This past month was maybe busier than an average month, but not busier than an average October. This time of year is always nuts given that the holiday season is approaching fast. Here's a view of a potter's month that you maybe haven't seen before. You can click on the image to enlarge it and read the whole thing. Or if you'd rather just have the nutshell: I did 2 art festivals, a wood-firing, packed and shipped 4 wholesale orders, in my electric kiln I did 4 bisque firings and 4.5 glaze firings, designed 2 new plate molds, and built 146 pots. A few of these pots are for wholesale orders that are due in November, but most of them are for the shows I have lined up for the holiday season.
This pace of making pots will continue until the third week of November. After that I will stop making pots, and concentrate on glazing and firing, and getting myself to and from the shows (4 shows in a row starting November 17). After the last show, I will take some time off, maybe a week or two. But not too long, I will need to start making pots for the ACC Baltimore show in February.
From left to right ... Jim Dugan from Baltimore Clayworks, Judy Goldberg-Strassler, Karen Riedlinger, me, Janet Evander, Karen Morgenstern, Alan Dowdy, Melanie Choe, Jonathan Gordy, Carol Wisdom, Amy Castner, Vejune Svotelis, Karen Arrington. Missing from the photo are Tom Baker, Quianna Douglas, and Kuniko Wallis.
Wood-firing has become an October tradition for the potters from the Greenbelt Community Center. It's the perfect time of year to schedule our workshop at Baltimore Clayworks. The cooler weather makes us want to build a massive fire! Here are some photos from the event, which are generally sorted in chronological order. Click on the thumbnails for larger images and captions.
Oh, and then there were the pots! Here are just a few. There were many, many more that were just as gorgeous as these. Click on the thumbnails for larger images and names.
A "party" is how it was described by one of the first-timers, and that makes me really happy. You can tell by the photos above that there is an insane amount of work involved to successfully fire the kiln. Why did that feel like a party to us? There are two reasons why: 1) Baltimore Clayworks has a beautiful noborigama, and Jim Dugan provides a seemingly endless supply of expertise and guidance for students. 2) Greenbelters are awesome. Accomplishing all that work cooperatively with a large number of people is incredibly hard. And all of the challenging learning aspects of a wood-firing don't really happen if the people aren't sharing the work smoothly. I've learned this is not to be taken for granted, because in fact it takes an awful lot of character and intelligence to do this well. But it seems to come naturally for Greenbelters. "What's neat is that everyone seems to want everyone else's pots to be great," said another first-timer.
If you can't tell, I have so much respect for wood-firing. I love to introduce other potters to it, then watch the mind-blowing effect it has on first-timers, and the long-term growth and exploration that some will enjoy for years. Knowing these pyromaniacs makes my pottery life so much better. Hooray for pyromaniacs!
Thanks to those who contributed photographs for this blog post ... Karen Arrington, Amy Castner, Janet Evander, Judy Goldberg-Strassler, and Karen Morgenstern.
I've been doing art festivals for over ten years now, but this past weekend was my first one in Virginia (Fairfax Festival of the Arts). This might seem strange given that Virginia is not very far, in fact it's closer than driving to Baltimore or Solomons in Maryland, which I have happily done many times. I have always thought there were plenty of great shows in Maryland to bother to look elsewhere. And I didn't want to deal with sales tax in multiple states (I have personal experience with a DC sales tax license, which was totally not worth the effort), but I have learned that Virginia has a very simple temporary sales tax reporting system that does not require a permanent license. And this is the year that I am shifting my business plan to do more shows and less wholesale, so I decided it was time to expand to the other side of the river.
The show itself was of great quality and professionally organized (by Paragon Art Festivals, which is the same group that ran the Downtown Silver Spring Art Festival that I enjoyed so much this past spring). My sales were only so-so, but that can partially be explained by the dismal weather that blew in on Saturday afternoon, then froze our fingers off on Sunday. The rest can be explained by my lack of a customer base there. I saw only two people who I recognized from my mailing list. Whereas at the Silver Spring and Columbia shows, which were also new for me this year, I saw lots of "The Good Herd" because that's where they all live.
The artist next to me, whose work was brilliant, had a very good show. And his price points were such that selling a few pieces are all he needs. I mention that just to point out that he did well on merit, and by knowing the value of his work, and not by underselling or doing anything cheesy. He said his sales were down from last year, probably due to the weather, but still he was happy. All but one of his sales were made to folks from his mailing list. And that's the important point to remember. He lives in Vermont, but has a daughter in Northern Virginia and has done many shows in this region, and therefore he has a base of fans there.
So now I have to decide ... do I want to make the effort to build up a mailing list in Virginia? Knowing that I'll have to get through some more so-so shows in order to accomplish that? I'm inclined to say yes, it would be worth it.
But not in Fairfax. Again, I think the show has good potential for sales and I enjoyed its location (Fairfax Corner). But commuting to and from the show from Maryland was really annoying. It didn't matter the day or time, I-66 was backed up. Personally I think this is one of the most wasteful and brain-cell-killing ways to spend one's time, stuck in traffic. And the clutch pedal on my old Subaru can't handle it. So yes I would like to do more shows in Virginia, as long as I can avoid I-66. (If anyone can explain why the right-most lane is off limits except during rush hour, when the remaining lanes are not adequate for the non-rush hours, and causing all the merging traffic at the interchanges to merge twice, I would like to hear it.) Paragon also has a new show in Leesburg, and there are long-established and high-quality shows in Alexandria and Reston too. None of these would involve getting on I-66. Or I-95 southbound, I hate that road too. As you might know by now, I consider lots of criteria before applying to any show. And now when a show is in Virginia, I will also consider the "commuting hassle" factor.
Just as a side note ... this October is packed with work, two art festivals, three wholesale deadlines, and a wood-firing. But it's really hard to concentrate on work when the Orioles are in the playoffs! To the Orioles ... you have had loyal fans all along, and we are on cloud nine. Let's go Os!!
Mea Rhee, the potter behind Good Elephant Pottery
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