Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And What did the Glass Artisan do Today?

Coffee is a thing of today's far distant past. It was consumed on the run. There has been no music at all--not even the radio or a cd in the car. And it is now almost 6:00 pm and I am just getting around to posting. What did I do all day? Well, first thing this morning I was a financial manager dealing with a new scam (on which I will post at length on Stranded in the South) as I wrangled the Sprout off to school. Then it was back to the photographer's for the last picture session. I had him shoot a new body of work which is all textured clear plates and platters. It was a real challenge and took two hours longer than either of us thought it would. But throughout I kept internally squealing "Oh! Those are gorgeous! What pretty sparkly pieces! Did I really make those?" with all attendant tingly good feelings.

Next, I got to deposit money from last week's commission sales and last month's gallery sales and complete one more art fair application (57th Street in Chicago June 3-4). Finally, I delivered a gallery order (the same pieces I slumped yesterday and had shot at the photographer today--now that was planning!) and picked J up from school. Tonight I research postcard companies, design a postcard to use for promotional mailings this year, and maybe work on the catalog a bit. Some time soon I am going to have to decide which pieces to take to the BMAC and make them. And I am going to have to finish (a big task since I don't even have a functioning front page) my website any time now.

*Sigh*. Notice the lack of glass in there? January is the big prepare-for-the-year month. Art fair apps to get in, marketing materials to design and produce for the year, planning, planning, planning. There is some fun experimental fusing allowed to help me get through the marketing materials and art fair apps, but it is a studio-light time.

The contract should be coming back from the lawyer soon and then I can start writing... Oh wait, I am already writing more than I should on the blogs!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sign Your Life and Firstborn Away

I took the weekend off! I had a wonderful, relatively relaxing family weekend (relaxation with a four-year-old is all about relativity) and am now ready to jump on the week. The mug today is New York--the fastest paced city I know and one whose speed I need to emulate--and the song is Madonna's "True Blue" from the album of the same name.

15 days till I leave for the BMAC. The show is in 18 days but I am giving myself two days to drive me, my stuff and my assistant (my Mom) out, and then there is one day for set-up. A little side note for those of you with kids who think ahead to the days when your children are out on their own and self-sufficient: Get over it. I will be 45 in June and my Mom still comes to my rescue when I get in over my head. She is flying out from Montana next week to do this show with me and then stay with Jessie while Dave and I take a mini vacation to California with some friends.

I am not ready for the show yet, but there are so many things which have deadlines between now and then that I am not ready for that I can't even worry about it. All worrying in its own time. That is my motto today. I have scheduled the afternoon of Saturday 2/11 and all day Sunday 2/12 to freak out about the show and finish preparations (booth design, etc.). Today I absolutely, positively MUST get the glass shipment from last week unpacked and put away (the kiln lid arrives this afternoon) and I have a load to slump before meeting with the photographer again tomorrow for the last BMAC pics.

But this post was not meant to be about the minutiae. No, the Big Picture right now is the book contract. Boy do they want a lot, in very little time, for even less money. I knew it was about Fame and Glory, but until I read the details, I was unaware of the Whip-the-Serfs aspects of the road to fame and glory and how my role really is defined as "serf".

I sent a commission off to a client in Chicago on Friday and he happens to be a lawyer who has also had a book published. After giving me his credit card information so I could bill him for the piece he bought, he proceeded to tell me a whole bunch of things I need to watch out for in book contract negotiations. Then he directed me to look on the web for more information (and recommended I get a lawyer). Friday a search in Google produced 29, 900,000 hits for "book contract". (Today the same search spit out 28, 500,000 entries. 500,000 attrition seems a bit high for the weekend, but what do I know about the internet?)

There are some really good articles out there and one of the best sites is the writer's guild. They even provide you with legal help to negotiate your contract... after you are member. You can only join the guild if 1) you have a book published (and not self-published--thus implying a contract) or 2) you already have a contract. Is anyone else stunned by the irony there? Luckily for me they also provide a page of contract tips.

I made lots of notes and shipped the whole thing--contract, web links, list of concerns--off to an intellectual property lawyer to look over. I can sleep at night knowing that I have a pit bull who is at least as good and probably better than their pit bulls (apologies to my lawyer, my uncle--who is also a lawyer--and all the other lawyers out there who might resent being compared to pit bulls. Please do not sue me for libel or slander or whichever one has to do with insulting in print). If I get screwed, I will do so with the knowledge that he did everything he could to prevent it, I chose to proceed with the book anyway, and I will not be surprised. And maybe he can save me and I won't become a first-time author horror story splattered in page five of the Chicago Tribune.

I close with a note on the pics scattered through this post: These are the new 2-D pieces I debuted at the One of a Kind show in December and am now moving to the wholesale market at the BMAC. I added four new color series of Morceaux de Verre, and I am really pleased with how this style is maturing for me.

Friday, January 27, 2006

So Many New Things, So Little Time!

And it’s another great pairing today:
Mug: Chicago Skyline and it’s already half empty for the first time
iPod Song: “Boom Boom Mancini” by Warren Zevon off of Sentimental Hygiene

I rub my hands together and chortle with glee. Today, I am on top of my game. I got the slides back from my photographer this morning and they are *stunning*. Pics posted tomorrow after I scan them in.

Yesterday I got a piece back from a gallery at Disney World. It spontaneously broke into three large pieces while in their front window—reportedly not even in hot sun! Some, whose glasses are half empty, would see this as evidence the sky is falling and run for cover. Me, I look at the edges of the breaks and go “Wow! It would be really cool to do this fusing pattern, then cut it up and lay the pieces on their sides—like a pattern bar effect—and make a new piece!" So I have something new to try. As to why the pece broke—bad anneal: Half the kiln elements shorted out during the firing and the piece was unevenly annealed. At least that's my guess. I have been having a problem with Big Bertha for some time now. It finally came to the point last month where I ordered a new lid for her from the manufacturer and it will be here Monday afternoon. Will I try to get it installed before the BMAC and risk all my firings before I go? Or do I leave it till I get back when I (hope, hope) have orders that need to be filled with DEADLINES? Sometimes there are no good choices.

But thinking about lid replacement does not make me chortle with glee. Nor does the rest of my task list for the day: finish unloading glass and unpacking frit, continue with the annual studio cleaning and organizing, etch an order of wine glasses for a local gallery and deliver it, ship a commissioned piece to Chicago (photo posted after fuse yesterday—slumped yesterday after photo and it is PERFECT), and call the publisher to discuss differences of opinion about schedule of deliverables.

No, I chortle with glee because I will try a new, more intense Morceaux de Verre layout and firing this morning and then after all the chores (yawn) I will reward myself by getting out my camel hair brushes and experimenting with landscape painting on glass. Two fun firings in one day! I also got some new screen earlier in the week to try another screen drop... Maybe Monday.

About my painting... I suck as a painter right now—no formal training. But I signed up for an introductory drawing class at Emory University yesterday (it starts next week). Move over (insert name of famous landscape painter here)! (See, I really am an art barbarian: no formal training, no color theory, no art history courses—at least not in English). And I ordered a couple of books from Amazon and Borders on painting techniques which will come next week. That's how I learn: I read and try. So it's late and I need to get a move on. Time's a wasting!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Ugly Green Monster

Today's journaling was delayed due to the inaccessibility of blogger.com this morning. At the same time the warmglass.com bulletin board was down. Could it have been a denial of service and not a coincidence? Those pesky hackers! (love this cartoon). So it's getting on time for lunch, the coffee has come and languished, cold in the mug, and the music is remarkably uninspiring. This does not mean, however, that there has not been much activity this morning. Au contraire.

Yesterday's firing went beautifully, and I needed that. When I returned the work I had photographed to a gallery yesterday, I had a disturbing experience: As I was leaving I glanced over at a display of my work in a 16-cube shelving unit and I saw a beautiful piece in the center cube which looked a lot like mine, but it wasn't. It was in the same style as all of my work surrounding it--what I call Morceaux de Verre (morsels of glass) and with the same intensity and blend of colors that I favor. It was as technically good as my pieces (smooth glassy surface free of air bubbles, no devitrification) and it was more beautiful--richer, more intense color. It was also considerably more expensive than my pieces.

I left the gallery feeling like my work was worthless and why do I even continue making it. (And how can I even consider writing a book about it!). When someone who dabbles in fusing and has no understanding of what happens to glass in a kiln and why (or didn't the last time I talked to her) can make something more beautiful than I can after 18 years of learning, experimenting and practice... well, I might as well just hang it up! And I fretted about the insensitivity of the gallery owners--to carry the work in the first place and to put it in a place surrounded by mine in the second.

I knew I was being unreasonable and ungenerous, and I couldn't get over it and let it go. I am ashamed to say I am still struggling a bit because what bothers me is not that she might be imitating me, it's that if she is, *her work is better than mine*.

For some of us it is always and ever will be a competition. "It" (the work) is good because someone else says it is. Yes, "it" may resonate within us, but unless someone else says they value "it", "it" is ultimately worthless. We may come across as extremely self-confident and self-possessed, but it is just a facade. In reality we have low self-esteem and constantly worry that someone else is better/smarter/thinner/prettier/more talented/more... than we are.

Fortunately there is no shortage of people in the world to remind us about what is important and why we do what we do. My wonderful spouse sent me this link about writing and it is so perfect for "being an artist" or making a living as any fill-in-the-blank that I had to share it: Even More Long-Winded (But Practical) Writing Advice I read it as I was writing this entry and had the “Moonstruck” epiphany (where Cher walks up to Nicolas Cage and slaps his face, looks to see if it had an effect, slaps him again and says “Snap out of it!”). The tight, unhappy knot in my belly went away and I started planning the next thing I want to try (pastel landscapes on glass…. Yumm!) and ordering the supplies I will need.

Life is just too damn short and all the clichés apply: there is also someone better, the only one you have to satisfy with your life is you, it really. doesn’t. matter. what other people think.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Professional Glass Artist, Friend and Mother

Supporting my strong belief in the force of intelligent design driving both my choice of coffee mug and the music that comes on (supposedly randomly) the iPod each morning , today I am drinking out of a mug with a picture of Jessie at age one eating Cheerios on it and the song is "The Storm" by the Disney Orchestra and Choir from The Little Mermaid. Coincidence? I think not!

Writing here has become the anchor of my morning. And like many personal rituals (work, working out, yoga, journaling) it is at the whim of other things going on in life. This morning's quasi-schedule was reset due to a long phone conversation with a friend (and new mother) who has been thrust into a divorce process. I drank from the Cheerios mug and contemplated my luck as we talked.

And Jessie slept late this morning--would not be roused for anything--as we watched the extended version of "The Return of the King" last night. We started just after 6:00 over pizza, but it was still after 10:00 when it finished and we could not deny her the end. So my work day also begins late. I have a very comfortable rhythm with Dave: He does all the laundry and cooking, and I do the morning Sprout wrangle and off to school. Believe me, it is a fair trade. But she is up now and must be mustered so I need to finish this and get on with the day.

What are the glass artist tasks of the day? To return the work to the galleries from the photoshoot yesterday. I mentioned in yesterday's post that the firing the night before had failed, it needed five more minutes. Well that was not a failure but an opportunity! I took the piece to be photographed anyway and when it was in its stand I looked at it and realized how cool the effect of the extra texture was in the design. It was not intentional, it was serendipity!

Then I need to get two kiln loads in--one with a commission piece and some samples for the Art Institute in Chicago and the other with some slumped clear architectural work. Then I need to begin unloading all the glass on the parking pad. I will finish by thoroughly reading through the contract from the publisher. I skimmed it yesterday and my first thought was "Wow, no wonder most of their writers are first-time authors! This is seriously stacked in their favor for money and future rights!" (Not that I expect them to make a motion picture from my oeuvre.)

I did get my BMAC exposition services order in yesterday at 4:45 pm (15 minutes before the deadline for the discount price): walls = white foamcore, carpet = red, electricity = 2000 watts, and I got lots and lots of extra support poles. It was a relief to get that done. Now I just need to finish the rest of the display in my mind (and buy anything I need for it), design the annual catalog and put it together with the rest of the print materials, finish the website and reserve a hotel room. 21 days and counting....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Good Things Come... Followed by Terror

The morning opens with "Sweet Jane" by the Velvet Underground thus reinforcing my belief that there is intelligent design driving the music on the iPod. The mug of the day is a new Starbucks Skyline one: Alaska. Dave's initial response upon seeing the mug--which came yesterday courtesy of ebay--was "But there are no buildings in Alaska, what is it a skyline of? Huts?". He is an uneducated heathen and got an evil glare for a response and the lovely rendering of Denali on the mug shoved up under his nose. Don't mess with "The Last Frontier". (Which is the saying on the inside of the mug--they all have them. Chicago is "The Windy City", well, duh. New York is fruit-related.)

So the glass came yesterday in the pouring rain. It was wrangled off the truck and reposes in solid splendor under plastic on the parking pad for a dry unpacking--except for the frit which I rooted through for the red #2 and #3. In the midst of preparing places to put it all, I ran across three sheets of lt blue cathedral, one aqua cathedral and three lime green opal, all of which I need for projects in November and December and all of which I thought I was out of--forgetting I had made an overstock bin. The existence of this glass is also a sign and speaks to either my disorganization, pace of work, self-destructive tendancies, or all of the above (the terror is creeping in).

I woke at 3:00 am again courtesy of a sleepless Sprout. After getting her tucked back into her bed I couldn't get back to sleep, discourtesy of he neighbors barking dogs and my own small anxiety attack. I know I didn't have anxiety attacks that kept me awake in the middle of the night in my 20's or even early to mid 30's. I don't remember if I had them in my late 30's, but I have to say, my mid 40's are hell for them. The night I started this blog I had been awake for three hours before I finally got up and created the blog.

Last night I stayed abed and fretted about today. Did my firing yesterday turn out? No, it needed 5-10 more minutes at top temp for full fuse--the kiln has decided it doesn't want to follow the same firing schedules it has for six years and we have been tussling about its intractability for over a month now. What am I going to use for the walls of my display at the BMAC: my too-short white drapes, their 4' X 8' taped foamcore which is at least white, their carpet-covered pro-panels which are dark grey and so would need to have something else on them to provide the white background I need for my glass? Everything but my drapes costs $300-$500 additional. Where am I going to stay for the BMAC? Do I play it safe and reserve a room through the Rosen Group and pay a premium, or do I wait and get something cheaper on Priceline? Wait=Risk=Anxiety.

Now I need to get my daughter out of bed, pottied, washed, teeth brushed, hair brushed and fixed and dressed for school. After I take her to school I am heading up to Roswell to pick up five pieces from a gallery there to have photograped today. Then I am swinging back by Decatur to pick up two pieces from a gallery there. Then the photoshoot. Then the return of all the work. Then the grocery and dog food shopping (with a stop at Home Depot for more screen to try another screen melt). Then home to start unpacking glass and read through the contract from the publisher. And my stomach is completely in knots from stress. I know everything is going to be fine but I am having a hard time letting the fear go. So I am going to close with a poem which I thought of yesterday (Sunday? Who knows!). I am going to hold tight to it today and get through:

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

--Shel Silverstein

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Behinder I Get...

Chicago Skyline Barista Mug. "Be My Baby" covered by the Midgetmen sliding into R.E.M.'s "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville". I am terse this morning. Just gave the happy family the bum's rush out the door--Dave having both delivery and pick-up duties for school today as I am CARLESS. Normally I would be chauffeur in his car and drive him to the train station and then drop the Sprout at school on the way home. But today I wait for glass. I sit at my kitchen table looking out at the grey pouring rain and I wait for 1300 lbs of glass: A case and a half of sheet glass and 263 lbs of frit. I have just been down to the garage which is attached to the studio and there is no way in any dimension I am going to get the delivery into there. The only place for it is on the uncovered parking pad. In the aforementioned pouring rain. I have a feeling I am just going to stay terse all day.

Why, one might ask would I be terse? Don't I have a slicker and wellies? Well, no, I don't. I am from Montana. This time of year we get snow. I have snow boots and a down coat--spectacularly useless here in Atlanta. But really why I am terse--here is the shameful confession--I have an appointment with my photographer tomorrow morning to shoot my new 2-D panels for the catalog I do for the BMAC and, guess what, I HAVEN'T MADE THEM YET. The sheer arrogance one might say. Another might question my priorities for writing instead of doing. But I haven't done them because I need the glass on the shipment. I need #2 and #3 Bullseye red cathedral frit for three of them. The photo at right is a gallery shot of one of the pieces I am talking about.

Oh joy of joys (not). The trucking company just called and my shipment came in late so it missed being loaded on the lift gate truck this morning. They want to deliver tomorrow. My little breakdown on the phone convinced the dispatcher this would not be a good idea. They are going to get it out to me today. Somehow. Maybe send an extra man with the driver to get it off the truck. I tried to gently explain to her that, really, all the manpower in the world isn't going to get a full case of Bullseye glass off a delivery truck without a lift gate. She said she knows the shipment weighs 1300 lbs and they will get it off the truck without breaking it down. I console myself with two thoughts: 1) I was never very good at physics and maybe she is right, and 2) she has taken ownership and made it her problem so I am not responsible for the outcome. When it all falls apart later I will tell myself I should have known better, but I will still be ahead: I could be stressed all day knowing it would fail and then have to deal with the failure, or I could be relaxed all day and then have to deal with the failure.

Mood swing: "Stay with Me Tonight" by Jeffrey Osborne just came on. In the midst of despair there is salvation. Some music will just take you no matter what. I put it on continuous loop.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Success! Failure! Who Cares!

The coffee is reheated swill from yesterday in a La Vache Qui Rit marigold yellow mug. The music is Bruce Springsteen's “Thunder Road” from Live 1975-1985. Piano so beautiful it hurts. I did manage to put on, well, not clothes but at least a full-body cover-up before racing down to the studio this morning to see how the firing turned out. It was wild--and completely unexpected.

Kiln: Skutt clamshell
kilnposts: Four 1/2" squares of mullite
Shelf: 20 X 20 X 1 mullite
Stand: 1” square tube steel legs 7” long
Configuration: The shelf was on the posts 1/2" off the floor of the kiln, the stand stood on the shelf--not the floor of the kiln--giving a full 7" drop between the mesh and the shelf. The thermocouple was between the bottom of the stand and the shelf.
Mesh: Hi-temp grill screen overlapped in the middle and folded down across the sides of the stand
Shelf Release: Hotline Hi Fire Primer 15-20 coats brushed on with a Haik brush
Glass: Bullseye red, orange and yellow opal and cathedral (should have taken a weight here to predict final piece size, but there was so much waste in this project it wouldn’t have mattered!)
Schedule: based on Steve Immerman’s aperture pour schedule.
600 dph to 1700 hold 90
AFAP to 1500 hold 45
AFAP to 960 hold 60
100 DPH to 650 hold 0
Natural cool

So where to begin on the unexpectednesses... Well, the first thing that startled me was how much glass was left on top of the screen. Yes, this is a flat-blade mesh rather than a wire-mesh, but due to the height of the set-up and the closeness of the glass to the elements, I really expected it to melt and pour. But a huge amount stuck to the screen.

Given the amount of glass on the top I should have expected all the threads between the mesh and the piece below, and therefore been prepared for the strength of the bond between the mesh and the puddle below. I wasn't and was very surprised when I went to lift the stand away and the whole thing came up in my hands. I asked my spouse to lift it so I could photograph it for posterity here.

I blithely ignored the possibility of the metal reacting to the heat and was unpleasantly surprised by the amount of oxidation which flaked off into the glass. I am not sure if it was a one-time thing or not, but the point is moot as I will not try this with a screen gauge this big again. I also got far more popped bubbles in the final surface than I expected.

What I really liked about this technique was the number of small whirlpool areas. With aperture pours/pot melts, you get one contact point with rings of color rippling out from it. Here every drop point produces its own ripple and color blend area and is an opporunity for a central design element in a larger piece.

So what am I going to change for next time? I am going to use the 1/2" square wire mesh. It is much more flexible than the mesh I used this time so I will need to wire it to the stand to keep it from collapsing in the middle. I am going to put the stand on the floor of the kiln and raise the shelf up a bit by putting it on 1" posts. And I am going to weigh my glass. I am also going to use clear in the mix to get more of a "window" effect. I close with some random photos from the experiment.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I Get to Make Glass!

I have talked the talk and today (really) I will walk the walk. I know, I know, I am not supposed to be in the studio today, but Jessie is having a play date, Dave is coding and I am in WITHDRAWAL.

Yesterday was spent on lunch with another glass artist celebrating my status in December as a One of a Kind Show featured artist and the book deal (for which, as of yet no contract has manifested in the mail... should I be worried?) and then the automatic transmission going out on my 2000 Honda Odyssey mini-van. I made it to the mechanic... barely.

So today I finish the scrap-through-a-screen project. I took one of the grill screen pieces I am going to use to hold the glass and bent the sides in a vise so it fits snugly over the sides of the frame and into the kiln. Now I have got to finish bending the other piece of grill, give the shelf one more coat of kiln wash and load it up. I will post the pictures tomorrow!

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's Done, So What Next? (Glass!)

There is no coffee yet. I sat down to write listening to George Winston's "Thanksgiving" from the December album (album, I show my age). It reflects my mood. But now after staring into space for a few minutes wondering what the hell to do (and write) Warren Zevon's "My Ride's Here" from the cd of the same name comes on and I am ready to go (after this brief side note: The 60 gig iPod with almost our entire cd library on it playing all day on random shuffle is one of the best things to happen to me in a long time. I can listen to Chicago dj's just barely (XRT, you know what I'm saying). But one more Georgia... no, there is no more polite term than "redneck" so I'll go with it, would make me rip the stereo wires out. I just can't do it.)

So today. I am almost at a complete loss. The finances are DONE for 2005. The sales taxes for Illinois, Georgia and Texas are filed and paid. I still have to futz around with the Texas franchise tax forms for the past three years so I can finally dissolve that corporation... But enough even talking about it! Today I am (more or less) free and I don't have any idea what to do. Sure, there are lots of "shoulds" (booth details and exposition services ordering for the BMAC in Philly next month, list of pieces to make for the show, catalog re-write, the ever-present website redesign and completion) but none of them actually entail making anything, and none of them have to be done TODAY. FRIDAY. The last day of the week I have any chance to make glass. (For familial harmony and so that I get to spend some quality time with them, I try to do things with Dave and Jessie on Saturday and Sunday and avoid disappearing into the studio unless I must because of a deadline.)

My big winter glass order from Bullseye is enroute and won't be here till Monday or Tuesday. Over 1300 lbs of glass. I will get a good workout that day! Until it gets here I can't start on the three commissions I have waiting (need that glass) so there is no production work to do. But there is scrap. Glass fusers commonly have MOUNDS of scrap because it is all potentially useful. When you do stained glass you can say "Well, that sliver is too small to be used in anything" and you throw it out. With fusing, every single solitary morsel of glass has the potential to be incorporated into a finished piece and I just can't throw any of them out.

So I have scrap. I also have flower pots and the two go together like bears and honey, but that technique is not singing to me today. No, today I think I will take the stand I bought from Carol Webb at C3 Studios (her husband welds them up for her) and put it in the kiln with a couple of pieces of hi-temp small-mesh grill screen I got at Home Depot on it and I will load the screen up with scrap. I have been wanting to experiment with effects obtained from different top temps and soak times, and this cold-for-Atlanta winter day is the perfect time.

Now the coffee is ready, my sluggish brain has warmed up and "Anna Begins" by the Counting Crows from August and Everything After is playing. Some might find that a discouragement, but it is my call to arms.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fame and Glory

Today's mug is Chicago, and I am in a rush to get this out before the acountant comes to go over how much money I lost last year (maybe she will help me find it?). I didn't fire yesterday, I worked on the books to the tune of the neighbor's barking dog till 10:30 last night. The figures were... impressive. And I will say no more (except that I will not be endowing any universities any time soon).

As I have been in a business frame of mind for the past week I thought it might be a good idea to get references on my new business partners, the illustrious "Publisher". So I looked on their website at other books they have published in my field and in the same format they proposed to me (8.5 X 10, hardcover, project-oriented, 128 pages) and found one that came out two years ago for stained glass. I ordered it from Amazon (authors of the world unite and buy each other's books!) and when it came yesterday, I eagerly went to the author's bio. Lo and behold, she had a website! And the website had a phone number! I called and left her a message. She called me back in the late afternoon and we chatted for a good long while. She gently helped me to set my expectations for this experience. As I was not born yesterday I did not figure this would be a walk in the park with a pot of money at the end. It is about what I figured it would be: an incredible, chaotic lot of hard work with a modest advance being (probably) the only remuneration for years (maybe forever). Why do we do it? Fame and glory, fame and glory. You get to see your name in print with a dedication to your loved ones and you don’t have to pay in money, just sweat, to make it happen. I didn’t even have to ask her, she offered it up: Yes she would do it all over again.

Finally, while perusing another friend’s blog (yes Bill, I now have you bookmarked and hang on your every word) I found out that my latest book series find, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, is going to be a series on the Sci-Fi channel this year. Thank heaven it’s not on Fox! They butchered (no pun intended—really) Firefly badly enough they should *never* get anything heavier than “That 70’s Show” or something else I wouldn’t watch even for a cute butt (to see one, not to have one). The internet being what it is, I followed the links from the blog and ended up here. It is worthwhile to read down through how he got started in writing and what he had to go through to get published. For everyone out there who has a novel, or a screenplay, or a set of short stories (or a non-fiction crafts book), it is a very good guide as to who you have to sleep with to get your work out there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


In warrior mode this morning, I drink my coffee from the Starbucks stainless travel mug with the leather thingie-in-the-middle-to-keep-your-hands-from-getting-burned (or to keep you from dropping it) and a fliptop lid. I do this because I took Jessie to school this morning prepared (as the head of the school’s Buildings and Grounds Committee) to have a long meeting with the Director over school improvements. That is an activity I cannot face without coffee. Especially after I stayed up late last night to finish “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. The more stressed and behind I get, the more I read to escape from my stress. It works in that I have less stress at any given moment in time, but it fails in that I get less done and as a result create more stress overall. But the Director wasn’t in this morning so I came home and will write up this entry, communicate with everyone through email, and get back to the bane of my life: the annual finances.

Profitability was a thread in the topic yesterday. And profitability hinges in large part on one’s ability to accurately gauge the amount of time any given task—either revenue-generating or non revenue-generating—is going to take. A few days ago I optimistically slated the wrangling of the annual financial paperwork to one day, maybe two. I am on day four. The website languishes and the dust bunnies romp happily in the studio. I am grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Dave casually throws out “Have fun, do much glass today” as he is getting ready to leave for work and I snarl back that I am going to have to spend the entire day on the computer again. He gives me a look and says, “Maybe you should do some glass”. I know what this means. I have the look of a dangerously unstable junkie in need of a fix and he would just as soon I had that fix before he got home tonight.

So why have I slipped so badly? I would like to blame it all on the software (stupid Quickbooks: like I should have to care about the difference between a credit and a debit and where did all those sales tax entries for Chicago go?), or the time I spend writing here or reading there, but really, it is that recordkeeping is a completely underestimated task in a business. It is something that must be done regularly, takes a not inconsiderable amount of time, is non revenue-generating, and for most people is about as much fun as a root canal. Why do so many small businesses fail? (And make no mistake about it, being an artisan for a living very much entails running a small business.) They fail because of the high percentage of non revenue-generating activities not covered by the ones that do bring in money. If I have to spend the day futzing around with Quickbooks… again… I will not get any glass done today.

Notice the entire preoccupation here with profit and profitability: That is what several days of bookkeeping do to me. Back to yesterday’s post: “Why do we do what we do?” I put up with the recordkeeping in order to be a responsible business owner. I am a responsible business owner so I can keep on generating revenue which allows me to buy more glass. I buy raw glass so I can make it into something else. When I make something and overcome the technical challenges between my vision and the reality of the raw glass, and then I hold the finished piece in my hands, it gives me peace, soothes my soul and satisfies me. I WILL get the paperwork done this morning, and I WILL get into the studio this afternoon, and the dust bunnies be DAMNED. They can romp and gambol at my feet and I will ignore them. I am going to fire up the kiln and MAKE something today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Profit vs. Dream

The Starbucks Barista mugs--of which the Skyline is one series--hold an entire Starbucks grande coffee: 16 oz. of caffeine-laced black gold. Today it is the New York mug which holds the coffee and it does, indeed, hold real Starbucks coffee. While I was in Chicago at the beginning of December for the One of a Kind Show and Sale I bought the Skyline Chicago mug. When I got back to Atlanta I decided to get one for another friend from Chicago who also happens to live here as a Christmas gift. Lo and behold, you can't buy them online! In fact, for the series I like--the Skyline series--you almost can't buy them at all anymore! This series ran from 2002-2003 and the mugs were only sold in their own cities. Of course there is a technological solution to my acquisitional dilemma: eBay. I have avoided eBay just about as well as I have avoided blogging... until now. I am obsessed with the Starbucks mugs--but I digress. Again.

About this morning. After finding out that the mugs were only available in their particular cities, I called around to all the Atlanta Starbucks locations in search of an Atlanta Skyline mug. One of the people I talked to was Bill at the Starbucks across from Emory University. He said he was looking for a Chicago mug and he had a Barcelona mug he would trade for it. Well I couldn't pass that opportunity up! So I called around to all the Starbucks close to my in-laws in Aurora, IL and found one. Then I called the in-laws and begged them to pick it up and mail it to me. They did one better: they went to another Starbucks and found me THREE mugs! So this morning I met Bill at the Starbucks across from Emory and we swapped mugs. So the obvious question here is "Why am I not drinking out of the brand spanking new Barcelona mug this morning?" and the answer is because it is for my sweetie in rememberance of our trip to Barcelona four and a half years ago.

The next big question is "Why am I drinking coffee and writing about Starbucks?". Isn't this blog supposed to be about glass and writing a book? Glass today, sadly, is another day from hell pouring over the tiny scraps of paper and entering them all into the computer to come up with the answer to the question "Was I profitable last year?". I am pessimistic about the answer--and thus in no hurry to arrive at it--as being a glass artisan (artist, artiste, craftsperson, WHATEVER) is not about profit. Starving for one's art is not a figure of speech and I am damn lucky to be married to a software genius who keeps the mortgage paid and the Sprout (Jessie) fed and clothed. So I close today with the final question, "Why do we do what we do?" Is it for money, out of habit, because we love it, not so easy to say, for responsibility or out of a sense of obligation, or for something else entirely or a combination of all of the above (and how much of each)? What would we be willing to "give up" to "follow our dream"? (Quotes because those are the standard phrases which stand for a much more complex life choice).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Time to Unveil the "News"

Today's mug is the Starbucks Skyline Series Chicago. Chicago is and always will be my favorite because so many great things happened to me in that city: I met my husband, I met my best friends, and I started my own glass studio in 1987. I also spent a not inconsiderable amount of time in the University of Chicago's graduate program in linguistics pursuing a PhD (and catching a Master's), and a much smaller bit of time as faculty and then staff at Northwestern University pursuing a career outside of glass and realizing the futility of trying to work in an office setting from 9-5.

So here’s the news… As is my want, I placed an ad in the Regional Showcase in the January edition of the Crafts Report magazine. In it was a picture of my latest sushi set: a red platter with orange, yellow, turquoise, dark blue and green plates in the paisley series. It came out in mid-December and a few days later I got an email from the executive assistant to the president of a well-known publisher of books on crafting. She wanted to know if I, as a professional glass artisan, would be interested in authoring a book in my field. I said sure! Who doesn't want to see her name in print? So she asked me for a resume and some more examples of my work as my website has a beautiful front page (a gift of from a very dear friend) but the rest is non-existent. I sent it all out. She wrote back that it looked good and asked me if I would prepare an outline of said book to make sure my ideas matched what they were looking for. I angsted. I angsted for several days until I woke up one night and from 2:30 am till 4:30 am (some of my best time for thought and anxiety) I figured out what needed to be written.

Then I sat down with my Starbucks Skyline Series Chicago mug (see, you knew that intro was going somewhere) and I began to craft an outline. I sat at my kitchen table in the hard wooden chair until my butt was numb and my feet were frozen stiff, and I wrote everything I had thought of the night before. It took literally four hours. And when I saw it was done and sent it out, I was at peace. The publisher’s response was “Wow!” followed by “Can we get a few more examples of your work, please?”. So I Picassaed. Picassa is a wonderful, free, picture management software owned by Google. I allows you to gather together in one viewing all the pictures that are scattered hither and yon across directories, computers and external storage devices. I found pictures of work that I had forgotten I had and I sorted and picked and chose and sent. Five emails with an average of ten pictures each. The response, again, was “Wow!” followed by, “Hope to get back to you at the end of this week or early next week”.

So Friday came and so did a phone call. “We would like to offer you a book contract, are you interested? We would like to go to press in Spring 2007 so you would need to have all copy to us in September. We are looking at a hardcover format with glossy color photos about 128 pages long. What do you think?” My turn to go “Wow!”

So that was Friday and today is Monday. The contract goes into the mail to me tomorrow and I am to go over it with a fine tooth comb and ask any questions I may have about it. I am not naïve: I am a first-time author writing contracted non-fiction. My chances of altering anything in the contract are slim to none. But will I sign it anyway? Can’t think of any reason right now why not.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What a professional glass artisan REALLY does

I have my first cup of coffee in front of me in the ridiculously huge and absolutely necessary New York City Starbucks Skyline Series mug. It is absolutely necessary as today, January 15, I sit in front of my laptop and try to remember/enter into Quickbooks/resolve all of my expenses since June 2005. It is Sunday, a day of rest for some. I must be wicked as there is no rest for me. Every January I spend days trying to find all the wrinkled receipts and little scraps of paper on which I have written mileage and expenses without receipts. Then I enter them all into Quickbooks (which I use to manage my business finances) and balance them against Quicken (which we use for our family finances). I wouldn't have to do this step if I always used the business credit card to pay for business expenses and maintained a real petty cash system. But, duh, "artisan", not merchant, not banker, not stock broker, not accountant...

The financial management process (and the process of writing this blog) is made more difficult by the background sounds of my husband kicking a dead ladybug under the couch in front of my four year-old daughter who tragically proclaims at the top of her lungs "Her name is Martha and he killed her!". So I digress.

An obvious question at this point is "So what does this have to do with the exciting new path in the journey?" and the answer is "nothing". This blog picks up in the middle of my life as a professional glass artisan. A lot has already happened. I hope a lot more will happen. There will soon be some very exciting events that I wish to be ready to chronicle as they happen.

Much of this journey I am on is spent on mind-numbing "other things" and today is slated for "finance". Tomorrow is "website renovation" if I get "finance" done today (not likely).Tuesday is for "slippage", the technical term for "I have no idea how long this will really take" + real life. Maybe I will actually make it into the studio and work with glass on Wednesday. Or maybe I will have to spend all Wednesday on cleaning and annual organization (I did inventory last week and one of the things I inventoried was number of dust bunnies. It was impressive).

So "heigh ho, heigh ho"... or maybe I will pick up where I left off yesterday. I spent the entire day figuring out the html required to change the look of this blog. I picked the nicest template I could find, but a template is not personal. At the end of the day I had it mostly done and then I rolled back all the changes I had spent the day on opting to keep a perfect, pristine look over a not-quite-finished, far-from-polished but personal look. Maybe the colors are not all changed and coordinated and some of the graphics are a bit weird, and who knows if all the links and actions will work right, but the point of this blog is the journey. Now I am meta-blogging. Anything to avoid spreadsheets and Quickbooks!

Saturday, January 14, 2006


A long journey took a new path yesterday, and I am finally compelled to begin logging it. I am embarking on an adventure which looks to come packed with many exciting and frustrating experiences worth noting. But for tonight (or rather early this morning) it is enough to get this page up. Real content can come tomorrow.