I know a lot of people who complain about how Christmas displays start popping up right after (or in some cases, before) Halloween. I always have to laugh. For me, Christmas starts in September.
At least the planning phase, that is. Late September is when I start planning out production and sales schedules for the end of the year, a period that feels a bit like a roller coaster: there are ups and downs, moments of calm and terror, and the whole thing runs on rails right until the end.
At which point we get out, weak-kneed and wobbly, and go lie down for a little while.
The last day of September is when sign-ups for November firings happen at Club Mud--we schedule two months out. This year, I avoided the scrum by firing on Halloween, then putting off my final firing until the start of December. So I spent October, after Clay Fest, making, firing, glazing and glaze firing pots. I filled about a dozen special orders, bumped a few to the next cycle.
Early November was packing and shipping orders, and stocking galleries, which involved day trips to Forest Grove, Oregon and Olympia, Washington. Diving back into studio work, complicated by the fact that fall is here, and nothing wants to dry. I'm trying to get a bisque done, and a couple of day's glazing accomplished, before I have to take a break to load the van for Clay Folk.
Technically, Holiday Market starts this weekend, though we won't be there. Setting up for a weekend, then taking down everything to go down to Medford, only to set up again just isn't possible for us. We normally miss the first weekend of Market; this year, we'll miss two.
Clayfolk is always the weekend before Thanksgiving; it's a constant of the universe. I booked my motel in July, picked my booth in October, got my move-in packet and work shifts last week. Last night I bought fancy cookies for the opening reception; tomorrow I start sorting the van and loading in the display hardware.
Meanwhile, I printed and mailed the Holiday Market postcard, and am still hoping to get a moment to rake the thousands of oak leaves that all dropped at once after our early frost.
Our Holiday Market starts Thanksgiving weekend, on Friday. The following Monday or Tuesday, I'll load the big gas kiln with my last firing of the year. (Any late custom orders will thereafter be bumped into 2020.) And then its just time to ride the roller coaster, one weekend of sales at a time, out to Christmas Eve. We'll pack up the pots that evening, come back on Boxing Day to take out the booth. Pack and ship family presents. And probably have our own Christmas celebration sometime around New Year.
Why do we keep doing this? Part of it is financial, of course. Like a lot of businesses, we make a big percentage of our annual income this time of year. But a lot of it is personal. We see so many people year after year, telling us how appreciated our work was last Christmas, how they need to get more. It's nice, being a part of your holiday tradition.
Clayfolk is less than two weeks away!
I generally don't paint mythical creatures on my pottery. Dragons, mermaids, fairies: there's lots of people who do that kind of imagery. I stick to what I can see, photograph. Which now, I guess, includes unicorns.
After all, all those creatures you know came about from transcription and translation errors from copying Greco-Roman sources (who themselves got them from travelers’ tales from Persia and India). Tiger becomes manticore, python, dragon. Rhinoceros is a unicorn.
One of the other potters at Club Mud has two little boys, who frequently join him when he comes to to load a kiln. They're nice kids, not too rambunctious, and will usually sit in the yard, or play with some clay while he works. If I'm glazing, they may stop in a watch for a bit, which I never mind. Once, when I was glazing, younger brother asked if I ever did a rhinoceros, which I hadn't, at the time. I tried one later, glazing Empty Bowls, and it was kind of fun. I made a mental note to come back to it one day.
And promptly forgot.
Fast forward a couple of years. My sister, the new-age banker, had a request: could I do a rhinoceros pie plate for her friend? The rhinoceros was her primary power animal, specifically a female rhino named Wamatumi.
I'm always up for a new challenge. Also? If it had to be a female rhino, that meant I could paint a baby rhino alongside her. Baby rhino? How could I resist?
So I jumped right in. Did a pie plate. Dessert plate. Two tall mugs. A rhino-sized serving bowl. I even got inspired to do a new tiled mirror project, African animals, including lions, a hippo, my favorite baby elephant, and, of course, rhinos.
What's next? Rhinocereal bowls?