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Always trust your...

Former potter and ongoing photographer Don Prey stopped by Clay Fest on Saturday, and sent me this pic.

He got a running start and bless his heart, he's headed for the ground.


Messed my back up during Clay Fest, lovely electric-shock spasms to the lower left side. Managed to get through it with afternoon lie-downs on a heating pad, acetominophen, and the help of a friend from church who loaded boxes into the van for me.

Having taken a long, slow Monday off, I'm definitely improving, but probably still a couple of days from studio work again, and no heavy lifting...

Sigh. Getting older sucks

Leap of faith

Clay Fest is usually a lovely low-ish impact show for us. To begin with, it's right here in Eugene: no overnights, cat-sitters, long drives. In addition, they provide pipe-and-drape, and the set-up period runs from noon on Thursday 'til the doors open at 5 pm Friday. We generally unload the van, lay out the carpet and set up the shelves Thursday, take time to vacuum the rug, repaint the dings on the shelves, then go home again, come back Friday to actually unpack the pots and put the extra boxes in the back.

Friday's also the day to check in an entry for the gallery. I usually try to have a new (or newish) sculpture, but as I've sold the last three I've made, went into deep storage to retrieve this one. It's called The Cape, based on a Guy Clark (and Susanna Clark and Jim Janosky) song that I've loved for years, and shows the protagonist in the first verse: Eight years old with a flour sack cape tied all around his neck...

Did a demo for my Saturday work shift, making paintbrushes and decorating bowls for a small but appreciative (and constantly shifting) audience, followed by lunch and some time in the booth talking with folks and restocking. Clay Fest is never a great show for us, sales-wise, too many folks just looking who'll eventually get back to us at Holiday Market (or not), but it's nice to catch up with potter friends, see all the new artists and new work.

 Unfortunately, around mid-afternoon, my back began spasming, so I left Denise in charge of the booth while I went home and crashed on the bed with a heating pad. (Clay Fest has centralized check-out, so she didn't have to actually sell pots, just talk to customers and restock the booth. Still a lot of work.)

Sunday morning I felt a bit better, so did my sales shift at the credit line. Three hours on a stool crashed my back again, so it was home for Tylenol and more heating pad, to get me recovered enough to help pack up. Fortunately for both of us, my very helpful choir director from church lives nearby, and was willing to come over at 5:30 and help haul boxes and shelves out to the van and especially hoist them in. I managed to help until about the last fifteen minutes, at which point my back froze up again and I ended up standing by the van and pointing for the last few bits.

So all told, less low-impact than usual. But still successful: my not-at-all-new sculpture still earned me second prize in the gallery competition, making it two years in a row.


From the September 29, 2018 Eugene Saturday Market Members Newsletter, by fellow potter Daniel Conan Young:

Seems about right to me...


Only a week until Clay Fest!

At noon it will be one week until Clay Fest set-up. I'm still waiting a couple of days for last minute drops and substitutions before I finalize the map and participants list and send it to press. I also need to sit down and make a list of everything I need for my demonstration, check the supply of bamboo, squirrel tail, epoxy. Fill up a couple of jugs with glaze, get a bisque firing done so I have bowls to decorate.

Meanwhile, I'm taking e-mails and making ads for Clayfolk, next month, throwing and trimming pots--four dozen mugs handled yesterday alone, with two dozen stew mugs waiting today--oh, and? Taking special orders for Christmas.

I have a lot of balls in the air this time of year.

Organization is always a challenge. My lists have lists of lists. But I took a little time Monday afternoon to examine my process for a podcast called Productivity Alchemy. The podcast, created by Kevin Sonney, husband of Hugo-winning artist and writer Ursula Vernon, talks about productivity and organizational systems, with weekly interviews, reviews of planners, and a Wombat (and later, Teenage) Test Subject.

Don't know yet when it will air, but Kevin says sometime before the end of November.

More when I know it.

Three sides to everything

I got an interesting request last Saturday at Market: someone wanted three triangular plates.

Apparently, it's a significant birthday thing: their friend was turning 39, so they wanted nine triangular plates by three different potters, 3/9.

My first reaction? No way in hell.

I've had a few days to unpack that initial response, and I think it comes down to time, difficulty and practicality.

Time. Non-circular usually means hand-built, which takes extra time. Make templates, roll out slabs, stiffen slabs, cut and assemble. Or make a mold, dry it, bisque fire it, then roll out slabs and form them over it. Either way, what would take 3 minutes on a potter's wheel is now at least a couple of days, possibly over a week. For three plates. (Well, six, just in case. Always make extras when time is a factor.)

Difficulty. Drying slab-built plates is a fussy, time-consuming process. Clay shrinks as it dries, and if it dries unevenly, it will warp or curl. Even compression of the clay while throwing helps prevent this, but since a slab roller only compresses in one direction, you have to dry slabs much more carefully. I foresee several days on drywall squares, putting plastic on, taking plastic off, flipping them over. And over. And over...

Practicality. Ultimately, I just don't like triangular plates. They don't seem practical to me, corners that aren't convenient to eat out of, wasted space that's poking out, waiting to be chipped or broken. I could see doing trochoidal plates--three corners, but the sides are segments of arc, a fat triangle. But triangles? Nope.

Ultimately, it came down to time of year. I'm just too busy to deal with non-standard items when I'm getting ready for holiday sales, and I think the birthday was before my next firing? So sorry, but there's plenty of other potters to ask.


mountains of potteryWe seem to be developing an Indian theme over on the left shelf riser. Maybe I should be getting out the Elephant teapot?

Meanwhile, on the tabletop, we're much less exotic: local, native birds.
flock together


Corvallis Fall Festival's Central Park is probably the nicest of all the art fair locations where we sell. Interlocking walkways that create a three-loop layout, a gazebo, trees and shrubbery, playground, water fountains, lush green grass, that they actually keep watered through the summer.

That last can be a problem, though. Even though it's barely fall, we've had hardly any rain since, oh, May, the ground is so soft and boggy in our spot that I have to limit my hand truck loads to three boxes or less, and our chair legs immediately sink in. Fortunately, I have some 2-inch wooden disks at home, left over from when the insulators did the walls, and with the help of some duct tape, manage to give them rain boots.

We get a little rain overnight Friday, intermittent showers Saturday morning, but not enough to dent the crowds. Sales are quite astonishingly good, to the point that Saturday's total rivals our entire weekend's sales from 2016, the last year we were here. Apparently intermittent reinforcement actually does work. People are very glad to see us after a year's absence.

I'm used to hearing my pots discussed in different languages, but this weekend may be a record. Spanish, of course. German. What sounds like either Russian or Serbo-Croatian. A long, three-way conversation between me, a woman, and her husband in English and Chinese. (She's used to Chinese cooking, on stove-top, and wants to experiment with roasting and baking; ends up buying a small squared baker, after consulting at length with her non-English-speaking husband.) Most unexpected language experience of the weekend, though, was the three young men looking at pig and elephant banks, and discussing their merits at length, in Arabic.
bear and cat are friends
As usual, we have fun with the bears, mugging for small children, especially those who have their own plushies along. Also had a nice interaction with a black cat puppet and her owner.

One of the local high schools offers a pottery class, and the instructor assigned his students to visit the festival and look at pots, so I have three different students stop in over the weekend. The first is enthusiastic, taking pictures and a business card. The second is with her mom and in full teenage resistance mode, sullenly looking at the work and speaking in monosyllables. The third is also with mom, of the "let-me-tell-you-about-my-kid" variety, but seems really interested in pottery. I give her some tips about centering and throwing, refer her to this blog, and make her promise to send me a pic when she eventually--and I'm pretty sure she will--produces a pot she's proud of.

I actually have a lot of nice interactions with teens this weekend, always encouraging, as I sometimes fear my demographic is aging out of buying things in favor of downsizing. Sunday morning brings a girl with a big market basket, scouting items for her realtor mother to use as closing gifts. She winds up with four items, mugs and stews and glasses, and I tell her about my other realtor client who specializes in houses for big families, and will periodically buy sets of plates or bowls, one for each kid and their parents.

Because load-out is a little fraught, no vehicles on the grass, and the above-mentioned tangle of walkways, we treat ourselves to lunch at the food booths and save sandwiches for a break at take-down. Nice variety of choices: in addition to the hamburger/corndog/kettle corn axis, they have pierogies, falafel, shawarma, and Philly cheesesteak. Prices are lower than usual for a show, $7 for a basic entree, as opposed to the $12-14 we see everywhere else. We split an order of potato/cheddar pierogies with caramelized brussels sprouts and a chicken shawarma.

Fall forward

Reposted from offcenter.biz:

Signs it's fall at Off Center Ceramics:
  • The fridge is full of apples.
  • Raincoat moves to the hook closest the door (waterproof shoes likewise).
  • Quilt comes back out of the linen closet to cover the toe zone of the bed.
  • Extra layers worn to Saturday Market and Club Mud (frequently forgotten there as the sun comes out around midday).
  • Pottery production goes into high gear!
After a summer that includes jaunts up into Washington and down south to Roseburg, fall sales are closer to home: Fall Festival in Corvallis, Clay Fest in Eugene. But looming over the horizon in November are my biggest show of the year, Clayfolk (the weekend before Thanksgiving in Medford) and the biggest continuous run of sales, Holiday Market at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, which we join in progress Thanksgiving weekend and continue right to Christmas Eve.

I've just unloaded a kiln to stock the first two sales; I'll need at least two more 50 cubic-foot firings to get me to Christmas. I just had a ton of clay dropped on my driveway last week. It's time to start making that into pottery.

Last sign of fall at Off Center Ceramics:
  • When we go to recruit bears for Saturday Market, they're all hiding under the quilt at the end of the bed...