Monday, August 31, 2009

More shots from the Fair

I spent way too much time throwing pots in the studio today and not enough time shooting pics of said pots. That means TOMORROW I'll have pics from the studio. For now, enjoy more fun shots from the Fair. Big shout out and thank you to Finding Ulysses for including us in their blog today.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trumansburg Fair

We all went to the T-burg fair last night. I think I'll try to write more about it tomorrow and for now, leave be with simply piling on the pictures. Between Nancy, Aurora and I, we shot about 500 images. Lots still to edit and play with.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Its Pouring Down Rain

Guess that means it's Fall.

Time for Summer to flee. Time for the students to clog the roads and choke the aisles of the grocery store. Time for tourists to ask if Summer is always this nice (no, this is Fall. Summer was last week.)

I wanted to shoot more images from the van today, but the family said that driving while photographing cool light was probably just as dangerous as texting while driving... and kids do that ALL over the place here! Can't find a car on campus without a driver either texting or yacking on their cell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Misty Moisty Morning

detail from the image below

Sometimes, when I get up, I aim for the studio and miss. Today I was dead-certain I was pulling handles at 8am. Ended up in the garden with my macro lens strapped to my head. Next thing I know, it's pushing 10am and I have a flash card full of images.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Screwed Up

I was surprised tonight. Surprised in a bad-oh-my, my-eyes-burn sort of way.

Walking out of a store, I watched an extended family come in. If I were to describe them in too much detail it would seem heartlessly biased against impoverished rednecks from the hill country... but these folks hadn't seen running water this week. Wife-beaters were the shirt du jour,

But that wasn't what caught my attention and made me stare.

What made me swallow hard and choke a little was the last child in line... probably ten years old or so, carrying the youngest member of the family. The baby, perhaps six months old, had no hair. But, to make things right, the baby had its hair DRAWN ON with a sharpie. At first, I thought it was something the kids had done, in jest. Then I saw that there were three distinct colors of Sharpies used, and three distinct styles of scribbles. In essence, this baby had its hair DRAWN on. How messed up is this? They drew on a baby's head, with a permanent marker which uses wicked-nasty solvents to carry god only knows what in the ink... on the scalp of a baby!!!

It sure made me wonder. I am just waiting for the family portrait... blind gramps with drawn-on googles, down-and-out dad with a moustache hastily scribbled on, maybe Mom with a night gown on that says "MOM" on it. It was almost like a photoshop session for real-life. Surreal.

Now, if I had gotten a picture of it.... it would have ended up on one of those internet sites we all love to laugh at. No such luck.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Learning Slow

Sorbet bowls stacked

Teabowls, canisters, and mixing bowls

Or should I say slow at learning? Or learning to be slow?

This has been a very intense week for me. Between preparing for surgery, finishing orders and trying to get projects finished in the house... I have been going non-stop. While working on installing two new ceiling fans I realized I had to stop. Not because I wanted to, or because I was done... but rather because I had hit a wall and had no idea how to finish the project. Wiring has never been easy for me, but I enjoy the problem solving aspect. This was a toughie though. Lots of odd permutations of three-way switches and too many wires for the boxes. So I sat down and stared at it. For hours. I stopped working at 10pm, after nearly 4 hours of sweating and trying to bludgeon my way through. Two hours later I woke up and called my construction-guru Lee. After ten minutes I had a completely new approach. Solved the problem. Next morning Nancy and I finished off the fans, wrapped it all up, and sure enough, it worked PERFECTLY.

What did I learn? Slow is a good thing. Go slow. Learn from the slowness.

I had planned on getting a glaze firing through on Friday. Didn't happen. Three orders are waiting to ship... waiting on pots from this firing. Instead of rushing things, I waited till Sunday to fire. I had more energy, more time to glaze pots, more time to ensure I wasn't missing something. This morning I got to unload the kiln at 7am. What a gorgeous firing! Everything I needed for the orders turned out great. Such a relief.

I have been needing to take pictures of things in progress in the studio for weeks. Now that Dana and Justin are gone I find it a lot harder to get the camera out. We share a love for taking pictures... and without their feedback, I find it much harder to take the time to play. (play meaning take pictures, experiment, try new stuff)

To that end, I played today. I took my new light diffuser, set it on the stand and rigged it so that I could filter some of the light in the kiln room. Made the images very different. I think, as I slow down, I am starting to see the light differently. Our eyes crave contrast. Not sure why. Probably has to do with pattern recognition. But our camera sees so much less range tone-wise. By filtering some of the light, the camera can see closer to what my eyes perceive. At least, I think that's what is happening!

So what's next with this slow learning? Well, being down for 4-10 weeks post surgery is going to mean NOT making pots for a while. What else can I do during that time? That leads to a lot of questions and opportunities. I dont normally have down-time. Perhaps this will allow me to pursue some of the writing I have wanted to do. Maybe I'll get more reading done? Maybe I will catch up on all the bookkeeping I have been procrastinating on. Perhaps I will be able to add more images to our site. Heck, for that matter, maybe I will finally be able to organize all of my images. I need some way of figuring out where all my images live. Ideas?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Oval pitchers getting footed and handles tonight!

I think there's so much to be said about disappointment... I guess the aspect I want to delve into briefly here is: the disappointment that happens when a customer calls to check on an order only to find out that it has been delayed. Doesn't really matter what the reason is... they are always disappointed. Not once in twenty years has a customer said, " WOW! Fantastic! I am so glad my order wont be here when I expected it! Thanks!" Doesn't happen.

We have had a quick run of those in the past week. Not sure why. We have had lots of pots moving through the studio... but the orders seem to have piled up. Not a good thing. So for me, this week has entailed a lot of apologizing and trying to get things caught up.

The second disappointment of the summer has been technical. We are seeing defects coming back to the studio as complaints. People are bringing back or mailing back defective pots. Never before have we had any problems with our pots. But it IS happening now. So we're working with our patrons, replacing pots as fast as we can. Trying to figure out the cause of these odd cracks that have suddenly shown up.

From my end, the frustration and disappointment is something I can't pin on anyone or some far away entity. I don't know where the blame is. I know I have made the same bloody pots for 8 years now, with nary a defect... and suddenly, out of 2000 pots a year, I am getting 4 or 5 this year that are showing the oddest cracks. If I didnt know these customers well, I would guess they were abusing our pots in the most severe manner. But they aren't.

Do I blame the claybody, the manufacturer of our clay? Do I change the forming method? Do I kick myself for not knowing this could happen....

Nope. I feel my blood pressure rise. I look at my diminishing bank balance and I sit down. Keep the customer happy. They dont want excuses or reasons. They want kick ass pots, no exceptions. So I add an hour to my night, and I throw like a man possessed. I fire an extra load each week. Maybe that takes the disappointment away. Dunno.

My last disappointment is with myself. My body. I seldom speak about things too personal or intimate, but what the heck?! I feel like my body is out of warranty. All of sudden everything is starting to break down. I will be having surgery on my colon next month, little less than three weeks from now. At my age, I should have a spiffy shiny new intestine and instead mine looks like it was ridden hard and put away wet.

The surgery aspect scares me a lot. I don't know how most people feel about anesthesia, but it really terrifies me. The last major surgery I had (back surgery in 2003), when I was coming around, and the drugs were wearing off, I experienced the most awful feeling. The sensation of not wanting to wake up. Of wanting to keep sleeping, without pain, without dreams or nightmares. To just drift further and further out.

For someone who greets each day, excited and ready to go, the thought of giving in while under the anesthesia TOTALLY terrifies me. I cant imagine leaving my family, my friends... and yet, for that brief moment of awareness, that space between unconsciousness and full wakefullness... I was pain free, calm, quiet and peaceful.

So on that end, I am disappointed that I can't find that same peace and tranquility in my daily life. I know I need to find it, especially in light of how much influence stress has on one's well-being. To that end, I am off to bed after a nice late evening walk.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Working day and night

The red stuff on our bisqueware is colored wax. About 2 years ago we started using "Wax That Works" which we get from Studio Sales in Avon NY. Great stuff. We mix it up with a fair amount of food coloring and a touch of alumina hydrate. Really works perfect then!

Trying to get lots of little orders finished up. Stuff that should have been done back in July is finally hitting the kiln shelves this week. A lot has hinged upon getting Sunset Red to be a happy glaze again. It has been so finicky this year that I am tempted to toss it out and just move on to a different glaze. Not fun!

So, here's how things look in the shop this week. By the time this hits the blog, I'll probably have loaded 2 more kilns and be working on mugs again! Go figure. This time of year, it never stops!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Family Visiting for the Afternoon

Today around 2pm, we had Nancy's folks show up with her Aunts Roberta and Charmaine and her cousin Judy joining them. Fantastic fun way to spend the afternoon of a gloriously beautiful day.

We didn't get a ton of time to socialize this visit but we did get a brief walk around the garden and a short demonstration in the studio. I hope the next time we do this, we can time it with a nice long meal at Hazelnut.

Sailing in Cayuga Lake

As the boats came into the marina today, the winds picked up to about 15mph with gusts well over 20mph. The kids were having a blast! But where was my kid?

For nearly twenty minutes I waited. Talked to some other parents/grandparents. Talked with some of the staff. Took pictures of the kids who were docking and breaking down the sailing rigs.

Then, way across the lake, I can make out four sailboats making for the marina. Turns out this group of kids had taken a day-sail all the way to Taughannock State Park. Drive time from the park to the marina would be about 40 min.... in a car. Sailing, in a good wind takes about 1.5-3 hours, depending. Well, today the winds were non-existent in the morning and as a result, they ended up motoring up to the park. Coming back though, the winds picked up and they raced home. Made for some beautiful images and quite a few VERY happy kids.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quick Tutorial - photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro

We've had quite a few people asking what I'm doing in post processing on my images. Back in the days of wet darkrooms it would have been dodging and burning, multiple exposures, etc. Now it's Photoshop and other plugins.

Here's the original image. Color is pretty good, but needs some pop. Some zing!

Original Image: nothing changed or altered... straight from the camera.

In this image, I have used Nik Color Efex Pro, using the Tonal Enhance setting. By adding some punch via tonal enhancement and cranking the color saturation just a bit, this starts to pop.
But I want more.

This is a typical black and white image made in Photoshop by desaturating the image. You could also achieve this by choosing just one color channel. Not enough depth for me (and I want this quick and fun!)

Enter Nik Silver Efex. I love this software. Lots of settings to work with. You can adjust just about everything you can imagine. From contrast, brightness, density, grain, vignetting, etc... it's all in there. Plus you can adjust the toning of the image for silver tone effects, or cyanotype or sepiatone. FUN FUN FUN.

At this point, I have two or three images to work with... so I layer them. In this case, I have the second image (tonal enhance) on top of the original, and then the Silver Efex image on top of it all. By dialing back the opacity I can keep some of the vignetting, which I love, add some richness and texture to the image, retain the color and still get some POP!

Hope this helps folks who were asking me how I was post-processing my images sometimes. I definitely dont do this for everything (too much time invested)... but now and then, it really helps make the image something closer to what I see in my head.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Color, but no pots

Yeah, I know.... I should be glazing like a fiend, so why are there pics of flowers instead of pots?

Well, y'know... it was a sunny day out, not too hot, the studio wasn't hopping with customers... perfect day for a quick photoshoot in the yard.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Snow in August

No, not really, but it has only just this week started feeling like Summer. Another week or two, and this will be over. Thereafter begins that sudden slide into Fall and then Winter.

This image is of the Queen Anne's Lace that has popped up in Aurora's bed near the road. I Love this stuff. I know it's a weed, but it sure is a pretty weed.

Nancy said she wants to print this one out. To her this is Summer. Bright, yellow and cheery!

The studio has been going FULL-TILT this week. Sorry for the lack of blog updates but by the time the day is done, I am just wiped out.

In hopes of catching up a bit, here are a few images from the studio today.

The shelves are starting to fill back up with bisque-ware. Today was canisters. Tomorrow soupmugs. Then hopefully more teabowls and small serving bowls. I love making these two forms in the same run. It really helps me tie the two forms together. My decoration flows and the tautness of the forms seems to feed eachother.

Canisters, canisters, and more canisters

Do you own one of these? If you dont have a Talisman seive, my heart goes out to you. As our apprentice Hannah, found out today, these seives make life MUCH easier. Today was just a 10Kg batch of clear (5gal), but it still took 10 minutes of rotary seiving. She would have been there all afternoon with a regular seive and brush.

More bisqueware staring me in the face first thing in the morning! That means tomorrow, first thing, I am glazing. Hopefully we can get two more glaze firings through the kiln before Sunday.