Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Oh ya, let's just fluff that nest........

It's the holiday season and what do we do here in Paine Falls........ we re-decorate like it's our job!  I write about this every year and every year we slap ourselves upside the head with a gingerbread man.  This years self inflicted agony was a new undertaking.

Last Saturday I sat at the kitchen table searching for signs of life in my comatose brain, letting the aroma of hot cup of coffee jumpstart my day. Reading my email  I had an alert that bidding was closing at an auction house I hover around but never use.  I opened the link and went through the paintings, silver, jewelry, high end purses, military stuff and ....... FURNITURE!  Do I need furniture, no and I have done a pretty good job of downsizing these last few years.  And then there it was, the word Stickley.  I kind of go weak in the knees for Gustav Stickley.

It has never been in my budget to buy anything Stickley, not even a stick.  As we all know I rock Craigslist, Facebook market place and hope my grave marker says: SHE PAID RETAIL FOR NOTHING.   I think I audibly moaned when I saw the piece.  Butch, neck deep in Golf Digest (no, he doesn't golf, just looks at pictures),  Sailors Ahoy(he does sail) and Trenchless Technology (no idea but might come in handy for digging that moat!), looked across the breakfast table.  I handed him the iPad and said; Look at this!  He handed it back and said; How much?  It's an auction and there's 1 hour and 40 minutes left.   It's at $300.  He peered up from Trenchless Technology; "Seriously?"  Should we bid?  We got up and went into his "office", a plastic folding table and paper boxes on the floor.  Ya, I'll go to $350.  So I registered and put in a bid of $350.  We got out the tape measure and sure enough it would fit, sort of.  We both agreed it was pretty big.  And here was the grand selling point....... I could close the doors and poof the office mess would be gone!  Go back and check the bid...... argh up to $450.  So we hemmed and hawed and if we bought a desk, even on Craigslist we end up spending $250 or more to get what he wanted and needed.  Go to $500, we can split it.  I waited and with 30 seconds left and heart pounding. I hit my bid, I watched the clock countdown and waited to be outbid, surely to God someone will save us from ourselves........ nobody entered a bid.  Did we get it?  YES!  Email alert; YOU'RE THE WINNING BID!  I email back, can we pickup on Monday?  Yes, we take all forms of payment.  

Sunday the clean out started.  Corner Cupboard went up on Craigslist 

Sold and being picked up today but on Sunday we had to move it to the garage...... so far away.  We wrestled it onto a dolly and carefully moved it down the driveway into the way too full studio of show booth stuff, which I just packed and moved all my big old self.  Back in the house we measured all the doors and openings, analyzing the most strategic path, to get this thing in the house.  Measure my van, I can fit my entire 10x10 booth and inventory ...... it is not going to fit.  That is when reality hit how big this thing was.   Clear the path and rest up for Monday Moving Olympics. 

We had to rent a cargo van. 

I get to the auction house, Butch meets me at the gate.  I am told there will be two guys who can help load.  A cute Russian gal meets us at the door and says; do you want to see what you bought?  YES, YES we do!!  And there against the back wall it a HUGE, GIANT PIECE OF FURNITURE, now ours.  Oh Shit!  Butch turns to Olga, can we sell it back?  I love it and say where's the help and do you have a loading dock?  Boris and Igor are having borscht, give them a minute.  We had time to look around and I saw the $8,000 couch going to someone who probably doesn't have dog.  All the stuff...... Olga pulled up our order on her computer and she said; Wow, you guys got a deal!  We had a guy from Canada you were bidding against we thought for sure he would go high but he didn't want to pay for shipping.  Great, here is my check, lets get this thing loaded, the van has to be back in 3 hours, borscht time is over.  No loading dock and a dolly.  two flights of stairs.  I had just moved a corner cabinet to the studio and moved a couch and couple chairs.  I put my shoulder into this beast and it's didn't budge, not a inch on the floor.  Clearly we rocked moving cheap furniture but the real stuff, yikes.  Olga looks at me with a wry smile and asks; "you move furniture before?"  Yup, no problem.  Butch is standing there sweating already.  We ever so gently tip this thing onto the dolly and start heading for the door.  These are times I wish I spoke Russian as there was yelling and sweating.  It took 5 of us to get it to the van.  Down the hallway where we could see daylight, Natasha jumps in from nowhere.  In her thick Russian accent, she jumped in to take charge.  Butch at this point starts saying very loudly.... talk to me boys, in English.  Natasha laughs and says; Yes, I will interpret for you.  Go left, go right..... 350 pounds on a dolly going down a ramp with a 90 degree curve at the end.  I looked over at Olga, can you help I ask?  "Nyet, I only do gems and jewelry."  Olga retreated to the front.   We got it loaded in the van, grabbed the chair and footstool, slammed the doors and headed back to Paine Falls.  Butch followed in his car and we were both thinking....... WHAT HAVE WE DONE?  Everyone in our neighborhood is old, retired or injured and the dog is blind so it was going to be us and us alone.  

Butch suggested we hook it to the snowblower and just "walk it out" .  I eye rolled and went for my show dolly, cardboard and 2x4's.  Think like Archimedes, you can do this!  And if it all goes south I can use the 2x4 to clobber Butch.  

It took 5 of us to get this thing in the van, now we are two and we are over 65.  Picture me standing at the end of van yelling "I GOT IT!" then in slow motion slowly being crushed by our dream piece of furniture.  I have never said holy shit so much in my life!  We wrestled it in the house just as the skies were darkening.  We made it! 

Ok, take the van back, get water, lots of water and take two aspirin!  Butch had to go back to work and he made me promise I would not move it into place while he was gone.  NO PROBLEM! 

He rolled in 3 hours later and we now realized we had to move every single piece of furniture on the first floor to get this to where it needed to be.  I'm not even sure the floors would support this thing.  Note to self...... next time you need furniture go to IKEA! 
We grunted, we groaned we called time out more than once and we got it there!  Without Boris and Natasha!  

It was 8:30 pm, we had been moving this thing since 10:30 am.  Call me done.  I sat down with something I was calling dinner when I hear Butch in the other room; Hey can you help me move the blueprint table?  Oh and we should straighten the rug, (means move all the furniture off the rug)  I'm shoving food in my pie hole so I have the will to go on; I yelled back..... where is that 2x4?  
He was going into hyperdrive like a kid with a new toy and I was the parent who had stayed up all night assembling said toy.  I messaged Dolita and complained.  She wrote back; he's fluffing his nest, leave him alone..... Ya, I'm gonna fluff his nest!  Alas we moved all the furniture, straightened the rug, and flipped on the Christmas tree for holiday cheer.  I announced I was done for the day and ran upstairs to hid in bed.  I took two aspirin before retreating up the stairs.  He stayed up, moving lamps and chairs.  Did I mention a chair and footstool came with the beast?   These two pieces are Stickley but don't match and not sure why they didn't sell them separately.  I have figured out they are both from the Harvey Ellis collection.  I know nothing else about any of the pieces.  I think we paid $15 a pound......

Today I will mop floors, lay the rugs and make a path for the dog.  This sure rocked his world.  I found him under the kitchen table trying to find the door to retreat to the upstairs. 
This morning I walked around and felt like I had been on the bottom of a rugby scrum.  My shoulder is wonky and the bruising has begun.  But we are getting there and look the carpet is straight! 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Juggling all the balls......... even the big shiny ones :)

Well here we are December 16th, the Christmas countdown has begun, 9 days left.

For those who think about pursuing a life in the pottery world I thought I'd do quick run down of my last week. 

Pulled in the driveway Sunday around 10 pm.  Walked in the house, drop to knees for obligatory ear scratching and greetings, a of couple biscuits and Butch was a happy camper.  Kidding, Kirby was doing the happy dance.  After a long show there is nothing so wonderful as coming home to a light on at the back door and collapsing on the floor for warm fur hugs all around.  Kirby is not manic, he just sinks into you and wraps himself all over any body part.  He never barks, he has never barked but there are low happy, groans of; OMG I have missed you with all my being and now you are home.  Contentment and stillness, just settling into my dog again.   Grabbed a jar soup out of the basement and slice of homemade bread.  The freezing rain was starting, at 11 pm I ran out and unloaded the cargo carrier of the booth frame, dolly, and booth rug.  Wrestle off the cargo carrier and get everything out of the rain and into the studio.   Face plant sometime around midnight. 

Monday, unload in the pouring rain, it poured all day.  It was biblical rain.  Everything in and all those pots get unpacked and put into piles.  4 piece place settings get broken down into soup bowl sets and on and on until 175 pieces of pottery are re-inventoried,  re-stickered and re-packed off to their appointed place.  New inventory sheets are typed up and the first delivery is packed in the van. 
Also take the time to balance out from the show, I wouldn't call it balanced but the books and I came to an understanding that I cannot keep this up. 

Tuesday morning grab Kirby and out the door we go, first stop Holden Arboretum Holiday Show.  The show is ongoing and the Arboretum charges a 40% commission.   Carry in boxes, meet and greet, check in inventory, wish everyone Merry Christmas and head back out to the sleigh.  Well first there is time for a cold winter hike around the Blueberry Pond and through the wildflower path.  Kirby loves it out here and so do I, we are members!  The perks are great :) 

Back in the car, stop for gas and off to Oberlin, Ohio.  Next stop Gingko Gallery.  The weather starts to change and the freezing rain is not helping the hour and half drive.  Dash in and hugs for Liz!  Ok I love this little gallery in Oberlin, Ohio and Liz is an incredible fiber artist and gallery owner.  I don't think I get out to re-stock as often as I should but if I have pots, Liz is getting them.  This gallery is a 35% commission.  
OK I will never ever begrudge any gallery their commission!  They keep the lights on, they take credit cards, buy all the boxes and wrapping to get your work home safely with the customer, a good gallery expands my customer base, and pays me in a timely fashion.  They also display, answer any questions about the work and if they don't know they call me.  They pay the hired help and keep the sidewalks clean.  Liz also runs a kitten rescue in the way back of the gallery, IT'S OBERLIN!  I have taken pots there a very long time.  I didn't realize how long until Liz popped around the corner with a very old pot in barium blue that I hope someone knocks over soon!  Yikes! 
Hugs all around, back out the door with empty boxes and jump on the freeway home, hopefully before Cleveland rush hour hits.  Home by dinner. 

Wednesday, up early, shower and out the door to teach at the Montessori School until noon.   I love Montessori, as the kids were out of control and I kept saying; it's only two hours, it's only two hours.  by 11:15 am I was shooing them out the door and feeling pretty overwhelmed.  On my way out I stopped to see the other art teacher.  Her door was shut, very odd.  I knocked and heard; come in!  I saw a frazzled teacher spritzing down with lavender oil for a calming scent.  "How are you, Sandy?"  Whoa, fighting for my life today!  I KNOW, the kids are crazy but you do know it's a full moon.  Phew, it's not the kids, it's not me, IT'S THE FULL MOON!   Lavender oil and the moon, I felt so much better.  See you next week, have a great week! 

Got home and started clearing a path through the studio.  Realized I had over 40 glaze buckets.  I know all the glazes intimately but does anyone need a glaze stable of over 40 glazes?  NO!  I called around and found a home for them .......... of course, on the other side of town.  Load the van with a couple hundred pounds of glaze buckets, attach the recipes, also include some test tiles and more glaze recipes and promise to deliver on Thursday.  

Thursday, glaze delivery complete.  Back home pack up $1200 worth of pots to make one last delivery on Friday.  

Friday morning, 6:30 am pack up pots and Kirby and head to Oglebay in West Virginia.  

Hit the door at 9:45 am to a sparse table.  Yikes! 

Restock and head back out the door. 

Headed home through Columbus.  Pick up chemicals at Columbus Clay, hear the local chatter, look at new equipment.  Jump in the van with empty boxes, 100 pounds of Kaolin, bone ash, red iron oxide, a road weary dog and head for the barn.

Three hour drive home and lots of time to think.  First thought; this is nuts and you flunked carbon footprint 101!  But if you have a less than stellar show you have to find a way to pay the bills.  My electric bill will run around $800 this month.  If most of the pots had sold at Winterfair, a great deal of the traveling would not happen as I just would not have the inventory to stock the galleries.  I would also have 100% in my bank account.  

All the way home I had a questions running around my brain.  Why are there no or very few young artists at craft shows anymore.  How are they selling their work and making a living.  And many have student loans to pay down.  Their expenses are higher than mine as I do not have a monthly student debt bill to pay.  And then there were a few pearls of wisdom from a couple blog posts and still the questions kept coming.  The realization that I love making pots and will probably continue to do so.  And I hate ETSY.   The packing and shipping part takes me a day, a day I would rather be throwing or gardening or walking the dog or anything ........ I just packed up 4 soup bowls and plates and shipped them off to Colorado.  Took over an hour to pack, then off to the dreaded post office and then it was $33.00  and etsy wants us to eat the shipping and offer free shipping.  I guess a mug wouldn't be too bad or a small bowl.  I am hoping it has arrived in one piece and not bits and pieces.  And with the new sales tax laws I am not sure how we handle that anymore.  I know everybody is getting socked with sales tax and then I need to pay Colorado the tax..... another bit of paperwork.  

And then I got a crazy idea........ why not start a youtube channel.  I love youtube!  I communicate with gardeners all over the world, watch potters in Korea, Japan, England and Denmark make exquisite work.  And cooking galore..... and permaculture...... and critters on night-cam and check on Lake Erie beach live.  and have live Sunday chats with a gardener in England.  Talk about the world is your oyster!  It is and it's on youtube.  So I am contemplating a youtube channel on life in Paine Falls.  Be a bit of garden walk abouts for sure and home improvement projects and canning and potting.  And then it just might be an old lady loosing her marbles.  I was so busy last year the place has gone to hell in handbasket!  The very best day of all of 2019 was standing in the Kenai River in Alaska, fly fishing and catching absolutely nothing.  I need more of that in 2020.  

So how do we potters pay the bills......... stay tuned.

for now........

Monday, December 9, 2019

For the Love a Good Fine Craft Show......... or not.

This last month has been a journey, I feel like I have been to the mountain and came back a bit enlightened......  Or maybe I am just getting old and sounding more like my Dad?  

Ohio Designer Craftsman used to run a top notch show called Winterfair.  It was hard to get past the jury process.  Top notch fine craftsman and artists sent in their jury fees and waited for the snail mail to arrive; thumbs up or thumbs down?   It's still like that only we use Zapplication and are notified by email.  Jury images and fee go in June 10th or earlier ($27.00) and the booth fee was paid on August 12th; 10x10, nothing fancy. ($485).  Great, see ya the first week in December at the state fairgrounds with 400 other craftspeople.   This is an expensive show; $1,000 for expenses and 4 days out of the studio. 

This year I was ready!  Mugs Mugs Mugs and a few pate' dishes thrown in.  Think gifty holiday giving stuff.  On Thursday morning I made the three hour drive down, 6 hour set up, find the hotel ($289.00)  find dinner and coffee.  

Friday morning I found they had changed the entry into the venue this year?  A heads up on this caveat would have been nice in my welcome packet.  Could they make it any harder?  Here is my view to get in the show at 8:30 am.  Stuck in a line for over 20 minutes because someone did not open the gate.  We were snaked around past horse trailers, barns, porta-pottys and when I asked; Why?  I was told: "For your safety ma'am.  OMG, SIR!  IF YOU VALUE YOUR SAFETY YOU WILL GET SOMEONE TO OPEN THAT GATE!  Angry Crafters...... yikes!  We are pack'n wooden spoons and googly eyes!  And then he said that will be $15 ma'am.  What?  Seriously, I should be charging you for the time I have been sitting here.  

I got to my booth just as the first customers rounded the bend.  No coffee, no time to eat my oat bar I brought from home.  Who runs a show and doesn't have coffee for crafters?  
First customer of the day was a familiar face and one I am always happy to see!  Mrs Liikala, my kids grade school art teacher!  Woo Hoo!  If you ever need to see somebody after a wicked start to your morning I would pick Amy!  She dragged her friend to the booth and she said nice things!  And then just like a Christmas miracle she said; I brought you a breakfast treat.  

A chocolate filled croissant and fruit tart!  I'M GONNA LIVE!  and yes I shared :) 

Friday is usually my best day as collectors show up.  No collectors today.  Sold 15 mugs, two small dishes and at 6:03 pm a teapot.  Phew!  Way down from last year.  I looked down the row and what to my wondering eyes should appear?  One of the best potters and all around nice guy, John Bauman!  Call me a fan girl!  Hey John did you get all the sales today..... he laughed and said he brought the wrong inventory.  Excuse me, you have beautiful mugs, pitchers, casseroles, platters, bowls, ornaments, small covered jars, huge covered jars, all beautifully glazed and priced extremely well in this crazy world of high end ceramic "art".  What did you forget, something with a bird on it in floating blue?   He was beating me in the sales department by a few dollars but it was 7 pm, turn the light off and head to the barn, see ya tomorrow.  Neither one of us would be dining at Chez Columbus Laundry tonight.  I clicked on the Starbucks app, ordered coffee and a protein bowl.  Picked it up at the window, spoke to no one and drove to my room.  At the end of a 9 hour show and standing on concrete, I don't want to talk anybody.   AND why does this show go to 7 PM?  People are still at dinner, the crowd really thins out after 4:30 pm, why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO DINNER or eating dinner.   Here is a tip ODC administration; as there are very few customers walking the aisles, all the artists or crafters have time to compare notes, make suggestions about how to run a show, ask about where did all the artists go and what are we doing here?  And now we ask about who died or other maladies facing old potters?  Is there an old crafters home where we all go to crochet, basketweave and tie dye our Depends?  Come out of your ticket cage organizers, come huddle with masses during the waning hours of the show, you will get an earful. 

Saturday,  hope springs eternal, let's try this again.  More crowds and one good sale; topping yesterdays sales.  And my 3:30 pm booth sitter never showed up.  Back to Starbucks and Kyle at the drive thru window.  Kyle you get a tip if you do not talk to me.  

Sunday I was up at 4:30 am, eager with the anticipation of packing up and heading for home.  Hours 11 am to 4 pm.  A bunch of us got there early, before the doors opened so we had our coffee in the parking lot.  A crafter from Kentucky announced she was 67 and getting to old for this crap.  The woman next to her chimed in; ya, me too I'm 65.  I was the baby at 64 and decided not to whine.  Then from behind, a voice that was beyond chirpy for a frigid morning, standing in vacant parking lot with all the other Q-Tip ladies (white hair) announced she was 84 and worked alone.  We all quit bitching and followed her to the door.  She banged once and the security guy let us in.  Seriously, I have to wait another 20 years to get security to open the door?   Sunday foot traffic? is there another word for slow that is slower than slow.  Sunday is stroller day and take Mom to the craft fair after church.  I looked at seed catalogs and finally at 2:45 pm I had a return customer who had to have 3 more pate' dishes!  Bless you dear lady!  A few more sales but I didn't make seed money on Sunday.  

We did manage to get a good bit of trading, as other artists were having a bit of a struggle too.  Across the board sales were down, traffic was down.   There were two artists happy with their sales, BRAVO and congrats!!  Could you buy a mug?  Even they wanted to trade.  But wow did I come home with great and beautiful things! 

School House bird house

John Bauman mug for deep thoughts......

and a couple shiny objects from truly lovely craftsmen!

So what did I learn this last weekend?  #1 Spring for a corner booth on a main aisle, it does help with traffic flow in your booth.  #2 I love seeing and catching up old friends, this includes artists and customers.  #3 Solving the craft fair predicaments of the world.  #4 talking about all things pottery; clay, chemicals, companies, kilns, the up and comers, the old dogs. #5 we are aging and dying out, some of us are waiting for the asteroid to hit #6 Ohio Designer Craftsmen really isn't an organization I need to support anymore. 

Ohio Designer Craftsman used to run a bang up, top notch show called Winterfair.  They also ran Hathaway Brown and ran 4 stores called; A Show of Hands in around Ohio at various malls.  They bought, sold and promoted good Ohio artists of all craft venues.  The mangers of those shops taught me so much about merchandising, selling, not selling, pricing, paying attention to what customers say and buy, count how many walk through your door.  You must have mugs but also have high end pieces and most important; talk to everyone, get off your butt and say Hello.  Invite them in, tell them about your work and in some subtle way educate your customer to what fine craftsmanship really is.   The stores closed very quickly.  I was working full time to stock those 4 galleries.  The new director decided the museum was where the effort should be made.   All of us were out of work, and there were a lot of us.  When I asked if any thought was given to the working artists I was told; "Well, maybe you should not put all your eggs in one basket."  I had two small kids and it was all I could do to keep up with stock for 4 galleries and doing a show here and there.  It was a financial blow and lesson I will never forget.  Incidentally, those same people are still running ODC, over 30 years later.  I learned to support term limits and get new people in with another vision.  True for any well run organization IMHO.  The only business or any other classes for craftsman were now in Columbus but if you wanted to participate in anything you had to be a member.  The top ODC show at Hathaway Brown closed and was moved to an asphalt parking lot, it was horrible and it failed.  There is very little in the way of helping crafts people make a living here in Ohio if you do not live in Columbus.  A lot of museums are filled with a lot of dead artists, I prefer to support artists still breathing. 

Also in past years at Winterfair, we have always submitted one piece of our work to be displayed in the main grand entrance as visitors walked in the gate; after paying their $7 admission and $5 parking fee.  People would see your work on a pedestals with your booth number and seek you out.  They did away that this year and instead had The Wounded Warrior Dog exhibition.  OK folks I am absolutely not unpatriotic in anyway shape or form!  But this exhibition belonged in a museum.  Somebody help me understand how bringing in The Columbus Airport Police K-9 Unit for two days and the Delaware County Sheriff Dept. K-9 unit or representatives of the Mott Military Museum and therapy dogs help artists sell work? (and the dogs did not get along so there were outbursts throughout the day but now thinking many artists I know partake of certain 5 leafed herbal remedies in one form or another to help with aging or dealing with the reality of "art shows". Maybe some of the artists stumbled a little to close to the exhibit and triggered a dog or two)  What a grand idea to put old hippie artists and K-9 units under the same roof.  Thanks ODC!  Artists we know who you are!  Ok back on my soapbox!  The dogs are hand carved and well done but then they were selling t shirts and collecting money.  I applaud and stand for the veterans and these incredible dogs but just not here at an art show.  and we all know I LOVE DOGS but even Kirby was home holding down the fort.  I dunno I just thought it was weird but good to know my sales were so bad a therapy dog was short walk away.  I have also done many blogs on dogs who are blatantly ambivalent about art.   And if the dogs weren't enough, there was a grand holiday cookie celebration at 12, 1 and 2 pm with you favorite Columbus celebrities.   Can I sell you a cookie jar? 

Ok here is an idea ODC.  Instead of dogs, how about a display called living with craft?  Take a piece of work from several artists in the show and put together a living room/dining area?  A kids room, a bar room, looking out the window at bird feeding stations and other outdoor work.  How about a collectors camp?  Are you interested in collecting jewelry?  Buy a ticket to come in an hour early and with a tour guide, introduce you to jewelers who can talk about their work, have their resume' available and do a meet and greet.  Give a buyer confidence and establish a relationship with buyer and collector.  Do it with decorative arts, furniture, fiber, 2 dimensional.  I also think this would eliminate most of the buy/sell at this show.  My neighbor said she counted 14 buy/sell booths at Winterfair this year.  The organizers were contacted last year and yet the same makers were back this year.   

The arts have been taken out of the schools; we as artists and craftspeople cannot sit back and let this happen.  Do you want your craft to survive?  We better get busy.
I did have a young couple next to me that made beautiful jewelry, both graduates from Art School, both had incurred huge college debt.  They were told there would be teaching jobs available when they graduated.  They are out doing shows to pay down college debt.  They don't own a house, they have two kids and one has a Mom who watches the kids while they are on the road.  They covered their expenses and wee bit more......  

How much don't people know?  Here is one of my teapots, notice the handle. 

I had two people walk in my booth and want to just buy handles for their teapots.  I explained, I make the handles and I was told; no you don't, you just won't tell me where you buy them.  I picked up a teapot and showed all the reasons why I could never buy these handles on the open market.  Still said it was impossible to make the handle.  I gave the place to buy the materials to make their own handles, they weren't interested.  OMG welcome to the age of Trump and don't believe what is right in front of you or even want to learn anything about the process.  

So folks, stick a fork in me and call me done.  Can't and won't be doing Winterfair again..... now to find a new place to sell pots in December.  

For now I am on the road again this week distributing work to galleries and on going shows in and around the Ohio area.  The life a traveling potter........ 

Hope everyone made it home from Winterfair safe and sound.