As some of you already know, I am learning how to use a video camera and video editing software. I'm working on a big, ambitious project with these. But in the meantime, I am having some fun "playing" with the camera and software. I created a fast-motion rendition of myself setting up my festival booth. I hope those of you who aspire to do shows will find this helpful. This takes me between 1.5 and 3 hours, depending on conditions. I've condensed it down to one minute. I filmed this at the ACC Baltimore show back in February, and have already shared this on Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to get in onto my blog for posterity, but didn't know how. I just now figured it out!
I've made a serious upgrade to my pottery booth, which I am a little too excited about. I have a new shelving unit that I was able to design exactly for my needs. These will replace a shelving unit that I've been using for years, which I bought off-the-shelf. The old unit was fine, it was attractive, easy to transport, and sturdy enough. But it had two issues that nagged me for years. First of all, I could choose where to place the shelves to some extent, but they were never at exactly the right height for me. And secondly, they had a straight up-and-down vertical design. Like I said, they were stable enough, but in the back of my mind I always worried that they could tip over.
The new design is based on plans from fellow potter Mark Cortright of Liscom Hill Pottery in California. He uses custom-built wooden display racks, and he shares these plans with anyone on the Ceramic Arts Daily Forum. The wide footprint design of his display racks inspired me. They look impossible to tip over. I wanted mine to be built of black metal, to match the look of my previous shelving unit. So I drew up my own plans, and found a metal fabricator to build them for me.
The heights of the shelves are exactly where I want them, specifically designed for the pots that will be displayed. And now I have six shelves, compared to the four I had before. The narrow top shelf will be for a single row of mugs and tumblers, and maybe a small flower vase. The wide bottom shelf will have two jobs. 1) It will be for pots that customers have reserved in advance of a show. That bottom shelf is too low for many people to explore, so it's perfect for pots that are already sold. Or, 2) at shows where I don't have many reserved pots, I will make a pretty tabletop-like display down there. I've long wished to have this element in my booth, but I didn't want to give up valuable space for it. With my previous shelving unit with four shelves, I put stacks of dinner plates on the bottom shelf. I sell a lot of plates, but I can also see how hard it is for people to bend down that low. Now, the plates will be on the second shelf. Speaking of plates, I cut down each shelf to be 44 inches wide, which is exactly wide enough for four stacks of plates. There will not be a wasted cubic inch of space!
First show of the year is coming up soon! ACC Baltimore, February 24-26. I'm so excited to start using these!
I wrote about my first photostand back in 2013. I think this post gets shared across social media or something, because it gets tons of views to this day. Now I've decided to add a second photostand to my business. One that moves in the direction of "lifestyle photography" which has become so popular. I have mixed feelings about lifestyle photography. I understand that the point is to make customers visualize my work inside their homes. And I understand that this can be a very powerful tool. There are lots of businesses doing this now, and some of it is gorgeous and tasteful, and some of it is way too cute or twee. I decided not to include other household items or food in my photos. They are still very simple straightforward photos, only the pots look like they are in a room surrounded by lots of space, rather than in a lightbox. And that the light comes from a window, rather than a bulb.
I stole the small table from my camping gear. The pedestal is a piece of furniture that I already owned. It's a little worn out, but I chose it because it's made of mahogany. The color and character of the wood look nice with my gray pots. I painted a white patch on the wall behind the photostand. The existing paint color was a little too yellow.
Here are some of the photos I've taken:
I'm not ditching the first photostand. That is still my main photostand, which I will use to document my work, apply for juried shows, and for most of my publishing needs. These new photos will mostly be used electronically, such as my emailed show announcements, and for social media. (If you don't know this yet, I am now on Instagram @goodelephantpottery. Daily pats on the back for working hard, what's not to like!)
I've already ordered some new mahogany boards so I can build a slightly larger pedestal, and put my furniture back where it belongs.
It was a fantastic Open Studio weekend. Thank you to everyone who came to the show! I still have a few nice pots and they are now available in my Online Store. The store opens at 10am ET on December 12. It will be open through December 31, or until the pots run out.
I don't have any more t-shirts ... sorry! I ran out of shirts near the end of the Open Studio.
All orders will ship for a $10 flat shipping fee. Orders can only be shipped within the USA. 6% sales tax will be added to orders shipped within the state of Maryland.
Happy shopping, and have a happy and warm holiday season!
... and I am in the mood to celebrate! I can't believe I've been doing these events for ten years. Doesn't seem that long. I need to say "thank you" to everyone who has made these events work. My thanks will come in the form of t-shirts!
Free with purchase and while supplies last. I'm pretty sure I have enough shirts for everybody, I'm saying "while supplies last" just in case. I have sizes from SM to XL, and the sizes will be first-come-first-pick.
Don't worry, I haven't only been working on the t-shirts. I've been making lots of pots, including some new designs. I will have a few more of my new teapots with stainless steel handles. Priced from $125 to $140.
I have redesigned my Breakfast Bowl. Very similar to the previous design, but easier to fit in the kiln. The new design includes a subtle pointed spout, so it serves as a pourer too. This will also replace the Small Spouted Bowl going forward, however I still have a few SSBs in stock for this weekend. $24 each.
Introducing an individual sized casserole, where the lid also works as a plate. It is ideal for storage and reheating. It's name is "I'll Cover You" which is the title of a song from the muscial Rent. $65.
And I will be fully stocked on all of my popular items, such has plates, chopstick bowls, serving bowls and platters, mugs, jars, vases, and lots of elephants. If you know you're coming and want a specific item, send me a note through this Contact Form. If the item is available I will gladly reserve it for you. (ONE NOTE: All of the Normal-Sized Mugs (aka Jack Reacher mugs) have already been reserved. Sorry! I promise to make them in production quantities for 2017.)
Here are the logistical details:
Good Elephant Pottery's 10th Annual Holiday Open Studio
Saturday and Sunday, December 10-11
10am to 5pm both days
My house will be wearing a "pottery sale' sign. Park on the street, lots of street parking nearby. The entrance to the studio is behind the house and down a flight of steps. Signs will point you to the right entrance.
Hope to see you this weekend!
As you probably know by now, I work by myself in a studio, doing a job that doesn't always require my full brain. I have strategies for keeping myself entertained, my favorite is probably audiobooks. (Shout-out to my local public library, where I get them for free.)
A have listened to the entire series of Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. I am crazy for Reacher. I admire his minimalist and independent life, and his unflappable personality. His senses of duty and justice are worthy enough to forgive all of the neck bones he has crushed.
(By the way, book Reacher does not bear any resemblance to movie Reacher. And I'm not just talking about physical appearance. Book Reacher has no ego, he doesn't care about praise or credit. Movie Reacher is very self-conscious. Do I look tough enough? Can they tell I'm short? I don't begrudge Lee Child for taking the biggest movie rights deal he could get. He earned it. As for Tom Cruise, buying something is not the same as earning it.)
One of Reacher's quirks is his addiction to coffee. He never turns down a chance to drink coffee. He'll drink any coffee, good or bad, at any time of day, from any cup. But he knows what type of cup he prefers, and notices when he's using one that he likes.
"A bad coffee mug has a thick lip—too wide, too shallow, too much mass—it will cool the drink too fast. A good coffee mug is cylindrical in shape, narrow in relation to its height and with a thin lip."
For years I have only made mugs in one size: enormous. They hold about 20 oz. This is how I drink coffee, one giant cup in the morning. Customers regularly ask me for normal sized mugs, but I have never felt compelled to make them until now. Now I want to make a mug that Reacher would like.
But before I could do that, I had to reconcile my confusion about Reacher's description of an ideal mug. I understand why a wide or shallow mug would allow coffee to cool too fast. But I was surprised at the idea that a thick-walled mug would hasten the cool-down. I always assumed a thicker-walled ceramic vessel would be a better insulator, not worse. Then I started to think about it in terms of refractories, which are all of the dense objects that are inside a kiln when firing. Refractories mostly refer to kiln shelves and posts, but the pots themselves are refractories too. We potters know that the more refractories we have in a kiln, the more energy it takes to fire, because refractories absorb a lot of energy before they can act as insulators and radiators of energy.
Does a thick-walled mug absorb heat like a refractory? I decided to find out for sure, in a situation that simulates coffee drinking, not kiln firing. I made two nearly identical vessels. One with a thin 1/8 inch wall, and one with a thicker 1/4 inch wall. I filled them with equal amounts of boiling water, then started taking the water's temperature. I measured the temperature at one minute intervals, for ten minutes.
I ran this test four times. I made sure to return the cups to room temperature in between, by running them under cool water. The results had some small variations but were overall consistent. In the first two minutes of the test, the thick cup lost 3 or 4 more degrees than the thin cup. After two minutes (I'm guessing this is when both cups were sufficiently heated through) both cups lost heat at the same rate per minute. The difference is small, but technically Reacher is right.
"No doubt about that," Reacher would say. To himself inside his head.
Cylindrical in shape, narrow in relation to its height and with a thin lip. Glazed in a no-fuss colorblock of gray and off-white. Holds 10 to 12 oz. Positioned next to my "Enormous Coffee Mug" the official name on the hang tag will be "Normal-Sized Mug," with the subtitle "aka Jack Reacher's ideal coffee mug." These will be available for sale for the first time at my Open Studio, coming up on December 10-11.
And no, I am not admitting that I drink too much coffee. I am only admitting that some people prefer to drink coffee in smaller quantities throughout the day.
I've been chewing on an idea for a while. Years even, though not seriously until this year. I had no idea where to start, which is why it took me so long to embark on a solution. Back in the spring, I stumbled upon something online that looked promising, a class called "Meet the Bench" at the Baltimore Jewelry Center. This is a 4-week introductory class for complete novices at working with metal. It was great! I am amazed at how much ground was covered, even though I know it was just a tiny sample of metalworking skills. And I was so impressed by the BJC facility, which recently moved into its newly-renovated space on North Ave. So well-designed and organized!
No, I'm not trying to make jewelry. In fact, during this class I learned for sure that I am not a jeweler. I don't have the patience to work on that small scale. And I seemed to injure myself a lot, and generally felt like a klutz in the jewelry studio. It's not my natural environment. I've concluded that jewelers have finer motor skills than potters.
The actualization of my idea turned out to be fairly simple. But there's no way I would have figured it out without taking this class. This class taught me about different types of metal, and how to buy it. I also learned about proper tools, how to use them, and how to buy them.
The handle is made from food-grade stainless steel. This is very close to the design that lived in my head for so long. I love that it looks and feels secure, while still conveying a sense of holding on lightly. Needless to say, my excitement for making teapots has been renewed.
I was invited to give a demonstration to ceramics students at Anne Arundel Community College. I was glad to have a diversion from my usual studio routine, and glad to be inside a classroom again. Thank you for the invitation, Rick Malmgren! And to the students who suggested my name. Rick was interested in seeing a demo of my slip carving techniques. I wasn't sure that could fill a four hour demo, so he said that throwing demos were always welcome too. I decided to plan a throwing demo that was all about lids, because lidded forms are probably my favorite forms to throw, and I have a lot to say about them.
Look at this beautiful classroom. It's huge and well-equipped. Outlets everywhere!
I started with some small jars. One with an upside-down lid, and one with a right-side up lid.
Now on to something larger. I shaped a casserole body, then measured it for its lid, then cut the lid to the right size.
We took a break for lunch (potter potlucks are the best potlucks), then I started carving some leather hard pots that I brought from home. I brushed on the white slip before our break, so the slip could dry to leather hard while we ate. The first piece was a two-sided vase.
And I finished with a carving of a koi fish in a large bowl.
I was done a little after 3pm, and since I had the rest of the day off, I drove into downtown Annapolis and did something I've always wanted to do but never have. I walked through the Maryland State House like a tourist. What a great way to spend a fall day!
I just got back from a show weekend in Philadelphia, PA. I had a really good show, despite the persistently rainy weather. This is another testament to the power of a good mailing list. You don’t meet many new customers when it’s raining, but the ones you emailed will still come.
I have found a solution for a nagging problem I’ve been having with on-the-road shows. I’ve been having trouble eating healthy when I don’t have access to my own kitchen. I was already good at packing breakfasts and coffee for a hotel room. But lunches and dinners were problematic. During show hours, I need more energy than I need on a regular work day at home. At the same time, I don’t want to take a break from selling. I snacked on small wrap sandwiches, KIND bars, and cookies. At the end of the day, I found myself so hungry and tired, my good intentions would fly out the window. I snarfed down too-big dinners filled with carbs and grease.
The solution is a weird new product called Soylent. It is a complete meal in a bottle. Its makers’ goal is to make eating as efficient as possible. In general, that idea is too futuristic for me. But for this particular situation, it's awesome. I have been using this as “show lunch” for the past two shows. It takes minutes to drink one, and it can be put down anytime if a customer walks in. I never get caught chewing, or with food stuck in my teeth, or greasy fingers. It is shelf stable, so it’s easy to travel with or pack on a hot day, without refrigeration. One bottle makes me comfortably full for about four hours, without any energy spikes or crashes. I have one at noon and one at 4pm. At the end of each show day, I was not starving or tired, and I made dinner choices that were both frugal and reasonably healthy. I gave myself only $60 to buy four dinners. I had $10 left! I admit I was getting tired of the taste of Soylent on Sunday. I have no interest in eating it everyday. But for show days, it’s solves a lot of issues.
Now for the brain failure. On Thursday night after setting up, I parked my van in a garage. The lower levels were full. I passed some open spots on the upper levels, but wanted to find one closer to the elevator. The spaces near the elevator were marked “compact cars only.” That didn’t stop me from trying, but the van’s rear end was hanging out of the space, so I kept going. I ended up on the top level, where I could fit into the spaces near the elevator. I thought about it and decided I’d rather have the van under a roof than near the elevator. So I drove down one level and parked.
For some reason, my brain registered that I had parked on the third level. I don’t know why. On Sunday morning, I went to put my suitcase into the van before heading for the show. I got off the elevator on the third level, and found myself in a disaster. My van was gone. I stood there for a long time. Words like “police” and “stranded” and “insurance” and “FUCK!!!” were flying around in my head. What should I do first? AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! My unreliable brain did manage to sputter out the phrase one level down from the top amidst my panic. Just go back to the elevator and see how many levels there are, before you call the police. It turned out the garage had five levels, and I found my van on the fourth.
Afterwards, as I got off the elevator at street level, I saw a guard in a windowed office with a bank of security camera moniters. I’m pretty sure she was smiling and avoiding eye contact with me.
I introduced my Maryland Platter last fall. I was not planning to do this for any other states, but I have changed my mind. I realized I do a lot of shows in Pennsylvania now, and Pennsylvanians have been very good to me. I will be debuting the Pennsylvania Platter this weekend, at the Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair, in Rittenhouse Square in downtown Philadelphia PA. (9x12 inches, $75)
Mea Rhee (mee-uh ree),
American Craft Exposition
Chicago Botanic Garden
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