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Less than a week to go...

To the 2018 Ceramic Showcase!

We're in space 20, in the first row of booths as you enter, and I'll be doing one of my (in)famous "How to Use Roadkill in Your Art" (aka Brushmaking and Decorating) demonstrations on Friday at 2 pm. And in addition to the whimsical and functional painted pottery, we'll have the public premiere of Harriet and Mumfrey in the Showcase Gallery.

It's great being back in the Convention Center alongside the other craft guilds. If you're in Portland this weekend, stop by and say hello!


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Funny thing...

I'm perfectly willing to pay a professional to do my photography, but I still do my own taxes.

Most potters I know do the opposite... 

Ready for her close-up

When I first started in ceramics, in grad school and afterwards, at the Craft Center, I shot my own pictures. On film, no less, color slides, using photo floods and fabric back drops and having to clean the studio to make space for my jury-rigged set up. Fairly early in the process, somewhere between when I stopped looking for teaching jobs and started jurying for art fairs, I decided I needed to hire a professional. My home-brew slides weren't cutting it, and if I was planning to take myself seriously as an artist, I needed to be willing to invest in my career.

My first photographer was a friend from the music world, a part-time professional in the process of going full-time. He took some nice pictures for me, but, as neither of us had a really good idea how we wanted them lit or composed, it took forever. Fortunately, he was also giving me a friendly rate, so it worked out.

My second photographer was another potter, who'd spent some time and money on a much more professional set-up, and was amortizing the cost by shooting slides for the rest of us. Because he was used to lighting and shooting pottery, he did a much faster job of it. However, because he shot a lot of pots, he obsessed about things like highlights and reflections, to the point where I'd have to wash off three layers of spray dulling media when I got the pottery home again.

I started working with my current photographer, Jon Meyers, on a personal recommendation. His mother and I sang in the church choir together--still do--and she told me he was just out of college and starting a photography business. We hit it off right away. He was efficient, professional, and did consistent work. I've been using his services ever since; I think we transitioned from film to digital together. He's not cheap, but for an hour's paid time I generally get about a dozen high quality images. To me, it's worth the investment.

Took Harriet and a couple of new pots down to my Jon this morning. Here's a couple of samples.



May I present

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone and her valiant battle quail, Mumfrey?
beware, ogrecats!
Omigosh, guys, isn't she beautiful?

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It was the best of days...

It was the worst of days.

We rolled out of bed for the first Saturday Market of 2018 at about 5:30 am. Actually clear and not raining at the time, though the hour-by-hour forecast said it'd probably start around 9 am. Still, a promise is a promise, and I did bake the cake.

By the time we finished breakfast, filled the tea thermoses, loaded the bears up into the van, it was close to 7, and it had started showering. Intermittent showers and clearing all the way down Delta highway (it always rains on the Beltline bridge, and usually by the ponds) but not terribly wet when we hit downtown. We got the booth set up in a dry moment, had intermittent showers while unpacking, requiring us to pull a box or two at a time out of the van, but since nobody else was waiting for a space at the curb, we took our time and got everything in mostly dry. Except for us. I sent Denise home with the van to get dry raincoats for the both of us.

Then, around the time they rang the bell to start giving away unclaimed booths, the sun came out! Still breezy to gusty, but nice! Warm! We wound up taking down the side walls of the booth, admittedly in part to keep them from flapping at the pottery. But it was lovely. People came out. We bought a bucket of reusable forks from the stash Market maintains for Food Court and cut the cake.

Gave away a lot of cake, to other vendors, neighbors, customers. Also did pretty good business, mostly in the $25 range. By lunchtime, we were well over $300. It was looking to be a pretty good opening day.

Sometime around 1:30, the rain came back. Flat calm, falling straight down, but we had to put the walls back up again. Then the wind picked up, steady, with intermittent gusts. I was talking with a customer about butter dishes, and she'd just decided to buy one when BAM! a huge wind gust blew in, and just like that, she was surrounded by falling pottery. Most of it came from the sidewall of the tent snapping against the top shelf of the side unit, though three soup bowls blew over from direct wind shear on the other side of the booth.

In about three seconds, we lost all the cookie jars, pitchers and creamers, one of the teapots. A dinner plate and a platter got clipped by falling debris and broken as well. Amazingly, the other teapot, the gravy boats, honey jar and two out of three incense dragons remained on the shelf, though the teapot was canted over the edge. My shell-shocked customer reached over and righted it for me. Then went on to buy the stick butter dish, bless her.

I cleaned up in the rain, gathering up broken pots into soaked paper bags. Zora, from the Market, came over with a broom and dustpan and multiple trash bags--I think we had to triple-bag, because the bits kept poking out. One of our neighbors collected the broken soup bowls bits from the neighboring booth, which I appreciated, but kept saying You should make mosaics!, which I didn't. Like I want a reminder of this experience.

Market staff said we could close up if we wanted to, but it was still pouring down and packing pottery in rain is a terrible experience, so we said we'd stick it out and see if the weather shifted. It did actually dry up around 4 pm, but was showering again at 5 so we still had a wet load-out. 

And to add insult to injury, my hat had blown off in the mud, so I was wearing a scarf like a babushka while collecting shrapnel and soaking my second raincoat. Denise had a hoodie sweatshirt under her hooded raincoat, so loaned me her knitted woolly cap for the rest of the day. 

We sold $346 in pots for the day. We broke slightly more than twice that.

The weird thing is? I'm kind of okay. Oh sure, I'd rather it hadn't happened, but it's not the worst thing. We came into April this year well-stocked, even a little over-stocked, and we were already planning to load and fire a kiln on Sunday. And while these were nice things, none of them were irreplaceable. It sounds terrible when you talk about the retail value; it's a lot more manageable when you break it down into clay, glaze, gas and time. The biggest investment was time, and I have lots of that.

Denise had a nicely philosophical take: If this had happened 25 years ago, when we were just getting started, it would have broken us. Even 15 years ago, it would have been hard. Today? It's just another reason to go back into the studio.

Or, to quote my Israeli potter friend Debby, after we'd found out the airlines had broken the pots we were bringing back from a summer workshop at Tuscarora Pottery School:

They're just things. You'll make more.


I promised cake


So there will be cake! Join us at Saturday Market tomorrow to help us celebrate 25 years of Off Center Ceramics.

We'll be there on the Park Blocks, rain or shine or (ulp!) 50 mph wind gusts.

Turn around, bright eyes

Mumfrey gets color. These are all oxides and stains, so will fire dry and flat. The unglazed areas, i.e. most of him, will be grayish brown.
every now and then I get a little bit... total eclipse of the art
I'm really liking this project.

More pots, more pictures

More pictures from this glazing run. Baking dishes. These are all patterns initially chosen for a special order of toddler bowls, hence the baby birds in each. But if you've learned anything about me, it's that I never let a good pattern go to waste. 
with babies!so many babies

Good news

one, glorious piece
When I opened the kiln this morning, this is what I saw.

Mumfrey, all in one piece.  

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Living color

Sculpture status report: after an afternoon in the sunshine, three days in front of a fan on low, and an overnight sitting on top of a very hot kiln, I'm judging Mumfrey dry enough to risk loading into a slow-firing bisque kiln. We'll see how things turn out around Tuesday morning. Say your prayers, everyone. If this version breaks, so may I.

Meanwhile, I brought brushes and stains home from Club Mud, and spent a quiet Easter afternoon decorating the legs and base section of the piece (easy) and Harriet herself (rather more complicated). Here's our hamster heroine...