Monday, July 9, 2012

Meditating on Mugs

For the last few weeks I have been plugging away at the largest wholesale order I have had to date.

400 mugs.

While I was excited to GET this order, I was kind of dreading MAKING this order. That's a LOT of freaking mugs. Some potters don't even MAKE mugs. Truth be told, they're a bit of a pain in the ass. They are fussy. And time consuming. And it's hard to get what they are worth when selling them.

When asked up front if I could make that many if I were to get an order for them, I made sure to think long and hard about what I was potentially getting into. Prior to this, my largest wholesale order had been for 100 teapots. That was a complete nightmare. Everything about that order was difficult and I was not eager to go there again. EVER. But having had that experience under my belt, I was better able to work out what would be involved in making so many mugs. I have plenty of time to work on the order, and I'm getting a very fair price for them. Really my only concern boiled down to all that repetitive throwing.

When I first started potting full time, the most I could make of one thing at a time was 8 pieces. Anything after that and my attention span was shot. Without being able to focus on what I was doing, the quality of the pieces would very quickly deteriorate, and along with it, my mood. Fast forward 7 years to the beginning of this year, and I was able to do anywhere from 12 to 18 pieces of the same thing before the inevitable boredom came crashing in.

Really, the best thing about production work is  being able to chart your progress. So far, I have 360 mugs thrown. And I have really seen a change in my ability not only to make them, but to focus as I go. I can now throw 48 mugs in a row, and the 48th mug looks pretty much like the first mug. I have found that within the first dozen, I slip into a bit of a meditation. Time seems to become irrelevant and everything around me is gone. It's just me and my wheel, and a small spinning lump of clay. My hands seem to have figured out what they're doing and I can almost remove myself from the process and let them do what they need to do. It's much the same sensation one gets when running. You reach a certain point where everything flashing around your brain is just gone. A point where you're not thinking, you're not worrying about the banalities of daily life, you're not stewing over what happened yesterday, you're not thinking ahead to tomorrow, you're just here. Now. In the moment, in every moment. It's incredibly liberating. It's incredibly refreshing.

In all honesty, I am really enjoying this order. I thought for sure I'd be having nightmares about mug after mug after mug, but they haven't (yet) made their way into my sleep. We'll see what happens after I start all that packing!

How about you? How's your endurance for production? Is there something that becomes a meditation within your own studio? Tips or tricks you'd like to share, feel free!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seeing Red

My husband has been bitten with the glaze chemistry bug! Which is exciting because this means I have someone to get nerdy with in the glaze kitchen;)

We've been working together to create some electric fired, cone six, copper reds and are getting great results.

This is something we have both been toying with off and on (but mostly off) for the past 10 years. Iron reds always seemed too muddy and the copper reds in the electric kiln always seemed so elusive. We decided to try again on a whim, and it was one of those "what the hell" kind of moments in the glaze kitchen that led to the first results:

While this one came out mostly greenish (as one would expect from copper) we started getting some purples on the top, and where the three test glazes pooled in the center there was some shocking red.

The second test piece from that first firing, while turquoise on one side, the other side was definitely leaning towards red.  I honestly didn't think we'd get ANY interesting results out of our first coordinated attempt hunting copper red in an electric kiln so to say I was surprised is perhaps an understatement.

So next came how to smooth out that red colour from our second test piece. We needed to get rid of the blotches and push the red more to real red, and less pink. Here's what came out of the next firing:

The red COMPLETELY disappeared in the glaze test on the right, and the one on the top left went matte and was an interesting shade of dark wine. The bottom left was definitely getting closer. This gave us an idea of the direction we needed to focus in on. So...
Onwards and upwards! Here's the next batch of tests: 

 There's three different base glazes on this test piece. While they all came out red-ish, we decided to narrow our search down to one glaze recipe. We picked the red-est glaze and continued to play. At this point, we had narrowed down our testing to four different things within our glaze formula that seemed to be affecting our red. Here's what came out next:

Now I realize the images may be very difficult to discern on a computer screen, but I can assure you we were pleased with where things are headed. Here's some close ups of where we will focus our fine tuning even more:

The nerd in me loves this aspect of pottery! My background in science certainly comes in handy. And I'm not gonna lie, it's nice to have a partner in crime!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wait A Minute! It's The End of March?!?

Last time I checked, it was sometime around August, or thereabouts. I can't believe it's already the end of March!

This year has started out with a bang for me. I pretty much haven't had any time off since I started getting ready for my Christmas shows. After losing my wholesale show in Toronto, I decided to throw myself into the deep end and applied to show at the New York International Gift Fair the end of January. This meant spending my "holidays" getting samples together, and figuring out a booth configuration that would pack into a 3'x3'x5' crate. I was a complete disaster leading up to the show, and thanks to my doctor and some pharmaceuticals, I managed to hold it together for the five days of the show.

What an incredible experience!

The New York show made Toronto feel like kindergarten. I had definitely graduated to the big kids sand box, exhibiting at a show where companies like Umbra and the official merchandise for the Beatles had booths. There's about three thousand exhibitors at this show, and I was in a section dedicated to handmade. There was a LOT of incredibly stunning work there. I made some incredible contacts, and got some orders. Maybe not as many as I would have liked, but given that it was my first time showing, I consider myself fortunate to have come away in the black.

Orders for my Feltware have already started rolling out - two made it safely to California, and last week I sent out boxes to Vermont and Wisconsin! But by far, the coolest order I got at the show was for a boutique in Tokyo. Given the stunning porcelain that comes from that side of the world, it's incredibly flattering and humbling to have my work represented there.

It will be a few weeks yet before I get any "me" time, and I'm already planning my next trip to New York for their August show. Until then, I'll keep making, packing and sending my Feltware to some pretty cool shops in places I've never heard of before!