Thursday, December 31, 2009
It was a year unlike any other of my life, and one that has taught the lessons of adversity. I think we're getting good at the making lemonade when life hands you lemons thing. We had a power outage for the last night of Chanukah, and sat by candlelight all evening, playing board games, roasting mini- marshmallows in the tiny candle flames, and finally just talking. It was one of the best evenings we've spent.
Next we had a blizzard, and when the shoveling was done, we made a snowman. He is still there, a symbol of the crazy mad laughter that is available no matter what the circumstances. When you strip everything bare, you can see quite clearly how the simplest moments and the humblest things are an invitation to happiness and joyful abandon. The way a cardinal looks against the stark snow. The cat that curls up on a present under the tree. The teenage girls, who for no particular reason decide one day to begin a conversation as if you are someone worth asking.
I walked past the brook I love today, and it was silent with ice, as if holding its breath. There is no breeze. Only expectation, as we wait for the last night to invite our wishes and prayers.
Happy New Year! Dare to dream huge, and may all you envision be yours!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A clever and talented perfume maker and blogger, Roxana of Illuminated Perfume, asked me to participate in a holiday round robin Advent-ure. For each day of the Christian Advent, a different blogger creates their own little post about scent and its relationship to the experience of the holiday season. If you enjoy my post, check out the links above to read all the posts in this series!
We are a blended tradition family who celebrate the Christmas of my Episcopalian childhood with the Chanukah of my husband's faith, in a season that we now refer to in our household as Chranukah. Time has smoothed the blend, and I can now sing the Hebrew blessings as artfully as my husband hangs outdoor lights of blue and white, but it wasn't always that way.
In our first holiday season together in one household, it became painfully obvious that the plethora of Christmas decoration swallowed up our menorah, the carols hogged the airwaves, and the cookies, candies, and cakes were like painted harlots vying for attention with a singular plate of latkes. My husband and his sons were woefully uncomfortable.
Our new kitten, aptly named Loca, created the comic relief that smoothed over our tension by perpetually stealing baby Jesus from our nativity scene and leaving Him to be found under pillows, in a shoe, or under a chair. One day Baby Jesus went missing, not to be found, and we had a whole Christmas with a manger scene that lacked Jesus.
The next spring, while tending to the new growth in our gardens, my husband burst into the house, holding the tiny sewn figure, and exclaimed "I found Jesus!" My daughter and I laughed ourselves silly! "Don't tell your mother!" "Don't tell my mother what?" "Don't tell your mother that you found Jesus! She'll think we've converted you!"
This story is told every year as we hang ornaments, and put our nativity scene under the tree. We now eat gingerbread Star of David cookies, and send batches to my in-laws who love them. I've become a great latke chef, and make homemade applesauce, so those smells now evoke our holiday memories: gingerbread, fresh and pungent applesauce, steaming plates of latkes. And Baby Jesus still maintains a slightly earthy scent. What we are all celebrating is not really so different, or so it seems to me. Hope. Miracles. The light that comes into the world and our hearts and cannot be extinguished.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
What do women really want? I hope lots of them want a Deco dragonfly mug, because mine is in this week's Voter (Gifts for Her)! And not getting enough love at the moment, so please, consider voting for me! Here is the difference between men and women, according to me:
What do men want? A: What other men have.
What do women want? A: What other women want.
I think that it's so easy to buy gifts for women. Make it personal, heartfelt, slightly luxurious, and at least one notch beyond what she'd buy for herself. Do the little, non-material things for a woman you are gifting- a thoughtful card with a personal note, a great setting in which to present your gift, and sometimes a story about why you thought of her when you chose that gift.
I hope all your gifts this season come with kisses and hugs and shining eyes and maybe some of those golden moments when you know that all is truly well and your heart's desire is actually all around you.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I was looking forward to baking with my daughter on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, as a break from making a gazillion ornaments in clay. When we made our sweet potato buscuits, cut out in Star of Davids, I realized that this is basically the same thing as working in the studio, except it smells better baking. And when it came time to put a lattice crust on the apple pie, I couldn't control myself. The potter in me took over, and soon I was cutting out leaf shapes, and hand forming acorns. Then adding a milk and organic sugar coating to make it brown nicely.
Yes, I have always been this way, and so has Marci. I knew that she had the artist's gift when she requested broccoli at age 5. She didn't eat it. Instead, she made a hump of potatoes and stuck the broccoli heads in like little trees.
I guess you just can't take a break from being who you are.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When I rise from the ocean of sleep, my eyes open with gratitude. Last year at this time we were all so fearful, wistful, hoping for a change, a way out of economic collapse. I did not let that fear climb into the driver's seat of my life nor tell me what to imagine, nor write the story of my year. Everywhere I saw light upon frozen snow, painting a softness, and glowing from the eyes of moths at my window, and shimmering cool dappled shadows beneath the tall trees. I gave my heart to the light, everyday.
My pottery has been a refuge this past year, a doorway into a land where something deep and precious waits to be born. And I've opened my kiln, curious to see who is there.
And so this year, I am most grateful for creativity and active imagining and dreaming and all the attributes that they tell you, in 3rd grade somewhere, you must outgrow in order to memorize endless useless lists of facts.
As my heart and soul have dreamed, so my life has become. Hope has been a winged bird this year. And for this, and the other gifts of grace given to me this year, I am grateful.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
My daughter noticed this helpless feathered life lying on its side. A heart beat but a bone protruded from its delicate wing, and blood seeped from its beak. Still, I cradled it in my hands. Marci got a small box with a soft towel, and we laid the immobile bird, a downy woodpecker, to rest in the softness. It looked with acceptance into my eyes and we spoke to it in gentle tones, the language of comfort.
I asked Marci to take it to her room, away from the cats, and warm. The plan was to see if it could rest, and perhaps survive. I wasn't sure if the limp body could support life. About an hour later, Marci burst into my studio claiming that the bird was out of its box and sitting on her rug! We hurried with joy to her door, and the startled woodpecker, with improbable lightness, flew into the closet!
There were a few minutes of comical chase, as I, after catching his tuxedo-ed body in a towel, released him upon command. Just as he understood our soothing, I know when I've been told a thing or two! It occurred to me to open the window, remove the screen, and turn off the lights. It worked! With gentle nudging, Mr. Woodpecker took flight, and dissappeared from our world and into his own.
I think of the lessons from the world, and this is how soothing works. Healing is an unseen ball of light that we pass amongst us, willing all that is broken to mend, and finally, to take flight.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I've learned an interesting lesson over the past year, which is that abundance has little to do with what you actually have, and a lot to do with your relationship with what you have. Abundance is less of a bank statement and more of a state of mind. Abundance is a feeling of having everything you need and just a little bit more, and generously giving from that context of gratitude that you've been blessed beyond your needs.
I was not born into a Norman Rockwell picture, and I did not learn these types of Precious Moments platitudes from my saint of a mother. I spent many years convinced that abundance was something I would acheive if my income went up $50,000 more, that generosity meant calculatingly giving to prestigious charities, and that gratitude was something we faked in order to not hurt grandma's feelings when we opened her gifts.
So this knowledge that abundance is not about money is new for me. My riches are now like this bowl, pictured above. The outside is a soft white, which absorbs all light, and all the beauty is on the inside.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
If you've followed my blog, you know how obsessed I am with getting the photography right in my Etsy store. Each season holds a new challenge, and now I'm facing how to do Chranukka (Christmas and Hanukkah) without losing my pagan buyers, and also eager to include any Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, or atheists. Because basically, we all want the same thing at our winter holiday, which is to charge less on our credit card than the amount that would cause us to go to jail!
So I pulled out these snowflake tealight holders as a backdrop for my ornaments, like the one above. My photo lab now consists of a Veritone taped to the outside of my back door, with me laying on the concrete patio to shoot. I did the snowflakes pretty well, and then started my Woodland Birds, with a paper and wire hanger. To cut to the chase, the paper caught on fire. I blew the candle out, which sprayed hot wax on my Veritone backdrop. I tried to scrape this off with a knife, cut my finger, and then bled on top of the wax. There was a bit of swearing involved at this point.
I can now give you a great tip. To remove wax and blood from a Veritone, use nail polish remover. That is my photo tip for today. So if you are in awe of my nifty candlelit shots, you now know exactly what kind of knowledgeable and capable photographer I am!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Today we drove up on the Blue Ridge parkway where the leaves are peaking. There was a reverent hush as people of all nationalities with many blending accents and languages gazed with drunken rapture at oranges so deep that you might warm your hands just to touch them, and reds so surreal that perhaps fairies and trolls partied last night and splattered magic paint around. I saw young city girls clutching bouquets of giant leaves, gathered like precious jewels. A tall man with his toddler son shuffled through piles, and the man's face was lost in his own boyhood, while the young one had eyes like an old man who understood everything. It was beyond amazing.
And I see how this beauty, fierce and urgent, informs my life. When I shut my eyes now, the colors are still there. And when I hold my husband tonight, just before sleep, we will float through crisp air, soaring, gold and red and orange, and filled with light.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My Guardian Lantern is in this week's Etsy Voter- please check it out and consider voting for me! It is my first time in the Voter, so thank you to whoever nominated me. I have one like this piece in the front window of my studio. It greets me as I come and go, it shows off to my visitors the exact colors of Autumn, the glorious residue of stored up memories, the impossible reds, the sun soaked dust of gold.
The colors of autumn are the most fleeting in nature and maybe its a bit of irony to use them on my pottery, which is so unchanging and solid. Or maybe this is what all artists do. We capture moments that might otherwise be lost.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I have been wondering about Divine Guidance lately. Are we born into this world to meet up with certain people, to develop specific inner gifts, to leave behind a pre-ordained list of accomplishments? I do not know.
What I do know is that the success that I've had in the past year could not have come about except as a reaction to what seemed like a tragedy at the time, and that I prayed, meditated, visualized, and asked for Divine Guidance continuously in the first month after my husband lost his job last year. It's almost funny to me looking back, because I was, at the time, a news junkie, so my daily routine consisted of reading blogs and watching cable news reporting on the international economic collapse and impending Depression. I needed prayer to deal with the fear!
I was also living inside many faulty beliefs, such as that no one would buy pottery online and pay all that extra shipping, that selling to high class galleries was the pinnacle of accomplishment and so selling my own work would be backsliding, and that I couldn't stand out amongst the millions of internet shops and sites anyway.
So I only tried Etsy out of sheer desparation, and because it was healthier to immerse myself in a world of artists and vintage sellers as opposed to the paralyzing unemployment statistics, reports of new layoffs, home foreclosures, and corporations going bankrupt. As a bonus, I had my husband at home full time, a former operations manager, now executive VP of Operations. He set up the sales tracking, packing, and shipping systems for my Etsy store, and once all that was running smoothly, he found another job.
I also found a freedom on Etsy to sell more indie, one of a kind experimental pieces, which I've always preferred making. These are harder to market through galleries because of the gallery mark up, but I can sell these easily and affordably on Etsy. I am much happier working now, more excited to go into my studio, and I've close to doubled my income!
The luminary above, titled SUCCESS, has a bee and a dandelion, which are symbols of happiness at work, and spreading fertile seeds, or growing one's resources and wealth. I surrounded myself with these images as my Etsy store blossomed.
Did these images help guide my life? Did The One Who Sustains Us darken my world, and then illuminate the path that lead to my highest and best good? I do not know exactly.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Etsy Finds: October Shopping Guide came out in the Storque (Etsy's blog) today, with my Night Chi dinnerware set in the lead photo. I can't quit staring at it with a tinge of shock and pleasure. I'm not a yay! Look at me! Yahoo type of person and I'm not going on a twitterfest over this, but you know what? There is a warm fire in the cave where my creativity lives, and every acknowledgement and recognition throws a small stick of wood on it. Abe Lincoln said:
Don't worry when you are not recognized but strive to be worthy of recognition.
My Night Chi dinnerware depicts the feeling of nighttime energy, with its starry black sky and golden mountainscape in autumn colors. We eat dinner late at my house, at 7 or even 8 some nights, and it's dark in the fall and winter, so we eat by candlelight. The moon wanders outside my windows spreading its magical radiance. Occasionally a raccoon peers inside, the owls chant, and is still enough to hear rustles of wind.
I go out almost every night for a few moments and soak up some Night Chi.
Monday, September 28, 2009
There was a stray cat living in a barn behind our house all summer. He watched us from a distance. He was luxurious fur stretched on a skeleton, with eyes of fire. I left food around for 2 months, and he finally allowed me to approach and pet him. He was wild, unpredictable, and would hiss and scratch unexpectedly, so I was as wary as he was, but still, I kept approaching. My husband has allergies, and we already have 2 cats, so he did not want another housecat, and I knew I couldn't keep him. Yesterday he showed up with a collar! So my "Boots" found a home!
Kindness is a mysterious force that gets inside us all and changes us and makes us easier to be around. The family I was born into was not kind; we were nice. It is not the same. Nice things are said and done with an implied contract in mind. Some reward is expected for being nice, whereas kindness shines like the sun with no agenda.
A teacher once said to me, "Opening your windows does not guarantee that the wind will blow through your house, but keeping them shut guarantees that it will not. Love is like the wind. You have to be open, or it can't come in."
Kindness is a call to open.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
My daughter can now drive; she has her own Etsy store, and has done rather well. I want her to save some for college and also have the experience of being in charge of her own money. So, for the first time, Marci drove herself downtown to shop the small independent stores on Lexington Ave, and bought 3 new dresses with her own money, and without me to help her choose. I like them all! I like that she is choosing independent designers selling in small Indie shops, and I really like the hand crochet on the 3rd dress, which is her favorite. It's a new kind of moment for me, I mean, it's one thing to pass along your genes, but to see that I've helped nurture my daughter's talent, helped her start her own creative business, and really enjoy her sense of style, too- that's a lot to be thankful for! Dress #2, the one with the pockets, that's just so cute. I like that she'll still humor mom with the posed pictures, too.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
We went hiking in Graveyard Fields this weekend, and saw how the leaves are just beginning to peel off summer's safe beauty and begin the wild magic show. I fell in the creek trying a daring move, and was not hurt at all. We laughed like we were little kids again.
Later we found bushes of wild blueberries, sweeter than any I have ever tasted. It is like falling in the water to put one in my mouth. I am suddenly filled with surprise.
There is so much goodness in the world. You know? It is wasteful not to notice.
Friday, September 11, 2009
BIG news! HUGE!! After losing his job in the near economic collapse last Oct, after 11 long months of unemployment in which our family has often wondered if we would lose our home, my husband was offered a great job with a great company!!!! And the best part is that it is in Asheville, so we don't have to move! Ken had a great strategy, and I am very proud of him. He offered his services as a financial and operations consultant to small businesses in our area. At a time when corporations were going under and failing, Ken helped small companies to survive, to position themselves for success, and to grow. Each client became a great testimonial, and eventually one of his clients saw the value of his contribution and has made him a full time offer.
We just got the news last night, and this morning I unloaded a kilnload of Ravens, such as the ones above. The Raven is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. He is a cunning protector of his friends, and a guardian. Our acre of land in the mountains has been surrounded by an unusual number of crows/ravens since Ken lost his job, and perhaps their presence has encouraged us to make the good decisions we've made. Prayers, family, friends, and luck have all helped, too.
As Meister Eckhart said, "If the only prayer you ever pray is Thank You, that would suffice." Well, THANK YOU!!!! WOOO HOOO!!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
When the ocean has been sad, been weeping furies of tears that break the world down into very small particles, and the mist is everywhere in my eyes and hair, I love to walk with the seagulls along the shoreline. Nothing is more beautiful than when the sun first begins its shine on those turbulent waves. This dense peace, as the light glistens on spray and foam, is not the happiness of a sunny day with its carefree azure waves. It is the deep peace of those who have known pain in their lives. It is the beauty of soothing, of soft healing, perhaps even of forgiveness.
Early Monday morning on Labor Day, I walked the beach one more time before we left. I felt the windy chill leave my skin as a the horizon broke into blue fire, and color emerged. The subtlety was astounding.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I was writing to a friend about trying to do the right thing and being afraid to be judged. In situations where I feel called to not go along with a group but am afraid of the fallout and drama, I read these words from Mother Theresa. This has given me courage many times. I am not Catholic, and prefer words like the Creator, the Sacred, or The One Who Makes and Sustains Us (it's the poet in me!) but Mother Theresa's magnificent wisdom transcends sectarian differences. If you are reading, I hope that this applies somewhere where you need courage.
It's Between You and God by Mother TheresaPeople are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God….
It was never between you and them anyway.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I was selected for the Fall issue of Touched Creatively, a new online and print mag by the talented editor, Jodi Ulschmid. At her request, I wrote a short article about what inspires me as a clay artist. It reads a lot like my blog here, only more in depth, less rambling, and sans typos!
Here is her concept:
You can preview the issue for free here. It is quite affordable for a high quality mag (only $5.17 til the end of the month!), and also available as a download for only $1.89. The layouts are gorgeous, and i can't wait to get my printed copies!
Friday, August 28, 2009
I've been working on a large set of dinnerware, custom made for a client here in Asheville, and just listed a sample on Etsy. I loved mixing one bowl in that has 1 glaze in common but 2 that are different; it breaks up the matchy matchiness that I loathe in commercial table settings. I absolutely love the way that the cobalt blue glaze flows into a subtle pebbly pattern and then ends in an aqua pool.
I've also been working on some Halloweeny designs, but my daughter, Marci, scooped me on this, and got herself into a gift guide!
I am watching the soft patter of a light rain fall on individual petals and then roll off in teardrops. Do the flowers mourn the end of summer, the passing of Teddy Kennedy, or the sorrows of this world? Or do they merely accept the rain, and turn towards the sun when it returns, as if all the fleeting moments of life are precious, and none scorned?
Well, I must get a grip and go glaze some plates, though the flowers call to me: discover my secrets, live to observe and praise. It's tempting.....
Sunday, August 23, 2009
This is my new pitcher, The Daisy and the Bee. Who doesn't love the daisies, symbols of undying love, with their white frilly collars and their happy hippy faces? And I am absolutely in love with bees, who live three weeks and all their precious life is spent spreading pollen, sipping sweetness, and making honey. I love the idea of pouring and serving from this vessel, as if we might pour the success and abundance of a happy life into glasses and serve it up to all our guests.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I've been putting in long hours in the studio, as you may have noticed by my neglected blog! There is just no free time lately. So Sunday we took off and went rafting on the French Broad River up in Madison County. We navigated some class 3-4 rapids and just left all tension and stress behind. In the front you can see Mitch, the BF, Marci- the famous MarciG (my daughter), me (OneClaybead, Ken (my husband), and our guide, Chris. We stopped several times to swim, saw a few blue heron, the majestic Appalachian mountains, and the light in the eyes of those you love when they are filled with joy.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Exciting news! I am going to be featured in the second issue of a new publication called Touched Creatively. The editor just featured Marci's Peace Dove on their blog, which sold within hours. It's a great online and print mag that highlights how and where we get inspiration as artists.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Don't you love how we are all connected? Sometimes it just makes my head explode thinking about the intricate and mysterious web that gently supports us all. For instance, Terri Besecker in Dallas, PA, bought this small leaf dish from my daughter, MarciG's Etsy store, and took it over to show her good friend, Laura Slocum. Much to Terri's surprise, Laura knew all about MarciG, and her mom (me)! Terri was totally unaware that Marci is 16, and is connected to Laura through etsyprojectembrace; that I blog quite often lately about Laura andMarci, both, and that I've actually watched a video of Terri at Laura'a Rose ceremony on Laura's blog!!
I mean, what are the odds???!!! Terri, a brand new buyer, just stumbled upon Marci out of 600,000 shops on Etsy. She wasn't searching for the tag etsyprojectembrace! And then something gave her the idea to take her new piece of pottery to show Laura.
I'm sure that some people move in and out of my life for arbitrary reasons, but I am absolutely certain that some people come into my life as part of a larger plan or purpose, and that when this happens, signs occur to let me know, to confirm the inner, intuitive feeling that this is a person here to teach, to learn, and to share a soul connection.
I wonder... do you have connections that surprise you? Do we all?
Monday, July 27, 2009
We don't see the roots pushing their way through dense soil to find moistness. Our sense of time doesn't track the uncurling leaves nor the opening into brilliant bursts of mesmerizingly scented flowers. We take for granted that the flowers will come forth and bloom, and so it makes sense to me that I might trust in mysterious processes at work in my own life.
Marci and I have both been working in flower bowls! She made the Plum Poppy Bowl, above, and I made the Turquoise Waters Serving Bowl.
We are both thinking of Laura Slocom, and etsyprojectembrace, watching a community come together to support a woman in her healing process. I am also thinking of the strange and yes, wonderful, things that have occurred since the economic recession took my husband's job. In search of new income, I found Etsy. In search of a summer job, Marci also opened her Etsy store. And we now work side by side, and I get to hear her 16 year old heart for hours each day, a priveledge, a flower also unfolding.
Evidence of Grace. All of it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Hawaiian Coconut Nesting Bowls by GlazedOver
Shore Merino wool felt necklace by MaisyandAlice
Isadoa Dancers by Maclancy
I Heart Fridge magnets by LauraSlocumPainted
Teal Heart by Sigmosaics
There are now 337 items tagged etsyprojectembrace, to show support of Laura Slocum in her battle against stage 3 ovarian cancer. What touches us all is Laura's bright and beautiful attitude, the way that she cares so deeply about others.
"I believe that you must play the hand you’re dealt...I’m going to play the hand I’ve been dealt in the best and most positive way I know how. There will always be some people in this world who have it better and some who have it worse. That’s just life."
Laura's words call to my mind words that I read often, words that I endeavor to live by, those of George Bernard Shaw:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
You know I love treasuries on Etsy, and the best people I've found are mainly other treasury makers. Laura Slocum offered some insight into this recently:
"The one thing I’ve learned in the past year is that Etsy has made it a point to have their competing sellers be friends through promoting each other in the treasuries. That sounds kind of funny, but, on the quest to have the “coveted” FP, we create treasuries, we comment on other treasuries, we “convo” people all over the world to congratulate them on their successes, and we make friends. Aren’t we supposed to be competing for sales?? Well, maybe some things are just more important than sales. From the moment I had a diagnosis, while still in the hospital, my Etsy friends were first on the scene – building treasuries just for me, wishing me well, offering advice, sending gifts, and a few have gone so far as to donate proceeds to the American Cancer Society in my honor!! Just to remind you………these are people ....I’VE NEVER MET! They have completely gone out of their way to be a friend or try to put a smile on my face. I now even talk to some of them on the phone! Now, I’m not talking 2 or 3 friends, I’m talking like 30 or 40! Some people just have checked my profile and offer words of encouragement! The first day that we learned about my chemo and all the ‘ins and outs’, the ‘goods and bads’, etc., my husband went online to search for support groups. He said to me that night, “I will never do that again, I was so depressed that I had to get off the computer” I said, in reply, “I don’t need support groups, I all need are my friends on Etsy”! They lift me up on a daily basis."
I love being part of Laura's support group because she cheers me up by having such an optimistic, proactive relationship with her healing process. Haven't we all been affected by cancer in some way? I know I have. Last week, one of my daughter's good friends lost her dad to cancer. As a means of dealing with her grief, and also her fears that she could lose one of her own parents, I suggested to Marci that she make a treasury for etsyprojectembrace, and showcase works that will generate donations to the American Cancer Society when sold.
Then we went a little farther and designed this dinnerware set together. Through Etsyprojectembrace, we are donating 20% of our sales to the ACS. Maybe by the time that Marci has her own children, no child will ever again lose a parent, a friend, a partner, or a child to cancer. Imagine that!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I've been thinking lately about what changes and what remains the same. My friend Cheryl stopped over yesterday to order dinnerware. She has wanted a set for 10 years, and is finally able to afford it. When I first met Cheryl, she was married to a doctor, living in a big house, and I was recently divorced single mom just eking by. Her husband suffered health problems and they had to move to a smaller house. Then I remarried and moved to a larger house. Then she divorced and became a single mom; we traded places! Now my husband lost his job, we have the big house with the big mortgage payment and are just eking by. Cheryl has remarried another doctor- extremely nice guy- has a big house again, and finally, after all this time, she is getting that dinnerware set we had talked about a decade ago. Her tastes have changed, and so has my work, so the set she is ordering is completely unlike what she would have chosen years ago.
Maybe things happen when we are ready for them to happen. And maybe rolling with a lot of change reveals what is essential, what is important. One thing that I've learned from having a friend who has had way more and sometimes way less affluence that me is that the value of friendship is not measured in dollars.
The flower bowl, above, is an old shape that I've returned to lately. I made these when I first dated my now husband, and I think that maybe I was opening, like the flower shape, to new possibilities. The same may be true now, as I stretch my imagination to include moving or other lifestyle changes when my husband gets another job.
Wouldn't you know that Cheryl loves, loves, loves these bowls! She has embraced so much change in her life, too. And come out wealthier in life's essentials every time. Which aren't the same as a bank account, that I have learned.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
As her profile says, she grew up in my studio. I had a portable playpen to the left of my wheel, and there she was before she could walk, watching. My daughter is now 16, and has a store on Etsy, with 1 sale so far. She has been tweeted and retweeted by our local newspapers! There are two packages ready for shipping by the front door, one with a OneClayBead label, and one with MarciG. I love that when she started stamping words into her bird trays, one of the first words she chose was Dream.
It's a great word!
Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. -Gloria Steinam
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
-Henry David Thoreau
Monday, June 29, 2009
I'm a big fan of chARiTyelise, who makes the extraordinary hand built textured trays and jewelry on Etsy. What I love best about her work is the unusual and quite sophisticated way that she uses color. It's bright, it's bold, but it's never garish. She's just opened a tea house in Atlanta called TahCha, and I'm captivated by the way that her sense of color and texture translated into her restaurant design. I tell you, it's just genuis!! Look at her FlickR photos and marvel at the sheer amount of color and art flowing through the room, which maintains a serene and uncluttered feel.
I also read some of her restaurant reviews, and it made me want to make a road trip to Hotlanta! Iced black tea with coconut in it. Strawberry/Lemongrass tea. English breakfast cupcake. Raspberry tarts. And the one that really rings my bell- basil lemonade.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Here's my finished Dragonfly Mug in my Blue Sky glaze with Turquoise Waters at the bottom. These were originally designed for Gallery of the Mountains inside the Grove Park Inn here in Asheville, to be offered for sale during their yearly Arts and Crafts show in February.
When I first unloaded the heat soaked, pinging pots from the kiln, and set them on my work table to admire, a real dragonfly flew into my studio and landed, delicately poised, on my wrist. And out of the countless times I've written in my Etsy descriptions that "dragonflies are symbols of joy and transformation", this one moment when a real dragonfly came to witness with me the unloading of my stoneware dragonfly mugs shattered my world, and real joy flooded in. I mean real joy, the kind that lights a smile involuntarily, unlike the concept of joy as in when I write copy and spew out the word. It stayed on my wrist a long time, as I eased myself onto my stool to contemplate these new dragonfly mugs. Then, not wanting it to become trapped inside, I carefully rose and walked out by the hostas, where it took off in shimmering blue flight.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Once upon a time, long, long ago when I started as a potter, there were only a handful of women in a sea of male potters. The way that men typically approach pottery was In, and what I did, for the most part, was not. The In thing was wood or reduction firing of simple, primitive, massive pots. I, on the other hand, liked thin pots with careful, intentional imagery. I liked oxidation firing in an electric kiln at cone 6, which is economical, earth-friendly, requires no chopping of wood, and uses no power tools.
Things have changed since long, long ago, and now the way that I like to make pots is In. There are more female potters, and more women in the arts. We are now 46% of all full time career artists, but we earn 75% of what our male counterparts earn. So long, long ago isn't really all that far, far away, is it.
I admit that I absolutely love how there are less than 4% men as sellers on Etsy. It's not at all that I dislike male artists- I just really, really enjoy having women drive the aesthetic bus. I love women making most of the treasuries, and dominating the discussions. Mind you, for most of my artistic life, I was the 4% minority, so I think that a bit of turnabout is decidedly fair play. And though Etsy has recently been called a Female Ghetto, I think that this is missing the point, which is that art always gestates in underground settings. By the time any art trend peaks and becomes mainstream, it is creatively dead. Etsy may be the time and place when young (compared to me) women create a new genre of art. I don't know what it is exactly, but it's very interesting to watch the flow of visual ideas on Etsy. It's not something I've ever seen before. Something new is happening.
If you have any ideas or observations about this, please comment. I'm interested.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Before the outcry in the Etsy forums that we were in peril of being evicted from Google search due to Etsy admin's malfeasance, I thought that SEO was either another atmospheric pollutant, or maybe an 80's rock band. I checked my sales (or lack thereof), convos, treasuries, craftcult, Etsymudteam thread, and when my husband explained to me what he learned from checking Google Analytics, all I heard was that people were looking at my work, and that was enough. When my views dropped, I did what I understand to stay visible on Etsy- make more treasuries, make my photos more attractive, etc.
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is a study of the way that search engines, such as Google, decide what links to show people who type in a search on their taskbar. The website that best explains how this works to a novice like me is Handmadeology. It is owned by the metal artist Timothy Adams, whose Twig card holder is pictured above. Not only did he provide the clearest, most accurate picture of why our views were bombing in Etsy, he gave the best information on how we could roll with the changes, and improve our page ranking. His Town Meeting on the changes gives very precise instructions.
Etsy has since corrected its problem, and I accept their explanation. Ironically, I now understand far more about SEO, keywords, and meta-tags than I ever did before the Forums became a boiling sea of protest and paranoia. Using Timothy Adams' advice, I rewrote my shop title and announcement, and, as a test, I rewrote the copy and tags of just one listing, which sold less than two hours later. I also had another sale the same day from someone who came to my shop from a Google search.
That business card holder, in metal twigs, is a beautiful blend of natural easthetic and technical skill. I'm now a fan of his work, his website, and his willingness to share his really useful knowledge. Thanks, Timothy Adams! You've given me an improved ability to support my family as my husband seeks reemployment. You've made a real difference in our lives! I get it now- SEO, meta- tags, and how to buddy up to the gi-normous jargon of Google.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Things are not drying in my studio, and that is never good. So today I'm taking 60 pots out into the sun *hello, sun* to dry out so that I can bisque fire tonight. The first 24 of these very Arts and Craft style mugs sold to a gallery hours after they came out of my kiln, and I'm itchy to finish some more and list them on Etsy. I love everything about them- the balance on the narrow pedestal footrim works because they are very thin and the waist is low. The arch of the handles is just right. I get this by pulling straight away from the mug, thinning the handle towards the bottom, attaching it at the widest lower point, and then setting the mug upside down so that gravity forms the arc. I also like the way that the dragonfly sits on the facets so that the gesture of the facets suggests the dragonfly wings.
I have obsessed over mugs more than any other form in my 33 years as a potter. It is the piece that I make the least profit on for my time, so a more sensible person might just throw a zillion cylinders, slap extruded handles on, and take nice vacations occasionally. But since I am not that person,I wake up nights with ideas for tweaking my mugs, and follow the muses wherever they whisper to go. It's what I do.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I have forgotten what's important lately, and stopped drinking my coffee in utter lazy luxury out in my garden swing. I have instead read endless business and marketing strategies about Twitter and SEO and important topics for your blogs. Meanwhile the lilies have opened their petaled doors to offer honey and fragrance. In each place where we planted one or two now five orange and golden faces sunbathe all day, getting the whole complex photosynthetic job of being a lily done without any social networking at all.
I gathered an armful of silent, fragile blooms to put on my desk, and the dining table, and stuck a few in vases if you'd like to see them on my Etsy site, to show how the containers that I make can best be used. Which makes me wonder if the Divine also thinks of us as containers for the beauty of this world, and maybe, at least sometimes, I need to be empty and receptive.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Yard + Art = Yart sale, which is pretty cute, I must admit. Etsy artists are having a site wide Yart sale through June 14th. My 2 bowls, pictured above, are in my Yart sale, at a very tempting reduced price, because they are experimental shapes and not available to choose in large sets.
I'm sort of watching the threads in Etsy's forum with horror, though, as posts abound with cries of not making any sales after marking pieces below cost, or making sales on nonperishable goods and being elated just to have made a teeny tiny profit margin. YOWZA!!!
The big problem there is that most new artists or handmade makers have no established set value for their work to begin with. We are not Corning Ware; we do not have a generally known retail price, from which a discount can be taken. And so here is the market maxim:
Your work is worth what the last person paid for it. Period.
So, if you mark down a $20 necklace to $10, you just devalued every other $20 necklace in your shop. And perhaps the entire inventory by 50%.
If you are an artist without a well established set retail price for your work, and you have a 15% off sale, you are going to have a rough time convincing those same buyers and lookers that your work is worth 15% more just because it's now June 15th, and the Yart sale is over. In fact, you are probably training your buyers to withhold purchasing until the next sale.
Sales in art are not equivelant to sales in a retail chain store, because art is bought and sold with the potential to hold or go up in value. Putting your artwork and handmade goods on sale says to an investment buyer that you are not a good investment.
SO, if you are yart selling, which I am, make a clear distinction between what is available in your yart sale from your other pieces. I recommend against a "storewide sale", or moving pieces into some sort of clearance bin. It's a marketing strategy for art where you are hurting yourself in the long run.
Pieces in my yart sale section are priced lower because they are seconds, samples, or experiments. They were not a regularly priced piece yesterday and a sample today. If I discontinue a line, the very last pieces will be discounted, but that is my only exception.
As handmade makers, we can't price the way that indutry does, our markup is not as high as industrial goods and so we can't discount and market as if we are Macys or Target. The one advantage we have is the investment value of our work, and I will protect that value- for myself, and my customers, too.