Monday, June 29, 2009

Shaved Spaniel Tomorrow

Coffeeless again, the sound of the air conditioner and tapping laptop keys for music. It's only 7:30 am and it's already 76 degrees out and fixin' to be 90 every day this week. No wonder the air conditioner is chugging! Just got back from dropping Dave off at the airport. I got home Saturday afternoon from Portland and he's leaving this morning for Austin. We're not getting enough time together. At least it's a short week--he has Friday off for the fourth of July and so will be home Thursday night.

The trip to Portland was fantastic. The conference was stimulating and very informative, and the workshop on lost wax casting has me itching to sculpt some wax and make some molds today--that's if I can wake up. I think I'm still a bit jet-lagged from being on the west coast. It's always harder for me to adjust to the time difference going east. Last night Dave was gently snoring and I was still trying to get to sleep at midnight, and this morning all I want to do is crawl under the covers for another hour or so of sleep. And why not? There are enough people who will surely call me this morning and wake me up in time to go to ikebana, and J is not going to camp this week. Maybe just a little more sleep. Then tomorrow I can share the pics of the shaved spaniel and the lost wax workshop...


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beam Me Home Scotty!

Nothing to drink--I'm going to try to sleep on the plane, the sound of the morning vacuum and the snores (no kidding) of a waiting passenger at the Portland Airport for music. It's very quiet here this morning. There are only eight people in our gate area--and yet we still have a non-stop talker... At 4:30 am. I need a sock.

It was an incredible week in Linda Ethier's Lost Wax class following a fabulous conference, but I am ready to be home. Thanks to my hamster dream of the night before last, I decided to bite the bullet and try for standby on last night's red-eye flight to Atlanta instead of waiting till this morning. I called Delta and they said I might be able to get on "at the discretion of the airport" as they don't dot do standby anymore. Okay, worth a try, not like I had anything else to do for the evening. Hah.

It's $150 fee to change departure dates and the difference in fare from the time you bought the ticket--for me it would have been $575. I turned around and went back to the dorm. Luckily I had decided to try Portland's great public trans and took the trolley and then the train from the dorm to the airport for only $2.30. I got a nice hour-long ride around Portland--I did take a taxi back. Valery (pronounced Wall-air-ee), my lovely taxi driver picked me up again this morning at 4:00 and here I sit.

I was disappointed by my failure to get home last night, but by checking my bag today (for which I had already paid) I was able to get in the knives I bought here and carry all the wax I bought from Linda. I also didn't have to futz with a quart-sized bag for all my toiletries (which I ripped when trying to seal its zipper closure last night).

Okay, out of battery. Goodbye Portland (for now--I'll be back the end of July), Hello Atlanta!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's All About the Journey

Tap water in a plastic bottle to drink, "Harmony" by Elton John (at long last) on iTunes. I woke up this morning from a horrible dream about a dead, desicated hamster coming back to life. It doesn't take a dream interpreter to tell me it's time to get home to Dave, Jessie, Seraph the deerhound, Baxter the Spaniel, and Tuffy the hamster. But when I do leave Portland, I'll take wonderful memories and both new and deeper old friendships. I hope. After the other night, two of my friends (one old, one new) either still like me or curse my name and spit to the side while making the sign to ward off the eveil eye. It was a good night, and I promised I would take full responsibility for what happened so here we go...

Kris from Atlanta and Cindi from Prescott and I all decided to meet for dinner after class on Tuesday. We're all staying the PSU Broadway dorm so when I got off the bus coming from my class at Linda Ethier's studio I headed up to Kris' room for a quick glass of wine and off we hiked to dinner at McCormick & Schmick by the waterfront for a big night out as they each had to catch planes home the next. I say "hiked" though the entire distance we were heading downhill. But I'm a worrier. I'm not kidding that it was *all* downhill. First we went one way downhill, then we went another way downhill. So I started fretting about relaxing over dinner with a bit more wine, good food--and the commensurate loss of energy and muscle ambition--and then having to really hike home up hill all the way. It could even snow and we'd lose our shoes! My fretting was compounded by the U shape our journey took. The shortest distance from Point A to Point B is a straight line--not a U.

So, dinner. Dinner was sublime. Instead of high-end seafood, I had a burger. And a couple of Negronis. (I can hear people who know me in Atlanta groaning "Not the Negronis!"). As it approached the time to leave, I began fretting again. I was, indeed, quite relaxed--some might even say lazy--and I had no interest in a true U-shaped hike. If we were to walk, there must be a more direct, faster, less-effortful path. Kris said no, no. She had walked around a lot down there and there wasn't a better way. It was late, it was dark, and she just wanted to go back the way we had come. Cindi was easy and would go with whatever we decided.

The server brought us a map, pointed us in the "right" direction, and with much grumbling (that I blithely ignored) from Kris, we headed off into the night. The night got darker. The streets got emptier of both cars and people. I confidently pointed to where we were on the map even though the lettering on it was so small and hidden under the markings for the trolley lines that I couldn't read the street names. Businesses gave way to chain-link-bordered parking lots and dark, weed-covered vacant lots under the looming freeway overpasses. Sidewalks became iffier--first existing only on one side of the street and then only on the other.

I don't know when it happened, but somehow we morphed into the characters from the Wizard of Oz. Cindi with her bright strawberry blond hair was walking down the street with her arms pointed straight out to the sides and loosely flapping (Scarecrow or what?), Kris was growling under her breath that this did NOT feel like the right direction (in a voice just like the Cowardly Lion's), so I became the stalwart tin man. We lacked Dorothy--and therefore direction--but we were ultimately saved by a lone trolley driver (dare I say Glinda the Good?) who picked up and informed us that we were down in a deserted waterfront area (no duh) devoid of taxis or any possibility of getting one. He went on to say that after he took a 15-minute break--we were at the end of the line... really--we could ride the trolley back towards PSU and the center of town to within three blocks of our dorm (still uphill, but only three blocks). Or we could call a cab and wait even longer for it to come. We had started at Point C, eaten at Point B, and then I had dragged us to a very nice trolley driver and Point A. Oh dear.

Kris took the news well as evidenced by the fact that I am here to write the tale. The surety of my continued existence was close for a moment, but Cindi convinced Kris that jail in Portland was not where she wanted to end up--and Cindi didn't want to have the hassle of bailing her out. I was very apologetic--truly chastened--as it had been entirely my fault that we were lost and would not be back to our rooms (where Cindi and Kris each needed to pack for their flights the next day) till at least 11:30. Kris grudgingly agreed to let me live as long as I posted the events here and took FULL responsibility for our adventure. I happily did so as after 15 minutes of us sitting alone in the empty trolley (the driver went off to take his break in the station) and chatting we were back to being friends. It ended up being all about the journey, and their packing and my work at 5:30 am were things that would happen later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Awake and Chastised, Though Not Chastened

After being slapped around a bit by Nancy Goodenough ( ;-), I went back to my email and found the aforementioned survey *sent June 19*. In my defense, that was the first full day of BE-Con and reading email from ACRE with a subject line "ACRE Las Vegas Artist Survey" was something that I felt could be safely triaged till my return to Atlanta, i.e., I didn't read it then. Had the subject been "Proposed date for ACRE 2010, your input requested" or some such, you can be sure I would have read it. I *did* read Nancy V.'s email "A message from Nancy Vince, President," that came on 6/8 announcing that the survey would come out later in the month and they wanted our input--no hint of a date change there either. As to reading the boards, I don't, unless Dee gives me a heads up that I need to as she knows what a turtle I am.

Final thought, even with the back story and the survey, worrying about what Wendy Rosen is going to do in Vegas is a futile endeavor--it's like an artist obsessing about having their work copied in China. NOT that I'm comparing Wendy Rosen to China!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Change of Plans

"Bat Out of Hell" by Meat Loaf on iTunes, and I may yet open that bottle of sauvignon blanc in my dorm fridge to accompany it. Tonight's post was supposed to be titled "The Yellow Brick Road Or, It's All About the Journey". The song was supposed to be "Harmony" from Elton John's album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Unfortunately I got two emails from tonight when I returned from my lost wax casting workshop in Portland that have have completely driven all cosy, happy remembrances of last night's dinner adventure with other out-of-town artists down by Portland's riverside from my mind. I'll have to post about that lovely adventure tomorrow morning (to start my day with happy thoughts). For now I am all wound up and cranky with no way to let it out but here--and I have to do that if I want to sleep and not stew all night.

So what were these heinous emails? The first email announced a date change for ACRE 2010 from April 25-27 to June 5-7. The second email requested that I go to their website *by this Friday* and tell them if I'm still planning to do the show. They move the show back a month and a half and want me to notify them within two days if I still would like to do it. Why me? Well, I am one of the artists who already signed up at this year's ACRE show (and paid my deposit) to do next year's show--in large part based on the dates. I did not like this year's show being in June, and I don't feel like the timing helped sales at all--*no one* ordered from me for July. Almost everyone wanted ASAP and in *June*. That's not gonna happen next year.

I was all primed and excited about the April dates. Right at the exit to the show in a big banner overhead was a sign that said "See you for ACRE 2010, April 25-27". The show management heavily lobbied at the show to get artists to commit and pay in advance for those dates. Then, apparently, they read the post-show surveys and decide June would be a more popular date so a few weeks after the show is over and everyone is back home, they change the dates without even polling the people who paid to see how they felt about it. How does that reward our commitment and loyalty? We put our money up front (again), and, personally, I feel jerked around.

Yes, I understand that the date may have been an important topic in the surveys, but the time to address it is for the following year--or at least before getting people to commit and pay based on an announced date. It may seem responsive to react so quickly to the show feedback, but it feels unprofessional when you are on the receiving end of it. Much like feral cats though we may seem, artists have other commitments and real life too. At the very least, the artists who have already paid their deposits and made arrangements to do the show should have been asked how we felt about a proposed change. In comparison, the Rosen Group explored changing the date for their winter show next year to the end of January. They ended up deciding not to, but this would have been a great time for them to make that change as they aren't asking people to get in their contracts for next year till August.

But back to ACRE. Yes, if I cancel by Friday, I get my deposit back with no penalty. Would that doing a show like this were that simple! However unintentional it was, I was baited and switched by the change of time. Had I known the real date when I was asked to commit, I would have been better prepared to decide if I wanted to store everything in Vegas again to do the show next year, or if I just wanted to ship it all home and give next year a pass. Now because I have already pre-paid $1000 to store my booth AND I paid the show deposit, I feel very limited in my options.

There was a similar waffling around last year resulting in a change in the planned dates and the venue (which hall in the convention center). This year there was also a last minute (or at least after the floor plan and space assignments were announced) mucking about with the floor plan that was very unexpected and disadvantageous to my layout. I chalked it all up to a new show finding its feet and settling down. But then to pull a switch again now...

No, I'm not a happy camper.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Skip the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone--On To Lost Wax

I admit, a bit of sake passed my lips in the past two hours in the course of a lovely dinner at the conveyor belt bar (similar to a sushi bar, but a bit more post-modern industrial Japanese...) at Bluefin. I walked in to find Leslie Rowe-Israelson sitting at the bar, and not too long after I sat down with her we were joined by Kris Korn and Cindi Shaffer who wandered in after their class. We had a lively group dinner of $1.50 a plate Japanese delicacies right off the conveyor belt (and some of the best sushi I've had in recent memory). Now I'm back in my dorm room listening to the bass beat from next door (it's a step up from some of the things that wake me up emanating from that room at 3:00 am) and I'm ready to finish up the BECon posts.

As Lani said, Morganica has already covered the high points, the low points, and everything in between from BECon (I was honored to be listed as a high point :-), and that frees me up to expound on an observation I made that led to a theory about the similarity between the professional evolution of someone who works in glass and the taxonomy of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Really. Or I would, but every time I have tried to talk to someone about this (I thought brilliant) conclusion over the past two days, they have looked at me funny and gone off (as quickly as possible) to find something to drink. Huh. So if you want to hear my truly marvelous conclusions, you'll just have to ask me nicely. Or be around me and a glass of wine for more than 10 minutes.

So BECon ended with a bang (the ribs out of the lehr were the best I have EVER had--and I've had me some serious BBQ having lived in Austin for six years). I had my day of rest, and today I began my lost wax class with Linda Ethier. Bliss. Just bliss. I did get up at 5:30 this morning to get in three hours of work before class, and I'll likely do the same tomorrow--no rest for the witless. But it's no hardship to rise that early as it is so very light here long before 5:30. I'd forgotten the lovely languid days of the northern summer. More bliss (and cooler than Atlanta right now by a long shot).

I made my first lost wax sculpture in 35 years today. It will be... interesting in glass. I console myself with the reminder that the goal in this workshop is not to make High Art. The goal is to work on technique and learn it well enough to create High Art later. Tomorrow we cover our wax with plaster to make a mold and we melt the wax out (hence Lost Wax). Then we'll fill the molds created by burning out the wax with glass and cast them. Pics of the class in tomorrow night's post.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Day Off

No post today. I've decided I need a complete day off. Tomorrow is the first day of the class with Linda Ethier so I probably won't get posted until the evening, but we'll see. Happy Father's Day all!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stress = What?

Just finished a Lipton Green Tea with citrus, the chatter of BECon attendees during our 15 minute afternoon break for music. Is there something in glass that stunts peoples growth? I am putting lots of names to faces (and bodies) here at BECon, and my almost universal reaction can be summed up in reverse by the first words Alicia Lomne said to me when we met, "Wow, you're taller than I expected!". She was definitely MUCH tinier than I expected. And then there was Cynthia Morgan, Morganica, I pictured her as Boadicea--tall, long flowing dark hair like, well, Morgan le Fey. But she's little too! Almost everyone here is way shorter than I expected.

Going to get this out of the way right up front--more info on the "why" tomorrow: Bullseye is lowering their recommended anneal soak temp from 960 degrees F to 900 degrees F. What a way to get all of our attention and to keep us from dozing off!

Today was day 3 of the conference. Many topics have been covered by presenters with very diverse ages, experiences, backgrounds, levels of happiness, and current life situations. Though I have been fascinated and enthralled by the information on technique, body of work, and artistic process conferred so far, what has struck me most is the universal fit of the presenters into the maiden, mother, and crone taxonomy... Come again? ... And I'm going to wait to finish that thought and topic in tomorrow's post.

Today was the last day of the conference and I have a day off tomorrow before my post-conference workshop with Linda Ethier begins. It will be a perfect day to reflect upon and analyze the myriad impressions and monumental data flow that rolled over me during the conference. I'll also have the time to elaborate why I think Howard Ben Tré is the crone personified while Chick Butcher is the perfect representation of the mother.

So if I'm not going to post about the conference today, what am I going to post about? Why, about the farmer's market, of course! As I trotted off this morning to the first session--late and harried as usual, I had to pass through an extraordinary and completely unexpected farmer's market. As I had no time to stop on the way, I bolted out the door at our first break and loaded up on pheasant paté, smoked salmon, chevre and other artisanal cheeses, fresh-baked sourdough bread, local (Oregon) raspberries, cherries and tiny strawberries, and fresh butter and cream cheese.

Of course then I had the dilemma of how was I going to slice the bread, on what was I going to serve the food, and what beverage would accompany this all-day Sunday feast. The answer to all those questions was found in Safeway where I walked on my lunch break and purchased wine, paper and plastic goods, and a couple of sharp knives (of course I already have a wine opener in my travel case). Tomorrow shapes up to be a very nice day indeed and I have already invited some people over to share my feast!

Tonight--as a fitting over-the-top wrap-up party for a conference filled with over-the-top presenters--there is the Bullseye Lehr-B-Q which my spouse will be very sad he is missing. A few years ago he came to me all excited because a company that was head-hunting him (not in the shrunken-head sense of the word) took him to dinner at a restaurant that cooked their steaks in a kiln. Well, Bullseye--as they style themselves "The company that makes glass at the cutting edge of 17th century technology"--tonight will serve up chicken and ribs cooked on their 100-foot-long continuous annealer. Look for pics tomorrow--and I'll try not to lose my camera tonight.

BECon Excitement

Normally I would wait to post until I have the entire post done, but this is just too good to wait:

Bullseye just announced that they are lowering the recommended anneal soak temp of their glass from 960 degrees to 900 degrees. GASP!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Glass Groupie

Maker's Mark on the rocks, karaoke at the Cheerful Tortoise for my music. As amazing as it may seem, this is my first exposure to live karaoke (I say "live" as opposed to the karaoke in, say, the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding"). I am almost ready to get up and sing. Is that sad? Is it sad to be alone in a pub/bar having a bite, imbibing a wee drop, and finally finishing the post of the day alone? Nah. I was a glass groupie earlier, chatting with Clifford Rainey, Howard Ben Tré and his wife Wendy, Janet Koplos, and Chick Butcher in the Hotel Modera bar. It's a far cry from the way I began the day...


Nothing to drink, the hum of the dorm room refrigerator and the tapping of the laptop keyboard for music. I have just under an hour to fully wake up, answer the east coast emails, and get dressed and off to meet friends for breakfast before BECon Day 2. I meant to post first thing this morning, but I got sidetracked by the loss of my camera (left at the Bullseye Gallery last night during the opening reception after three lovely mango, pomegranate mojitos). The camera has been found and will be back in my possession in time to put a pic from the reception up in this post. In the meantime, Haunt Rama (shown at left) has very kindly lent me his Nikon digital SLR to keep up my photographic essay of BECon 2009. Unfortunately he has also inadvertently shown me in graphic detail just how much I have forgotten about SLR cameras in the past 30 years--every one of the pictures I shot with it this morning came out a bit out of focus.

The conference so far (the morning sessions of the first full day are over), confirms my initial intuition that whoever put the presenter schedule together is a master of Machiavellian manipulation with a keen understanding of human attention thresholds. Either that or (s)he is the beneficiary of serendipitous karma as the roster so far has been great. In the interest of a manageable post, I am just going to cover yesterday here--today will be covered in tomorrow morning's post.

Yesterday afternoon at 2:00 pm Lani McGregor opened the conference with a calm and moderate presentation of the Bullseye staff, warm welcomes to the attendees and presenters, and no indication of the provocative personalities and viewpoints to follow. After the BECon intros, there were only two presentations before the opening reception at the gallery. But quantity is not everything as the size of the presenter's personalities would have rendered any additional presentations ineffectual--there's only so much free-spirited drama one can absorb in a sitting.

The first presentation--educator, kilncaster and artist Richard Whitely of the Canberra School of Art interviewing artist, kilncaster, and educator Clifford Rainey (currently of the California College of the Arts), was a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of an artist who came of age in the 60's, and who has freely created, partied and lived ever since. Neither his appearance nor his persona indicate that he is in his sixties. But his no-prisoners approach in communicating his views on art, contemporary art, his art and his life leave no doubt that he is a man who has done it all--what he wanted, when he wanted, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. The presentation was a perfect, voyeuristic slice into the life of an artist--warts and all. It sucked us all (especially the women in the audience) in with the photo of the young, bare-chested artist and his friends on holiday in Greece shown right up on the big screen, equal in importance and weight with the photos of his oeuvre. I just wish I had a copy of the photo from Greece to include here...

After Clifford and Richard, with barely enough time to pause for technical changeover in the presentation, we were treated to Janet Koplos and the keynote address for the conference. She propounded great, idiosyncratic views on the evolution of modern art glass and it's shortcomings. She lamented the intense focus on "art" rather than on decorative art or studio craft that she believes obsesses the majority of the people working in glass. And she finished with a long, forceful discourse covering examples of current glass work that she finds artistically good or that she believes rely too much on the intrinsic characteristics of glass as a medium to create interest and attraction in the audience. The entire presentation was unabashedly refreshing and rich. She ended up with a resounding comment that she would NOT be taking questions. I thought she was wonderful.

Much as I loved it, her presentation was a valuable reminder to me that we can all hear the same thing, but we hear what we want to hear. While other people I spoke to at the reception later that evening took exception to her valuation of some work paired with her casual dismissal of other work, I was completely focused on the the first quarter of her presentation. When it came right down to it, I really didn't care if she presented a potential contradiction with her critical evaluation of one artist's work as "heavy" and her warm approbation of another, purportedly similar, artist's work. Not knowing much of anything about any of the work presented and critiqued, I really couldn't work up the enthusiasm to decide if she was consistent or logical in her tastes. What mattered to me was that she put craft and the craftsperson on a par with art and the artist. As a studio artist/craftsperson dedicated to creating a high volume of aesthetic, balanced, visually appealing and tactile work accessible to the masses in terms of both price and volume (and devoid of "meaning"), I was *thrilled* to hear an educated member of the art community espousing the virtues of the contemporary "craft" scene. And I made sure to tell her so.

After the great opening day, we all went to the Bullseye gallery for the opening reception. Yummy food, incredible conversation, the "Bam" game, and little to-go boxes replete with salmon, noodles and vegetables and complete with chopsticks--what more could one want? A pic from the reception shown above.

Tomorrow: Day 2, cricket on the tennis court, and the maiden, the mother and the crone--the unintentional and yet powerful artistic message from this year's BECon. I am sure there are typos, grammatical inconsistencies, and faux pas in this post, but right now I just want to get it up and am too tired to care anymore about mistakes. Tomorrow will be soon enough to fix them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Have Kiln Envy... Not!

Bottled water and the muted sounds of 5:00 am Portland traffic start my first morning of BECon. Yesterday after my flight I caught a cab to Portland State U, picked up my registration materials, dropped my luggage off in my dorm room, and took the Bullseye Studio and Home tour. The evening ended in a happy, solitary dinner of bun (pronouned "boon") and Tsing Dao, and bed by 8:30 pm.

I miss my own bed and pillow and dreamed restlessly all night. The dream that stuck with me when I woke was that I had just started retailing glass and frit out of my studio and Bullseye changed their frit packaging from plastic tubs to brown paper bags. Yes, I am back in the west where recycling and the environment rule. Who knew that the first topic for the first post of BECon would be toilets? But both at the Portland airport and in my dorm room I encountered a new kind of water conservation toilet that I had neither seen nor even heard of before. They have either two flush buttons or a lever (in the case of the airport) that release different amounts of water depending on which one you push or which direction you move the lever (up or down). There is no picture of the toilets as even I have limits, but they are interesting nonetheless. Juxtapose the toilets of the future with the difficulty in finding public wireless internet access--even for pay, and you encapsulate my first exposure to Portland in over 18 years.

But enough of non-glass. The big topic of the day--novel toilets aside--was definitely the Bullseye Home and Studio Tour. And wonderful though the studios we visited and the Bullseye Research and Education facility were, the high point of the tour had to be Lani McGregor and Dan Schwoerer's (Ma and Pa Bullseye to you) home--a monument to glass you can make in a kiln and incorporate into daily space (referred to by them as a laboratory for living with glass). There are glass stair treads, a glass deck (shown from above and below), glass sinks (who knew you can't fill them with really hot water and then empty them all at once without risking them cracking?), and more glass art than you can shake a stick at. In fact, if I shook a stick in that beautiful house I would most assuredly break something. Not surprising that they don't have a deerhound...

The wall piece shown in the photo at the top right is a Klaus Moje comprised of kiln-formed tiles. Next to it is a little Chihuly (I believe the term used was "made from the runts of the run") floor piece. See what I mean about not shaking sticks (or deerhound tails)? The Moje could probably take it but the Chihuly would be history.

Linda Ethier (no pics of her or her studio as I will be there all next week and have LOTS of photo ops), Deborah Horrell (shown in the photo below or at left depending on your browser window), Lani and Dan, and Ted Sawyer (every wild-eyed, wild-haired inch of him) were all gracious and informative tour guides happy to share both artistic vision and technical knowledge with all eight rounds of visitors throughout the day-long tour. What a way to ramp up for the conference!

The big kiln dwarfing Ted Sawyer is one of the Bullseye Research and Education kilns. I initially had a raging case of kiln envy, but then I realized that if I had a kiln that big and fired the really big slabs that they fire in it I wouldn't be able to get them out--the piece in that kiln right now is only three inches thick but it weighs *900 lbs* (and it's one of several--six?, nine? in a series. Oh my aching back!).

As the topic of the conference is kilncasting it was only appropriate that Ted share some of the casting techniques they have explored at Bullseye with us. I really like the mold-creation model shown below that has a regular (fairly fragile) plaster mold encased in a refractory cement mold before casting. That's some serious mold.

The conference really begins today at noon. Until then I will hang out online and catch up on my own work. V will be very happy to get an updated spreadsheet with all the current outstanding invoices and recent deposits. I got an inquiry last night for 58 glass and steel pieces for a corporate award that I need to follow up on. And if I get bored, I can always harry the hapless Wunder Assistant Becky who is managing extended firing and shipping duties during my absence with aplomb. At least it looks like aplomb from this distance.

Post-Post Script: It doesn't mean anything that the only photos I posted of Lani and Dan show the backs of their heads. These are people who move so fast that that might be your only view of them. Faces later...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Adventure Begins

Nothing to drink, the sound of suitcase wheels on slick marble tile for music. I'm at the Atlanta airport waiting to board my flight to Portland OR and BECon. This will be only my third conference in the past ten years, and I have taken only one other week-long class in 25 years. Can you say excited? While I wait, I will compose the last emails I need to send. I may break down and pay the $8 for connectivity from the airport just so I can get them out today. I land about 10:30 am and then have two hours to collect my baggage, get to Portland State U (I am staying in the dorm housing for the duration of the conference and the post conference workshop), get checked in and drop off my luggage, and trundle to the shuttle stop to catch the bus for the Portland Studio and Home Tour. I don't think I had better count on having time to figure out the vagaries of the network I assume I'll have at PU before the tour. I have been too busy to look up any further schedule info so I have no idea what I'll be doing after the tour ends at 5:30. Uh oh, we're beginning to board and I haven't even started on the emails... Guess they'll have to wait! (Mt Hood shot from the plane for my pic--go iPhone!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Post and Then Off To the races!

High-octane, full-throttle coffee with heavy organic whipping cream in the Atlanta skyline mug, "Come Back" by the J. Geils Band on iTunes. After last night/early this morning in the studio I deserve the real stuff. I leave tomorrow am early for BECon in Portland and before I get back there are *18* orders to ship. Becky the Wunder Assistant is going to have her hands full.

And speaking of the Wunder Assistant, I have worn her out. My needs for help in the studio have grown tremendously in the two years since Stacy started as the first Wunder Assistant and I am now at the point where I need a regularly scheduled person in the studio at least four hours a day. I started posting on this topic first thing yesterday morning and then got carried away by the day. Got to finish up before today takes me over. Whoops, looked at the clock and have a meeting in 15 minutes and I still have to talk to Bill about our upcoming orders and the Dallas June Market that he is kindly attending in my place as I will be in Portland. Then the carpenters arrive, then, then, then--and the day will be lost again. I'm going to cut my losses, put up the post as is and come back to the topic later. Here are yesterday's musings tacked on for good measure:


Lefteas Yellow Dog Democrat tropical rooibos in the Washington DC mug, "All For You" by Sister Hazel on iTunes. No post Friday 'cause I was just too swamped. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel (don't go to the light!) and I just might come up for air into the light to mangle metaphors yet! Dave just ran J to Circus Camp for another fun-filled week, and I'm off on Wednesday to BECon.

Today's big topic: The move to regular employees. I have had wunder assistants for the past couple of years, and Becky (the current incarnation of the WA) has picked up as much as she can, but working for me isn't her life's goal or even a stepping stone on the way to her life's goal--or even a temporary fun thing. I am now at the point where I need a regular half-time glass business groupie. Glass blowing studios get groupies all the time. They have no shortage of people who hang around and are willing to work at anything just for the privilege of hanging out and maybe blowing. Kiln-forming needs more groupies, but we're just not sexy enough.

I need someone in the studio at least half-time to answer the phone, prep the kilns, empty the kilns, ship orders (including entering the shipments into UPS), manage inventories... (and I was swallowed by the day).

Monday, June 15, 2009

No Post For Monday--It's Already Tuesday!

No post for Monday. It was a heads down day and I just got the last kiln load in. It's 1:00 am, I think this is the latest I've ever fired. The bad part (besides sweaty exhaustion) is that the kilns won't be cool enough to unload and reload till late (very late for Bettina) tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Hot Shop Cometh

I sit and sip the ubiquitous Egyptian licorice tea from the Atlanta mug and listen to George Winston's "Walking In the Air" on iTunes. The night has followed the day and the Sprout is newly tucked into my bed listening to the Magic Treehouse audiobook "Monday With a Mad Genius" on her new iPod through my iHome clock/radio/iPod dock. I decompress, having just finished getting the last kiln load in at 9:15 pm. It was a full, rich day--many papers were slain.

The building inspection for the new hot shop in the back of the studio passed this morning with flying colors. The inspector especially liked the use of the sides from the Bullseye crates (also ubiquitous around here after 20+ years of squirreling them away--you can only use so many to hold your sheet glass!) for the gables. The picnic table has been nice to sit at and plan, dream, and scheme, but I fear it must be relegated to back under the water oak tomorrow when we unload the truck full of goodies from New Mexico. By next week when I leave for BECon I expect it all to be rug bug snug in there (or at least sided sufficiently to keep out the water).

I am in raptures over the design of the building itself. I love the proportions and the height of the roofs (wouldn't you expect that plural to be rooves like hooves? But no...). Even though it is basically just a metal-roofed pole barn or carport, it has an open, soaring, rustic woods architectural feel that makes me happy every time I see it. I love the screened openings in the top that will maximize ventilation and the escape of the hot air while minimizing the entry of rain, leaves and debris.

For the sides, we are planning metal along the back and the two short sides off of it, and a half-height wall (again from recycled Bullseye crate material) continuing along the long sides topped off by chain link up to the gables. The side closest to the studio will have a six-foot chain link gate in it to facilitate passage back and forth to the studio. Finally, the front will have some sort of full chain link gates that can be completely opened to double the already spacious 280 sq foot of open-floor work space (the entire footprint is 400 sq ft with the back raised concrete area allocated to the electric glass furnace, the pick-up kiln, the glory hole, the pipe warmer and the two planned annealing kilns). This way, on nice days we can put a bench outside and work there, or have more room for demos and classes.

Now I best hie myself off to bed. Big day tomorrow--not only do we unload the truck of hot glass equipment but I also get a big delivery of glass from Bullseye!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To New Mexico and Freedom!

Had some lovely Egyptian licorice tea earlier this morning, listening to "Long Time Comin' " by Bruce Springsteen on iTunes now. Some things have been a long time coming, some still are a long time coming with no resolution in sight--and this includes a purported shortage on one of the orders I sent to my new department store. They are refusing to pay for four pieces from my first order because they say they weren't in the box... As each piece "missing" was one of a pair, and all four pairs were packed in the same box, and that box had the same contents, size and weight of two other boxes in the shipment that weren't short... it doesn't take a math genius to see they made a mistake. But math genius or no, in every corporate setting you deal with the lowest common denominator, i.e., not the sharpest crayon in the box.

But enough kvetching. I harken back this morning to my lovely sojourn on David and Sara's 100 acre New Mexico ranch outside of Magdalena. As previously reported, ACRE sucked every spark of life from my soul and my marrow. I arrived in NM a veritable husk of a woman. Sadly I only got to spend one night there, but I was sufficiently rejuvenated by that night to be able to forge on home the following day in a 16 ft rental truck loaded with hot glass equipment (and glass).

Sara and David feted and feasted me--and David's green chili and cheese apple crisp after Sara's dilled salmon on rice were feasting indeed. I stocked for the road with David's homemade bread in the form of nut butter (peanut in one, almond in the other, yum), banana and honey sandwiches and fresh, cool well water.

Being from the west myself, I envy them their locale, their isolation, their population paucity, and their climate. I love the can-do spirit of the westerner, completely lacking in the notion of entitlement. And then there's the natural beauty. Maybe my mother is right and we should move to Albuquerque (she's convinced Dave and I only move to places that begin with 'A'--Aurora, Austin, Atlanta...). Then again, that would have been a better decision BEFORE moving all the hot shop equipment out here.

Sara and David's home is a 100 year-old ranch house nestled between a couple of mountains (one of them shown above), and it was built by Mark Twain's cousin in 1910. It is a beautiful, single-story, small, rambling, stone house that I nonetheless managed to get lost in twice during my stay--and that was after they kindly provided me with a flashlight to help me find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

In addition to the main house, there are several outbuildings made from wood or adobe that contain the contents of every packrat's dream. David and I are much alike--as witnessed by the fact that one of the things I brought back in the truck is an old home-made lapidary saw that looks like a gas barbecue and was full of old rat nestings. It was a treasure to David at one time, now it's a treasure to me--though I have no idea what I'm going to use it for. But it's a cool tool. I must need it (and have a place for it).

The load-up was assisted by several of their friends--including one man with a "cherry picker" winch lift thingie that was used to get the heaviest pieces (the glass furnace, one of the cases of glass, and the big wet-belt sander) up and into the truck. The rest was loaded in by hand--thankfully most of it not by me as I have all the unloading left to do this Friday--and took no time at all. I took pictures of the crew and some of the loading, I wish I could remember everyone's names, but I was just too exhausted to process.

Before (and even after) my trip, several people asked me why I just didn't have everything shipped out from NM instead of driving it. But half the fun of the process was going through Sara and David's years of accumulated tools and materials and admiring that which they wanted to keep and squirreling into the truck that which they could give up.

After I left Sara and David's place a little after noon on Thursday, I drove to Socorro (between Magadalena and Albuquerque) and stopped at the local WalMArt for some fresh fruit, an iPod adapter for the the truck (so I could listen to my audiobook on the way home) and a small Garmin GPS. What a great purchase that was! Instead of continuing on up to Albuquerque, the GPS sent me south and then off east on a two-lane highway through the stark New Mexico countryside and on to Brownsville and Abilene Texas. The route saved me several hours and a few hundred miles and ensured that getting home Friday was possible.

I took a couple of pictures from the moving truck, this one of the road shows the heavy rush-hour traffic I had to navigate on Thursday afternoon. The road looked the same behind me as it did in front. Wow.

I also got to go through Roswell, but sadly, I had no time to stop and hunt for stored aliens. I did, however, see this sign as I was going through town. Maybe next time I take a trip to NM I'll go with D and the J and we can stop in to do some research.

Now back to glass. Tomorrow: The hot shop!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again (Almost)

Chai Rooibos tea with milk in the San Francisco mug, "Across 110th Street" by Bobby Womack on iTunes. I struggle to insert myself back into my work routine and flow after almost two weeks of show and on the road. The easiest way to do it is probably just to jump in and review ACRE.

Set-up, as I indicated previously, was the most brutal set-up I've ever done, and I am pretty sure it was also Elaine, Bill and Todd's worst. We thought the plan would make everything better and faster, and it didn't. We had to adapt the plan because what looked good on paper didn't look good on the floor in terms of wall length and walk space, and then we had to adapt it again because the shorter walls either meant less work shown or more crowded work. We opted for more crowded--though that is hardly a fair description of it as it turned out not to be crowded at all.

I was so concerned with going for a high-end gallery look that I think we actually ended up with too little work in the booth--and we certainly had too little glass. I thought one representative piece of each size and one representative piece of each color would be enough and it really wasn't't. For the most part, if they don't see it, they don't buy (order) it. So back to the drawing board for the August Rosen show booth layout and piece count. If I'm lucky, the drawing board will be at Bill and Elaine's beach house for a weekend. That would be sweet.

Now to the show itself. As usual, the staff was friendly, helpful, energetic and accommodating. As decidedly NOT per usual the Champion staff (their contracted union employees really) was difficult, argumentative and territorial (at least about electricity). In retrospect I can see that the union workers at the convention center are having a tough time (like the rest of us). Shows there are down so there is less work for them and unfortunately, as a result they are passing the squeeze on downstream to people who can afford it no more (and quite possibly less) than they can.

To cut through the obscurity of the last paragraph, I had a very pissy encounter with a union electrician who told me in so many words that I was using too much power and in not so many words that I clearly couldn't know what I was doing or how to calculate electrical load for the cords, surge protectors and breaker boxes. Had Bill not peeled me off of him, he would have made a nice midday snack comprised of teeny tiny bites. In point of fact Champion had shorted us (our two booths) 2000 watts of service and shorted the other people on our electrical panel another 500 watts. When we finally got a reasonable person to work with we got that message across and Champion quickly fixed the problem.

Had the problem been resolved and nothing more came out of it, I might not even have mentioned it here. The temperature was hot, tempers were hot, nerves were frayed, words were said. Put on your big girl panties and move on. But the electrical saga did not end there. The first electrician I dealt with came up to me as we were breaking down and very cordially informed me that next year the electrical rules were going to be enforced and I needed to read the fine print in my contract which says we can only put up three spot lights and installation of the rest of the lighting--including all track lights and additional spots--must be done by a union electrician. He said the rules had been ignored for the past couple of years, but now they were going to be enforced.

I hope the electrician was wrong because the several hundred dollars union electricians' labor would add to my booth fee would be the straw that broke the camel's back. My sales this year were down almost 75% from last year already. It was, at best, a break-even show for me in terms of orders at the show and I cannot afford to be squeezed by an electrical union that sees their pie shrinking from fewer, smaller shows. When I am more rested and a little time has passed so I can recount calmly and with less ire, I will bring the above conversation to the attention of Nancy Vince of Wholesale Crafts to see what her take on it is.

And that was ACRE. The aisles were pretty empty for much of the show. Tuesday was a complete waste. It was a continuation of the downward slide begun (for me) at last summer's Buyer's Market show. Am I doing it again next year? Yes. I have signed up and committed. I still see value in a good west coast show--and this show is as good as any and better than most.

The bigger question is, what is the role of large wholesale shows in today's market? This question has been pertinent for some time now, but it is really coming to prominence with the concomitant decline in the economy. This year I tried expanding into new shows and potentially new markets with the Atlanta and Dallas shows, and I considered adding the New York Gift Show and the Beckman's show in Chicago (now run by the great staff at the Merchandise Mart who also run the One of a kind Show) for next year. Halfway through the calendar year and 80% of the way through the current show schedule I have decided that shows are not the way for me. I will keep ACRE and the BMAC, but I am not going to add any more and I probably won't do either Atlanta or Dallas either. Next year I will attend the Dallas show just because I have the showroom contract that goes through January, but I won't take a booth again.

So what will replace shows? For me, initially, it will be advertising, better online and on cd catalogs, and a better viewing and ordering system for my wholesale buyers on my website. The interface is still just too difficult to modify and keep current for me to use it as my primary sales interface.

Now I had better get to work. Orders to enter, fire and fill. The roof goes on the hotshop today and the concrete curb and a bit of slab fill-in work gets done. Tomorrow, New Mexico in review (with photos!).

Monday, June 08, 2009

June 8th Cometh

I promised I'd post today so here it is. Happy Birthday to me! I am celebrating by going to bed at 9:00 pm after a back rub from my daughter... So this is what 48 feels like.

More on ACRE, shows, storing, hot shop construction, etc., tomorrow. I promise.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday from ACRE

I started this post Monday and then was consumed with the show. I thought I posted it earlier today from Sara and David's lovely old ranch home in the mountains outside of Magdalena New Mexico, but apparently my upload failed. I also lost my last edits and pictures. *sigh* Let's try again.

This is the first of the posts from ACRE and I have much more to say about the show, exposition services and the union, next year's show, storage, new work, etc., etc., etc., but I am too exhausted right now. Posts will start to come on Monday June 8th--along with my advancement to the wiser older age of 48. In the meantime, condolences accepted (for exhaustion and a tough show, not advanced age which is a cause for celebration not mourning)...


No coffee, more's the pity, Todd's white noise fan for music. I finally got some sleep last night (fell asleep right after room service penne alfredo with chicken in the middle of watching Sahara on tv). The show doesn't start till 10:00 this morning and we're done setting up so we don't have to be there early, but I've still been up since 6:30. Talked to Dan the carpenter last night and he gave me the lumber list for the hot shop. I called it in to Home Depot this morning and it's set for delivery this afternoon. Becky the Wunder Assistant's boyfriend Kem is going to help with the building and he's going to be there this afternoon to take the delivery and get the materials stored. When I get home the end of the week, the posts and roof should be up!

Now about ACRE. Can you say worst set-up ever? Bill and I got on each other's very last nerve (oh, let's be honest--I got on EVERYONE's last nerve, Todd and Elaine were just too polite to say anything... much). Note to self: after over a month with only one or two cups of coffee, a large dark roast with an extra shot of espresso is NOT a good thing. My legs were tingling by noon from all the caffeine and I was, well, the only word for it is bossy. And set-up took over 24 hours. Day one we were allowed to start at 2:00 pm, but because of car issues we didn't get there and going till 3:00 pm. By mutual agreement we quit at 8:00 pm, and were back on the floor by about 8:00 am (a little earlier). We didn't leave till almost 1:00 am. I got up at 5:30 am to work on my price lists and other show materials (I had to update everything with all the new work). Then we got to the show at 8:00 am and continued setting up for another two hours. Then the people came and I didn't get all the work labeled with pricing till 3:30 pm. Oy.

Orders were good today--a customer from last year who bought a lot of our work and took it with him after the show placed the same kind of order today for this year. The new Cloudstone work is being very well-received, though I haven't sold any of it yet.