Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dear UPS Claims

As I indicated in the message I left Monday, I am not at the studio number for the next week. I am in Montana and need to be called on my cell phone (XXX-XXX-XXXX) with any questions. You can also use the following land line number (XXX-XXX-XXXX). Alternatively, email (to the return address on this letter) also works for any questions you might have as to how it was packed (bubble wrap, 2" clearance on all sides, Styrofoam peanuts packed tight around all the bubble wrap--makes the amount of crushing even more impressive), or what the claim amount was (one piece--which was valued at $155--out of the box--which was valued at $940--out of the shipment--which was valued at $1,703).

I left two messages with your agent asking her to please call me to clear up conflicting voicemail, email, carrier, and postal mail communication I received about this claim. I never received a call back. I was told the claim had been denied (postal mail). I was told you needed more information (voicemail). My carrier tried twice (the first time I wasn't there) to pick up the package for inspection from me when I had clearly stated that it was (quite logically) at the receiver's. I was asked to send photos of the damage--supposedly after it was inspected--when I got the package back. This was all very confusing, and, quite honestly, I felt like you hoped I would just give up and go away if you made it confusing enough.

So let's cut to the chase:
I am a glass artist. My clients are galleries and stores across the country. I ship with UPS almost daily when I am in production (most of the year). My breakage rate is extremely low. I have watched a carrier drop one of my boxes from the top of his dolly to the ground when he was loading it onto the truck (all glass contents, nothing broken). I pack my work for rough handling.

And, yet, those times when I do have a claim, it is invariably, immediately denied and I have to go through a long song and dance (just like I'm doing now) to get it approved. I have shipped over $49,000 in work with UPS so far this year (since January 1). This is the only claim I have had in that time period. The claim is for $155 + shipping to replace the one piece broken in the shipment. It is not for the $960 listed on the claim status page on my UPS online. I would appreciate any further questions to me regarding this claim be directed to the contact points listed above, and, frankly, I would appreciate the claim being paid asap so I don't have to spend any more time (which is money) on it. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Like Production Work

The past few days have been filled with firings of production work for orders and examples of production work for the upcoming Buyer's Market of American Craft show in Baltimore. As I sweltered in my 82 degree, humid studio Saturday afternoon and evening, I realized anew how much I like doing my current work. Yes, it is production work--which means that I might make anywhere from one to 40 of the same piece at the same time--but it is so much fun to make each and every one that I can't even think of it as making "the same thing" over and over. Color-blending frit rules. Then there is the beauty in the layout of the many as well as the beauty of the one. It's almost like quilting with glass.

When I crank the iPod up and rock out my 80's music, I like to focus on the larger patterns of the layout on my work table that will be lost as soon as the pieces are moved to the kiln. For example, the layouts shown are of 24 6" square plates in the "Fresh" colorway. I laid up 12 pieces at a time and got lost in the flow of the frit across piece boundaries. Notice the direction of the color in the squares in the first set above (photos taken after layers four and six) and the layout of the squares in the second set (also after layers four and six). I try to use the same pattern whenever I lay up a large number of square pieces, to minimize errors from exuberant but careless frit flinging, and in the second lay up I accidentally flipped one of the squares 180 degrees. The difference was obvious--and fascinated me--after the fourth layer, but it was much tougher to spot after the sixth.

Can you see how I would get lost in the patterns? Every piece is the same, and every piece is different. Each layer of frit and color brings a new pattern, a new watercolor painting for me to admire before I move each piece to the kiln for the glass to be transformed in texture, color, transparency by the heat. These 24 pieces are part of the current order from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I fused 78 pieces for them since I got back from Portland last Tuesday night.

Notice I said "fused". I am on my way to Montana today after only five days in the studio. I had over 160 pieces to make between my return from Portland and leaving for the BMAC next week and even firing full loads in every kiln every day, there was no way to get them all done. The only way to meet all the deadlines was to outsource some of the work. Clearly it wouldn't be efficient to both fuse and slump some pieces, but it worked out quite well for me to do all the fusing and then have someone step in to help with the slumping.

Lucky for me I have A Village--in this case, my long-suffering husband and Judy are stepping in to slump everything for me. It will take them five or six days to get it all done (and require meticulous instructions and firing schedules from me to make it work), but I have faith that they will rise to the occasion and I will come back from Montana next Wednesday to all orders shipped, and all my new work for the BMAC done and ready to load up Thursday (I leave for Baltimore Friday... WHEEEEE!!!!!) After 16 years, am I making a glass artist of my spouse, or does he just feel really, really sorry for how overwhelmed I am right now??

I took this final picture a couple of weeks ago when I had an order for four large award pieces and 58 earring trees in cobalt blue and lime green. I didn't have the cobalt/lime glass already made so I had to run up a few sheets to smash. The picture is of the four awards--16" X 24" each--and the six 4" X 20" strips of cobalt and blue. Bertha was full, full, full that day!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Life Changes

Today we got our first twinge of empty nest/how-fast-she's-growing-up syndrome as we packed Mom, Jessie, Baxter, Jig (the dogs) and Bailey (Mom's bird) into the car and sent them off to Montana. Even though I am flying out on Monday to meet them in Missoula and do the final driving lap with them, it was still an emotional parting. I think one thing that made it so big was I decided at 8:45 last night to see if I could activate J's iPhone and turn it from an iPod to a real phone. We weren't going to let her have a phone until she was 20--or at least 12--because we didn't see the need. But my Mom is trying hard to be the last person left on the planet without a cell phone and we really didn't want them driving 2200 miles without one. How life has changed in the past 20 years. I (as did everyone else) thought nothing of heading across country on my own in a less-than-reliable car with not even a phone card--much less a cell phone.

So now J has a phone, and it's as much so she can call us whenever she wants to as it is for safety. Maybe more. We just had our first chat (she called from Nashville) and I miss her so!!! The saga of the phone was quite funny. Turns out once a SIM card in a phone has been used it can never be provisioned again. As J has a used iPhone the card was no longer viable. No problem, you can buy a SIM card at CVS or WalMart. So while I am setting everything up with AT&T on the phone, Dave heads to WalMart (and we pause the Princess Bride--we had all been watching it for the 9000th time). Unfortunately when he gets back he tells me that they didn't have any SIM cards so he had to buy a disposable phone instead. But we live in the days of Miracles and Wonder, and the AT&T rep walks me through taking the SIM card from the disposable and putting it into J's iPhone. Voila--a new phone for $9.99 and no contract added to our family plan! It was pretty smooth and amazing.

We finished the Princess Bride (all but Mom who had given up and gone to bed in the middle of the tech storm) and fell into bed for a short five hours sleep before getting up to have a last family breakfast and send the travelers off. The last photos of the evening are of Dave and the J in their new BECon wear (J had to stand on the coffee table so I could get them both in the pic with my iPhone).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Just set the time zone on the laptop from Pacific back to Eastern. It's no longer 3:13 am, it's 6:13 am... Really? Is that how it works? Apparently will ye, nill ye (or willy-nilly, if you prefer), crossing the country does require a reset of one's internal clock. I'm blathering. No time to blather. Order organization and processing up the wazoo today--not to mention a dentist appointment and all the usual first-day-back stuff to wade through.

The posts over the past three days have been more eloquent than usual--a direct influence of being away from home, on the west coast, and staying with Morganica (the most eloquent individual I know). Now I'm home and pragmatism rules again. For the past 12 days I wore nice clothes, make-up and jewelry every day. I thought differently, moved differently, and wrote differently. Today it's back to grungy stained t-shirts, no make-up, and a harried demeanor. Is that fair, I ask you? I want to stay the casual, well-dressed if not well-pressed artist/studio owner/writer I was in Portland. Ah well. Guess I'll go clean the cat box instead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Good-bye Portland

I sit in Rogue Ales Public House in the Portland airport waiting for my flight. I have a big glass of Rogue Irish lager to my right (for which I am getting surreptitious scandalized glances from a woman at the next table... or is it envy as she sips her diet Coke?) and a cup of Harry's beer cheese soup to my left. Yes, it's only 10:30 am here, but it's 1:30 pm in Atlanta and I am preparing. Bullseye Breakfast of Artisans!

I have loved my time here. In part it was due to the innate beauty and grace of Portland herself and the Oregonians (both native and adopted) who inhabit her, in part it was because of the reason for my visit--Steve Brown's workshop and BECon, but the main reason I had *such* a lovely time was getting to stay with Cynthia Morgan. I swear we are twins separated at birth! Now I need to figure out a way to get her out to Atlanta to play around in my studio.

In a few minutes I will get on the plane with my little canvas bag chock full of Made In Oregon souvenirs (and two jars of homemade pickled beets from the farmer's market tucked into my suitcase) and head back to the heat and the bustle that is Siyeh Studio. I will miss the peace, quiet and reflective time I have had here. And I'll really miss my twin.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art For Me!

Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 54 and Van Morrison's "Wild Night" on the radio playing through the restaurant--the restaurant being Tomaselli's Pastry Mill and Cafe in Elkton, OR across the street from the Elkton Cash Market and kitty-corner from the Brandborg Winery. My pizza has a chipotle-peanut butter BBQ sauced chicken, red and green peppers, and jalapenos on it... Can you say SPICY? It also has an amazing crust.

I promised a post on my upcoming artistic endeavors, and it's time to deliver. The summer looms (I whine my perennial "where did the spring go" lament) and I am staring down the barrel of orders, the BMAC, shuttling back and forth to Montana to help my Mom prepare her house for sale, and, oh yes, adding new work to my studio practice (yep, I've whole-spleenedly embraced that phrase)...

I have been trying to set-up regular casting in the studio since I got back from the last BECon and Linda Ethier's wonderful casting workshop. I have not succeeded. I have passionately talked a good game and enthusiastically encouraged other artists to provide me with their work (or rather, wax models of their work as they normally carve stone or sculpt clay to cast in pewter or bronze) which I would then render in glass. But who has had time? Not me. I am hoping that my upcoming visit to Hugh McKay's Cast Glass Forms foundry with Cynthia with rekindle the zest and sharpen my laser focus on casting.

Even more compelling to me right now than casting, however, is to continue my explorations of creating 3-D glass forms from glass powder cradled in clay powder and laid down on the kiln shelf through a series of screens--the lo-tech 3-D printing I learned in Steve Brown's workshop. Think of it as dry silkscreen printing over and over in the same spot until it's really, really thick. This is work I could easily do with a bag of clay powder, a kiln shelf, some mullite dams, a bunch of glass powders and a kiln. Oh yes and some screens (which I have from my class) sieves, sifters and brushes. It seems like a lot, but unlike lost wax casting, it's a very clean process with none of the messy boiling, spitting water from a wallpaper steamer melting out wax from a mold. A table, a box of dust masks, a little hand broom and dustpan and I'm good to go!

So how am I going to accomplish new work this post-BECon when I failed so ignominiously before? Heh. I am going to run away. I mentioned previously that I am going to Montana a bit this summer. The truth is that I am spending the bulk of the summer there, and there isn't a glass studio. Yet. I am looking forward to beginning one this year. For the present I am not going to try to do my current production work. Instead, I want to set up a medium-sized kiln and work in casting with traditional plaster silica molds and the lo-tech 3-D printing described above. I am leaving Judy in charge of the studio in Atlanta, and Lori, Tadashi, Lee, Domenick, Amy, and Brian will keep the studio running smoothly without me. No equipment will break, nothing outside of the usual course of business will happen, there won't be any art emergencies where a client needs some thing RIGHT NOW... Well, I can dream, can't I?

I promised Dave that when I turned 50 I would SLOW DOWN. It's time to make good on that promise, and stepping away from the Atlanta studio a bit (and setting up a Montana studio) is a good start. Really. Did I mention I am completely obsessed with this screen/powder technique?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BECon and Artists

Champagne in a lovely highball glass (for breakfast! with toast!), French press coffee with lots of cream in a mug next to it, and the rising and falling conversation of Tadashi and Morganica (Cynthia Morgan) for my music. BECon 2011 is over. My batteries are refilled to the bursting--as is my spleen... (appendix? Liver? Heart? What organ is the creative seat of the body?) I don't know from where the creative juices flow, but they have welled and filled every nook and cranny in my body and I need to get home and let them out. Thank you Steve Royston Brown.

The workshop I took from Brown was incredible. Even though my second and third pieces did not turn out (incorrect firing schedules--not enough heat so the middles of each piece [made of glass powder] stayed powder and crumbled to dust when I de-molded them) I am completely inspired to continue this body of work when I return to my own studio practice (more on studio practice in a minute) next week.

Who am I kidding?!? When I get back to the studio I am going to dive head-first into orders, work for both the wholesale and retail portions of the BMAC show in Baltimore, running a teaching studio, selling glass and tools, managing a hotshop, setting up a second hotshop/casting studio, having glass date nights, scheduling torchwork beadmaking classes, and managing employees... Making art. *snort* Like I have time for *that*! (But I will, and I'll tell you how tomorrow. Promise. I'm going to take a page from Cynthia's book and write tomorrow's post now--as soon as I finish this one--and schedule it to run tomorrow. Heh. Now more about, well, being an artist.)

I have retreated to Morganica's red leather couch with the heather purple knitted throw her mother made over my legs. It's time to really post. The problem with not posting for a month... er, two months(!) is that if I don't post, it means a LOT is happening that is worth posting about, and the task of getting it all documented may be critically important (at least to me), but it is also physically impossible. Life doesn't stand still just so I can catch up. But I am in charge. I am the adult (snicker). I'm going to jump around a bit and not worry about chronology. Linear order be damned--it may be how things happen, but it doesn't have to be how we think about them, remember them, or chronicle them.

Though I just wrote that life doesn't stand still, today, for me, I am making it do just that. I am ruthlessly avoiding any external stimuli. I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to meet anyone. I don't want to see anyone else's work or studio or learn about their technique. Today is a day to process everything I took in over the last week and figure out a way to ease it into my own studio practice. See? I now have a studio practice. All the presenters at BECon talked about their practices. For a couple of moments I thought I was at a medical convention, but then I, too, became taken by the imagery of an artistic practice. Hopefully less than doctors (really, hopefully) we actually are all practicing all the time.

I am also not an artist, I'm a "maker" (the other term used by all the presenters)--which is great because I can't quite get my skin around being an "artist"--even after an hour lounging on Morganica's entryway floor last night floor passionately debating what is art and do I do it with her and Tadashi. I woke up this morning with the strong, clear thought that I am an artist. Then I got over it. I don't create just to convey a message or make a statement, and I have a problem with complete lack of utility. Sure, some of my makings are entirely decorative and not at all utilitarian, and I look forward to creating new work that is just as useless but edgy rather than decorative. But whatever I make needs to engage more than the brain through the eyes. I need it to have a touch--a coolness, a softly catching slipperiness, a weight. I need it to change in different lights and contexts.

Like an artist, I want my work to provoke a response upon first sight and to continually engage the viewer/toucher. But unlike many artists I have met, I am thrilled with the the response being a completely unintellectual reaction of "how beautiful!". Someone wanting to hold and touch my work and to pass it through different lights is the reaction I am usually working to provoke. I don't often want my work to be just a touchstone to provoke an emotional response from the viewer based on his/her philosophical/religious/cultural response. I am not looking to change the world with every (heck, maybe not any) piece I create. It is more important to me to comfort and nurture than it is to shock. Don't get me wrong--I might do work to provoke and shock too, but, if that's all I did, it would simultaneously exhaust me and bore me to tears.

There were many artists presenting at and attending BECon. They came from a variety of backgrounds, though painting was a common thread. They had art degrees--many of the presenters had multiple art degrees and academic credentials. (So many, in fact, that I wondered aloud last night if I should pursue an art degree in order to claim a respectable place in the community. Cynthia and Tadashi vetoed the idea.) The artists were as passionate and high-strung as thoroughbred racehorses and I marveled that the worth-of-work issues (reference "art degrees" above) I have (usually after being around artists) in my self-identified place on the craft side of the art-craft chasm are apparently vastly smaller than those of the artists on the other side.

The people who identify themselves as artists still seem to have as much or more difficulty with their work being accepted by artists in the traditional fine arts media as I do having my work accepted by glass artists. Fortunately for me, it doesn't seem to bother me as much. I was reminded a bit of my time in academia where faculty members used to squabble over the the size of their offices, the number of chairs and windows in said offices, and how they all related to the faculty member's importance in the department. All that said, I am glad to have the title of "maker" to adopt.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I have meant to post for the past couple of days, but chatting with Morganica has been all-consuming. My mind is awhirl with ideas, designs and techniques. And now I head off to to Bullseye for my workshop. Later. I'll post later (BE doesn't have open wi-fi in the Resource Center). Later!