Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who Won the Honey Jar Set?

I've been a little under the weather and out of the studio, so you haven't heard from me in a while. But I want to post the result of the raffle drawing from my last show finally, in case you didn't see it on my Mimi Stadler Pottery Facebook page!

Shana Lowell now owns a lovely black honey jar set.

Shana has been having a lucky streak with my raffles! When I post the next one, give Shana a run for her money! Enter!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Win a Free Raffle, Get a Really Nice Honey Jar

I'm celebrating being in this good show by offering a free raffle to browsers here, at the show, and also on my Mimi Stadler Pottery page on Facebook.

The very nice piece of pottery being given is a black honey jar with a few turquoise dots. It comes with its own plate and stoneware dipper. It's a nice size for lots of honey, or, with a spoon instead of a dipper, makes an excellent jam jar.

This is FREE. It would be awesome if you would come to the show, to which I previously posted an invitation, (and bring friends!) and fill out a raffle ticket there. But if you can't come, and you live in the U.S., you can send me an e-mail at mimi@mimistadlerpottery.com, with Enter Me for the Honey Jar Raffle! in the subject line, and I will enter you into the drawing automatically.

I will draw a ticket from the jar around 9 p.m. Sunday, December 4th, 2011. Go for it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Come to the Show!

Leading up to a show, life is always a bit busier. The vessels are mostly made, with a glaze kiln still firing as I write this, and one more glaze fire to do. Now the vessels must be priced and tagged, inventoried, wrapped and boxed. New business cards are almost ready. A few more show invitations must go out. After that, an hour's drive and a show setup, and then it’s just ‘enjoy the show’.

Come visit my booth and see what I've been up to, at the

show I am in Sunday, December 4th, at Nanuet Hebrew Center (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at 411 South Little Tor Road, New City, NY!

Becoming an artist bit by bit is certainly work. The learning-by-doing never ends. Ever and always, there’s room to improve. I’ve been complimented on my “talent.” While the early bud of talent took me a step or two along, the desire to learn and years of practice took over from there a long time ago. Willingness to work hard and develop skills became my pottery life. It is ongoing. I aspire, like the art potter Beatrice Wood, (click on her name to see a video of the amazing Beatrice) to work and develop my craft till I’m 105, and plain old talent sure isn’t going to get me there.

Pottery at its best has very little to do with what you do at a paint-your-own place. Nobody provides the “bisque” ready for you to “paint.” It has everything to do with taking an idea and a lump of clay, and following the idea through until a special object is created. Sometimes you’ve made something poetic. Sometimes you've made a vessel that needs to be part of a chain of vessels, where the first ones will be an idea with promise, and the last ones will be poems.

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Way It's Supposed to Be

I think this is the way it’s supposed to be in a business. Busy, and varied.
Tureen (not pictured but it's a nice one!), Seder plate and teacups are drying on the rawware shelves.

Someone is creating a new, better business card for me.
Someone else is fixing a broken Contact link on my website (which, if you haven’t seen it in a while, is http://mimistadlerpottery.com).
I am discussing details with someone else about the space I will have at an art show in Nanuet, NY on December 4th.
Bisqued tureens with vinelike handles, and salad bowls with raised (shellac resist) designs cover the table in the glazing area as they await coats of glaze.

My electric kiln moves well along towards 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, loaded with glazed tureens and more. You can't see the heat, and it looks cold and prosaic in this photo,

but this kiln is the facilitator of poetic unions. When I put the pots into the kiln they wore coats of powdery dry raw glaze, but right now, every glaze in the kiln is molten stuff, insinuating itself in a close and gleaming interface with the skin of the pot it is clinging to. It's like the core of the earth, only cooler, with rock melting and re-forming.
And last but not least, the room where I display the finished pottery between shows is my next big project. It will turn into the Gallery Downstairs. With some de-cluttering, added lighting and shelves, paint and new flooring, and the addition of the work of a few friends to enhance the collection, it should become quite a nice place to visit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If at First (2nd, 3rd, 4th) You Don't Succeed...

A customer asked me for really nice, big handmade tureens to give as wedding gifts. It’s been a long time since I made any, and since all I could make were small ones back then, I’m glad to have the challenge of making a new item.

So I made a group of big tureens over a couple of weeks. They really are the perfect serving pieces for soup, or your-mama’s-recipe chulent, or whatever hot food item you want to look extra nice and keep hot when you bring it to the table.

This took place in the last few weeks before the freak snowfall, when the leaves were changing colors and the gourds in the farms and markets were making their splashy debut. I thought of squash and pumpkins as I worked, and some tureens grew vines and leaves for handles.

I've applied handles for two dozen years and more. For some reason, I used (do not fear, this is a really isolated instance!) too light a hand when pressing handles onto two of the tureens. So these nice, curvy, textured handles began to separate from the pots. They were a bit too dry to fix, so I took them off completely, smoothed the spots where they were inadequately joined, and I now have two tureens that have a handleless, clean, modern style. Accidental design! The other, handled tureens will be easier to carry to the table, though. All in all, nine lidded tureens are drying, almost ready to go into the kiln.

Today I woke up with a seder plate design in my head. I think it could work this time. (Hope springs eternal!) Over the years, I’ve designed and tried at least five Seder plate versions with various levels of complexity, from way simple to image-heavy. Some were fairly nice but none, in my opinion, was quite right. THIS is the one. (I’m telling you, THIS IS THE ONE.) Try and try again. (If this one is NOT the one, I will try again.) I made the first one today, the trial run, all except for the little dishes and the graphics, which I plan to do tomorrow. The handbuilt plate is firming up, upside down on a piece of upholstery foam, on the slab roller table in the studio. Can't wait to turn it right side up tomorrow. Here's hoping I'm right about it being The One. Photos soon. And I hope to put up some new tureens on my website in about two weeks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Peering From Under the Brim

Have to grow into some of these hats a potter wears...

Videographer. Turns out one needs more clean hands than I possess when attempting to film videos of oneself making pottery. Will need a guest videographer from time to time. Especially a videographer able to get to iMovie and edit! Will trade wheel time. (Apply to potter for opportunity.)

Gallery owner: It's true, dust and disorder make a poor setting for clean, shiny pots. Also, people visiting the in-person gallery (my euphemism for a certain pottery-filled portion of our basement) expect price tags on the pots. Why, I don’t know… I price-stickered lots of pots yesterday, dusted shelves, and removed the ironing board from the "gallery." Will need helpful husband to move junk out of the basement for me very soon so all euphemisms can be done away with, and a real gallery, without quotation marks, will materialize. Brought helpful husband downstairs to visualize this yesterday, Step One.

Website marketer or, PR department: “Hello. I'm a potter. How are you? I have a website. If you get the chance, you should go there. It’s really pretty. And everything there is for sale." Ew. There has to be a more professional way. Informing one person at a time is a pretty slow way to go, too. Will need excellent advice from Number One Son, Marketing Expert.

Like all things, these are sorting themselves out inch by inch. The "hat rack" is crammed with new hats that are still too big.

New goals arise weekly. If I fall a bit behind on the blog, it's because I can't see under the big ol' hat that's fallen over my eyes.

Happy and sweet new year, Shana Tova u’Metuka! May it be healthy, fulfilling and prosperous all around!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Working on a Video

I hinted so hard before Chanukah. My family got the hint and bought me a Flip video camera. I tried a few times to take my own video footage. With pottery in your hands, it's hard to get up and set the camera on Zoom or pan out for a broader shot. I let it rest, hoping for a guest videographer. Eventually, my great nephew Yoni came and took some footage.

(I need staff who will show up now and then and do this sort of thing.)

Yoni came back to teach me how to edit the video in iMovie. I think I got the basics down. We will see, when I finally settle down to do a good job with it.

Two of the honey jars on my website have starring roles in this 2-minute video. You will be able to watch how the raised decoration on them is done. This one (looks like apple pie to me)

and this one

with its stylized birch branch design.

The video editing technology is not too complicated, I think. As Yoni showed me, a bit of explanation goes a long, long way.

It's as my son said to me a few years back. People of my generation are afraid of technology. (OK, some of you may be the exception to the rule.) His generation explores it fearlessly. Let's see how I do...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why This Pot is a Second, or, the Slip-n-Slide of Glazing

Some have asked me about this bowl, recently mentioned as being so bad. They said they kind of liked it:

It isn't bad outside except for the uneven glaze smoosh at the top. It is stamped with decoration from a swirl stamp I made a while back, and the swirls became sort of naive-style flowers blooming in a sea of grass. So far, so good. It had the grace to dry nicely, fired well to bisque, and then...it was glaze time.

I got all fancy and did some dipping in nutmeg, then wax resist overpainting to keep the grass delineated. So far good, right? Then an inside pour and outside dip in the celadon green for the rest of the bowl, and that's where I started to mess up. The new coat was too thin. I should have held it longer in the wet glaze to absorb more. It came out of the kiln a little rough to the touch and looking a bit pale.

Re-glazing is not an easy feat because the pot isn't porous any more and won't absorb the new coat. A very thin coat will dry on it if you hit it quick with a heat gun, but results are hardly worth the effort. But this was a nice bowl and I hated to sideline it. I decided to use a handy dandy tip I'd read years ago but never tried.

Brilliant tip: Coat the shiny surface with a layer of Elmer's glue and let it dry. Glaze over that. A thick enough coat should stick.

Sure enough, it worked. Into the kiln went the glue coated, re-glazed pot. Hotter and hotter rose the temp inside the kiln. Out of sight, the bowl rose to red heat. And as the glaze melted, it ran on a glue Slip-n-Slide, down into a weirdly shaped pool in the bottom of the bowl.

There you have it.
Another one for the next Seconds sale...?

Addendum: September 18. Reglazed the bowl a second time. No Elmer's glue this time, just a very soft paintbrush and a dark green glaze that had been thickening in its bucket, forgotten for some months. The key is to use a really thick glaze, I guess, that glides on and doesn't run off again. Because now this bowl is no longer destined for the Seconds shelf. It is now fully moss colored inside, a greeny-brown like a fallen log.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Honey jars here! Get your fresh new honey jars!
And they're pretty sweet, too.

The shellac resist technique I mentioned here produced the elegant raised design with its nice crisp edge. This celadon green breaks lighter over the raised edges and pools slightly into the indentations, so it is a perfect choice of glaze type for shellac-resist decorated ware.

This next jar is really pretty, but the rich blue glaze covered the raised leaf design just a bit too much. It's still a beauty, and I'm very happy with it, but they were very nice leaves... Next time, a less opaque glaze would be even better. Maybe even just thinning the wet glaze a bit could do the trick:

Meanwhile, these honey jars and lots of other handmade stoneware vessels are for sale on my website, with another red honey jar (nice one! love that red!) coming as soon as I glaze the matching plate, and some interesting bowls tomorrow. After some more glaze work and another firing, I plan to have more by next Thursday! Adreneline.

Thanks for following my blog so far. It's great to know that though I work in the basement on my own, there are those interested in seeing what goes on there and I am far from alone. I am going to slip in a plug here... If you like the pieces you see on my website, (which you see a small sample of here from time to time) would you be kind enough to pass the URL to friends, by phone, Twitter, Facebook, face time, or other vehicles a kickwheel potter has no clue about? I would really appreciate it. This blog is about a potter's processes more than about the commerce of the craft, but it is true that commerce funds the process. I'm a really big fan of customers, and who knows which of your friends and family might be interested? As always, it is found at http://www.mimistadlerpottery.com. Onward and upward, and sweet times to all of you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fixed Website, Ready to Load Up New Work

The Checkout and Contact pages are working now on my new pottery website! Just in time, too. What good was an e-shop without these? Not that much, if you want to know.

Tomorrow: photographing new work and putting it up on the site!

Have a look there tomorrow evening for pictures of some very nice new honey jars, fresh out of the kiln and ready for Rosh Hashana. You will also see that beautiful red bowl, a funky nutmeg and green serving dish, and assorted little pitchers, among other wheel-thrown and handbuilt things. The mini-pitchers, for those inclined, double as great "kiddush middlemen." (Feel free to ask me about that!)

Opening the Next Kiln

It is so hard waiting for that kiln to be cool enough to open!
I waited all day today, doing maintenance and business sort of things, but around 4:30 in the afternoon, had to see how those honey jars worked out. I handled the hot shelves and pots with kiln gloves on.
Some things made me very happy, some things...let's just say I am kept from getting too proud for good reasons; but the rest came closer to the happy side today.

Those red pieces!! Ooh la la! A really good bowl:

And this honey of a pot:

These two red pots were decorated in the raw state with shellac resist- you can read about it here.

But this sadly disastrous bowl! It wasn't so bad outside. But inside- Bleagh. It was an experiment that failed. Maybe more on that another day:

Still having to eat a slice of humble pie with most kiln loads, but I'll take a few bad ones if the rest are as good as those reds!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feeling Glazed

Glaze kiln loaded. Check.
Glaze area shelves cleaned. Check.

Wish I loved glazing as much as I love making the pots in the first place. I don't. Glazing is my struggle and sometimes, my Achilles heel. But a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. As my favorite husband says of even my best work, "It's not the steak, it's the sizzle." In short, make it red. Or blue. Or shiny. And here's another pithy and pertinent one, "No one wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby."

This blog is about the labor pains AND the baby.

It's almost that honey time of year!
I'll be loading a few nice honey jars up on my website on Wednesday of next week. Check the site for the new ones. http://www.mimistadlerpottery.com

In fact, if you want to bookmark the sucker, that would be great.
Now if we can get the Contact and Checkout pages to work...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grrrouchy Potter

Spoiler alert: This is gonna be a grouchy post. If you need my sweet side... better wait till next week. It was occasioned by a telephone remark when I said I had to go, I needed to get back to work. The other person innocently said, "Have fun."

You wouldn't think "have fun" would get me so unaccountably grumpy.

It’s like this. I mean, just call me defensively crabby, but really, it is like this:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a potter.”

“Oh, that’s so much fun!”

The “f” word. It's often followed by, "Can I come and make stuff?”

I confess. Making pottery is kind of fun. But add this: It's business, too. It must be the tiara and wings that are doing it, but be honest- do I look like the Good Fairy of Studio Gift Time?

A grandma visiting her local children, on discovering I am a potter, said, “Oh, that’s so much fun! The children would love to come over to play!”

Um??? How to explain this? A working pottery studio isn’t a great place for kids to play. There are sharp tools, and equipment they can injure themselves on. They need constant supervision and guidance. And my work in progress is very easily damaged by being bumped or jostled.

This ain’t no hobby. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.

I'm happy to say I'm pretty busy. I'm usually too busy now to offer lessons. I have one kick wheel and my own lovely, dusty, orderly disorder. Maybe someday I'll take students again. But unless I invite them (I sometimes do), there isn't place for playful little or big guests just because "it would be so much fun."

I like my work. I like it very much. I like the muscles I get in my arms as I push the dense clay around on my wheel. I like having the expertise to give form and grace to a grayish lump. It’s not as easy as it looks, and mastering it is cool. I even use the word "play" sometimes. As in, "I'm playing with texture." (Accountants don't get to say that.) It suits me way better than lots of other jobs.

But let that not fool you for a second. It involves sweat and endurance and tools. It’s dirty and dusty and makes a big mess that needs recycling and mopping up. Often, despite all I have to do in the studio, it's hard to get down to it in the morning. It requires being available at all phases of production, at all times of day, according to the needs of the pieces at hand. It involves lots of time in the basement, lots of bending and lifting and plain old shlepping. There’s bookkeeping and taking photos and marketing my work, and updating my website regularly. My studio is something like Virgina Woolf's "a room of one's own," the place where I turn ideas and plans into pottery and sales. As for guests in my workplace... the tiara is askew and the wings- you know I don't really have wings, right?

Anyone see the irony in the fact that “have fun” makes me really, really cranky?

OK, all done with the kvetching. Now for the photo of some of the pots made in this rawware cycle:

The operative number on these is ten. Ten shellac-resisted honey jars with lids, and ten matched saucers. Ten carved washing cups. Ten nice big serving bowls, though they didn't all fit into this photo. All on schedule to be ready before Rosh Hashana.

Next week: shellac resist on some of the bowls, a bisque firing for the rawware, maybe glazing bisqueware, and absolutely fixing the glitch in my website shopping cart checkout. And maybe, work permitting, inviting a friend to visit briefly at the studio. Just for fun.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shellac Resist Honey Jars

Last week's honey jars were bone dry. It was time for them to get their surface designs. Instead of drawing on the pots, I decided to make raised designs on them.

That started with a pencil drawing. If you know me by now, you know that's probably leaves and stems to start, then random this and that as I go on. So it went today.

The pencil drawing areas got a coating of shellac. I used amber-colored shellac, so I could see the design outlines clearly. I brushed on two coats for a tough, durable shell.

Shellac dries pretty fast on bone dry pots. In 15 minutes, the honey jars were ready for sponging. A well-wrung little sponge wiped round and round the jar cleaned off a superficial layer of clay everywhere except where shellac had been brushed on.

The whole point of this exercise is, the shellacked areas stand out. They are raised from the slightly eroded, wiped surface.

You can see the raised designs of grass, leaves, those Cheerio kind of circles... They really have texture.

The shellac burns off each honey jar completely in the kiln, leaving the entire piece
the same uniform white when it comes out of the bisque kiln (the one where pots are changed from raw clay to bisque ware). These pots will then be ready to be glazed with colors and fired again.

Looks like I have a new craze for the moment. This was waaaay fun. My nephew Yoni took some short video clips of the process, and I want to put them up on my website once I have shots of the glazed, finished honey jars.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Planning Honey Jar Shellac Resist

Decided to forgo studio and computer today to get some sunshine and movement in kayaks with my oldest child. Aaaahh. It felt like summer. The honey jars will just wait a few more days to get their shellac-resist treatment.

So far the honey jars have come out like this:

The next batch, if all works right, should have a raised design of leaves or other natural pattern on each jar. Photos of the design process next week!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Debut of My New Website, or, How to Get a Website Built, Eventually

Finding a website builder the first time was easy. I wasn’t really looking. In the middle of a casual conversation about maybe selling my pottery online, my friend offered to help out. Although already versed in web building, she was looking to learn a newer website building program and this was her chance.

My friend, (to whom I am grateful for getting all this going,) told me right away that she would only have limited time to work on my site, since some pressing personal obligations had to take precedence. I was okay with this, since I didn’t know what I wanted in a website design anyway. I had lots to work through and decide.

She stuck with me (and vice versa) while we figured it out. In the end we spent a good bit of time getting most of the way there, but not quite all the way. Meanwhile, I sharpened my thoughts of what I wanted, and completion of the site finally became my priority. But my friend’s other obligations still had to take precedence over my site. We had to come to a parting of the web ways.

I needed to hire someone to finish my online shop. I really needed advice.

As I’ve seen many times, having an art education does not mean I know anything much about the business of art. In fact, when I was a ceramics student once upon a time at Kean College, e-commerce probably wasn't even in the lexicon.

So I had no clue, once I would find someone to do the job, what to ask for. How would I know what should be included in the agreement? What should the contract cover?

I contacted a fellow member of my potters guild, Kathy, who has lots of experience in web design. Our guild’s website design and hosting firm had disappeared mid-stream, and left the guild stranded. Kathy had regained ownership of the site for us, brought the site live again, and undertaken the job of advising the guild members how to maintain their pages. Well, it’s true what they say about getting a job done; ask a busy person. Although juggling a couple of jobs and babysitting a grandchild when I called, Kathy took the time to write out some questions for me to ask when seeking a designer, and what to specify in a contract. Here they are:
* * *
1. Ask if he will be giving you a proposal for the whole scope of work prior to the start. (Don't pay anything in full upon start - I usually do 1/4 of total project first - i.e. for a $1,000 job I get $250 to start, then out of the rest of the $750 I break that up into two parts. You would pay $375 at acceptance of the prototype; make sure you are 100% happy with it. The last $375 is upon completion, when the site is done with search engines, and everything is working correctly.

2. Ask if he charges for edits, and at what rate. My rate is per hour, based on quarter-hour increments. This rate should be clearly marked in his proposal or contract.

3. If he has to re-design, will he present you with a prototype first? I give my clients 3 prototypes.

4. Does the template have a back end? In other words, can someone else edit for you if his fees are too high for edits?

5. Will he supply text, or will he be asking as he goes along for the information from you? If so, how does he request this? He should give you deadlines, too - it keeps the site going. But there is a lot you can do to help prepare the site. Be involved as much as you can. After all, your site is an extended reflection of you.

6. As far as the search engine optimization - will he be pushing this out to the engines on a monthly basis, or is this something you need to do? If he does this, there might be a monthly charge.

7. He needs to add a sitemap on your site - metatags used to be the thing search engines use, but most are depending on sitemaps now.

8. Will he be providing you with site stats? I have a couple of ways my clients can see how their site is being hit, but mostly they receive a monthly email from my hosting company that provides how many hits their site has, what pages, and even lists who and where these people are.
* * *

I followed some leads, spoke with five or six designers, and whittled the list down to a designer who came well recommended, Leah Helfgott of www.i-pointwebdesign.com. I asked Leah to have a good look at my site-so-far. I suggested where she could be most useful and listened to her own thoughts on the site.

Keeping in mind Kathy’s suggestions (and giving her thanks in my head as I proceeded), I clarified price and time frame with Leah and discussed the other items mentioned. She had clear and specific answers. My site had been started in Wordpress. I asked to see what websites she had done that were specifically artsy, Wordpress e-commerce sites, besides the ones already listed on her business site. She sent me links to several. They were clean-looking and attractive, purposeful and easy to maneuver. Only then, sure that she could produce what I needed, I asked her for a contract.

Now that I had a plan, a partnership needed to form that would only work to enhance the plan. I made sure to cover all points that were important to me before signing anything. I was sure this would be a good partnership. Having a contract would protect Leah, too, by keeping me from contacting her too often with thoughts about this or that item. (I have a tendency.) In that way, we were both protected.

She sent me an informal contract via e-mail. I clarified a few further questions, received satisfactory answers, affirmed, and then sent her a check for half her fee, as laid out in the contract.

In one eight-hour day, during which I was available by phone and e-mail, Leah fixed some layout, dealt with several other issues, and taught me how to put up my own photos and text. I had really been wanting to "take ownership" of my site. It was a huge buzz learning to do just that. Almost everything was complete in one day, except the shopping cart, which I asked Leah to work through.

I paid the second half of Leah’s fee after the 8-hour day. Our contract had set an hourly rate for anything further. Since service so far only indicated that she would follow up properly, I had trust. My confidence was rewarded quickly. Within a couple of days after the rest of the work was completed, Leah had contacted and had an answer from the template theme creator, and repaired the broken shopping cart code.

After that, I had more to learn, photos to take and edit, text and photos to add to the site, and some questions for Leah. She put in about eight more hours of work, about 16 all told. I put in many more. Long story short, I have a website.

(I couldn't figure out how to make this>> a clickable link to the website, but continue reading and you will find one...)

These are the main points: If you are going to build a website to sell your art, do your research first. Look at websites to find their best aspects. Think how your online gallery will represent your work. Think about what colors will frame your art best; you can go to www.colorpicker.com for that. When you are ready to find a designer, look for experience. But trust your own insights, too.

Read everything you can so that you can gauge the winds that are the current rules, trends and touchstones that guide the Internet marketplace. It is not my first web builder’s fault that we did not finish the first time around. It was to a good degree my own lack of planning and casual attitude early on. It was not a good template on which to build a business or a business relationship.

As for my website, I'm very happy to send you to www.mimistadlerpottery.com! check often in the beginning. It is starting with just a few pieces, but I have more photos of work to take and put up on the metaphorical shelves. Meanwhile, I will continue to be hard at work in the studio, making new pottery. This week: honey jars and washing cups! Bisque firing, glaze firing, cleaning the studio, fixing up my little gallery space bit by bit, there’s an awful lot to take care of. And now, add website maintenance to the list. A potter has to wear many hats indeed! And I do not mind at all.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Teasers

More fun with photos, as the deadline to bring the website "live" comes whooshing up:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Figured it Out

I figured out how I was messing up the pictures on the website. Fixed 'em.

August 10th, about 1 PM, I will say in the voice of Igor, "It's aliiiive," come what may. I have some wee itsy imperfect things going on, but so what. Mistakes and all, I own this sucker now.

Now to spiff up the homepage, and connect the URL so you can find it when you want to.


Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm Following Instructions, But

I really am following instructions.
At least I THINK I'm following instructions.
Photos are going up on my new website prior to launching.
At least, they are SUPPOSED to be going up. I think I am doing the right things, then pressing "Publish," and the (insert expletive) photos are not publishing. Guess I am not doing the right things.

This, for example, will not publish on the website but happily goes up here on blogger:

(The vase is 7.5" tall, and 4.5" wide at its widest part, by the way. It has a price tag of $48.)

Boy, the learning curve is steep at the beginning of a new process.

Pardon my "Aaaaaaargh!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Photos of a Good & Interesting Time

By late afternoon today, I had exhausted my last run of library books and read a bunch of newspapers. Browsing for something else to read, I went leafing through the children's books on our den shelves, and pulled out one of those great little Usborne nature books, this one a lift-the-flap book called Animal Homes. (I love these.)

Imagine my surprise when I opened the book and discovered I'd stashed two photos in it long ago, from my days as pottery counselor at that camp I mentioned recently! I used to keep a "Wall of Fame" in the Pot Shop, which was a bulletin board I plastered with photos of kids and counselors at the start of each season. I know the two photos I found in the book were from the Wall of Fame, because of the still-slightly-tacky spots on their backs from the old tape.

I look at the images and think, I was a pretty good pottery counselor. I worked hard, and I loved it.

This one was sometime around 1998ish. Wish I could have shown the two kids standing with me in this first photo. They were cute, noisy little guys. I don't know what became of them, but as far as I know, confidentiality rules still apply to showing their faces. I tried leaving them in but just fading out their features, but the symbolism of doing that to the face of children who once had cancer was too weird.

And from my last year there, 2001:

Looks like I was helping someone make a mug. We made them out of slabs, which we shaped by wrapping them around glaze jars that were covered in newspaper. These were crude but effective. Some of them probably exist as pencil jars in the States, Israel, Australia and Russia to this day.

I heard this week from a relative who is working at the camp this summer that the Pot Shop was moved to where the old Wood Shop used to be. I was always jealous of Woody's space and used to kid him about it. He had a spacious double room, while we had one narrow room that had to hold kids, supplies and also the kiln.

It was a good and interesting time in my pottery life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nerdly Birdly Pottery Thoughts

Lots of time to observe, here in Maine. Sketching plans for rectangular vases with rock-textured and water-textured surfaces. Planning patterns on bowls like the dotted black and white of the common loons on the lake, with two small red dots like their red eyes. Colors on all kinds of pots, as found in the irridescent neckfeathers of hummingbird, deep yellow of the oriole and rust, buff and soft yellow of the crested flycatcher I see through binoculars from the porch. Thinking of splotching variegated browns and whites, as on the juvenile eagles over the Kennebec River. So much to do when I get back in the studio. So much birdly and earthly nerdiness to translate into pots.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Withstanding the Fire

In the spring of 1994 I had a most interesting offer. A friend asked me to consider putting together and running a pottery room at a camp for kids with cancer and blood disorders. She had been hired as head counselor and wanted to fill out the program possibilities. It seemed like a change from all the "alone time" in the studio, and I wanted to scope it out, so I drove the two hours with her to camp one day.

My friend showed me a building like a long bungalow. The sign over the first of the four doors on the porch read: “Pot Shop.” We opened the door to a room full of old trash, dead flies, and buried among them, two cheap and listing pottery wheels, and a crumbling old kiln. I knew right then that it could become a neat and functional little pottery workshop, with lots of elbow grease and some fixes for the equipment. I said Yes, and got right on it, drawing up lists, sketching ideas, making practice projects. Finally, as the season was just about underway, I ordered the supplies, and two staffers came to help me dig the room out from under.

I would be there for the next eight summers. We would eventually have two wheels, a slab roller, and a beautiful new kiln. Till then, we made do with dowel rolling pins from Wood Shop, tables and benches from here and there, and lots of effort.

That first summer, I was also working with kids for the first time. Green as an unripe apple, without an assistant, I enlisted my 13-year old daughter to be my sounding-board and helper. I did not ask to get paid, as I was not sure I would do a good job. I figured it would be charity, and if I couldn't make a go of it, no one could say I wasn't worth my salt. I had a hard time acclimating to the emotional fallout I felt dealing with sick kids, but quickly found out there were some really shiny silver linings to this gig. For one thing, I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the kids and their very dedicated counselors. As it turned out, I also really loved showing the kids how to work with with my favorite art medium, and to my surprise and joy, they responded with enthusiasm. It was awesome.

(Working with Melissa at the wheel. She was great to work with and laugh with. Last heard, she had a family of her own.)

The pot shop was usually noisy with children and crowded with action. Some children made brief projects as they passed through pottery on their way to sports. That was already good. There were so many other things to do at camp. But some children had so much fun that they kept coming back whenever they could. These children got to know me, and I got to know them. A camp session was only 2 1/2 weeks long, partly because many children needed to get back to a less immuno-compromising environment than camp. But even with the brevity of the season, or maybe because of it, these weeks were intense. We got to know one another pretty quickly. Best of all, as I would discover, some of the children came back year after year, and regulars gravitated right back to the pottery room. By Season Two I felt like a pro. This is what I found out: Kids have fun in Pottery, and fun is therapeutic.

(I did get great outside assistants after the first season. Here is one of my two Dannys*. He was a great help, and always great for morale.)(*Other Danny, send me a picture!)

Ten years since I last ran the pot shop at camp, I try to imagine the children I once knew when they had cancer, as currently healthy grownups, with spouses and children perhaps, with jobs and full lives. I know many of them made it through their diseases, and went on to healthy situations.

(Mikey- one of my most fun pals over the years. We had great chats. Heard later that he was doing great.)

What a lot of emotional ups and downs there were.

In my first year or so at camp, I met a boy of 16, (I’ll call him E.) so sick and frail in his wheelchair he could hardly lift his hand. E.’s counselor wheeled him into Pottery separately from his group, so I could give him individual attention. He made a gift for his mother. Then he signed the back, “To Mom,” with his name, and added the names of his brother and sister, which touched me so much that I stepped out onto the porch to blink away damp eyes. I just didn't think he would make it. But E. did not die. The next summer he returned with crutches, not quite so skeletal and pale. The summer after, E. was walking. We had some good talks. The year after that, he told me he had finished his last treatment, and there had been no sign of cancer for a long while. He was well. A couple of years later, I heard that E. had gotten married.

There were wonderful surprises, assuredly. But then there was always some of that other part.

This week I received a sad surprise. It was old news, four years old, in fact, but because I hadn’t heard, it felt painfully fresh. My daughter came across an “In Memory of” page on Facebook in L.’s name, and called me. Not L.!! “I’m going to put down the phone,” I told her. I had to let out a howl of hurt, and needed to wait until I could speak again. L. was my youngest child's age, and they had been friends at camp.

He wasn’t even one of the ones with cancer. He had a manageable blood disorder. But life is unpredictable. L. received a double whammy. He was diagnosed with cancer just a year or so after I last saw him, and died of it two years later, at age 19. I looked at the photos on his Facebook memorial page hoping somehow it wasn't him, but yes, it was L. all right. In one of the photos he was smiling his wicked and sweet smile, half mischievous, half shy, pale as usual, and sitting at a table in study hall with a study partner and a teacher. It was so like the way he’d sat in the Pot Shop with his counselor and me for all of those summers, talking about life, messing about with bits of clay, and having a lot of good laughs between earnest conversations.

So life goes round and round like a potter's wheel. Sometimes the vessels that are made on it are so beautiful. Sometimes they withstand the fire, and once in a while they just do not. I am sending out a wave to "my" campers, a figurative wave to the ones I can only remember now, and the ones who are busy making ongoing lives (you know who you are!). Wherever you are, health and wholeness go with you!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Edmund's Pottery Day, Revisited

Been a while since I checked in. I was under the weather, and out of the studio for almost a month. The studio has a musty, fusty air of neglect and disorder. It has an accumulation of unglazed ware that I swear is GLARING at me, and a chalked list of to-do items that is growing unchecked.

But if I couldn't get down to the heavy business of work, and while I was putting on a few pounds sitting and lying around, spending waaay too much time on computer and TV, and being cranky, I could still organize my thoughts about the website, research shipping, and bust my website builder's chops a lot.

Website work continued. The news: we plan to go live July 18th. Compared to my late, dysfunctional, unlamented website, this one will be a streamlined and spare gallery that works as it is supposed to.

While at my computer over the weeks, leafing through my hefty file of stories for children, I browsed through my old Edmund's Pottery Day illustrations. Several years ago I sent out this picture book manuscript to a few publishing houses, but it was ignored or received rejections for a while, and I put it away to work on other picture book manuscripts. I knew the original story was too teach-y. I knew the illustrations I sent with it were not spontaneous or skilled enough to satisfy me (never mind a publishing house), but they still have some charm. So while I sat around not feeling well, I began putting them up on Facebook, one or two a day, with very little explanation. Here they are, minus text. Click on each picture for a larger version: