Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where do pots come from?

A conversation with a dear friend the other day has stuck in my head. They asked if I was quitting work to go on a maternity leave or if my husband was "making" me go back to work in the studio. Now, as a feminist, my husband has never tried to be 'in charge' of me or of our marriage. As a feminist, I do what I need and/or want to do and always have.
When I decided to become single with house payments in my early twenties, I realized that my crappy job wasn't going to cover my expenses. So I asked everyone who came into the gas station if they knew of a better job that I could apply for. It was the start of my oil-patch working life which paid very well and made me eligible for the loan that I needed to take over complete ownership of my house.
When I realized, in university, that my awful mark (B-) in statistics meant that I would likely not be able to get into medical school, I reassessed my life with hubby's help and decided to try to become a firefighter instead. This lead to years of physical fitness demands that would make an average person quake in their boots!
When Dave and I figured out that we would starve to death long before he finished his nursing degree, I decided to get a job driving a school bus which provided my class two license and was a paying job which left lots of time for working on my fitness in preparation for the CFD entrance exams. It also had the added bonus of paying for food!
On the other hand, when my soul fell out of my body, hubby was completely willing to scrape me up off the pavement, pack up the house, sell it, find a new one on the island, move us in, find a job here, and love me back to life. This re-finding my soul took at least a year, surely a year of hell for mr. who had to leave for work everyday and hope I would still exist when he got home.

This is the long way around to saying that pots flow out of me. I think about them and work through ideas all the time. I am also very aware of how the world works and I have agreed to pay for a certain portion of the costs of living that I consume. Pottery is both a calling and a job, it exists from passion and out of a need to provide for myself and my new family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

7th Annual Solo Pottery Show

Trial by Fire Pottery will be holding our seventh annual seasonal show on December 1st & 2nd.
The show is from 10-5 on both Saturday and Sunday.
Look for our huge signs on Canada Ave and James Street to guide you.
We rent the Clements Centre for the show. This location is very central, close to downtown with lots of parking and it is wheelchair accessible.
The Clements Centre is one block west of the library in Duncan, at 5856 Clements Street, which is just off James street.
Dave and I hope to see lots of regular customers and if you bring a friend you get 10% off your purchase!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Limiting Factors

The dry ware shelves are full. The glazed/unfired shelves are full and the damp cupboard is full. I am not able to load the big kiln shelves into the kiln anymore, as my belly is far too big to reach around so this means that I am having to ask for help...which I am not happy doing. I load all the pots onto the bottom shelf and then go upstairs to ask helper Dave to pick up and lower the very heavy, large shelf into place. Then repeat for the rest of the kiln until we are full and Dave is tired of being the pottery assistant.
One of the beautiful things about my tiny studios is that I HAVE to empty one area to move forward in the process, this keeps me moving through the stages that I enjoy less and breaks up the resistance I may be harbouring towards the less pleasing tasks.
There is always a certain satisfaction in finishing waxing an entire batch of pots or in unloading, pricing and then putting away 50 fresh pots and seeing the gallery fill back up.
I am assuming that there will be little work time after the baby gets here and am filling this last month of gestation with throwing outstanding orders and work for the only show I am doing this season. It is quite a gamble to put all of my (pottery) "eggs" in one basket but I don't really have a choice. On the other hand, show fees are often outrageous and by not doing them I save that money. Always a gamble, this show season may seem less risky than the past six years of a large show each weekend! I will certainly not miss the thirty to forty plus hours in three or four days, that each show consumes or the endless packing and unpacking of pots into and out of tubs, cars and shows.
Time will tell how this time of physical limits, limited exposure to the Xmas season circuit and limited income will play out for next year. As long as I learn something, all is well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Only One Christmas Show This Year!!

The Christmas season is usually full of weekend after weekend of shows from Parksville to Sidney, but not this year! When we found out that we are going to have a baby around the end of October, i decided that there was no way i was going to be able to produce enough work, pack up all my work, set up shows, sit a forty plus hour show all with a huge belly OR newborn infant in tow!!
So here is the new plan for the fall season: one show, here in Duncan, my solo show, 10-5 Saturday and Sunday, December 1st and 2nd. That's it. I will not be at Christmas Chaos--although i will be asking my old booth mates to hand out show invitations to anyone who asks where i am.
If there is any stock left i may attend the show at Providence Farm or the Waldorf School Show but i'm not sure how much work i am able to produce as my pelvis starts to complain more and more.
One of the largest obstacles right now is my belly when i am trying to load the kiln. I have found ways to turn just sideways enough to be able to put pots on the bottom shelf but planning dictates that i only put really tall pots there so the lowest kiln shelf is still within reach. Most studio work can be modified simply; sitting down to glaze pots and mix glazes, taking each pot out individually instead of twenty on a ware board, making each work element easier.
The other part of the plan, for now, is to throw and finish all the orders for pots that are outstanding. It always feels good to get work out of the way that people are waiting for, and this time around i am using this as an opportunity to make spares that i will then have for the show.
There is an odd emotional space where it feels like i am giving up on my business, but also a complete calm as the baby grows in my belly and clearly dictates that i must nap or take a break or go upstairs and eat something.
Some of my regular customers laugh at the idea that i will keep potting here and there over the next few months but the best thing about potting is that you can simply learn to take smaller bites! Examples of this are; starting to wax 70 pots and then finishing them the next day, wedging the clay for a run of mugs the first day and then throwing them the next, glazing a batch of pots and taking a break between glaze tubs, and throwing smaller sets at a time which means that the next day of trimming and applying handles is also more manageable.
I built a really sweet stool/chair last year and am quite sure that it is the reason i am able to tolerate time at the wheel at all. It is a simple canvas seat with tension set by cords, topped with a fitter (air filled) disc and then a nice cushion. This combination means that my mass is constantly shifting and my pelvis can find several different angles without having to take my (now quite substantial) weight off the seat to do so.
I will be putting advertisements in the newspapers about my 7th Annual Solo Show, and putting up posters all over town, as i have done in all the past years. There will be invitations for the taking at Coffee on the Moon and i will be handing them out as much as possible. This year instead of a coupon offering 10% off, you will receive the same discount at my show if you bring a friend!
Time to get that kiln loaded before my belly lets me know it's time to take a break.....and a nap.....and some more food!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Busy studio and required naps

Busy time in the studio and it feels like I can't catch up. All the bisqued pots in the month old photo are gone out into their new homes!
I am firing work now for the Arts on the Avenue art show in Ladysmith this Sunday. I should have a reasonable amount of work ready for this weekend but not the usual overkill that I am known for. My need to have a nap is now at the level that it actually overpowers me and if I don't go lie down for a while I wake up on the floor or on my chair or realize that I have been quite asleep standing at the wheel or wedging table.
The other photo is of the mug order that I have been working on for a set for Hilary's Cheese Cafe to serve with. As it turns out they are now going to have a batch for sale as enough of their stock was stolen to start causing problems!
Back to the studio, with several snacks in tow and I will work until the next nap time. Still at the Duncan Farmers' Market almost every Saturday. Today I need to unload the old kiln "Sputnik 2" and then glaze and load up the big girl. See you at the shows!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life is Work

Work is life, maybe. Life is work, definately. I have been in the studio a lot these past months, throwing work and then following through the process until i can finally sell my sweet pots to the public. The dinner set custom orders are going out the door on a regular basis and i need more mugs and bowls than i have been able to create. It is a great feeling that there is a lot of demand for the pots but also it creeps up on me and then one day i am in the gallery and look around to see that the boards are pretty bare!
The biggest hurdle i have recently lept is to make a full knot in the handle of my dome style butter dishes. This requires a lot of fiddling and in an odd twist of events it needed slightly stiffer pulled handles to make it work. I will add a photo of these knotted handles but please be patient as almost all of them are presold from the early photos that i posted on facebook.
Dave spent half a day helping deconstruct my glaze studio last week, refilling my dry materials tubs and putting the less used dry materials in the "deeper storage" area, so there is a very streamlined area to work. We were getting a new freezer that is upright so when you open the door you can see everything and when you bring *grifted* fruit to store it has a special accesible place to go. The downside to this was that it had to go in my tinyglaze space which meant that we were getting rid of the work table that i made years ago.
The compromises were to add a shelf, cut a shelf shorter and move the other inhabitant items of the space around to give me as much floor space as possible. I have been using my colapsible tables for glaze days and waxing, which may seem like a pain in the butt, however it gives me weekly deadlines as the tables have to be packed up for use at the Markets.
Okay, here i go back to the studio, a few hours of waxing pots, then i have to seive my blue glaze as the tiny balls are getting out of hand, then to glaze 61 pots from yesterday's firing. I will load the big kiln today and then go back to the wheel for some more throwing. My newly swollen feet are better in the mornings so i have to get down there early in the day as the dark brings on shooting, burning foot pain only relieved by elevating them on my new chair. (Aside* shopper dave found the exact gliding rocker i wanted for $40 online!! it was $1200 new in a shop~just needed a wipe down and so comfy!)
Sorry garden.....the weeds will have to wait another few days.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Back in the Studio

This week has been one of trying old things again for the first time since my adventure in Vancouver. I glazed a set of 16 plates and 17 of the spice jars in my water glaze. I had to take care to keep my belly happy and it was a good reminder of safe body positioning. It showed me that I tend to curl my shoulders and bend my head forward while I am mixing the glaze tubs.
The next day, I loaded the big kiln with all 16 plates and some jars in one load which is the most plates I have ever fired at once and was very pleased to open the kiln the next evening to see that they had all turned out well. I called the customers and they popped by the next day to pick out their set. I always make extras and it was a great idea here too.
They took home the plate set and a set of bowls along with just the right mug for two tea bag sized serving. I hope every January is filled with throwing orders and february/march is filled with sending them home.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Take a break

The studio is still humming along, i threw 8 low wide pasta bowls yesterday, loaded the kiln and prepped clay for a set of small cups for a customer. i need to unload the bisque today and wax, glaze and reload the big girl so i can get a few orders out before we go over to vancouver this weekend. i have almost finished the second last plate set of the winter (just one more plate to fire then i will call them) the last set will likely be done when i get back as they are in the bisque load in the kiln right now but i can't fire a dozen plates in one glaze load.

Things are getting a little more complex because i will have to wear a large sign around my neck that says "CONFRONT ME IF I DON'T ASK FOR HELP" i will need to ask dave to pick up bags of clay from the floor to put them on my wedging table, i will need him to help me load the kiln as the shelves are 2 feet across and very heavy, i will need to not hang up my bike on the wall.

i am not that good at taking things easy, asking for help or waiting for someone to come home before starting the project on my mind. at the same time it is really important that my body is given lots of time off to take care of itself. So far things have been pretty smooth and i have been cutting back a bit on the daily exercise to wean myself off but we are taking my bike over to vancouver with us so we can still go out and maybe ride around the sea-wall nice and easy!

The studio work will be shut down while i am away but we have asked friends to take fresh mugs to Coffee on the Moon when they sell. . I have called people who's work is ready to make a date to pick up their pots . Now I need to relax and find a way to sit down with my projects and let everything else go.
I can say that the injections are unpleasant but not unbearable and I have some neat knitting projects to finish.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Austerity Measures

The last month has been one of finishing orders for pottery that i have promised people (including throwing a secret order for a special gift, no hints though) and waiting. Life on the pottery wheel is very cyclical, the january making of fresh new work, spring shows and getting back to the 'market' and trying to fill the gallery before i need to spend time out in the garden to start my food off right. Then summer with the weeks full of riding too and from markets and keeping the sun shade in front of the window down but, pots dry well and turn around much faster than during the rainy season. Fall brings a winding down of markets and a new fever pitch of making pots that must be ready for the seasonal shows which may do incredibly well or tank horribly and cost a lot of money. Then there is that tiny break between the last show and january...that's when i can stop; breathe and read books about clay and ideas and my kilns get a break and the skin on my hands grows back (along with my tolerance for people touching my work, which is amazingly resilient). But that sweet little break this year has been superseded by another situation that needs a lot of time and thought, actually it would have been nice to take a break from thinking about it but more on that below.

Now, one of my goals for each year is to work hard enough and plan well enough to be able to pay the studio rent without stress all year round and pay for clay and the odd ball of wool for a new sweater. It also included buying a workhorse bike that can take the disgusting road grit/slush/sand/mud/towing weight/salt and keep on going. It came from cycle therapy who understands me and my needs and they try hard to set things up for me. They also understand that i need to make hand-me-downs from 'bike dave' work, which includes me getting his old garmin computer so that i can keep track of my kms on each bike with the push of a button (as we have all learned recently: i judge my life by how far i go on two wheels). 'Training week dave' was kind enough to set up my new/old computer on my commuter bike last night with a half hour orientation to the new success-measuring-device.

Back to the distraction of the past two months. Dave and i have decided to enlist the help of highly trained professionals in vancouver in the acquisition of a viable zygote made from our genetic material. This may seem simple enough but the constant thought-salad swirls around making a mess in my mental rooms. When i first quit my job with the cfd and started potting full time, i laughed that most of the throwing water was tears and i got really good at wiping my face with my shoulder (thank you yoga for the flexibility) instead of my muddy sticky hands. Now i am once again potting for peace and quiet.

It is much like cycling in that you can make a plan (throw 40 secret pots for an order) and then the day unfolds beautifully, reclaim some clay, open a fresh bag of sweet smelling earth, measure out the weight of balls that will work based on some practice pots, wedge them, put them away in the new tub (thanks to a new idea from reading books about clay studios), layer with plastic, get a batt and throw the first one... which leads to blissful hours outside of the thought-salad.

You feel the coldness of the fresh ball of clay, feel the smack of it hitting the wheel and then the slightly warm water as i swish the sponge through it, squeeze most of the water out of the sponge and lean into the soft clay as it turns on the wheel. i can feel the wind come off my machine as it reaches top speed for just a second and then feel my body straighted up and the wheel slow down as the clay chooses to cooperate and become the little pot that i had imagined.

In that moment of thoughtless peace, the wheel, the clay and i are one thing, the idea becomes the shape and i feel like i can prove that i existed in that moment because there is a memento of it. This is so much like riding my bike, you make a plan, go to coffee on the moon and take fresh mugs for the display, so i take the bike down, lube the chain, make sure i have a repair kit (made entirely of old bits bike-dave no longer needs) and get dressed for the weather, eventually i am required to do only one thing: turn those pedals, watch for people trying to kill me with their cars, turn those pedals (faster according to the bike shop dave) and then there it is, my goal, i am at my coffee shop or the bank, or my girlfriend's house or the recycling place, you get the idea.

The process of acquiring a chance at kids is very challenging. Since we started letting people know about things, we have been shown such love and tenderness, friends that were too painful to chum around with, family and casual people alike have shared their experiences and kindness with us offering help and encouragement.

I listen to cbc a lot and heard about a study of post surgical outcomes of two groups of patients; one had a support group thinking well of them/praying and the other didn't. The people with support thoughts healed better, got out of bed faster, had better moods and went home sooner. It is that, that i feel from others.

Training-week-dave and i went to see our gp yesterday and were helped, comforted and encouraged all at the same time. i expressed concern about the money we are spending and he shared some words of advice that warmed my austere soul. The word 'safe' came out of my mouth twice, and it was interesting to hear...i am safe, dave and i will go on no matter what happens, we have a home and an amazing marriage, a good job and a successful art studio, we have time for each other and have been able to cut back coffee together to one cup a day. We have complete trust, we protect each other from the world and ourselves, we laugh a lot (i actually got to see myself laughing from the inside and it made me laugh even more) we have patience earned honestly-the old fashioned way, most of all we share a deep love the kind in movies or read about in old books, a scene of an unbelievably old man struggling to open the heavy door for a amazingly old woman and then waiting while she shuffles through it, brushing against her gently and smiling as aging memories flood his aging mind.

We have love, patience and humour. What more could two people ask for?