Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Single Fruit in a Fruit-Sized Bowl

Sometimes you want an orange. Or an apple. Or a pear. And you want to cut it up and put it into just the right bowl.

Hello, bowl.

You are perfect for one pear today.

Tomorrow I will use you to beat up a couple of eggs for an omelet.

Later, you are just the right size for the last bit of stir-fry.
Last bit of stir fry> into the bowl> into the microwave>Voila!

Love these. I have a quartet of them in my kitchen cabinet.

Even I am surprised at how often one of these is the go-to bowl.

They were each made from a slab of clay, paddled into shape with a wooden tool.

I love how none is the same as the others, but they stack up so nicely.

I don't have these on my website, but they are made to order for $15 each.

Have you enjoyed a handmade, one-of-a-kind, just-right-for-one-fruit bowl today? Inquiring potters want to know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Fabric of Challenges

Here is one face of behind the scenes. It is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I am Optimizing my website for Search Engines to find me. Somewhere inside my head I know this isn't so difficult, but Cheese Louise, I don't get it yet. The tumblers have yet to align in my head to unclick this lock. This is one of those smack-my-head things: won't you step into my brain, Yoast? But Yoast refrains.

But I persist. At some point soon, with a little speck more explication from an expert, I will get to that "Oh!" realization and evolve from there. I say this with confidence even though I am not feeling it yet. I hope to draw actuality with positivity...and further effort.

Meanwhile, say hello to the awning of the future. So far it is just a pile of nice fabric:

But soon it will be an awning on the wall that faces you as you come down the steps to the gallery downstairs. There is a wall right in front of you. Since I have no real shop window (because hey, we're inside my house), I am creating the illusion of one on that wall. There will be a "window" in front of you, a big, attractive framed grid of wood resembling a window (without glass) that will showcase various pieces of pottery. Above it will be my awning, with a flap on the front that will read The Gallery Downstairs in black letters. There will be a spotlight behind the awning flap shining on the art.

The same fabric will also be used to upholster a bench I found in an interesting store in Garwood, NJ, called Artifacts. They take old furniture and refurbish it. It isn't going to cost me a fortune, and non-browsing friends of browsing people can sit on this nice upholstered bench while they wait, and read back issues of Pottery Making Illustrated.

Meanwhile, the pots broken by accident after the last show (dang) are deleted from my website, SOLD has gone up on photos of those that sold, and I am puzzling (through a mental block) over that Search Engine Optimization. This blog post is a digression from what I really should be doing! So I am going to sign off and get my Thinking Cap from the virtual hatrack, and go do what I should be doing.

Give me a 3-D challenge over this webby stuff any day. But it is all necessary to run my studio and gallery.

Hey, thanks for reading. Leave a comment below if you have one! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sketching, [Not So] Randomly

I just had an eye-opening tutorial, to learn about applying good ol’ Search Engine Optimization* to my website. More on SEO as I get more proficient. This has to be a serious priority for anyone with a website, so that it will show up in online searches. (*I am making place for an SEO hat on my metaphorical hatstand.)

Also, an electrician’s been in to the future gallery (finally!) to assess the work needed for radically improved lighting, and will give me an estimate Monday(ish). Electrical work comes before any other work.  I am going to be the general contractor*. (*Contractor hat, comin’ up.)

So instead of working with clay, being fairly distracted lately, I’ve been taking up pad, pencil and a kneaded eraser (love those) and I'm at least sketching (what else?) pots.

Started drawing spirals, which turned into pearlike shapes. I’ve built something like these out of coils before. But how would they be to make on the wheel and alter, instead? Would make them strictly decorative, and probably glazed simple white.

Also, I incorporated nails into low-fire earthenware years ago (as eye stalks for little monster pots, with wiggle eyes glued on the ends later). How would metal brads be for pear stems, at higher temperature firings like I do now? And could I also cut holes into the upper parts of the pearlike objects and make them into (no longer just decorative) functional flower holders?

Started drawing circles, realized I was still thinking Song Dynasty (see back a few posts), and evolved quickly back to that covered jar shape. It recurs, which means I’d better do this one (out of the new porcelain) just to get it outside my head and see how it goes. Would be wonderful with shellac resist designs.

Something else I’ve had in mind for a long time (see lower left of sketch): pots reminiscent of nests. This is a good sort of pot to throw thickish and carve. Inside would be very, very smooth and strongly or brightly colored, or bright clean white, with the outside stained sheer, matte, twiglike brown. All sizes. Really want to do this. These would be interesting to touch and look at, functional, and could attract birds…OK, not really on that last thing.

Another thing I’ve been thinking of: the sort of lobed pot (lower right of sketch) with a small, shot-glass like shape sort of set in as a rim.  I see this with sheer, light glaze of one color or other. Could be beautiful, or weird, or both.

Still itching to carve pots, so sketched the first two here:

The second from left has my typical leaf carving and the one on the far left has a raised band for carving the life circle and pumpkinlike “lobes.” The second from the right? Just a simple cylinder for a change, with possible underglaze brushwork and carving, maybe in the old Saturday Evening Girls style… And I’m not sure what the heck the pot on the right is, a single covered jar like a pot-within-a-pot; not liking. (Interesting to note that the new camera curved the image in at the edges like it was a wide angle shot. Have to learn the new camera settings better.)

Thinking (above ^) cylindrically some more…but I feel that these look like the light, colorful earthenware sort of pottery you can buy at Home Goods. Heck, my ideas are not all going to be useful ones- sometimes they’re just bad sketches. But all this drawing got me thinking about the simple cylinder shape with minor variations- it needs to feel handmade, or at least as if its surface matters beyond serving as a canvas for assembly line design. I think the cylinder is more challenging to decorate because it is such a clean, blank form that is open to imaginative handling or its opposite, minimal interference. Cylinders are a good exercise for any potter, beginner to expert. They give you room to roam.

Well, back to Search Engine Optimization…so anyone can go to my website and find what s/he is looking for.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bottle with a Broken Lip

 Stoneware Bottle with Broken Lip

Out of the hot Maine July noon
In a listing antiques barn,
Among the kitsch and jetsam,
This bottle with no handles grabbed me-
With no raised foot, tripped me up.

In the white sun a wince in the height of day
Cool concrete and wood lured my son and me in
Beneath the Picker’s Palace sign-
His baseball cap shading his tumble-haired head
His search focused tight on musical things, and games-

When cheek by jowl to scalloped milk glass
And faded beige satin pincushions
The chipped gray gleam of its little mouth in the gloom
Blew me a kiss. I swear.
I heard the phantom snap of ancient pine ash melting.

We climbed a flight of metal steps
Saw chairs and chests and Esso signs
And came back down with my sturdy boy clutching
A harmonica still in its box, and a dinged-up iron putter
But my hands empty longed for the rich brown bottle.

A freckle of stony bits complicated its skin
Stippled with fly-ash, unsigned, alone, out of place,
The mark of a twisted cutoff wire beneath its narrow bottom,
Its belly swelled with old sweet fire…
I bought it. What was the tiny price? Some paper tag long gone now.

copyright Mimi Stadler 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Improved Show Space

This is how I rearranged my space the day after the show, having realized it was too crowded.

Scroll down and compare to the photo two posts ago, when I first set up the show. Lots more room to look at individual pieces!

With a leaf applique fabric piece above (not sure of artist's name but a nice piece of art), and Dario Scholis's paintings at the left, it was a colorful space.

More changes for next time: more poetic (less prosaic) pieces (sorry, no mugs), black tablecloth, banner with my studio's name.

(photo by Susan James)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

After the Show: More About the Business of Craft!

The art show at Evalyn Dunn’s Gallery in Westfield, NJ, was Sunday. How was the show, you ask? (Remember that question, and how difficult I find it to reply?)  Short answer: it was a good show, but not because I made so much money. It was a particularly good show because of the intangibles, which are what I learned while interacting, questioning and observing.

I did a sort of post-mortem after a show. What sold? What did not draw interest at all? Did a particular texture or color turn the people on or off? What price point sold better than others? Was the one-of-a-kind work more interesting? Were people willing to spend on a unique piece? Did they want Judaica? Serving pieces? Decorative ware? Did I get names and addresses (email and snail) to add to my mailing list?

Yesterday, I went back to the gallery to help out for a couple of hours. My work is still there for the duration of this week. Susan James, a jeweler who had been in the show, was also helping out. Since the gallery is not usually open Mondays, few customers showed up, and I took the opportunity to rearrange my display. Susan makes her living from her craft all year round, mostly at outdoor shows. She has a sense of what makes a good display. She and Jacie Civins, the owner of the gallery, gave me great feedback, very helpful for my show post-mortem.

By the end of our discussion, I had packed up at least a quarter of the items I had on display. The table and shelves looked better. It now had few multiples of anything. I had shifted groupings by color, instead of by type of object. Jacie pointed to a large vase. “When did that get there?” she asked me. It had been there all along. It was just highlighted now with better placement.

So. "How was the show?"

1)  Because each piece has its own carving or a plate fitted especially to suit it, I believed I make one of a kind work. But it didn't necessarily look like it at the show. Because my carved goblets, for example, were of similar size to one another and stood in a row on one shelf, regardless of differences in their carved decoration, if you didn't look closely, you would have assumed they were all alike. This, Susan told me, is not "special." Unless he or she really wants a pair, or a set, a buyer will usually prefer to have "the only one like it" at a show like this. The remedy is to place objects separately, not as a group of similars, and limit their number- otherwise you get a herd effect. A herd effect can be gorgeous; think of a herd of horses running- but conversely, can also can lower the effective beauty of an individual thing.

2) Price should not reflect only the time, effort and cost expended to make the object. That should just be the floor when setting the $$ amount. Charge for the specialness of the piece. If necessary, get a knowledgeable friend or colleague to help. If you are like me, knowing too much about the making process clouds your objectivity.

3) Each item should be what I want to make. There is a buyer somewhere for every single handmade thing, if made well.  It's not much use planning too rigidly what to make. Jacie and Susan chose to admire pieces that were quite different from one another's. Susan loved a simple, easy to make bowl with a subtle stony glaze, that was particularly graceful. Jacie liked two carved and complexly colored vase forms.

4) Display: Less Really Is More. Clear up a little. If planning to show 8 teacups and saucers that are the same, make them different colors from one another. Or show only one to three at a time, not ten.

5) Yes, this should be obvious, though it wasn't to me-- Color contrast is extremely important. Ware that is green should not be on a green cloth. Put it on a black cloth. And make more of the ware some other color. Not everyone likes green.

6) Again- color! Develop a good palette for more color! More, more, more color! People have a visceral reaction to red. Or blue. Or pure white. Or variegated golden brown.

7) People actually want to pay more sometimes. If the price is too low, it will seem apparent that as an artist, I do not especially value the objects I  make, and neither should the shoppers. Usually, unless it's a mug or a cereal bowl, (and even sometimes then,) a customer has no set of criteria to assess the value of a piece of handmade pottery, except to look at the price tag. If someone wants to give a gift, and the bowl they are looking at is $22, they assume it would be perceived by the recipient as a cheapie gift, and they won't buy it. This is faulty thinking, but common. It does no good to explain that the recipient would not know what the giver had paid. The gift giver will buy a bowl that cost the potter next door just as little to make as your bowl did, but they will assume it is a “better” bowl, because it is marked $42.
Think of it this way. If the bowl is beautiful, and I still price it according to the time it took to make and the cost of materials. I am totally ignoring the intangible something that makes a piece special. So remember- a buyer who "gets" that certain "something" in the work will pay real money for it.

Well, it’s been a busy and informative couple of days. As ever, onward and upward

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pre-Show Photo

I set up the show today. (Click on the picture for a much larger view.) I have only a 6' space, which I tried to maximize with my show stands. If you can't build from side to side, you build upward.

I just need to make a little sign saying Mimi Stadler Pottery, to put on the small blank wood area in the middle-ish, and the table is done. There are more pots under the table in boxes to replenish the booth as (here's hoping) empty spaces appear. Now I'm ready to just have fun.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Come See the Show!

First of all, here’s the show I’ll be in on Sunday.
If the image is unclear, it's 12-5 on Sunday, May 6th, 2012, at Evalyn Dunn Gallery, 549 South Avenue West, Westfield, NJ.

 The invitation is misleading. I will only be there on Sunday, and the work will be at the gallery without me through May 11th. But while I’m there on Sunday, I hope 1) to have fun, and 2) sell some pottery!

 “Clay pots” is an un-descriptive term. What KIND of pottery? What will it do to enhance your life? Ah, these are questions that do have answers. You might want to chat with me at the show for the answers to these and other questions. Or you can ask me when you see me next.

This is a photo of part of my trial setup, which I do in my studio before each show to determine what work will fit in the allotted space:

 The new porcelain is REALLY nice. It throws beautifully on the wheel and is so easy to trim. Best of all, the clear glaze that crazes all over my usual stoneware, fits the porcelain like a smooth and glassy glove- no craze lines. This, in case you don’t get how great this is, is really, really great. Here’s a little number that has the clear on it, plus some soft and relatively unexciting green, but where the green goes over the clear and some nice blue ginkgo leaves go with it, oh my. I’m very happy about this! Too bad I don’t have any more of this lively motif to put in this show, but my next show is in November and I hope to have some then:

 Since nothing in my life is linear except the evident passage of time, I also have been watching pottery videos and looking at the work of contemporaries online, possibly when I should have been hard at work in the studio. But potter does not live by the wheel alone. The brain must be fed to keep the ideas going. I went to the Song Dynasty ceramics exhibit at the Morris Museum (NJ)and made a couple of quick sketches, which I refined afterward. Here is a sketch of a wonderful covered jar I saw:
(Qingbai is pronounced ching-pie, by the way.) It’s very cool to see beautiful pots from the 11th century, as lively looking as when they were made- because, except when it is broken, pottery lasts and lasts and lasts. The leaves are lotus, and although you can’t tell from my drawing, they are carved in two levels, with one layer of leaves appearing to lie over the other. I’m planning to make some pretty jars like this one- my carving senses are tingling.

 I also drew this small bottle with its flat rim, storage for wine maybe.
("Jun" is pronounced Chun.)

I had seen other pieces in the exhibit with two parts, let’s say a cup sitting on a water pot, so I thought of mayim acharonim and drew the transitional idea that stemmed from the Jun bottle. I changed the curve and size of the rim, and added a little cup that plugs into the mouth of the bottle like a stopper. Probably I will change the shape of the little cup so that it has a bit of neck instead of being so round, but we shall see once I start fooling with the prototype.

 Feel free to visit my website soon. I have someone looking it over again for holes and danger spots (remember the hack job?) but will update it before long.