Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's been a few days of computer hell. While trying to clean up my website, uploading the changes  wiped out the website - twice! My hostmonster server recommended a new, free software which I will download after breakfast. They were able to re-load my site from a few days before;  but of course, all the changes I worked on for two days were gone.

Then Verizon emailed saying I had two days to transfer all email to Frontier since they would no longer be forwarding any of the Verizon mail. So, I spent most of yesterday's free time taking care of that chore. At least I'll be starting the New Year with a lot those piddling little jobs out of the way so I can concentrate on getting back to work. 

This morning I'll be baking bread after breakfast and then back on the computer loading that new web creation software and seeing if I can finish the most basic web page tidying. 

I'm so itching to get back into the studio but the tip of my sliced thumb, although healing, is still tender still very tender, so throwing has been out of the question; but hopefully by Monday I'll be back in the studio and if I can't throw, there will be plenty of other things to do. I have a couple of B-mix clone formulas I came up with that I'd like to batch if I have the right ball clay on hand and there are more glaze tests to weigh and mix and always some paper work to deal with.
Hope everyone has a fun filled and safe New Year's Celebration! We're opting for an early dinner with someone else doing the cooking, and knowing us, we probably won't be awake to ring in the famous New York ball ringing in the New Year;  but will catch the taped celebrations on the news tomorrow morning. Life is good and certainly, never boring.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our White Christmas

Here are a few shots taken from the front porch and out the front door and our bedroom door. I took a nice hard fall yesterday, walking back from the studio  (don't walk in slippery snow wearing moccasins!), so today I decided to stay inside and enjoy this beautiful snow from a warm, safe place!

Christmas was wonderful and now we're enjoying the leftovers and staying cozy while watching more snow falling. We're expecting another 1-3" today with strong winds this afternoon, which will probably remove the lovely white snow blanketing the tree branches.

I made a few changes on my web site this morning - added my Etsy link and finally got around to entering my new email, at least on the front page. Today will be spent making a few minor changes on the other pages, if I can access them. After that I'd like to hit the books and try to start on a whole new design for the page - new color, new format,etc. It's a good, time consuming job until I can get back to making pots, once this thumb heals.

Hope all who have to travel today have a safe journey home!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas on the way

From our house to yours - wishing all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas!

Woke up with chills and general cold/flu symptoms and hope I can muster up the energy to do all my Christmas cooking. Following family tradition I'm making a big Polish breakfast (ham, kielbasa, hard boiled eggs with horseradish and sweet bread. Dinner will be a white wine basted roast duck, asparagus and au gratin potatoes (a menu change over the rice originally planned). Jim loved last nights au gratin potatoes and there's plenty leftover for tonight. He's picked a lovely Frank Family Pinot Noir for dinner - a very good choice for the duck.

Yesterday I took a small chunk out of the tip of my right thumb while slicing the dinner potatoes, so between that and this bug, it doesn't look like I'll be able to do  get my hands on clay for while. Instead, I'll  shift gears and continue this computer clean up and just maybe, finally have the time to tackle my out of date web site.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Wishing all who celebrate a most Merry Christmas, filled with love, companionship, good food and lots of merriment. And in the words of Tiny Tim "God bless us everyone!"

We made merry last night with dear friends at the Knife in Fork in Spruce Pine. The place was packed which is well deserved! Chef Nate smokes his own trout and his delicious smoked trout appetizer is a meal in itself. That was followed by pork belly, mashed potatoes and squash with a cinnamon bread pudding and vanilla ice cream dessert which I shared with everyone at the table. Great meal.

Today I'll watch some Christmas movies, maybe tidy some bits on my out of date web page until I can get around to working on the new one, and continue with this Nikon D100 re-education. I'm still not getting the focus right, even on manual. Yesterday I intended to spend more time with it, but I made a couple more Etsy sales, so I had to get those pots packed up and ready to ship. A bit of a cold is slowing me down as well; but I did manage to take a few more photos but still can't seem to stabilize the head on the tripod. Next time I'm going down there with a little level so that some of my photos won't look like the pot is sitting on a tilting, sinking ship!

Tonight I'm making a simple ham steak dinner with scalloped potatoes.. My big cooking day will be tomorrow, starting with a big Polish breakfast, and a dinner of white wine basted roasted duck, asparagus, wild and white rice with sauteed mushrooms, currants and slivered almonds, and friend Betty's cookies for dessert. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our under the tree village

Once I get the tree decorated, Jim's spends the day arranging the village scenes under the tree. He always does such a great job. It's a painstaking process which he actually enjoys!

Now that I've made some Etsy shipping charge changes, after finding that actual shipping was more than I thought, and figured out the focus and F stops on the Nikon D100 (with the generous help my computer friends), it's time to try to figure out how to stabilize this camera on the tripod. If it works, I'll try to redo some of those blurry photos on Etsy.

I've decided that Etsy is way too time consuming when you weigh the monetary profit against the amount of time and effort of photographing, measuring size and volume of each piece, getting each entry listed with all the descriptions, pricing, shipping and other information, then packing and shipping. You can't write off the time you spend, against the profit, doing all those things either. The profit from a mug, for instance, is cut in half when you consider the hour plus time it takes to get all those things done to list a single piece, and the time and cost of getting it shipped to the customer. So for now, I'll leave up the current pots, maybe post a few more since it will be quiet after Christmas any way; and unless I  can find a reason to change my mind, that will be it for my Etsy experiment.

If Jim could work a computer, cook or garden, maybe I'd be happy to give it that time; but since I take care of all those areas and more, as well as making pots,  I'd rather use that time making the pots and spend non studio time in the kitchen and garden.

My winter project, when not making pots, is going to be a total redo of my website which is pretty pathetic and long overdue. Once that's done, I can set up a for sale section on my website if I want, since I now have a Paypal business account.

Jim did the last of the Christmas food shopping yesterday and friend Betty showed up with a big plate of home made cookies this morning, so my plan to bake cookies today has shifted to other pursuits - mainly taking those photos if I can correct the wobbly tripod head.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost totally useless day yesterday

I don't know why I try to do anything during Mercury retrograde! The day started with good intent to photograph pots with the Nikon D100, which seems to be something of a dinosaur after only 6 years. After spending some time with the manual to refresh my memory, I reset the camera to it's original settings and started to view and delete some photos; but almost immediately, the battery needed recharging, so that job had to wait. Recharging seemed to take forever. So while I waited I ordered another battery, did a lot of computer filing, got the current email read, and then after checking the Nikon site to check for any current changes on memory cards that might be compatible with this Nikon, spent hours trying to find a higher capacity memory card. What a futile, frustrating few hours that was. Messages like "no longer available", and "this item has been discontinued", etc. kept coming up. I finally had to settle on a Scandisk 256MB capacity that I found on Amazon, when I was hoping to find the Lexar 1 gig. The only other one I was able to find that was compatible with this Nikon D100, and available, was an IBM 2GB one in the $200 range and I didn't want such a high capacity.

Jim had better luck with his early car shopping. He came home very excited with the Subaru brochures. Seems we both like the Forrester better than the Outback which means less money, better mileage and best yet, I don't have to dismantle and rebuild my whole kiln since the Forester is shorter than our current Highlander.We even agree on the color!

Getting the Forrester, means that my kiln won't have to be totally rebuilt. I'll just have to buy some new, more powerful burners and Shane will tweek the burner ports and bag wall.

After a comforting and easy linguine and clam sauce dinner, I faded fast and never made it to the lunar eclipse. Tonight is pizza and margaritas and if this camera battery can hold a charge, I'll try to re-take some of those pottery pictures after breakfast, start my pizza dough after that and do some kitchen cupboard reorganization this afternoon.

Some spice and Indian food orders arrived this week and there's no room in the cupboard I use for my international foods and spices. Some of the least used items will have to be moved down to the basement pantry.

My aim this week is to complete these little household projects and get the rest of the studio items ordered before the New Year and before I start another throwing cycle.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Going back in time

Around 4am this morning (I had been up since 1 am not able to sleep), after I got my emails down below 800, I decided to change my facebook photo to this ancient one, taken around 1982. Where did all that time go! I want to get a pair of those overalls again. They were great for the studio.

Yesterday was filled with birthday cheer, family all calling, friends stopping by with a bottle of nouveau beaujolais and Chritmas cookies. Needless to say I never did get to take the photos I intended. To get better clarity on the pictures I'm going to switch to my Nikon D100 instead of using the Powershot. It's been so long since I used the Nikon, that I'm going to have to tackle the manual to refresh myself on the basics. That will probably be the chore of the day, then an easy linguine and clam sauce dinner.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Etsy avatar

Here's the new photo I uploaded as my Etsy avatar. Someone suggested I put a picture of the kiln, but the avator space is so tiny, the kiln didn't show well.

Yesterday I announced it was my birthday,instead of today. Guess I should have looked at the calendar. On one hand, I love that my life is such, that most of the time I can ignore calendars! In fact, I don't even keep one. Jim has one on his desk and if I need to be forewarned about a date, I have him note it in his calendar.

Yesterday was a busy day starting with getting the new table down to the basement and redoing my photo setup, then kiln meeting with Shane, followed by getting antivirus setup on all three computers which took quite a while and other computer work, recipe filing, and cooking a lovely Chicken Normandy for dinner.

Shane is going to get two new burners for the kiln, and make some other minor modifications on the burner ports and bag wall and we're going to make pots and aim for a February firing and see if the modifications will make it fire a little more evenly. If it works, I won't have to take the extreme measure of taking the whole arch down and starting from scratch.

The Emeril Lagasse Chicken Normandy recipe is divine. It's not an every day dish with all that cream, butter, and bacon; but it was delicious and the two chicken breasts I bought were large enough that we have leftovers tonight. My friend Betty made me a lovely birthday pumpkin roll cake with a cream cheese filling - really delicious! It went great with the Bremer chardonnay Jim picked for dinner.

I didn't have time to redo some of those Etsy photos so I'll try to do that this afternoon. Later, dear friends are coming over to share some of the special cheeses I ordered from Murray's in New York. It was an indulgence; but those cheeses are sublime and not available locally or in Asheville. Today is going to be a nicely balanced day of non strenuous productive activity, and relaxing time with dear friends. What could be better!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Made my first Etsy sale

Here's another wood fired, soda, pot available on my Etsy shop. Love the flashing on this one.

When we arrived home after food shopping and dinner out, I found that I had made my first Etsy sale. It's a start!

Yesterday was a busy day. At home, I was mostly on the computer - spent quite a bit of time reading about Etsy and modifying my listings accordingly. I had planned to re-take some of the photos, but realized that the table I was using needed to be replaced. Because of a bow in the middle it was making some pots look cockeyed. So we headed for Walmart and I got a smaller, 4 foot long, solid table which is going to work much better.

My antivirus software expired yesterday, so that was another long session trying to download it and get it installed, after several error messages. Tonight I need to get it downloaded to my other computers. Hoping those installations will go smoother than the first one!

This morning I have a meeting with friend and super kiln builder Shane Mickey about the possibility of doing some modifications on my kilns size. After that I need to get the new table down to the basement,redo my photo set up and retake some of those Etsy photos.

Today is my 71st birthday and plans for dinner in Asheville have been put off because of the expected snow, so I'll be cooking Chicken Normandy for us and Jim will probably open one of our special chardonnays to go with it.

It's amazing how quickly the days fill up!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The world of Etsy

Here's one of the pots I put up for sale on Etsy yesterday, along with a couple of other new ones. There are now 20 on the site and maybe more to come. Some disappeared after posting and it took a bit of digging to find out where Etsy put them. I think it's wise to not put all the work up at once so that your pieces show up on the first page whenever someone does a search for your category. Etsy charges $7 to be showcased, and I think that just spacing your listings will serve a similar purpose; but I need to do some more reading on this Etsy marketing tool.

My photos looked fine when I downloaded them from my camera,but looked fuzzy when uploaded to Etsy, so I need to re-take some of them. After reading some Etsy hints, I'm going to follow the recommendations and take multiple views of the pots.

The other thing I found is that shipping to places like Australia can be higher than the $30 price I put up, which I had seen on other potters Etsy sites. Someone on another clay group said a single pot cost her $56 to ship to Australia. After hearing that, I immediately went back to my Etsy site and removed all shipping location fees but US and Canada. All the pots I posted on Etsy are $75 and less, so I can't imagine someone wanting to spend $56 to receive a $30 mug Another bit of shipping information she share was that shipping a mug, using USPS priority mail with the free boxes was a bit over $8, which was cheaper than packing her own box.

What I'm finding is that even with great feedback on my work, I haven't sold a pot. That affirms my idea that people are more prone to buy a pot from you on line if they've already seen, held or purchased your work. Having a large mailing list or a national reputation is definitely a benefit.

Unfortunately, I've never put in the time to develop that kind of mailing list and at my age, I'm not going to attempt to become a marketing expert; but I will ask studio visitors in the future, to put their email addresses in the guest book.

One of the other things I absolutely need to do, and soon, is to revamp my web site which is in bad need of updating. Now that I have a Paypal sellers account I will be able to set up a shopping cart on my web site eventually. I loaded up my software yesterday and realized after some glitches that I need to relearn it. It may be easier at this point to just trash the old site and start from scratch.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Etsy shop is up

I just finished uploading the last of 16 pots I've put up for sale on my new Etsy shop. You can copy and paste the link because, for the life of me I can't figure out how to make it open by just clicking on it. Anyone know how to do this? Or, you can just scroll down below the Etsy bar on the right and click on my name and that will take you to my Etsy shop.

My Etsy shop

I tried to post a good variety of shapes, sizes and colors, but kept it to the more affordable pots for the most part. You'll see that I've only put shipping costs of US and Canada. I did that after reading another Etsy poster who mistakenly posted what she thought was a reasonable fee for shipping a pot to Australia, only to find it cost her $56 to ship the item. Yikes! So if anyone wants something shipped Australia, Europe, the far east, S.America, I'll have to find out just how much that would cost.

At this point I don't know if this will work as a sales venue for me. It's a lot of work and I'm not sure it's not better to just use retail outlets who do all the work, leaving me time to make more pots. We'll see.

On one hand, I thought "what if I don't sell a single pot (it's possible!); and on the other hand, I thought "what if I sold a lot of these pots and have to pack and ship them all. Do I have enough packing material". Ah, the dilemma.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Etsy shop a work in progress

It's been a few frustrating days trying to figure out Paint Shop Pro enough to get my Etsy banner created. It's not what I want; but I still need to figure out how to get a more complex banner.

Here's the link to my new Etsy site, which is still in progress. There's no work for sale yet; but hopefully will be by next week, or sooner.

Suggestions and feedback are very welcome. I could use some Etsy hints, for sure!

It was 2degrees F here this morning - good weather for just staying inside cooking, and working on this Etsy and other computer projects.

I'm heading to the studio and gallery this afternoon, only to get my laptop and to select a small group of pots to list on Etsy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keeping warm by the fire

It's a balmy 6 degrees F out there this morning. Guess it's going to be another couch potato day working on the computer and trying to learn to make sense of some software.

Yesterday I registered for an Etsy account and now I have to find out how to set up a page. Since we can't get out of our driveway at the moment, due to snow and ice, it would be pointless to try to sell anything (I am optimistic), since it's questionable about when I'd be able to get to the post office to mail anything. In any case, just getting registered is a start.

This morning I'll spend time again trying to get 3 or 4 photos side by side and save it as a single photo file that I can use as a header on my Etsy site, using Paint Shop pro. The first step was to pick a few photos and crop them. That went fine, to a point. I made all the photos the same size, but when I brought them back up on the screen, some appeared larger even though they're saying they're the same size. Why???? Another problem to solve.

After frying my brain reading my two help books, it seems I have to use layering to make a montage; but can't find explicit, step by step instructions that make any sense. Even the "Paint Shop Pro for Dummies" book is confusing to this brain; but I am determined, so I'll forge ahead. The problem with these books, is they don't focus on the job at hand; but go off in all sorts of tangents of information not needed for the job at hand.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yesterdays breads

These are the whole wheat and light rye breads I baked yesterday - perfect, snowy, cold, windy day chore.

With more of the same weather today,  we're looking forward to tonight's Polish pork stew over egg noodles dinner.   In between cooking I'll be continuing this computer cleanup. There are still over 800 emails that have to be read, filed, etc.This is going to be a winter project as it's taking a long while to get these read, sorted and filed. My aim today is to get the number under 800. 

I'm not venturing out in this blizzard, so the studio "to do list" will have to wait till tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I've gotta make me one of these

I saw this video this morning and thought it was a great idea. Today was an in town day - osteo appointments, food shopping etc. Since I was out and about any way, I stopped by the auto supply store in Burnsville and ordered a couple of the foam sponges shown in the video so I can make a couple of these trimming sponges for myself.

I've had a few days after the tour to catch up with the house paper work, household and outside chores and the last of Christmas chores - i.e, sending grand kids cards and presents sent, etc. My menu for next week is planned and the larder is stocked, so I'll be able to get in the studio by Sunday to finish some post TRAC organizing before I start a new throwing/making cycle next week.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wonderful slide show of pottery from the 4 corners region

This is a spectacular collection of Native American pottery or the Four Corners region.

It's another very cold, snowy morning - perfect for staying indoors and catching up with computer and paper work again. Got both old hard drive working and am finished retrieving a lot of the data from one drive and half finished with the other one. I didn't get it finished in time to tackle the wireless router/modem which I might try today.

Yesterday, the only studio time I got was clearing my slab roller which doubled both as my sales/wrapping area and hospitality table. A deep gash on my thumb, testing some new knives two days ago, is keeping me away from clay for a few days; but once I clear the paper pile here in the living room, I might head back to the studio to deal with the paper pile on the studio desk. There may even be time to watch one of the two Netflix movies that have been sitting here for well over a week.

We'll stay put today, grateful for the freezer full of food that frees us from driving for groceries in this snowy, icy weather. The wind/chill factor is well below -5 today.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing but I can weather the storm.

I think that only the most hardy will venture out in this weather today. It's been snowing lightly for hours and there's a lovely coating on everything; but Jim says that it's icy under the snow which may make our 400+ foot long driveway a bit tricky. The fridge and freezer are usually full so we're fine  and can just sit tight if necessary.

This morning, when walking Bodhi, Jim found a dead hawk and a dead morning dove right next to him. We think the hawk must have been hunting in the low snow visibility this morning, caught the dove, and then hit the side of the house - very sad.

I'm using this quiet time to make my studio "to do" list for next week and I think I'll tackle the paper pile. I might even read the instructions on the new wireless modem and router and see if I can set it up without outside help. I couldn't get a modem to work in the studio and friend Jim, who's an electrical contractor,  said it may be because it need  heavier wire. 

After that I can get the old, dead hard drive from my studio desktop into the case I bought last week and see if anything is retrievable. There's always something to do!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gallery photo

Here's my main gallery. It's was a cute, gambrel roofed, tool shed that came with the house. I had it insulated, covered with bead board, electrified and carpeted with indoor/outdoor carpeting; and installed shelving. It works really well. If it weren't here already, I would have picked a slightly wider size so I could more work on pedestals for more of a gallery presentation; but I've solved that by creating the annex gallery in the studio (see yesterdays blog for photos).

Since a TRAC error kept me off the map, look for my Shambhala Pottery and TRAC tour signs which will be posted on Cane creek road and in front of our mail box just off Cane Creek road. I'm 3 miles out of town,  past Gay Smith's pottery and before Shane Mickey's. The TRAC gallery has a little map next to my pots at the preview opening tonight.

I've been up since 4am getting my "to do" and other lists made and catching up on emails. Now it's time to shower, get some food made for for the tour and doing all the last minute things before noon. The morning is going by super fast!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Annex gallery photos

My little gallery was too full so I created a little annex gallery in the studio. Here are a couple of shots of it.

We stopped in to the TRAC gallery right before it closed and got a quick preview of some of the of work that will on the tour.  We'll be able to spend more time tomorrow, at the official preview; but even with a quick peek, we could see just how wonderful the work is. We are so lucky in this area to have some of the finest artists/crafts people in the country.

The people at TRAC put a little note on my pot display about my not being in the tour pamphlet and they put a little map on the pedestal showing my location. Jim and I were very touched to see how well and generously they handled the error of an ex employee which resulted in the mess up of my tour application getting misfiled and not processed.

Jim dropped off some cards at my friend Lisa Clague's studio. Lisa is an amazing sculptor who is doing the tour this year and typical of her generous spirit, when she heard of the TRAC mixup/losss of my tour application, she wrote and offered  to have me bring some cards to her studio so she could send people my way. Joe Comeau, another potter friend also offered to put some of my cards on his stores counter. With all this generosity, I may actually get a few tour goers. Life is very good!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Soda salt fired cruet and stand

Here's a cruet and stand from this firing, which will be for sale during the tour. I usually make them without a knob on the lid, but this time decided to try a little flag like knob, which I think works well with the form.

This morning I finished painting the other sides of the last two shelves and got the A frame display unit set up with the shelves that were already dry. That was followed by seven hours of studio tidying and cleanup. My desk will need tidying but the rest of the studio is  good. I'll run the wet dry vacuum over the floor in the morning, because today's mopping left streaks, which is the norm in a pottery studio.

With just 2 days to go, I'm more ahead than usual. The gallery is in good shape and the only job I'll need to do is arrange some pots in the annex gallery I'm setting up in the studio and get the hospitality and wrapping table set up.

I'm not expecting a lot of visitors due to the TRAC mess up that kept me from being listed in the tour pamphlet. Also, there's possible snow in the forecast for Sunday which may also impact the tour turn out. On the bright side, I have a clean and tidy studio, ready for the next cycle of work. It's all good.