For a Certain Value of Closed

Technically, Off Center Ceramics is closed for the winter. Our last show of 2019 ended Christmas Eve. Saturday Market doesn't start up until April. We've got a four-month vacation, right?

Sure, if you don't take into account:

Special orders. I have a bunch of them, many taken during Holiday Market. Some new forms, some old forms (a black cat-handled mug, and no, I'm not going back into production on those). Two hundred soup bowls, stamped with the St. Vincent de Paul logo, an oval platter commemorating a favorite doggo, a very strangely shaped olive oil vessel. This is the time of year to fiddle around with odd things.

Restocking. We got terribly low on pots at the end of 2019, though completely out of only a few. (Gravy boats? Who'd'a thunk it? And teapots!) But I have to make casseroles, mixing crocks, small squared bakers, creamers and tall mugs and soup bowls, stews, toddlers and painted mugs. We're not critically low on dinner and dessert plates, but we aren't flush with them either. And we're down to two piggy banks, three Tyrannosaurs, four incense dragons. All time-and-labor-intensive.

Planning. Most of the summer art fairs we sell at are already accepting applications. A couple are already approaching deadline. I need to decide how many shows I can handle this year, where and when, then get online to Zapplication and start filling out forms.

Business. In addition to being the manufacturing and sales force here at Off Center Ceramics, I'm also the front office. I keep my ledger pretty current, thankfully, but it's time to close out 2019, do End-of-Year inventory, pay my final estimated taxes. Buy the new tax software and start procrastinating on that. (If I start putting it off early enough, I'll still be done before April.)

Other commitments. I need to start designing Ceramic Showcase posters and postcard soon. Thinking about a sculpture for their gallery. We still have wrap-up meetings for Clay Fest and Clayfolk in January, so I need to remember what went right and wrong with those shows.

I'm being filmed for a video piece for Maude Kerns Art Center, and the final shooting is later this week. And for years, I've said that I intend to convert the piles of brick and steel out back into my own gas kiln. I should maybe start designing that? And that's not counting around the house responsibilities, yard work, pruning apples and whacking blackberry cane. Doctor visits--I'm finally addressing carpal tunnel issues that have been building for years.

So winter is a busy time of year, not unlike, oh, spring, summer and fall. I'm still head down, working, not unlike the groundhog who, seeing his shadow, doesn't show his face again until April.

Revised Pattern of the Month:


Every now and then, I revisit an old pattern, see if I can freshen it up a little. Usually, it's after a long hiatus, like the sea otter, or refreshing an existing one, like the hummingbird. In those cases, the old version goes away entirely, replaced by the new.

That's not what happened with the Elephant. The original version of my baby elephant, in cobalt blue, goes back almost to the beginnings of Off Center Ceramics. I'd found a newspaper photo of a baby elephant being fostered by keepers at the San Diego Zoo, following one around holding to a bandana "tail" tied to the keeper's belt loop. I painted them on soup and toddler bowls, painted mugs, stew mugs, and a host of other forms. I mislaid the original photo, but kept painting elephants.

I was also drawing them from life. The Portland Zoo has a well-established elephant breeding program, and I've taken my sketchbook up there periodically to draw their newborn calves, mothers, aunties.

But it wasn't until I saw a photo set of baby animals coming over my dash on the internet that I was inspired to update my elephants. A baby African elephant, ears awave, practically dancing along, made me take out my brush and try to capture it. At first, only on big pieces, platters and serving bowls, cookie jars. She's slowly made her way down the inventory: pastas, bakers, pie plates and casseroles. Dinner and dessert plates. Even creamers and tall mugs.

I still haven't retired the original, blue elephant, though. Think I'll keep both options around, at least for a while yet.

After all, elephants never forget.

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