This is the third time I've been asked by the Ceramic Guild to jury their bi-monthly show, which is now on display in the Scope Gallery at the Torpedo Factory, in Alexandria VA. Their current exhibit is titled "Seeds of Summer" and runs through the end of July. I have been doing this every two years or so. Some of the artists have been in the Guild all three times, it is nice to see how one person's work can grow over the years. There were also some new artists this time, which I enjoyed reviewing as well. Here are some of my favorite pieces (click on the thumbnails for a larger image and caption):
I have been working on something on the side for a few months. For all of you who worry that my life is one-dimensional ..... oh who am I kidding? My life is totally one-dimensional. But the past couple of days have not been my usual routine. I am now an Election Judge for Montgomery County, Maryland. Yesterday, June 24, was a Primary Election Day, and my first time doing this job. I have wanted to do this ever since I began voting. I always vote, even in the primaries. And I have always looked at the Election Judges and thought "I want to be on that side of the table."
It turns out that the job of Election Judge has a lot in common with being a festival artist. The setup of the polling place, and the pack down, felt awfully familiar. Arriving for work at 6:00 am, I'm used to that too. As well as interacting with crowds of people, all day long. "Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Thank you. Thank you. Good morning. Thank you. Have a nice day. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Thank you. Thank you. Have a nice day." Make people feel welcome, make them feel like they are in good hands. I can do all of that.
It was fascinating and humbling to see the process behind the scenes. It is serious work. Lots of laws need to be followed. It seems to me that Montgomery County has developed a thorough and accountable system. It is quite a rush when a voter reveals that this is their first time voting, because they just became a US citizen. How do so many people take this for granted? I admit that I peeked at some of the comment cards left by voters, we got excellent reviews for efficiency and customer service. The part I was looking forward to the most was handing out the "I voted" stickers. I can now say, with first-hand knowledge, that it felt as good as I imagined. I'd say all of the voting hours were as rewarding as I thought it would be.
Now for the parts that weren't so great. My assigned precinct, Glen Haven Elementary School, is home to an unknown quantity of cockroaches. We didn't see any during the day, but after 9:00 pm or so, we saw them in swarms. So why were we there after 9:00 pm? Because setting up and packing down the polling place was interminably slow. Both of the Chief Judges were first-time Chief Judges. They did their best, but the process was unplanned and disorganized. Anyone who knows me well understands that the words "unplanned" and "disorganized" cause me a lot of distress. There was lots of reading-out-loud of instruction manuals, and phone calls to the Board of Elections tech support. Way too much standing around doing nothing. Thank goodness my fellow judges were able to maintain a sense of humor as the hours dragged on, even after the air conditioning was turned off. Did I mention the cockroaches? We were not excused from duty until 12:30 am. The Chief Judges still had a pile of paperwork to do, but they were gracious enough to let the rest of us go.
I am used to having control over my time. I also consider time to be uniquely valuable, and I spend it carefully. I would like to continue working as an Election Judge, but I need to consider whether I can afford to donate more 6:00 am to 12:30 am days.
(fyi ... Montgomery County Election Judges do get paid. But we can choose to waive the payment, which I did because my tax return is complicated enough. And like I indicated above, this is something I've always wanted to do, and never expected to be paid for it.)
When I was in training for this a few months ago, one of the trainers asked me if I wanted to be a Chief Judge for this Primary Election Day. I thought that was odd, given that I had no experience. I told them I would consider it after I had an election or two under my belt. Now it doesn't seem as strange, I know they are willing to train people with little or no experience. Ultimately, the Chief Judges at my precinct did get the job done, albeit slowly. I bet I could do it. I am good with electronic devices. The pollbooks and voting machines seemed easy to me. And again my festival work is a very similar concept. When I was a teacher, I had to plan projects and supervise groups of people all the time. It would be like getting twelve potters through a wood-firing. (The potters are like the judges. The hundreds of pots are like the voters.) Maybe if I was a Chief Judge I could get everyone home earlier? Or would it mean I would be the one who stays after 12:30 am when everyone else gets to leave?
I need a few days or weeks to figure out how I feel about continuing to do this. I need to decompress from the experience first. It was pretty intense.
Did you know that while working as an Election Judge, we are forbidden contact with the world outside the polling place while voting is going on? In this modern day, it's weird to go a whole day without checking your email. When I dragged my tired ass into my house, I headed straight for the email, and learned that I was accepted into this year's Bethesda Row Arts Festival. So at the end of a very long day, I collapsed into bed and drifted off to sleep on a good note.
If you are interested in becoming a Montgomery County Election Judge, now that you've gotten an honest account of my experiences, visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/elections for all the info. The General Election is coming up in November, and they are constantly recruiting. Maybe now that you know it can be an 18 hour day, and that public school buildings are pretty gross, you will be more prepared than me. Again, it was a remarkably rewarding experience despite these things.
I guess I set myself up for some irony, by blogging recently that my show process was very efficient and can be performed without exhaustion, like it's just another day at the office. After this past weekend, I need to concede there are factors that I can't control.
The past two years at the Columbia Festival of the Arts, I was really happy with the show. My booth was located in a shady sidewalk area, where the music stage was a distant background noise. It was low-key and refined, with good quality art, easy logistics, and good sales.
As soon as I arrived for this year's show, big fat drops of rain started falling. The kind of rain drops that say "you're about to get walloped." To make things worse, I was informed that my booth location had been moved to the area next to the music stage. I already knew from other artists that this area was not comfortable, due to the music volume and lack of shade. And the logistics for getting my display and work down there were very tricky.
I set up my booth in a downpour. Once the rain stopped, the blazing sun and thick humidity arrived. My rain-soaked clothes became sweat-soaked clothes. It took me four hours to finish setting up. I'm pretty sure I looked like a homeless cat at this point.
You know how excited you feel when you arrive at a concert and realize you are near the stage? Would you be as excited if you had to spend 20 hours there?
This is not an exaggeration: at least once an hour at shows, someone will walk into my booth, exhale, and say "it's so quiet in here." They are referring to my minimal forms and neutral glazes, displayed in a white booth. The word "quiet" might be "peaceful" or "restful" or "zen" etc. I count on this to inspire people to linger and take a break from a festival where everything else is screaming for attention. I only heard this comment once during the entire weekend, when the music was between acts. Can you imagine how it would have sounded when the music was playing? "IT'S SO QUIET IN HERE!" "WHAT?" "I SAID IT'S SO QUIET IN HERE!" "I'M SORRY WHAT?"
As you can tell, I had a tough time trying to communicate with customers. And during the afternoon hours, the sun blazed straight into the front of my booth, making the pots too hot to pick up. Not that it mattered, there weren't many people walking into the booth anyways. My space wasn't just "near" the stage, it was "beyond past" the stage. Most folks who walked down all the stairs to the stage area didn't venture any further, I really can't blame them for sitting down on the shady hillside facing the stage instead.
Here's what I saw during most of the show: anyone near my booth was facing the other direction towards a gurgling fountain. On the hillside was a huge crowd of people, listening to music and not noticing any art.
(aww .... elephant butts, heh heh)
I did note that this all started on Friday the 13th. But I'm not superstitious, so from now on I will never assume that a show will go smoothly.
I do need to make some thank yous ... this show is in my local zone, and I was visited by some people from my mailing list, who made some really nice purchases. You know who you are, and it really helped! Thank you!!
This is a two-week long event, celebrating the arrival of summer in Howard County, MD. The first weekend features lots of free activities along the lakefront, including an invitational art & craft show, where you'll find yours truly.
Columbia Festival of the Arts
Opening Weekend on the Lakefront
Friday, June 13, 5pm - 9pm
Saturday, June 14, Noon - 9pm
Sunday, June 15, Noon - 7pm
This is not the first time I've done three shows in three consecutive weekends. But in the past I've only done it when one or more of them was Small, the kind that didn't require a whole lot of inventory. This was the first time I've done three Large shows in a row, in fact I'd say it was two Larges and one X-Large. My work life is very different this year, now that I'm not teaching classes. Not only did I have the time and energy to do the shows, I also had the time to make all the pots I needed. I actually finished all the pots for the three May shows by the end of March. Since then I've been making spring wholesale orders, and pots for June and July shows. Speaking of July, I'll be doing three in a row again, only this time it will be two X-Larges and one Large.
I can now say that my process for doing shows is really well thought out. It hums with efficiency. After the Rockville and Baltimore shows, I went back to work in the studio the next day. Didn't need a day off. Although I was pretty tired after the Philly show. That was the X-Large show, three days that included a nasty thunderstorm, a two-hour drive each way, and being away from home. I didn't do any studio work the following day, but I didn't get to rest either. Somehow my lawn grew sneaky tall while I was away, and all these new weeds sprang up around my veggie garden, so I spent that day catching up on homeowner duties.
My intention is not to do this many shows from now on. I am using this year to try out a lot of new shows. I had so many options this year, again because I did not have to work around a teaching schedule. I decided the fastest way to figure out the right answers was to do as many as I could. Next year I can be more selective.
On the other hand, all the extra cash flow from doing this many shows is nice. I could get used to it. Here is my booth near the end of the Philly show, almost picked clean by the Philadelphians.
As much as I enjoyed the past two months of uninterrupted studio time, I'm ready to get started with my Spring and Summer festival season. I've planned a very ambitions season, with three shows in May, one in June, and two or three more in July. It all starts this weekend!
A-RTS Rockville Town Square Arts Festival
Saturday May 3, 11am - 6pm
Sunday May 4, 11am - 5pm
The festival will close down the streets in Rockville Town Square. My booth number is 239 on E. Middle Lane.
Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair
Friday May 9, 11am - 7pm
Saturday May 10, 11am - 7pm
Sunday May 11, 11am - 5pm
Located in Rittenhouse Square in downtown Philadelphia. My booth number is 139.
Sunday May 18, 11am - 5pm
Artists will set up around the Druid Hill Reservoir, just like they did in the 50s and 60s.
It was a difficult winter, but thankfully it's over now. Can I interest you in a birdhouse?
My production output has increased dramatically in the last year or so. Among other things, I need to make a lot more dinner plates. Plates are cumbersome to dry, because they need so much footprint space. Once they are bone dry, I can stack them four high, which makes them efficient again. But during those drying days, they are a pain. I thought I needed to add more shelving to my studio, just to accommodate the drying plates. I didn't want more furniture, because I think the layout and flow of my studio is pretty darn perfect already. Also, I don't make plates every day. I make them every few weeks, and then I'll crank out a few dozen at a time. Therefore, a permanent change in furniture didn't make sense. The right solution hit me with an "aha!" My spacious studio already contained the answer. When you have a studio all to yourself, you can use the floor for drying plates.