Saturday, December 29, 2007

Topsy Turvy Week

Coffee in the Washington DC mug, a clock ticking and the refrigerator humming are my background music this morning. Is eggnog good in coffee? I'm afraid to try it to find out. I am the parent of a six year-old teenager. Yesterday she deigned to rise at 10:00, who knows when she'll grace me with her presence this morning (afternoon?). So it's Saturday and I am posting, what can I say? It's been a topsy-turvy week. Dave is already at work, and I will spend at least a couple of hours in the studio today. And where have I been the rest of the week? I took Thursday and Friday OFF. Oh, I still fired three loads in two days, but the big loads were just slumps of the long rectangular platters and I only spent about 45 minutes a day in the studio to do them. I took a much-needed well-deserved rest and READ A BOOK. Today I finish the last of the cutting and I fire a fuse load, crack that whip.

I think I'll also put the shipping room (which holds all the finished work) back together. It's still upside down from my trip to Chicago. The rest of the glass work I have looming will be done on the computer. Website, finances, logistics for upcoming shows (hotels, shipping choices, storage options, etc.), class offerings for the coming year, the suppliers list and actual supplies list for the book, and a column on start-up costs and considerations for Profitable Glass are all due in the short to mid time frame. If I'm really good, next week I'll finish painting the studio.

The J has awoken and nestles next to me on the arm of my comfy chair, jostling my elbow (and lecturing me about the size of germs--"They're not invisible, they're just so small you can't see them"--after having sneezed on my gingerbread). She squiggles so much it's hard to write or concentrate, it's time to get on with the day. Later I'll try to write a review of last year and a plan for next. Some call it resolutions. I call it a call to battle and a girding of the loins.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Glass Artist Solders Electronics

Coffee in the Los Angeles skyline mug, "You Sexy Thing" covered by the Tom Tom Club (from Ren's Happy Happy Happy Mix) on iTunes. Is it a new year yet? It feels like a new year, and at the same time, it's the same old, same old. Though I didn't post Christmas Eve or Day, I fired both (and Saturday and Sunday). I'm back in the no-days-off-till groove again. This time it's for the gift order of 114 long rectangular platters due January 10. Oh man is this mix HAPPY! "Bongo Bong/Je Ne T'aime" by Robbie Williams now playing on iTunes. If it doesn't spice me up for a full-throttle day, nothing will. (Thanks Ren!)

It's Boxing Day. I wish we were celebrating in the time-honored fashion (laying around drinking, eating, and watching the telly). But I sent Dave off to work today sporting his new CinnaBoost (shown here attached to the backpack with carabiner and the saga of the creation of which is narrated in today's Stranded in the South). The hanging jump ring sets mine apart from all the other Minty and CinnaBoosts: Dave asked if there was a way I could make it a hanging tool for his backpack, and a hammer, two sizes of nails, a keyring and a couple of pairs of pliers later...

Already today I have fired two orders in one kiln load and ordered some frit from Hoy's as I discovered over the weekend that I don't have enough of the sky blue transparent for the big gift order. Gack. Now to finish posting and get on to wading through a year's worth of finances. No rest for the wicked.

Friday, December 21, 2007

All is Calm...

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "Peace Child (O Come Emmanuel)" by The Normals on iTunes. The shuffle's battery was dead this morning so I'm back to listening through the computer's iTunes again. At least I have finished the audiobook that wasn't in audiobook format so wouldn't mark where you stopped and restart from there (oy) on the iPod so I can use it again. As I write my post, J is working on the last of the Christmas presents she is making. I have to get them in the mail today to Illinois. My UPS driver told me yesterday that he thought Monday was a holiday for them, which gave me quite a scare. Luckily for me, he was WRONG.

This morning Stacy comes and brings her daughter Grace--I have the apex of a flexible, real-life, productive, powerful and fun business here. Stacy and I will work, Grace and Jessie will play. No corporate office with a dress code, rigid hours, and no children allowed for us. Which is not to say there won't be work--I fired 17 pieces yesterday of which two need to be slumped today to ship Monday. Today, another 20-21. I am experimenting with incorporating opal frit into my Morceaux de Verre style. I am trying for something more substantial in color weight without sacrificing the depth of the transparent glass. I also have the "Enjoy" bowl commission to spur me on. The first effort was not as vibrant as I'd hoped. The opals--even with a lot of clear large frit included--were just too flat feeling.

In addition to glass (and another playdate for Jessie this afternoon with one of her Waldorf classmates--next I'll put on pearls and a lace apron, bake cookies, and cement my role as June Cleaver) I have a Christmas gift to... assemble, another one to *start* knitting, and some home electrical work and plumbing to do (one fried dimmer, one dimmer to put back, one major leaky faucet to repair and two occasionally leaky faucets to give the fish-eye... I may just buy a laundry tub when I'm at Home Depot getting the dimmer and hire the plumber to take care of all the water work--I know that's the solution Dave would like best!).

Christian has begun the work on the websites and I think I'm just going to bite the bullet and do it all the way I want instead of cobbling and making due. Blog, group list, catalog, everything all incorporated into the site as appropriate and all the sites seamlessly in one place for management. Wish us luck.

J is calling for breakfast, actually, no she's not--she got the cream cheese out of the fridge, the bagel and the knife and she's making her own breakfast. I love having an autonomous child! Just six years old and self-sufficient! Next she'll be driving herself to school. Oh wait, she can't reach the pedals. Oh well, in a few years. Now off to glass.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Vacation is Here (For Some...)

Coffee in the Denver skyline mug, "What Child is This?" covered by Sarah McLachlan on iTunes (no, Jessie, the song isn't from the movie XXX... too much media in my child's diet perhaps?). I begin my stream-of-consciousness (and send warm thoughts to Bill in cold Minnesota). UPS, those wily boys in brown, are up to their tricks again. I really hate it when my regular driver, Al, is either on vacation or supplemented by holiday help. The Next Day Air package I scheduled to go out yesterday to Seattle did not get picked up. In spite of repeated calls to USP customer service, repeated assurances on their part that it would get picked up, and the driver entering into the on-line system that it HAD been picked up, it was still sitting on the porch at 6:30 this morning. LALALALA, It's beginning to look a lot like disembowelment, uh, I mean CHRISTMAS. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" (covered by Bing Crosby) is on the iPod. I particularly like the line "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again...". It's nice to see some things never change.

Today for J is the first day of Christmas vacation. Today for me is the first day of cutting and firing the 114-platter order. For Dave it is just another day in the run-up-to-the-Primaries hell (his team is working on rewriting CNN's election software and the move-up of the democratic primary dates has really boogered things up--everyone wants to be first, and, really, Iowa and New Hampshire deciding the candidates?). We still haven't even put up the rest of the Christmas decorations (outdoor garland and lights, lights on the piano, decorated J's tree... oh I am a bad Mom!). At least the presents are bought and (mostly) shipped.

But glass, glass, glass. This morning--and every morning except Christmas--for the next couple of weeks in the studio. This afternoon--and for many afternoons over the next two weeks until she goes back to school--a playdate at our house for one of J's school chums. During the playdate I will be at home instead of in the studio, and I will be working on end-of-the-year finances, class offerings, a supplier's list, marketing plans, and websites. The days are full.

But first, a quick run to the post office to pick up a package. Stay safe, stay warm, stay happy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Glass is Here

Coffee in the Washington D.C. mug, "Agnes and the Hitman" by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer on the iPod. Yep it's an audiobook! Started it on the way home from Chicago with Mom, then listened all the way to and from Greenville yesterday--and going to Greenville's the reason I was up so early yesterday. Today I am going to finish listening to it--and cleaning up a bunch of loose paperwork ends. But first I am going to receive and unload a delivery of glass from Bullseye and begin the cutting on the first load of platters for the gift order (114 Pacifica long rectangular platters... whoo hoo!).

As nice as all the little to-do items are, I have been thinking a lot lately about posting and the purpose of this blog. I write every morning as I'm getting organized for the day, and my postings reflect this action of mental organization. Boring. By mid afternoon I usually think of something that would be really interesting and pertinent--at least for other glass people--and that I culd write much much more eloquently. But I don't write in the afternoon so my postings consist of organization in the morning, and we're back to boring. I think I'm going to experiment over the next few days with alternating posting times to see if I can write the more interesting things I'm thinking about instead of the stream-of-consciousness organization that is my every morning.

Now off to fire. Keep warm all!

(I had to turn off the audiobook to write all that as I can't listen, concentrate on it and on what I'm writing, and type all at the same time. What a wuss!) PS--thanks, JK, for the info on QB for Mac...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greenville

No coffee, it's brewing... a lot of it, the gurgle of the coffee maker--soon to be replaced by an audiobook in the car--is my music. Off to Greenville today to work on my new display for the February Buyer's Market with Bill and Elaine from Elliott Metal Works. Maybe pics tomorrow. We are sharing a 20 X 20 space and need to optimize the layout for our individual and combined needs.

But right now it's only 4:25 am and I am not awake enough for a really coherent post. Maybe more later when I get home, maybe more tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2007

'Tis the Week Before Christmas

Coffee in the Alaska skyline mug (in recognition of the newly arrived cold weather), "The First Noel/ Mary, Mary" by Sarah McLachlan on the shuffle (coming through the stereo receiver). It's 27 degrees out there! Last week 72, this week 27... that's a pretty major flip.

Tis the week before Christmas and all through the studio,
Not a project is firing, though many are due.
The kilns are all waiting, patient and true,
They know that the artist soon will be through...

And it's true, this afternoon I'll be grinding and fitting two lattice panels to prepare them to ship tomorrow from Greenville. Before I tackle the lattices, there are two orders to ship out along with all the last-minute gifts for our family in far-flung parts of the world (destinations today:Polson Montana, Montgomery Illinois and Chatou France). But first, ikebana (mizuhiki today!) and wrangling finances for both home and business. Ugh.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun! Friday!

Coffee in the New Orleans skyline mug, "Emmanuel" covered by William Ackerman on iTunes. Two days have passed since my return from Chicago and I am finally slipping back into the groove. I fused a couple of pieces in Middle Ground yesterday and will slump them today. Today I will also fuse two Cosmos lattice panels--the last of my show orders and do a little experimenting with an opal bowl in frit. I return to opals from time to time to see if I can work out a series like Morceaux de Verre that is predominantly opaque glass. The timing of today's experiment is driven by a commission I got yesterday as a follow-up to the One of a Kind Show. A man wants a gift for a friend in the colors of the Red Rock Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Pumpkin, paprika, and pea, with a dash of gray, white and black. The closest matches I have for the colors are opals so I'm off to blend and play again.

Stacy is coming to the studio today too, and I want to plan the next steps for finishing it up (painting, furnishing, etc.) and spring marketing with her. All this needs to happen before 1:00 as I pick J up then and we are going to make little Christmas ornaments before she goes to Fun Friday. While I am not taking official vacation time over the next couple of weeks, I am planning to work less. My glass order from Bullseye comes next Wednesday, and Thursday I need to begin firing every day to get the corporate gift pieces done for January. I hope to be able to do the kiln loads first thing every morning so I can spend the rest of the days with the J while she is on winter break. And I will take off Christmas Day completely.

Oh yes, and in the next couple of days I need to knit J a pair of fuzzy slippers for school. She has a pair of fuzzy store-bought slippers, but she doesn't like them and so wears the "borrowing slippers" from school everyday--they're a much-worn, much-loved pair of big-yarn knit slippers. That'll give me three active projects on the needles--Dave's sweater (from several years ago) J's coat and now socks. Hands gotta be busy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alone Again

Coffee in the Denver skyline mug, "Blue Christmas" covered by Dean Martin on iTunes. It was a random selection, but I am nonetheless a bit sad today. Yesterday was supposed to be a tri-generational crafting, bonding, relaxing day with the women of the family. And it almost was. I started the morning by beginning the Christmas shopping on-line. Jessie and Mom got a leisurely start on the day and then Mom went to print out her boarding pass for today, but she couldn't because *her flight had already left*. And the day went to hell in a handbasket after that.

How did we *both* have the wrong departure day? We were both so sure she was leaving today. My Dad had already left Polson for Missoula to pick her up so I couldn't reach him to let him know she had missed her plane (cell phone? don't make me laugh). The Missoula County Airport at Johnson Bell Field in Missoula Montana does not have a paging system. It has very nice people from the luggage handlers to the counter staff to the airport police--and I talked to many of them in an effort to get a message to my very hard-of-hearing-almost-80-year-old Dad. Northwest found Mom a place on a Delta flight connecting with Alaska Airlines through Seattle and we got her to the airport and checked in for a 4:45 pm flight.

About two hours after Mom's original flight arrived in Missoula I got a collect call from the airport--which didn't come through ("Yes I'll accept the charges. Hello? Hello? Dad?".... silence)--but with three more phone attempts on their part and mine I *finally* got connected to my Dad and passed him the message to get a motel room for the night and to pick Mom up at 11:00 pm when she arrived in Missoula (neither of them can see well enough to drive the mountain roads at night).

It was an exciting, stressful day, and not recommended. Now I am alone listening to Christmas carols and posting. This afternoon sees the last day of gymnastics and ballet until after the new year, and late this morning I'm going to see about heading to Olympic to check out their big kiln. I am more and more dubious that I will be able to make it fit, but I owe them a look see.

next week and I'll begin on the Big Order. And seeing as it's December, I need to start all of my expenses from 2007 in Other than that, I am tying up loose ends and last orders. My glass should be in from BullseyeenteringQuickbooks... Oh I hate that job. If I had been better about doing it all year it would be... easier. Now I don't think I even can get all my PayPal transactions downloaded--I don't think they maintain a long enough transaction history. *sigh* *sigh* *sigh*.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Studio (and Life) Marches On

Coffee in the Montreal mug, "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues (Dave's new Christmas anthem) on iTunes. Got the van unloaded yesterday and everything mostly stowed. It's a bit dismaying to realize that with all the space in the new studio there's still nowhere to put the show supplies (tents, pipe and drape poles, walls, shelving, lights, stands, etc.). As I was walking across the yard I thought about putting in another shed--this time there instead of in our backyard. Oy.

Yesterday was a studio-thinking day in other ways too. I had a conversation with the head of business development for our neighborhood association and Thursday evening I am going over to meet briefly with him, his wife, and a couple of newly-arrived-in-our-community lawyers who are also interested in developing the small businesses here. Unlike many neighborhoods, ours is a diverse and complicated little inner-city hood that consists of more than manicured lawns and two-car garages--in fact I'm not sure we have any manicured lawns and two-car garages. So the concerns of the association and its mandate also differ from the typical neighborhood/homeowner associations. We have businesses in our neighborhood--all around the new studio as a matter of fact--and helping direct what kind and how they grow is the provenance of the neighborhood association. I will need to get the studio property rezoned if I want to formally operate a gallery and teaching studio there, and meeting with the neighborhood association is the starting point for that long road.

Yesterday I also measured the kiln room for Bettina and there is no way the Olympic kiln with the measurements given is going to be doable. Yes, it would fit in the room, but there would only be a 1-1.5 foot walkway between her and Bertha. I am going to see about going out to Olympic tomorrow and looking at her in person to see if there is any way to adjust the width.

Today, however, is a Day Off (more or less). I do need to fuse a couple of pieces for orders that I need to ship this week from the One of a Kind Show and a gallery, but other than that I am spending the day with my mom and my daughter. Mom goes back home to Montana tomorrow so Jessie stayed home from school today to spend some time with her. We are going to make little Christmas ornaments for packages, decorate Jessie's tree (a little live Virginia pine that I am going to plant in the backyard in the spring), hunt for acorn caps for the little dolls I am going to try to make, and just hang together.

It's going to be 72 degrees here today and "White Christmas" covered by Rosemary Clooney is on iTunes... my live is just chock full of dichotomies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Home

Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, "Home" by Marc Broussard on iTunes. Trite, true and not random. Home is where the heart is and my heart being with Dave and Jessie, my home is in Atlanta. Damn glad it's not Arkansas. Neither this five year-old, nor his grandfather nor his father should be at all proud that he killed a 445 lb bear. From a blind in a tree with a rifle for no purpose other than sport--and because they had a tag... I'm from a hunting family and I'm ashamed of and for them. But this story is not going to sidetrack me from my morning or my post!

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" covered by Sarah McLachlan is now on iTunes. That's better.

Got home and (mostly) beat the ice. The load out was about an hour and a half yesterday--longer than in previous years, but it didn't stop us from making it through the beginnings of the ice and freeze in Indiana and on home. We had everything packed up and ready to go by 9:30 on Sunday, then went back to the room for a bottle of red (one less bottle to pack!) and room service sandwiches before crashing. Crashing hard but not for nearly as long as either of us would have liked. Poor Mom got a cold not too long after our arrival in Chicago but carried on like a trooper nonetheless.

So how was the show? It was Okay. I did a brief, informal survey of other artists at after the end on Friday and the unanimous response to the question, "How was your show?" was "Okay." As was the case last year there were artists--a lot more then there should have been--who didn't even make expenses. I hope the show provides them some other value than immediate income--exposure, recognition, credentials, future income... something. The ones that I saw who looked busy throughout and who had a product that I thought would do well were the ones who said "Okay". Even the gourmet food vendors said "Okay". Money is tight for everyone, and shows are just tough right now. I'm glad I got the first of the corporate-gift orders to provide me with a decent income for January as I wouldn't have it otherwise.

I had the same sales as last year just about to the penny, but my expenses were a lot higher--$1,000 in hotel, $4,300+ in booth and then there's gas, parking, and meals. Of course it's not over till way after it's over, and I still might still get a couple of big orders. But this time my response to the show is really not about the money--it was only okay because I was too tired from all the work I had to do to prepare for it (and move the studio) and missing my family too much to get into the spirit of it. I grumbled and groused my way through the week and was a general sour puss (internally, if not obviously).

It was good to see old customers and friends. It was good to get to talk about my work with people who had never seen it before, it was great to sign the book, demo a piece and watch people frantically taking down everything I said as I did... but I was (am)... tired. At the end of the show one of the staff came around to ask me if I was planning to do it again next year and I said I'd have to think about it. If I had had to make up my mind right then I'd have said no. But Dave made me promise not to make any decisions there, to wait till I'm rested and not so... broken... anymore.

So now I rest and mend. And soon I paint (the rest of the studio) while I wait for my next glass order from Bullseye to get in next week. Oh yes, and I do Christmas crafts with my daughter, and I make, buy and wrap presents. I might even post on Stranded in the South. I'll still be on Glass Incarnate for the rest of the year, I just won't BE glass incarnate for awhile.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Day Interminable

No coffee, much heater humming (what is it with these noisy room heaters?!?) for music--that and Mom's dulcet, genteel snores. We are both way tired. I am letting her sleep in this morning as today is the Big Day and we have to pack everything up after the show finishes at 5:00. Lat year the pack-up took us till 10:00...

Yesterday afternoon I did a little kiln-forming demonstration in front of the demo stage and thanks to Christian, I have photos! Yesterday was all about the schmooz. I sold a modest number of small pieces and one or two medium and big pieces, but the big talk was The Book. I had several people come in to tell me how much they liked it--one of them the owner of a a store selling supplies and materials for stained and kiln-formed glass. She said several people have told her what a great book it is, and I got a warm fuzzy glow. She also asked if I teach classes... I need to get that class list made up!

Dinner last night was sushi with old friends/customers who came down from Wisconsin to do the show. I gave them free passes to it a couple of years ago and now they are regulars who break their piggy bank on beautiful art and craft annually. On a happy-I-am-not-staying-out-in-the-suburbs note, we left the restaurant last night in the freezing rain. Freezing rain that had coated the sidewalks and was encroaching on the streets. The walk back to the hotel was treacherous enough--I can't imagine what it would have been like to have to drive somewhere (and to have to drive back in this morning...).

Yesterday was the birthday of my neighbor across the aisle, Royal. We're southerners together, he's from Birmingham. (Did I just say I'm a southerner... whoa.) It was also Jeff's wife Jessie's birthday. What are the odds that I meet two new people at this show and they both have the same birthday AND it's during the show? (C'mon Dave, what ARE the odds?).

Getting on towards 9:00. Best be getting my charges authorized and getting gussied up for the show. (A Southerner!)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Day Three of Four... Gulp

Coffee was hours ago and came out of a little machine after I picked kind, strength and cup size... why do I have the feeling it wasn't really "brewed"? The sounds of happy shoppers are my music this morning. Day Three of the One of a Kind Show dawned at 10:00 (we all have our own version of dawn) and is now waning into afternoon. Yesterday turned out to be a very good day culminating in the sale of one of the wall lattice pieces. I also found new homes for one symbol piece (Carolina in Love) and four large round pieces in stands. Christmas is saved! Shoes for everyone!

Today I am having a great day seeing friends--both old customers and other artists--and talking technique with beginning kiln formers who have come to buy my book. But I am not having a good day selling my work. Today is the day of the Christmas gift shopper, and not for BIG pieces. Can you say "sushi plate"? Good thing I brought a lot of sushi plates. I need to go raise my blood sugar--lack of food is making me cranky.

The day started with a bang--I was asked if I had a big piece to put in the fine art gallery area to replace a piece that sold yesterday. Said piece--Cosmos in Love--is strategically placed at the entrance to the gallery in front of James the bartender (Hi James!). I will be visiting James the bartender later today... Hopefully after selling many more large pieces and no more "Would you take price - 30% for it?" questions.

I have a presentation on making sheet mica and fusing it into glass on the demonstration stage at 4:30 so I had better run. Oh yeah, and I'll take care of that blood sugar thing too.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Day 2--Too Bad I'm Not Selling Gourmet Salsa

No coffee, more kept consoling myself with the thought that "It's only a half day", but it wasn't. It was nine hours and the people around me who weren't selling gourmet food didn't selling anything. I had a few small pieces go, but not enough to make the rent. Fingers crossed today will be a MUCH better day.

On the plus side, it was slow enough that I got to chat with old friends and make a couple of great trades--content-management-based web service set-up for FeSiO and Siyeh Studio from Christian, and a psaltry (with music, a tuner and some harp music cd's) for Jessie for Christmas from Jeff. Heck, I gotta get that wine in the car somehow. If I can't sell the big pieces I'll at least trade them for something smaller!

On the minus side, I would rather be home with Seraph the red-antlered reindeer and the rest of my family. This may well be the last year I do this show. The winter travel can be very dodgy, it takes place at a time of the year I would like to be preparing for Christmas, Love and Good Cheer with my family and friends, and so far the sales just don't warrant the effort. Okay, that's enough negativity loosed into the world.

In spite of the slow sales, we had a fun night last night. Got out of the show about 9:30 and jostled in the snow for a cab. You might wonder why we needed a cab when we're staying across the street, but the answer should be obvious: The Quest for the Harold's Chicken Holy Grail (Harold IS the Chicken King). We took the cab to north Milwaukee arriving just in time to get our order before they closed. I could have placed my order over the Internet and paid with PayPal, but that just would have been wrong. I called it in.

When we were so late picking it up they called me on my cellphone to see where we were and to let me know they were closing in 15 minutes. Is that great service or what? Back in the room with our Harold's feast (tell me why I ordered *four* six-wing dinners again?) smothered in Hot AND Barbecue sauces, we opened a bottle of wine club red (if I can't fit it in the car to get it home, I can at least drink it!) and watched (chose and paid for, even) Evan Almighty on the t.v. Hey, I know! I should just think of this as a vacation instead of as a business trip...

Now off to the show!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Getting Ready to Go To The Show

No coffee (yet, of course), more hum of heater for music... it's 6 degrees outside. I'm glad I don't need to venture out today. Ooops. Got the obligatory show run to Staples ahead. Darn. I guess I'll freeze after all. Or maybe I'll send Mom--she still lives in Montana so she's used to the cold. Heh. It's weird to be all set-up (and mostly on time! We were out by 8:00 last night.) and not able to get back on the floor to fiddle until 11:00 this morning--an hour before opening. I'm sure I'll manage to fill the time with some kind of putzing.

I did not get the order for 400 pieces yesterday afternoon. The male client decided to go with electronics as the gift instead. The woman wanted art, the man wanted tech toys. Go figure. As a result, I can get the 114 pieces I did get an order for done in Big Bertha so I am putting the decision on the new kiln on hold, again. There are strong pros and some cons to both options and I am just not comfortable making such a big decision while on the road and unable to measure the space for the seventeenth time and not having even seen one of the options.

The One of a Kind Show begins today. I am wondering if it is a reflection of the tough economy in the arts and crafts market that I am seeing more artists from the Buyer's Market doing this show than ever before (the Buyer's Market is a wholesale show where artists sell directly to galleries and the One of a Kind Show is retail). Or maybe it's just that everyone has heard what a good show it is and wants to jump on the bandwagon. I have my hopes that it will be a good show, but I admit to being more nervous about it than I have been in years past. Part of my nervousness is due to the enormous quantity of work that I have that I don't want to schlep back to Atlanta with me! Got to have room in the van for all that wine...

Now it's time to make the price labels and send an invitation email to everyone I can think of with free passes for the show. In case you are reading this post and don't get email from me, here's a link to the on-line free pass. Drop by if you're in the neighborhood! Pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow!

No coffee, the hum of the heater as music. Last day of set-up before the show will begin with a run to the hardware store and Starbucks. Too much Greek food and wine last night at a lovely dinner with my in-laws at the Greek Islands Restaurant. It's a favorite. Dave and I celebrated our engagement there with Bill, Bridget, and a horde of other friends--Stuart and Andrea met at that dinner. Nostalgia wafts. After dinner, in the gently falling snow, my in-laws transferred a ton of wine and 100 of my books--both that I had had shipped to them--to my mini-van and Mom and I brought them back to the hotel. I had better sell a whole lotta stuff or I'm not going to have room in the car to get everything back to Atlanta!

Snow. I am so woefully unprepared. I have my wool overcoat, a remnant from the days when I lived here, and the thick leather and wool gloves that live in its pockets. And I brought two pairs, flat and heeled, of stylish leather boots. But I didn't bring *snow* boots and this morning we need to run to Ace Hardware (there's a huge one just down the street--takes up about a whole city block, all underground)... in the snow. And today, being set-up, I need to wear my lime green Crocs. Crocs in the snow. Oy.

Dan the carpenter took up the kiln room floor yesterday and reinforced it for the new kiln. The Olympic kiln that I am looking at (GF15E) is side and top firing with independent controls for all the elements. She is substantially heavier than Bertha, and needs 68"-74" clearance from the wall--tight for a room that already holds Big Bertha. She's also only 60" long, but she's 12" deep (Bertha is only 9" deep) and she's kiln brick with a solid lid so she can be fired to 1700 degrees F--helpful for doing melts. It's my recollection that Bertha is only supposed to be fired to 1600 degrees--and I know her front buckles in at really high temps (I love her anyway). Timing for the Olympic is good--I can have her next week on my return from Chicago--and she's a local girl so I can probably get Thomas the tow truck guy to pick her up and deliver her for me.

The Denver kiln I am looking at is Big Bertha's twin (just like this one but 72" long instead of 60"). She's lighter, and a known quantity--fiber blanket sides, ceramic board lid, top-firing only--but she can't be here for 4-6 weeks. Delivery will also be an issue as she's too big for a lift gate and I don't have a loading dock. Price and electrical requirements are the same for both... Oh the kiln room will be really crowded if I get the Olympic! On the other hand, it will be well-nigh impossible to do the big corporate gift order if I don't as I did get the "little", initial corporate gift order for 114 due by mid-January (Christmas is saved! Shoes for everyone!).

Now it's time to get my Bullseye order put together with numbers both including and not the big order. I find out at 5:40 PM today about the big order. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Then it's Off to the Show! The last time a pre-show was this fraught for me was the Buyer's Market in February 2006 when I was negotiating my book contract. Yee, yee, yee.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Elizabethtown

No coffee--going to have to fix that--and no music. Soon there'll be another audiobook in the car. Left Atlanta almost exactly 12 hours ago. Yep, do the math; finally got on the road at 5:45 PM. Made it as far as Elizabethtown and crashed--no, not the car, just the bodies--at the Hampton Inn. Hope to arrive in Chicago about noonish.

Let me explain the trials of yesterday, no, there's not enough time--leaving in five--so let me sum up: For the first time I couldn't fit everything into the minivan. In supreme overconfidence I canceled the Econoline on Sunday, sure I would be okay. he new plastic shelving we bought at Home Depot on Saturday was the casualty--it got replaced with a couple of small tables that are probably going to need to be augmented (and I have no idea where I'm going to put all the work and boxes at the show).

I found one kiln and am waiting to hear on the second. I did hear that the 110 pieces are a probable and the meeting for final approval on the 395 pieces is Wednesday afternoon. The one kiln I found is 1700 lbs and the lid-lifting system makes it 68" wide--a tough fit for the kiln room and no way for the floor. My carpenter is going to go in today and cut the existing plywood floor out, put a new floor support system in and put in a new 3/4" plywood floor... just in case. My wonderful assistant Stacy is going to supervise (and deal with the studio security alarm) in my absence. Yee Haw.

Made a commitment to do both jobs based on the availability of the first kiln (I can have it the day I get back from Chicago, it's almost built). Finally got to see the specs on the web just now... and it looks like there's no lid reinforcement to keep it from torquing, and, more importantly no lid elements--side-firing only. Oh great. That won't do at all.

The road to Chicago, something about insurmountable obstacles and imminent disaster. At least it didn't snow... oh wait.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Packing, Packing, Packing...

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug (of course), "Racing to the Red Light" by James McMurtry on iTunes. I should be ready to hit the road in the next, oh, six or eight hours. Won't make it to Chicago today. Might even have to get Mom to do some driving so I can work on the laptop and make some calls. Would have had pics of Seraph the red-pronged reindeer on this quick post but my Eye-Fi card chose this morning to futz out and not upload. I love technology... when it works.

Now off to pack clothes and other necessities, finish signing work and packing it, and then start loading the van. If you're in Chicago next weekend and would like to go to the show, let me know and I'll send you a free pass. And I'm in booth 7056... I'll also be selling signed copies of my book (flog that book!). Live from Indianapolis tomorrow am...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Deck the Halls and Hit the Road

Coffee in the Alaska skyline mug, the sound of J clearing the breakfast dishes as my background music. Ah, it's good to have a child old enough to do chores and get an allowance! The kilns are open and cooling in preparation for the final three loads before the show. I canceled my reservation for an Econoline van this morning. Yesterday I bought plastic utility shelving at Home Depot that I think is going to be strong enough--and that is definitely light enough--to hold all my backstock and packaging. Whether I'll have enough room for both packaging and backstock (with any storage system) remains to be seen. Since J is staying here (and not taking up space with a seat, a car seat and a body) and I have a lighter display, I am going to stick with the mini-van

I sat down yesterday and counted up all the work I have for this show and it is the same (by value, not by piece count) as it was last year. And last year I didn't fire nearly as much. What the heck? Then I looked at the pieces and now I get it. Last year I took everything I had--old series, fill-in work, whatever. This year I am only taking the most popular work--Morceaux de Verre and only certain colorways. As a result, all but about three pieces were made in the last... 12 days. Over $20,000 in glass in two weeks. I feel somewhat better about feeling like a corpse.

Now off to sign all the pieces, inventory the final total, get the last slump loads in and begin the packing. I watch Dave and Jessie bringing all the Christmas ornaments and other decoration down from the attic and I know that my day is just beginning.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Next Level

Coffee was long ago, "River" by Mary Chapin Carpenter on the iPod. I am in the studio. Pain au chocolat from Trader Joe's for a family breakfast then we acquired two Christmas trees--one cut for the living room and one live Virginia pine for J's room now and the backyard in January, a wreath that we'll decorate with pine cones, nandina berries, acorns and other findings from the yard, and the shelving I need for the show in Chicago next week. It was a great morning.

I wait for the kilns to cool so I can load them for the day. The last fuse load I think, even though Bertha is already loaded with molds for a slump. That'll give me tomorrow to finish any edges that need it and clean the pieces from the fuse. Later this afternoon we'll put up the outdoor Christmas lights and garland and do the wreath. Tomorrow we'll decorate the tree--after the branches have fallen. It was interesting explaining to Mom why we would wait to decorate the tree. Dad always cut our trees and we brought them home from the forest (western Montana, remember?) so the limbs were never bound up for days on end necessitating time for them to relax and fall naturally again. Now my parents have an artificial tree and, again, no need to let the limbs fall.

I am as ready for this show as I can be, and the price--while high--has been acceptable. When I finish this post I'll count up my pieces to see what I actually have for the show. As usual, I made a plan weeks ago, I followed it, and I have no idea (right now) what it was.

For the curious out there, I met the rep for a company that provides corporate gift ideas to corporations. They initially contacted me to see if I would be interested in doing 100-150 shallow round dishes (7-1/2" round) in some color for a client here in Georgia by mid-January. I sent samples, and when they were presented to the client, she loved them. She loved them enough that she asked if I could do a bigger piece instead, say, the long rectangular platters (15 X 7). I said "Sure!" Then (in yet another phone call--all of them taking place between 3:00 and 4:00 pm Friday; the end of the business day and week for my suppliers) she asked if, instead of the 100 odd for mid-January, could I do 400 for the end of January for another event. I said (after a bit of quick exhaustion-hazed math), "Sure!" thinking I would be able to get another big kiln quickly. I compounded my absurd optimism by calling back a couple of minutes later and offering the possibility of doing BOTH the 100 for mid-January and the 400 for the end of January. Now keep in mind these are the same style (though not color) pieces I do for the winter gift catalog for Art Institute in Chicago. I have more than a little experience in whumping them out (and, no, Dee, no ground edges!).

After I got off the phone with her I did a quick pass of the manufacturers of the kilns I have been eyeing to supplement Bertha (I am going to name the new girl Bettina--Betty for short). I wasn't able to get a final answer from anyone at the end of the second Friday after Thanksgiving crouching before the impending December madness, though the initial response was 6-8 weeks as they all need to be custom built. But I am not worried. If I *had* to do it with just Bertha and a prayer, I could. I'd like to kill myself doing it, but I could. And the new kiln would arrive in time enough to provide some help.

In the meantime, I am talking to people on Monday about getting me a new kiln soonest. I'm talking to them from the road to Chicago. At Siyeh Studio the natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. So what do we do? Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well. How? I don't know. It's a mystery.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tired? There is No Word Great Enough

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "If Everyone Cared" by Nickelback on iTunes. "Amen, I'm alive..." and yes, that sums up the morning.

----------------------------

Now, many hours later, I am still alive (against all expectations and odds). Tired is not a descriptive enough, evocative enough, accurate, in fact, word. I am in the beyond tired. Sleep is something I usually slip slowly and lightly into. At first I'm laying on the mattress and everything is normal. But then I feel the first shifting of gravity--it doesn't exist for me anymore--and I languidly begin to leave my body for the place of sleep and dreams. I have a second or two to marvel at my weightlessness and to luxuriate in a feeling of total peace and relaxation before I go.

But for the past few days (weeks) going to sleep has been... faster. The night before last Dave and I went up to bed and, as is our want, we were talking as we snuggled under the covers. He said something, then I responded... and I fell asleep halfway through my sentence. I woke with a start as I finished talking, horror-struck with no idea what I had just said. Dave paused for a second, mulling over my utterance and then kindly said, "My heart, I think you have lost all your consonants. I'll help you find them in the morning." And that was that.

Thanks to Stacy, Dave, my Mom, Dee, and Jessie I have made it through the week and I will be ready to go to Chicago on Monday. While I'm driving up the road I'll be seeing if I can scare up a Bertha II by the end of December to help me complete an order for 400-500 long rectangular platters that I might be getting Monday (due the end of January). Am I INSANE?!?!?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vroom, Vroom

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, "Don't Waste Away" by James McMurtry on iTunes. Truer words were never written. Too bad the expenditure of energy and effort I am experiencing right now don't translate into weight loss. (The chocolate-dipped biscotti I'm munching on with my coffee are precluders to the whole weight-loss thing.) But who cares about weight? There's a show coming up next week! Against all odds--and for the first time ever--all of the firings scheduled over the past two weeks happened... and happened when they were scheduled. There has been no slippage.

The lack of slippage and sleep have made me cocky: last night I upped the ante and *added* a firing to the schedule. Big Bertha is now scheduled for *two, count them two* slump loads on Saturday. The only way to pull this off is to get today's and tomorrow's loads in early and earlier so she'll be cool enough to unload by 5:30 Saturday morning. One load at 6:00 am, the other at 10:00 pm, then Sunday's load at 2:00 pm so I can unload Sunday's load by noon on Monday... and hit the road for Chicago. Sounds pretty ambitious, doesn't it? But like I said, I'm feeling cocky. :-)

Today, J to school (check), dogs to groomer (check), minivan filled with gas and handed over to Stacy so she can meet Bill from EMW up in Commerce and get the rest of my stands for the show (check). Kilns wide open and cooling (check). But I have an appointment from 10:00-11:15 and I wanted Big Bertha's load in before it. Not going to happen. But it'll be in before I pick J up from school at 1:00. Then the rest of the class list for Hoy's, gymnastics for J, dogs from groomer, ballet for J, maybe even the fabric store with my Mom. Whew!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hump, Hump, HUMP DAY!

Coffee in the Montreal skyline mug, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor on iTunes. Not random, not chance. Maybe not haut musique, but appropriate this morning nonetheless. Today is the hump day to end all hump days. Yesterday I realized that I can no longer go it alone, and today I will be alone except for a couple of hours this morning. Yesterday I had help from both Dee and Stacy all day and for most of the day, respectively, and I just managed to get through the production tasks for the day. Nothing more was written (though I did get the GPQ article in)--including the class list. And yet the day was non-stop, jampacked. Today promises to be more of the same (though I did promise my spouse I wouldn't "overdo"--a subject for a post in itself, and not for today's).

Yesterday Stacy did morceaux duty and frit refill, Dee helped move yet more crap from the basement to the studio and then did inventory with me. She ended the day (from mid-day on) by doing the second grind (100 grit) of the edges of the little sushi/chocolate/tapas plates (the plates for whatever little thing you like to eat). Stacy did the wash and third edge inspection/diamond handpad grind (220 grit). I did the first grind (60 grit, I'm in a hurry). I made 140 of those little plates for the show and right now I'm thinking $32 is not enough for them to make them worthwhile to do. Fuse a sheet, cut it into five plates, do two grinds, wash and handpad for chips, slump. That's a lot of hands-on time for a piece that measures 3-1/2" X 8" and retails for $32. On the other hand, they are always the hottest seller at this show. Last year it looked like the sale table at Filene's Basement with the women clustered around them almost snatching the different colors out of each other's hands.

To continue on the topic of not going back... Bill (EMW) called to see how I was doing and to ask if I really wanted to be this busy. I said okay and it's okay. But his question made me stop and think for a moment and realize that, even though she's only been with me a couple of weeks, I would have a hard time going back to working without Stacy. And Dee has been dropping in once or twice a week since I got this studio to just hang and help out. And she really works--there is no just sitting and chatting. Yesterday I didn't even take time for lunch--I grabbed cold leftovers straight out of the fridge and ate them standing by the sink while I was waiting for Mom to finish up what she was doing and get her shoes on so we could go pick J up from school.

I still don't have time to update my website, work on my display for next year, manage customer data, or create focused mailings. And I have help! Before you even think it, no I can't hire someone else. I can't afford it. Yes, more business, but now also more expenses--rent, formal utilities of every variety, and more materials... lots more materials. Maybe I'll be surprised at the income that will come in--let's face it, unless I am doing something radically wrong more work means more money--but who has time to sit down and do financial stuff?!? After the One of a Kind Show. Many things are put off till then.

Now off to fire--a bazooka today, I think. And I won't even aim it at Bill (who so kindly keeps sending me drinks through Facebook).

PS--Thank you Sue for the lovely review on Amazon! I really appreciate that you took the time to write it when you are so busy yourself right now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Transcendental

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "Pornographer's Dream" by Suzanne Vega on iTunes. I had a completely sublime, completely unexpected, transcendental evening out with Dave yesterday. I have said before that I am just not a live music person anymore--if I ever was. I get annoyed by crowds, bored with standing, and most of the "musicians" of my youth sounded better (much better) in the studio than they did live. So when Dave asked me a week ago if I wanted to see Suzanne Vega at the Variety Playhouse with him I agreed because I love him and so want to do things with him--not because I had any desire to see live music.

And let's face it--right now isn't a good time for me to be doing just about anything. I am *buried* in work getting ready for this show and meeting other professional commitments (writing, writing about teaching, orders, preparing for orders, etc.). I rushed like a mad woman yesterday to get all my work done, have a shower (and wash my hair), and hook up the dvd, tv and receiver so Mom and J could watch a movie while D and I were out. By the time we walked out the door I was really stressed and cranky and would have rather chewed my arm off than go out at all. And to see live music... ugh.

Dave made the mistake as we were halfway down the street of asking me if I was looking forward to the concert. Me and Georges (Washington--not Bush), we cannot tell a lie. I did hasten to add that just because I wasn't looking forward to it didn't mean I wouldn't enjoy it (though I did have my doubts). I was realistic enough to acknowledge that my crankiness might be almost wholly responsible for my dour outlook and there was hope. He was less sanguine and the evning almost got canceled then and there.

As it turns out, my hope was not misplaced. What a great evening, what great music! (What a barely acceptable dinner--though the bass player and other band members, maybe even Ms. Vega herself, sat at the table in the corner opposite us. I recognized the bass player and the woman he was with after the concert in the lobby as being from the restaurant. But back to the other story...) This is my kind of venue and the other people there were my kind of people--they stayed sitting down. Earlier in the day I had groused to Stacy about going to concerts and she said how annoying it was when she went to see the Dixie Chicks with a bunch of women and the people behind them wanted her and her friends to sit down instead of standing and dancing... I dryly informed her that I was one of the people sitting behind her--Scrooge McConcertgoer.

But last night I lounged in my seat and munched my way through a vat of popcorn--washed down with a couple of bottles of (hard) cider--and bobbed my head to the vocal stylings of Suzanne Vega. (Oooh, "Frank and Ava" from the new album just came on--I love that one!) The Variety is a small, intimate venue with a little balcony and great seats throughout. Dave saw both the Drive By Truckers and the Hold Steady there in the past two months and he is very sorry to have missed the New Pornographers and Jason Isobel. I had such a good time that I told him I'd go see anyone there.

But back to glass. Five Days till D-Day and counting. Yesterday I got my article in to GPQ. This morning I need to polish up the class list for Hoy's. I also need to figure out what the heck I've made in the past week and what I still need to make. Sure I have a schedule, but I have been just swapping things around and adding randomly to kiln loads as I could squeeze more in (or needed to change something for an order). I have a little idea what I have... but only a little. Now off to the studio.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Week, New Opportunities

Coffee in the Alaska skyline mug, "Hands Like Rain" by James McMurtry on iTunes. Up at 6:00 this morning to write, then took J to school and Dave to the train. (I think it's the last day for that--D's rear window is supposed to be replaced today and then he takes back getting J to school and himself to the train... In a way I'll miss the routine, but I'll be able to use the time.) Got home and put two kiln loads in--a bowl to slump in Little Boy and three ovals and two small round dishes in Middle Ground (finally named the two smaller kilns!). Opened Big Bertha to finish cooling the pieces in her and will reload her after I post and finish one of the two articles--maybe after finishing both.

The birdbath overslumped, and of course I need to photograph it today to finish off the article for GPQ that's already overdue. Hope I can get a creative shot that shows the beauty of the glass and the interest of the design while hiding the overslump. I might end up sending in the article with all the other photos today, redoing the piece, and sending a photo of it finished later. The problem with that scenario is that I don't have space in either Middle Ground or Big Bertha till after the One of a Kind Show--the birdbath is too big for Little Boy--and that might be too late.

The end of last week brought a new opportunity to the studio: I was contacted by a company that works with corporations on their corporate gift programs. They wanted to know if I would be interested in (and able to do) 100-150 pieces for a local company to use as their corporate gift in January. Yes and yes! January is typically a very light month for me in terms of production (though not in terms of work--it's my month to prepare for the February BMAC). and a little extra revenue will be most welcome. They are reviewing the pieces this week and will let me know by next week. If I do get the contract, I'll need to get more molds for that piece. An excuse to shop. Heh.

Now off to write and fire!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday and It's Not Sunny

Coffee in the Denver skyline mug, the whisper of air from the furnace blowing up through the vents for music. It is really quiet this morning. Jessie had a sleepover at a friend's house and Gramma is still asleep. This is what it will feel like everyday when it's just Dave and me and the laptops... And then the dogs come in from outdoors and chaos reigns anew. For a Spaniel, Baxter is such a hound!

I began the day by limbering up my fingers knitting a few rows on the coat I am making for Jessie. Now they fly over the keyboard as I do this post--the warm-up for writing two articles and class descriptions. For the latter I think I'll start with the how-to's of mica, my version of pot melts, screen melts, variations on pattern bars, working thick with frit and chunk, and maybe pulling kiln stringer.

But the articles are for the spring issues of magazines, and spring seems so far away. The classes offerings are for next year too, next year summer and fall most likely. Of immediate, pressing, right-now interest are the changes I am going to make to my display for the One of a Kind Show that is, oh, Next Week!

This is a retail show, the only one I still do, so most of my planning has to be completely different than it is for a wholesale show. Sure, big wholesale (order) shows and retail shows have some things in common, but they are more different than alike. The one thing I can count on for every show is that my display needs to grab the attention of the passers-by in the 18 seconds or so that I will get from them before they look on to the next booth. For this show especially, if I haven't caught them in that amount of time I won't get them all. It's a huge show packed with other artists with eye-catching, gorgeous displays and there just isn't time for people to walk the floor twice (i.e., come back).

The wholesale shows are even bigger, but the buyers who attend them are, in some sense, professional shoppers. I think they train for the shows like runners train for a marathon. It takes real endurance to walk a show floor and evaluate the work of some 1500 artists. At the BMAC it's common for someone stop by the booth, look around, say they'll be back to place an order, and actually come back and order. At the One of a Kind Show last year (when the number of artists displaying jumped dramatically), I would hear "I'll be back", and I'd know I wasn't talking to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The average retail shopper just doesn't have the stamina or the ability to resist being completely overwhelmed by the sensory input so get them the first time by or don't get them at all.

So lots of light, open space (a strong body of work is good, clutter is bad), bright colors, check. That's the easy part. I winnowed down the numbers of both the series and the colorways within the series that I am taking this year. In previous years I've taken Morceaux de Verre, Pop Art, Frit Painting, Morceaux de Verre, and boxes--a little bit of everything. But this year I am going to focus on the bell curve, the 80/20 of it all, to maximize sales. Sure, there'll be someone who comes up and asks where are the boxes or the Pop Art pieces--he saw one last year and really wants to buy it now--whatever.

At a wholesale show it's good to have one of everything you do (though last year I still cut all the series except Morceaux de Verre for those too) because buyers see the one piece and place orders. At a retail show I actually want all the pieces I take there to sell there so I really need to take the most popular pieces and lots of each of them. Figuring out which pieces to take was the angst of a week ago.

This week's angst is how to store all the back-ups in the booth so they are readily accessible and the booth remains uncluttered. Oh yes, and the display doesn't weigh too much or take up too much space in the min-van. I am thinking the plastic utility shelving at Home Depot is the answer. Last year I did the wire-rack shelving I use in the studio. It's great for size, but it's really, really heavy and I think it's overkill for a four-day show.

I also have to figure out packaging. I started many years ago with recycled grocery bags, then moved up to purchased paper shopping bags, then frosted plastic shopping bags and bubble wrap, and this year I think I need to add cardboard boxes for the pieces on stands. Storing all of the packing materials takes space too (and the fire marshal frowns on flammables in the booth). Oh yes, and the wall pieces (lattice and tree) all have their own wooden boxes. Those I am going to have to put in the back-stock area as I just can't see having room for them in the booth.

But the day is awasting (and the child is home). Guess I'll keep mulling it over as I put in three more kiln loads (and then get writing!).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wee Free Glass Artist

Diet coke in the can, "Wild Boys" by Duran Duran fading into "Right Now" by Van Halen on the iPod. The day progresses as does studio arrangement and glass production. Yesterday while I was working, UPS was taking the day off. Even the post office was open yesterday, but UPS was CLOSED so the two orders I had ready to ship did not go.

Today I already have the small kiln firing and I'm preparing to do the birdbath (again) (for GPQ) in the medium kiln. I enjoy writing, but I've had a hard time swallowing that particular frog. I think my biggest obstacle is doing the photo shoot all by myself in addition to the design and the writing. The writing is the easy part--I also need to do a quasi-professional job photographing all the steps and the finished piece.

Big Bertha is set up for a slump load of the little rectangular sushi (chocolate) (tapas) plates. Those plates are the only production pieces I do where one piece of fused glass is cut into multiple pieces--five, to be exact. For everything else one fused piece equals one finished piece and I don't grind and polish the edges prior to slumping. These little plates are extremely labor-intensive as I lap-grind the edges with two different diamond grit sizes before slumping. I'm firing 30 of them today so I'll be spending quite a bit of time at the grinder this afternoon--and it's already almost 1:00.

So much for time to make wee folk dolls today. I am planning a set based on Terry Pratchett's book "The Wee Free Men" to give to Jessie for Christmas. I am reading the book to her now as her chapter book before bed, and she spends much time running around the house shouting "Crivens!", "Waily, waily, waily!" and "Wee little burdie" in her best Scottish accent. Never having been to Scotland or having conversed with a Scottish person, her versions are a hoot.

Okay, back to glass. It's the weekend, but there is work to be done.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday, the Week Continues

Coffee in the Denver skyline mug, "Time of the Season" by the Zombies on the iPod. Yes it is the time of the season. For some, it is the time to shop. For ohers, it is the time to sleep off too much turkey, stuffing and pie. For me, it is the time to fire the kilns non-stop and juggle firing and shipping schedules. Today it is also the time to listen to the assistant working as I post and let me tell you, that is a GOOD sound!

Besides firing three kiln loads and trying to spend some time with my family today, I am also struggling with getting my Canon i560 printer to work with my Mac. I *thought* it was just out of ink so I bought a bunch of cartridges (why pay shipping for just one when you can pay the same shipping for a bunch?). But it wasn't the ink. Nor was it the printer (I have two from the old Windows PC days) as I swapped it out. Nor was it the cable as I swapped it out. Ergo, it must be the driver. Grumble, grumble, grumble, hate technology, grumble, grumble, grumble, need a new printer, grumble, grumble, grumble, won't take the same cartridges, can't return the cartridges, grumble, grumble, grumble.

Time to get my grumbly self back to the kilns. I'm working on my time-management skills (which my new assistant disparages--and boy does that smart!)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks and Swallowing Frogs

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, "Strutter" by Kiss on iTunes (what can I say? Guitar Hero infects us all). Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I am swallowing frogs this morning! Ew, you say. But no. I have Stacy (the new assistant) to thank for providing the perfect phrase for something everyone has to do in both their personal and professional lives. Most of my personal frogs have been shoved so far down the list I can't even here them ribbit, but my professional frogs--as frogs will do--are getting in the way of my getting things done. I am so surrounded by them right now that I am getting to the state where I can't even get to production, shipping, and other less cerebral, more hands-on tasks.

So what are frogs and why on earth would you swallow them? Frogs are tasks that you really, really don't want to do or that now loom over you because you have left them for so long and they're so late... If you had just done whatever the task was right when you got it, when it was due, it wouldn't be a frog now--and psyching yourself up to do it wouldn't require the effort of psyching yourself up to, say, swallow a frog! Of course some things are born frogs and the best thing to do is just hold your nose and get them over quickly. But that's more like the cleaning-the-ferret-litterbox task rather than anything I have to do professionally.

The more frogs I have, the more time I spend on the Internet. I know that whatever I'm doing is neither advancing my business, nor my preferred free-time activity, nor achieving the goal of ticking an item off the to-do list. But the frogs... they peep, they ribbitt, they croak vociferously... In short, they make me look up "coyote ugly" in Wikipedia (the definition wasn't there, but who knew the phrase spawned a bar, then a movie, then a chain of bars!) and then in the Urban Dictionary. Ostensibly I do this to enrich the post, but really I am just avoiding the anticipated cold, slimy, squiggly thing going down my throat.

But no more running! I embrace the frog! Over the next four days I will write three articles (one of them a how-to complete with photos) and put together a syllabus of classes I am interested in teaching at Ed Hoy's (and in my own studio, for that matter).

Though not frogs, I will also fire three kilns at least once a day. Today is Thanksgiving so I shouldn't be posting, and I don't usually post on weekends. But I am in the show home stretch so as I am working, I will be posting everyday through the end of the month.

This afternoon there will be turkey (deep fried, yum), good wine, good friends (and family! my Mom's here), and good Guitar Hero. I give thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Day Before Thanksgiving and All Through the Studio...

No coffee yet (need to rectify that), no music either (tick, tick, tick goes the clock). It's O'Dark Thirty in the morning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Jessie has no school today and has a friend coming over for an all-day playdate. I wish I were six again. Maybe. Almost. I know I am rushing toward the busiest, most jam-packed, stressful month of the year with all my reserves used up. Again. Time to reboot--not just for the morning, but for the season.

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Okay, a few hours have passed. Coffee has been consumed. A new playlist has been created for the studio (containing mostly perky music... though I think I did put in "Hell, No I Ain't Happy" by The Drive By Truckers). I am in a better frame of mind. I'm still way behind, mind you, I just don't care so much... At least I thought I didn't until Stacy asked me just now why I was so anxious and I started to cry... Breathe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Irony

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug (for the upcoming One of a Kind Show and Sale), "Flyswatter/Ice Water Blues" by Lyle Lovett on the iPod (for Stacy). Yesterday I left Stacy (new assistant) in the studio working alone for a couple of hours. When I got back she shared with me that after listening for awhile to the playlist I had left on the iPod, she was really depressed and felt like crying so she changed to a different playlist. She was shocked (shocked!) to find that I had left her listening to the melancholy playlist. I'm going to try Ren's melancholy playlist on her next. Heh.

What I posted yesterday about there being no way I can get all the work done I plan for the show is true and independent of the number of people who help me. My labor is not the bottleneck; Big Bertha is. (The semicolon is for Dave. He knows why.) I can only fire one load in her a day. If I rush and get stressed, some of those loads will fail and I won't be able to make them up (the whole finite number of days thing).

Last night I wrote up the list of pieces I would like to have. This morning, as Bertha cools from yesterday's load, I will plug the list of pieces into the (again, finite number of) slots available in her between now and the end of the month. And yes, I know it'll all work out (the Siyeh Studio motto is at the end of the linked post). However just telling me it'll work out is not enough to convince my amygdala. I might could use a little pre-frontal lobe stimulation too. Either the house had bad feng shui at 5:00 am or my anxiety infected everyone because not only was I up and sleepless, but the rest of the human denizens in residence also all woke for short amounts of time--even my mom in the guest room. But she's old and might have just been up for one of the many old-people night bathroom trips... (Just kidding Mom--you're not old.)

So today, more firing. Calling the Merchandise Mart and begging to be allowed to submit my services form late (it was due November 5th), and article writing. Funnily, the topic of one of the articles is realistically determining your work output to evaluate whether you can make a living as a glass artist... Some days the irony just kills me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Weeks and Stressing

Coffee in the New York skyline mug, Themes from the Lord of the Rings and the Fellowship of the Ring by Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops on the iPod. Just call me Frodo this morning--and not for my height or hairy feet. No, I'm on the road to Mordor--otherwise known as Chicago. Don't get me wrong--I love Chicago. I love going to Chicago, I love doing shows in Chicago, I love the show I'm heading up to do TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY! Can you feel the anxiety rolling off my body and flowing through the wires out into the world? I know--breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. It'll be what it'll be. I'll be in that frame of mind by next Monday when it's all over but the shouting. But for now I have to go through the entire process. Really. You can't just "skip to the end" (much as I'd like to). And it's the same (or similar) every year.

I am reminded of a post from earlier this year when I was a week out from a show and I realized that the work I needed to do to be ready for it wouldn't fit into the time I had. Every show for me seems to have some variation of that theme. It begins with absolute panic at the disconnect between what needs to be done and the time and space required to do it, and moves through frantic activity, failures, and unimaginable stress to an eerie calm acceptance of my limitations as a human being bound by the laws of gravity and the space-time continuum. What I wouldn't give this morning for eerie calm.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Good-bye Oak and Post Trunk Show and Book Party

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones on the iPod. Yesterday was a full day. The City of Atlanta took the big oak out yesterday. I requested it be taken as it was dying, but it still made me cry to see them cutting off the limbs and cutting it down. I called the grandson of the original owner of the house and let him know they were cutting it. He is a wood turner and wanted some of the wood from it for sentimental reasons. I got the City people to leave some good pieces for him and he came for some of them while I was up at my book signing/gallery show last night.

Taking down a tree this big--especially one whose trunk is less than two feet from a very busy road--is a monumental endeavor. It took a team of four all day. One guy was up in the basket with a chainsaw and the rest were on the ground controlling the fall. There were some really scary moments--like when they took the whole trunk down in one piece.

There was a grizzled old man with a white pick-up who waited for hours to be able to collect some of the fallen limbs and pieces for firewood for the winter. I was glad to think the tree would be warming him. The limbs the city took away are chipped into mulch which is given away to anyone who wants to get it. This weekend Jessie and I are going to collect some of the acorns from the tree to plant so we can have new oak saplings for the backyard next year.

The show and book signing last night were a hoot! All the pictures (courtesy of Pam and Licha--I forgot my camera) are up on Flickr.

Thank you Mary and Patrick for a really wonderful party!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Booth Design Considerations

Coffee in the New York skyline mug, "Punish the Monkey" (again) by Mark Knopfler on iTunes. It is going to be A Day! I was reminded on Tuesday afternoon that today is the first day of the Taylor Kinzel Glass Trunk Show that I am in up in Roswell, and they are also having a book signing there for me tonight... Oh boy. My first book signing and I only have five copies of my book left. Well, that ought to be enough--it's not like I'm J.K. Rowling! So I'm off up there about 3:30, therefore missing J's gymnastics and ballet and relegating Dave to airport pick-up duty at 7:32 when my mom gets in from Montana (yea!) for a month.

But enough chatter. Today's topic is display considerations. I am splitting a 20 X 20 space at the upcoming two BMAC shows and ACRE with Bill and Elaine from Elliott Metal Works. The first step in the design process is to identify the needs. Ours are as follows:

  • Break up the space into areas for each of our individual works and then an area for the FeSiO work and have all of them flow seamlessly together
  • Have our own private areas for sales and business talks with our customers
  • Have a lot of wall space for them and tabletop display for me
  • Grab the eye from any angle as people walk by
  • Open and spacious feeling
  • Flexible for changing layout
  • Quick and easy to set-up and break-down
  • Not too heavy (or we'll be eaten alive by shipping)
  • Not too expensive
  • Durable

Think we're asking for too much?

Let's start with the walls. Movable panels are great for maximum flexibility. Plywood is the first material that comes to mind for DIYers, but plywood needs to be at least 1/2" thick in order not to warp, and it weighs 50 lbs for a 4' X 8' piece. That's a lot of weight. It also has to be kept painted or covered, and whenever you nail into it you get a permanent hole. Not a great option. So we extended our thoughts and came up with gridwalls covered with foamcore. That's what I had on the front corner of my booth in August (photo at right, wall under the lattice piece).

They aren't any more light-weight than plywood, but they don't warp, they attach to each other with cable ties, and the work can be cable-tied to them--even really heavy pieces. The foamcore is extremely lightweight and can be re-used if handled carefully. It can also be decorated with a tissue-paper-and-glue collage that would really set off my work (and hide damage or flaws in the panels). The panel size we settled on is 8' X 2'--and we might cut them down a few inches to fit in a crate made from 4' X 8' sheets of plywood. We put together a common floor layout template and are now tweaking it individually back in our own studios. I am going to create mine with Google Sketch-Up--a free CAD program (Dave wanted to find a use for it, and I was happy to oblige :-).

Enough design for today. Up next: maximizing display space in the sweet spot (thigh height to just above head height) and floor covering. Soon: lighting, and extra touches.

Now off to make the birdbath for my GPQ article (check out the fall issue for my last article!).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Time Lapse

Coffee in the Washington D.C skyline mug, "Adrift" by The Barenaked Ladies on iTunes. No drifting here--moving too fast to drift. Today is the big meeting with Bill and Elaine from EMW in the new studio. I am serving coffee (a blend of French roast and mocha java) and frozen pain auchocolat (chocolate croissants for us Americans) from Trader Joe's for breakfast. These frozen pain au chocolat are the most amazing bakery goods that you can buy from a store and bake at home. I lived in France for awhile, I know good croissants (and pain au chocolat). What you get from most American bakeries wouldn't even qualify--much less anything from the grocery store. But these Trader Joe's things... You put them on parchment paper on a baking sheet at night before bed (frozen) and prep them in the oven (i.e., put them in the oven and leave them there all night with the oven off). Then in the morning you brush them with an egg and bake them at 350 for 20 minutes. At the end of that time you have the most exquisite, perfect, flaky, crispy, buttery pastry you have ever eaten. I kid you not. And they are $2.59 for a package of four.

But back to the day... Yesterday I had both De and my new assistant Stacy helping me and we really powered through things. All the molds (or all the ones I might conceivably use) are now in the new studio, the last of the architectural glass that was moved has been put in its case, books shipped to Europe, and an order shipped to New Jersey. All the scrap glass too big to go in plastic storage boxes (and which therefore stands in the wooden bins below my assembly table--shown above) is now back in the bin (and off the coldroom floor) and it's even sorted by color. I shiver in the bliss of complete organization.

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It's now many, many (about 13) hours after I started this post. Much has happened, and it will wait for tomorrow. News of books signing and gallery show and display layout--all tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Toting and Lifting Barges and Bales

Coffee in the new York skyline mug, (the theme to) "Baretta" by the Trick Babies on the iPod. Now that's random! I got to work at 9:00 this morning. My commute was to the train station with Dave and then school with Jessie then home to drop off the car and pick up the laptop (and more coffee--out of the go-mug and back into the Starbucks Barista mug) before trekking the long hike across the backyards to the studio. I am sooooo sorry for my LA friends! I know their daily commutes are hell and I shouldn't rub it in, but I *love, love, love* going to work now.

The orders are coming in again, the hiatus is over. This week is Taylor Kinzel's glass show so I need to have work for them by Thursday... hmmm. Guess that means firing it today and tomorrow for pick-up Thursday morning. The main orders for this year's holiday season came in in August, mine are already shipped, so I am done pretty much done with wholesale for the year. Time to pump up the retail inventory for Chicago in December and to start mulling new work for the Buyer's Market show in February--it'll be here before you know it..

And now the studio is full of people (well, there are two people besides me) moving molds and continuing studio set-up. I feel guilty sitting on my tush writing while they tote the barge and lift the bale, so I gotta go.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Morning You Sure Look Fine... Again!

Coffee in the Starbucks big go-cup, laughter and chatter from the PTA meeting as music. It's Monday which means all the "stuff" that accumulated over the weekend has to be fit in today in addition to the last PTA meeting before the holiday market. The highlights of the weekend include Friday night's high jinx--some fine, upstanding citizen(s) decided it would be fun to break out the back window of Dave's Seebring convertible. Our insurance company obviously feels that accidents and vandalism don't happen on weekends as there was no one in at our agent's office Saturday nor was there anyone in the referral area who could tell me where I could get the work done so I could get a jump on it before today. Then last night we discovered that Saturday morning we left a credit card at breakfast and I need to run pick it up from the restaurant today.

Yesterday Dave had to work some so we sent him away to Kavarna for peace and quiet and Jessie and I headed for the studio. I fired a commission piece for one of my Florida galleries and J broke out her new sewing kit. The photos at right are her making a little purse complete with closure strap with buttonhole and button sewn on. Wow. She is good and did it all by herself--right down to cutting the buttonhole! It was a good day (and I was tempted to post since we were already in the studio).

And now it's Monday and the week is out of the gate with a leap and a bound. I have hired an assistant and she starts today. It's scary, it's exciting, it's an employee... it's a big step.

Today is bird-bath fusing (cool new technique incorporating frit and paint). I train Stacy and start her on inventory, moving molds, breaking down boxes, oh my. I plan the firing schedule for the rest of the year (with the orders I have and the work I need for upcoming shows--I also need to leave room to accommodate other orders as they come in) and I mail the international book orders.

Dee is coming down to help with continued studio set-up tomorrow. Tomorrow is also the first day of official, full production and the commensurate first firing of Big Bertha--got to finish setting up the counter-weight system for the lid.

Wednesday, Bill and Elaine are coming from Elliott Metal Works so we can design our booth set-ups for ACRE and the BMAC next year and look at our next collaborative design direction. I'm setting up a big conference table in the office and borrowing the card table chairs from the house. The first official gathering in the new studio.

Thursday is a Kavarna day and I will be writing my two articles for Glass Patterns Quarterly (birdbath project) and Profitable Glass (start-up issues: can you price your work to make a living?) and working on all my websites. Completion? No. Progress? You bet!

Friday is slotted for mop-up on anything that doesn't get done on the other days and general settling into the saddle of the new studio. And maybe shopping. Shopping would be fun. Shopping for floor lamps for the office, a printer for the studio, shelving for back stock for the One of a Kind Show (Dee convinced me that there is no need to carry the bezillion lb commercial steel shelving units up to Chicago and back just to hold my back stock. Duh.), etc. It's always good to end a week with shopping.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Old As Dirt

Coffee was in the Barcelona Barista mug an hour or more ago, "I Want To Be Your Girlfriend" by Mary Chapin Carpenter on the iPod. I have already been putting up shelving and leveling it, organizing frit and emptying boxes in the studio this morning. It was only 47 degrees inside when I arrived and I just couldn't bear to sit and post in the cold so I turned on the furnace and worked until it was warm enough to write. Now I am toasty snug and enjoying a well-deserved break. Heck, the break would be well-deserved if I took it all day--Dee and I moved about 1500 lbs of frit yesterday (2/3 of it) and I woke with an aching back this morning.

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I left the computer for a few hours and moved the rest of the frit. Boy am I SORE! I am clearly old as dirt. Early this evening I am going to soak in the whirlpool tub with some Epsom salts mixed with scented bath salts... and a glass of Roederer Cristal champagne. Tonight we officially celebrate the release of the book (even though I still have never seen it in a bookstore). Jessie has a sleepover at a friend's house and Dave and I are going to veg with champagne, pizza, and Netflix (I love Friday). Yes, clearly we are old as dirt--and I wouldn't have it any other way.

More pics next week as the studio comes together (big comfy green chair in the office. yum.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Live From the New Studio!

Coffee in the Los Angeles skyline mug, "Far, Far Away From My Heart" by the BoDeans on the iPod. I'm live from the new studio and the view from my desk is of a billboard with the picture at right on the side of the building next door. Oh boy. Every time Jessie comes over she cries. She wants us to adopt the dog in the poster, Angel. "I would give her chocolate every day--if dogs could have chocolate but they can't because it would make them sick. And I would love her more than anyone else does. And if I had two chocolates, I would give them both to her--if dogs could have chocolate, but they can't because it would make them sick." Oh boy. Sadly, we live in a neighborhood where many people treat their dogs this way so the billboard is well-placed for its target demographic.

It's cold in the studio this morning! I think there's a problem with the thermostat--it reads 54 degrees when it's sweltering hot in here so I can't just leave it on all night, but these mornings are chilly (she says squeezing her warm coffee mug). My parents in Montana and my in-laws in Chicago must be laughing themselves silly to read that I think southern fall mornings are "chilly".

All the books but the international ones went out yesterday (yea!). I have to take the international ones to the post office today. I tried to send them UPS, but the most economical way to send a a 3 lb 12 X 9 X 2 package costs $85 to send to the UK... !!! It's still going to be expensive via the post office (probably just less than the cost of the book). I hope the recipients think it's worth it, if not I have personalized three copies for nothing.

Now Dee is here and it's time to keep putting together the studio. Till tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Back to Earth

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "Hands Like Rain" by James McMurtry on iTunes. So okay, blogging from the new studio is not quite ready for prime time. Yesterday was fully occupied with the book. Got another call from Ed Hoy. He wanted to let me know that the response to it in their showroom has been overwhelmingly positive, and they have a couple slots in their teaching schedule for next year, would I be interested? Heck yes! Got a poke from my editor on getting the supplies list to them for their website, I am sooo behind on that. Good thing I have a whole day dedicated to on-line work coming up. But I can't feel too bad--they don't have my book up on their site yet either. Everyone's behind. And then there's Borders.

Last night was date night and we went to Pura Vida for tapas and pisco sours and then on to Borders to look for new books (and pick up a copy of Ratatouille on dvd). With the mellowness engendered by a couple of pisco sours in my belly, I had the bright idea of offering to sign the copies of my book at Borders. I figured between my driver's license and the author photo and bio, I could convince them I really did write it. And I could bask in the public I'm An Author glow. Oh you know where this is going...

I waltzed in the front doors and sashayed over to the craft section. Glass, glass, glass. Hmmm. where's glass? Oh there it is, the little section squashed between jewelry and something else. Not very many books in it, and certainly not one of mine. Somewhat chastened, headed for the computer to look it up. Huh. Still in pre-order status. Well they need to fix that! Strode boldly to the info desk and asked the young man when the book would be in! He tapped and he typed and he peered intently at the screen. Where else have you seen it, ma'am? Well, Amazon and some local Barnes and Nobles have it listed as in. Hmmm. Regretfully he informed me that he couldn't even find a Border's number associated with that particular book so they probably weren't even going to be carrying it. Not carrying it! But I could order a copy for you and you could pick it up when it comes in. Sniff. Shoulders slightly hunched, I slunk over to the new hardback books table to drown my sorrows in a new book or three.

Books are always good for whatever ails me. Jezebel grabbed my attention--as much for the beautiful cover as for the content (I am a sucker for neo-classical paintings. My favorite being Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme). On the way home Dave consoled me with the idea that they would probably carry my novel, if I wrote one. And heck, I've already written one book so how hard could the second one be? Isn't that what young couples say to convince themselves that a second child is only marginally work work than the first? Hah! I didn't believe that one either! (Well, I did, but Dave talked me out of it.)

Today I continue studio set-up--several hundred pounds of back-up frit to move--and I might even fire a load in Big Bertha. Tomorrow, studio blogging for sure.