Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Images from the Gallery

We've had enough folks asking what we have left in the gallery. RIGHT NOW we have quite a few pots filling the gallery. This weekend begins the summer rush. In other words, the pots start flying off the shelf in mass quantities.

So without further ado....

Once again, we have footed mugs. We might have one more batch before we close,... but I wont promise anything. These just came back from a gallery, so for us they are new. We haven't seen them in almost 2 years. We gave them our best pots, they didnt sell, and now they're back!

Footed mugs

Big lime teabowl.

Facetted small serving bowl in lime.

Tall blackberry basket

carved vase in Lime

And yes, I will be posting more pictures later today and tomorrow. (I actually shot every single pot in the gallery this morning)

Monday, June 28, 2010

So Where Are The Pots?

Yeah. Where are the pots? After this past weekend, I needed a day where I didn't spend the entirety of the hot sweaty day staring at the same mountain of pots. As much fun as looking at pots can be, there is a threshold. And I crossed it yesterday. At this point, I would be happy to start our sale a month early. (just watch out!)

Instead, I wanted to try some new ideas with my camera. I try not to dwell on some of my problems or snafus... but I have been grappling with an issue for about two weeks now. The strobes that I am using are not infinitely adjustable (as most new flash units are)... instead they use 1/3 power, 2/3, and full power. Even at 1/3 power I find myself shooting typically around 1/100 at f/5.6 or more. If you take just a few steps back at that aperture, the focal length preserves too much distracting background. So my goal has been to figure out how to retain that buttery background (narrow DOF) while shooting flash. I asked one of my photographer buddies (J.Souza!!) out in California for ideas and he suggested using a BIG bed sheet to increase the size of the light source (which then could be pulled back from the subject (to lower the intensity)... which is a great idea. Didn't get a chance to get to the fabric store this weekend so I was hoping there was another option.

J. Souza also suggested I try putting a neutral density filter on the lens. Most of my experience with ND filters has been using them to turn waterfalls into those silken streams everyone seems to think is so great. So... after having made my share of waterfall silken pics, I tossed the ND filters back in the bag and promptly forgot about them. This is the best thing about the concept of coopetition (cooperation + competition via LIDLIPS [syl arena]... the idea that even though Justin and I could potentially see one another as competition, the reality is that we are both learning from each other. What could be better? I only wish he lived closer so we could shoot together more! Perhaps as our professions grow we'll find reasons to both be on the same side of the continent and we'll have more opportunities.

Justin Bieber is in the house! Just kidding.

Back to the ND filters. I tossed them onto my favorite little 50mm f/1.8 lens, and kicked on my flash transmitter. First shot out of the gate was pretty close. Dialed up a bit more light... because the ND filter I was using was a .6ND which cuts a substantial chunk of light out of the picture. I anticipated it making the camera struggle more during focusing. It may have impaired it some, but not as much as I would have guessed. I shot pretty close to wide open and I LOVE the buttery quality of the background. Luckily I had an amicable (and patient) model today. We also had a chance to test out our reflector and stand today.

My chores,... ummm,... no, not yet.

Suffice to say, I LOVE the way the light is moving. I wish (and will probably keep right on wishing) that we had a grip who could lug lights and hold reflectors during our shoots. Seems like most of the time, it just isnt going to happen, so I need to learn how to do it without the extra hands. Stands are coming in VERY handy.

I guess this is her way of saying we don't feed her enough.

Fork you Dad. Talk to the Fork Dad.

As things would have it, today was as sticky and hot as summer days get around here. Mid-eighties by 9am, and the humidity has climbed all day. As I type this tonight, we're hovering around 94% humidity. You could wring gallons of water from this "air".

Shooting in the studio is always a fun respite from dealing with hot stuff in the house... chores, cleaning, bills. Somehow the studio stays cooler till much later in the day. Probably the concrete slab acting as a thermal sink. Tomorrow the day is filled with physical therapy and delivering images to my most recent portrait clients.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Coma Dreams - Too Hot and Never Cold Enough

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Yalla Yalla.

Tonight, as I wait for things to cool down, for my crappy day to slowly wind down, I found myself thinking about how hot I was in the hospital. Imagine if you will, laying in bed, with a fever, being covered in multiple layers of blankets. Now add to this, not being able to move. You cant kick off the blankets. Each day I would sweat through many changes of sheets, over and over. You think they would have gotten the clue.

And where was my mind? In the snow. Walking uphill. Feeling the cinders and ice and small stones under my bare feet. Some slipping now and again. That tingle one gets from being wet, cold but still moving. What makes some of this even stranger for me is that every now and then, I would hear strains of this song by Joe Strummer. Yalla Yalla.

The song's lyrics have no real bearing on anything I hear in the music. Somehow this sound transports me. Even now, when I listen, I am not here. I am not sweating in my humid house. I can feel the cold winds. My feet are chilled and wet. I have no idea why, but this is a good thing, I think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I've Asked You All Here Today To Discuss...

The Future of Cold Springs Studio:

This was shot five and half years ago. Seems like such a long time ago.

This an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a dear friend, mentor, teacher and potter.

I have put this letter off long enough. I apologize for not writing back sooner.

I am grieving.

This is a long story. If you want the short version, skip to the end. It's all there in the last
paragraph. Otherwise....

Not long after NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) I took a long (and far too dangerous) drive to the Cleveland Clinic to have a long talk with the best colo-rectal surgeons in the US. I really should have either flown or had someone else drive. We didn't know it at the time, but have since learned that one of the side effects from this coma has been that I have developed extreme obstructive sleep apnea. Apparently I haven't slept real sleep since before surgery. The exhaustion caught up to me about a month ago... but I am getting ahead of myself. Before the drive to Cleveland, we knew that I was exhibiting extreme sleep exhaustion. I had a hard time staying awake on the drive into town(Ithaca) each day for PT. I had fallen asleep at the wheel at least 1-2 times a week. Bad stuff. But I knew I needed to get to Cleveland,
and Nancy doesn't drive. Friends offered but I figured it would be no problem. Luckily I took Aurora with me and she acted as my conscience. When I started to doze she was adamant that we get off the road and made me sleep.

Even with all of our precautions it was still a rough drive.

And that was the easy part.

Walking into a hospital, of my own accord, under my own power... to submit to more
tests, probings, and worse....

It was rough.

Finally I was able to see the surgeon with my clothes on for his assessment of my candidacy
for a "reversal or takedown" procedure. I will spare you the lesson in anatomy and say only
that my chances of a simple surgery fall into the category of slim to none. He wasn't optimistic.
He gave me a few options and a final ulimatum - lose 50# or he wouldn't even consider me for surgery.

I asked him how he would repair my abdomen so that I would no longer have this monstrous herniation at the colostomy site. I also asked him how soon after surgery I could actually RESUME my life as a potter.

He looked me in the eye and said it was time for a career change. I am glad Aurora was there. I might not have been able to walk out otherwise. From the looks of things, I will not ever be able to do what I could do so easily before.

No lifting of things greater than 20-25#. Definitely no heavy lifting. No moving of kiln shelves. Or boxes of clay. Or buckets of glaze. Or boxes of pots.

I thought about this on the six hour drive home. There were hour long stretches where Aurora and I said nothing. The Clash, The Pogues and U2 screamed through the stereo. And now and again, she would find me crying. Sobbing. Trying hard to keep focus.

The following week I met with my cardiologist who let me know that my heart had a scary story to tell about my sleep issues. Short version: I was a prime candidate for a stroke. My heart was being tortured every night... first from lack of oxygen and then from racing constantly to wake me up and start that adrenaline racing. Bad combination.

I just finished my second sleep study a week ago. I am finally sleeping for more than two hours straight. It has been over eight months. As I talk to the doctors they are all remarkably surprised I am even here at this moment.

Since sleeping I have had more cognitive function again... (I have had virtually no short term memory for months. Would realize I was somewhere and have no idea why or how I got there)
Being able to think has been a radical relief. Nancy jokes that my brain running on half-power puts me in the position most folks are in every day. That is simply not acceptable.

So... now that I am sleeping again, I have had more time to think and greater focus during the day. I have been trying to figure out how to dig myself out of this hole I have pulled my family into. We are broke. Well, worse than broke. We started looking at bankruptcy back in March.
Since then things haven't gotten better... until this past week.

So where am I going with all of this? What is the point to this lengthy blathering?
To say that I am letting go of my dreams in clay. I had high hopes years ago, that I would be teaching young college students by now. I had visions of classrooms with students ready for a challenge. Kiln pads crowded with ware carts loading and unloading firing after firing. Smoky air filling the quad as wood kilns and raku firings finished up. Ironically I have never had any real course of study planned. I sure love teaching. Strangely enough, I think the only thing I have ever really wanted to impart is my love for learning.

Which leads me to where this is all going. In letting go of clay, I am taking up my camera again. Fortunately this seems doable. I am finding myself capable and competent. Building a new career is daunting but exciting. It hasn't come easily though. I have been ruminating on this since waking from the coma.

Letting go of my dreams though, has been hard. Walking into my studio and finding nothing to trim, no pots to load into the kiln... and dust and cobwebs where there should be plastic sheeting... it has been difficult. I can still throw pots. And I may. I think if I can find a way to make enough of a living to have spare time again, I would love to make pots as time allows. I don't think that my expectations for this business were ever going to be realized, so this is something of a wake-up call. I love the idea of making the pots I WANT to make, firing them any way I feel like firing them and then, once a year, having a nice studio sale where folks can come and pick out what they want. No orders. No galleries. No showroom. Just pots.

For now, this means we are planning to close the studio and gallery in September... maybe sooner. I am ready to turn the showroom into our new photography space. A clean room with places to sit, to shoot, to review work, to see big prints... who knows? Having said all of this (which I am sure has been far too long a letter for anyone to read) I must apologize. Knowing that you have followed my progress, success and failure alike, means a great deal to me. I know there is a bright future ahead, but letting go of clay has been .... well, you can imagine.

All the best,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I Left the Pottery Business

Three people walked into our gallery this morning. Two sisters with an accompanying husband. After I said an encouraging hello, the first comment out of their mouths was that they were glad I was open. I explained that I try to be open every day 10-5pm. They explained that NO, I was only open weekends. Hmm. News to me. Sure enough it says 10-5pm on the website, on our brochure, and on the Art Trail website. Hmmm. But the customer is always right...

Once inside one woman asks what temperature our glazes are fired to. I reply "cone 6". At which her husband replies, "Oh, earthenware." No... cone six, white stoneware. She then explains that he taught high school ceramics in California. "Oh Really? Do you in fact have an associates degree from VermTech?" (from Over the Hedge)

As we made our way back into the kiln room, I was showing off the big platters that grace the walls. The husband once again authoritatively states that these MUST be Raku. I explain that No... in fact they are fired in oxidation at temps ranging from cone 3 up through cone 12. I start to delve into the firing process (which is interesting, unique and hardly commonplace) when he cuts me off and says, "Are you sure? They look just like raku." Yeah, I'm pretty damned sure seeing as how I FREAKIN' MADE THEM!

From there the conversation improved dramatically when the gentleman asked: "Do you have any brick? Hmmm? You know bricks that have been stamped? " When I explained that I no longer kept my secret stash of hard brick on hand for examination by the public, he let on as how he collected brick.

That's what I expect to buy when I go to a potter's studio. A brick. A stamped brick.

And folks wonder why we're closing down the shop. Oh my. Bricks. We're closing the studio because we don't have any earthenware, raku, bricks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Amazing Day

I am still reeling from today's visit with our friends Adam and Sarah (and their kids!). We had the best time in the world. We made pots, walked in the garden, ate LOTS of strawberries, talked about everything imaginable under the sun... and that was just me with the four year old and the six year old. WE HAD A BLAST! Luckily, my camera was by my side and I was able to capture a few glimpses into the intense time we had today.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Willing Subjects

I have been ultra fortunate this week to have had four willing subjects to sit for their portraits. I have a lot of things I have been ruminating on since beginning this new venture, but tonight is too far gone to begin expressing those musings.

For now, I must suffice to share some of today's images. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And now, for something (not so) completely different

I finally finished the (first draft version) new website for our photography venture.

Here it is:

Alex Solla Photography is finally open!! My goal is to begin booking sittings for portraits immediately, with the potential to shoot at least one wedding per month through the rest of summer and fall. We have missed the end of the school year, so we don't have any of next year's seniors lined up for portrait sittings this summer. I think we may still land some as we get the word out and also market ourselves locally (albeit outside of the schools during the summer).

So, if you know of a high school senior in the Finger Lakes region who needs their senior pictures taken, please feel free to pass along our name.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Birthday Presents Come in Waves

And when the waves are good, you ride the waves.

Aurora and I took a trip up to Rochester last night to pick up two new strobes I had seen on Craigslist. I have wanted real studio strobes for at least twenty years. Always just out of reach, both in terms of skill, but also expense. Yesterday's find was more of a steal. These strobes have seen virtually no use. Since I already had light stands for my speedlights, setting up the strobes was no sweat. I wasn't sure how I would trigger them initially, but I think for now, I am pretty happy having a wireless trigger on one, and then have the other one slaved so it pops when it sees the first one fire. Pretty simple.

Of course, I had to get Aurora and Nancy to submit for some posing. I need plenty of time behind the lens to really figure out how I want to move the light and shadow. I think, sometimes, one light might be all I really need. Today though, has been non-stop flash. Probably shot over 500 images to get 20 or so that are pretty decent. Lots more to learn.

This was a fun hair-light experiment. I gelled it with a purple gel, and aimed it from straight behind Aurora. Just enough light to give her a "purple haze". Pretty fun. I tried some similar ideas using pink and red filters with Nancy's portraits tonight. After looking them over, Nancy was forthright that they would NEVER be seen by another human being. So I guess they were pretty hideous. Like I said... tons more to learn.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June Roses at Der Rosenmeister

Today we had a chance to visit Der Rosenmeister Roses in Ithaca. Having had my first tour of Leon Ginenthal's gardens only once before (when precious little was in bloom), I was not prepared for seeing his gardens today. Roses of every color, shape and size. Blooming in such a profusion! And the smell was intoxicating.

In addition to his roses, Leon also has beautiful raised perennial beds. His selection of cultivars is simply astonishing.

So... we took out our cameras and went to town! Aurora and I both were clicking away, while Nancy was greeted by Emma, their dog. Eventually the chickens made their way to the forefront. Talk about beautiful!

(Okay, I have used that word, "beautiful", waaaay too many times in this post. My apologies. You'll just need to see you for yourself!)