All you see above (except for the bacon) came from our little "farm" (yard) in the city.
Every winter, what a complainer I can be. Winter is freakin' six - or seven - months long. Zillow! Where else could we live? Icy sidewalks, hate this, on and on. At a certain point, I get tired of hearing me and adjust to reality. But, wow, summer, even hot summers like this month: harvesting vegetables, picking bouquets, smelling the earth, eating breakfast outside, early morning dogs-and-me walks, thunderheads lit gold in the sunset, chanting cicadas. We don't deserve any of this. It's all a gift.
All you see above (except for the bacon) came from our little "farm" (yard) in the city.
This is not a happy post and has very little to do with business, except that everyone in business also has a life, too.
We've been fostering a German Shepherd with mega-esophagus. If you've never heard of that (like us), it's a genetic condition. The diameter of the esophagus is much bigger than a normal one and lacks any tone, so it's like a deflated balloon. Therefore, food doesn't move along as it should and sits in the esophagus until it's full and the dog regurgitates everything she's eaten a few hours later.
At first she threw up once in a while, but when it became every three days or so, my husband took her to the vet, which is where we got the diagnosis. The vet said there's not much to be done, just feed her in an elevated position and wet down the kibble so that it's soft. He basically inferred that it was a death sentence and offered to put her down right there.
Not ready for that - by that time we were in love with Ash. We ordered one of those feeders that lets the dog eat and drink standing up. We fed her a raw diet of soft food to maximize nutrition. The info I could get on the internet said that life expectancy was 7 months. She was a little over a year old at that point. For a while, the new regimen seemed to be working okay; but gradually, she quit doing puppy things: stealing my shoes, rough housing with our blue heeler, but still doing well on walks: excited, keeping up, exploring.
I actually missed her stealing my shoes - it was a worry, but everything else seemed okay. She was a bit thin still, but otherwise had a shiny coat and bright eyes.
At some point there began a rapid deterioration: throwing up every day, rapid weight loss, listless, couldn't keep up with the other dogs on a walk, laid down to rest every chance and had noisy breathing. That's the other thing with mega-esophagus - it can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
I prayed and prayed and researched some more, this time finding more helpful information, that the condition is not a death sentence, that a Bailey chair (basically a doggie highchair) would allow gravity to take the food down to her stomach. While we waited for our son to build the chair, I would sit next to her and make her sit upright while I held the bowl for her to eat, then made her sit upright for 20-30 minutes after she finished. She seemed to feel, as my husband said, If this is your idea of bonding, it sucks.
Unfortunately, at that point, even that didn't work. I'd get up in the middle of the night when she began to regurgitate foul smelling vomit and hold her up some more, hoping that gravity would send it the other direction instead.
How hard it was to watch her waste away. There'd be a day when what I was doing seemed to be working. She revived and was her old self, playing and running around; but then hope would be dashed. A night of continual vomiting followed by a resumption of listlessness. Three days ago she stopped wanting to eat, next she didn't even want water, and yesterday morning she died sometime between 5:15 and 7.
She was gentle, obedient and learned so quickly it hardly seemed like training. How could she have this fatal flaw? I miss her. It's hard to find the right adverb to say how much.
I thought by now I would not be making this mistake again. My platters have two loops and a wire on the back for hanging, which means that if the graphic on it is directional, I have to make sure the loops are on the top when I'm laying out the design so it hangs right side up.
But I did a sunflower platter recently upside down. Couldn't believe it. You know, when you know better, you've already made that mistake a few times? (sigh) One of those days, I guess.
It's still usable, of course, and can be displayed with a holder on the wall, but still!
I did two more to replace this one, and guess what? I remembered to check and do them right side up.
The before and after of two new 8"x8" tiles done with the majolica process (ceramic stains applied to an unfired white glaze). You can see how the color deepens after the glaze firing. And on the right, a rather unglamorous view of the back of the tiles. Mountain Meadow or Forest Floor, $150.
It would have been FANTASTIC if this one had turned out. It's a 12 x 12 tile and would have had a nest with eggs in the center. But it sagged, stuck to the kiln shelf and cracked. Stuff like this used to make me want to quit - all that work! - but now I take it (more) in stride. Disappointed, yes, but it's part of the majolica process.
Still, I'm not throwing it away. It's going on our fence. I got that idea from our trip to Deruta, Italy - broken shards plastered into the walls of houses.
These are small jars I intended to have ready for Christmas sales but got stuck on how to decorate them. Each one is 5.5" high, about 4" in diameter and holds approximately 12 ounces. The two in the far left picture have a little more inside volume and hold about 16 ounces. $59.
These come in a set of 4: apple, lemon, cherry and plum. The last photo shows the bottom of the plate. Orchard Fruit Dessert Plates, 6.25" in diameter, $179 for the set. Amazingly, out of the 15 plates I made, only one had a flaw.
I have a friend who orders for her store in Kennebunkport, ME, who loves this pattern. It's one of my very first patterns from years ago - radish - but because she loves it, I keep it alive, occasionally using it for various pieces for my own inventory. This casserole or serving dish is 18" in length (counting the handles), 8" wide, and 3" high. $125.
The holiday period is one of the busy times of the year for a craft artist. I didn't do the usual traveling this year but did have four local shows, for which I was concentrating on making a good selection of "gifty" items as well as serving dishes that might be used at a get-together, like chip & dips. In addition, for a month or so, orders, mostly from my page on artfulhome.com, were coming in daily. Nice, also a little time-consuming, since those orders are shipped out by me from my studio. I like all parts of the craft business, so saying the holidays were a blur is not a complaint, just saying energy and attention are needfully focused.
Ware shelves with work ready to be fired.
But you know how when you're running errands and people ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?," often my first thought was, "Oh, right, Christmas is coming up." It's a mellow affair for us nowadays, so thankfully there's not the added stress of decorations and shopping. No more being over-extended physically & coming down with some biological warfare bug the day after Christmas.
Post-holidays, if I'm not traveling to do shows in warmer parts of the country, is great for working on new ideas, catching up on cleaning chores, and re-organizing. This year, I've been de-cluttering by working on pieces that were set aside during the year for one reason or another. I'd made a series of small jars but was stuck on how to decorate them, even though Plan A was to have them for the holiday shows. There were a half dozen oval dishes with lids that didn't fit, so the lids needed new bottoms and the bottoms need new lids. Finally, some pieces were set aside because I was unsure they would turn out well and didn't want to spend time decorating them when it was busy. (I often use those for experiments, the working out of new ideas.)
Also, my website is just updated with new work. To see it, go to ohappyclay.com, click on Current Work at the top, then on New Work in the left sidebar.
What mystifies me is how these guys stay in business.
We signed up for solar panels for our house. At first, it didn't look like it was going to happen. There wasn't a suitable portion of the roof that was strong enough to hold the weight; but then the engineers at the solar company worked out a way to re-inforce the roof over the studio and were able to get a permit for the project from the city.
The solar company sub-contracted the construction to another guy with a crew who came by, looked at the job, and told me to have everything packed up so they could start July 1st.
I have this odd sixth sense about my time in that I can tell when a job that seems to be urgent does not need to be done. I wouldn't claim it's infallible, just that so far the feeling has been correct every time. As I'm packing the studio up that Sunday, I kept feeling like I didn't need to do it because they weren't going to be there the next day. Sure enough....
Not just the next day. These guys didn't show up for two weeks! and I had four shows coming up starting in August. So everyday I pulled out a temporary table and boxes with supplies so I could get a little bit of work done.
They rolled in at 1pm on a Friday in the middle of July and dropped off materials - then left for the day. That was concerning, but no worries, the sub-contractor assured me. They'd work through the weekend.
Except they didn't show up the next day. At 1pm, he calls to let me know his crew's van broke down and they wouldn't make it there that weekend. But no worries, they'd be there Monday and the job would only take 2 or 3 days.
They actually were there on Monday - astonishing - at 10am. And that was the schedule. Never there before 10, always a lunch break from noon to 1, then take off for the day at 3. The 2 or 3 day promise? Total fabrication. They were there two weeks. See the photo at the top? That was at the end of the two weeks, there was two hours worth of work left to do, and they decide to take a long weekend.
Don called to complain, so the crew did come in on Sunday afternoon and did the two hours of work. Yay, except the ceiling still needed to be painted. Knowing that this project was grievously interfering with work, of course the sub-contractor promised to be there the next day to finish up.
Of course. Of course, we began to see, he would say whatever we wanted to hear. When he didn't show up, I decided to clean the studio and move everything back in. That was the other thing. Although they covered everything with plastic before tearing down the drywall, when it fell down an hour into the job, they never put it back up. Anything left in there had to be taken apart and cleaned before the floor could be vacuumed.
Was it a week later that he finally showed up to paint? I can't remember for sure; but I was unapologetic about having moved everything back in and told him it all needed to be covered well before spraying the ceiling.
Finally all done, except for the big plastic bag of trash out front on the street. When they first started dumping all the drywall and detritus on the back patio, Don approached them and said, You are going to haul this away, right? He was met with a blank stare and realized it was news to them that that was part of their responsibility. A few days later, they come with a trash company big haul-away bag and a young guy to haul the pile out to the street.
We should have kept a phone log as to how many times Don called the sub-contractor about that bag. Each time, Oh, the trash company will be there tomorrow or the next day. Finally Don called the solar company again and again - It's still sitting in front of our house! It did finally get picked up, amazing.
This year I was uncertain about whether to take on the challenge beginning April 2. The goal I set: a painting a day. It's appealing to do it along with others around the world and to have a little bit of pressure as a spur for those days when I needed it to stay on track. But the ambivalence arose from wishing the challenge came at a time of year that worked better for me, like late December through March. I decided to go ahead with it, but by the end of week 2, I had done 8 tile paintings, no big deal, I thought, I'll catch up; but instead I pretty much lurched to a halt. Mostly because I don't have a clear vision of what I want to paint, so that hinders enthusiasm.
I tried again Colorado mountain scenes and, new, a couple of dog paintings on the tiles I'd made earlier in the year. Both are difficult for me to satisfactorily render using the majolica process. At this point, it would be great to finish 100 paintings at whatever pace. I am focused now more on getting out two gallery orders by the end of the month. They are both small orders, but I want them to be perfect.
Here are the results, most fired, three not yet fired. The unfired ones have a pastel, matte look; fired: shiny, deeper color. In the order of Day 1 - Day 8:
Day 1: O'Fallon Denver Mountain Park, Bear Creek
Days 2 & 3: Wilderness outside Crested Butte, CO
Day 4: Forest Path, Tennessee
Day 5: Maroon Bells Creek near Aspen (I had forgotten about hiking up there until going through a box of old photos.)
Days 6 & 7: Sleeping Dogs (one from an email pic, the 2nd our Border Collie)
Day 8: Poppies. This one I took from a painting I saw and so consider it as purely an experiment, not what I would claim as "my" work, even though I do poppies on a lot of my work. I liked the way the blues and greens were combined in the background to form a contrast of shade and sun.
They are each either 6 x 6 x 2 or 8 x 8 x 2, and I started with using the tiles that I made in the beginning before perfecting the technique. May not upload them to my site as I view them as experimental.
Settling back into routine after the Florida shows, and with three months of uninterrupted studio time ahead, I opened up the sketchbook to begin working on ideas collected over the past year and beyond. This is an experimental time where I don't worry about whether a piece turns out great but just see if it's feasibly translated from sketch to pot and what unanticipated difficulties with the idea there might be. Or, if I do or don't still like the idea once it's made. Below are photos of some of the work in progress. The difference in color is because the trays have gone through the first firing (bisque), but the pots are still "green." (The spoons are fired, but a lighter shade of red because they must've been in a part of the kiln that was a little cooler.)
Back in the 70s, when the computer age was still new to us as the general public, I read a book called PsychoCybernetics, which looked at the similarities between the human brain and how a computer works. It was about setting goals, staying focused on the desired end, and letting go so our computer brain/sub-conscious would figure out the steps in between, checking in with ourselves occasionally to make sure we're still on course, correcting if need be.
Although I am solidly committed to taking orders from people for work I used to make, or for work I've never made (an idea they have), I have found it can throw me off course. One recent example (not an order): the experiment with travel mugs. The reason: you can't make just one. It became more time-consuming and more of a focus than I anticipated. Then, with shows coming up, the goal of working on new ideas went on the back burner as the time before we had to leave got shorter.
Preparing for the show, I found myself focusing on "what sells." Funny, when I do that, almost nothing I worked so hard to get ready sells. Huh.
So now I'm correcting course, except that I have a gallery order and two small orders to fill first. Just can't forget the ultimate goal... not, "what sells," but "what would be a joy to use."
I don't have new work to share yet, but I've been cleaning the studio/office and going through old files and photos. It's enlightening, meaning I forget about work or ideas I'd tried in the past. Here's a couple.
Ugh! That's my first reaction.
It's not how I expected to feel about it. When we were more tied down, I dreamed of the day we/I could travel. My first faraway art/craft shows traveling alone (Don still had a regular job) were exciting and a little scary. AAA helped to take away some of the scariness, plus always having a dependable vehicle, plus prayer. I looked forward to hiking or exploring new areas, like the Appalachians or historic neighborhoods.
The element of loneliness was there, though, and after travel became more old hat, it became more of a factor. I'd plan for it: outdoor activities, catching up on good books, restaurants, just time alone to feed the introvert side.
However, at some point it became ugh! Here are some factors:
* This is Numero Uno: the dogs looked so sad when I pulled out the suitcases. I felt sad about leaving them, too!
* Travel is hard on the human body. One summer I traveled so much it engendered problems with my IT band that required physical therapy.
* No matter how good the reputation of the show, it could turn out to be an off year for sales, the weather could totally not co-operate, the show promoter could stick me in a bad spot, or it just wasn't my market. (Think gambling)
* The flow of work in the studio is disrupted.
* I do fairly well maintaining a good diet, but it still suffers and so does my exercise routine.
* If sales are disappointing, I can feel frustrated with the waste of time and money (gambling).
* The garden suffers, even when someone is in charge of watering it.
* The house suffers, at least the cleaning part.
* It takes a day or longer to recover - especially if we were at low altitude with humidity for 2+ weeks - to get used to how high and dry Colorado is.
* After all this, I came to the conclusion that I am a homebody. Don is, too. The dogs are, too.
I still apply to shows that require travel, but only if they're topnotch. This year, for the first time in 20 years, we are planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest that has no shows involved. I wonder what that will be like.