Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alright Already, I'll Post!

It's been a week since my last (admittedly lame) post, and after being NAGGED TO DEATH, I thought I'd better post again. Just a hint, if you don't hear from me it's because we're HOPPING! Since I last really posted we got the new crucible glass melting kiln from Olympic Kilns and are up and running with date nights in the hotshop again. I also taught two FULL kilnforming classes on Saturday, finished and shipped the large cast awards commission (and cracked my Dyson shelf in half in the process), put together a proposal for a local homeschooling group for a day in the glass studio, received a HUGE glass delivery from Bullseye, and we began construction on the new kiln room! The old kiln room will be the new kiln-forming classroom and kiln-forming open studio space, leaving the front room as a 100% torchwork classroom and open studio space. Now if I could just get the online class sign-up and payment processing finished, I'd be ready for the hordes of eager glass artists.

I expect the new kiln room to be finished in a week or so, right before I head of to the winter Buyer's Market show in Philadelphia and just in time for the opening of a new wi-fi enabled coffee, pastry and sandwich shop in the little commercial shopping center next door to the studio. I am looking forward to working with its owner for our classes, dates and workshops. She is interested in providing fresh hot coffee and pastries for our events, and I am interested in: a) not making coffee myself, and b) supporting another little local small business. And speaking of other local small business, I hope to meet with a woman who is the choclatier and owner of a new business in Decatur this week. She called me in December and proposed being our new chocolate provider for Date Night. With the Valentine's Day weekend coming up and us being booked solid except for one slot, we need to get moving on this one.

Speaking of the Buyer's Market, I have been asked to participate in a panel discussion on "Outside the Box Thinking: Great Promotions" there on Saturday morning. I'm going to talk about our Date Night program and its impact on the studio. Got to get the slides into the Rosen Group today. If you're doing the show, please come to the panel discussion.

One last item to bring up; we're planning an expansion of the hotshop this spring too. I would like to add another smaller studio space onto the existing hotshop so we can run simultaneous date nights while still providing a quality, private experience for all the participants. It'll not only mean another space but also another annealing kiln, another glory hole and another glass melting kiln. We love Olympic Kilns!

Okay, I'm late, the studio is open, and I have the Date Night book at home leaving Judy powerless. I also have the power cord for her laptop (which has no battery) leaving her even MORE powerless. Got to get a new one of those today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


It's Wednesday night. I haven't posted since last Friday. Should I post now? Naw, I'm too pooped. News tomorrow--hopefully after we pick up the new furnace!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day FOUR

I sit sipping hot water, having already had my 6 teaspoons of melted clarified butter and meditated this morning. The steel cut oats with craisins just finished cooking in the rice cooker, and I will have them for breakfast in the next hour or so. The rice cooker will keep them warm for me till I'm ready, and I won't eat till I'm hungry--which will be awhile even though I haven't had anything to eat other than the butter this morning (and I drank that) since noon yesterday. Ah I love detox days. I have lost 11.0 lbs this year (since returning from Hawaii), and I am only on day six of the detox! I know the numbers on the scale are illusory, but they put a bounce in my bungee nonetheless.

Today, the fourth snow day in Atlanta, starts off with 20 degree temps, icy roads where not dry, and food at the grocery store again! When Dave went last night there were no fresh fruits or vegetables, no milk, bread, or meat other than pork jowls (shudder). The bakery was bare, and the deli had no rotisserie chicken or other hot tasty goodies. Truly apocalyptic. Today, looks like we're back to normal--I might even get my glass delivery today.

In the meantime I have plenty of Quickbooks data to enter from last year (my annual sales tax report is due next week and I don't yet know what my base sales from last year were... Ooops). Welcome to another fun January.

Just got off the phone with Roadway and the Atlanta terminal has a skeleton crew on today so my glass won't be delivered today. They HOPE to get it out tomorrow! Me too. In the meantime my website and plenty of paperwork await!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day Three!

I initially had great hope and optimism that today's would be the final snow day this week. But it's only supposed to get up to 30 degrees (it's 21 now) and then plummet into the teens again tonight so I doubt much snow/slush/ice will melt. But what am I saying? Why would I wish snow days to end? EVERYTHING in Atlanta is closed. We haven't had mail, the MARTA buses aren't running, and I'm pretty sure garbage isn't going to be picked up today. Our big grocery store (Publix) was closed Monday and open yesterday only till 4:00. Today they're open now and don't know how early they'll close. J had a playdate and sleepover at a friend's house yesterday (yes, I got out and drove--and I'm glad most of the Atlantans stayed in) and these past few days truly have been like a vacation for us.

A snow almost-week is the ultimate vacation at home! For me it's impossible under normal circumstances to take a vacation at home. Think about it--when you go away on vacation, you insert yourself into a new place and the only constant in your daily life and routine is you. When you try to take time off--time out of mind--at home, you still have friends, mail, all the daily routines of life except your job. How are you supposed to break your physical and mental habits and patterns so you can relax? But on a snow day or days, all routines are broken--whether you want them to be or not. And for me, the best part is that I still get to work--I just get to work without all the interruptions, stresses, and crises of my normal "job". What a great, creative week I'm having!

Of course my last glass order from Bullseye still hasn't been delivered--the freight terminal for Roadway is also closed for the third straight day so they haven't been able to get it out to me. But there was nothing I needed really urgently (I would have liked the opaline frit, but I can wait).

Today I'll work on the website for awhile this morning, then head over to the studio about noon to fire a few pieces, and I'll finish back on the website. Ah, bliss!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Snow Day

I love two snow days in a row in the middle of a detox! Dave never left the house yesterday. Jessie only went as far as the yard to play in the snow. I went to the studio and worked a bit in the total solitude and quiet. Today will follow much the same pattern. I already meditated, did my breath work, and drank 6 t. of clarified butter (it was only supposed to be 4... oops). When I finish posting I'll answer an incredible backlog of emails that I haven't managed to purge since before Hawaii and put together my piece list for the BMAC--I think I'll call Todd too--it's been awhile since I harassed him. Then a midmorning breakfast of steelcut oats and dried berries cooked in the rice cooker, and off to the studio to begin experimenting with the new work for the BMAC! I don't know if Roadway will be delivering my glass today or not--I'm betting not--but I'll be there anyway. I wish I had remembered to ask Lee to move the barrels of cullet from right by the back door as that is the staging area I need to the cases of glass. Ah well, they aren't moving in the snow and ice!

Haven't heard back from Bob at Olympic Kilns yet about the new furnace--I'm sure they were closed yesterday too (and probably today). It is very weird when the whole world shuts down and hunkers in bunkers around you. I can't remember any times in Montana or Chicago where we were holed up for snow for more than a day.

The last time in memory of an event that had this effect on me was when Mount St. Helen's went off in 1980. We were told to remain in our dorm rooms, all classes on the University of Montana campus were canceled, non-essential businesses were shut down, and people were told to avoid going outside if at all possible. My not-so-perfect memory says the ash fall (Missoula is about 400 miles east of Mount St Helens) kept us indoors and out of class for a few days. Too bad that was back in the non-digital days and my pictures are all hardcopy or I'd post one here. Of course the Mass Mind (aka Google) supplied me with a retrospective from the Missoulian--my favorite quote from which is:

"By Monday, nearly everything in town was closed, including the bars.

"We certainly had a lot of responsibilities making sure places were closed down, particularly with the bars," said Missoula County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Hintz, who was working night shift in May of 1980. "Beyond that, police work was pretty easy. The streets were just vacant." "

(Some might question the Business nature of this post, but heck, I say a natural disaster (aka "snow" in the south) counts!) Now I've dawdled enough. Someone just called and registered for a beadmaking class for this Sunday--a sure sign that I need to get the on-line registration thing working. Hmmm. Maybe I should readjust my plans for the day and work on it instead of firing--especially since I don't think I'm going to have glass delivered today!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

It's a Snow Day in Atlanta. Schools are closed, my car repair shop has the owner in answering the phone and that's it. The Atlanta Roadway freight terminal is closed today due to snow so my glass won't be delivered till tomorrow (as a result, the piece from my new series that I need to make and photograph for my Buyer's Guide ad--due Wednesday--won't get done today). I am continually amazed how 3" of snow can completely shut down a city this size. I am betting that the businesses that are open today are running with seriously diminished staffing. Might be fun to go to Publix just to see.

Ah well, enough chatter. It may be a snow day, but I still have work to do; kilns to fire, emails to send, serfs to whip (just kidding--Judy's off today).

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Simple Saturday

I missed posting yesterday due to a full day. If Ernie has his way, I'll miss posting right now too--he is either oblivious to the physical realities imposed by his mass (e.g., it is not possible to fit both him AND the laptop in my lap simultaneously) or he flat out doesn't care about the laptop. I'm betting on the latter. However physically improbable his presence in my lap might be, his warm, contentedly rumbling catness is comforting. A little comfort goes a long way right now. Last night when I unloaded the four 1" thick cast award slabs, I discovered that my firing had cracked my lovely Dyson shelf in half. :-0 I should have considered the ramifications of putting 2" X 2" vermiculite dams around all of the glass and the effect they would have on the heating and cooling of the shelf. Ah well, live and learn (and pay).


After writing that small bit I fell asleep to the cat and got up in time to teach a beginning Kiln-forming class--taking in the first of the LivingSocial vouchers in the process. One down, 143 to go! Now I am going to rest and detox the rest of the day. Tomorrow I might do a fuse load, or I might take the day for website dev--or even do something family and non-studio oriented!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Settling Back Into the Groove After Vacation/Holidays

It lacks three minutes of 9:00 am. Not actually enough time to post and start the real day's work at 9:00, but I'll pretend. Heck, what good is it to be the boss if you can't set the work hours? So far today I got the J up (the most difficult task), made her lunch and breakfast and delivered her to school, and prepped for the cleaning people (you know--the cleaning you have to do BEFORE the cleaning). Then filled the car with gas and did the paper goods grocery shopping ('tis the season of Kleenex, doncha know). Now I have just under an hour before my first appointment to work on facilities scheduling.

I realized last night as I was working through the snarl of upcoming glass date requests that with our current loosey goosey system there is a very real chance of scheduling a bead date/class at the same time as a kiln date/class. Since right now they share a classroom and each fill it when used, that would be Very Bad. Yesterday when I talked with Lee about the upcoming expansion plans I put the new kilnforming classroom/open studio room on a back burner and prioritized the hotshop. But the reminder of the LivingSocial deal (and another upcoming marketing push for kilnforming) is making me rethink that schedule. Poor Lee-everyday, when he comes in, he has no idea whether his hair will be on fire or not.

Okay, off to schedule and plan. Oh, hey, and thanks Cynthia for the casting tips! I would like to talk to you off-line about the studio casting plans and BECon!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

And the Process (Implementation) Goes On

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "The Beat Goes On" by Sonny and Cher on iTunes in honor of the morning's theme. (Just a side note--wow they were young then!). Yesterday Lee and I spent a very informative and profitable morning with Bob Hogan at Olympic Kilns up in Flowery Branch and the upshot is that they are going to build our new melt furnace for us with a minimum of muss, fuss, cost, and time. Whew! One big problem down. While we were there I also talked to him about doing a small casting kiln for me--18" X 18" with side and bottom elements (maybe top too--any casters out there have opinions on that one?) and three zone (four if top elements too) temperature control. The cost is amazingly reasonable, and I have always loved the solid durability and reliability of my current little Olympic kiln.

Also spent last night installing, configuring and testing an on-line class registration system in Joomla. I purchased DT Register back in June and was a bit disappointed by the limitations placed on it by the integration with JEvents at that time so I didn't rush to install it when our new site went live. Last night when I tried again I was VERY impressed with the improvements to their current release (2.7.1). It looks like I might even be able to move the date night registration over to it and obviate any duplicate requests by having it manage the maximum number of participants who can register. It also sends out customized confirmation letters--with attachments (liability and photo release)--upon submission and allows for integration with a variety of on-line payment systems from to google checkout to paypal. Definitely worth pursuing.

This morning I wrote and posted a quick article on the website about our furnace issues--that's what having a content-management-based website is all about--and now I go back to slab casting for the awards project and to plan the piece list for the BMAC. That's enough, I think. (Thanks, Dee, for the suggestions on how to juggle multiple crucial projects in the same day and get to all of them). I know I'll be back messing around with DT Register tonight. Judy is also back to work today for the first open day since Christmas Eve. I hope it's easier for her today than it was for me yesterday!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

It's Just Before Dawn and It's Not the Darkest

A "Zack" (Kavarna Dancing Goats coffee with a shot of espresso) in my lovely new Starbucks Hawaiian bone china mug with the colorful hibiscus on the outside, the gently curving rim and the soft butter-yellow inside. "Moondance" by Van Morrison for the morning music. Dropped Dave at the train station--he's off to Austin--and now I have 20 minutes to collect myself before I need to get the Sprout up and off to school. In the hopes of feeling better at the end of today than I did yesterday, I am taking this time to plan out the day, i.e., blog (and maybe organize my Things).

The big items on today's list are heading up to Olympic Kilns to talk to them about building the shell of a glass furnace to our specs and building the rest of the vermiculite frames I am using to cast the slab award project. If I am really good I'll even get he casting load in. Judy's big to-do item is going to be to call everyone who has a date night scheduled between now and next Sunday to cancel. Then I'll need to refund all the deposits. *sigh*.

A couple of orders came in over the break so I'll get a start on them. I'd like to start working on the Buyer's Market work (making the list of what I would like to show would be a good start) but I have a feeling that what I already have on my plate and being a single parent are going to fill the day. I would really like to have a new colorway for this show--haven't done anything new since "Peacock" last February--but I may have to settle for debuting a new piece--the 20" deep bowl.

Okay, off to create and send out the Brownie snack list to the other parents in J's Girl Scout Troop and get the small child up and moving. She's still on Hawaii time so good luck to me with that!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tuesday Has GOT To Be Better

I am afraid, no, make that terrified. My last post was Saturday, and since then my anxiety level has only risen. Usually anxiety can be managed by judicious applications of control and Prozac, but this time I am just not keeping up. I haven't had the time or luxury to make lists and plans or do any of the other geeky little tasks that calm me and give me an illusion of control over my life, my business, my fate. James McMurtry's lovely rendition of "Ruby and Carlos" provides a background to my fear:

Ruby said "You're gettin' us in a world of hurt.
Down below the Mason-Dumbass line the food gets worse.
I can't go back to Tennessee
that NASCAR country's not for me.
Go on, if you think you must."

Carlos packed his drums up in the dark of night
Ruby's standing just outside the front porch light
chain-smoking Camel straights
the sky off to the east got gray
And he rolled off in a cloud of dust.

And the gray colt nickered at the gate
She said "You're right its getting late.
You and me got work to do
we can't be burning daylight too."
She took down the long lead rope
and stayed off that slippery slope

The aspen trees were turning gold up top
The talk was buzzin' 'round the beauty shop
"Wasn't he barely half her age.
Well that's just how they do now days.
We should all had been so lucky."

By spring she'd had the run of the free born men
Ruby turned 50 in a sheep camp tent
her body still could rock all night
but her heart was closed and locked up tight

Potato fields all muddy and brown
the gossip long since quieted down

And after one more Coggins test
Pouring coffee for the county vet
Pictures on the ice box door
of Carlos in the first Gulf War
Black-eyed brown and youthful face
smiling back from a Saudi base

And then Carlos on the big bay mare
Heavier now and longer hair
Looking past the saddle shed
From way on back inside his head

And the old vet said, "One day, Rube,
that colt will break an egg in you.
Now and then one comes along
you just can't ride." And he went on home.

And the storm door didn't catch
It blew back hard as she struck a match
But she cupped it just in time
And she sent that ash tray flyin'

And holding back the flood
Just don't do no good
You can't unclench your teeth
To howl the way you should
So you curl your lips around
The taste, the tears, and the hollow sound
That no one owns but you
No one owns but you.

Carlos took the road gig and he saw it through
He rode the tour bus while the singer flew
Managed out of music row
Carlos never saw the studio
Session guys had that all sewn up.

He looks out the window and it starts to sleet
Laying on a friend's couch on Nevada Street
Lately he's been staying high
Sick all winter and they don't know why
They don't know why or they just won't say
They don't talk much down at the V.A.

And Ruby's in his thoughts sometimes
What thoughts can get out past the wine
He feels her fingers on his brow
And right then he misses how
She looked in that gray morning light
She never shaved like they all do now
He sees it all behind his eyes
and his hands go searching but they come up dry

And half way in that wakin' dream
Carlos lets the land line ring
He never guessed it was Ruby calling
The pin in her hip from the gray colt falling
Figure eight in a lazy lope
Stumbled on that slippery slope

And holding back the flood
Just don't do no good
You can't unclench your teeth
To howl the way you should
So you curl your lips around
The taste, the tears, and the hollow sound
That no one owns but you
No one owns but you.

I try to stay off the slippery slope. I'm turning 50 this year, and the introspection and life-weighing have begun already. Man, my teeth are clenched so tight, and I want to howl...

I wrote up my plan for the year on Saturday hoping that putting it down, putting boundaries and borders on it and evaluating it would make me easier in my heart. But it hasn't. Sunday was supposed to be a last family vacation day with no thoughts of work, but of course it didn't work out that way (just like the last day in Hawaii was consumed with issues of the ESPN filming and long LONG distance phone calls). Then today began as all workdays do with a deluge of phone calls, technical issues, clamors for attention and time, work left undone from days/weeks/months past... and I'm behind again/already. Right now all I want to do is flee back to Hawaii, or to Montana, or just to the couch with a box of bon-bons and a good book.

The hotshop is in complete flux with the furnace issues--new/rebuild/what kind/how much/when/who/how to finance it--and I just haven't been able to hand it all to Lee and say "This one is yours." Why? Because this one ISN'T his--it's mine. It's my studio, my growth/expansion plan, my responsibility, my liability, and my investment. As much as he would like to step in and step up, when push comes to shove I can't abrogate any of the above. Decisions made now will have a direct and consequential impact on everything I do going forward. Had I not just spent upwards of $900 on new elements, a new controller and a new thermocouple, I would feel less tight on the whole control thing for the new system, but I just can't get there.

I sit, almost in the pit of despair, and "Get Lucky" by Mark Knopfler comes on:

I'm better with my muscles
Than I am with my mouth
I worked the fairgrounds in the summer
And go pick fruit down south

And when I'm feel them chilly winds
Where the weather goes I follow
Pack up my traveling things go with the swallows

And I might get lucky now and then
You win some, you might get lucky now and then
You win some

I wake up every morning
Keep on eye on what I spent
Gotta think about eating
Gotta think about paying the rent

I always think it's funny
It gets me everytime
I wonder about the happiness and money
Tell it to the breadline

But you might get lucky now and then
You win some, you might get lucky now and then
You win some

Now I'm rambling through this meadow happy as a man can be
Think I just lay me down under this old tree
On and on we go through this old world of shuffling
If you got a truffle dog, you can go truffling

But you might get lucky now and then
You win some, you might get lucky now and then
You win some

Why this song comforts me, I don't know. Maybe it's because I can't help but feel that if I just keep pushing, I'll get lucky. I'll win some. Heck, right now I'd settle for I'll get caught up.

Is it okay to write all this here for anyone to read--to show such doubt and weakness? Heck yeah. This is what it IS to be a small business owner struggling with bills and employees and vendors and customers and expansion and websites and life in this very fast millennium. This is what it is to be The Owner. Yes, I understand now exactly what it means to say "The buck stops here". I always thought it was about the money, but it's so much more.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

What Lies Ahead?

Fireworks and champagne at the studio started the new year for me. Are they harbingers? What will the upcoming year bring? Last year was... difficult, and from a business standpoint this year is set to be even more complicated. Am I exhilarated? Terrified? Both? 2010 ended in a rush of projects slipped in just under the wire, partially completed, and left hanging in the wind. Bookkeeping falls into the latter category as I haven't done any for either the business or us personally since, oh, March. Money came in, money went out. I did tiny window analyses of profitability on segments of studio activity, but what I wouldn't give for an entire *month* to do nothing but crunch numbers and plan the expansion for the year! Yeah, right. Time to dig out those big girl panties again, suck it up and do the best I can--I leave for the Buyer's Market show 46 days from today and that's only one reason I don't have a month to crunch and plan.

Instead, here on this fine January 1, 2011, let's jump to some big-stroke goals, plans, dreams, projects for the upcoming year--then back to enjoying a final couple of days off before the world, the week, and the year begin for real.

1) Equipment: This year--heck this week!--will bring a new glass furnace. With the last element failure in the current little furnace and resultant lost week (+) of date night and class revenue--not to mention the expense of fixing it... again--it's time to go new, maybe gas, definitely bigger. The little furnace--with it's new controller and new thermocouple--will be good back-up/secondary color or alternative glass pot. I also hope to add two casting kilns, another annealer and a small gloryhole. Oh yes, and 200 amps more electrical service to manage it all!

2) Facilities: Time to add on 1-3 new spaces in the studio. First will be a new room to house the big sister kilns and the new casting kilns. We're going to remodel the back deck--expand and enclose it with screens (kilns are just as happy outdoors here as in). Currently there are French doors from the kiln room onto the back deck and once we've moved the big kilns out through them onto the new deck, I can turn the current kiln room into a kiln-forming classroom/open studio area--which frees up the front room to be set-up full-time for torchwork. Second will be an expansion onto the back of the hotshop for another bench area, the second gloryhole, and the back-up furnace. Third is a potential splitting of the front screened-in porch into porch and additional front room (indoor) space. This process entails moving the front door and putting in front windows--and maybe an architect (not putting in an architect, just hiring one)--but I think we can do it.

3) Techniques: Time to add casting to the studio repertoire. I have two artists waiting for me to start casting their work in glass for them, and I want to both get good national instructors in to present workshops and to start teaching basic casting as part of our class offerings. Along with casting comes mold making, plaster and lost wax. Wheee!

4) Professional development/Personal Work: The almost two weeks in Hawaii and away from the studio gave me time to think about my own work and develop some new design ideas. I don't know if I'll have time to do much on them before the Buyer's Market--it'll certainly be hard to both make the pieces and to create the promotional materials for them before the show. Bullseye is also facilitating my creative process by hosting BECon again this year. I am very excited about the theme: Crossover: A Material Exchange. I will turn 50 the week before the conference and two weeks of professional development in Portland will be my present to myself (a pre-conference workshop, the conference, and then a post-conference workshop!).

5) Process Development: The Siyeh Glass website is coming together, now it's time to get the Siyeh Studio website of my work back up and tied into it. Also need to finally pull the trigger on the POS software integration for Siyeh Glass (supplies, classes and materials). Then there's the process for bookkeeping... A real business needs a real accounting solution, and I am *NOT* it. Time to officially hire someone who likes data entry and clean looking ledgers. I look at this hire as analogous to finally getting a cleaning person for our house: Once you've made the switch, you wonder why you resisted it for so long.

6) Staff: I am hopefully expectant that the new year is going to bring an increase in the demand for classes, open studio, and date nights at the studio, and I would like to add additional glassblowing and kiln-forming staff to our family to pick up the work. It takes a village, and it's also nice to be able to support a village. I am looking forward to turning over much of the teaching to someone else so I can get on with the next book...

7) Book 2: There has been enough said about writing another book that I don't need to go into it here. Book 1 comes out in paperback this year, Amazon has already dropped it's price to under half of list, and the publisher is really, really, REALLY interested in Book 2.

And there you have it--2011 at Siyeh Glass, An Intimate Urban Studio. Let's see how it all plays out.