Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Future is Clear and Bright........

Oh how a life can change in 10 days since my last post.  Life has been pretty full, in fact there were days I would call it overflowing.  I am learning, Kirby is learning....... yes, I changed his name; either that or buy a zig zag brown shirt, a red baron hat and a friend called Linus.  He responds to Kirby and eats everything off the floor so it seemed to fit.  Just like he fits in this old house, we three call home, and an occasional interloper called, Rufus. 

I am now jumping out of bed at 5:30 a.m. grabbing a leash and waiting for me is this face.  We have our customary 30 second meet and greet, then hit the backyard, tree lawn and navigate up the driveway to the house for breakfast.  Kirby eats while I make coffee.  

Food and treats have taken a couple days to figure out.  The kibble sent home with him was too big.  He had had three teeth extracted from his run in with the Akita and I think the big stuff was just tough to eat.  Luckily they make the same stuff in small bites and I added 1/3 can of something called tender chunks that make me want to blow chunks but it was the ticket, it stayed down and he was happy!  Tail wags all around.  Phew!  Entering the realm of treats, who knew there would be an aisle, yes and aisle of treats........ I stepped away when I read a bag called; Better Than Pig Ears.  Pass on that "treat" and bought 5 others.  I ran home and opened package after package.  4 brands where taken excitedly, rolled around the discerning pallet and spit on the floor; Nope.  The last package which I thought for sure would be a dud; Hollywood Stars, peanut butter treats for dogs, $1.99 for a package (the cheapest treat on the shelf)  4 paws up and a full drool bar of success!  I went back and bought 3 more bags.   

After several days of sleeping, experiencing our first thunderstorm in this summer of drought, hanging out,  just getting to know each other, it hit me I had work to do.  Oh and on that thunderstorm..... he cleared the back room, flipping a table full of potted plants, a couple pedestals with old pots I didn't mind loosing, disconnected the printer when he crawled under the desk; it was nothing short of experiencing a tornado inside your house.  The backfire of a car or a neighborhood kid with firecrackers will send him to the moon.  The back room is now decorated in early American dog.  I went back to the APL and purchased a crate, then off to buy a cushy orthopedic dog bed and more treats.  The ace bandage sits above the crate (works like the thunder vest) and I have a bottle of melatonin at the ready.  Installed the window air conditioner.  Survival gear and if all hope is abandoned, the crate for me!  Noises he likes: motorcycles, vacuums and big trucks....... he obviously has history. 

Ok back to work.  I put the leash on him after three days and walked him out to the studio.  I opened the door, he backed away and dropped to his belly shaking.  OK, not today.  I had asked so much of this dog in three days I was not pushing the studio.  We walked back to the house, I opened the door and for the first time he walked across the threshold without being coaxed and laid on the floor.  It was enough and he knew this was a safe place.  I stroked his head, told him how great he was, he passed out and I went to the studio to work.  We did this for 4 days....... the fourth day, with a lot of coaxing, he put one paw in the studio, then the second paw. I cheered, handed out treats but the back end was just not coming in.  I put a pile of treats of the floor as he gobbled them up I hoisted the back end of this 90 pound tank into the studio.  I took the leash off, he turned around and realized the door had closed.  I waited for the tornado but instead he very carefully paced.  I turned up the radio, thank the heavens above he likes NPR, and set about my studio routine.  He checked out every corner, under every table, he liked the hum of my old Shimpo wheel but never sat down for three hours.  He paced and panted.  I finally thought this was enough and picked up the leash.  When he heard the leash, he danced!  We went for a toot around the yard and back to his safe place and a treat.  Phew...... but he had made it to the studio!  The next day, same routine, however after 30 minutes I looked over my shoulder and saw this: 

I had a bed and blankets on the floor but he decided on dirty concrete..... and how happy am I that I work in porcelain and white stoneware!  Life's little wonders..... or I would have gotten a brown dog :)

He does well with routine, as do I and there has been a cadence to my day again.  

My morning view also includes this guy....... the romance is going very slow but he is coming around. 

Hey, whadda ya do'in?

This is gross...... who eats this stuff? 

We can visit from the safety of your window ....... for now.

Kirby has had his nose swiped once but not been deterred and Rufus really needs a snuggle along with his ears and butt scratched everyday so eventually they will figure it out.  I anticipate once the days grow short and cold and the wood stove is fired up, we will see détente and the cold war will ease. 

I never thought this blind dog would join me on the long walks and hikes I love so much but to my amazement he will.  In 10 days he has made one entire lap around the cemetery, 1 mile.  Wild cheering on my part!  He seems to want to go, his energy level and smell expectations are grand!  We have walked to the corner of the street.  Other dogs freak him out a bit as does the traffic on the road.... me too so we will find quiet places to hike.  Kirby likes to go to the same destinations and each time it is easier for him.  He is not of fan of walking at night and tends to walk to the street lights, so he can see some light.  He bumps into things ..... a lot.  I have learned when he bumps into me I should not jump out of his way but let him because that is how he is building self confidence and getting his bearings.  A short leash is a great tool too.  We both could use a helmet as we wander through life and boy we both have our bumps and bruises from finding out way...... 
Nice to have a buddy to find it together.  He has fit into this old potters life seamlessly.  

Next week we tackle porcelain teapots and car rides ...... 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Two Eyes Blind and the View is Beautiful

As many know I have been hunting around for a studio buddy for a while now.  Butch swears there is a mark on the curb and random creatures just show up looking for the sucker who lives here.   After leaving Lakeland a few months back I looked up a very full moon and announced; Well if you want to send something, now would be a pretty good time.  I waited, another month passed and nothing showed up.  So I thought I would take a teensy little look at a couple of my favorite adoption sites.  Nope, nothing screamed: Hey, I'm looking at you, come get me!  Until two days ago.  
Not even sure why I went to the site I did as I had never been on the APL site before.

  I scrolled down the page and there at the bottom I saw this face.

I carefully read his bio and thought hmmmm, can I handle this but then it said partially blind so I called and talked to one of the kennel workers.  Got all the preliminaries and then she came on the line and said; Someone is looking at him check the website in the morning if his picture is still up he is still available.
I thought well if it's meant to be he will be there.  

I didn't sleep much, got up the next morning and checked the APL site, he was still there.  I went for a 4 mile jog/walk and cleared my head.  I really wanted a fishing buddy, jogging buddy, studio buddy, walking buddy and wondered just how partially blind he was.  I showered, thought some more, jumped in my truck and made the trek to Cleveland.  Through the Republican National Convention insanity, wondering if there were any cops left anywhere else in the US as they were all in Cleveland.  I wound my way through the streets of Cleveland and found Wiley Ave. and the APL.  The place was hop'n, not a parking space left!  I thought for sure this dog would be gone but he wasn't. 

I asked to see him, filled out a bit of paperwork and then I was escorted to see "Snoopy".  He was calm, in a cacophony of barking dogs.  Big, little, medium mutts, round about town mutts, puppies and more than I could count but it was deafening.  All crying out for attention and little love.   I pressed my hand to the kennel and he pressed back with his nose.  Yup, I want to see him.  A very nice kennel worker said: She wants to see the blind the dog to two other woman working at the desk.  I got a quick once over and a smile.  All three said; He is so sweet and gentle.  The kennel worker got him on the leash and we were going to take him outside but he could not see the pipe running across the kennel floor and he sure did not want to leave the kennel.  I immediately became aware of just how blind Snoopy was, like a bat!  We coaxed him out ever so gently and tried to get him through the front door.  So careful with every step, feeling his way out of the kennel and into sunlight.  On shaky legs and squinty eyes he felt the sun on his face and smelled the petunias growing at the entrance of the APL....... he watered one.  He never got comfortable so we decided to take him back in.  As we approached the front door I said;  I'll take him.  He was going to be a project but everything we had asked him to do he did, to the point of shaking so badly he had a hard time standing.  Yes, this is a dog I can work with and who will give his all.  As we approached his kennel, his neighbor Franky, an older beagle mix who looked to be on the lamb a bit too long, barked incessantly.  But I noticed Snoopy calmed as he heard Frankie and as we got closer to the kennel.  He entered with no problem, collapsed on the floor and fell asleep.  Snoop's big day out! 

We went out to the desk to fill out the appropriate paper work and pay the bill.  I got his medical records stating he had been in a horrible dog fight with an Akita, apparently lost the fight and the owner couldn't pay for his needed surgeries so was turned over to the APL.  They patched him up, neutered him, caught him up on all his vaccinations, heart worm and kennel shots and gave him a safe place.  All this for $95.00 plus the cost of a license; $27.50.  They asked for my drivers license and typed up the information.  She looked down and said; So you're over 60?  Yes, but let's not talk about that and you just had a birthday?  Yes, but let's not talk about that either.  Well we have a sponsor who is going to pay for half your adoption fee.  I felt like I won the lottery and almost said; Great,  
I'll take one more!!  But I stopped myself, knowing I had project in front of me. 

All paperwork complete, an announcement was made over the loud speaker; SNOOPY, OUR BLIND DOG IS GOING TO HIS FOREVER HOME AND IF YOU WANT TO SAY GOODBYE COME TO THE FRONT.  A host workers came up to say goodbye and see who is adopting this great dog.  I hoped I passed muster.  We had our picture taken and we walked out the front door.  While the super nice kennel worker (and I do wish I could remember her name!) Held Snoopy while I dashed for my truck.  I arrived curbside and thought I would just pick him up and put him in the backseat.  First time I bent down and realized Snoopy is a tank!  I couldn't lift him!  Heather, another kennel assistant came out, hoisted him in the truck and we were off to a new home and a new adventure. 

The hour drive home was stressful, on Snoopy and me.  I drove with one hand on the wheel, my other hand behind seat on Snoop's head or chest or back.  He was terrified.  I kept telling him what a great dog he was and we were almost there.  And then we finally got there...... longest ride ever.  I opened the back door of the truck and he heard the waterfall in the pond.   Of course I thought, he's a retriever!  
I very gently eased him out of the truck and onto the driveway.  He made a bee line to the pond and the smells, oh the smells.  There was furious tail wagging, and then grass, so much grass.  He pee'd, he pooped and he wagged some more.  He was so happy!  He found the chicken coop but where were the chickens?  He found the groundhog hole but where was the ground hog?  He found the skunks hidey hole but where was the skunk?  I prayed the skunk would stay in his hidey hole and didn't show up anytime soon.  One by one, Rufus appeared and then Ralphie.  They were shocked!  I assured everyone we would all get along and Snoopy just loved cats but they were not buying it and and retreated behind the big maple tree.  Both peering out from the safety of the maple as we made our way back to the house.  
So much coaxing to get him in the house, we made it.  I got him a big bowl of water and he drank like a camel coming off the Sahara.  I took the leash off and he started the methodical survey of every nook and cranny in the back room.  He never knocked anything over, he was ever so careful and so very slowly put one paw out in front, feeling his way around the perimeter of the room.  Once he got his bearings he started to pace.  Rufus glared through the back door.  I went out the door and picked up Rufus, got a nuzzle and then he scramble to get down.  Rufus stood by my feet and watched the big dog in his back room.  Disgusted he walked away.  Oh I am sure he will be back.

For three hours he paced, never sitting, or laying just constantly on the move.  I made coffee and watched.  Shortly around 5 pm he collapsed on the floor.  His head erect, his eyes closed, simply exhausted.  Finally the head went down.  I sat down..... what a day. 

Last night I walked him around the yard.  He walked in the back room, freely and no coaxing this time.  I turned out the lights, kissed him goodnight and promised to see him in the morning.
This morning, at 5:30 am.  I turned the light on to check on him, walked down the two stairs that are his Berlin Wall and he stirred.  I said good morning so quietly.  He got up, never opening his eyes, laid his head on my knees and snuggled in with the biggest smile of contentment a dog could have.  You're home buddy, you're home.  We are gonna be great together, 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Suck it Buttercup........

Good Monday Morning blogosphere!  If you're reading this, high five as we have survived another week of the "corn sweats"!  Not my words, but the new scientific term for the summer heat and humidity bubble hovering over the Midwest, also known as the corn belt.  I can't wait for the rust sweats or the bible sweats but even better the snow sweats!  Several times last week when it clouded over, I thought it was spritzing in this dryer than dry Ohio summer and I got overly excited as I stared skyward looking for that gray rain cloud; DO IT, I YELLED!  And I felt a sprinkle on my arm and noticed droplets on my tee shirt...... Imagine my horror, realizing it was me doing the sprinkling and not from anything on high.  The clouds are just spit'n cotton this summer and the new color pallet is scorched earth brown. Yup, there are wiener dogs exploding in the parking lot.  

I spent the week hiding in my air-conditioned car driving around several states delivering pots and picking up supplies.  Sold the Trimline Canopy too! 

Bought new running shoes. Pretty flashy but I look down and they make me laugh.  

Cleaned out my desk in front of a fan.  Yeah, there's a party.

 Whipped the gallery into shape for the gazillion-th time.

  Fell down the rabbit hole of website hosting, pay as you go cell phone plans, digital photography and technology hell.  I made it to the studio to shove rubbermaid totes in the attic but when I pulled the stairs down to the studio attic the hot air melted my face, my underpants caught on fire and I had a flashback to stacking hay in the high lofts of 4 barns on 90 degree days.  Nope, those rubbermaid can sit there until Fall arrives!  Last week was a Suck It Up Buttercup every damn day....... well except Friday!  

It was Third Friday already!!  It was a great night with Ikuko Miklowski featured as the visiting artist!  Her work is just stunning and I was so happy she said; Yes!  
 Ikuko's work honors the front window of the gallery this month!    

 The rest of the gallery was on point too!

And through all these dramas in the last 7 months there are times when you get to the end of the day and you're still really happy you're a potter.  You didn't grow up to be president, or save a country..... hell there are days I can't even save myself but I get to the end of the week and slide those clay speckled shoes off and see the dust rise from your old jeans as you slide them off to jump in the shower, washing the dust of the day off your very own self and you know it's been a good day.  There are more of those days than the days I walk away and slam the door.  And we are a tribe, this group of potters I have met over the 30 years of slinging clay.  And sometimes we don't get to see each other very often but when we do it's just great and the years and dust fall away.  So last Friday when this box showed up on my front steps and I had a moment of panic not remembering ordering anything but realizing in the past month I probably could have.  I slowly opened the box and started smiling and got a bit choked up when this beautiful Brandon Phillips jar
stared back at me and knew one of the tribe was somewhere in her studio throwing pots and smiling at her diabolical act of kindness.  


Heidi you're just the best!  And by the way, Heidi makes some pretty great pots and you can see her work here:

and in other news of the family stuff:  32 years ago at 5:37 am, as the sun rose above the horizon on Lake Erie, a flower bloomed from my lady garden,  Happy Birthday Rachael!  Figured you just blew your morning coffee out nose! Love you! 

Tomorrows installment on the blog...... more home projects with Mom and why did I get married?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Recap of Shows and catch up

The good, the bad and ugly and sooooo many epiphanies!  
After selling my booth 2 1/2 years ago and swearing I would never ever ever go out on the road again.  I got a real job (and we all know how that turned out), opened a brick and mortar gallery with rent due and Voilà!  I am singing along with Willie Nelson…. On The Road Again.  I have bills to pay;  my ten year old computer is coughing and wheezing, a lot and there is rent and electric and you know the rest!  I juried into the second weekend of Boston Mills Art Show.  

Since leaving my job on April 26th, attending NCECA, going into clay testing frenzy, followed by glaze testing frenzy, hosting two Third Fridays at the gallery, submitting work to two ceramics invitationals; there wasn't very much time left to rebuild a booth.  The kilns were firing non-stop, the weaving material was flying and 4 days before setup I decided it was time to BUILD THAT BOOTH! 

Swearing I would never go through the insanity of booth set up experienced 2 1/2 years ago I opted for easy cheesy.  Just lugging pots around should be an Olympic event; toss in a booth with weights, lights, tables and pedestals….. and can we talk about the wrapping material; newsprint, bubble wrap, boxes, bags!  There's another 25 pounds you can't even put a price tag on.  And my slave labor, children have moved far far away…… sniff! 

I own and love my Trimline.  I have used it 4 times for outdoor shows and never felt safer.  But I have made a decision; no more outdoor shows for this potter!  Pots do not bounce!  A fellow potter lost two beautiful big pots when the tent curtain blew in with a gust of wind and leveled those beautiful pots right off their pedestals. Theory proven, pottery does not bounce.   The weather has changed in the 30 years of doing shows.  Nothing says fun like standing on an asphalt parking lot on a 90F degree day and smelling your underwear go up in flames.  I consumed a gallon of water before set up.  Mantra:  Be the Grape, Don't be the raisin!  Summer shows can be hot, windy, torrential and just plain miserable or they can be like the weekend we were blessed with; low 70's, slight breeze and low humidity. Perfect!  I am not sure I want my bank account to be based on weather patterns, I'm not farming here, I am selling pots. 

Here are photos of my current booth.  Do you see the changes that need to be made?  This is the first attempt at putting a booth together that I can easily handle; set up and take down.  Dolly to my truck, easily and load without passing out.  This is very close but needs major tweaking. 

No more plastic back drop walls!  Pipe and drape, period.  And I will never go back to pro-panels unless I bring my pet gorilla.  My pedestals pack down flat and weigh next to nothing.  They do need a face lift so that will be on the "to-do" list.  

I took three pedestals and left the rest in the gallery.  Next show; leave the shelves home and pack all the pedestals!  It elevates your work and looks professional.  

Here are images of my booth when I was running the show circuit and killing myself.

The old booth looks great but I would need to arrive a day early to a show for set up; adding to show expenses.  Also the lights pictured in the booth above are now serving me well in the gallery.  They are halogen and hot.  I converted to LED spots and floods, expensive but well worth the money and they will last the rest of my show life.  Counting the LED's as a one time investment.  Buy your LED's on line, not at Home Depot.  You will save a bucket of money!
Here is some of the information on lightbulbs I found online
14-watt Par30 bulb that features a cluster of 60 individual, high efficiency, and low power LED’s. An optical lens is then placed over the LED’s to control the beam angle, shape and smoothness of the light. Other LED technology uses fewer, high power LED’s that can cause uneven light and hot spots. Until recently, wattage has been used to determine the amount of light a bulb would produce. With newer technology, lumens is a better measurement to evaluate a bulb’s brightness. In choosing a bulb for lighting your artwork, more lumens are not always better. In a booth set-up, your light source is fairly close to the artwork. Too many lumens can cause your work to look washed out. Too few and you lose the detail. Our bulb delivers around 900 lumens at a 60-degree beam angle. This high tech design delivers a visually pleasing appearance by projecting a glare free, smooth beam pattern, much like traditional lighting.The fixture that we chose is a simple yet stylish lamp holder. It features flexible bellows that fit snugly to any bulb design.
The beauty of LED technology is the energy efficiency of the bulb. Our bulb only uses 14 watts of electricity as compared to a halogen that is usually around 50 watts, which also means more heat. If a venue only allows 300 watts per booth that means that you can have 21 LED’s bulbs in your booth versus only 6-50 watt halogen.
I bought one of each and tried them out in the booth.  I ended up with PAR 30 spots and floods (4 each), 5000K (bright white, not warm white) 15 watts, 750 lumens and daylight balanced.  Amazon is great for finding these lightbulbs.  Also cheap heads for your LED's.  I also like

I came home Sunday night with half the sales made 3 years ago but I won First Place in Mixed Media.   I also came home with great insight into what I need to change in the coming weeks ahead.  Monday, I sat down and made a list;  I would recommend this exercise to anyone interested in making your life a little easier.  Collecting your thoughts and writing them down can be pretty insightful.  I have said these things many times in my head but actually writing them down and seeing your goals is a game changer. 
And keep in mind if it's printed out you can change or amend your goals; be flexible!  Like an EZ up in windstorm! 

Here is my list of Goals and Insights: 7/5/16

1.  Make the booth lighter in weight and appearance.
a.  No Shelves.
b.  New pedestals, better tops and black bases (coroplast)
c.  Better light system
d.  Fabric walls or mesh screen (make sure these fold flat) 
e.  Keep tables and paint the tops white, trim with moulding.
f.  Signage for booth, explore canvas picture, here a good start:  easy canvas prints
g.  Light Dome for ease of set up and take down.  Also frame work for lights.

2.  What to sell and where:
a.  Small pots sell:  $48 - $85.  Display at shows, online gallery and gallery.
b.  Elephants sell: Mugs, Teapots & Pitchers: Display a few at shows, online gallery and gallery.
c.  Bees sell:  but not at shows.  These belong online and in gallery.
d.  Show glazes: celadon, blue celadons, black, cognac, woo yellow, crystal whites.  
e.  Gallery and Online glazes: functional whites, greens and blues. 
f.  Make trademark pieces the focal point of booth, gallery and online. 
     (woven, horsehair, elephants, teapots, potters lunchbox, carved dinner for 2 etc.) 
g.  Use large art pieces to anchor display.  You need these!  At least 3 and maybe 5 if there is room.

3.  3-4 High End shows per year.
a.  Keep functional work online and in the gallery, it pays the overhead. 
b.  Do not take functional work to high end shows, everybody does functional. 
c.  Nobody is weaving on pots so weave away.
d.  High end shows will support potters lunch boxes, teapots and carved dinner for two but they need to         be balanced with art pieces.  Too many and the booth looks like a garage sale, pay attention. 

4.  Needs:
a. Online website for purchase of work;  decided to go with the Square format.
b.  Computer (ordered yesterday)
c.  New phone, I am currently on a 2G phone that is being phased out in August.
d.  the Square chip reader
e.  Weed Burner for studio (bigger pots are needed, little propane tanks are a waste)
f.  Light Dome Canopy 10 x 10

5.  Goals:
a.  Keep the Gallery open
b. Keep looking for a place to teach.
c. Continue to explore new work and techniques.
d. Get that online gallery up and current, immediately!  
e.  Update resume'.
f.  Write a new and current artists statement. (done!) 

So the bottom-line;  I don't mind doing shows.  I don't want to do 15 shows a year, ever!  It's so wonderful seeing people I have not seen in years!  It keeps me mindful to keep my work fresh and not get stuck in rut.  People need to see progress in your work.  I don't want to someone to walk in my booth, pick up a piece and say…… Oh, I bought one of these 20 years ago.  As artists we should be changing and growing.  Don't be afraid to re-invent yourself a bit.  

In the last 2 1/2 years I lost my very strong voice.  I blame social media :)  I love instagram, pinterest, Facebook and now periscope.  People are doing some incredible and cool stuff in the pottery world.  I saw things that blew my mind and thought: Ooooo wonder if I can do that in the my studio?  My booth looked very disjointed.  My booth 3 years ago had a strong voice and was pretty focused.  Don't loose your voice! 

I am so happy to back in the studio these past few weeks I can't express my joy.  It was pedal to the metal for sure.  Now it's time to do the taxes, update the books, tend the garden, pick up clay, pay a few bills, clean the studio to get ready for new round of pots, drop off pots to a few galleries and go for a good kayak paddle…….. I have time.  Well for a day and then canning season begins!! Woo Hoo!!