projects in all sorts of stages. Doing Shenanigans on Wednesday should be wicked. Thankfully the concept is to shoot raw video without a lot of production...cuz that's all that the mudroom can allow this week. Raw...very raw.
So our medical group (Kaiser Permanente) uses video chats for some types of appointments. Throw one of those into the mix this week, Brenda's two Zoom sessions per day and you can get a pretty clear picture (pun intended) of cameras and video around here lately. Thank goodness we have fiber now...are we going back to DSL? No.
This week's news of Pfizer's breakthrough on a COVID vaccine was pretty stunning, even with all the limitations of it's transport and storage. I'm hoping that folks don't get too lazy with the masks and other protocols (washing and distances) and open themselves to exposures too fast...it's not over. It could take a year to get enough people to get the vaccine, either because of manufacturing/distribution or denial ...estimates are that the "general population" might begin to see a vaccine in April or May at the earliest.
Mud is like therapy. Crazy mud is like muddier therapy.
Pieces are going in and out of the bisque kiln daily...getting ready to glaze for our Studio Holiday Sale on the 21st of the month. It's a virtual sale...starts at 2:00 in the afternoon and runs about one and a half hours...fun? Yes! There will be auctions...there will be direct sales...there will be an advance preview of some pieces which can be purchase at the opening of the show (like in...have the numbers in front of you quick like)...when will that preview aired? Newsletter subscribers will know when to watch (to subscribe to to CONTACT and sign up).
But in the mean time we're vending at both the STITCHES Expo Market this coming weekend...our times have not been assigned as of this BLOG...and then again at the VOGUE Live, Virtual show on the 12 and 14th (3 PM Pacific on both Thursday and Saturday). Both shows have a plethora of very cool vendors...some new to us and some old friends.
We're excited to be involved in the virtual sales that have come out of the pandemic. It's been a wild period of learning for us (okay me)...and the learning curve has been like climbing Everest...without oxygen. Where I once held my iphone or used my Diet Coke can to prop it up to do a video...I now have tripods even :-). I think I would still be using the Coke can but found the iphone falling over as the can was emptied. Someday I'll do a video of the virtual set up from behind the camera...well cameras as we will be using as many as 4 for these sales coming up.
Fall...colors are finally coming in. With no storms for at least a week, we should be able to enjoy the color for a while. My favorite tree, coincidentally next to my mudroom door, has not turned yet. But other's which have not been spectacular in the past are stepping up their game. Do trees compete for our love?
Turkey flock is down to 6...something happened about a month ago and we went from 9 to 6...they come around every day. Stellar Jays are active around the property again. Where they went for the summer I don't know...maybe the same place the woodpeckers went...they're back also.
All this flora and fauna activity kind of points to the sequestration that will take place shortly. All the making activity will become indoor activity very shortly. No more open doors...no more wildlife sounds...and dark by 5 PM. Just me and my clay for a few months...
Odin had a blast spending time with his Grandparents in the forest. But, to be very honest, I’m not sure who had the most fun. Brenda and I enjoyed 2 weeks with him. This is the first time that he was able to complete pottery projects from making through glazing during a single visit. It was a cool experience for him to work on the pieces through an entire cycle. The pictures are compliments f Odin.
The rest of the two weeks? Well, let's just say, what happens at Grammies...stays at Grammies.
Everybody’s going virtual…or so it seems. XRX (Stitches) has two new products out…VOGUE is throwing their hat in the ring with several virtual dates…several indie groups have popped up and a couple of festivals have tried virtual also. I’m sure there will be winners and losers in the virtual show/festival game. Some of the experiences have not been all that satisfying…just a waste of energy…some have been a whole lot of fun. Customers, by and large, are becoming used to virtual fiber experiences, apparently, Amazon has trained us well in the online shopping experience. A degree of trust has to be developed when you can’t reach through the screen and touch the product. I’m sure you can probably understand the oddity of not being able to squish yarn, but even the potter is having a bit of a challenge. The glaze that we spent a year developing, and has become a significant feature of our work, can’t be felt on a computer. The glaze was designed to be gorgeous, but we made it so it feels silky and not waxy. When we’re doing face-to-face shows, customers routinely slide the pots back and forth in their hands as they enjoy the glaze. Can’t do that very well in a virtual setting…you’ll just have to trust us…the yarns still squish and out pots still feel great.
We’ve been finding it difficult to let customers know when we’ll be live at events...the playing field is moving so quickly and is just so fluid…on top of that, it is common to get just 30 minutes to show the products so timing is everything. A few events are allowing an hour per vendor, but a 30 minute window is common. Promoter’s planning cycles are running closer to event dates compared to planning for a face-to-face event. The face to face events are usually on the calendar a year out. But indie producers are especially quick on the planning cycle. But even with the latest Stitches event…cuttin’ it close for sure. One reasons that quick planning can happen is that there is a tendency to use existing infrastructure (read software services) and on small indie events there is a minimum amount of class travel involved. When face to face event do come back, I suspect that a virtual component will be associated with major events and virtual events may just be a new channel. I also suspect that there will be some pushback on the pricing of the face to face events, but just remember that travel and accommodation and hall rental fees…but the experience of face to face is different than that of virtual events (no? really?...duh!) so I think comparison is sort of silly…two different products.
We’re going to start sending our newsletter every Tuesday to help customers be in the know. If you’re not on the mailing list you can sign up on our CONTACT page. FaceBook and Instagram are crowded…but there is the newsletter with the latest (as of the Tuesday).
The Seconds and Discontinued Sale this past Saturday was a lot of fun. We used our new digital switch to control three cameras…and the new camerakid really held his own. Our Grandson, Odin, was “shooting” with camera #3…outside. He’s 8 (and a half!) and was just tickled pink to be part of the real deal and not just simple “baby stuff.” He was a great help…but you should have seen his face when Grammie helped him choose his “commission”…books and a toy to share with his younger brother…well sharing is the plan…we’ll see.
Thank you everyone who found us online and watched or participated in the sale. We had a number of requests to put the extra pieces into some sort of rebound sale. We didn’t get through all of the pots we had…so there’s lots of good stuff left. We’ll see.
Shenanigans of a Studio Potter will have Odin in the studio again this week. After his successes of last week, he’ll probably be working on his own work (glazing) and applying underglaze. Two weeks at Camp Grampy? It’s going really well on all fronts, so well that his teacher from school called him out as “Star Student” on Friday.
We're focusing a great deal of energy on this coming weekend. We're premiering a pair of workshops, EARTH - Hope and AIR - Centering, co-teaching with Katy Atchison and taking a look at bringing your inner creativity to the surface. The workshops are from our Elemental Creativity series and are filmed as webinars to be taken at any time, but the premier of BOTH workshops (one on Saturday and one on Sunday) is this coming weekend. I am planning on being exhausted when I hear "it's a wrap."
The pivot from physical shows and sales to the virtual equivalents is continuing. This last week found us adding a third camera into our set-up and saw the need for potentially a fourth. Our audio has tethered us to a single device and that needs to change…so this week we bring in some new tools to take our audio wireless and mobile…oh and a new lens for one cam to bring our workspace closer.
Shows are starting to announce their virtual components for 2021…and it looks like the scary times might continue for the first half of 2021. At least we’re a bit more prepared. Some shows have announced their intent to be virtual in 2021 and some continue to hold back that announcement. We’re hearing rumors of a Fall 2021 show intending to be virtual…FALL…seriously? Fall ?!
The Explorer we travel to shows in has become arachnid friendly. We have spider nests, not cobwebs…nests on the dashboard of the SUV which kind of indicates the amount of miles we are not accumulating…another year like this one and the rig will be deemed low mileage by virtue of sitting around. I’m just hoping that in the event that we can do a show or two, that I can remember how to put the booth together.