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Uff da!

I sold a bunny pie plate today to a family from Norway. How cool is that?

Remembered enough of my western Wisconsin roots to say "magne takk" (many thanks) when she paid me. 


I went to Denise's Book Arts Group meeting last night, because the topic sounded like a lot of fun: Artist Trading Cards.

Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) were first proposed by Swiss artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann in 1997. They're a non-commercial, collaborative art project wherein individual artists make small artworks, not to sell, but to swap, like a potlatch, or the early days of baseball card collecting. (Not unlike baseball cards, they've also gone commercial, with "Art Cards, Editions and Originals" (ACEOs) now selling on Etsy and online auction sites.) Designed to fit standard collector card sleeve (3.5 x 2.5"), they can be collaged, drawn, painted, stamped. Possibilities are endless.

I took along brush and ink, of course, both black china and a homemade brown ink we cooked from black walnut hulls. Also my watercolor kit and a couple of bamboo pens I'd made while preparing handles for the brush making workshop. Denise took handmade paper, glue stick and a collection of rubber stamps.

Results? Denise's... Then mine. And then the ones I traded mine for, at the end of the meeting.

Construction debris

Had a great time at the OPA meeting Friday night, demonstrating my slab sculpting techniques to about three dozen potters. Talked about texturing tools, rather than construction techniques, as this seemed to have most interest to the crowd. Rambled a little, answered a lot of questions, made a bamboo pattern roller right there in front of everyone. (It's in the bisque right now; we'll see how it works later.)

I wish I'd been better organized. I brought a laptop slide show, but forgot to ask whether they had a projector. (Answer: yes, but not right there at the meeting.) And although Denise and I were both there, neither of us thought to take pictures. Have to do that better this coming Friday.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my construction debris. I really need to do something with that fieldstone-texture roller.

Lesson plans

After a nearly 20-year gap, I find myself a teacher again.

Well, sort of.

I've taught a lot, over the years. A scifi-based Philosophy class and an Art History survey back at Viterbo, in the 80's; TA with a beginning ceramics class in graduate school, followed by ten-plus years of beginning ceramics, hand building and sculpture, and various specialty one-offs as a resident potter at the UO Craft Center afterwards (including a teddy bear-making workshop). Also a few terms teaching at Maude Kerns after the Craft Center gig went away.

But for a long time, now, I've been concentrating on making and selling pottery. Now, all of a sudden, I’m teaching two workshops in as many weeks.

Well, a demo and a workshop. This Friday I'll be presenting a demonstration of my sculpture techniques at the Oregon Potters Association monthly meeting in Portland. The demo is part of the traditional recognition for winning Best-of-Show at Ceramic Showcase, but as they'd only begun the awards again after several years' hiatus, nobody remembered until nearly a year later. So I'm figuring out the best way to present on my idiosyncratic slab-sculpture techniques, for an audience of who-knows-how many, with whatever tools I manage not to forget to bring the two hours up I-5 from my studio.

Stressed? Me? What gives you that idea?

The workshop is actually easier. I've presented my brush making and decorating workshop (new favorite title: From Tails to Tools) a number of times over the years, so am reasonably confident I can do it once again. I'm going to be out at Lane Community College Friday May 18, at the invitation of the student ceramics club. They're expecting anywhere between 10 and 20 students, so I need to be sure I have enough epoxy, bamboo, and squirrel tails. Hmmm. I saw a roadkill on the way home from downtown yesterday morning.

Wonder if it's still there?

Simply amazing

I had a wacky morning at the Market yesterday. Right after opening--and Denise leaving for the library--at 10 am, curiously dressed couples began coming up to the booth, in a tearing hurry, and asking what we sold. Or, more specifically, what Pulp Romances sold.

Pulp Romances is Denise's business, selling handmade paper and hand bound books. We've been sharing the booth at Market for 20-plus years (though not at road shows. Most of them require separate jurying and an extra booth fee for shared booths.) She sells greeting cards regularly, and the occasional journal or packet of paper, but this is way more attention than she usually gets. Especially since they then dashed away again.

I finally got someone to slow down long enough to tell me the story. Apparently, The Amazing Race was doing tryouts in town this weekend, and decided to use us as a test site. I got a photo of their questionnaire, and I gotta give them credit for their research. The three businesses they ued--Pulp Romances, Celtic Fantasy and Berry Patch USA--all have cool, evocative names that give no clue what their product is.*

Sadly, Denise missed the whole thing. By the time she got back from the library at lunch, everyone was gone.

*(Handmade books and paper, Celtic-themed silkscreen teeshirts, and handcrafted children's clothing, respectively.)

ETA: Did a little more research, and found this has nothing to do with the TV show; it was a Great Race-themed fundraiser for an African children's charity.

Under the sea

Back at Market today; once again, we seem to have a theme going on our tabletop.

That guy

I process a lot of credit cards. Not just for my own business; I belong to three different pottery organizations with central-sales shows, and I always seem to be on the busy shift. I have a system. Check the customer’s signature. If the card isn’t signed (or if the sig has worn off), ask for a picture ID.

Occasionally, this is embarrassing—the customer whose preferred gender didn’t match their old ID—occasionally fascinating. (The women at Clayfolk, one of whom had her concealed carry handgun permit, the other, a medical marijuana card. Also? I got to see Casey Affleck’s California driver’s license.) Generally, though, they’re glad I'm paying attention.

Not this guy.

I don’t remember what he was buying, just that he paid with an American Express Gold Card. Unsigned, so I asked to see ID.

What do you need that for? It's pre-approved. You're guaranteed your money.

I explain that it's not for us; it’s for his safety, I'm just making sure nobody is using his card that isn't him. Oh, American Express won't do that; the customer is never responsible for fraudulent charges.

He seems actually offended that I, a lowly potter, might feel responsible for protecting him from identity theft.

He’s a banker, his wife explains, sotto voce, after I've handed him his receipt. Honestly? I think he's an asshole. I think he was upset that the poor starving artist wasn't impressed by his symbol of financial status.

The next guy in line paid with an AmEx standard card. And was grateful that I checked his ID.

A very good question

I love talking to students; they're always interested in my process, willing to talk about what they know, do, want to learn. And Friday, one of them surprised me.

As I've mentioned before, I get the "How long does it take to make this?" question a lot. There's no easy answer, because making in multiples, many steps, yadda yadda.

What he asked me is, "How long did it take you to paint this?" Now that's a question with an actual answer. I made sure to tell him so.

The answer? Two to three minutes. I paint fast.

Showcase: The morning after

It's always difficult to post during Ceramic Showcase, because the show is so exhausting. We've tried to mitigate this, a little, by spreading out our set-up over two days. We drive up Wednesday afternoon, unload the van and set up the carpet, shelves, grid panels, lights. Touch up the paint on our well-worn pine shelves. Thursday morning, we returned to put out pots and signage, organize and stow our many boxes of back stock. By noon, we're done, so we spend the afternoon of Denise's birthday visiting the World Forestry Center, and walking in Washington Park.

The show itself opens Friday morning at 10 am, with a huge crowd. Collectors and enthusiasts try to be first in the door, thinking they'll get the best stuff. They're right, to a degree, but I'm still finding new things in back stock right up till Sunday afternoon. Friday also brings busloads of students. Most of the local high schools arrange field trips for their art/ceramics classes, and they add to the hubbub in the hall.

I like talking to the students. They always have at least a basic ceramic knowledge--some are quite advanced--and are always interested in my process. Some want to know about the painting, some the throwing, some want to know how I assemble animal banks. I give out a lot of business cards with links to my blog, invite them to stop by my demo that afternoon. A couple of them do, which I find gratifying.

By one o'clock, I've talked to hundreds of people, restocked a bunch of pots, including a $60 serving bowl, and am ready to escape to a quiet hallway outside the show to collect my wits and prepare for my 2 pm demonstration. I've had a number of titles for this demo over the years: Making Art With Roadkill is probably my favorite, Brush-making and Decorating the most common. This year I reverse the focus and go with Decorating With Handmade Brushes. I talk about my history decorating pots as I set up my work station ("A long time ago, in a pottery far, far away"), glaze and paint three bowls. Then I talk about my handmade brushes, and make a couple of them. By this point, about an hour in, a new group of people have joined us, so I decorate the other three bowls, and give a high-speed recap of brush making. I end right on the 90-minute mark, though my voice gives out about two sentences early. (I've been talking a lot, today, in a noisy concrete space.) I have a microphone for the demo, but I'm still using teacher (/radio host) voice, which is wearing.

And back to the booth, and more customers--Denise is just selling an $85 octopus oval platter, and trying to remember if we have that pattern on anything else. (Yes, a medium serving bowl, but we're too tired to bring that fact to mind. There's always next year...)

Saturday morning, we're still dragging a little from Friday. I take first shift in the booth again, as I have a work shift from 1 to 4. Showcase is entirely run by the potters, so we all take turns doing work on the show. As not everyone has an engaging, professional spouse (is she reading this?) to mind their booth for them, we have a central check-out where everybody's pots get sold. There's an elaborate, step-by-step process that makes sure everyone gets paid for their work, and allows us to track and correct errors.

At quarter to one, I show up at my cashier station, with my high stool (gives me a better angle on my adding machine and card processor), my computer/glazing glasses (ditto. Bifocal line is at just the wrong place for this job. Unfortunately, this means I can't really see my customers, but they don't know that), and my water mug. I've got a good wrapper, not too fast, not too slow, and willing to help pick off labels when a big order comes through.

We work steadily for the entire three hours--I think we got one ten-second pause between groups of customers. The lines are never huge, unlike on Friday, but they're constant, always about three or four people waiting. They've put me on a busy station, which I enjoy. Furthermore, it seems to be the only one at the show that processes MasterCard Debit, so we get a steady trickle of customers who've already been processed and packed at another station who get to jump the line to actually pay us.

The show was originally scheduled to close at 5, but due to a communication snafu, some of the vendor information says 6 pm. As the crowds are still fairly good, they announce an extension. Apparently, no one tells the venue, as they start turning lights down at 5:15, and we experience Showcase After Dark for a few minutes before they turn them on again.

It's always Sunday morning before we finally feel rested again. We've packed up and checked out of our lodgings (AirBnB this year, nice people, killer stairway. Sigh.), ready to be done.

Sunday is always the quietest day, but we're still busy, still selling the occasional high-end piece--we sell two more large serving bowls (for a total of four out of the same spot in the booth), and run out of large squared bakers entirely. I see a lot of familiar faces, people who come back year after year, and today we actually have time to talk. Another sales shift at one, more relaxed this time, except for one particular customer--more about him later--and we finally get done 15 minutes past closing, when my credit/debit machine runs out of tape (for the second time).

Load-out is more concentrated, thus more hectic, than load-in. I bring in my empty boxes from the parking lot and we concentrate on packing and disassembling the booth. I’ve got three empty boxes, so let Nicole fill them with her pots. (She had a friend bring up more stock on Saturday, and now can't fit everything in her vehicle.) We belong to the same co-op in Eugene, so I'll drop them off tomorrow. She says she owes me, but she brings us baked goods, day-olds from her husband's workplace, so I think we're more than even.

Once everything is stacked, packed or otherwise dismantled (Is the process of setting up "mantling?") it's time to get in line. Get the van in line for the loading dock, get in line for a cargo cart. Denise and I take turns waiting, then everything happens at once. I back the van up the ramp, she scores a cart, and a few loads and a bunch of creative stacking later, we're ready to pull away. It takes three hours, in all, but we're on the road by 7:30, home by 9:30, feeling ready to sleep for a week.

Pun of the day

A customor at Ceramic Showcase, noticing this dish: Look! It's a pie-leated woodpecker! 

First runner up (referring to my brushmaking demo, using squirrel hair): From tails to tools?