Looking Back

It seems like only yesterday.

We'd started the new year with me being laid off. I still had my very part-time teaching salary from the UO Craft Center, but the extra income I got throwing pots for another studio had dried up. The back room at Slippery Bank was full of bisque. Unless I could come out to Cheshire to throw plates, they'd call me in six months. Maybe.

Denise had picked up some money--along with a case of bronchitis--working the holiday rush answering phones for Harry and David, but though that might get us through spring, it wouldn't stretch much farther. So it was that I took a huge chance: I mailed off my membership to the Eugene Saturday Market, and started making pots to sell.

It was rough, at the start. We shared a booth with fellow potter Kathy Lee, who already had priority points from selling the previous year, so usually got a space. But we moved a lot, a different space every week. Eventually we collected enough points to start getting the same space consistently, but the sales were never consistent, nor predictable. There were weekends when both we and she got skunked.

But we were learning. What sold, what didn't. How to grow a customer base, manage a business. We went at it completely bass-ackward, no business plan, no marketing strategy, no nothing. Just made pots. Tried to sell pots. Made different pots. Gave out a zillion business cards.

Rinse, repeat.

Our first Holiday Market was a revelation; people were buying things. They'd been looking all summer, now they came back with their wallets open. I was playing catch-up making pots all that December. But Denise didn't have to risk life and lung working for Harry and David, and we were able to save enough money to last until April, when the Market opened again.

Eventually, I started applying to out-of-town shows. Started a website. Got some galleries, that promptly went out of business. Got some other galleries, some of which didn't. Even did a wedding registry, a couple of times. Took some interesting commissions.

This April marks our 25th anniversary selling pottery as Off Center Ceramics. (Pulp Romances got started a year or two later.) Twenty-five years of making pots, selling pots, meeting people and sharing their stories. We've been at this long enough to have produced family heirlooms. Been lost in the divorce (our pots, that is. Denise and I are looking at our 27th anniversary in June). Showed up in the Goodwill, more than once. It's been a heck of a ride.

And it's not ending anytime soon. I've already applied for this year's shows, started getting my notifications back. Fired the kiln already this year, and am working to fill it again. I just ordered another ton of clay.

Thanks to all of you for staying with us for all these years. We're looking forward to the next twenty-five...

Almost here!

When I've not been chained to my potter's wheel, I've been chained to the computer, working on publicity designs for Ceramic Showcase. Here's the postcard, featuring last years Best of Show winner, (cough!) me.

Encore Pattern of the Month:

Just in time for Easter...


There are bunnies, and there are rabbits...

I'd initially been making bunny bowls in cobalt blue and rutile gold, sketched from a cute little Dwarf Netherlands at the Lane County Fair. (He also shows up in his original black and white on a watercolor card over at my wife's business, Pulp Romances.)

But I only started painting real rabbits on pots. Wild rabbits, cottontails, just burrowed under the garden fence and itching for trouble.

Kind of like John and me, all those years ago. We'd definitely crossed the fence...

Our nearest neighbor was an elderly Slovenian lady named Mrs. Kutzler. She was my grandmother's generation, didn't have any English. Her farm was just to the north of us, and when she came to visit, say when Mom had a baby, she'd eschew the longer gravel road for a shortcut across the fields.

So one day when John and I were about three and four years old, respectively, we decided to return the favor. We headed up hill across the fields to pay her a visit. (Whether the fact that she sometimes brought cookies down when she came down was part of our motive is still a topic of some family dispute. I don't remember cookies; I maintain we just wanted to be neighborly.)

I do remember realizing once we arrived that we hadn't a single word of language in common. And I remember the rabbits, apparently wild cottontails living in the foundation under her house, thoroughly accustomed to her company and unfazed by two inquisitive pre-schoolers.

And I remember being scolded thoroughly and confined to Grandma's bedroom for the rest of the afternoon after my older brother and sister finally tracked us down, ears burning from the tongue-lashing they'd gotten for letting us wander off. But to this day I maintain that it was worth it, just to see those rabbits.

My new rabbits include mama rabbit on serving bowls and batter bowls, and three little troublebunnies--Flopsy, Mopsy and Spike--who've been turning up all over the place, on pie dishes, pasta bowls, teapots, cookie jars, and anywhere else you'd least expect them.

See other patterns...