offcntr: (live 2)
...Have a special order come in right after I've just closed the kiln?

Two so far this week, one in my email while I was firing the kiln Monday, the other waited until after I unloaded on Wednesday. For a kingfisher dinner plate, flicker tall mug.

Both of which will have to wait until my next firing, in late March or early April.
offcntr: (maggie)
The nice thing about procrastinating is that it gives me time to think about things.

Every time I thought about this sculpture project, tentatively titled Baba Yaga Takes a Lodger, I thought of another problem, found another solution. Case in point: Chicken legs.

I'd gotten a scaly texture on clay before with lace, rolling it into the surface. Unfortunately, that was in my Craft Center days, and I foolishly left all those bits and scraps behind when I left the job in 1998. Nothing at the fabric store looked convincing. One of the potters at Club Mud had a strip of lace that might have worked, but wouldn't let me borrow it, and I wasn't ready to start the project then and there during my last firing.

The roulette was a total accident. I made a completely different one to make roof tiles. It was scalloped with popsicle-stick depressions, and kinda worked, but not really. Too cute, too Beatrix Potter. Also, the impressions were ragged-edged, a little erratic. I decided I either needed thatch roof, or wooden shakes. The latter are easy enough to model with a piece of end-grain wood, so that's what I decided to do. I consigned my roofing roulette to the recycle bucket where it dissolved to slip.

But the idea stayed. I pulled out all of my modeling tools. Made a set of long scale impressions on one side of a roll, smaller, deeper ones on the other. Filled in the space with dimples of a couple of different sizes in a random pattern. Dried it and tried it and it worked. Far better than I had any expectation of.

That wasn't the only custom tool I made for this job. I usually use tools sanded from bamboo chopsticks to model facial features. These figures were so tiny that I ended up making a new set of miniature tools from bamboo skewers.

Other problems were easier. How do make a brick chimney? Press the edge of a ruler into the slabs to make horizontal courses. Make seams between the individual bricks with a flat-cut popsicle stick.

How do I make clapboard siding? Press the edge of a board into the slab, many, many times. How do I get the siding to line up at corners? Don't bother. This is a witch's house. Decor is not a priority. I almost made it a good deal more rickety, but decided if the house was alive (which I assumed. Chicken legs, remember?), it would probably heal from minor wear and tear.

Figuring out how to safely support the house on the legs took most of last year. It finally occurred to me to make the house and legs separately, fire them separately, assemble them later.

Some questions didn't get answered until I actually cut into the clay. I had three different ideas for the front steps, actually cut out two different templates, and then didn't use any of them. I realized the steps as visualized were just too big. If I made the steps shorter than the bottom of the door, a) they'd be free-standing and easier to fire without breaking, and b) it'd give the impression that the house was in the act of squatting down to meet its front stoop.

So here's Baba Yaga Takes a Lodger. Time to recycle the scrap, start the long, slow drying process, think about glazing.

Oh, and probably? Start making pots again.
offcntr: (window bear)
Twenty years ago this spring, Denise and I got our first reserved booth space at Saturday Market. It meant we could start setting up earlier, be finished before I had to leave to prepare for my 10 am radio show. It was a nice location, on the curb facing the East Lawn, easy to load in and shady in summer. Nearly perfect, except…

…that it faced the east lawn. Which was lovely and quiet in the morning, progressively more crowded with picnickers towards lunchtime, and drum circles as the afternoon progressed. Around 3 pm, the drug dealers showed up. Pot, mostly, but there were also little bags of what was probably meth, possibly--1996, remember--crack. We complained to staff of course--I was not about to let Denise confront the dealers, though she was mad enough to try. But Market was doing its own security back then, mostly volunteers and a few staff. Able to handle panhandlers, dogs, unregistered vendors and the obviously intoxicated; completely unready for anything else. I started sending Denise to the library in the afternoons, and resigned myself to the fact that I might as well close up shop at 3 pm, because nobody was going to come shopping through that.

We complained all year. The next year, they created a new reserved space, just for us, around the corner on South Park. They also hired a professional security company to patrol, and to begin the laborious task of cleaning things up. Somewhere in there, Eugene outlawed drug paraphernalia, and Market banned selling of pipes and bongs. And I spent a lot of energy explaining to people that Market vendors weren't just a bunch of hippies and drug dealers (okay, some hippies) but a lot of serious artisans and small business owners trying to make a legitimate living. We were clean, we were respectable, we were safe for the kind of middle-class, middle-aged ladies (and it was ladies, overwhelmingly, back then) who wanted to buy pottery with chickens painted on it.

Fast forward twenty years…

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana last year. Holiday Market decided to allow limited sale of pipes and bongs last year, no more than 25% of your booth product, in a closed case. This spring, the Board revisited the decision, and voted to rescind all restrictions on pipes and bongs. At the same time, the city moved to crack down on unlicensed vendors selling on the courthouse square on the block adjacent to Saturday and Farmers Markets. So a bunch of folks came across the street, bought memberships, and joined Saturday Market.

Great, huh? More memberships, new members, finally paying their share to the Market whose coattails they'd been riding on all these years.

Except… twice last month, I've had pipes-only vendors set up next door, one selling glass, one stone, both kind of first-rung in terms of craftsmanship. First-rung presentation, too: folding tables, no roof--even in the rain--hand-written cardboard signage. A definite barter-fair vibe. Both days, my sales sucked.

Admittedly, the weather didn't help, that first rainy day. But I saw more than one customer come around the corner, see the pipe display--with no roof, it was the most obvious thing on the block--and visibly decide to turn back, that nothing interested them on this stretch. Those who did come by were only interested in pipes. None of the other vendors even got a second look. And after 23 years, someone finally asked if they could smoke with one of my dragon incense burners. "After all, you're in the bong zone."

Yeah, no.

I'm not sure what I think about this. What effect it will have on the vast majority of artisans trying to make a legitimate living at their small business. In my head, I know it's legal. I know the middle-class, middle-aged women (and men) who buy my work now were in college in the 60s and 70s, and probably did inhale. They're not going to be as frightened off by pipes and bongs as their counterparts of twenty years ago.

But in my gut, I'm still back on East Lawn in 1996, watching as potential customers turn the corner, scope out the scene, then turn around and walk away again.
offcntr: (maggie)
Update on the kiln adjustments: the firing went close to my ideal--it reached cone 08 by 6 am when I arrived at the studio, so I started the morning with body reduction. Top a little hotter than bottom, but that's normal, and by cone 4 the cones were dropping together. Timing was perfect, two hours from cone 1 to cone 4, another two to cone 8. Cone 8 and nine dropped half an hour apart, another hour to cone 10.

Firing finished at 4:45 pm, 62 units gas, which is really good for winter, though since it was 52° outside, we never really had to turn on the heater.

Of course, the proof is in the results, so I'll know tomorrow when I open the door.

ETA: Started cooling the kiln this morning before church, and everything I can see from the peeps with my flashlight looks really good. Fingers crossed...


May. 11th, 2015 12:18 pm
offcntr: (bella)
I've been asked about yarn bowls a couple of times, even tried to make a few, though I didn't quite get it right--need to have the thread hole open up to the rim so you can take the yarn out while the project is still in process. Hey, not a knitter/crochetist. I didn't know.

Last Saturday, I was approached at Market with a potential business offer. The woman in question was starting a fiber arts distributorship, a business that sources products and then wholesales them to fiber stores. She wanted to know if I'd ever made yarn bowls. I gave her the digest-sized version of the story, and she asked if I'd be interested in making them for her business. I said I'd think about it.
yarn bowl
This is me, thinking.

They're not hard to throw. Punching a hole and cutting a spiral slot to the rim isn't much harder, though it makes them kinda fragile to bisque. I'm not sure how likely they are to warp or deform in the glaze firing, I'd have to make a few to test. I think my initial attempts might have been a little big; a two-pound bowl would be about right. She thought the cat chasing the yarn pattern was cute, and also thought ewe and lamb would be nice.

So I could do them. Should I?

I did a little research. (Well, I searched etsy.) I found yarn bowls ranging in price from $15 to $60, with the median being about $40. Some were elaborate, some simple, some butt-ugly (and while elaborate correlated to higher price range, ugly did not necessarily mean lower). I'd probably suggest a retail price around $42. Is that reasonable? Sellable?

Then there's the issue of what my share would be. Standard wholesale is 50% of retail (used to be 60%, but times change), but this isn't standard wholesale. What's the distributer's cut?

And then there's quantity. How many is she likely to want. How many can she sell? This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, like the woman who wanted me to wholesale animal banks to Japan. There isn't anything like the labor involved with yarn bowls. But I'm still a one-man shop, with most of my income from retail sales, where I need a wide variety of product. I can't spend too much of my production time on one product.

Of course timing will be a factor there. Fifty yarn bowls in February is a huge difference from fifty yarn bowls in, oh, November. One is slack season, the other right in the bulls-eye of the Holiday rush.

Think I'll have to dig up my file on wholesale orders--minimum purchase, timing, delivery and payment schedules--and send her a follow-up email. She's just in the process of starting the business, so we'll see what spins out.

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