21 June 2007

closer to hand

I am so excited to introduce this weeks guest blogger to you!
Back in December

Renee wrote to me
asking me what I call the dreaded question..."What is your process?" I wrote back, trying to gently couch the usual response I give to people who ask me to give missives of my process via email (I don't even teach workshops on my process...sad but true, I am a hoarder this way). Which is, thanks for writing, but sorry, I'm not gonna tell you. I hate doing this but as much as I believe in sharing I don't believe in sharing everything. I try to be nice, give a little something in return without giving away my secrets but never the less I know it pisses people off.

Renee, did not respond right away to my answer of "no". Then about a week later she did...She was honest in telling me that she felt sort of "miffed" as she put it but then thought about it a little and what I got in return was a very thoughtful and understanding response.

I was so impressed by Renee I thought to myself; Man, I wish this girl lived closer to me... She's my kinda lady! Bold enough to ask questions, strong enough to take the answers (even when they aren't what she wants to hear), honest enough to tell me what she thinks, thoughtful about the information and kind enough to tell me she understands.

Well the rest is now history. Renee and I exchange emails as often as our busy schedules allow. If we did live closer to one another, you would most definitely find me loitering about her studio, chatting, sharing stories of clay battles won and lost and maybe even sharing a few well guarded secrets.

Welcome aboard Renee! We are so lucky to have you.


First, a word of thanks and appreciation to Diana for being such a dedicated blogger.
Reading about the struggles and successes of a
fellow potter motivates me to work harder in the studio. At times,
living way out in West Virginia leaves me feeling alone in this crazy
pursuit of making pots in the 21st century. It's amazing how a few
well crafted words have spurred new thoughts and approaches to my

 Reading and responding to Diana's blog has given me the chance to
develop a dialogue with friends I have yet to meet. Thanks One
Blackbird for hosting guest bloggers like me. It is my hope that
these guest blogs will encourage other clay artists to create a
larger community of bloggers who know about all things clay.

I have been making pots since my freshman year of college. Viewing
my transcript would reveal a very eclectic education; I knew that
college life should be about learning all sorts of things. Much to
the chagrin of my mother, the one passion that has remained constant
is my love of clay. After leaving school, I was lucky enough to fall
into situations that facilitated my dream of being a potter and I
have had a clay studio for the past thirteen years. My current
studio is twenty paces out my back door and is painted a fetching
color of purple. When I look out at my perfect purple cottage, it
makes me smile.

While I have had this constant desire to make pots, I have also had moments (or even years!) of distraction. Along with making pots, my life has been full. I am now moving into a new place in my life. My son is nearing his sixteenth birthday and my studio, which was actually slated to be demolished before we purchased it, is finally in order. I now have more time and energy to invest in my work and I am quite excited to enter this new phase in my life.

Over the years, I have pursued several different venues for my
pottery. I have worried with craft fairs (the lost business cards,
missing wrapping paper and the curtain that would not stay in place),
gone the route of consignment (the errant dust bunny nestled in your
pots, people who know nothing about your craft in charge of selling
your work), moved on to work only with galleries (nice, but pricey).
Yes, each outlet has its own particular down side. These experiences
have lead me to look for a better way...

In 2001, I went to Haystack, where I was Jack Troy's teaching
assistant. He wisely advised the class not to overlook our local
market. I remember him saying, "Your neighbors will not let you
down." He assured us that galleries, no matter how lovely, come and
go. I knew this to be true, even for "star" potters--Jeff Shapiro
once told me a story about a gallery that perfectly illustrated
Jack's point. Jeff was asked to make coffee cups for a four star
gallery that was representing him on the east coast. He was so
honored, he gave the gallery owner a good price and got busy making
the cups. They were to be commemorative cups, stamped with the
opening date of the gallery. When he went to unload the kiln, the
glaze had pooled in the stamped area making it illegible. Again,
back to the wheel to make more. After all of this effort, the
gallery owner got what he wanted. Guess how the story ends?
Shortly after delivering the cups, the gallery let him know they no
longer wanted to represent him.

This story allowed me to see the strength in Jack's advice and
reminded me of a phrase I'd heard: "closer to hand." I find power in
these words, and when I am grappling to make a decision I ask myself,
what is closest to hand? It often clears my mind and allows me to
see what is right in front of me. My goal is to sell my work
locally, giving myself the pleasure of meeting the folks who want my
pottery in their lives. I plan to take this year to explore things
that are closer to hand for me...Check out my progress on my new
blog: The Pondering Potter.


Anonymous said...

I really connected when you said "people who know nothing about your craft in charge of selling your work"
that is so true. Thank you, I will use that the next time someone asks me why I don't sell my work in stores, thanks!

Cynthia said...

What a lovely guest spot...I really enjoyed reading this one.

A potter friend/mentor of mine and I were recently talking about technique and ceramic secrets and she told me the story of Otto Hein and his wife. They had developed a wonderful yellow glaze that they didn't share with anyone, which annoyed many other potters to no end. Eventually, a Japanese company offered them $1,000,000 for the recipe which they sold to the company. Why not keep some things private. Other professions don't necessarily give out trade secrets.