Looking Back; Looking Forward

2016 was a busy year for Off Center Ceramics.

In addition to the usual--three galleries, Saturday Market and Holiday Market--we had eight other shows, my second most ever (2015 I did nine. What was I thinking?).

Ceramic Showcase in Portland in May, Umpqua Valley Arts Festival in Roseburg in June, Salem Art Fair in July. August brought both Anacortes and Silverton Arts Festivals, Corvallis Fall Festival in September. Clay Fest, in October, was here in Eugene, but still a whole extra load of work. In addition to setting up and selling pots, I was responsible for all the graphics--bookmark, postcard, poster, ads, map handout--and took on the extra job of Registrar to try and sort out the mess left by the previous occupant. Clayfolk in Medford the weekend before Thanksgiving closed out my road season. The only show we didn't decide to do--Edmonds in June--accepted us off the waiting list too late for me to be prepared.

In addition to shows, I got a lot of orders last year. Special orders taken at, or following shows. Contacts through the internet, people who'd found my website somehow. Fresh orders from long-time customers, even a few corporate orders, from a realtor and a money manager buying presents for clients. I won't know for sure until I do my taxes next month, but this may well have been my best year ever.

2017's going to be a little different.

When we weren't working shows last year, we spent a lot of last year in Wisconsin. Denise and I both flew back in February and October; she also made a solo trip in July. Her dad had died in the fall of 2015, and we spent a lot of time helping her mother, making the house safe and clearing 50 years accumulation of way-too-much out of the basement. We thought we'd be able to relax a little this year, when Mary decided in October that she was in no hurry to leave after all. With the RV sold, the storage unit and half the basement cleared, she was ready to stay in her home until they carried her out. Which they did, on Christmas morning.

Denise is an only child; she's also one of two successor trustees in the family trust. There's a thorny snarl of legal paper to untangle, more still to clear from the house, and a lot of legal jiggery-pokery that just can't be done from 2000 miles away. I've got some family commitments in Wisconsin as well, and at least one cross-country road trip I'll need to do, bringing home the car she's inherited from her mom.

So we're probably going to be taking turns being gone this summer (someone's gotta stay home with the kitties) for much more than pottery shows. And that means I've got to clear the decks a little.

As of now, we're planning on dropping three shows this summer. I have conflicts with Roseburg in Wisconsin, we'll need July off from Salem just because, and Corvallis, though a lovely show, is just too close to Clay Fest for my time and energy levels to handle this year.

I'll still be doing the three pottery-only shows: Showcase, Clay Fest and Clayfolk. I'll be at Saturday Market as much as is possible, and doing my usual Thanksgiving-to-Christmas run of Holiday Market. Other than that, I've applied to two shows so far, Edmonds and Anacortes. When applications are available, I'll put one in for Silverton.

I hate to do this. I have people who expect us, who come looking for us. I don't want to disappoint them. But there's only so much of us to go around. I'm hoping things will be settled enough by 2018 that we can go back on the road again.

In the meantime, if you don't see us at your favorite show, don't be distressed. We still care about you. We'll be back as soon as we can. In the meantime, drop us an email, poke around the website, ask us to ship something special your way.

And don't forget us.

Pattern of the Month:

Kindergotterners

Early in our married days, when Denise was still looking for work using her biology degree, she became an Earth Explorer.

It was a part-time job, in the summer, leading a science camp for kids with our teacher friend Terry. They got lessons, did activities, went on field trips.

So many field trips. It was great for Denise, who was relatively new to the state. While teaching the kids about all the local ecosystems, she also got to learn about all the ecosystems. And to visit them.

And then take me to visit them.This was before Off Center Ceramics, so we still had weekends free. I think she took me to every place they'd covered in a field trip that summer, with the possible exception of the Oregon Coast, which we already visited regularly. Cougar Hot Springs. Leaburg Fish Hatchery. An old-growth Douglas Fir grove in the Cascades. And the High Desert Museum, in Bend.

I don't remember much of what was in the museum. Photos from logging days, I suppose. Displays on the geography and natural history of central Oregon, I'd guess. What I remember most clearly was outdoors, on the grounds, where the animals were. There were volunteers on site from the Cascades Raptor Rehabilitation Center, with birds. I got to sketch and watercolor a Swainson's Hawk and a Barn Owl from life.

I didn't get to sketch the otters from life. They simply moved too fast.

They had a small colony of river otters in an enclosed area. Included was a water feature--creek, pond, I don't remember. What I do remember is that they'd made themselves a slide down the embankment into the water, slicked it up with mud, and were taking turns skidding down it, belly-flopping into the water, then racing back up to the top to do it again. All the while bumping and jostling for priority in line like a playground full of kindergartners who know the bell will be ringing in five minutes and are trying to pack the maximum of fun into the last few available seconds. I don't know if I've ever seen anything that beats them for sheer playfulness.

I paint my river otter, perched on a log overlooking a creek, on dinner, dessert and pie plates, tall mugs, baking dishes and whatever else they might slide onto.

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