Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dangers in the studio.........ALERT!

The weather has turned cold and blustery again here in Paine Falls.
Always good, as that is prime studio time.
Too much time in the studio and things happen.
Things that you are so grateful you are alone and the dog can't talk......... to anyone!
Over the years I have had a mute bunny, several dogs....... and squirrels, laughing in the window.

After yesterdays escapade of almost hanging myself with my own ear buds off the iPod, it brought back so many memories of things I have done in the silence of my studio.

Early yesterday morning I loaded the iPod and plugged myself in, preparing to listen to podcasts on gardening & Car Talk all day.

iPod in the back pocket, wire under my shirt, threaded up my back, across my neck and into my ears.  Clay was wedged out, warm water in the crockpot for throwing and away we go.

It was a day of interruptions, phone call after phone call after phone call.  Abby would run to the studio with the phone wave her arms and yell;  MOM, MOM, MOM!  UNPLUG!
Mother's revenge is sweet after many years of yelling; ABBY, ABBY, UNPLUG, DINNER!  Finally in a brilliant move I took out one ear bud, letting it dangle & leaving one ear bud in.  Slapping down a 12 pound ball of clay I punched the pedal to the medal, wedged my elbow into my hip to center the spinning ball of clay and.............  watched my dangling ear bud moosh into the wet spinning clay.  My brain went to slo-mo because immediately I thought uh-oh, this could be bad.  And it was!  By the time my foot slammed the pedal to stop I had iPod wire burns down my neck and an iPod wedgie not even Steve Jobs would know how to fix!

I always turn around to see if anybody saw what just happened and there he is one eye open on his doggie pillow and I think.........

Thank God the dog can't talk!

At a later blog I am sure I will have other recollections of dangers in the studio Mona R. does not cover in Clay Times.......
Like lighting yourself on fire with a heat gun while fast drying pots.........

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Parent rant for the week.........

Opening my email yesterday I noticed a story on Yahoo about the detriment of spanking children.
My first response.......

I read the article wondering if someone would give me permission to hit a 20 year old?
But alas it was for the three year old fidgets of the world.  As a mother of two I remember
the fidget years and the discussion with their Dad and my husband that we would never hit our kids.
We made that decision when they were cute little lima beans wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The first year was nuts.  They couldn't talk and tell you what they wanted or walk to the fridge and get the milk.  Butch came home on several evening to his child crying, his wife crying and the dog hiding under the bed.  We would load them in the car every night, the dog hanging his head out the window and us with our coffee cups finally able to hold a conversation and drive.  We burned out two cars.
Arriving home and attempting to extract them from the jaws of life car seat, one little eye would pop open and we'd be on the road again, the dog couldn't be happier.
One late night I coasted through a stop sign and was promptly stopped by the local donut eater.  Where ya going, ma'am?  and why are you in your jammies?  I handed over my drivers license and pointed to the back seat where the little nugget was just waking.... then wailing.  Then the new Mom hormone kicked in and my jammies were soaked from the neck down......  Oh I forgot to tell you I'm also a milk factory.  I am not Mom I am Moo-m  He hand back the license and said, sorry.   I thought is that all I need to do to get out of ticket?  Every night on my rounds I waved to the donut eater and he waved through the stop sign........

They eventually start walking and talking.  They do stuff that will drive you to the brink of insanity but God willing there is a bathroom with a door in your house.  After 4 hours of one kid following me around the house blowing on her sisters recorder I thought I would die.  Telling her Mommy just had to use the potty I locked myself in.  Ahhhhh peace......  I looked down and sliding under the door, the end of the recorder and she blew harder.  I snapped.  Opening the door I looked at that cherubic face, asked for the recorder, which she handed me and threw it out the back door as far as I could, the dog knocker her down and brought it back.  She looked up with tears in her eyes and said Mommy, how come?
I suck, the dog rules and we made cookies and ate them in the bath tub laughing.

It seemed to be filled with decisions like;  should I let her color on the wall
because I can see her or put her in time out on the step, where I can't see her.  The house became incredibly quiet because she was taping the dogs eyes shut.
I clearly remember saying........ Just sit there and think about
what you did...... and she would say;  Rachael did it, I swear!  Rachael, was 6 years old and was
spelling her name pretty well by the time she was 9 years old.  I saved the dogs eye sight and let her color on the wall.

I guess what I am trying to say is....... you must be more creative than the 3 year old, or the 20 year old.
Thinking over the parent trials and tribulations it was clear if you hit anybody and then told them
you loved them, it was a scrambled message.

I clearly remember jumping around my Mom's kitchen, singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall and jumping into the dogs water dish.  Mom, stirring something hot and bubbly on the stove, never blinked;  whipped the wooden spoon out of the pot and whacked me faster then a woodpecker on ant nest.  I never knew what hit me.  Then I heard....... and here's one more for being stupid followed by a cackle.  The wounded animal sound coming from the kitchen was intense.  She then said; I've had a long day at work and I am really tired, go outside and yodel.  Which I did, but leaning out her window, german neighbor lady Ethel told me to shut up or she would give me something to yodel about.

Another incident with my Dad.  Sitting at the dinner table it was announced, while fooling around my brother and I broke a lamp.  I was pretty sure we were going to die and this was our last supper.  Sure enough after dinner we were ordered to stand still and he would get the .......... BELT.
I think I was 12.
When he turned to whack my brother I bolted for the door.  He chased me down declaring he loved me
and this would teach me something.  Well duh...... it taught me to run faster!   By 12 years old I was starting to think a helmet and pads might be a good idea.

Dad hit me because he loved me, Mom hit me because she was frustrated and was out of gas at the end of the day.  Neighbor Ethel had permission to hit me any time she thought we needed it.  I clearly remember sitting in my 2nd grade parent teacher conference and my Dad saying;  If she gets out of line just whack her.  Daaaaaad....... it's public school and Ms Neese is really nice.  After comparing notes with my friends at St. Francis DeSales  I thanked God I did not have a nun with hidden pockets for rulers.

Today we should all be a little smarter, I hope.  It just seems common sense, not to hit a little kid or a big kid.  I can't even believe we need a study on this.  It's my job as a parent to guide, nudge and be the best darn cheerleader that little/big person will ever have.  Domination doesn't seem to come under good parenting skills.
If you have kids that are making their way in the world and the light bulb goes off from time you have done well and it will get better, much better.   Yup, they are gonna do stuff that is going to make you question if you birthed this little nugget but blow the dust off those pom pom's and get ready to cheer for the little stuff and the big stuff.  And now I am still MOM which upside down is WOW........ wouldn't change it for the world.......

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Gallery Rant for the week!

Opening my email last night after a long day in the studio and thought, this is what a gallery should not be.
You have mail! rang out my computer;  
Geode Gallery announcing the opening dates for the Dinnerware Show should be changed to May 12th.  Huh?  May 12th is a Wednesday.   I questioned May 12th and have heard nothing back.  
Diving into cyberspace to google the Tremont Art Walk.... May 14th.  Did Geode email back,  Nope.
This is a HUGE problem as there are artists scheduled from out of town, other venues already scheduled, dinners planned and letters sent declaring the opening as May 7th.  Can we spell retraction?  How does one reel in viral invitations?

While chewing and stewing on what a gallery is and is not I thought I would write down a few thoughts on this...........

Dear Gallery Owner, Director, Overseeer,

The holy trinity of the art world;
Customer, Gallery, Artist……….  

I am writing to you as you do not hear me when we verbally communicate and I detest confrontation.  I know what is possible and what is impossible in my studio and when I tell you what I currently have available in my studio and you respond;
"I don't want those pots".  The conversation should end there.   And may I interject; I love that response as it shows me, you know your market and you are not hurting my feelings, one iota.
Instead you might feel it your duty to whip me into a frenzy to tell me the Christmas Show is coming and then the Valentine Show and, and, and ..........  “Sandy, why can’t you just make pots with little doo-flizzies on them or a frog or blue flower or better yet, pots like Marvella Smarty Pants?” 

My idea of working and producing a body of work is;  Acting........ NOT Re-acting to your ideas or shows.   I would rather have your honest re-action from my action...... can you follow me here?  Please hear me, I am not going there, take yourself but please leave me at loading dock.  If I have enough heads up time I will work with you; two weeks is not enough time to produce a show.  Reaction from me?  Please, my kid just got a new tattoo & dyed her blonde hair black, pierced her bottom lip and declared she wants to teach kindergarden, not even that, got much of a reaction.
I'm over 50 and my husband made coffee before I got out of bed this morning, now there is a reaction!  

The facts as I see them:

If you are consignment;

I bring you work, my best work (not seconds). 
(or come to the studio & pick it up. )

You…….. make sure the door is open on time, turn on the lights, paste a smile on your face and sell pots.  At the end of the month or in a timely fashion you send me a check, that will not bounce and a scrap of paper with the inventory numbers or name of what sold so I can mark it off my master sheet. 
You keep your customers informed of what is coming and going in your gallery; openings, new work, new artists….. anything to get people through the door.  Let your customers know you have a valued relationship with said artist;  they are one lucky patron  purchasing said bauble from your mighty fine gallery.
How lucky they are to be purchasing a valued piece of art.  Maybe even a little artist bio card tucked into the bag with your gallery information. 
Perhaps toss in the word; “Sustainable”.  Buy local art from local gallery to local clientele.  (there’s that holy trinity again)

If you are hosting an exhibition;

Pitch the idea to the artists.  Brainstorm over the feedback then take some time to write up the title, dates, commission fees and loose ends.  Then and only then send it out to your artists.  Once you get a roster of players via the jury process or invitation start putting press releases together. 

What is enough time?  For a local venue in the early part of the year, 2-3 months is just enough time for me to get all my pistons firing and produce enough work for an exciting show.

All in all exhibition shows are consignment.   The gallery gets a pretty good inventory of art for the time determined by the artist and the gallery.  End of show I pick up my unsold work and a check, you will hopefully have another new featured artist rolling in behind.  Keeps things fresh and something for the public to come back and see. 

To sum it up if the artist is going to pay the gallery 40-50% commission rates the gallery needs to:
1.    Keep the gallery open at posted times. 
2.  Keep the gallery clean.  If I can write my name in the $2500 glass
      bowl........ I'm not gonna write my name but some smart ass remark, because I'm an ar-teest. 
3.    Try to be happy or at least greet a customer when they walk through the front door.  I'm not going to buy a $2500 bowl from some who looks like they just rolled out of bed and are still in their jammies and forgot to comb their hair.  If your hanging a show, that's different! 
4.     If they ask questions, answer in an intelligent, educated way. 
5.     Pay your artists in a timely fashion with valid checks.
6.     Double check your calendar before setting anything in stone.
7.     If you want me to bring food, fixtures and help with the show amend my commission fee.
8.     Educate your patrons about your artists!  We need them and we need you!
9.   Kilns fail, chemicals can change, glazes can fail, mines shut down, we  make stuff with materials that come out of the ground and change periodically.  Bear with us as sometimes it's challenging for us too.  
10.     Keep communication lines open.  If you screwed something up I would appreciate a phone call as I don’t always read my email hourly.
11.   Advertise and use the internet!  Facebook, twitter, webpages, blogs, linked.  Have you seen or  They are your new competition.  Cyber galleries are here and big!
12.  Please love what you do and the artists you represent.  If it’s a drag to open the door, close it and go do something you love.

Peace Out
Sandy Miller

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thoughts on dinnerware........

For the last two months I submerged myself into the world of dinnerware.  Stuff to eat food off of.
I pitched a show to a local gallery and invited many of my favorite potters to join me.  As the date,
May 1st approaches fast and furiously I started to wonder how to make the connection between chefs and ceramic artists.  Our local home town guys have now hit the stratosphere of culinary stars.  
In the wee hours of the morning while spinning pots I had the brainstorm to write them a letter.  
These brain strikes that arrive at 2 a.m. should be slept on, mulled over and percolated before hitting the send button.  But alas I did not do that I hit send........ 

Michael Symon's assistant responded and I now owe her a mug and a beer!  Thank you Rebecca! 

Here it is..........

Dear Michael Ruhlman & Michael Symon,

Last month I attended an opening at Geode Gallery in Tremont.  Who should walk through the door but Michael Symon.  I was so elated that this guy walked across Tremont and bought several large framed art pieces to hang in his restaurant.  BRAVO!  I have eaten at Lola's on two occasions and enjoyed the food and atmosphere but I was not aware of Michael Symons awareness of " Sustainability" (2010 buzz word) on all levels; food, art & community.  Artists create art much like chefs create food, please come out to a studio and watch the process.  Tremont, Ohio embraces both.

You have come to my attention through your food, books, travels & the food channel; 
giving Anthony Boudain a tour on a cold winter day with Harvey Pekar......... BRAVO!
I have enjoyed reading your blogs from time to time and the basics covered in your books.
Best of all you are hometown guys!  

Working in Cleveland as a ceramic artist for the last 25 years and growing up in a very Hungarian/English family in Parma; is it any wonder my two
loves of food and craft should merge?   

Cleveland is a food, drink and a rock & roll kind of town.  We are the midwest.  We are the knuckle dragging, beer drinking,
dawg pound, heart of America!  Then again we host the world class Cleveland Orchestra and have one of the most prestigious 
art museums in the country!  And Medical teams!  We are gardeners, we are farmers, we are workers, we are educated and
we are people who love to eat!  
We are intoxicated by the vary thought of pierogis handmade by church ladies in the local church basement served dancing in sour cream from Meister's at the Westside Market!
Old money, New money........ we got it! 

It's about sustainability, supporting local economies; nobody believes in this more than the midwest!  Spend $40 on mug 
and take care of it!  I drink coffee out of a mug one of my friends made every morning.  I think about a different potter 
each and every morning, I can put a face with the mug.  I can put a face with my bourbon glasses at the end of the day too.
Ceramic artists and potters write about food as much as the food channel.  I have never been to a ceramic event where 
there wasn't fantastic food and drink served out of sumptuous dishes created by the hands of a potter.
It's a warm fuzzy and God knows we really need more warm 
fuzzy's these days. 

When I made functional hand painted work back in the 80's I will never forget a young woman walking into my booth at a street fair in tears.  Her Mom had always served mashed potatoes in one of those hand painted bowls for every family holiday.  She broke it and ended up buying 
four more; one for her Mom and each of her sisters.  If I still made hand painted pots I would still have a loyal customer.  It's just like 

You can't imagine how it warmed my heart when our daughter, a Peace Corp volunteer in Benin Africa, wrote home for directions on how to scrub out pig intestines & a sausage recipe.  She had talked her PC friends into hosting "Porkfest"! 

When her two year tour ended she and friend Annie traveled around the world on a trip dubbed;
Boozers without Borders; one country, one beer at a time.  They rated beers & food in Egypt, India, Nepal and on home to Paine Falls for Christmas dinner.

Now she is on a fishing trawler in the Bering Straits of Alaska.........

I approached the gallery owner at Geode to host a dinnerware show in May.  
The invitations went out to so many of my good friends in; Texas, New York, Kentucky, Montana etc.  
All are sending place settings.  Eighteen artists I am proud to call friends. 
If this has ever peaked your interest please contact me or even better, attend the Geode Gallery opening on May 7th.

 Geode Gallery
755 Starkweather
Tremont, OH 44113
p: 440.667.1651

I am participating in a show in Louisville, KY across from the Farmer's Market;  Home Grown, Home Thrown.  
Pots and dishes to serve fare from the farmers market across the street.

Each year at the National Clay Conference (NCECA) Santa Fe Clay hosts a dinnerware show.  It ROCKS!  The top clay artists in the country 
send in place settings and serving pieces to exhibit at a national gallery.

Would you ever consider writing an article, book or show about the artists who make the dishes the food is served on?
Better yet, Cleveland artists!   

If you get through this email I owe you a beer and a darn fine mug to put it in.

Sandy Miller


Stuff ...... clay, gardens, inspiration....

Easter Sunday I spent the day hooking up the pond for the season.  Paine Falls is open for business.

Walking around the yard I am astounded at the work to be done but then every year  I am astounded, after 25 years you would think I'd get it by now.

Hearing the happy gurgling of the water I worked my way to the roses.  Such a love-hate relationship!  I know what they are going to look like in a few weeks and they will be beautiful ........ if I whack the hell out of them now.  Going through my box of work gloves I pull out a green glove and a pink glove, I am such a fashion-ista of the garden!

Strapping my pruners to my belt I am off to do battle with the roses.  This year I will only need one pint of blood for my annual blood letting.  Worked my way around the house, raking & pruning until the sun set.
Weather has been stunning the past week but this morning it's snowing...... I love Ohio..... in a sick way.

Blowing my body out on Sunday, akin to blowing out the pipes on a 55 chevy I decided to spend the rest of the week firing kilns and filling orders. Deadlines were written on a scrap of paper somewhere on my desk or did I tack them to the wall over my wheel, maybe the bottom of my croc's?

The dinnerware show is approaching, an order for 14 plates is approaching,  I hear Nan Kitchens in the back of head inquiring about her 11" plate,  I have two galleries needing work & I signed up for a farmers market every Wednesday until October.

Having had two shows with almost no sales since January I watched my checking account dwindle.  Half heartedly I started filling out job applications faster than a mother hen herding chicklets in a hail storm!  Response to date........ nothing, nada, zippo.

So I do what I do best......... go to the studio!  When the tough gets going the tough make mugs!

Loaded up my iPod with podcasts from my favorite gardener, Cooperette and make pots.
I LOVE this woman, Emma Cooper and can listen to her all day!  Emma Cooper lives in Oxfordshire, England.  She has a rather magical way of talking about gardens and the wonderful things coming out of the gardens.  I am sure she has a corgi or two running around.
For those who love gardening, check her out!
and she is on facebook!

I walked out to the studio yesterday after a day of Emma and found my drying shelf loaded with jam pots, honey jars, tea jars and all the pots I would expect to find in an english kitchen.

Over the last week there have certainly been a few ups and downs here in Paine Falls.  The taxes are done, the roses are pruned, the porcelain has bloated, the temperature has climbed to 85 degrees F., the temperature has plummeted to below freezing today with snow and life goes on.......... 

but the pond is happily chortling away, the birds are bathing stream side, the daffodils have popped and the bees should making honey to fill the honey pots any day now.....
Life is good!