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Harriet goes forth

You remember Harriet? Hamster heroine, riding into adventure on her bold battle quail, Mumfrey? The sculpture I exploded, rebuilt, and completed just in time for Ceramic Showcase?

Here she is on her way to her new home. That's Dan Chen, by the way. Multi-talented painter, sculptor, pastel and printmaker. He's kinda famous around here, and I've admired his work for years.

In fact, when we bought our house back in 2000, one of the first things we got for ourselves, a housewarming present if you will, was an enormous pastel of a ringneck pheasant, to hang above the fireplace. It's still there, one of our prize possessions.

So selling him one of my pieces feels a little like selling a rough sketch to, oh, Picasso.

But I guess it's a fair trade. I got the pheasant; he gets the quail.


So my firing got off to a great start this morning: orange heat in the kiln when I arrived at 6 am, the first cone, 08 (like negative 8) down on time by 7:05. I put the kiln into body reduction for half an hour, then adjust the damper and burners for the duration of the firing, checking the cones and pyrometer every half hour to see how things are progressing.

The pyrometer is all over the map, so I pull out the thermocouple and swap in the other one from the small gas kiln, assuming (correctly, once it cools) that age and corrosion have worn this one away. But the cones haven't begun dropping at the bottom peep hole.

At 9 am, cone 04 goes down on the top of the kiln. Still no movement on the bottom. By 10 am, cone 1 is showing signs of softness, I've fiddled with the damper twice, the burners three times, and if I'm not at my wit's end, I can see it from there. My next two shows, not to mention a bunch of special orders, are riding on the success of this firing.

I was in the bathroom when inspiration hit. I finished and flushed and scrambled for the kevlar gloves, pulled out the peep plug, and sure enough: I'd put the cone pack in backwards.

Cone packs, as we use them, contain eight cones, set in two rows of four. I use cones 08, 04, 1 and 4 in front, 8, 9, 10 and 11 in back. If I put the pack in back-to-front, that meant I was looking at the wrong cones. And in fact, cones 08 through 1 were all down back behind the front rank; the only cone standing was cone 4.

Which meant my firing was perfectly on track, and I stop could stressing and go back to mixing glazes, making tests and mopping the kiln room floor...

I've done it!

I've figured out a way to paint large-billed seabirds on pottery, using only the power of my mind!


Views from the back room

Sunday was a little slower than Saturday; I managed to glaze serving bowls, colanders and cat foods, but not much else. Did get some nice patterns, for example, these servers.

Monday was much more ambitious. To get back on track to load Thursday, I glazed 65 mugs, tumblers and glasses, and another 16 dinner plates. This was just the first twenty.

Working hooky

I wasn't at Saturday Market yesterday. And it's bugging me.

I've never been one to blow off responsibility. I answer phone messages, I hit deadlines, I never once cut class in either college or graduate school. If I'm in town, and it's not November (our month off), I'm at Saturday Market.

Except I'm kinda overbooked, right now. As I mentioned last post, I'm preparing for a couple of shows, doing publicity materials for a couple more. I'm locked into a firing schedule at my pottery co-op, and really needed Saturday to glaze pots.

But we had a plan... We'd set-up Market as usual Saturday morning, then Denise would mind the booth, and I'd bus over to Club Mud to spend some time glazing. In the afternoon, I'd bus back, we'd take down at 5 and go home together.

And then, on Friday night at supper, I asked Denise, So, we're going to do Market tomorrow?

With the most forlorn expression you've ever seen, she said Do we gotta?

Reader, I just couldn't.

And you know what? It was a really good choice.

I left home a little after 7 am, as usual, arrived at the studio fresh and ready to paint at 7:30. I worked more-or-less straight through 'til 5:30. Came home actually not too tired, had supper and a quiet evening.

As opposed to going to Market first, hauling boxes and booth parts and setting everything up, then getting to the studio at 9:30 already sorta tired. Working 'til 4, catching the bus again, and putting everything back in the van when Market closed at 5. Stumble in the door at quarter past 6, have supper and fall into bed.

So, an extra three-and-a-half hours work time and energy to use it well. I got so many pots glazed. And meanwhile, Denise pulled paper in the back yard.

ETA: I talked to some of the potters who were at Market Saturday, and I guess we didn't miss anything special. 11 am football game makes for long, slow afternoons.

Now where was I?

Not here blogging, obviously.

After Anacortes, things got busy. I had another show in two weeks, a smaller affair in Silverton, but also had pottery to make (shows coming up include Corvallis Fall Festival and Clay Fest) and graphic art work to do (ads for myself and Denise for the Holiday Market guidebook, plus posters and postcards for both Clay Fest and Clayfolk). My things-to-do lists have been brutal.

At the moment, I'm caught up, run out of clay and projects, so I figured I should at least check in. In exact, simultaneous order:

1. Silverton Fine Arts Festival. Silverton is one of my smaller shows, about on par with Roseburg. I started going there back when I couldn't get into the nearby--much larger--Salem Arts Festival for love nor money. I've kept going there because a) its a pleasant location, a wooded small-town park, with plenty of room between and behind booths for display and restock, b) it's close enough that we can commute (Not having to pay a motel room or a cat sitter are a big incentive to me.), and, c) they treat the vendors really well. Friday night after load-in, they have a vendor/volunteer appreciation dinner. Saturday and Sunday, the vendor service center had doughnuts, scones, muffins, fresh fruit and orange juice. (Oh, and, what's that smelly black drink? Coffee.) At 11:30 they close for an hour to put out bread, condiments, three kinds of lunch meat, four kinds of cheese, sliced tomatoes and lettuce and cukes and pickles, pasta and potato salads. And six different kinds of cookies. We usually pack sandwiches, cookies, and fruit for lunch, graze the food vendors for supper, but at Silverton, we brought a little fruit--some from the nearby Farmer's Market--and relied on the show for the rest.

2. Making pottery. After Silverton, I was out of three patterns of coffee mug, five patterns of soup bowls, down to only two elephant and stegosaurus banks, and two covered casseroles (one large, one small). I really desperately needed to make pots, but had maybe 12 boxes of clay left, so I planned my throwing list carefully. Three (25 lb.) bags for soup bowls, one for toddlers. At least two each for pie plates and dessert plates, only one for dinner. Serving bowls, colanders, casseroles, canisters. Stick butter dishes. Elephant and Stego banks, tall mugs, tumblers, cream pitchers. At the end of two busy weeks throwing, I checked off everything on my throwing list, with less than half a bag to spare. I'm expecting delivery of another ton of clay sometime tomorrow, to get me through the holidays.

3. Graphics. Back before I became the famous and successful potter I am today (snort), I was a commercial artist. First at my alma mater, then at a 4-color printer in La Crosse. I quit to attend grad school in Eugene, but kept my hand in; my first Graduate Teaching Fellowship (GTF) was writing and producing the Art Department magazine, Artifact. Previous GTFs had typed out copy on an electric typewriter, but the department head was excited about the possibilities with the new desktop publishing software. Which I how I became a beta-tester for PageMaker 1.5. Over the years, I've kept my hand in, doing postcards for Denise and myself, as well as publicity for a bunch of clay shows. Currently, I'm poster or graphics chair for Ceramic Showcase, Clay Fest and Clayfolk. The latter two of which are in October and November, respectively, so this is a busy time at my desktop.


What a wonderful bird the frog are
When he stand he sit almost;
When he hop he fly almost.

He ain't got no sense hardly;
He ain't got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain't got almost.

They're everywhere!

Bunnies, multiplying on the shelf this morning at Saturday Market.

Divided we plate

Realized this morning I hadn't posted the finished pictures of the divided grandkids' plates. Here they are. Yes, that's the same pony in two different poses. And I really need to do more with that chicken...

Home-court advantage

One question I got a lot last weekend at the Anacortes Arts Festival was Are you going to be in Coupeville next weekend?

Coupeville is on Whidbey Island, maybe an hour's drive over the bridge and down island; they hold their Arts Festival the week after Anacortes, and attract many of the same vendors.

A lot of artists on the circuit go from fair to fair. They load up their van at the start of the season, and don't come home until the end. Me, I can't do that.

To begin with, the cats would never forgive us; five days away for Anacortes is pushing it. If we stayed away for weeks at a time, you'd never find our bodies.

More importantly, I don't have the stock for it. I have a short-bed Chevy Astro, and packed to the ceiling with pottery boxes, I can just about manage one successful fair. To do another the next week, I'd have to drive home, restock, and drive back (essentially what I do in June between Edmonds and Roseburg, though they're in different directions). With an eight-hour-plus drive each way--plus a ferry ride--it just isn't worth it. (We actually did Coupeville for a few years when I couldn't jury into Anacortes. It's a nice, small festival, but never sold well for us, though we had friends to stay with so it mostly penciled out.)

But the biggest reason I don't go from show to show: I don't have to. Unlike most of the other folks on the circuit, I have a regular, reliable venue right here at home: the Eugene Saturday Market.

We've been doing the Market, rain or shine, for over 25 years. Over time, it's developed into a steady, reliable income stream, some weeks just grocery money, other weeks rather more. We can't survive solely on its income--hence the road shows--but with Market as a base, we can limit the times we go on the road to a manageable number, usually about six or seven. And because Saturday Market opens in April, and Holiday Market runs right up to Christmas Eve, we don't have to pack our entire income-earning for the year into a few short summer months (or drive to Arizona in the dead of winter to take advantage of off-season show opportunities).

An unexpected benefit? We stay in practice. We get a lot of comments from our neighbors at shows about how organized we are, how efficiently we set up and take down, even, occasionally, how well-designed our booth layout is (I know, I'm surprised too.). All skills we hone every week at Market. We practice our organizational systems--I'm working at improving inventory management--our selling skills, our product selection. And get to sleep in our own beds, not drive more than 20 minutes each way, and get paid while we do it.

And the best part? Because we set up on a square of sidewalk, I don't have to shim and level the shelves. I swear that's the hardest part of every road show set-up.