offcntr: (Default)
2019-04-23 04:26 pm

Shuffling cards

For years, my business cards looked like this: simple graphics, black ink on a nice card stock. I got them printed at an independent copy shop a short walk from downtown Eugene that employed one of our former Craft Center studio employees. They had a nice assortment of Wausau Speckletone papers, and Neenah Cottonwood card stock, which is what I printed the cards on. They printed 12 per page, and were super cheap--pennies per card--so I could afford to issue them like popcorn, to everyone who even might be interested.

Time moved on. Kinko's doomed the corner copy shop, and were in turn sunk by the big-box office supply stores. None of them carried specialty papers, so I had to start buying my own stock (Neenah Birch, a lighter, warmer-toned speckled stock) from a paper supply house and bring it in to the local Office Max, now a convenient bike ride from our new house on River Road.

Then Office Depot swallowed up Max and closed our neighborhood store. The copy shop employees got younger and less experienced, too used to pressing a button without thinking about how it affected the printed product. Every six months, it seemed, I was training in a new operator. Yes, it's two-sided. This is how the sides line up. Trimmed cards are 2 x 3.5", cut in this pattern. No, you can't let the computer shrink to fit page (seemingly the default) as this messes up the registration.

Everything finally came to a head about two weeks ago, when I went in to get cards printed for Ceramic Showcase. We can't print them here, I was told, We're not allowed to print two-sided cards in house anymore. We have to send them out to a regional printing center.

Yeah, not happy.

So I brought my 75 remaining sheets of Birch card stock home for Denise to use in book binding projects, and sat down at my computer to design a new business card. And went online.

Online color printers have proliferated since the days when I wrote this. Digital processing, economies of scale and sheer competition mean that a full color card these days costs what my black ink on speckly paper version did back in the day. This is my new business card.

I ordered 5000 from Clay Fest gets its postcards and bookmarks--for just under 2¢ each, including shipping.
offcntr: (Default)
2019-04-22 06:09 pm
Entry tags:

And while I think of it

The 2019 Oregon Potters Association Ceramic Showcase is this Friday through Sunday at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Hours are 10 am-7pm Friday, 10-6 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday. Admission is free, though donations for Clay Education will be accepted.

I'm in space 20, just down the aisle from the entrance. I'll have my new sculpture in the gallery, and will demonstrate Brushmaking and Decorating on Sunday morning at 11 am.

Also taking place at the Convention Center is The Gathering of the Guilds, featuring artists from the Creative Metal Arts Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Oregon Glass Guild, Portland Bead Society and the Portland Handweavers Guild. It's a great weekend to get your art on.
offcntr: (maggie)
2019-04-22 06:06 pm
Entry tags:

Look what I found!

Every now and again I have to stop and appreciate something I've made. It's only a $15 cat food dish, but the drawing is adorable.

offcntr: (be right back)
2019-04-22 05:44 pm

Out of sorts

Took the day off yesterday to celebrate Easter with Denise, but today we had to face the fact that we're in countdown time for Ceramic Showcase. The van is well-stocked for a Saturday Market, but a three-day road show is another thing entirely. We need more of most everything, extra restock boxes of plates, soup bowls, tall mugs. Extra casseroles, baking dishes, servers, pie plates. A few things we only take to road shows, as there isn't room in our smaller Saturday Market display: tool crocks, covered canisters, yarn bowls.

Weather looking to cooperate, we pulled all our boxes out of storage, backed the van out of the carport, and spent all morning and half the afternoon sorting, boxing, and making notes on various inventory sheets. As always, there's never enough room for everything we might need, so we make trade-offs. This pattern in one size baker, a different in the other. How many of each size of serving bowl are we likely to need? Is this enough pie plates? (No, it's never enough pie plates.) It's kind of fun, in an exhausting way, finding things we'd forgotten we stashed away back in the dark days of January and February.

I also managed to get my demo materials, my sculpture, extra stands and lights and bookmarks for Clay Fest to distribute, all packed into the van,
though to do it I had to take out my canopy and stuff boxes under the floor. Which meant I had to make a hook for snagging them back out again. It's always something.

Tonight after supper we'll consolidate our notes onto two pages: a show inventory and a shed (i.e. back at home, sorry didn't bring it with us) listing. I've already started a looseleaf binder with parking pass, hotel info and the 19-page move-in packet.

Tomorrow I'll load up the roof rack, bake cookies for the weekend, print out my road show checklist and start ticking things off. Wednesday afternoon, we drive to Portland and unload the van at the Convention Center, spend all day Thursday setting up. Our first road show of 2019. Wish us luck!
offcntr: (window bear)
2019-04-20 05:37 pm
Entry tags:

I forgot...

I had a rough last firing--huge amounts of oxidation, like a third of the kiln was bleached and white. Depressing as hell, packing four big boxes of seconds to stash at the back of the shed until next winter. It wasn't crippling--I already had enough pots for my next big show, Ceramic Showcase, from my January and February firings--but it was a huge amount of wasted effort.

One good thing did come out of the firing, though: my sculpture was in an area that was pretty solidly reduced, and came out very well. Here's a look at the finished piece. What do you think?
bear right!
I'm thinking of naming it "When Calvin Met Pooh."

ETA: or maybe When Pooh Met Calvin?
offcntr: (bunbear)
2019-04-20 11:25 am
Entry tags:

Somebunny or other

Today's theme is... Easter! (Duh.)

Lots of bunnies in the booth today.
offcntr: (Default)
2019-04-13 11:48 am
Entry tags:

On a grey day

The patterns are all black and white! Orca, panda, penguins, Appaloosa mare, all lined up on our Saturday Market bench.
offcntr: (window bear)
2019-04-10 10:56 am

Deep dive

I spent most of firing day yesterday cleaning my studio space. I've got a semi-private room, a step up from the main space, but also the hallway from studio to kitchen area. I like it because it includes two big shelf units, but... it includes two big shelf units.

One of them is readily accessible, and holds work fresh from the kiln, glazed pots being held over for the next firing, a constantly revolving array of work-in-progress and work bound for home and sale. The other is tucked in an alcove, hard to move ware boards in and out of, and tends to just accumulate... stuff. It's like an attic, or the back of the hall closet. You never know what's in there, or how long it's been.

So I put on my dust mask, because the amount of air-born clay you can accumulate over time is frightening, got a sponge and a bucket, and had at it.

The first thing I discovered was I could tell how long it had been. I found blank inventory sheets dated 2001 on the top shelf, among other things, suggesting that the entire side had been little disturbed since I took over the space from Corey and Kelly back about then. I also found silkscreens and ink, and a box of Off Center Ceramics t-shirts from an ill-fated attempt to expand into the "I'm traveling and can't take back anything fragile" market. I think I only ever sold two, one rooster and one cat. This was a box of a couple dozen cats shirts, screen-printed, but without the hand-coloring that differentiated a yellow tiger from a brown-point siamese. They were also weirdly mottled in spots. Apparently, newsprint contains enough traces of bleach that it can take out the color of a yellow shirt where it touches.

I donated the silkscreens to Maude Kerns; they're restarting their printmaking classes this spring. The ink and fabric paints went in the dumpster, the shirts will mostly go to Goodwill, except for a few Denise kept back to wear. Anyone want one? I've got medium, large, and extra-large.

I also found a variety of broken bisque, test tiles, and old magazines, dumpster-bound. A pasta bowl with scarred rim, kept because it heroically gave its life to hold up the shelves when a kiln post failed. Some books that, after dusting, will come home to my studio collection. A couple of burnished, pit-fired pots from an earlier series of work than never really found an audience. And a bunch of small sculptures.

I used to teach hand building and sculpture, both at the UO Craft Center and later, at Club Mud. I didn't keep all of my demos, but I did keep some, which is how I wound up with:

1. A goose with a mustache, double chin and work boots. ("Self-portrait as an animal of your choice.")
2. A nude torso, self-portrait with bar of soap. ("Make a nontraditional gargoyle, modeled solid and and hollowed.")
3. This rather nice primitive ram sculpture, pit-fired. ("Seal two pinch pots together and build a hollow sculpture from them.)

Not sure what to do with all this stuff; I keep thinking I'll put the gargoyle on a downspout when I eventually build a kiln and its enclosure. For now, I've just cleaned everything off and consolidated them on a single shelf. I've still got half a dozen shelves to go through, and a few ideas about re-organizing the space to make it more accessible, possibly paint the raw wood. We did that on the front half a few years ago, and it really brightened up the space.

Maybe in another 20 years.
offcntr: (rainyday)
2019-04-06 08:25 pm

Happy New Year!

Or Hippy New Year, as one of our neighbors quipped. The first Saturday of April is the traditional start of Saturday Market, rain or shine. This is the Market's 50th season, so we particularly wanted to make the opening day.

In this case, we got a bit of both. We left earlier than usual, around 6:45 am, and caught about an hour's gap between rain showers to set up. Sun and rain played tag the rest of the day, with enough nice weather to bring out the customers (including one of my students from 30 years ago), and no pottery-crashing wind gusts, unlike last year. All in all, a pretty good day, and we even got a mostly dry spell to pack up in. (Well, the pots were all in the van before the showers returned, and we only got a little moist taking down the canopy at the very end.)

During slack moments at Market, we play "Hair of the Day," pointing out particularly outrageous or creative hair colors. Today's win was either a woman with a Hyacinth Macaw-colored bob (bright blue and yellow) or her companion, who'd braided long strips of colored cloth into his white beard. The other thing I noticed was how many women had green hair; I think I counted eight, including a mother and grade-school-aged daughters, in shades ranging from parakeet to emerald. We were wondering if this was the next big thing in fashion when, long about the seventh example or so, I figured it out: The Oregon Women's Basketball team had made it into the final four. (Sadly defeated by Baylor in the semifinals.)

One other thing new: the parking structure where I leave the van during the day has added a nifty feature: There's about a dozen spaces on the last stretch, between the spiraling parts and the exit, and they've installed signal lights on the ceiling over them. This way you can see if there are any spaces open down near the exit before you commit yourself and find that a) there aren't any and b) you have to go back down to street level, wait for the stoplight, and come back through the entrance again. This is a minor inconvenience on free-parking weekends, but more of a hassle on weekdays when you have to give your ticket to the attendant, get waved through the barricade (first hour is free) and then start all over again. I wonder if they'd had any accidents from people trying to back up to the turn?

offcntr: (be right back)
2019-04-05 08:19 pm

While I were out

This is what I've been doing the last week, instead of posting here. Between the print workshop last weekend and the opening of Saturday Market this one, I only had five days glazing to fill the entire big kiln. I managed, I think--I'll know for sure when we load up on Sunday--but it took some long days on my feet, dipping and painting pots, to get everything ready, and more often than not, I collapsed into bed right after supper.
offcntr: (maggie)
2019-04-04 08:14 pm

Just add color

CR and Pooh, colorized and ready for firing.
offcntr: (bella)
2019-04-03 08:45 am
Entry tags:

So far, so good

Boy and bear survived bisque firing just fine. Still a little warm to handle, though.
offcntr: (be right back)
2019-03-31 09:41 pm

Gelli dancing

It's the last weekend before Saturday Market. The van is loaded, inventory done, the pots for my next glazing cycle are dry, bisque fires starting. What better excuse to run away for a couple of days?

I may have mentioned that my wife, Denise, is also a craft artist; she makes handmade paper and hand bound books, which she sells through Saturday Market as Pulp Romances. We sometimes play in each others' playground: she'll glaze empty bowls or make small ceramic pieces. I'll pull paper and experiment with different bookbinding techniques. And this weekend, we got to play in someone else's playground.

Heather Fortner is a printmaker based--for a little while yet--in Toledo, Oregon, just east of Newport. She's in the process of retiring to Mexico, and was offering a farewell workshop in Gelli printmaking.

Gelli plates are soft, flexible printmaking plates, that you ink up, and then place various resists--pressed leaves, cheesecloth, paper stencils, feathers--on top, before you lay on your paper, burnish, and pull off a print. You can then re-ink the plate in a contrasting or complementary color, lay down different stencils and pull a second color onto the print, a third, even fourth. There are ways to pull prints from residual ink on the plate, ways to create textures in the ink layer before printing, just a whole bunch of different ways to manipulate the image.

It's essentially mono print, but on a flexible, forgiving substrate. The process was lovely but challenging, especially as we were using acrylic inks, which dry fast, so you had to commit to your design, or see it sitting dry on the plate.

This is my workstation at starting. On the right, you sell the clear plate and ink brayer (roller), top and left, leaves to use as stencils, and bottom left, tubes of printers ink. I started with cobalt blue (of course), cadmium red and titanium white. The first print I did was two-color, in red and blue using the Japanese sea weed. Worked pretty well (see below, left), though I quickly found I needed to move my table out of the sun, as the ink was drying too fast in that corner.

I also quickly got too engaged in the process to remember to take photos, so I have no process shots at all, not even of Denise working (though here's one of her cleaning off her gelli plate). She did some things I didn't, like overprinting on text blocks, and pulling second prints from dried ink residue. (As in the top left and bottom right prints, below.)

All in all, she made a lot of prints...

But then, so did I.

I also found myself being called in to consult on color choices, not just by Denise and Hope, but by Heather, who said I had the best color sense she'd seen in a while, and invited me to help some of the other students choose color blends to overprint on their pieces.

All in all, a very satisfying day's workshop. But we didn't buy a plate to take home. God knows we don't need another art hobby...
offcntr: (live 1)
2019-03-30 09:22 pm


I used to have the worst trouble getting handles to line up. On anything that had paired handles--casserole, crock, cookie jar--or even a few that didn't, like batter bowls, I just couldn't get the handles lined up across from each other. I'd eye-ball and mark and attach and pull and two times out of four, the handles were closer together from one direction than the other. Drove me nuts.

Then one year, Local Clay, our Eugene potter's group, sponsored a workshop by Ellen Currans. She's a long-time Oregon potter, founding member of the OPA, and made a lot of two-handled platters, servers, baking dishes. And she had a lovely, simple system for positioning the handles.

She'd make a paper template the same diameter as the pot, usually by taping the sheet to her potter's wheel and pencilling in the circle, then cutting away the excess. She'd then fold it in half, mark where fold met edge, then flatten it out and refold a couple of inches off the original fold, mark there. Putting the template over the top of the platter or dish made it easy to determine where to place the handles so they'd be exactly opposite one another. Since she was a production potter too, she had dozens of templates in all different sizes, so she always had on to match the next pot. She even made nifty little handles out of scotch tape, to make it easier to lift off the template when done.

I've adopted the system wholesale, taken it a step further: I have templates on the computer that I can size and print onto card stock with the relevant diameters pre-printed. And since I have box tape in the studio, I do the handles as well.

Here's a few of my handle templates, and a small covered crock about to get marked and handled. Honestly, I'm still amazed I never figured this trick out for myself.
offcntr: (rainyday)
2019-03-29 09:29 am
Entry tags:

One week to go

Hope for sunny weather!
sun oh sun i hope
offcntr: (snoozin')
2019-03-28 12:06 am

So many

got 'em covered
Yesterday, it was lids: canisters, cookie jars, honey pots. Today? Handles. Sixty of them.
hallelujah! finished the handels
offcntr: (maggie)
2019-03-25 11:59 pm
Entry tags:


let out of the bag
New bear patiently waits to meet his new owner. Quinn Luca was born March 13, 9 lbs 5.75 oz. Mom and baby are doing fine. 
offcntr: (Default)
2019-03-24 11:52 pm

A day away

Taking a day off from my studio, to teach Laura how to repair a kiln. We're installing new elements on one of Club Mud's Skutt 1027s. It's so much easier dealing with 12 feet of springy kiln element with a partner to feed it out as you coax it into the grooves. Pinning it in place also goes much faster with two. We did the entire kiln, six elements and a new thermocouple, in just under three hours, with time off for lunch.
offcntr: (chinatown bear)
2019-03-22 11:28 pm
Entry tags:

Getting a grip

I started making crock-style handles on my casseroles and bakers after listening to a public radio story about Minnesota Pottery, and remembering the 25-gallon lard and sauerkraut crocks we had down in the basement, growing up. The technique is simple, but the resulting handles are sturdy and comfortable, easily big enough to grab through hot pads or oven mitts.

I start with an extruded coil, for consistency, cut to 3.5" lengths. (I have the intervals marked on a ware board, so I don't have to measure, just line up and cut. I measure the midpoint of each side, then score and slip a crescent there, along with two coil segments.

The coil is positioned, then pinched in place. I swipe a little off the top and bottom with my thumbnail to smooth the join, then pinch outward to widen and thin the handle. I leave the outer edge fat and rounded.

Once the starter handle is placed and pinched, I dip my fingers in water and stroke the handle back and forth, a horizontal version of the usual pulled handle. This smooths out the pinch marks, thins and forms the handle, refines the edge.

With thumb and forefinger tips, I pinch and press the ends of the handle to the pot, swiping off any excess clay and making nice, tight end points. Finally, I finish with a chamois dipped in water, for a super smooth finish.

Et voila! A handle you can get a grip on.
offcntr: (Default)
2019-03-20 11:05 pm

I know you, rider, too

I wasn't actually sure how to finish this sculpture. The original notion came from a Murray Leinster SF short story, Exploration Team, that I'd read back in junior high, about an illegal colony on a planet full of dangerous predators. The hero survived with the help of domestic Kodiak bears. I didn't want to follow the story literally, though, as a guy in a jumpsuit with pack and high-powered rifle would have required too much explanation.

I also thought about bear cubs, or nothing but the bear, and neither seemed complete. Ultimately, I settled on a sort of Christoper Robin meets Calvin and Hobbes solution, where the boy is as we remember him, but the bear is as he might have imagined Pooh if not limited by his father's writing.

Because I wanted more flexibility in coloring Chris, I used a lighter clay body, Georgies' G-Mix with grog, the same clay I used last year for Harriet and the year before for Baba Yaga's Apprentice. Since I knew it would shrink a little, I laid a sheet of bubble wrap across the bear's back to compensate. This also had the added benefit of keeping the brown clay from staining the white. As usual, I worked in stages. I also worked hollow, but with much thinner slabs.

The finished boy was allowed to slowly dry in place, though after about a day, I replaced the bubble wrap with paper towel. This allows him to shrink with his mount, wicks away some moisture from between them, and still keeps red stoneware smudges away from his shirt and shorts.

Okay, that's it. I really need to get back to throwing. I still have the rest of the kiln to fill up.