This is my "office" today. I have a big video project to edit, but I also wanted to watch the sun rise over the ocean on the first day of the new decade. It felt so auspicious. Wishing you all a sense of auspiciousness today. I am looking forward to a bunch of plans, big and small, and I hope you are too.
I've got several new designs, and some updates to existing designs, that will be unveiled at this weekend's Open Studio. For new designs, the prices I'm charging this weekend are introductory prices. I'm just looking for feedback and reactions from my existing customers at this point. Final prices will be determined throughout 2020 depending on how sales go.
I've been trying to figure out this design for over two years, and think I've finally done it. A ceramic tea steeper with a stainless steel handle. It fits into any cup, or at least all of the cups I make. $25 each.
Most of the teapots I've made in the past will not work with the tea steeper. But I will start making teapots with a top opening that is large enough. I like how the two stainless steel handles parallel each other.
The 4.5 x 10 inch rectangular tray that I introduced last year was such a big hit, I have now developed its larger cousin. This tray is 7 x 13 inches, and features a koi fish illustration. I've made lots of koi-themed pots, this is a new, more loose and gestural approach to koi fish. $60 each.
EDIT: The Koi Fish Trays are now sold out.
Crab coasters are back! I used to make these sets years ago, but discontinued them due to production headaches, mostly having to do with glazing. I am re-introducing them, now made out of an espresso brown clay that looks striking when unglazed. $30/set of four.
I have made several different versions of a kimchi dish over the years. The newest design is a hexagon! 6 inches across. $17 each.
The small pitcher, meant for cream or maple syrup, has been updated with a subtle "flower petal" alteration of its rim. They are about the same size and scale as before. $35 with a handle, and $30 without a handle. EDIT: the pitchers with handles are now sold out.
Those of you who follow my blog know that I am learning bookbinding. A limited offering of hand-bound notebooks will be available this weekend. These are 3.75 x 5.25 inch books with 96 pages. I call them "List Books," and are designed for jotting down a shopping list or to-do list, then shoving it in your pocket or purse. The extended flap on the back cover keeps the book closed, or acts as a bookmark. $12 each.
This was a big year for seconds! This is the only event where I will sell seconds, and this year's selection is larger than usual. Including quite a few imperfect mugs. Some are almost firsts and marked down just a little. Some are steeply marked down. All seconds are still fully functional pots.
Good Elephant Pottery's 13th Annual Holiday Open Studio
Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th
10am to 5pm both days
Hope to see you there!
(For those of you not in the DC/Maryland area, my annual Online Sale will open on Monday, December 16, at 10am ET. Stay tuned!)
The last few weeks have been crazy! There is never a convenient time to have a construction project done in your house. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year, and mid-October was actually the best time to start. I had to leave town for five days for the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) Craft Show in the middle of the project (more about that show later in this blog post), so in total the project spanned just over four weeks.
I've mentioned in previous blog posts that renovating this house is "my other life's work." Of all the improvements I’ve made, this project has maybe had the most visual impact, because of the amount of square footage that was improved. This is a 1.5 story bungalow, and the entire second floor was renovated. I believe the space was originally an unfinished attic. A previous owner finished it into a living space, and did a lousy job with all of the finishes. I do like that it is a big open space. I’ve been using it as a master bedroom. I lived with the poor finishes long enough! I hired a pro to tear it all out, and redo it.
This is what the drywall used to look like. Weird trim pieces on the corners, and what appears to be caulk applied with the fingers.
There were several large cracks like this. This is not due to water damage. When the drywall was removed, there was no evidence of water damage anywhere. These cracks were due to bad installation.
Here’s what the drywall looks like now. Perfection!
The first floor of my house has some really nice carpentry around the windows and doors. The second floor had these basic frames, and more lumpy caulk.
All of the door and window frames were built to match the nice carpentry on the first floor. Furthermore, the framing next to the windows had no insulation, because the original windows needed space for the pulleys and weights that operated the windows. Those empty spaces were stuffed with insulation. The upstairs used to be colder than the downstairs. Now, the opposite is true.
When I bought the house, believe it or not, there was a big four-tube fluorescent light fixture on the ceiling. The kind you’d find in a garage or workshop. When I moved in, I replaced it with this inexpensive fan. It was much more appropriate for a bedroom, though it was the room’s only light source, and not very bright compared to the fluorescent fixture. It was also a bit frumpy. That’s what you get for $100 from a big box store.
Now that is a sexy fan! And it is not the only light source anymore. I added an array of discreet wafer lights. Now the light is well-distributed across the entire room, and the brightness level is just right.
This was the biggest eyesore. This janky railing around the stairs was big, and right in the middle of the room.
The new one is spectacular! A just like the window and door frames, it now matches the carpentry style in the rest of the house, befitting of a 1930s bungalow.
The room did have some closets, but they were unusable. The slope of the ceilings meant you could not stand upright in these closets. The finishes inside these closets were even worse than the rest of the room. The drywall was even sloppier, and wood-grained contact paper was used as flooring. I wish I was joking.
The new closets are fully and easily accessible. They are finished on the inside as nicely as the rest of the bedroom.
It would be a dream come true to impress Marie Kondo.
The empty floor space in this photo is where I used to store my clothes, on garment racks and freestanding shelves. It is so satisfying to have it all tucked away into proper closets. I have no intention to add more furniture to this space. I am enjoying the calm of emptiness. At most, I might put down a yoga mat and develop a daily yoga habit. The curtains are my DIY contribution to the project.
I mentioned earlier that the PMA Craft Show took place in the middle of the project. It’s one of those shows that can still make me nervous, on the same level as the Smithsonian Craft Show. The days leading up to the show were tough. I got food poisoning, and then my boiler blew its pressure release valve. I was stressing hard. The construction project was actually going very smoothly, but the noise and disruption meant I was not my usual self. I felt like the universe was telling me not to go to Philly. But one cannot drop out of the PMA Craft Show. It might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was lucky to get a plumber to come out and repair the boiler. Then I had to leave a freshly repaired boiler unattended for five days. Talk about stress! The show turned out to be amazing. I wish I could have enjoyed it more. Hopefully I will look back on it and remember the good parts, rather than my high blood pressure. This kind of stress makes you question whether homeownership is worth it. The good news is that I came home to a warm house and a boiler that was humming away quietly. A few days after that, the contractor handed me a completed project, and I fell in love with my house all over again. Homeownership is totally worth it. The long-term benefits far outweigh the occasional struggles. Last night, I slept in my new bedroom for the first time, like a log. I had been dreaming of improving this space for so long. It is surreal and delicious to wake up to this reality. Though I will say, I hope the period of time between now and the end of the year is as boring as possible.
MaxC Impressions was the main contractor for this project. As you can see, their work is incredible. Like I said, the project ran very smoothly, and the whole crew was very professional and easy to work with. I am thrilled with the final results. Big thanks also to EV Electric and TW Perry. And I need to thank Tom from WInegar Plumbing for fixing the boiler!
This is Sharon Thorpe, one of the amazing teachers I had as a college design student. That was a long time ago now! I graduated in 1992. If you think she looks too young to have been my professor, that’s because she was one of those high-energy go-getters from a very young age, carving out her design career and teaching college classes.
This might come as a surprise to you. Back then, the design program at the University of Maryland was not part of the UMD Department of Art. We were part of the Department of Human Ecology. Human Ecology was akin to home economics. What began as craft and home decor classes evolved into Crafts and Interior Design, then a Graphic Design program. The Department of Art did not want anything to do with teaching design. They said it was “vocational” and did not fit with their liberal arts mission. I did not fully understand this as a teenager. But after being a design student, being a design professional, teaching in an art college, and now working in the ceramics field, the difference between my education, and a fine arts education, is something I think about a lot. I feel lucky and grateful to have made that choice.
In the mid 90s, the economy was in recession, the university was cutting costs, and the design programs were eliminated. These were small programs, and there were active design programs at other UMD campuses. One of my former professors ended up teaching in the Department of Art. He described how different things were there. Suddenly, when he gave someone a B on a project, he would hear from that kid’s parents, demanding that the grade be changed to an A. My classmates and I howled with laughter. When we were his students, we knew that As were rare and only for truly exceptional ideas and effort, and we never felt entitled to them.
This was the culture I experienced in college. I grew up so much during those years. It felt like an accomplishment to be voted “class artist” in high school. But college is way more competitive, there are so many talented students, and suddenly I was getting critiqued for the first time! Also new to me were deadlines, craftsmanship, the whole functional aspect of design, and what seemed like an insane amount of work (I will end up feeling differently about the workload later, keep reading). We had a semester-long class called “Professional Skills” where we learned how to put together a resume and a portfolio, how to apply for jobs, how to be interviewed, and about the various career formats that were available to us. To those who think this is too “vocational,” if only they understood the value of what they missed.
I still have a box full of samples from my 20 year design career.
College-level design programs are very different from the rest of academia. We had a few full-time professors, but most of our faculty were “adjuncts,” meaning part-time and non-permanent. In most fields of academia, including fine arts, adjuncts are considered lower-tier, because they are not deemed qualified for full-time status. In design academia, adjuncts and full-timers are on the same level. In fact, adjuncts with busy and accomplished careers are sought after in good design programs, because they bring a real world perspective to what they are teaching. They make good role models, like Sharon Thorpe and others like her.
In the early 2000s, I taught for a couple of years at a well-known art college in DC. The commercial arts departments of this college were taught mostly by adjuncts, similar to the education I received. Our classes were in a building several miles from the college’s main location. So I didn’t mingle with the fine arts teachers. Until someone created a listserv for professors of this college. At first it was fun, but before long I saw the severe culture differences between fine arts teachers and design teachers. Again, we were mostly adjuncts, and they were mostly full-time. For example, the college had been charging them $5/month for parking at their downtown building. The fee was being increased to $15/month. The whining was unbelievable. I had spent a few years working in an office downtown, where parking spaces had been $125/month. The complaints grew into vague screeds about how much abuse and indignity they had to suffer at the hands of their employer. The disconnect with reality, and the sense of victimhood, were a big shock. And then they started voicing their anger over how much adjuncts got paid, twisting it as “adjuncts get paid more than us” which was not true at all. Adjuncts got paid per class, not a full-time salary, which broke down to a higher per-hour rate. We got no benefits or job security. But that “per-hour” calculation was enough for full-timers to lose their shit. The story might be funny when it’s about college kids with overprotective parents. But when the story is about 50 year old art professors, it isn’t funny anymore.
I left that job after two years. I love teaching, and I really liked my colleagues in the computer graphics department. But I was really turned off by the culture I saw among the full-time teachers. This college had a fancy reputation, but underneath I saw something rotten. I didn’t want to be associated with it. And besides, even though some thought I was being paid too much per hour, I was charging much more than that in my private design practice. (That’s what a vocational education gets you.)
So back to the subject of “role models.” When I was a student, I’m not sure I fully appreciated it at the time. Now as a middle-aged adult, looking back on my career path, I now understand the importance of role models. You can learn the nuts and bolts of any field in a classroom. But being a professional anything takes a lot more than nuts and bolts knowledge. Good role models show you, in a much more comprehensive way, “this is the type of person you need to be after you get out of school.”
I’m sure there are exceptions to what I’m about to say. But in my experience, those with fine arts educations, including ceramics, probably did not have access to real world role models. They were taught by people who have never ventured very far from a college campus themselves. The system that hires fine arts professors favors those who have paid the most into the academic system. Academia tries to prove its own relevance by requiring its teachers to have MFAs, which are not cheap! There are no scholarships or grants to pay you to get an MFA. You pay for them yourself, to the tune of $50,000 to $75,000. And this is on top of the cost of your bachelor’s degree.
Those who manage to land a rare job in academia are very possessive about it. This is another reason why fine arts programs can’t hire working artists to teach as adjuncts, and bring more real world experience to college classrooms. Their culture depends too much on things like “tenure” and “full-time.” Adjuncts, with our independence from such things, are a threat to them. Just look at the contempt that the full-timers had for adjuncts at the school where I taught.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much (or how little) an art degree is worth, but here is a report titled Artists Report Back, A National Study on the Lives of Art Graduates and Working Artists that tried to do so. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are some key points:
• Among those with fine arts degrees, only 10% of them become working artists.
• Among working artists, only 16% of them have fine arts degrees. 40% of them have no bachelor’s degree at all.
• 7 of the 10 most expensive colleges in the U.S. are art colleges.
• The average earnings of working artists is $30,000 per year. Those with art degrees are doing a little better, averaging $36,000 per year.
• Designers and architects were excluded from both the “art graduate” and “working artist” data, because their higher earnings significantly skewed the data.
To summarize in my own words, for those who paid up to $200,000 for a bachelor’s degree in art, 10% of them will earn $36,000 per year. Which is only $6,000 more per year than their counterparts who did not get an art degree, including many who do not have a bachelor’s degree at all. The other 90% will not become working artists.
The study authors summarize, “We acknowledge that some arts graduates are satisfied with work in other fields, but the fantasy of arts graduates’ future earnings in the arts should be discredited.”
Again, I feel lucky and grateful to have gone through a different system, with a totally different culture, and different values. Hooray for vocational school! Not only did my education set me up for the professional world, the experience of working as a designer also set me up to run a pottery studio.
Designers are taught how to take an idea and convert it into reality, using the elements of design, contextual relationships, time and space, hierarchy, color theory, etc. A good design is an aggregation of a bunch of complex parts, even for those of us who strive for simplicity in our final outcomes. We are taught how to put the parts together, and how to make them work with each other. And to speak the message that we want to convey. Now I use all of these skills when developing pottery designs. By now, I have seen plenty of “wow” pottery made by other potters, but so much more that was an “almost wow,” where somebody didn’t quite put it all together. Including work by potters who were formally educated. Or, they only learned how to make work that looks exactly like an established potter’s work, rather than learning how to build complete designs out of their own ideas.
We also learn the “design process,” starting with a concept, followed by a first draft (or three), followed by cycles of review and revisions, until finally all of the issues are resolved. I’ve seen so many good potters who will make a new design for the first time, shrug and put it out for sale. They don’t seem to understand that the first attempt at a new design is never a complete design. The complex parts need to be resolved. When I put first drafts out for sale, they are viewed as prototypes and their job is to gather feedback, not to be regarded as finished designs. I’ve also seen professional potters scrap their entire line of work, and start working in a completely different aesthetic without any testing or feedback. That’s not professional art, that’s gambling! A new aesthetic also needs to go through the design process.
Remember when I said that studying design was an insane amount of work? Our design classes involved maybe three projects per semester. It seemed overwhelming to a student because there is so much to learn, and all of those details to resolve. About three years into my professional career, one day at work I stopped and counted my projects, and realized I had completed 17 of them in the past month. The projects were not any less complicated, but my brain had evolved to process and resolve the details much faster. This is why many potters don’t bother with the design process when developing new pots or aesthetics. When you’re not used to doing it, it seems overwhelming. But after you have done it hundreds and hundreds of times, it seems like a normal thing to do, and it can be done quickly.
As a designer, the design process is followed by a technical post-production process, which allows a printer to take the finished design and reproduce it. This is one area where formally-educated potters get what they need. The technical training in college pottery programs is strong. My issue with academia on this subject is that it doesn’t take four years, or the expense of a bachelor’s degree, to learn this. I had a high-school nerd’s background in chemistry, which helps. But in general, the technical side of pottery can be learned through books, workshops, and community colleges, for much cheaper than a bachelor's degree. The same is actually true for the production aspects of design. My college training in design production was “the old way,” involving photo-typesetting, wax, non-repro blue pencils, rule tape, etc. Within two years after I graduated, it was all being done on computers. I had to learn production all over again. But it didn’t require going back to college. Today, these skills can be learned in adult education settings, faster and much cheaper. The valuable part of my college degree was the “how to think like a designer” part.
Designers learn to take the word “deadline” very seriously. I’ve met so many artists who have no idea how to manage their time. Or they have no concept of “parameters” at all, things like time, budgets, continuity, graphic standards, etc. Part of a designer’s training is to have these concepts drilled in. This has been a big advantage for me as a potter too. There’s a big difference between the festival artists who read the exhibitor packets in advance, and therefore show up knowing all of the show’s rules and logistics, and the artists who wing it, in terms of who has an easier time at the show. And who has enough energy for a year-round schedule of shows. Your level of preparedness also impacts your relationships with show producers, and your fellow artists. I also had a big advantage when working in the wholesale sector of the craft industry. As I took orders at a trade show, I would tell the buyer the exact date to expect their order. This is apparently very different from the way most wholesale potters/artists treat delivery timeframes. Many give their buyers a big window of delivery time, and don’t think it’s a big deal to be late. There was one order where I had to miss a deadline due to a bad firing. I called the buyer, told her what happened, and asked for two more weeks. She practically gushed at being told in advance that the delivery would be late. I entered the wholesale marketplace in 2007, at the beginning of the last recession. And even though many artists and galleries struggled during the years that followed, my pottery studio grew from part-time to full-time during those years. I believe my dependable approach was a big help to buyers who were under a lot of stress.
Criticism and feedback are big chunks of a designer’s workflow. We process it all, and try to get the most out of it. We learn to distinguish the valid from the invalid. We learn to understand the motives behind it. I don’t see it as a personal attack. As a festival artist, for every sale I make, dozens of people walked out of my booth and thought “nah.” It doesn’t bother me. But a lot of artists cannot stomach that much perceived rejection. I’ve seen many talented artists who fall apart when criticized. Or get angry. They have no ability to use feedback as a tool. Again, I suspect this is because they didn’t have the right teachers. Or maybe when they had a good teacher, their parents intervened when that teacher gave them a B.
Lots of feedback from other people also causes you to develop a strong sense of your own personal aesthetic values. This is another area where a lot of aspiring potters struggle. They are searching for their “voice” or their “look” and don’t know where to start. Designers don’t have to search. After hearing so many opinions about our work for years, we know exactly what we believe. At the very beginning of my pottery business, I was thinking “I want to make quiet, understated pottery, using gray and white glazes on brown clay. Rustic, but also modern. Functionality will be my highest priority, with strong nods towards historical Korean pottery.” These values have carried me all the way to today.
Designers get their creative brains into gear whether they feel like it or not. This has shaped my overall attitude towards working, which is different than a lot of artists. Another artist at a show once said to me “You must be sick of making mugs.” I answered “No, not really. When you decide to become a professional potter, you just have to accept that you’re gonna make thousands of mugs, and you need to be positive about it.” Pulling mug handles is admittedly not my favorite task. But I have never lost sight of the fact that being a potter is a great privilege, and an indulgent choice. The least I can do is work my butt off. Too many artists believe they have to right to work only when they feel “inspired.” I roll my eyes.
Finally, maybe the most important thing about my design training, as it relates to my pottery business, is that graphic design is a job that can be easily formatted for self-employment. Especially after all the production was shifted to desktop computers. And it helped to have role models for self-employment as college professors. I became self-employed at age 26. By the time I launched a part-time pottery business, I had been running a design business for 6 years. Over the years I have met so many potters, and artists in general, who have never learned basic business practices. In fact, I’ve met many artists who have confused and conflicted ideas about money. They all dream of getting paid but don’t want to be seen as a “sell out.” Designers don’t see money or business as something “dirty.” We see it as earning a honest living, which is part of being a responsible adult.
And here’s another huge benefit to having built a design business first. It took eight years for the pottery business to grow into a real income, and during those years I did not go hungry. This is something that pains me greatly about those with ceramics degrees. Many of them leave college believing they can make an income right away. Nobody told them it would take years, maybe a decade, to slowly grow their business. You need to have an income during those early years. Thanks to my design business, I never had to make decisions about my pottery that were driven by financial pressure. I developed my body of work, and my audience, in ways that never felt like a compromise. The design business afforded me the space and time I needed to succeed at pottery on my own terms.
Really, the whole point of this blog post is to talk about the reasons why most art businesses fail: lack of financial wherewithal, poor work ethic, can’t manage parameters, can’t take criticism, can’t objectively shepherd their creativity into viable work. I believe this type of training is missing from most artists’ educations. At some point while I was becoming a potter, it dawned on me that the reason I do not suffer from these things is because I became a designer first.
I'm not sure why, but most of the shows I've done this year have resulted in media opportunities for me. The shows are using my name and my face to promote themselves, while also giving me a nice publicity boost. I was on Voice of America's Korean TV station during the Smithsonian Craft Show. At the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, I participated in two video shoots during the show. One that was produced by the festival, which is meant to attract new attract new artists to apply for the show. And one that was produced by the town of State College, to promote the arts in their town. For Artscape Baltimore, I was interviewed on a local morning news show. And at this past weekend's show, I discovered that I was on a billboard! I'll try not to let this go to my head.
I was asked to tape an interview with Baltimore's local CBS news station, promoting the Artscape Baltimore festival that takes place this weekend. This is my 17th year as an Artscape exhibitor, and I have nothing but great things to say about it.
This year's festival has a completely different layout. The Artist Market will be on Charles Street. The weather is going to be brutally hot, in other words, same as most Artscapes. Pack a water bottle and come out to enjoy the heat, and the best of Baltimore's art scene.
At this year's Smithsonian Craft Show, I was interviewed by Voice of America's Korean TV station. There were quite a few Korean artists in the show, so I am thrilled that they picked me. The program is in Korean but they let me do my part in English with subtitles. Here's a link to watch. The segment is the first 1:30 of the program.
The whole show itself was another life-defining experience. This is the apex of the craft world, and it is a real honor to be so well-received here. Both by the attendees of the show, and the committee of gracious and tireless people who organize it every year. On the last afternoon as things were winding down, I wanted to lie down on my back in the middle of the aisle, with my ankles crossed and my hands behind my head, and just gaze up into the soaring architecture of the National Building Museum. And to contemplate "what's next?" Don't worry I didn't do it.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I've been studying hand bookbinding since last summer. This is a serious option for me, in terms of what I'm going to do with myself after I retire from pottery. I don't want to sit around with nothing to do. I also don't want to do any more heavy lifting, or to be tied to a bunch of heavy equipment. A bookbinding operation fits on a desk, and can easily be moved from place to place. It seems like a good fit for how I want to live.
Even though my retirement is several years away, I think it's important to start learning this now. I need to figure out two things: 1) Do I like doing it enough that I would be happy doing it a lot? 2) Can I make a decent "beer money" income with handmade books?
And there's another reason why I'm starting this now. Some people think that being a professional artist means you get to do fun things every day. Total fallacy! If you achieve full-time professional status as a creative person, your life involves doing the same things every day, over and over, day after day. It's important to get off your hamster wheel once in a while, before you forget how. If you depend on your creative work for your income, falling into a rut is deadly. I've seen it happen too many times, when a very talented person grows to hate their own work. It's sad. Shifting your brain into "learn mode" can do wonders for the way you feel about your daily work.
There's nothing like cutting off all the stitches of your hand-bound book, because you realized you made a crucial mistake at the beginning, to remind you what it feels like to be a beginner again. Which then forces you to see how far you've come in your own area of expertise, and to contemplate all the years of practice it took. It makes you feel pretty good, not bored or burnt out.
Bookbinding brings me back to all of my favorites aspects of my previous career as a print graphic designer (an almost extinct breed nowadays). Such as pawing through pretty paper samples, cutting and folding, knowing how to make tiny adjustments to accommodate paper's third dimension, among others things. And of course ... measuring! My favorite verb. And I get to say hello to my old measuring friends, Pica and Point.
Since last summer, I've taken two workshops at Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center in Hyattsville, MD (which I highly recommend). And I've started reading a series of books by Keith Smith, which were recommended by my instructor. These are the first projects I've made by myself at home, without the guidance of an instructor.
I'm calling this first design the "List Book." I am a zealous list maker and note taker, and go through lots of these little notebooks. From now on, I'm going to make them instead of buying them. The first one took me over five hours, as I figured out the design from scratch. You can see how many times I changed my mind about the details. And like I mentioned, I made sewing mistakes that forced me to start over.
Here are the text signatures. I printed the rules with my laser printer, and was able to space them for the size of my own handwriting. And once again my previous career training helped, because I already knew the definitions of signatures/sections, sheets, and pages, and how to count them.
Here is the book's cover mapped out. The back cover has an extended tab. It can be folded inside the back cover out of the way, or slotted into the front cover to keep the book closed, or used as a bookmark.
After spending five hours on the first one, the second one took only thirty minutes.
Here's a closer look at the stitching on the spine.
I have already begun using one of them. The size is just right, the cover and pages hinge very easily, and I like the way it holds itself open in a relaxed stance when you put it down. Overall, it's very comfortable to use, kind-of like a handmade mug or bowl.
After finishing these small books, I decided to try something more ambitious. I also use a lot of 8.5 x 11 spiral notebooks. I call them "Show Books" because it's where I record my before + after inventory lists for every show, and where I add up my sales. This book has fabric-wrapped hard covers, and is stitched together with a form of "coptic stitching." This stitching allows a thick book to lie open by itself, and even to flip the front cover around to the back. I'm a little skeptical that the linen threads will hold up to abuse, because this book gets carried with me to every show inside a messenger bag. But so far it feels nice and sturdy. And just like the List Book, the covers and pages hinge very comfortably. I guess time will tell how well it holds up.
I've already started using this book too. I have a growing list of reservations for my upcoming 2019 shows. I like that this is on the very first page of the book, which means it will be easy to find and edit this list.
I would also like to develop a journal-sized notebook, and possibly a calendar/planner. My plan is to have a few prototypes of these available for sale at my next Open Studio in December.
When I decided to do pottery full-time, I was okay with the idea that vacations might not be in the budget. Just one of many sacrifices I was willing to make in order to pursue something that was more important to me. An artist's income is unpredictable. We can't control when the next recession will arrive. We might get sick or injured and be unable to work for a while. Cultivating a sense of security is a top priority. The way my pottery business has developed has been worth every sacrifice. In recent years, I have become more comfortable, eager even, to plan nice vacations for myself. And sometimes life sends a reminder to reward myself for good financial health.
This is a trip I've made before, and will be repeating again for sure. I went to Sarasota, Florida, to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, and to watch the Orioles play some spring training games. It was so nice to get away from winter for a few days!
A friend of mine saw this photo on Facebook, and teased me for reading what appears to be a work-related book. I have been studying bookbinding since last summer, and I swear the subject is geeky fun for me! It combines all of the best parts of being a print graphic designer, my previous career, with all of the handmade craftsmanship principles of my current career. It's possible I spent my break from the pottery studio setting up my life after pottery.
Karen Grossman was my middle school art teacher. One of the first people to express to me "hey, you're good at art." As an adult, I reconnected with her in a pottery workshop! Yes, she is now an accomplished potter too. I see her at many craft shows and she has purchased a lot of my work.
Sharon Thorpe was my college design professor. She helped to transform me from a teenager into an adult who can navigate the professional world. These days I see her at craft shows too, because she helps out a friend of hers who is an emerging jewelry artist. She lets me know how fascinated and impressed she is with my pottery business and the craft world.
This type of feedback and support, from people whose opinions matter, means a lot.
Mea Rhee (mee-uh ree),
Portland Fine Craft Show
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