Wednesday, November 26, 2014


     Under normal circumstances, I am so busy my husband calls me a hummingbird.  In a car, I become a caged tiger.. a case of restless leg syndrome takes over my entire body.  So I have learned to prepare a project to complete in the car to keep myself occupied instead of insane.  I have worked on quilts, tied labels for my Anthropologie order, made cards, and this latest trip to Portland... decorated postcards.   
     To prepare, I cut some discarded album covers into postcard dimensions ( First-Class Mail postcard: At least 3.5 x 5", no more than 4.25 x 6"  x 0.016" thick).  Cereal boxes also work.  I put these in a zip-lock bag with glue sticks and scissors.  I also bring any books that would be better as images.  Children's encyclopedias or science books are awesome as the illustrations are precise but outdated to assuage the book-destroying guilt.  Many children's books have brilliant graphics and insipid text... And you can make gift cards from the pages too.  Avoid reading, naturally, to deter car sickness.

      Leg-stretching stops can occur at thrift stores to find more image resources.  
And thus I am amused for hours with hilarious juxtapositions: angler fish with the Andrew Sisters, John Travolta with a shark dance partner, Puffins in space....  

2 gluesticks, 80 postcards, and many many podcasts later, we made it home again....Best to embrace that "artist disposition"
....Happy travels this holiday season!

Thursday, October 30, 2014


People always ask where I get my inspiration and the amazing (ongoing) "Tentacles" exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium certainly qualifies.  The town is decorated in banners of tentacles.  Heaven!  I want them as curtains, or bed spreads, or just to snuggle up with on the couch!  As the name indicates, they feature every kind of cephalopod  (my darling octopuses, squid, cuttlefishes and nautiluses) and some artwork they inspire.  In addition to scientific illustration and robot versions of each cephalopod, they display samples of pottery and glassware and other art forms seduced by the tentacle.

My favorite was the flamboyant cuttlefish, a mini bulldog of a cuttlefish that appears to walk on its tentacles and changes colors as it demonstrates dominance, curiosity, submission, tantrum...  The following evening I spend looking up videos of the little guys and exclaiming with rapture (Nova video:  And then I painted them.
Flamboyant Cuttlefish

    Also present was the angelic reef squid, the first cephalopod I interacted with when learning how do dive in Honduras.  A line of five of them flapped their "wings" and examined us while we adapted to breathing underwater, clearly the only creature actually interested in our bumbling presence.
  Naturally, there were also octopuses of every color and personality, and instructive videos about the differences in eye shape, propulsion, tentacles of the cephalopods and the kind of mischief the octopuses get up to in the aquariums (i.e. sneaking out and stealing fish at night from other tanks then returning undetected except by security cameras).

   And then I got to feed the bat rays.  No tentacles, but as the presenter described them, with "nibbling gums like a horse".  You had to hold a sardine through your fingers, perpendicular to your palm, so the bat rays could come up and gobble the fish out.  You could pet their velvety skin as they passed by!  They were amazingly unbothered by the fondling hands despite the presence of three venomous barbed spines at the base of their long tails (apparently they are as disinclined to use them as honey bees.. for defense only)
Bat Ray in Kelp

 To complete the exploration, we decided to dive the bay, since it is purported to be the best cold water diving (as long as the visibility holds).   I heard that the kelp forests were mesmerizing to swim through.  Well, it was cold.  And clear enough.  We were joined by an otter.  A variety of nudibranchs, which I am desperately in love with (like flamboyant sea slugs), showed off their color through the murk.  As of yet, I haven't quite figured out how to bring out their majesty in clay and black and white. Might have to learn glass blowing to fully capture them.

Nudibranchs.... their variety seems endless.  Usually very small too. Found in every shape all over the world
    But the most amazing sight hovered in the water near us.  When lit from below, it glowed like an old Metal-halide lamp.  Our dive master wasn't sure what it was so I researched it that evening while the image was still fresh.

Gelatinous Zooplankton
Apparently it was some kind of gelatinous zooplankton (a group that includes jellyfish), and possibly was a Thetys vagina, which has asexual solitary form, the oozooid, which buds and develops into a colony of sexual individuals, the blastozooids (  Not only a fascinating creature but a rare functional use of 'z's!

So, life inspires.  Endlessly.  Thankfully.  And my job is to remain inspired.  Love it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Maybe not...

A while back I wrote about the dubious adventure of saying, "Yes".  Here's the followup to the big Yes I said to Anthropologie...

I should have said, "No thanks."

While the wholesale price seemed fair, I was completely unaware of the reality of working with a massive corporation.  Nonetheless, I dove in with what my husband calls, "reckless abandon."  Like all corporations, they involve lots of middle people.  Each connected me to websites of videos and documents about how they wanted things done, but no one person could provide all the answers.  Like where I was shipping them to, specifically, how to use their bizarre database system to make packing lists... I had to pay one company to make labels, two different kinds and individually mailed.  Being a required element of the process, they have no incentive to charge a decent price or even share an envelope, so I paid $19.50 for 40 labels ($10 to ship from LA) and the same amount for 100 labels.  These then had to be applied, per their specifications, along with a  personal tag (which I strung with emrboidery thread on the 3 hour trip home from Monterey) to each mug.

   And then there was  the packaging.  One of our business philosophies is to tread environmentally as lightly as possible.  With islands of plastic clogging the seas, I don't feel comfortable contributing new bubblewrap and polybags to the mess.  For this massive packing project, we diverged from the recommended materials and used:

  • a roll of foam floor padding
  • a swimming pool cover (the thick blue bubble-wrap style)
  • foam padding from the dump's Recycle Town (sterilized, naturally)
  • a yoga mat
  • unused farmer's market produce bags (from our friend, Jason, who used to farm) 
  • dumpster dived cardboard (from the recylce bins in a business park, of course)
  • lots of packing tape
  • and friends' and family's collections of bubble-wrap, cardboard and styrofoam...

     It took a solid 3 days to pack up all these mugs.  Only 140 of them, but they became 10 massive boxes headed to two different locations in Reno (one for distribution to stores, one for distribution online).  The livingroom became buried under styrofoam snowfall.
     Overall, it was a stressful experience.  In the painting, my owls and octopuses did begin to feel jailed.  I got more robotic than I was comfortable with, a little too mass production, a little too soul seduction. A lot of time was expended figuring out how to maneuver through their system.  And when I was finally ready to wipe my hands of them, the freight pickup man called and insisted that my boxes had to be "palletized and shrink-wrapped".  I told him that was impossible as this was a residential location (like I told the operator who took the order) and I don't have pallets.  Another operator sent me a regular UPS truck and said I could make the labels online or the driver would have them.   But I couldn't fill out the forms online because they wanted to charge me rather than the receiver and when Tom arrived, he laughed that she was clearly "in another state", that he didn't carry labels but was friendly with the UPS shop in town.  He called her and she had labels that would work, but I couldn't transport the boxes in my tiny Honda Civic.  So we loaded up his truck and he delivered them to her shop for me (saint!).  I spent another hour there manually filling out forms and attaching them to boxes.

  Now I just cross my fingers that they get there.  And I get paid.  And they return my samples.  And maybe the exposure will make it all worthwhile.....

Back to selling my pottery to humans.. one at a time

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kitchen Remodel

Our home was a summer cabin, remodeled, but only half-way, and therefore was a bargain fixer.  The kitchen, the first room that greeted you, was a simple but hideous no-drawer eyesore.  The counter consisted of beige 12" tiles with white (to begin with) grout that nauseated me every time I tried to clean it.  I've moaned about it for years but there were more crucial problems, like a foundation, our septic, double-paned windows etc. that needed attention before the esthetic needs of the kitchen.  It's been a slow process....
The Install
     We began with the flooring, lovely light-reflecting bamboo.  Then the entry way: a queen bee mosaic tile set by me and surrounding black slate to provide a safe place to remove shoes.   Then we moved up.  Being in remodel-focused construction, Joey was replacing a kitchen and managed to rescue their cabinets for us.   These he altered and fitted with better hardware before reusing in our kitchen.  I got a new (to us, it's stainless!) sink from Industrial Reusable Materials in Windsor (where remodelling treasures abound).   And I created a tile back splash for around the stove and above the counter.
  We bought PaperStone for the counter, a smooth product made of recycled paper (and recyclable!), praised by all the green builders and testers.  We sealed it with oil and beeswax and I love it!  No grout! And it's so strong you can buy a 1/2" thick slab and simply glue a little strip to the edge to make it appear like the traditional 1" thickness (you'll see that we haven't got to that finishing touch before I took the pictures).
  Then Joey installed the tile.  I numbered them on the back for easy placement.  In one day, Joey on the Mastik and me on the tile saw (there will ALWAYS be miscalculations that need correcting), we glued the tiles in place.  The next day we added black grout.

It's not perfect yet, but it's soooo close!

And I'm getting so much practice with tile, I'm ready for more...Anyone got a hideous kitchen??
(mostly done)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Dubious Adventure of Yes

Big pot
     I love a challenge. I consider myself to be optimistic and positive, so I revel in saying "Yes!"  Lately that has taken the form of wedding registries, which I adore because it enables me to make a cohesive set.  Then I said, "Yes" to the challenge of an 18" tall vase with a 9" mouth which turned out to be much easier to type than to achieve- though I did end up with my tallest vessel yet at 12" tall and a 7" mouth.  With a tall lid it almost reaches 18".  And I said,  "Yes" to the custom tile project which has taught me patience and how to reproduce a single piece of a puzzle (when one randomly decided not to cooperate), calculating shrink rate and grouting.  
   Recently, Anthropologie contacted me about being a handmade holiday showcase artist both at their stores and online.  They wanted 460 mugs initially, which, being a 1-woman factory was not only impossible but unappealing.  It’s forced me to reevaluate my business plan (again) and my intentional lack of growth.  I generally say, "No" to galleries who want to buy my products wholesale and retail them at 50% markup, especially not my mugs.   I don't have the means to make endless product, so it doesn't really benefit me to sell more products for less money.  I do not want to mechanize my pottery, as it would lose it whole purpose of being an intentional object.  I can't really imagine hiring someone because I love the absolute control and flexibility I have over my schedule (though I did solicit the aid of fellow potters to throw for me when my MS first appeared and crippled my left hand.... but those were desperate times.... )  
Broken tiles around the edges are ones I had to replace
     My mugs are pretty much my gift to my customers (or a gateway pot, accessible to almost every budget), because they take as much time, concentration and effort as my larger platters for which I can charge more.  As a business, I want to be truly sustainable; earning a supportive income and maintaining my physical, intellectual and spiritual self while minimizing my environmental impact.  If I make a factory of myself, all joy that I hope oozes from my pottery might be squelched in the drudgery.
I don't want to make 100 imprisoned owls.  But I do want to increase my online presence, to not have to heave my poor delicate pots all over the country to hawk them in the sun.  I love selling my pottery in person, I thrive off the feedback.  But it is exhausting and time consuming.  So I am tempted to dip my toes deeper into the online marketplace; piggyback off a known brand.  Anthropologie offered me a fair deal and I feel respected in the exchange, (and I have negotiated a reasonable quantity for them to sell).
     To get in the spirit, today I painted 20 stag mugs, to see if the repetition would be productive or mind-numbing.  I found the proportions skewed over time- my stags grew a bit more Picasso-esque in their imbalance.  I've put them aside to reevaluate later.  But there was also calm in the repetition, a refining of the lines and details.  I have certainly done over 1000 octopuses and they still make me smile.  I even painted tentacles on the Otter box of my phone so I can identify it as my own.   I think I can manage this.  Feedback is certainly welcome….
Life is apparently like my Pilates class; continually seeking the balance, finding the relaxation in the work, the joy in the challenge, and when you have to say "No" and take a break.