A Big To-do

At the end of the calendar year, there's basically one thing on my professional schedule: Holiday Market. Set up. Sales. Restock. Repeat 'til exhausted, then pack it all up and go home.

Pause one week to recover the the inevitable post-season cold. ("Con-crud," sci-fi fans call it, the confluence on hundreds of people in a closed space meeting your beleaguered immune system.)

Now that the New Year is here, my to-do list is beginning to diversify again. Here's a brief look at what I'm already facing in January.

1. Restock. Holiday Market was literally my best in 25 years, so I am so out of pottery. I have to make a bunch of everything, but I'm particularly low (or in some cases, out entirely) on pies, baking dishes and covered casseroles. Also super low on tall mugs, soup and toddler bowls, stew mugs and plates of both sizes. I've already gone through 400 lbs. of clay the first week of the new year, and only scratched the surface.

2. Special orders. I alway get a bunch of these in December, some for things I ran out of at Market, others just because they were in the booth. In addition to a bunch of possum pie plates and puffin pilsners (say that six times fast), I also took a commission for a bathroom tile backsplash, so have already rolled out and cut 12 feet of 4x6-inch tiles.

3. Showcase. As I've mentioned before, I'm poster or graphics chair for three different pottery shows. Two are clustered in the fall, the third, Ceramic Showcase, is the end of April. Now that Christmas is past, it's time for me to start on poster, postcard and bookmark designs. It'll be particularly challenging this year because OPA has re-branded, with new logo and font specifications to take into account. I'll need preliminary designs by the January meeting, so I'd best get on it.

4. Summer shows. I know, it's only January, but show applications are going up online, and at least one has a January deadline. I need to take a good look and how many out-of-town shows I can reasonably handle this year, the decide which ones to apply to.

5. Everything else. I'd planned to spend sometime this winter reading my Adobe Illustrator instruction book and do the tutorials. Need to carve out some time to make a sculpture for the Showcase gallery. And if I don't sit down and start designing my gas kiln, it's never gonna get built.

I think I'd better get organized.

Speaking of Organization...

In case you missed it: A couple of months back, I was featured guest on a podcast about organizational systems and productivity. Based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Productivity Alchemy is a podcast focusing on personal and professional organization and organizational systems, and the ways we work to be more productive. Host Kevin Sonney (and his wife and sometime test subject, Hugo-winning author and artist Ursula Vernon) test a wide variety of planners and systems, and interview authors, artists, computer programmers... and now, a full-time production potter. You can find out how I manage to stay organized. (Hint: It has to do with lists.)

My interview is in Episode 69, from November 1, 2018, or you can listen to all the episodes at ProductivityAlchemy.com.

Encore Pattern of the Month:

Playing Possum

Judging from my special orders list, Opossums continue unexpectedly popular. Let's revisit America's only native marsupial.

I've had a lot of memorable animal experiences over the years. Squirrels in the attic. Racoons in the carport. Bats on the landing, cats in the studio, elk in the headlights. None of them were quite as heart-stoppingly startling as this.

I was down at Club Mud early that day--not oh-dark-firing-a-kiln early, I remember the sun was already up. I must have been on the final glazing run before firing the big kiln, so came in around 7 am.

There are two public entrances to Club Mud; the courtyard entrance, which opens right into the main studio, and the parking lot entrance, which cuts through the kitchen. I tend to use the latter, since it leads right into my semi-private space.

We call it a kitchen; it's really a wide spot in the hall-way, home to some quarter-space shelves, a fridge, and a small cabinet, atop which stand a yard-sale microwave and toaster oven. (We used to have a coffee-maker, but it kept blowing the circuit breaker, so now the caffiends walk over to Dutch Brothers.) Oh, and a waste-basket, which usually holds junk from the glaze-mixing room, but occasionally also orange peel or apple cores.

On this morning, it also held three unhappy baby opossums. They'd gotten into the studio somehow, probably through one of the ventilation bricks in the cinder block wall, climbed into the waste basket following the scent of food, and couldn't get out again.

Have you seen an opossum? Spiky hair, ratty tail, more teeth than you'd credit, especially when three of them are hissing angrily at the big-faced human staring down at them. They're also unexpectedly cute, in a pink-nosed, Jurassic muppet fashion.

I treated them rather like I'd once treated the bat. First I put on leather welding gloves, then I gingerly picked up the basket, took it outside and tipped it over on its side. A few minutes later they'd scrambled for cover, presumably to be reunited with a worried mother too large to get through the wall. I put away the wastebasket and, for the heck of it, painted a possum on an Empty Bowls contribution later that day.

Fast-forward several years, and I run into the person who'd bought that opossum bowl, recently broke it, and wondered if I'd ever do another. I say sure, but then think, Empty Bowls are my test pots for new forms and patterns. Why not make more?

So far, I've only done a couple of dessert plates, but they're adorable. If customers agree, opossums may be showing up on pie plates, bakers, maybe a serving bowl or two.

Anything's possumble.

See other patterns...