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