Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interesting Times

You might notice a couple of new things on my blog.  One is the pledge for handmade, the other is Zibbet.  You might be asking yourself what's a Zibbet?  Well Zibbet is a marketplace website, similar to but different from Etsy.  The biggest difference as of late, is Zibbet's definition of Handmade.  You see Etsy recently changed it's corporate definition of handmade to include the use of outside vendors to create items.  For designers this is great because all they have to do is think up a design idea, hook up with a manufacturer, or group of people, and they can still use the term Handmade to describe their item.  As long as it's their idea, it's Handmade.  Sounds like mass-produced to me, but I'm just a little old potter.

The change in basic philosophy over at Etsy has created quite a stir.  Many sellers are moving to sites that support the traditional definition of handmade.  One such site is Zibbet.  Because I was reading so many good things about Zibbet, I thought I'd give it a try.  As a seller one of the biggest issues is how easy it is to load new listings.  Well I have to say that Zibbet has made it pretty easy to get new listings up.  They offer an import feature where you can download a .csv file from Etsy and feed it into Zibbet.  The listings are held in Edit mode so that you can make any necessary changes, and then just hit the button to list.  You definitely want to go through your listings in Edit mode to make sure that you're not linking to old Etsy shops. 

So I now sit straddling the Etsy/Zibbet fence, with one foot in Etsy and a big toe in Zibbet, I have an ethical, philosophical quandary.  Do I stay on Etsy and turn my head to the changes, stay for the sales?  Or, do I take a stand?  Do I pack up my listings and file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences?  One thing happened today that's pushing me closer to leaving.  A customer from Etsy posted on Zibbet that she has left Etsy for Zibbet due to the shoddy way that Etsy is treating it's Sellers.  I never thought about this rift through the eyes of a customer.  Time will tell.  Christmas is coming faster than I care to admit.  I'm busy making and shouldn't be spending time worrying about this "stuff."  So, like Tara from Gone With The Wind, I'll think about it another day, twiddleedee.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Change of Pace

Because of a simple raise of the hand, I began a trek into a bit of a change of pace for me.  My days are usually filled with clay, either throwing on the potter's wheel, constructing and hand building, glazing and firing, packing and shipping and various other duties that are part of the potter's process.  I pretty much am an artist devoted to clay. 

I feel like I've been cheating this past week.  A couple of months ago at my local art club meeting (the Westchase Artists Society) I volunteered to be a featured artist at one of two Fifth Third community banks in Westchase.  It's a partnership that we have with the banks to provide them with artwork for their walls in exchange for exhibition space for our artists.  It's a wonderful thing that the bank is doing for our group.  Sometimes, because most of our 2-D artists have been featured, it's hard to get someone new to volunteer, so I raised my hand.  I figured that I could frame some of my photographs and that would be that. 

Not so fast!  That is never THAT with me.  I was at Michael's (it's dangerous to have one within a mile of where you live) and they had a huge sale on stretched canvases, multi-packs, gallery wrapped, oh my.  I stocked up.  When you see a two-pack of 16" x 20" canvases for $3.99 what do you do, I ask you?  As time passed and it got closer to installation date for the bank, I started to think, wouldn't it be fun to paint?  And then I started thinking about what to paint.  My first thought was abstracts would be fun.  Then my next thought was FISH!   The paintings magically appeared from my brushes and paints.  I made a series of fish that pay homage to my ceramic fish teapots and tabletop fish.  So far, all are based on real reef fish.  And I must say after installing the paintings at the bank, they transformed the bank into a colorful and fun aquarium.  It really is nice to see paintings on the walls versus stacked up in a studio.

Just in case you're not in the area or able to get over to the 5/3 Bank in Westchase on Linebaugh Avenue, here are a few photos of the "girls" that are on display.

 

 




Thursday, May 30, 2013

How long did it take you to make that?

People sometimes ask me how long it takes for me to make a fish teapot.  It's a hard question for me to answer because the making is broken up over a few weeks.  My workflow starts with the throwing of two components, a ring and a faceted base.  I usually let the pieces sit under plastic for a few days and then trim the ring and clean up the base and join the two.  If I'm lucky I can work on construction in the same day.  Once the teapot is constructed, I have to let it sit under plastic for about a week, then I take the plastic off and the teapot sits air drying until she's about as dry as it can be.  Then she gets bisque fired.  This is the first firing and runs at around 1900 + degrees F.  This firing gets the moisture out, hardens the clay and prepares it for the glazing.  After the kiln has cooled I get to work glazing.  This can be a process that spans across a few days.  Sometimes I paint on layers of clear glaze and sometimes I paint on layers of white matte glaze as an undercoat.  Then the teapot is fired again at a lower temperature for the glaze firing.  In this firing the coats of glaze melt and yield either shiney or satin coats of color.  After the teapot has finished up with the firings, I get to work on the accessories, such as earrings, beaded wires that get glued into pre-drilled holes. 

I put together a two-part demo video of me making a teapot from start to finish.  I was able to share the video with my Westchase Artists Society friends and so that the video could be watched in one evening I edited it down to 30 minutes.  Thanks to fast-forward the video is 30 minutes.  If I were on fast-forward the process would take about 30 minutes, but I'm definitely not on fast-forward so the process takes longer.  One day I'll clock myselt to get the definitive answer to the question. 

Part 1
 
 
Part 2

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ideas Happen

"How did you come up with that idea?"  The answers to this one question, for a creative person, can cover the spectrum.  Sometimes the birth of ideas can be funny stories, and for me, ideas roll from one to the next, like a  line of dominoes falling. 

 I've been working on some new designs and the evolution comes to me often by just staring at my current work. One example, some new mugs that I've been working on.

 
 I was sitting one day in the garagio and I had a bunch of teapot components (rings and faceted bases). I had extra bases and I didn't have the time to throw rings and I didn't want the bases to go to waste, so I started thinking about how I could use the bases. My thought was first about the basic shape and size, what would that work for? A few thoughts came to mind: bases for cake plates, sugar bowls & creamers, and finally mugs. then I started thinking about handles. Because the facets would make the attaching of my regular handles a challenge. How did I know this, you ask, well I tried one and it didn't work. So I created the handles by rolling a tapered coil attached in a normal fashion and had extra coil left at the bottom so instead of pinching it off I made a twirl. Then, the next domino to fall was the need to elevate the mug because now the twirl at the bottom of the handle was below the bottom of the mug, so I had to "lift" the mug. Answer to this dilemma: more twirls. So now we've got a theme going, facets and twirls.

I see the mug and I see whimsy, I'm seeing a jester, I'm seeing a party skirt, I'm seeing fabulous color, I'm seeing mugs that would coordinate with my teapots, I'm seeing that because the bases of the teapots are the same style as the mugs that we've got a party going on.  So from a day that started out with me just sitting and staring, came a new addition to my collection.  As the ideas for the mugs formulated, then came a flood of ideas for additional pieces that could spawn off of the faceted forms.

Lesson here is when you see someone staring, you could be watching the birth of a new idea.  You just never know!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Finds



I love when a plan comes together.  Sometimes I'll have a notion of how a fish teapot is going to look when completed.  Sometimes I get lucky along the way and find some neat beads to finish her off.  In the case of my latest girl I got lucky.  A local art friend and lampwork bead maker, Stacy of Pink Beach Studio on Etsy came through with her wonderful beads.  Check out Stacy's shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/pinkbeach?ref=pr_shop_more   I knew that I wanted to use some of Stacy's beads so when I constructed this teapot I made just enough holes to accomodate Stacy's standard bead pack.  When I saw the beads after I glazed this Clown Triggerfish I knew that they would be the perfect finishing touch.  I'm really getting a kick out of using lampwork beads for the inspiration.  What's next???

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Copycat

I've been a member of the Etsy community since May of 2007.  I guess I'm a bit naive when I think that anyone coming to visit my Etsy shop or the shops of any of my virtual friends would have honorable intentions.  Recently, a member of our pottery community on Etsy found out that one of her designs was bootlegged by a company in China.  There's a website called alibaba.com that represents factories that will mass-produce just about anything.  This fellow-potter was alerted that a listng identical to hers was showing up on alibaba.com.  The manufacturer lifted her photo, and used her product description word for word.  The company was offering to sell at high volumes to resellers.  My first thought was who would buy that sort of quantity?  The big-box discount retailers came to mind.  I'm not going to mention any names, but they're the large chains that you see in just about every town.  These stores serve a purpose because they offer low-cost items for the budget-conscious folks (myself included at times).

After the folks on our Pottery group started doing searches on alibaba.com, it was clear that this wasn't just a one-time thing.  It appears that the companies have been lifting listings at a surprising number.  For some, the listings were ones that had already been sold.  For some, the backgrounds on the photos were changed and they inserted the manufacturer's watermark.  But the original product image was apparent. 

Things that we learned: by contacting alibaba.com the listings were eventually removed.  Some folks were contacted by the manufacturers and told that they were just using the listing to show what they can do for their clients, that no sales were made, so basically no harm no foul.  We also learned that it's important to save your original artwork photographs.  These will have a date stamp that can be used to prove when the item was photographed and as a result, that you were the first to create the item.   We also learned that there have been complaints on the website alibaba.com regarding delivery, and claims that the money was never received. 

What this means to my customers: If you ever see a knock-off of one of my creations in a big-box store, check to see how it's made.  Chances are it's slip-cast, not made by hand (even if it's marked handmade - the definition of handmade in China is different than ours).  Chances are the glazes are not the same non-toxic quality glazes that I use.  Chances are it's not unique - each of my handmade creations is unique, because I'm not a machine, I don't have a factory filled with low-wage artisans that pump out thousands and thousands of one item day after day.  If you see a knock-off of any of my creations, send me an e-mail or give me a call.  Once the knock-off copies make it into US stores, artists have recourse through the United States Copyright laws.  Unfortunately, our Copyright laws are a dog with no bite in China. 

It's sad when you think of the rich heritage China has - centuries of being inovators, now known more for their ability to copy other's creations. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

For a Good Cause







Coming up here in Tampa on November 5th is the annual Zoofari at Lowry Park Zoo. It's a fundraising event for the Zoo. Lowry Park Zoo is a fun place to visit and has great activities for the kiddos. This year I'll be participating in their Artfari and will be selling my wares during the Zoofari event. It runs from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. As part of the deal to get a reduced price for the space, artists were asked to donate a piece of art for the silent auction. The piece had to be animal themed, best to relate to the zoo theme. So I went to work on a tic tac toe game using tiggers. Orange and white tigers to be exact. Hopefully someone attending will fall in love and bid high on this piece. Just so we're clear, I used no molds in the making of this piece, just my two little hands. I did roll out the clay for the board, but it was all from moist clay. Each tiger is slightly different from the next because they were human formed... I'm not a machine!!! Maybe a dancing machine, but not a ceramic machine.