Sunday, November 29, 2009

Metaphorical Hats

Many metaphorical hats are rotated on this potter's non-metaphorical head.

The John Deere-type cap: That's good for the heavy lifting and mixing parts. That's where I bring home the raw materials, mix the glazes from recipes acquired over time, plan the ware, make it from lumps of clay.

How quickly that last sentence was typed. How slowly the process occurs to get me there. "How long does it take you to make that?" "24 years so far, and 40 minutes."

A bandanna: Load the kiln. Bisque fire, unload, apply glaze, reload and glaze-fire the pottery. Time to glaze and load: over the course of a couple of days. Gradual heat up, slow cool down: about one day.

Factory hairnet: Sort good pots from seconds. Mostly they are decent pots, for which I am grateful.

Just a headband to keep my curls off my face: Photograph the pots for the web site. I have a pro photo setup now as I gradually learn the ropes with my digital camera settings, backdrop and lights.

Pith helmet: Edit photos in iPhoto or Photoshop to compensate for inexact lighting, crooked framing of the shot, dust on the backdrop, etc. Very cool. This is for allowing the pots to look as they really do, not for faking perfection. It's a jungle among the photo options.

Thinking cap: Selling a 3-D thing in a 2-D medium is a challenge. I have to compensate with words for the lack of touchability. So I write out descriptions & sizes for the web site visitors.

Old-time accountant's eyeshade: Price the pots- not too low to justify the time and cost of making them, not too high so as to discourage purchasers. Trial and error applies here wherever experience doesn't cover.

Mailman's hat (they really used to wear those): Send the photos to my web builder to upload to the web site, which is still developing.

Everything takes so long. People are asking to see the pottery and the site is not ready. Web-a-Deb and I are working on it. Hope the people will come back when it is ready.

Businesslike chic hat, think Audrey Hepburn, 1950's: Send photos to people requesting pottery. Thankfully, there are some of these people around.

Just a pen behind my ear, like an adman, which isn't really a hat, but an accoutrement nonetheless: Think how to promote the web site.

Creative, colorful kerchief with funky colors: Meanwhile, put pots on, under the categories of pottery, stoneware, ceramics (largely redundant), handmade, and Judaica, in the hope of cultivating a market.

How many hats can I wear? Plenty!

Can I wear 'em all well? Not always. Juggling a little slowly the last few years, and it ain't because of middle age. It's that the constant changing of many hats wears me down. Now it's back to the glazing board and back on the wheel for the next making-cycle Monday. On with the John Deere tractor cap!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tapping Into Another Plane of Consciousness

Released (Distracted)

Slipping under my hands
Away from me, failing-
I couldn't throw pots in the morning
With the same clay I've used for years.
After I came back from a break
Sat again at the wheel
An old drawing of my childhood bedroom
Catching my eye, held my speculation.
Gazing, and musing, other thoughts,
I made piece after piece without thinking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Enough

Opened another glaze kiln this week, and it was good. No uglies except two previous blistered pots I was refiring in the hope of improving their surfaces.
Pot drop time for those. (Concrete floor.)
The rest worked. This may sound like nothing momentous.
It is, though.
After two dozen years of figuring it out, my work is at a good place.
There will always be new challenges, but for now...
Web site is in restructure phase and will be up and retail within a week.
Purchase buttons and Paypal are moving into place.
All to no avail if the pottery isn’t good enough.
Oh, my. It’s good enough. There is no perfect, but if there were I would be insane.

Good enough is so good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Wind in Bar Harbor

Writing! If you have never been to Shore Path Cottage, a B&B on the coast of Maine in Bar Harbor, you may be missing one of the best places in the world to write.

I went up from New Jersey for a few days with my friend Nancy, at the invitation of our friend Roberta Chester, who owns and operates this kosher B&B. Roberta is a published poet and essayist. When not baking muffins and cakes, cookies and popovers, between phone calls and chores for the B&B, she writes.

We wrote on and off all day Thursday and half the day Friday, and met long after dark on Saturday to share what we were working on. Critiques ensued, then, as a result, more writing. Nicola, from England, had been renting the on-grounds tiny house and had just finished her mystery novel. She joined us and we shared readings and more critiques. The air in Roberta's kitchen was crackling with insights and discussion.

Now I am back home, continuing to work on Home on the Turnpike, which is going into its third revision at least. It is a memoir. It needs changing, from a literal travelogue through the house we grew up in, to a livelier personal memoir. This project is a slow and steady building, now given a boost and cranked up a notch.

The ocean beside the house; the chickadees hanging upside down in a spruce, foraging in pine cones outside my window; the incredible breakfast cake made with lemons and butter; wi fi all over the B&B; the reading, writing and critiquing; all served to calm and focus me as I wrote and wrote. Here is an old-timey sort of poem, extremely traditional in construction in honor of this old-time place, that I wrote for Roberta:

Early Wind In Bar Harbor

The wind in cahoots in the waking of me
With the windowframe loose in my room by the sea
Lets me sleep just enough, my last night here
To almost rest before it re-rattles my ear.
It is not I alone it strives to waken,
My window and all the old others are shaken-  
The wind has to try and pry off the leaves
In preparing the shore for its first hard freeze;

No one is spared whose windows are loose.

One hundred and thirty winters of wind
Have rocked at the panes and wood shingle trim
Of this strong-hearted lady the great fire did not eat.
Her windows, in summer, breeze her through heat.
Her blue and white frame, like an August cornflower’s
Persists summercolored November’s rough hours,
Welcomes guests, in season, to stop in her beds,
Who hike the great Park before resting their heads.

Her ladylike pillows are trimmed in white lace.

She reminds me that I am friend, not guest,
Shakes her windows to wake me at the wind’s behest.
I am friend who came here with words to spin,
Invited to write by chatelaine of this inn.
A last few couplets of rhyme for me,
Formal bow to the inn’s propriety,
Mindful of going home this morning-
And now the light over the sea is dawning.