Monday, May 26, 2008

End of the Day

Memorial Day weekend comes to a close and the prognostication for rain is BUST. I spent the morning watering the transplanted daylilies JUST so it would rain. No avail. After a pretty slow day in the studio yesterday, no customers, a few phone call orders for a wedding registry in California (next weekend)... we decided that today would be even slower in the gallery. Nancy and I had been contemplating a drive to Canandaigua and Pittsford to check out two galleries we've been approached by. What a gorgeous day for a drive!!

Tonight was one of those nights where the humidity came in and sat down to stay for dinner, but no rain came. In the end, as I was weeding an old bed and trying to get ready to add some dahlias, this luscious sunset came right over the pines and nearly screamed at me to pay attention. Not a bad way to say goodnight.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wondering About Tourism

In the past couple of years we have seen some remarkable changes in the demographics of our customer base. When we first began selling our pottery in the Ithaca/Trumansburg area, our main focus was on our local clientelle. We put up posters all over the Commons in Ithaca, everywhere we could find on Cornell's campus, and almost every storefront window in Trumansburg. We also advertized incredibly heavily in our local papers and mailbox circulars. End result... not much. Probably about a 2-3% return on investment our first year and less the second and third years. Hmmm.

Our next idea to get folks out to the studio was to join the Greater Ithaca Art Trail and the Trumansburg Area Chamber of Commerce. For the past three years we have taken both organization's brochures with us to all of our fairs and shows. Our biggest hurdle has been getting people to understand that the Art Trail brochure comes out in June or July for the given year, so when we do shows in May - July, we often have the prior year's brochure to hand out. Sometimes people are really confounded by finding "last years" brochure. But getting 50 Ithaca artists to have their slides/images in for jurying before December just wont happen. Sort of like herding cats.

This approach worked well in some ways. We had a lot of visitors during Art Trail's first weekend, but the second weekend was usually slower for us. Since we are doing Art Trail during the middle weekends in October, the weather can be pretty iffy. Some years it verges on SNOW!
Other years the weather has been beautiful. Last year the leaves were just raging reds and yellows... but our visitors must have been out leaf-peeping because our second weekend was almost devoid of Art Trail visitors.

Two years ago we joined the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. At the suggestion of Jeff and Judy at the Cayuga Creamery, this year we joined the Fingerlakes Tourism Alliance and the Fingerlakes Artist and Crafters Network. This past Thursday I joined Judy and Jeff on their annual brochure delivery run up and down Cayuga Lake. In less than a week after hauling ourselves around the lake, we're already starting to see the fruits of our labours. Not bad.

Next weekend we'll be at the Kenan Center at the 100 American Craftsmen show. Should be a very interesting time for us. From what I have heard from other ceramic artists who've done the show, this is THE show to look forward to! Nice.

Bringing this back to the topic of tourism.... most of the shows we do in Rochester, Ithaca, Canandaigua... are all fairly small, local shows, nice but not huge money makers. What they are fantastic for though, is getting our name and work out there... and subsequently, getting more visitors to come down to the studio. This has proved over and over to be the BEST way of going from a single sales encounter to a longer lasting patron/potter relationship. So, hopefully, we'll see more of that in the Buffalo region next weekend as we do the Kenan show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trimming and Drying in the Sun

Today is one of those truly rare days in the Fingerlakes. SUN SUN SUN, gorgeous puffy white clouds, silky blue sky... nice breeze carrying the sunshine everywhere.

And what am I doing? Trimming. Loading a bisque. Late last night Nancy and I decided we needed more sorbet bowls for the upcoming show at the Kenan Center - 100 American Craftsmen show next weekend. To that end, I threw for a while last night, dried them fast in the sun this morning, trimmed most of the afternoon, and am now sun-drying them further in hopes of loading this bisque and firing it off tonight. Fun and FAST.

My real hope is to be done with the mud part of the day soon so we can go toss the kayaks in the water this afternoon. Nancy hasn't been out on the lake this year yet. Perfect day to put paddles in the puddle!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Last weekend, this weekend

Way out in Cayuga Lake

"Try and catch me Dad"

Aurora looking good as she plays in her Necky

Aurora's first time out in HER boat

Last weekend Aurora and I were able to get out on the water, paddle around on glassy smooth water, and take a few pictures. With film. I havent shot film since 1999. Probably never would again except that waterproof digital cameras are still prohibitively expensive and seem to be a real compromise in technology. We found a waterproof 35mm camera back in Feb, and planned to take pictures in FL while we were diving. Didnt happen. Turns out that the NiMH batteries we brought with us had lost most of their charge in the time between leaving NY and getting out on the boat in FL.... got the camera into its housing, all ready to hit the ocean, and zip. Nada. Nothing.

Fast forward 3 months, and we loaded it with fresh batteries, and took it with us kayaking. Wonderful thing to have with us on our little voyages. Here are a few of the pictures.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This weekend has been pretty interesting. Rather than spending it all immersed in making pots for our upcoming show, we had a chance instead to unpack pots that are part of the family museum... our collection of other people's pots, historical pots, and some of my old relics. Fun stuff. Nancy decided to tear through the guest room and root out anything and everything in that room. Time for major spring cleaning!

Aurora and I made a wicked strawberry and rhubarb crisp today for a potluck at our local CSA, Sweetland Farm in Trumansburg. Alas, today was wet, cold and really grey so the CSA tour of the farm wasnt really a fun option. We arrived, ate our share of all sorts of interesting foods, and then stood around wondering who all these people were. Even after having lived in this small town for almost 8 years, I still feel like I know hardly anyone. Hopefully joining this CSA will help with that.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mothra vs. George


Me n' George out on the lake again

Today was pretty sweet. Started the morning off finding this wild white moth hiding on the doorframe into the house. Didn't move an inch all day, despite all three of us banging through the storm door over and over.

After taking care of morning chores, handling the morning's footed mugs, and decorating yesterday's batch of footed mugs, Aurora and I went out for a little kayaking adventure on the lake. Wonderfully glassy smooth water. Just amazing this year. We made it out about 40 minutes or so, not terribly far, then this wild chilly wind came off the hills. The water started to hump up and get little goosebumps on the waves. Pretty wild! So, we took the hint and started heading back. Made it to shore, loaded up and even made it home with time to get the boats off before the rain hit. What a deluge! Rained for about an hour, with 10 min of that time being such a hard rain we couldnt see across the driveway! Hopefully tomorrow will be a little sunnier and we'll be able to get the boats into the water again. It is such a great excuse to get out of the studio and out onto the water!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Getting Wet

At last, GEORGE and I got wet! After all the waiting, today was the perfect day to hit the lake. Suffice to say, the pictures cant convey the awesome-ness of the day. Just amazing. The water was so glassy smooth near shore that you could see down about 20 ft or so. After venturing farther afield I found that the north end of the park's jetty was harbouring the bigger waves. As good a time as any to see how the boat would behave... and so I went. It was very interesting. More on that another time. For now, let's just say, it was an excellent day. Sun and fun.

Oh, and we unloaded a fantastic firing this morning. Great pots. Most are getting packed up and shipped out tomorrow. Guess that means I need to make more for US.

Downtime is such a downer

Been off my feet now for over a week. Just after my last posting I had my third bout with diverticulitis. It was the worst attack I have ever had. Well... after a week and a half of major antibiotics, I am on the road to recovery. I have to give credit where credit is due though. Without Nancy and Aurora I wouldn't have been able to cope. Our neighbors and friends all came to our aid. Many thanks to Mary Ellen Salmon and her hubby Joe, Ken Bedell, and Robert Lodinsky. Makes me mighty proud to have such good friends!

It is always staggering to me how burdensome being sick seems to be. I was behind in production BEFORE I got sick, but now I feel like there is a mountain of work waiting to be dealt with.

Ahh, but at least there is work, right?

Ran some tests on our Sunset glaze this week. We have been having the most unusual problem with our most stable glaze. Sunset has been our ROCK for the past 8 years. All of sudden it has FREAKED out. Looks like a bad sunburn complete with blisters and crawling and other nastiness. Mind you, this isnt happening in a 5 gal bucket or a 1000g test batch....nope, this is going on in our production volume 20gal bucket. And of course we have 4 orders waiting for sunset. A Perfect Storm eh?

So, after ruminating on this for over 3 months now, and trying to wrap my brain around the causes, everything keeps coming back to the stain which seems so improbable. We went through and remade the glaze, 2x now, with new stain, new raw materials for the rest of the glaze ... and each test was the same result. BAD Sunset. Yesterday's test was interesting though.... I figured that Mason may have changed the chemistry of the stain, increasing the zirconia in the mix, then it would reason they have decreased the cadmium/selenium encapsulated by the Zr. How to test this idea.... I figured the first need was to get the glaze back to being smooth and silky, so thickness in application was my first goal. Nailed that. Then started adding MORE stain to see if I could recapture the depth of color and hopefully overcome the apparent lack of Cd/Se. The tests came out this morning early... and lo and behold... by increasing the stain from 9% to 14% we can get pretty close to our original color and the smooth satin quality seems to be back. At this point, my standing questions to Mason are yet unanswered. Hopefully I will finally hear back from them this week! Next step; a 5gal test batch and application on REAL pots!!

Here's hoping for salvation of Sunset.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Saturday and here come the crowds

Starting at about 10am, we started seeing the beginnings of our Spring tourists coming to the shop. I think there is a collective sigh of relief to know that we are still drawing customers in light of the economic dire straights the media hypes so heavily. Mind you, I dont disagree about the economic straights that we are in... but I think the media has definitely created a level of panic that wasnt there and maybe shouldnt be there. From our end, I have seen, both at Wine Trail events and Chamber of Commerce events, this general sense of malaise and resignation. I think this is a self fulfilling promise. Nancy and I used to say, when we first began, Business Is Always Good. Say it often enough, and it starts to seem that is the reality.

In effort to play into the media hype about these wonderful rebate checks coming from King George, we have christened our new Kayak, George. Here's a quick pick.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Taking Carrie's Platter to Cornell's Johnson Museum

Carrie's Purple Platter

Detail of 122198J-Carrie's Purple Platter

Nancy and I have been invited to show some of the platters I made when I was in grad school at Utah State. It has been nearly 9 years since these were last shown publicly. My hope is that they will find a good reception in this community.

To that end, today I took Carrie Crane's Purple Twister Platter to be photographed by Cornell's Johnson Museum staff. I am excited to see how their image differs from the one I made here. This is actually a composite image. It was shot outdoors, on a telephone pole, at 11am, bright sun, and then superimposed onto the background of a platter which had been shot indoors last year. God Bless Photoshop.

Fun things!