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This spring I took one of Alyson Stanfield’s latest art marketing workshops based on her recently published book I’d Rather be in the Studio. I’ve been following her blog on and off for a few years now and it is great, but its nothing like having her right in front of you to interact with and ask questions of, not to mention feed off some of her positive energy.
I regret that this summer has been crazy with both kids home and increasingly demanding as they get older. In preparation for the upcoming time with *both* of them in school and a fairly regular daily schedule of uninterrupted time in the studio (its been so long), I’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning, sorting, organizing, and FINALLY going through bits of Alyson’s book, hoping to start this fall show season off some good footing. With several bags of trash and reclaim removed and the wheel moved to a different spot to allow a better work flow, my work area is so much more inviting and I actually really like being there. The girls went back to school this past Monday and its been really good.
Late last week, in my cleaning frenzy, I finally came across my little tabletop camera tripod which I thought would be really helpful in shooting some pottery videos unassisted. I’ve posted a few videos on Youtube in the past 2 yrs, but my intention all along was to post some demos online as well. Youtube is another great free resource available to get our work and names out there! Making a demo tape is a lot harder than it looks and most certainly different throwing for a camera than for someone in front of you.
On a sadder note, I haven’t posted much about my little baby mockingbird lately. After his first week of successfully being spoonfed, he/she jumped up one day and bunged up his/her leg. I guess their little legs and bones are pretty fragile because that one never came back. He was lame in the one leg, then a few days later he stopped using his other. Last Saturday morning we found him/her motionless in his little box. I’ll miss the little guy. I was really rooting for him.
Thanks to my friend Kathy, here is a great quote by Bernard Leach, the father of modern day studio pottery:
Every artist knows that he is engaged in an encounter with infinity, and that work done with heart and hand is ultimately worship of life itself.
Here’s where we’ll be this weekend. Maybe see you there!
(For more info, please visit the FestforAll section of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s web site).
The holidays are over and life is finally getting back to normal. A much needed the break and change of pace but now I am happily back to making pots again, and looking forward to the first show of the season and starting a fresh new year.
Just before Christmas I took the plunge and went ahead and opened an Etsy store. What the heck is an etsy, you ask? Well its an online marketplace (not an auction site) where independent artists can list and sell their handmade items of all kinds. You can find the most unexpected things if you look.
I first checked Etsy out 3 years ago and at that time, I admit, I wasn’t terribly impressed. Since then, though, it appears to have has grown exponentially. I was happy to find a growing amount of quality work there as well. What spoke to me the loudest is that things were actually selling and for fair prices too. I have sold quite a few nice pieces on eBay (despite how other potters have said how they had done there) so I am most certainly willing to give Etsy a try too.
My store link, by the way, is http://webbpottery.etsy.com
Knowing there is a renewed interest of people going out and actively looking online to buy handmade and to support indie business actually picked me up a bit and gave me a renewed outlook for the new year. I’m not a big or regular shopper except for groceries usually, but this year as I was out looking for stuff for my girls, I couldn’t help but take notice of how much shabbily crafted junk was in the stores leading up to Christmas, mostly cheap, shoddy imports from China. Sure some of the prices looked pretty good, but that’s little consolation if something is obviously of totally inferior quality and looks really cheap. Needless to say, aside from a few low-tech toys for the girls, I ended up making most of my gifts or buying/trading with other local craftspeople.
Made me think.. do people know what they’re buying anymore? Stuff, stuff, and more stuff. That disposable consumerism mindset – quantity vs quality and all that. Evidently its very easy to become complacent for the sake of convenience, accepting whatever big corporate retail conglomerates put on their store shelves, and believing it when they tell us that we must have whatever *it* is. Sad.
As a craftspeople, this is something we are constantly scratching our heads over and are all too aware of. People want the big houses, the big car, the pre-fab room settings from “Rooms to Go”, and would rather buy art/accessories from places like “Pier One” than have something unique made by a local artist or artisan. Cookie cutter people. No originality. See and be seen. Automatons who can’t think outside of the box. And the saddest thing, they don’t know the difference either. What does this say about our culture? And more importantly, what does this say about our future?
Regional artists of various mediums, not just clay, donate a piece of work: their interpretation of a bowl.
Friday, November 16th, 6 to 9 pm
Cathedral Square Gallery, 260 Dauphin St, Downtown Mobile
Tickets: Just $35 from the 15 Place web site
“…eat hearty soups, drink assorted beverages, munch on artisan breads and gourmet cookies, dance to a great band, BAYRUNNER this year, and at the end of the evening take our bowl home.”
My pottery teacher of years ago once told me (warned me, actually, when I expressed interest years ago in potting full time) “Pottery is a hard way to make a living”. It is very true. A potter needs to be a skilled artist, technician, manufacturer, marketer, administrator, and sales person, among other things, as well as being physically able and have a thick skin.
Throwing pots on the wheel, in reality, only represents a small portion of what goes into producing a finished pot. For every two three days of throwing, there are four or 5 days of doing other tasks. Pots still need to be trimmed, have handles attached and decoration applied, and patiently monitored as they dry slowly before they are loaded into the bisque kiln. If they survive the bisque firing , they are then glazed and loaded into the gas kiln. Because our shelves are so badly warped we also “wad” the bottoms of our pots before the final firing (wadding: dry china clay and alumina hydrate mixed and formed into balls which are strategically stuck to the bottom of the pots to evenly support the base of the pot on the kiln shelf).
A few examples of other tasks we do involve: clay preparation (digging clay, pounding/sifting/”slaking” it down, mixing it, moving it back to the drying area, pugging it (if you have a pugmill, we dont) wedging/kneading it for right consistency); Glaze preparation (measuring out raw materials and mixing glazes in 5 gallon batches; testing of new recipes or color variations also done in smaller batches; doing glaze chemistry); Kiln building/maintenance; Lifting/Carting bags of raw materials & clay; Loading/unloading the kiln; Shipping; Setting up web site / online sales; assembling and maintaining a sales display to take to shows, for example; preparing for and traveling to shows; Find ways to market work (new shows, online marketing, wholesale & consignment opportunities, etc.); etc
When things go wrong with pottery, they tend to go really wrong. Its very disheartening & demoralizing when you have lost half or more of a kiln load of pots that you have worked weeks to produce, due to some glaze, clay, or firing problem. Its even more disheartening when equipment is inevitably going to conk out when you most need it (usually in the last stretch toward a show). Things can go wrong even when you do things right.
We just had a string of bad firings where some of our usually most reliable glazes, thanks to an ingredient problem, not only came out unrecognizable, but fluxed out and ran all over and destroyed shelves. (Raw materials used in pottery are different clays and minerals all mined from the earth, are only as pure as the mine, and can change over time and according to the mine.) The problems are still not quite resolved. I lost I would say at least 1/3 if not more of the work I’ve made this fall due to one thing or another, but mostly due to these glaze problems. Its not just the financial loss, but the emotional strain that hits hard, and doubly so when you have to cancel that show that you were counting on the income from. When you make pots you’re not just manufacturing; you are so connected to your product in every aspect of production, its a lot more, well, personal. For a while there I didn’t want to see clay.
A friend of mine similarly had some very bad luck with some commercial clay (for which, incidentally, the shipping cost more than the clay) she made all of her pots out of for her fall show season. A week after her big fall sale, a customer brought back $300 worth of pots, then another customer did the same. All or most of the pots had quarter-cent sized hunks of the side of the pot popping off. Lime pop-outs apparently, which can take up to 3 months after the firing to appear. Months of work, large financial commitments (show fee, natural gas, clay, etc), and possibly her reputation tarnished, all because of a faulty raw material or the clay not being mixed properly by the supplier. The supplier was very gracious to replace the clay, but the propane has been burned, the pots have been sold, the money has already been spent, and the remainder of her inventory is questionable… and her pride bruised.
We keep making pots because there is always something that pulls us back. Art for arts sake? Bull. Working artists still have to eat and still have expenses like everyone else. Its not impossible to survive off of one’s work but making pots for a living (or any art full time) takes commitment, perseverance, and drive, it is not for the faint hearted.
Our last spring art market (and spring show for the year) was this past Saturday. It was a very nice day and surprisingly active quite early, thanks to the Market on the Square farmers market which takes place weekly on the opposite side of Cathedral Square. Lots of positive feedback from artists and patrons alike.
Anyhow this time of year is always a good time to reflect, regroup, catch up on some orders, and somehow account for how quickly winter and spring passed by..
Here is another video from the CBC broadcast archives that was interesting and, once you get past the early 70s-ness of certain things, it still pertains to a lot of issues artists and craftspeople still face today.
The description from the CBC site about this video:
“For the Cammidges of Vancouver Island, crafting is a family affair. Andrew, the father, makes clay pots; his wife Joyce dyes and spins wool; and the children are expected to master a craft, too. The family has joined a growing number of Canadians who have turned to crafts as a livelihood. But it’s no easy ride: in this CBC report, the owner of a craft supply shop says the odds aren’t in favour of the professional craftsperson.“
The link to the story: The Crafty Family
No, we haven’t fallen off the planet, just everywhere but the keyboard.
Here are a couple of shots of some raku pots I snapped at a show this weekend. Stylized dragonflies and lotuses bottle & a sweet bay magnolia jar.
Other news.. this spring’s last First Saturdays Art Market will be at Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile on June 2nd from 9 am to 3 pm (NB relocated from the Royal & Government location). There will be pottery and painting demonstrations, and starting at 7:30 am on the other side of the square will be Mainstreet Mobile’s Market on the Square farmer’s market. Hope you are able to join us as we go out with a bang.
(fyi This jar is one of the completed pieces from my February 3rd blog entry, where it appeared in unglazed.)
Artists around Mobile and surrounding areas are getting ready for the first of four outdoor art market days that will take place in Downtown Mobile. We have a growing list of participants including painters, printmakers, folk artists, potters, jewelers, glass artists, sculptors, and more.
For more info and updates in coming weeks, please visit our website/blog: http://artmarketdaymobile.blogspot.com/
Hope to see you there!
Starting back in the early 90s, in the early days of Clayart and various pottery newsgroups, there was a group of us who used to log onto the #pottery channel on mIRC, spending long hours happily clicking away at the keyboard talking about anything related to clay, pottery, glazes, firing, kilns, design, life as a potter, apprentices, etc etc etc.
One of the people I haven’t lost touch with from the channel is Rusty Wiltjer (aka Grulox). Rusty has been potting for over 35 years now and is one of the more technically capable potters I know.
For the last few years, Rusty has focused on developing and producing his handmade sinks, including his pedestal, vessel, and self-rimming models. They are all individually made on the potters wheel, glazed, then high-fired in his gas kiln . I’ve seen a lot of sinks potters have tried to make out there and .. well, there are handmade sinks, and there are handmade sinks. Rusty’s a precision thrower and his sinks are thrown well, designed well (including back-flow), and are finished well.
When I visited his site yesterday I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of clay drums he now has up …and each with a sound clip! Its amazing how a slight variation in vessel shape can affect the tone and pitch. Did I mention Rusty also drums professionally and has on and off since he was a kid? For some time now he has been having a weekly drum gathering session at his house where a bunch of like-minded percussionists (I assume all on handmade or primitive drums?) get together and just jam.
Rusty’s studio is nestled just outside the town of Waterford, Maine, about one hour north of Portland. If you would like to find out more about his sinks, drums, and pottery, or would like to contact him yourself, please feel free to check out his web site www.wiltjerpottery.com.
Here’s a picture of Rusty playing a live performance with singer songwriter Kristen Short. (Nice bandana eh?)
I’ve been experimenting with brushwork for a while now, trying different styles, brushes, pigment, and subject matter. The brushes that I like best for the designs I’m doing are ones that Lowell has made from local bamboo and deer/dog tail hair. Each brush has its own personality and make for a nice spontaneous bold brush stroke.
Today as I was cleaning up my computer hard drive, I came upon some photos from over the last few years. I was intrigued at how much some pots and designs have changed or evolved in a relatively short period of time. A natural progression I suppose. I had been told that the more you do an image, the more it seems to take on a life of its own.
It never hurts to go back every so often and revisit and reflect upon your work from the past. It can be a good point of reference or even source of inspiration.
I mentioned in my last post about my friend Charles posting some of the film clips of him being interviewed on YouTube. I can certainly see the value of having some sort of presence there from a marketing perspective, but it also gives me an excuse to go play with some of those movie or video programs that have remained up to this point, at least, unused.
So here is a slideshow I threw together with some photos I had on hand. A few things to work out yet, but, like anything else, there is a learning curve. Man, the technology that’s available to us is amazing isn’t it? And I didn’t even need a Mac to do this.. who knew!
(NOTE: To play the video clip, please click the little “play” right arrow thingie icon in the bottom left corner of the window below. )
Annually I make a series of custom stoneware mugs for The Coffee Loft, one of two coffee shops in and around Fairhope, Alabama, on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore. Located on North Section street, this popular spot attracts a broad range of people, mostly on account of the excellent coffee and customer service, but I think also because of the wonderfully laid-back and eclectic feel of the place, a far-cry from the typical impersonal cookie-cutter style coffee franchises that have crept in and popped up everywhere.
You can usually find something a little different to look at everytime you go in, whether it be some new art for sale by a local artist, or even just the people who walk in the door (i told you it was a diverse crowd). Just yesterday I popped in (for some real coffee on my way home) and on display was a new crop of whimsical art by Ameri’ca Jones Gallaspy, Gloria Tullos, and a few others.
Please check out this exhibit by Joe Molinaro and my good friends and Nan Coffin and Richard Burkett at the Charlie Cummings Clay Studio and Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana:
This exhibit runs from Oct 6 until Oct 27th. Unfortunately we have already missed the date for Joe Molinaro’s free lecture at the gallery: “Evolving Traditions and Outside Influences Facing the Ecuadorian Amazon.”
Richard Burkett teaches at the University of San Diego and Joe Molinaro teaches at Eastern Kentucky University. Joe, Nan, and Richard have spent extensive time doing research in Ecuador working amongst potters and collecting their work.
My apologies to those of you who may have tried to access our web site for the last week only to get a “page not found” message. I can assure you, we have not fallen off the planet and, I’m happy to say, we are still most definitely very much here.
As I had mentioned in a previous post, we, along with 11 other artists, have formed a group called the Coastal Artisans, a self-representing collective of noteable and established artists from the Mobile, Baldwin County, and Surrounding areas. Our mission is to present a broad range and eclectic mix of quality artwork to the public, and increase art awareness in the community.
Our artists include: Charles Smith, pottery; Chris Hartsfield, Watercolors; Kurt Thomas, Serigraphs, Screenprinting; Phillip & Jaclyn Benedict, Fine Jewelry & Handcut Gemstones, Rick Tino, Acrylic, Watercolor, & Gouache; “Spike” Cloninger, Fine Lathe-Turned Vessels; Lowell Webb, Pottery; David Atwood, Stained & Fused Glass; Anne Webb, Pottery; William Colburn, Metal Sculpture; Scott Blackwell (Mombo Designs), Cajun Art & Design; Lillie Mack & Marilyn Gordon (Blackbelt Designs), Fiber, Fashion Design; and Jimmy Stroud, Nature Photography.
On December 2nd, we are happy to announce that we will be holding our First Annual Christmas Show and Sale at The Mobile Botanical Gardens from 9 am to 5 pm. Its a one day only event and is being held in conjunction with the Master Gardeners’ and Annual Poinsettia Sale events at the Botanical Gardens.
To find out more info about our group, our artists, and our Christmas Sale, please check out The Coastal Artisans’ blog/website (http://thecoastalartisans.blogspot.com) . We will be adding more info in the months leading up to the show.
Just opened, our new Webb Pottery CafePress store!
Shirts, hats, aprons, custom postage, and other paraphenalia with the Webb Pottery name and images from our original artwork (as you can see here).
Also available, apparel and accessories including bumper stickers, hats, etc. with fun pottery mottos and messages, as well as some others meant to motivate and inspire.
Visit often as we add new stuff!
This afternoon I made a trip down to Tino’s Fine Art & Frames to deliver a few pots and was really impressed by all the new work that is on display. The gallery is looking FULL. Rick was busy hanging and arranging work and making the last minute preparations for his official Grand Opening & Memorial Day open house this Saturday from 2 – 8 pm. The public is welcome to come out, enjoy the art, and meet the artists. Refreshments and nibbles will be served.
I was excited to see that there are three new artists who now have work in the gallery. Talis Jayme (watercolors, acrylics, & pastels), Gary Reynolds (Fractal Art), and Erik “Turtle” Olsen (Metal work sculpture).
In addition to the open house, the neighboring Sunset Cork Room will have the wonderful Lisa Zanghi providing their live entertainment that night.
So come out and finish the day off with some flair. Hope to see you there!
Tino’s Fine Art & Frames, 2200 East Second Street, Suite H, Gulf Shores AL 36542
Phone 251- 971-TINO (8466), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday 9am to 5:30 pm, Saturday 9am to noon
Last weekend we took a ride down to Gulf Shores, to check out and take work to Rick Tino’s new gallery, Tino’s Fine Art & Frames. Rick, who lives in Gulf Shores, has been dealing with various frame shops and galleries in the area for years. He noticed that increasingly these places have been gravitating toward selling mainstream art, prints and work that one could find anywhere else.
So when Rick decided last year that he wanted to open a gallery again, he wanted to offer something unusual in a market that increasingly lacked distinctiveness. In his words, his vision was to create something less commonplace, an “oasis for beauty and things that are well made by local artists.”
Rick has invited artists who he feels would help him achieve his vision, offering an eclectic range of work from quality functional pottery to one-of-a-kind two- and three-dimensional works of art. Featured local artists are Laura Hensley(Glass), David Atwood (Glass), Chris Hartsfield (Realism Painter – Watercolor & Giclee Prints), Tommy Cannon (Oil) , Sea Oats Studio – Steve & Dee Burrow (Stoneware Pottery), Wilodean Brown (Pencil, Pen and Ink), Anne Webb & Lowell Webb (Stoneware, Raku, & Primitive-Fired Pottery), and Rick Tino (Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache).
Feel free to contact Rick for more info, directions, or better yet, drop by when you’re in the area!
Tino’s Fine Art & Frames, 2200 East Second Street, Suite H, Gulf Shores AL 36542
Phone 251- 971-TINO (8466), Email: email@example.com
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday 9am to 5:30 pm, Saturday 9am to noon