Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fall...ing for pottery



Hello Everyone!

Been a month and a half or so since I have written. In that time I have gotten back to work full time at school, which has greatly impacted my ability to do pottery. Work is going well, I enjoy working with my students, but my pottery must take a back seat at this point.

It is frustrating, to a degree, to not throw as much. I find that I tend to be busy so I try and squeeze in time in the evenings or some on the weekends to get pieces made. I am often tired after work, so my idealistic "I will throw some pottery when I get home from work" is a challenge to follow through with some times. It is even harder to make mugs - the process of making mugs requires me to throw the main piece and let it dry. But it can only partially dry enough so that it can be held - it still needs to be malleable. Then I add the handle and continue to let it dry. My issue is that where I am throwing infrequently, I tend to not have two days back to back to throw the piece and the next to add a handle. But I make it work.

I had two shows this fall so far. I find that I have two different caliber of shows I attend now - a "Typical" craft fair that costs $25/30 to attend, or a large, typically 2 day fair that costs $100+ to attend. So I need to remind myself sometimes which I am attending, and what the expectation is then - I have different expectations for how many pieces I will sell at a small craft fair versus a large one.

So this fall I have attended two fairs - the first was a smaller, one day /small fee fair in Ellsworth. It went decent -  I sold what I expected. It was nice because Dave came with me for the show so I had someone there to help, and also his mother had a table beside us, she was selling her jewelry. So overall it was nice because there were people nearby to spend time with :)

I had a second show this Fall, at UMaine for Homecoming. This was a larger show, a two day/higher cost show. Actually it was the most expensive show I have paid to attend, to date at least in my pottery outings. And overall I was disappointed. I assumed (incorrectly) that since it was so expensive that I would make that much more - I expected to have upwards of 50+ sales, and was very disappointed to walk away with only 22 sales. So i made just under half of what I had expected. So yes, I made sales, but at times it can be emotionally frustrating to put an entire weekends work/time in, and leave feeling defeated and like it was unsuccessful. YES, overall it was a success - i came out ahead (where several vendors did not, so I feel like a jerk being down about it) but It is hard when the outcome does not align with the goal/expectation.

Some positives that I have observed  - I am starting to grow a fanbase, which is awesome and strange! I have had some repeat customers - people who have one or two mugs, and now want a third, things like that! It is an awesome feeling. Or to attend a fair or show and have someone come up and say, "Oh good, I was hoping you would be here"  - it is such an awesome and great feeling, makes the entire process seem worth while! I hope that things like that continue to happen :)

I have a small custom order I need to get home and work on - I just received the marbling stain in the mail yesterday, so now I can get to work on the pieces - 4 yellow and blue marbled mugs. I am excited to get working on it - I find as time goes on I really, REALLY love making my marbled pieces - I just enjoy the mystery of how the piece is going to unfold - how will the marbling show itself. It is a lot of fun.

I have a couple more craft fairs this winter. I think I had assumed that the UMaine show would have a lot of Christmas sales, but I think i was a little early since it is just October, so we will see how the rest of my shows go. I have another show in a week and a half - a smaller show that Donna (Dave's Mom) signed us up for though Brewer High School. She had heard really positive things about the show, so I have my fingers crossed that it goes well! After that I have a show scheduled right after Thanksgiving - down on the island. Now, the island is where I am from, so that might contribute to my success there. Last year I paid the fee for a one day/small fair, and ended up selling way more than expected. I am hopeful that it can be just as successful this winter! :) And then after that, two weeks before Christmas I am setting up in the Bangor Mall for a 2 day fair. I am hopeful that this will also go well.

Overall I have found this year to be a success - I am happy with how it has gone, and am hoping that the final couple of shows for the year really ends on a positive note. :) Eventually I would like to get a new wheel and possibly a new kiln, and am liking the idea of maybe opening a small shop in the summers - we will see :) But with all that, only time will tell!

Anywho, if you have any thoughts or questions do not hesitate to ask!! :D








Sunday, August 27, 2017

End of Summer...



Hey everyone!

For anyone who does not know, my full time/day job is as a school social worker in the Lincoln school system. Today is officially my last day of summer, as I head back to the schools tomorrow for teacher orientation. I am sad to see summer gone, as would be expected. At the same time, I am looking forward to what is in store for this fall/winter with pottery :: this is really the beginning of a busy season for me, so that is a fun and exciting time for me as an artist!

The summer ended on a decent note :: I did GREAT at the Bucksport Bay Festival in July. I followed that up in August with a 2 day festival in Machias. I found that I struggled slightly there - it was a combination of things I believe - One, it poured the first day, which is typically the bigger sale day. And, in fact even with the rain I sold OVER twice as much pottery Saturday as I did Sunday, which was a beautiful day weather wise. I just found that people Sunday were looking and not buying, at least not from me. I also found that there was more competition - there were 2 other individuals selling pottery within striking distance of where my booth was. And while their pottery was VERY different from mine (think traditional pottery; traditional colors) I do believe this could have had an impact on my sales. I had headed into the weekend really hoping to do just as well as I had at the Bucksport Festival. To be fair, I think that if the weather had cooperated I would have likely done just as well, but was left feeling a little let down with the progress. Still, I plan to try it again next year and see how it turns out :)

So what is NEXT on the list for Red Sunset Ceramics? Well I have very little down time planned. I have a one day craft fair in Ellsworth scheduled for later this month - the 23rd of September. Then that is followed up mid October with a 2 day larger craft faira t the University of Maine. Then a smaller craft fair at the end of October, and one at the end of November. And there is a chance I may add in a couple other craft fairs as well as the holidays get closer - since that is a fairly large selling season :)

Another new situation for me is that I was contacted to have some of my pottery put into a shop in downtown Ellsworth - I actually head out tomorrow after work to go drop a shipment of 15 pieces off. I am hopeful that it can be a good step for me to get my items in stores more consistently - fingers crossed that it is a good option for me! :) I was also approached about going into a shop in Bangor as well, but am still in the process of seeing if this is going to occur  - if it does I will keep you posted! :)

Beyond the specifics of WHERE I am going to be, I have been having fun trying to better present and organize my shows. The last two larger shows i have done I have attempted to color coordinate my works - which seems to go over well and people appreciate! :) I've now got to focus on filling in the bare spots that were sold off at the last show. Actually, what seemed to sell best at the Machias Blueberry Festival was my marbled work - almost half of the items sold were marbled. Which is EXCITING, because to be real, that is my favorite stuff to make! The process takes longer, and is technically more expensive (although I tend to charge the same, as people do not seem to understand that it is more expensive, and I Still want the work to sell) but even though it costs more and is more expensive to make AND more time intensive, there is something SUPER exciting about the random element of the marbled patterns showing up - and even just the element of trimming and scraping of the pieces to show the marbling - it is a lot of fun. I actually had someone at my last show comment that they had never seen that type of technique, and several individuals that I explained the technique to were wowed, and it led to them purchasing marbled pieces when they had initially been pulled to the table by the other, brightly glazed pieces.

I've really focused lately on trying to get colors that POP - I got a new orange, green and blue. The blue is ok, but the Green and Orange REALLY draw attention, and are colors that I will continue to utilize as people are drawn to them. I am a little sad because MY favorite glaze, Fruity Freckles, seems to just do mediocre, so I am not certain if I will continue using it in the future - I have a bunch left in that glaze  - I guess we will see how it does this fall, and that will show me if it is worth using again in the future.

Anywho, a goal I have this winter is to work on blogging more - I feel like I created this blog a year ago, and have only updated it a handful of times so far. I Would like to do better with this, as I personally love to write, and i feel like it is a positive way to keep others up to date on what I have been up to as an artist.

If you have any thoughts on colors you like, pieces you would like to see, or just words of encouragement please comment - I do not think I have had anyone comment on any of my blog posts yet, so getting some feedback would be MUCH appreciated! :D





















Sunday, July 23, 2017


Hey Everyone! 

My husband pointed out that I have not written or updated my Blog at all recently (well... being real... in a very long time...) So I just came on to do that :)

Earlier today I ended a 2.5 day Festival - the Bucksport Bay Festival where they celebrated 225 years of Bucksport as a town, and 20 years of having the Bucksport Festival overall. I had never done the Bucksport Bay Festival, so I was tentative regarding on how it would go. Overall I was very happy - the first (optional) half day was very slow, but Saturday things picked up greatly once the crowds came in! By the time the Festival was over it was a given that I would be back again next year :)

Another positive of attending the Festival was meeting several other vendors. It is always nice to connect with others, and it sounds like I was able to get some positive information regarding other festival opportunities in the future - which is the ideal scenario! The hope is that I will continue to expand the work I am doing, and be able to participate in more and more shows as time progresses.  Honestly, when I think about the "future" in regards to my pottery, I hope that some day I will be able to make a full time job of this. So... figures crossed I can make it there one day :)

So, beyond the past couple days, overall things have gone well the past year. I feel as though I've grown as an artist/potter; I've come a long way in regards to the work I create. I've done well with increasing the quality of my work, and have been enjoying the new items I have created. I've had a lot of fun with testing out different marbling combinations, and have loved trying out new glazes :) I really love the fun/out there colors and the people seem to really enjoy that I have some unusual color options :)

The next big step for me is to prepare for next month :: Similar to this past weekend, I have another large fair to attend, the Machias Blueberry Festival. That runs August 19th and 20th, down in Machias. My mother and Aunt are coming with me to man the tables for the full two days. I am super excited about it, and hopeful that it will be just as successful as the one I attended this weekend! 

The stressful part is, I sold a large portion of my pottery stock yesterday and today - about 45 pieces. So I only have one month to get myself back to baseline and to have enough supply to meet the (expected) demand of the Blueberry Festival. So I am a little nervous, to be honest, about having enough! But will do my best to be as prepared as possible.

For anyone who does not understand the "process", making pottery is not a quick hobby. For any typical piece I would throw it, say, on a Monday. It would need to dry for several days (typically 5 to 7, depending on thickness or how warm it is - it is currently summer and pieces are [luckily] drying faster). Once a piece is dried you fire it in a "Bisque" firing, which takes roughly 8 hours, and then needs another 8 - 10 hours to cool down before you can open the kiln. Once cool you then take the time to plan out glazing. Glazing requires several (typically 3) layers of whatever glaze is selected. Then once you have enough pieces glazed you do a "glaze firing" which is to a different temperature in the kiln, and then the firing takes about 7 hours and then again needs roughly 8 to 10 hours to cool. So for any given piece I make it can take upwards of two weeks before it is "finished". This is also made more complicated/limiting by the fact that my kiln (Which runs GREAT) happens to be on the smaller side, so that means I can only fire 7 - 10 pieces typically, depending on size.

So I have the Blueberry Festival in 4 weeks, and will plan to spend as much time as I can over the next four weeks preparing, and can hopefully get myself to a place where I am prepared and have enough for the show :) HOPEFULLY I see you there :)

Leave a comment letting me know what COLORS you would like to see at the Blueberry Festival, and also what types of pieces you would like to see!! 

(Below are some examples of work I have done over the past year - let me know your favorite pieces!)


















Thursday, August 25, 2016

Marbling technique - learning curves :)

Hello!

I am excited, I just pulled another successful load from my kiln. In it I had 6 marbled cups, a flower pot with plate, and a plate, bowl, cup combo. Well, and a tall vase, but that was just for me - it has a crack in the bottom that does not go all the way through - i will keep it because it still looks good and is functional, just not sell worthy :)

I am excited overall with how the marbling came out, or agateware, people call it different things. I think of it as marbled.

Some lessons learned from it - go far darker, for bolder. I had gotten a light blue and a medium blue. The medium came out decent, but the light blue is barely visible. Part of that is also related to my stingy ways - again, a learning curve here. I had only gotten 1/4 pound bag of each stain, and used it sparingly, wanting to make it last. The reality of that is, I got 6 cups (2 barely visible) and I used it to make several other pieces (probably 6 other pieces) but it was so faint that I will just glaxe over it like normal. So lesson learned, go for darker, and do not be stingy!

I already ordered a new blue, one that was slightly cheaper so I got a full pound for only slightly more. It is between a medium blue and dark blue, so hopefully it being slightly darker and also me using more of the stain will make some pieces that POP! :) We will see :) I am loving it in general, but do want to work on making pieces that have a more pronounced pop of color. I would also like to expand and get some other colors, but getting the stain can be expensive, so we will see how it goes. Overall though, I am really happy with how this wave of cups came out. Sure, I need to work on my form and proportions, but hey, I am happy!

I also created a plate, cup, bowl combo on a whim with a splatter of blue, green, and purple on it, and LOVE how it came out! I did this random splatter because I am very low on my green, and I was like, huh, why not try that? And I really enjoy how it came out. I think I will do more like this in the future, with different color combos - I am thinking yellow, orange and red (not that I have a red), things like that. Anywho, happy overall with how it came out! :)

*** I initially planned on posting this during the first week of August, and my internet was being wonky so I did not post it, and just realized it as I came on to post again. So this is three weeks late, and I have included some photos from this discussed firing, as well as a firing that occurred after the one mentioned above.





New projects and transitions

It has been a while since I have posted, a couple weeks. Some really wonderful things have been happening with my pottery, while simultaneously I have been pulled many different directions; making it hard to accomplish all that I would like.

I made several new sales through the Creatively Maine Pop-Up shop that I am part of, which is wonderful. It was spurred by my decision to start a sale at the shop - 20% off for the rest of the time that my items were at the shop (through the end of the month until the shop closes). I started that back almost 3 weeks ago, so it has helped with sales, which is always the goal!

The big news from the shop is that I received two custom orders. One individual who wants a set - 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 mugs. The other would like 4 plates and 4 bowls. I am SUPER excited about these orders, because they are the first large orders I have received. I am nervous about these orders, because they are large, and because I am still learning with my throwing and being able to produce items that are the same shape and size - that is HARD. I have made the 8 bowls, and have them in the kiln as we speak with the glaze firing. I have the plates and mugs drying and readying for the bisque firing tomorrow, and then plan to do glaze firings over the weekend into monday. My worry is that I underestimated how much clay I would need, and am currently completely out of clay. I have some on the way, but at this point it is too late for it to be helpful for me to get pieces done by the identified deadline. So if any of the pieces have an issue... then I do not know what to do. So cross your fingers that things go great! :) The other struggle was that I was given a short time frame (in the pottery world at least) where I had to make, dry, bisque fire, glaze, and then glaze fire all these 20 pieces in just over a 2 week span. So needless to say, the combination of the time crunch, my internal worry over the pieces being "similar" enough, and the reality that I am transitioning back to work full time next week (and have had to work 1 - 3 days a week for the past 3 weeks leading up to school starting) has left me stressed. Regardless, I am hopeful that everything will come out well, and that the individuals who placed the orders will be happy and will see that even if the pieces are not exactly the same size that they were at least made with my full heart and soul and intent.

Related to the pop-up shop, I have a new "custom" order from one of the owners, who is requesting me to make her 12 or so soap dishes. I made her 7 different types/examples, and she is going to pick out which she likes best and have me make her some soap dishes that she can sell with her hand made soap, which is exciting :)

I did an event over this past weekend and sold some pottery. It was not a craft fair, but a local event that was not geared at crafts, so I was happy that I did have some sales (even though I would have loved more). My goal once I have my custom orders taken care of, and once I have everything back from the pop - up shop (Which closes a week from today) is to put all my items back on Etsy, and then to start researching what craft Fairs I can be part of this fall/winter to make some sales going into the holiday season. I feel like I am more likely to make sales at craft fairs because I feel like people might buy my items as gifts for others. My goal over the next couple of months is to really narrow down my focus on a couple select items - people really want mugs, in particular LARGE mugs. So i am going to work on making a bunch of variations of large mugs. I have also sold every chip n' dip platter that I have made, so I need to make some more of those. Beyond that, I will have to think about identifying a couple other options/key items to focus on as the fall approaches.

A worry I have is that I am headed back to work next week. I have been lucky to have the summer off to be so active with pottery. But it is time, and school is calling, and I start working with students again starting next week. Tomorrow is my official last day "off" of summer. But overall, I Cannot complain, it has been a great one :) But I do hope that me transitioning back to work does not lead to me not throwing or creating art; I think it will just have to be a balancing process.

The only photo today is of the soap dishes
, but I will plan to pop on in a couple of days once I have the full sets complete to post photos of the finished product :)


Thursday, July 28, 2016

New Pieces!

Hello!

I pulled four new pieces from my kiln this morning - (well, 9 actually, but two were just experiments. and three were the bottom pieces of flower pots, so 4 complete pieces to post).

 

Three flower pots - I did them all the same "style", hoping that people would want matching flower pots. I really like how they came out. :)

Beyond that, there was a large (for me/my throwing) bowl, that I painted in a spiral pattern. I really love how it came out as well.

I have been throwing pieces on the wheel that are mixed clay - stained with light and medium blue. I am not able at this point to fully see how much the patterns are showing up, but I am hopeful that once I fire them it will show up even better - right now the clay before it is fired is a gray. Once it is bisque fired I am hopeful that the stains will stand out even more! I am planning to throw some more today, and hope to fire these pieces next week - hopefully monday! :)

Anywho, I will probably drop these pieces off at the pop-up shop, unless someone says that they see my pieces and would like to purchase them online. That happens at times, which is nice! :)