It was April of 1993. I was still working at the UO Craft Center for part-time wages, but I'd been laid off from my other part-time gig, throwing for Slippery Bank Pottery, just after New Year's. My friend Kathy Lee was looking for a partner to share her booth at Saturday Market. What did I have to lose?

I spent winter term making pots. Bowls, plates, animal-handled mugs. Animal banks, baking dishes, pie plates. Also candle sticks, orange juicers, whistles and ocarinas. Cookies jars and honey pots. Basically, I threw everything, waited to see what would stick.

It was a very low-risk experiment. We each paid $5 plus 10% of sales. Kathy had a pipe-frame booth she'd bought from a retired machinist who was making them in his garage, and I built folding shelves in the Craft Center wood shop. Some days were good, some days were horrible. Some days were horrible, and it rained.

But we endured. Denise and I would come down and set up, then she stayed while I drove out to Lane Community College for my radio show. After our first season, we got a reserved booth, so we could set up early. It wasn't the best space, facing East Lawn. Saturday Market didn't have anything in the way of security back then, so around 3 pm, when the pot dealers moved in, legitimate business went elsewhere. Kathy Lee decided Market wasn't a good place for her quiet pots. I gradually shifted from floral patterns to animal patterns, and sales picked up. We got a better reserved space on the south edge, right in front of Mount St. Market, where the steam vault had exploded the previous year, catapulting the manhole cover into the air.

I started applying to out-of-town shows, first nearby, Bend, Roseburg and Silverton, then farther afield, up into Washington state. (I considered doing California shows, but every time I was ready to commit, another economic bubble crashed: first aerospace, then tech,, financial markets. I never got closer to the California border than Ashland.) I'm doing fewer road shows these days, down to three currently. Still making as many pots, filling the 50 cubic-foot kiln every couple of months, but selling much better close to home.

I started my website in 2002, experimented briefly with Etsy--a bad experience, like the worst consignment gallery ever--began a blog in 2014. In 2020, my younger potter friends convinced me to start an Instagram, which turned out to be a good way to stay connected through lockdown and beyond.

And this year? Off Center Ceramics turns 30 years old!

Happy Birthday to us.

Price Check

The last time I raised my prices was at least 15 years ago. More, in fact, as I was going to make an adjustment when the financial markets crashed in 2008, so I put it off. And off, and off and...

So this winter, I decided it was time to review some prices, mostly on table ware. It's not a big change, a couple of bucks, generally, though incense dragons are going up a bit more. The new prices will take effect April 1, opening day of Saturday Market.

Dinner plates and dinner salad bowls will now be $30, dessert plates $26. Soup bowls, stew mugs and tall mugs will now be $27, with toddler bowls $23. Painted mugs are now $25, with tumblers and pilsners at $24. Incense dragons are going up to $35, to reflect the amount of work that goes into them. Small batter bowls are also going up five dollars, to $34, though large ones will remain at $39.

Encore Pattern of the Month:

Playing Possum

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 I painted a couple of dessert plates--they were adorable. Customers agreed, so now you'll find opossums hanging out on pie plates, bakers, and a whole bunch of tall mugs.

Anything's possumble.

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