Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End...

It's time for the year in review at Siyeh Glass. What were the highlights and lowlights of 2011? In preparation for writing about what we did do, I thought I'd start by looking at what I hoped/planned to do to see what was accomplished and what fell by the wayside. The post from 1/1/11 was very helpful for prodding my memory. Following its format, here is a brief summary of 2011:

I wanted a new glass furnace, and we got one in January giving us a full-time and a back-up furnace for blowing. Even with the back-up we still had a few down times in the hotshop, but I feel that we ended 2011 *much* more reliably than we did 2010. Didn't get any new electrical service--nor did we add casting kilns, another annealer, or another gloryhole. Guess I was a bit too enthusiastic about equipment last year.

2) Facilities: On the other hand, we did really well facilities-wise. I had hoped to add 1-3 more spaces, and we hit that one out of the park--we even have a new space that we aren't using yet! I had thought to screen in the back deck and put the kilns out there, instead, I got a whole new finished room there. We also built the second large outdoor facility--280 sq feet like the hotshop with its own little back deck. Right now it's being used for extra storage, but someday--maybe this year--it'll be a new classroom. We also bumped out the coldworking room and added enough room to it to comfortably house Licha's lathe--on long-term loan to us right now. And the front classroom became a full-time torchwork classroom with a built-in ventilation hood and fan. Never did do anything with the front porch, and don't think I will this year either.

3) Techniques: Casting, moldmaking and lost wax techniques have all been on the studio schedule since the 2009 BeCon when I took Linda Ethier's wonderful week-long workshop out in Portland. Unfortunately, adding this piece to the studio has been my biggest unfulfilled wish/failed endeavor.

4) Professional Development/Personal Work: At the end of 2010, I pinned a lot of personal growth on my time at BeCon and doing pre- and post-conference workshops there. Life intruded, and I was only able to do the conference and the pre-conference workshop with Steve Brown on manual 3-D printing--and that time was squeezed between other professional and personal demands. It, however, was a phenomenal workshop and I left extremely inspired to continue work in that technique. I haven't managed yet, but I have high hopes that progress will not go the way of the do-do bird and casting.

5) Process Development: I hang my head in shame. I took baby steps on the Siyeh Glass website, didn't get anywhere on the Siyeh Studio website OR a POS system for the retail business OR on an accounting workflow that works. My books are almost as bad now as they were at the end of 2009--in spite of Becky's best efforts to whip me into shape.

6) Staff:  It was a bittersweet year for studio staff. We were successful in recruiting two more glassblowers--Tadashi Torii and Domenick Peronti--onto our staff, and we are thrilled to have them. They bring new skills and energy to our program, and we were able--with their help--to refine our blowing schedule to be more efficient and economical. At the end of the summer, we also said goodbye to our founding glass blowing instructor, Lee Ritchie. Lee built our program to where its popularity necessitated the changes in its structure, and we thank him for two years of hard work and devotion to our studio.

7) Book 2:  Ah, Book 2. I signed a contract with the publisher at the end of October for a 240-page tradepaper book of advanced techniques and studio best practices. The publisher is very excited about the book. I am very excited about the book, and the manuscript is due May 1. Wheeeee!

So that's what we planned to do and did or did not. What came up during the year that was unexpected? I look back on 2011 as the year of personal adversity and eventual personal triumph. My father died last January, my mother moved in with us, and I spent a lot of the rest of the year rebuilding connections with and making time for members of my extended family. Family and a healthy balance between family and work are crucial to my happiness. I am glad that, at then end of a difficult year, I have a better feel for what I need to do and how I need to integrate it all together. More about what that means in the next post on 2012.

Following the theme of Life, we added a chicken coop, bunny hutch and a chicken/bunny play yard connecting them behind the new outdoor classroom. Initial population was one rabbit (Jasmine). Then she was joined by another Montana bunny, Charcoal. Then seven chickens, then two more chickens. We ended the year with five baby bunnies joining the family as (oops) our second rabbit was NOT a girl.

We also added to our vendor relationships during the year by becoming a Delphi Elite Dealer and and Olympic Kilns dealer. We look forward to growing all of our vendor relationships more in the coming year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Socializin' and a Scattered Post

Sitting at Kavarna sipping a medium Dancing Goats coffee with 1/2 'n' 1/2, and can't hear the music because the place is packed with chattering people. So far I have not even read my email as I keep seeing and stopping to catch up with so many friends I haven't seen in awhile. On this Thursday of the winter break (I am totally driven by the school and holiday schedule), it seems the most natural thing in the world to make time to look friends in the eye and casually chat with them--work be damned. But, finally,  the tide of friends has rolled out the door, and I'm ready to buckle down (knuckle down?) and work on The Book. I never did get the huge surge of energy I was expecting to offset the extreme lethargy of the week's beginning, but at least I'm on keel again and moving forward more than sluggishly.

So it's December 29th. There are only two more days left in this month and this year. Why does that fact carry so much weight? I understand the hard stop in time for the fiscal year end, but there's more to it than merely a money break (after all, it's not like I could go out and buy something, give something, do something that would make an appreciable difference in my bottom line at this point). I feel a need to either get a whole bunch of stuff done (not too likely) or wipe off the to-do list and start fresh next week/next year with nothing carried over. Sadly that last option is not too likely either. I guess I need to resign myself to seeing time as a flowing constant without the human-imposed, non-real-deadline-oriented/purely temporal breaks.

But we're programmed to see these invisible breaks! We eat and drink to excess at the end of *every* year, and we commence dieting and exercising at the beginning of every one. Sure, we sometimes start the diet and exercise thingies at other times of the year, but they are usually more event-driven--need to wear a swimsuit in public, attend a wedding, go on vacation, whatever. I can't think of a single other time of the year where we do something solely because it's a certain day of a certain month, and the time of year has no connection to the earth or seasons or anything else. Some people do things on certain days for religious reasons, but that seems more proscribed than ingrained in any case. But enough about why I am compelled to break time into these completely unnatural segments. Why ever I do it, I do it. Time to move on.

What did I really do this past year, and what am I hoping to accomplish next year? Those are both questions big enough to deserve their own posts, so I have broken them out and will publish them tomorrow and Saturday. The rest of this post will zoom back in on the little things that any normal, not-the-end-of-the-year week would bring.

When you get going in ninety different directions (as I am occasionally wont to do), things will inevitably fall through the cracks. Two weeks ago, the day after I got back from my trip to Austin, what fell through the cracks was remembering I had been called for jury duty. The State of Georgia Superior Court of the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit was NOT amused. I got a letter last week that included the words "contempt", "fine" and "jail sentence". I called them today abjectly sorry and am rescheduled for January 3. Dekalb county has a system whereby you can call the night before you are scheduled to appear to see if your block of juror numbers is needed. Given that I am juror #1 for my day, I am pretty sure I will be called. They probably save the first block of numbers for people who previously didn't show up--the way an airline will save the first block of seats on the plane for special people. It's good to be special. :-)

I was hoping to have the monthly KGRC meeting on Wednesday January 4th to finalize plans for our next quarter, but I have a strong, sneaking suspicion that I am going to be chosen for jury duty, and it is going to tie me up for awhile. I hope not more than a week as I start a jewelry-making class on January 10th at 10:00 am for which the first class is mandatory... Nope. Not going to borrow trouble. Things will unfold as they are meant to do.

And that's enough of a post for today. Happy Merry everyone!




Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Work?

I need to be back to work today, but I am suffering a particularly bad bout of post-Christmas vacation syndrome. I have been sleeping-in late, reading trashy novels, munching on snack food, cuddling with my family, playing games, visiting with friends, and watching movies--ignoring everything I still have piling up on my plate to do. There are Christmas presents to finish and ship, orders to do and ship, a book to get cracking on, and all the other studio year-end cleaning/organizing/inventory/marketing tasks to complete. I thought I would start the new year fresh and ready, but right now it looks like I will ring it in with a bunch of last year's baggage still attached. I WANT A FRESH SLATE, but I seem unable to compile the energy necessary to make it happen. *sigh*

It's almost noon on Tuesday and I have yet to do anything this week but whinge and apathetically think about doing something. Yesterday I told myself that you have to listen to your body and honor the message it sends to you. If it says really loudly that you have to take A DAY OFF, you should do it. I consoled myself with the conviction that today would bring renewed energy and focus, and I would work better for the break. Nope, not happening. I have read and written email (one message), listened to and answered voicemail (one message), begun this post, and sighed a lot. What will the afternoon bring, I lethargically wonder? Maybe a nap...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Welcome to the Future

Today I installed and configured a new software application called “Dragon Dictate” to help me work hands-free.  This post is my first attempt at using it, and I think I'm going to like being able to write while drinking my coffee and holding the mug with both hands. Not that I'm holding a coffee mug right now as it's after 10:00 in the evening, but it's the thought that counts. Ahhhh, no more hunting and pecking at the keyboard, all I have to do is think it, say it and, voilĂ ! (Wow Dragon Dictate even put in the accent correctly!) If I can't get the book done by May 1st with all this technology at my fingertips, I'm completely hopeless.

I've never dictated to anyone before, so it's very odd to have to say the words for punctuation. But this program seems to be remarkably accurate at processing what I'm saying and turning it into words, sentences, and paragraphs. One thing I don't have to worry about anymore is spell check! I don't even need to say a sentence smoothly and elegantly. It can come out jerky and hesitant, and, by the time it's translated into text, it flows beautifully. Of course without looking at the words as I type them--and being limited by the speed at which I type--I have a feeling it will be much easier to come across as a blithering idiot when my posts can come out of my mouth and onto the paper without being checked by my fingers. Clearly I will still need to review what I've written and edit it for clarity and meaning. (I wonder if I can get it to attach photos for me without having to use my hands?)

Tomorrow is the last day the studio is open in 2011. If I weren't rushing so much to get ready for Christmas, I would think it a good time to do a Year in Review. However, I still have look worse to decant and process… Oh dear, not “look worse” but “liqueurs”. And there is a big project on the loom, another on the knitting needles, and yet a third textile project on the classroom table in the studio. All are Christmas presents, and none will be ready for Christmas Day. Good thing my family knows me! (Jessie said “wow” as she watched me finish up this post verbally.)


Next week, Dragon Dictate firmly mastered, the book begins in earnest.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Somewhat Derailed


Coffee in the New Orleans mug, Rolling In the Deep by Adele on iTunes, Brian on the phone giving me the information on the stencil material for the vinyl plotter the studio is leasing starting today. I love me more equipment! Brian is also bringing an old Windows computer to run the plotter software (and it will also print to the old laser printer Dee lent me to do the fusible photo paper designs). With this bonanza of really old equipment, we will be able to create computer-generated/plotter-cut stencils for sandblasting, airbrushing and silk screening AND we can make our own fusible decals for glass. Wheee! New classes ahoy.
I missed posting a couple of days last week due to complete and utter studio chaos and madness. Never being one to let grass grow beneath my feet, I scheduled the swapping out of the kiln-forming classroom with my workroom for Friday--knowing that I had two full classes to teach on Saturday (over full--12 in one, 6 in the other) so it would have to be done. Dan the Wunder Carpenter came and moved the frit-storage wall units and cut them down to fit their new location. Dee and hubby Arno came to play Igor and schlep stuff from room to room. Even Becky the Bookkeeper pitched in and moved things after my books fried her brain. We didn't get everything moved on Friday--there is still 2800 lbs of frit and the three steel racks that holds it all to go. However the classes went great on Saturday, and I have to admit that the big yellow room is a *much* better classroom. Thanks to Lori for prodding me into finally giving it up.
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I wrote the preceding text yesterday and got completely derailed before I could finish it. This morning it's coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, the happy sounds of Baxter munching on a squeaky toy for background music. The new old equipment is installed and working (modulo the last driver for the printer). Dee, Arno and Brian are all coming back to the studio today to work on various pieces, and I may also put through a vitrigraph run. Brian is coming to work on the large-scale design we started yesterday--for a Christmas present for my Mom, not for new work. Dee is coming to learn that technique, help with printing the decal again so I can fire that new work for the Buyer's Market (and for a book project), continue moving the remaining 1800 lbs of frit and powder to my new workroom, and maybe pull some vitrigraph. Arno is coming to play Igor again.

So how did I get derailed yesterday, you might ask. Well first it was everyone showing up to work, then it was the arrival of baby bunnies! Dee, Brian and I were heading out for a quick lunch and as we passed the chicken/bunny play yard, we noticed Jasmine with a a small pink/grey object. Sadly it was a dead baby and I was afraid we were having a repeat of the last bunny birth (two dead, no living). However it seems that that one was stillborn, and there were five squirming, snuffling ones in the nest Jasmine lined with chicken feathers and rabbit fur (mother rabbits pull out their own fur to make a nest). I relocated mother and babies to a smaller rabbit cage in the house, and the babies into a cardboard box lined with a towel and Jasmine's next for a nest box. It's December and though some days are warm, some days are really cold and hard on naked little bunnies. Everyone seems to be doing fine today.

Now I'm going to get this post up before anything else happens to delay me yet again...





Friday, December 16, 2011

Studio Reorg

I've been awake since 5:00 am and up since 6:30. Was at the studio by 7:00. Today is the day of the big studio room swap--my workroom for the teaching classroom--and it's also Jessie's last day of school before the winter break. There is a school assembly at 11:30--which I must attend--and I have scheduled two people and a volunteer in the studio to help with the move this morning starting at 9:30. Somehow I don't think we're going to get everything done by 11:30, and I am going to have to leave them for a bit while I run to school. I hate dividing my energy, and I feel guilty leaving others working while I am gone. Unfortunately, my schedule for the next four and a half months doesn't really have any holes in it. In addition, tomorrow I teach two over-full classes and so need to have the move completed before then.

On a more-glass-less-business topic, I have been working on a new series this week and the final step--which came out of the kiln this morning--failed. *sigh* Back to the drawing board. I am trying to use the photo fusing paper to make my own laser-printed image to fuse on one of my pieces, and for whatever reason, the image burned off completely in the firing. There are many ways I deviated from the instructions so it might be to be difficult to isolate the cause of the failure. I am not sure if the toner my laser cartridge uses has enough iron in it. I didn't put the transfer on a flat piece of glass so I wasn't able to squeegee it down as much as is called for in the instructions. I didn't dry the transfer over night on the glass--I fired it for an hour at 100 degrees before ramping the rest of the way up.

I hope the problem was low iron as Dee brought down her laser printer that she has successfully used with this technique and transfer material, and we are going to try it today.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Social Media

Though it took me till now to post, I spent the first several hours of the day on the computer working on integrating social media into Siyeh Glass. I have finally succumbed to Twitter (Really, you say? Sadly, yes.) I have finally determined an honest-to-biscuit use for it (for me). You see, first thing this morning I thought it would be good to put out into the world a reminder that there is still time to create a blown glass ornament at the studio before Christmas. I thought of putting it on Facebook, and while that would work, it doesn't seem the most elegant and appropriate use of the magical Internet. I almost like having Facebook as more of a place for images, lead paragraphs for the blog (go there and read it), and a place for other people to leave comments. The blog, this thing I do here, is obviously much more verbose than anything I can (or should) do in either Facebook or Twitter. I didn't even realize until today that I had a need for a different place for quick little pushes of data. And yet...

I can see really having some fun with Twitter if I can get some local followers. It would be cool to use it for little teasers like: 50% off ALL glass and supplies today from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm--reference TWIT1 (76 characters), and New class schedule up, register for a class today, and get another class (same or lesser value) FOR FREE!--reference TWIT2 (122 characters).

But of course getting to the point where it will be fun is like going from being pregnant to having a 10 year-old. Ten is a great age, but it's preceded by morning sickness, waddling like a manatee on legs, childbirth, night feedings/no sleep, potty training, the terrible 2's (and 3's), etc. Today it took what felt like forever to get a "follow us on Twitter" link up on the website, and a link to our Facebook page. I wanted a Like button for Facebook that would link to Siyeh Glass, but I was never able to get one working so I settled with a Facebook "badge" and if people click on it they can "like" us from there.

Now I need to get some followers for Twitter. I can see ways of speeding that up, but they require yet more effort (effort already allocated to The Book Deux). But if I WERE to try to get followers, I might put something like the following here (on the blog), on the website, and on Facebook: First 20 people to follow us on Twitter automatically signed up for a drawing for a free class, first 50 people to follow us automatically in a drawing for 50% off total purchase, first 100 people in a drawing for one of ten 25% off total purchase coupons. Or would it be better to save the big things (like a free class) for the masses and give it after the first 100 people have signed up. Maybe giving away something guaranteed but small to the first five, something a little bigger but not guaranteed--but still with good odds--to the first 15, etc. Here is where the small business owner needs a degree in marketing (or maybe statistics would help--though Dave laughed when I said that to him and assured me I needed marketing).

And Twitter and Facebook are just the start. Now there's also Google + and who knows what else--all of which have to be integrated into Joomla and each other. *Groan*. As if being a small business owner wasn't complicated enough already!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Austin Day 2

Yesterday I blogged a bit, got an idea and worked on it, blogged a bit more, worked a bit more, and generally jumped from task to idea and back again. Today I am much more focused. This morning I was ON VACATION and finished a book, and now I am going to write the new class description. I will blog until I am done blogging, and then move on with 100% focus to another task.

Coming to Austin with Dave while he works is the best thing for professional me. Austin removes me completely from all of the other things and people at home who would distract me during the day. Here I have nothing but the laptop in front of me to demand my attention--until I read my email. Gah. I should have avoided email for the day. Nothing sucks one in like eDrama. But back to being AWAY from it all...

Unlike when I am on vacation, here I have no guilt when I want to get spend the entire day on focused work because Dave is also off at work. Here there are no children with playdates or cello lessons, no chickens, no dogs, no cat, no pond, no rabbits, no studio, no classes, no dates, no house (with all of it's daily maintenance issues) to distract me and pull me off task. There's just me and my laptop. One focus, one mission. "On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer, on Vixen! On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner, on Blitzen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, now dash away, dash away, dash away all!" (Really, it's not a non-sequitur.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Live From Austin!

Sipping a mocha at my window table in The Hideout Coffeehouse looking out on the Arthouse on Congress Ave, downtown Austin. It's a chilly day in Austin. It's bright and clear--a perfect day for reflecting and planning the coming year (and the book--I have lots to plan right now).

Lori and I were privileged to spend the day with Gail Stouffer at Wired Designs Studios yesterday. Wired Designs is one of (if not the) first Bullseye Kiln Glass Resource Centers, and Gail and her partner Stacey Campbell are consummate businesswomen who have weathered the current economic downturn with poise and aplomb. As I prepare for the next stage of my business, I am very grateful for the insights Gail provided me into their business and what works/doesn't work for them, and I am looking forward to incorporating some of them into my plans for next year. I will have the perfect opportunity to work on them while the studio is closed (from the day before Christmas through the first of the year--need to get that info prominently up on the website).
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And time has passed. It's now after lunch (wonderful bun at Mekong River), and I have parked myself at BD Riley's to work the afternoon away. I have a shot of Knob Creek, a pint of Woodchuck cider, and the lovely guitar strummings of Josh Allen as my background music. Oh I miss Austin! Dave's office is around the corner, the Hideout is a block away and Mekong River is across the street--a greater sensory work/playground could not be found.

I finished the morning at the Hideout by registering for Beginning Jewelry and Metalsmithing at Spruill Center for the Arts starting January 10 (and then getting Lori to join me). Then I talked to Dee about helping me put together some classes in copper and bronze clay. I've dabbled in silver clay, but never went farther than that. Dee has worked with the copper clay (and has all the tools necessary for firing it--steel tray, charcoal to prevent firescale, etc.,). When we first started offering beadmaking I had the idea that it would be nice to also sell findings so that the class participants could take their beads and turn them into jewelry when they picked up their beads, but it was the discussion with Gail yesterday that really has me ready to expand our class and materials offerings to include metals and jewelry too. So I updated the studio website today promising new classes, and... wheeeeee!

Lori also gave me a suggestion yesterday that I'm going to have to put my big girl panties on and do--even though it's going to break my heart. The nicest room in the studio--by far--is my workroom. The kiln-forming classroom is the newest, smallest, and most... challenged room. For a variety of reasons, it only makes sense that I swap out those rooms. The benefits for me will be that I will be next to the kilnroom and I can close the door to the rest of the studio. The downsides are the sloping floor, the extreme temperature fluctuations and the noisy ceiling fan (all things I should have to put up with rather than the students in any case). I also *love* my workroom with it's west-facing windows, varnished southern pine floor, and beautiful Tuscan yellow walls. The kiln-forming classroom was originally the kilnroom and it was the last one I got around to painting so it was a bit rushed and not as well done as my workroom. But if I am going to focus on classes, I need an appropriate space for them, and the workroom is as close as my studio gets. *sigh*

Okay, the day is over, the spouse will be here any second to collect me, and I have made great strides in a direction for next year (even if it did take me eight hours to write this post!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Business and Finance

The year is winding to a close, and I look at my receivables and my payables (mostly payroll through the end of the year), and it looks like I'll be able to cover everything. Whew! Of course my books are in a total state of disarray as I neither let go of my laptop long enough for Becky to sort them out, nor do I keep them up myself. New Year's resolution: find an easier--i.e., more maintainable--accounting solution and process for me than ditzing around with Quickbooks. This will be (at least) the third year in a row where I have just thrown up my hands and said, "I'll gather more useful sales and expense data next year to use in analyzing the profitability of the various parts of my business", and I end up winging it again.

I have heard that Mint is a good solution for personal finances. I need to find something similar for business. What makes Mint so powerful is that it automatically downloads your data--you don't have to remember to do it before it's been archived by your bank's server. Yes, the data is usually available for download for at least three months--some would say more than enough time to download it into the appropriate financial management software--but if you happen to miss those three months then you have a very painful manual add and reconcile task on your hands. When that happens to me (as it usually does by June) I just give up till December when I spend two weeks manually inputting and balancing everything--or I beg Becky to mash it all together as best she can.

Of course the big downside to Mint is that it's made by Intuit--NOT my favorite company!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Art

Is XKCD art? When you put your cursor in the last frame on the original page, the Alt tag (that extra little bit of text that pulls it all together) comes up. For this cartoon it says: "The moment their arms spun freely in our air they were doomed -- for Man has earned is right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone totally batshit insane." Yes. Do we really care if it is fine art or applied/decorative art? Um, no.

This past Saturday was the kick-off of Taylor Kinzel's 8th annual glass show, and all the artists represented were there schmoozing. At the end we all stood with Mary and Patrick (the gallery owners) in front of a white Christmas tree and people, lots of people, snapped pictures of us. I kid you not--the flashes were popping all around us for several minutes (as we waited for Mary to take her place) and more than one comment was made that it felt like being rock stars at an event with the paparazzi.

We were all there to talk about our work. For me that means the technique that goes into it, the play of color and light that come out of it, and how it feels in my hands. It's all about the sensuality of glass and the need to possess it and live with it. There isn't a "meaning" to individual pieces--a life outside of me--and I found myself explaining this concept on Saturday. I somehow found myself sucked back into the "is it art" mentality--i.e., is my work "art" and therefore "worth" as much as something that is a "fine art" (i.e., more than something simply "decorative")? Yes. Yes it is.

Wikipedia has a very nice article about the historic and cultural distinctions between the fine and the decorative arts, and even before reading it I had realized that I am not meant to be a "fine" artist: All my heroes are cowboys, or, rather, architects and decorative artists. Antoni Gaudi, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hector Guimard, Victor Horta, and Louis Comfort Tiffany. The Art Nouveau ideals of harmony with the natural environment, design according to the whole space and integration into ordinary life resonate with me in a way that the impact of an individual piece of fine art in isolation does not--especially if the fine art in question is all about the "meaning" of the piece.

I often see colleagues struggling with being taken seriously as artists, developing their voices and realizing their visions under the perceived cloud of working in a "minor" art, and I am struck by the appropriateness of the use of the word "fine" in the phrase fine art. I cannot help but think of the song by Aerosmith (whose acronym also became popular with the self-aware set who don't believe "fine" is a good response to the question, "How are you doing?").  F.I.N.E. art. F*cked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. I think I'll stick to the decorative arts--thank you very much.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Value

I spent a good amount of time yesterday working on the kiln, glass and tools package that I want to offer through the studio before the holidays, and I think my approach so far has been flawed. The goal should not be to put *everything* I would use in it, the goal should be to include what's truly necessary to start, and let the recipients build from there. I feel an analogy with the Intro to Kiln-forming class coming on: Break up what I see as the essentials into manageable stages. The kit I initially put together with help from Lori retailed at... Oh I am such an idiot.

I just pulled up the spreadsheet that I so diligently compiled and discovered I had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. No, I hadn't become involved in a land war in Asia, nor had I gone in against a Sicilian when death was on the line. Nonetheless, Bill Gates is turning away while shaking his head sadly at me. I wanted to offer two kiln options--a square and an octagon--and instead of giving a choice, I had included both in the total cost. It was such a Homer Simpson moment I have to say it... Doh!

Okay, so the kit really retails at $1,787 (instead of the $2,596 I originally totaled). Unfortunately, I do not have a keystone markup on almost anything that goes into it, so my cost--without shipping--is still over $1,000. I want it to sell it for under $1,000, and I can't lose money on it. I don't have to make money on it--Ow! Lori just slapped me in the head from all the way up in Dunwoody. Okay, I *do* have to make *some* money on it as I reconcile myself to the fact that I am running an ostensibly for-profit business, not a 501 (c) for other people with a glass habit. So I go back to the drawing board and I start winnowing items off and putting them into the for-later bucket. I already have the strip and circle cutters in there, guess I need to add more so they won't be lonely.

Later today I'll be heading up to Taylor Kinzel in Roswell where I have over $8,000 in new work for the 8th Annual Glass Show. It's my favorite time of the year to get gussied up, drink champagne with other artists, and talk to people about glass.

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Need to Post

I woke up this morning certain that it was already December 4th and I had missed three days of posting after being so good in November... Guilt much? But it's only December 2, and I only missed yesterday because the wireless at Highland Bakery, where we had our first ever monthly KGRC meeting yesterday morning, was out. Highland Bakery, let me rhapsodize for a moment... It's more than just a bakery, it may be the best breakfast place I have ever frequented *anywhere*. *Ever*.

I had the Cilantro Corn Pancakes which were served over black beans and topped with 2 eggs over-easy, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, and cilantro (not necessarily in that order). Judy had the French Toast (I think it's a house specialty). My comment was "Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head"--good advice from my youth that I keep to today (the slices were easily almost 3" thick).  But back to the menu; where else can you get Country Fried Steak Benedict, Fried Chicken Benedict, Ricotta Pancakes, AND Sweet Potato Pancakes (lightly sweet southern style pancakes served with a warm caramelized brown sugar syrup and toasted pecans)? Oh I feel the fat flying to my hips--and the food wasn't just perfectly conceptualized, it was was also perfectly executed. How rare is that?

Enough about food. The glass business conversation was just as good as the food, and I left energized, motivated, and full of ideas for incremental changes to the studio classes, communication, open studio, etc., that will improve the studio experience and keep me happy. Today's newsletter (yes, you read right, TODAY's) will expound on some of them--as will the website. If you're not already getting our newsletter, it's time to sign-up (on the right side of this page works just fine).

Time to put together the kiln-forming starter package now so I can include it. It will be a deal to end all deals...


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Day Of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)

Got to get to the studio and the desk before Judy gets in at 11:00! Some days you just get a wild hair that can't be denied or plucked so you just go with it. Yesterday I had plenty of more pressing issues on my plate, but I found myself at the studio, sitting at my desk, surrounded by ancient piles of crumbling papers (truly) and who-knows-what in bins on the floor shoved under the desk from three years ago, and I just said what the heck. And I started to sort, and file, and organize and CLEAN. Dave came over about 3:00 and asked if I wanted him to pick up the Sprout from school--I had no idea it was so late. Then he came over again about 6:00 (I had said I would be home at 5:00 so we could go out on a date) and I remembered with a start that it was Date Night and I was still cleaning! I rushed off and left everything as was, but I would like to get it finished so I can see the proud look in Judy's eyes when she gets in this morning and sees that I am not a total slacker.

Other interesting things happened yesterday--as they often will when I answer the phone on days the studio is closed. I got a call from one of the organizers of the ACC Show in Atlanta following up on an email he had sent a week or so ago about demoing glass during the show (March 9-11, 2012). The upshot of our conversation is that we at the studio are going to try to put together a full slate--three days worth--of demos of fusing, slumping, casting, torchworking, blowing, maybe rolling up glass, and moldmaking for casting. We'll have class lists and sign-ups, I think it will be pretty great. And we'll be the only ones there demoing hot glass.

Now off to finish the desk, finish wiring the glass furnace back up after changing out the relays (it was too cold and wet last night to do it), and go to the next items on my never-ending to-do list. For all those in the area, don't forget that the Sleigh Ride continues through 12/24 (Jessie and Olivia's beaded animal ornaments shown on the tree above).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Love Me Some November!

Though I spent the entire day on-line and working yesterday, I missed posting. NaBloPoMo winds to a close and I am so far 21 for 29. Not 100%, but a heck of a lot better than I've been doing in recent months.

Yesterday, in addition to not posting, I also ended the day with a big goose-egg in accomplishments. I moved lots of data around and around the Internet, and I still can't get my website working in its new location. All I want to do is move up one directory! It's not like I want to move servers or providers or something BIG. *sigh* For the time being I have two complete copies of my site in two different parent directories and a redirect sending everyone who goes to siyehglass.com to siyeh.net (which is how it's been since I put this site up a year or more ago). It's just going to have to sit and stew like that as the official kick-off of Book Deux is today (and I have no more hair to pull out trying to fix it). I have a conference call with my editor at 10:30, and we'll be putting together interim deadlines from now till May 1 when all 240+ pages are due. (eep)

Today, though the studio is officially closed, is also a shipping day, a firing day, and a clean-up day to get the studio back in shape after the Sleigh Ride. On second thought, I think I'll leave clean-up for tomorrow when Judy is in as I have to swap out the relays in the second furnace today and get it firing back up so we can have glass blowing at the end of the week. No rest for the wickedly weary (wearily wicked?).

Saturday is Taylor Kinzel's annual glass show, and, as one of the original artists, I'll be there all day. They already have all my work, but I need to send the list of pieces and pricing today too--through email, of course. What was it like to run a business before computers and the Internet? Not only no websites causing one to defoliate one's own head by tearing out tufts in frustration, but no email, no electronic bookkeeping, no on-line banking... The mind boggles.

Now it's back to my breakfast (Dave and I started the day at Radial Cafe), and then on with the day!


Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Not Just Me

The other morning Dave made some slightly patronizing remark about my not having an automated blog aggregator, aka as an RSS reader so that I can follow blogs easily. Hah. Much he knows. It turns out that Blogger provides me with a very nice reader on my dashboard screen--where I go to write my posts. Out of curiosity--curiosity because it has been awhile since I read through any of the blogs I ostensibly follow (blush)--I read through the first long page of posts and then went searching for some old favorites that didn't show up on the RSS feed. Turns out that several of the people who wrote regularly back when I started up Glass Incarnate have tapered off or stopped writing altogether in recent years. Ren, Jodi, Chris, and Barbara have all been taken by life, and Sue has apparently reset the permissions on her blog as I got the message "It doesn't look like you have been invited to read this blog. If you think this is a mistake, you might want to contact the blog author and request an invitation." when I tried to read it. Thank heaven for Cynthia, Bill, and Bridget who keep my world constant!

The full-on Siyeh Sleigh Ride is over for another year (though we'll still have goodies to make and buy for those who were too busy stuffing themselves with left-over turkey in some other part of the country to make it on Saturday). Even though I was successful in replacing the relays in one of the glass furnaces on Friday, it's still only pulling 3/4 of the power it should if everything was working correctly, and the thermocouple failed yesterday morning (causing us to limp through the ornament-blowing and dates  during the Sleigh Ride). We shut it off at the end of the night yesterday and tomorrow I'll replace the relays in the other furnace and swap them out so we'll be up again by the time Tadashi gets in for the upcoming weekend's scheduled dates and lessons (and ornament blowing! Can't forget the ornament blowing!)

Today, however, is a day of REST. It is a day of posting, reflecting, reading, weaving, knitting, getting the Christmas tree and carrying all the decorations down from the attic. It's a day of Christmas carols, butternut squash (or whatever variety of squash I grew that took over the weeping cherry tree in the backyard this year) soup, and board games with the family. Ahh, life is GOOD!

I'm Thankful

It's a beautiful, slightly chilly morning after Thanksgiving and I am still giving thanks. Yesterday was a perfect blend of family, studio and friends that left me energized, empowered, and ready to take on today (the last day of set-up for the Sleigh Ride) and tomorrow, The Third Annual Siyeh Sleigh Ride! There is nothing like wrestling to the ground something that makes you feel stupid, powerless and at the whim of fate, and making it cry for its mommy. The thing I stomped all over (with a lot of help and encouragement) was the instability of our glass furnace.

I started the day by meeting Sara from Olympic Kilns up in the parking lot of a BP station off I-85 in Suwanee--half-way between here house and mine. She wonderfully brought me eight relays that I purchased from Olympic on Wednesday but didn't have time to get up to pick up before they closed for the weekend. Without those relays we would not have been able to blow glass ornaments for the Sleigh Ride tomorrow, and we would have also had to cancel today's and tomorrow's dates.

I left Dave baking the Thanksgiving pies with Jessie (she made all of the pumpkin but for the crust), got the relays, met Sara's Dad--who will be blowing glass in the studio this afternoon--and headed home. My one regret was that I had not yet purchased Dragon Dictate or any other means of dictating for automatic transcription so I couldn't start the intro to the kiln maintenance chapter of the book as I was driving back home. When the spirit moves you really need to be able to write--no matter where you are or what else you're doing.

Back at the studio, I rolled up my sleeves, turned off the glass furnace (which was barely holding at 1975 degrees and pulling just over 12 amps of power--the amount it it uses to run one of the four pairs of elements), unplugged it, and started the Great Relay Swap. Brian the electrician was in Wednesday and, after a lot of metering and tinkering and checking, determined that the cause of the furnace not holding power was that the relays were not reliably closing and completing the circuit when they were activated. The elements were fine, as were the controller (a relief), the small 12 V master relay, and the thermocouple, and all the wires were solidly attached.

So I took the controller box off the side of the furnace (carefully as it was HOT), removed the thermocouple from the furnace (slowly as it was even HOTTER), and detached all 16 wires connecting the elements to the relays. Once it was disconnected, I was able to remove the insulation and the steel cover inside the box to expose the relays. Lots more wires there to disconnect, and then nuts and bolts to unscrew to release the old relays. But with patience and fortitude--and by only disconnecting one relay at a time and swapping it out--I was able to get them all done and get the box back on the furnace and the furnace firing in just over an hour. I now feel confident that I can identify and repair (*myself*) 90-95% of what could go wrong with it.

Bad news now is that either one set of elements has gone down or there is another problem as it's still only pulling 38-40 amps with all the relays and elements switched on and it should be using 50-52. But 38-40 is more than enough for our needs and Brian is coming back on Monday night to do a little more trouble-shooting and I'll get him to teach me to check the resistance on the elements so I can be even more proactive in my furnace and kiln troubleshooting and maintenance (and I'll really have a leg up on the material for that chapter of the book).

Now off to put together more deals and give-aways for tomorrow and to post to Facebook about Small Business Saturday again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Ready For the Sleigh Ride

Quick post and then off to bed. Got the glass furnace working again last night. Changed out one element, fired it up and we were good to go. I wish that were good news... I still have no idea what caused it to go down in the first place. One pair of elements out is not enough to keep it from holding temp, and yet it wouldn't hold temp on Saturday with only one pair of elements out. Today it's holding just fine with only two pairs of elements working. Brian the electrician is coming tomorrow at 10:00 am with his probes and clamps and meters. I hope he can get to the root cause of our problems. It's not elements. It's not relays. What's left? Controller? Thermocouple? The ones in the know (the electrician types) seem to think them unlikely at this point. But what else is there?!?

Though we were closed today, I taught a class for a group of Living Social folk. They were nice, but remind me NOT to do anything like Living Social or Groupon again--it really doesn't make sense for a small business that cares about it reputation and customer satisfaction to do this kind of bargain-basement-shopper program.

Tomorrow is the set-up day for the Siyeh Sleigh Ride. Am I a lesser person for wishing we weren't doing it after all? I have a horrible fear that no one will come even though I sent out the invitation to over 900 people and AmEx has been advertising it through their site (though I'm not exactly sure how... they just said it was part of the package if I registered, which I did). Today I also cut and shipped a glass order to another artist/friend/customer. After I spent the time cutting the glass, wrapping it for shipping, boxing it up and putting it out, I wonder if I even broke even on the transaction... I have GOT to get better (i.e., more realistic) about my pricing--even for friends.

Okay, that's about it. Sad news on the studio chicks and buns front: Looks like Char is a boy bunny, and he and Jasmine had two little babies that didn't make it. I found them in the hutch today, tiny, cold, and eyes still closed. I don't know what happened, but I have closed down the doorway of the hutch so the chickens can't get in it anymore (they were kind of making themselves at home there in the day) and cleaned and spruced it back up for the bunnies. I am sad for Jasmine. I hope she is and will be okay. Char is getting tutored, er,  neutered as soon as I can get an appointment with the vet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sleigh Ride

I didn't post yesterday. Twenty days into NaBloPoMo, and I didn't get one out. I *did* get the email invitation to the Sleigh Ride out, but that was the extent of glass yesterday. I played Dominion for the first time with Dave. I took Jessie to Michael's crafts so she could use her birthday gift certificate to buy more beads and wire. She's going to be one of the artists at the sleigh ride this year and sell beaded animal Christmas ornaments. She makes platypuses, bees, lizards, dragonflies, and butterflies so far. I think frogs are on the slate too.

Why the sudden interst in selling her work? J spent the latter half of the weekend trying to figure out all the ways she could earn money to buy an iPad. If she saves half, I told her we'd pay the other half. So far she has her allowance which is $10 a week. For it she must feed and water the dogs and cat twice a day; take care of the chickens and bunnies: letting them out in the morning, filling food and water, putting them [the chickens] back in the coop at night and gathering the theoretical eggs [again, from the chickens only]; clean her room, and set and clear the table at meal times). She has taken on scooping the cat box; helping Grandma with the laundry, and loading and unloading the dishwasher; and chopping vegetables for her father for additional small fees. She charges $2-$4 for an incredible massage (back, hands and/or feet)--I take advantage of this one. She's also opening a "store" in her room selling beaded animals and duct-tape objects. Should I tell her the City of Atlanta will want her to have a business license? I don't want to scar her...

The day ended with a viewing of Hubble at the IMAX and dinner at Sushi Avenue for the whole family. Then home to a shower, two chapters of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone (she is *finally* letting me read it to her after three years of my begging), and bed for everyone but Dave who was still working at midnight. Ah well, we can't all be slackers.

In short, yesterday was a Day Off. Today it's back to glass. I talk to my editor tomorrow about interim deadlines for the book so I need to go over my outline and do some preliminary planning today. The Sleigh Ride is Saturday and I need to figure out a way to increase buzz and traffic for it. I think I might make posters and see if I can get other small local businesses (like Kavarna and My Coffee Shop) to put them up.

And speaking of the Sleigh Ride, I need to decide how much to give away. For the first time I am melding both halves of my business--sales of finished work (mine and others') with sales of materials, tools and supplies. I want to have people interested in buying both in, and I would like to have the much-earlier-promised 3rd birthday party specials running (beginner's kiln-forming outfit, glass specials, glass rod specials, etc.). Guess I should get going on all that and Stop Talking About It!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Karma Can't Be This Bad

The universe is testing my resolve, that's all I can figure. I should have karma points up the Wazoo right now.

Yesterday I rose (I was the phoenix). I worked like a dog till 11:30 last night and got up and tweaked the website some more this morning. Then I taught my first kiln-forming class of the day. At the beginning of it, one of the young girls in the class (two young girlfriends, one mother and her friend) asked if I had pets. I said yes, at the house, and didn't think anything more of it.

Midway through the class Brian came in and told me we were out of oxygen. He had two full bead-making classes scheduled. To get by, he took the oxygen tank from the hotshop leaving Domenick unable to firepolish any of the blown pieces from the rest of the day's dates and classes, but the bead-making classes could go on.

Not too much later, Domenick came in to tell me that the glass furnace was not holding temperature. I went out and futzed with it (a highly technical process that includes, of course, a reboot). And we all crossed our fingers.

I got through the rest of my class without incident, and then at the end of the class as Judy was walking around the table, she found a smushed pile of dog poo left by a friend's dog who was visiting the studio yesterday. Apparently the girl had stepped in it at the beginning of the class, asked about the pets, and then didn't say anything else. Judy, bless her heart, cleaned it up and sprayed Ozium, but the 45 minutes between classes were not enough to get the smell out of the air (the smell was actually much worse after cleaning--a combination of cleaner, ozium and poo). For the next class, guess who had that corner seat? The pregnant woman. I felt so bad for her and asked if she would like to change places with me, but she said she was fine. I would've hurled had I been in that corner and pregnant.

Halfway through that class--also halfway through Brian's second class--Brian came in to tell me we were out of oxygen. I comped everyone's class and told them they could sign up another day--they were all Living Social 2-for-1 whose coupons expire this week.

A little while later Domenick came in and said the glass in the furnace was so stiff for the end of his class that he thought he was going to pull the crucible out on the last gather. I went out and looked at the furnace, and to my untrained but jaundiced eye, it looked like three of the elements were either out or not getting juice for some other reason. I went back inside and had Judy call the other two dates for the day to reschedule. The second date had already been rescheduled once in August for the furnace being out. They were NOT happy, and I ended up refunding their date night and telling them to reschedule for whenever would be convenient for them and it was on me.

The work day is now over and I am home in the comfy chair with a glass of wine. I could be crushed right now. Arguably I *should* be crushed right now. But I'm in the comfy chair. My spouse is home from Austin. I have a glass of wine and my family around me (well, not Jessie--she's still at a friend's house and will be home soon--but my Mom and Dave). The frosting on my cake is the justifiably cliched "and I have my health". All of those things add up to I have to give "crushed" a pass. Maybe I'm a little squished, but not crushed. Tomorrow, after all, is another day (and the studio is closed!!).

Happy weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Like the South and the Phoenix, I Rise Again

The phoenix is Fully, Gloriously Feathered with no dust required (see yesterday's post for the reference). I spent today leaving yesterday--and the couple of crappy days that came before it-- behind.

In a whirlwind of activity I met with Lori and Judy and we discussed plans for the the Siyeh Glass Resource Center for 2012--highlight: we're opening back up on Sundays in January. I emailed back and forth with another fuser that I am considering hiring to teach classes starting in January and it looks like that will be a go. I spoke with Nancy G. at length about her fusing techniques that she has so graciously offered for inclusion in Le Book, and set-up preliminary deadlines with her. I redesigned our Intro To Kiln-Forming and Intro To Bead-Making classes, put up the schedule for first quarter 2012 classes, and rewrote the pages on the website to match.

Finally, I conferred with my fellow sleigh-riders and we decided to do a short, sweet, intense Siyeh Sleigh ride in conjunction with Small Business Saturday next Saturday, November 26. Got the web page up for that one too.

The highlight of the day was the meshing my realization that the way I have been teaching the Intro To Kiln-Forming class just doesn't work with Brian's description of how Intro To Bead-Making needs to be extended. I can't realistically get out--nor can the students take in--all the material necessary to prepare students to be on their own in open studio, and Brian has the same problem--compounded with a need for longer practicing times. As I put on the classes page:

"Over the past three years we have determined that trying to stuff all the things we think you need to learn in a two-hour Intro to Kiln-Forming or Intro To Bead-Making class doesn't work. We have to talk way too fast, and your brains get way too full--or you just need more time to practice the techniques as you learn them. On the other hand, many of you either can't--or don't know up front if you're ready to--make either the time or the financial commitment to come three weeks in a row to three separate sessions. The conundrum posed us by these issues was great and troublesome, but we think we have solved it (huzzah); Welcome to Intro 1 2 3!

We have redesigned our Intro To Kiln-Forming and Intro To Bead-Making classes and broken them up into three separate sessions. You can take one, two, or all three of them at your own pace, on your own schedule. And because you don't have to decide up front, you can try Intro 1, make a cool project, and if you like it and want to go on, Intros 2 and 3 will provide you with the skills and comfort level you need to progress to Open Studio (working on your own in the studio with your own glass)." 

And here is the write-up on Intro To Kiln-Forming 1 2 3:


"Intro 1: In this two hour class you will be introduced to the basics of fusing and slumping—the foundation techniques of kiln-forming glass—and the various tools and equipment used in them. Learn what happens when glass is melted—how it flows, what happens to air trapped in it, how it combines with other glasses—and apply what you learn as you design and execute your own piece. We'll keep the science to a minimum (viscosity, thermal coefficient of expansion and surface tension can all wait); this first time it's all about compatibility and falling in love. Think of us as a matchmaker: Whether or not glass turns out to be your soulmate, you'll end the class with a gorgeous 8” square plate that you can proudly point to and say, "I made that myself".

Intro 2: You've had the first date, now it's time to start learning all about each other. We start with cutting glass, and move onto designing glass work for the kiln-forming. It's time to meet the parents—aka the kiln—and get to that science we skipped earlier as we find out why it turns out the way it does. But don't worry, you'll still be so warm and fuzzy from the flush of Intro 1 that finding out there will be bubbles in the glass (no matter what) won't daunt you.You'll make another 8” square plate, probably as a gift for a person you love (one cannot live by glass alone).

Intro 3: This session covers everything you'll need to know about being on your own with glass. You'll use advanced cutting tools that enable you to easily prepare your own circles and straight-edged pieces and cut big sheets down to size. We'll discuss the nature of relationships as we delve into the effects of opalescent and transparent glasses on depth perception and color. We'll explore what happens from chemical reactions between different glasses, and we'll see that sometimes the color you start with is not the color you end up with when you use striker glasses. We'll address safe-fusing practices from the design stage through firing. Finally, you'll learn how to prepare a kiln shelf, and load and program a kiln for firing.

Each session in the Intro series is a prerequisite for the next."

 Tomorrow I teach two, full, Intro classes, and I absolutely, positively must get the newsletter done and out for the Sleigh Ride.

Nothing like rising with a vengeance.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Phoenix

Thank you to everyone who wrote and called with support and encouragement for me today after my terrible week of dealing with the City of Atlanta. I appreciate you more than I can say. Tomorrow, like the phoenix, I will rise from the ashes, dust myself off, and Get Back To It! Tonight a hot shower, a warm bed and a cuddly spouse await... G'Night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whinging 2

You whine, you moan, you play a little Diablo... and then you get on with your life--and it's quietly good. I had the Holiday Fair wrap-up meeting this morning. I turned in my expenses, my write-up, gave a report and made recommendations for next year, and I'm done--for the year and maybe for next year too. We'll see. Then I taught an Intro to Kiln-forming Glass II class. After that, off to the optometrist with J, followed by a visit to City Hall to pay for my business license--that whole experience left a very bad, corrupted taste in my mouth, at the end of which I just moved on. Whatever.

In all, the day was varied, full, and satisfying in a gentle, non-flashy way. I was approached about maybe helping make a project with the 8th grade students for the school auction in the spring, and I jumped on it (it sounds way cool). As a result, I had the personal and professional satisfaction of seeing the stunned gratitude on the teacher's face when I said sure I'd do it, and no, it wouldn't cost anything--I'd donate my time and the materials. She hugged me, and that made my day.

Has anything really changed since yesterday? No. Are there still parts of my business life I think I seriously need to overhaul? Absolutely. But I put together the schedule for the Intro to Beadmaking I, II and III classes through March today, and I'll do the same for the Intro to Kiln-forming classes tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll also write a newsletter. I'll start on a new website, and eventually I'll plan an artist open house in the spring (early summer--after the manuscript is due) and skip a holiday show that has to compete with everything else going on in the few, short weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now I've had a lovely dinner with a good friend and her children (Dave is in Austin), and It's time to go to bed so I can be in court at 8:00 am tomorrow, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to deal with the farce that is the course of my Atlanta City business license process.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Times They Need To Be A-Changing

Today has been a very frustrating day. I have been pinged and dinged and beaten down since 8:30 this morning. It seems like everyone wants something, wants money, wants time, wants extensions, wants exceptions, wants special treatment from me, or can't pay me, or something else that leaves me feeling marginalized, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Back in March I wrote that we don't do what we do for the money, and I still believe that to be true. The following paragraph from that post hit me especially hard today:

When we start thinking about how much we're making for our work compared to how much we're working and we begin to feel resentful, it's not about the money--however much we might say it is--it's about the work. Something about the work is not or is no longer meeting our needs. The answer really isn't to ask for a raise. More money for the same work environment is a short term sop that initially makes us feel more self-worth but doesn't address the real problem. The real problem is either that the negative aspects of the job or the job environment outweigh the positives and leave us feeling down at the end of the day, or that we have intrinsic self-worth issues that keep us from being fulfilled and validated external to the job.

In my case, my self-esteem is just fine, but my job has evolved into management and ownership in the most non-creative of ways. When I get the opportunity to create, I throw myself completely into the experience--as in the Bullseye conference workshop on manual 3-D printing earlier this year, or the fall Advanced Beginning Weaving workshop I took in New Hampshire in October. I love those times and I am energized and excited again by what I Do--whether or not I make any money from it. Even the Waldorf Holiday Fair (though Dave will never believe it) was very satisfying for me in spite of the extreme hard work, high level of responsibility, and complete lack of remuneration.

Today's tasks--dealing with the City of Atlanta Department of Revenue (again) over my business license issue, managing orders which were/are delayed, calling customers about paying their invoices that have been past due for over 180 days, filling out and mailing payroll tax forms, and appealing a water bill that was four times higher than it should have/ever has been--were almost more than I could bear. But the real cherry on the top of the day was answering phone calls and emails from the never-ending stream of people who purchased our class deal through Living Social last November and waited until the last minute to try to schedule a class before the deal expires on November 24 ("Well it didn't say I couldn't wait till the last minute! How do I get a refund?"). I have quadrupled our class offerings to try to fit everyone in, and I extended the expiration to the end of January, and yet I *still* feel harangued and like they think I'm trying to cheat them. At one point I looked at my Mom with despair (sometimes you've just got to have your Mom around, and I'm very lucky that mine lives with us), and she sympathetically said to me, "Let's run away to Greece." I was sorely tempted.

So what to do? Well, my first step was to cancel this year's Siyeh Sleigh Ride. I have not been looking forward to it, I have been viewing it as an obligatory millstone around my neck--something I *should* do. I am also re-evaluating doing the Buyer's Market show in February--I have three days to cancel. Christine, the excellent former show director, is no longer with the Rosen Group, Wendy Rosen is absorbed by her bid for a Congressional seat, and her daughter Rebecca, who has taken over the show, is an unknown quantity to me. My one exposure to Rebecca was a few years ago when she tried to have a world handcrafts show run concurrently with the Buyer's Market of American Craft. This idea did not fill me with confidence that she understands what it means to be a North American artisan buying North-American-made materials, paying North American production costs, wages, insurance, mortgage/rent, cost of living, etc., and having to compete against third-world wages and cost of living. Yes, it might have been a great idea for boosting buyer attendance numbers--less costly goods are always good for buyers, but it didn't show her to be behind the idea of building up an awareness and appreciation for fine North American-made (and all that that label entails) craft. Would it have been good for their main supporters and the reason for the show--the American and Canadian artisans who have been exhibiting there for almost 30 years? No.

Canceling the sleigh ride and re-evaluating my one remaining wholesale show feel like the baby-steps to bigger changes. If I am not Doing It for the money--and we should all be clear by this point that I am not--then I need to be more true to doing the It that gives me joy, makes my heart sing, and doesn't make me feel a drudge. Guess it's time to shake things up a bit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whinging

Not drinking anything, not listening to anything either... I'm clearly in a slump. No, I am slumping something in the kiln, but I am not, myself, in a slump. (Can you tell we have had my uncle the punster staying with us for the past several days?) I promised pictures of Ed's and Susan's first kiln-formed pieces today, but they will have to wait till tomorrow when they are finished slumping.

Today was another transitional day for me. Because it was Ed and Susan's last day, I took them to a late breakfast, then they helped me unload the minivan from the holiday fair, then we visited a little... and then it was time to go to the airport. When I got back I defied popular opinion on Facebook and played Diablo for awhile (I picked up a saved game from three years ago... I really don't get out much).

Now I post and stubbornly put off thinking about the Siyeh Studio website, the newsletter, my court date Thursday, kicking the book into gear, orders, shipping, bills, and Dave going to Austin for three days tomorrow--leaving me to the dreaded single-parenthood (and the Waldorf lantern walk). Really. I'm not thinking about them At All. I am aiming for limbo and the perfect float in time. My aim is terrible, and I dread the resurgence in importance of tasks that have been on the to-do list for weeks (months), but which were relegated to obscurity by the all-consuming holiday fair. Now I no longer have an excuse for avoiding them, and I really am not looking forward to the next few days.

Ah well, enough whinging. Off to bed and bright, shiny, early day tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Endings

The weekend comes to an end. The visit from my uncle and Susan comes to and end. The Holiday Fair and my Viking Tales have ended. It's time to transition into thinking about the holidays, and to focus back on glass and glass business. Tomorrow. It's time to do that tomorrow. For tonight I am thinking of nothing. I have no projects, no plans, no duties. I am trying very hard to just rest in the me and the moment. I am not entirely successful.

Like Ellen, I am having a hard time posting right now. Part of it is probably because there is not much of interest to anyone but me in the lint in my navel--which is about all I have resting in the me and the moment. Sadly the lack of projects, obligations and deadlines did not stop me from a wakeful semi-anxious hour in the middle of the night last night, and I can feel another one coming on tonight. I had the hardest time trying to convince my subconscious that there really wasn't anything triggering a dark anxiety attack, and I I am bummed that I feel it lurking again tonight.

I really am not very good with the transition between projects/balls-to-the-wall activity. When I am in the throes of a Big Project, I yearn for a time of rest and a cessation of activity with all my being. But when it comes, I twiddle my thumbs and think, "Now what?" The only good answer to that question is one of the chocolate chip cookies Dave and Jessie made today, but I think we took them all to Jessie's cello recital this afternoon. Darn, I could really use some anxiety-repelling chocolate about now.

Tomorrow, before and after pictures of the kiln-formed pieces Ed and Susan made in their lesson in the studio today.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Day of Rest Cometh

There would have been some wonderful red wine in a Riedel stemless glass introducing this post, but Dave took the last of it. My background music is the sound of family desultorily chatting after a big dinner and movie. The Waldorf Holiday Fair is over for another year, and 257 people came through the Viking Tales event earning an etched and fused glass rune stone (handmade by moi). My feet are up (my dogs are a' barking!) and I am even considering heading to bed. Heck, I'm over considering. I'm off. More tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh Fudge...

I forgot to post again last night! Between holiday fair prep, teaching at the studio, and company in from out of town (this week my uncle and his girlfriend) I completely forgot. I am not so good at NaBloPoMo. However I am *very* good at holiday fair prep! Tomorrow there will be pictures--maybe even a movie.

The activity begins with a journey through the time before time in viking mythology. Back when neither our world, nor the universe, nor the stars existed. There was only Nifflheim, the world of ice, Muspleheim, the world of fire, and the Ginnungagap, the great void between. You navigate the stalactites and fog in Nifflheim, the eerie black lighting of the Ginnungap, and the roaring flames of Muspleheim before arriving at the great giant Ymir from whose body came our world, Midgard, the universe and the stars in the heavens. After you pass under the legs of the great Ymir, the next part of your adventure begins.

In part two, you help Odin and Loki as they repay a debt. You gather gold from the dwarf's treasure at the base of the waterfall and you carry it around the corner to where you place it on an otter's pelt. Odin and Loki's task is to completely cover the otter's pelt. As a reward for your help, you receive a glass rune stone. You reach into a velvet bag and take a stone, and the guardian will tell you the meaning of your rune.

Okay, I am officially exhausted and heading off to rest up for a full day tomorrow....




Wednesday, November 09, 2011

On a Schedule


My post is being timed tonight as there are only so many minutes left of battery-life in the laptop, and Dave is using the communal power cord right now. I take this as a challenge, and I am up to it. Unfortunately, nothing is likely to save me from a boring recital of a post. What can I say? One can't scintillate everyday.

It is a sad commentary on life when the most difficult part of the preparation for the Waldorf Holiday Fair is the making of the glass rune stones. The stencils were interminable to prepare--for Dee anyway; I was ensconced with hot chai and snoring dogs. Then today the etching was just as teeth-gnashing as the last person to use the sandblaster blew a hole in the hose, tried a quick duct-tape fix, and didn't bother to tell me about it. Then I used a bit of spray adhesive as an additional hold for the stencil, and the adhesive was almost impossible to blast off. Dee had been concerned about the age and stickiness of the stencils, but when I finally gave up on the spray in exasperation, the stencils adhered just fine to the glass without it. And the glass was a heck of a lot easier to clean up. Lesson learned.

Tomorrow and Friday I teach intro to kiln-forming classes (the piece at right is a student piece from one of last week's classes, pre-firing), and Friday is also the set-up for the Holiday Fair (I got a fog machine for Nifflheim today. Whoo hoo.) Tomorrow I also head back to Dee's so she can cut all the runes for me on her fancy schmancy tile saw with the super blade. Licha is coming down to the studio to do roll-ups in the morning--I hope Tadashi gets the slabs in tonight as I have been out of the loop on that one and I have not seen him yet.

Okay, time's up, brain's empty--off to bed.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Thankful For Friends

A cup of Indian Spice Chai in a hand-made, blue-glazed pottery mug, and the sounds of dogs who are not mine snoring for my posting music. One of them (Chloe) snores *really* loudly. (How's that, Bill? Were ya missing the intro? :-)

Because I like having pictures in my post, I am putting up this one of the studio chicks and buns. Both bunnies and all the chickens except Sundust are in the picture, eating in harmony. We haven't had any eggs yet (from either chicks or buns), and Dave thinks maybe the bunnies are eating them. I don't think it works that way, but who knows? All I can say is those chickens better get pulling their weight and laying those eggs or Dave may start making stew.

Day 2 of my cold/flu/whatever, and day 8 of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month--not as much fun as National Chocolate Eater's Day, but we take what we can get). I am at Dee's cozied up in chair with my hot chai and a warm cinnamon roll while she makes the stencils for the runes for the Holiday Fair for me. Well, she will be making the stencils for me. Right now we are still debating final size and techniques needed to get there. I think it's time to give up on putting channels in them and making it so they can be either stones or pendants. These are going to be stones. Rune Stones.

There is not much going on in the glass studio this week. Orders continue to trickle in--mostly for Todd--and I am teaching both Thursday and Friday, but in general we are enjoying a slow season. Some might not enjoy a slow season. Some might lament the lack of pre-holiday season rush. Some are not me. I revel in my current lack of speed--and not just because I am sick. Maybe now I will finally get the Siyeh Studio website back up, and the newsletter out, and the planning started for the annual Siyeh Sleigh artist open house starting Dec 3.

Or maybe I'll just go back to napping.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Let Me Explain...

I didn't post yesterday. It was the sixth day of NaBloPoMo, and I meant to post, I had things I wanted to write, my dog didn't eat my homework, but I got sick instead. Really.

Yesterday was my favorite day of the year--the day the clocks fall back and we get an extra hour to sleep in. Sadly for me, I started coming down with a cold the night before and had a very rough night trying to sleep and only partially succeeding at it. I dragged myself out of bed for the final time about 9:00 am to get ready to host the final parent workday before the Waldorf Holiday Fair. I felt so crappy and tired that I could barely focus on what needed to be done.

Turnout for the aforementioned workday was pretty much limited to the faithful friends, but we still managed to patch and paint the paper mache giant Ymir, weight and paint the paper mache stalagmites, dry and finish painting the gold, paint the treasure chest, hang and touch-up the stalactites, and drill and paint the Muspleheim floor. There is still a bit left for me to do this week, but in the interests of not stressing my spouse out any more than he already is about my level of effort in the holiday fair, I will keep that list to myself.

The evening started with a last dinner with our extended family--Dave's parents and his sister all visiting from the north, my Mom, Dave Jessie and me. Dave made his special cassoulet, and it was excellent. But by 8:00 I was so exhausted I wasn't even sure if I had a name--much less was able to remember it. So I went upstairs to rest and post--and promptly fell asleep, thus ending my posting aspirations.

Today was spent on this post (really) and napping (the pets napped too). You can clearly see that napping got the bigger piece of the time pie. For once I let my body shut down and drift without complaint. Yes, my Inbox is still full, and it will be full tomorrow. But for today, I rested. And It Was Good!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Full Day

Today was the busiest day the studio has ever seen--and Judy took the day off. Bad Judy! Actually, though we missed her, we did okay without her as there was no walk-in traffic and the phones were relatively quiet. It was still the busiest day, however, as I taught two full classes, Brian had two full bead-making classes, and Tadashi and Domenick had five glass blowing lessons/dates between them. That's all the people we can currently run through in a day. And they loved it, and many of them want to come back again and do more glass. And this is why I teach and have a teaching studio. I love the enthusiasm of the fresh beginner. I remember anew the fantastic feeling I got when I worked with glass for the first time and how I couldn't wait till I got to do it again.

It's kind of like falling in love. I remember when I met Dave and I was so in love with him, and I knew I'd marry him, and I was so extraordinarily happy but for one thing: I knew that as long as I loved him--and I couldn't (and still can't) imagine not loving him--I would never have that breathless feeling of falling in love again. I would never have the anxiety and the heights and the depths that come with new love. New love comes and consumes and terrifies and exhorts, and then it either skitters away, or calms down into something daily, deep and rich. Don't get me wrong. Daily, deep and rich are like swimming in dark chocolate--there is nothing better. But no matter how wonderful it is, you can't help but feel a twinge of longing for the knife-edged uncertainty and extreme sensation of New Love.

My relationship with glass is long and deep now. We are 24-year happily marrieds with all the complexity and comfort that that amount of time implies. I may temporarily lose myself in a new technique, or become entranced with a new color, but I know that I'll never again have the all-consuming obsession with glass that I did when I first met it.
And yet, when I teach a class, every now and then I see in someone else's face that fascination, that tactile lust for glass that I once felt, and I bask in the reflected glow of falling love all over again. Today was a day like that for me.

Now I curl up in bed next to my spouse. I feel the deep, warm comfort that comes from 16 wonderful years, and I know that somewhere else in Atlanta, someone is going to sleep alight with the fire of  New Love. New love for glass, to which I provided the introduction. And I am happy.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Happy Birthday Jessie!


Happy 10th Birthday Jessie Cordelia Kathleen Griffith! Yes, there was glass today, and there was glass business. But the biggest order of the day was the Sprout's birthday. All of her grandparents are here as is her aunt Jan. We had Nancy's thin crust pizza, champagne (J and the two friends she had over had eggnog), and old fashioned chocolate cake from Southern Sweets. The girls spent six hours making beaded platypi and duct tape and felt houses for them, and are now ensconced in front of a movie--making more platypi.

Besides the birthday preparations (and the ruana I managed to cut and sew from the wool fabric I wove in New Hampshire), I also picked up the 8-ft giant Ymir that I made with J's class on Wednesday. Here's a tip on paper mache: don't let the flour and water paste ferment before you use it. We had three gallons that wouldn't fit in the fridge and evidently there was a little feral yeast in the flour as the morning after we made it it was already bubbling up. I didn't think anything of it and used it with the kids. Their teacher was very glad that I got it out of the classroom today as it was beginning to smell like a brewery in there (and that's not as pleasant as you might think). My minivan might never be the same. Now Ymir rests in our garage till Sunday when we host another parent work day and I get some people to duct tape his joints up and to patch a few tears from moving him. Then we'll paint him white... or blue... or some other frost-giant-like color.

So was there glass done today? In a sense, yes. I started the day by appealing my $2,000 penalty for failure to file for a City of Atlanta business license. I used the grounds that the penalty is four times the tax and interest due which is inequitable, and that it would be a serious hardship from my small business to pay it and stay in business. My request was granted. Yea!!!

Judy prepared me for a big day in the studio tomorrow as she is taking the day off. Tomorrow I teach two full fusing classes, Brian teaches two full beadmaking classes, and we have five glass blowing dates/lessons scheduled too. Thank heaven my Mom is going to come in and help while Judy is gone. NO MORE SATURDAYS OFF FOR JUDY!

Now it is late and my spouse is snoring dulcetly next to me (really). Off to sleep and tomorrow, another day.