Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Too exhausted to write much, but wanted to do a quick post on the day. Today saw me installing fused glass tile made by Dee in her kitchen. Due to a bit of a late start and very careful cutting and piecing around several electrical outlets we didn't get quite done and will need to finish tomorrow. Dan is also coming to the studio tomorrow to build another shelving unit from old Bullseye crates for the new 5 oz frit jars. Never a dull moment.

Tonight was Halloween and I handed out candy while finishing winding the warp for a birthday/Christmas gift of a chenille blanket. The person for whom I am making the blanket doesn't read this blog, but I'm not mentioning any names just to be safe.

Dave took J took a friend's neighborhood for trick-or-treating and she and her friends were all duct tape... somethings. I'm not sure what the intent was, but all three of them made their costumes by covering normal articles of clothing with duct tape. J also ratted her hair (first AND last time for that I'm betting as she was in tears by the time we were half way through brushing it out) and put dark blue (I didn't have black) eyeliner around one eye. Dave's comment was "My daughter evidently going trick-or-treating as "Grace Slick, 1979, face down in the gutter outside CBGBs".

Now it's time for bed. Tomorrow is the first day of NaBloPoMo and this year I'm going to do it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time Be Time

In the shower this morning I had, well not exactly an epiphany but close. When I was Jessie's age, time was measured in minutes--minutes till recess, minutes till dinner, minutes in a cartoon. The minutes (about 15) it took to walk to school took FOREVER. By high school minutes had ceded place of prominence to hours--a class period, hours till the end of the school day, hours till a party or a date. Neither of these statements is to say that days and weeks didn't count. The big events--summer vacation, Christmas, my birthday--were still anticipated weeks and days in advance, but the dominant measurement of the passing of time was the hour.

Sometime in my 20's--probably commensurate with leaving school and entering the Working World (entering at least for awhile before fleeing back to school) the class hour gave way to the work day and days began to shape life events--TGIF, I hate Mondays, Wednesday is hump day. There was also a vague grouping into weeks and months (never years unless in the past), but it remained firmly vague.

Side note: I *love* writing. I hated it when I was forced to do it on some else's schedule for class assignments and to conform to someone else's rules (grammar--smack my knuckles with a ruler). Now, the juxtaposition of the words "firmly" and "vague" actually gives me a little burst of satisfied happiness at having found just the right phrase. But time passes as I digress so let's get back to the passage of time.

Now, as I wander the other side of the fifty-year mark, I could care less about hours anymore (an hour, isn't that about the time it takes to sneeze and find the tissues?), and days have begun to clump into a week-shaped blob. In fact days only get recognized when I find or lose them. For instance, last week in my weaving class, on Thursday night as I was planning my last project, I was sure I had two days left to complete it--that it was, in effect, Wednesday night. I was not so lucky (hence working till 1:00 am Saturday). Other weeks I will be stressing because I think it's Wednesday, and then I realize it's only Tuesday, and the relief that floods my system along with the realization is almost intoxicating. Weekends are no longer the days Saturday and Sunday, they are a differential break in the rhythm of Monday through Friday (or not, depending on the studio's work load). Compare it to finding or losing a dollar at age nine to finding or losing $20 now...

A lot of the contemplation (in the shower, as I cleaned the lint out of my navel) that resulted in the post above, was triggered by the realization that I am 50, and 50 seems like a reasonable half-way point in life. The time it took to get here seemed comfortably long. But as my perception of time compresses, are the next 50 years going to rush by? I don't want them to rush! I want more time! Maybe I'll need to live to 150. Time to start working on that goal.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday and STILL Posting!

It's almost a record for this year--four posts in a row! It is embarrassing how little I've posted, but with the new book a reality and no longer just a theory, writing has jumped to the top of my daily to-do's. Today will also see more activity in the studio--though I doubt if I will be firing anything of my own. Houston is coming today so we can experiment with Bullseye powders fired on copper, and Becky is scheduled to whip my books a little more into shape. Tadashi is in the hotshop, and Judy is running the desk/phones. Do they really need me? Well I suppose Houston does.

Right now I pore over my new book contract, comparing it to my last contract. Five years ago there was a section pertaining to "electronic rights" that mentioned "...photographic, video, audio, digital... for copying, recording, or transmission". Now that section has been replaced by a big, shiny, new section on "electronic editions" with a better royalty structure than previously. The royalty structure is also much better than for printed copies. Too bad I don't write fiction.

And that's enough writing to qualify for a post. Now off to so... something else.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Weaving of Life and Work

Some days are work days with a twist. This theme is really an extension of my writings earlier this week on what work Is and how you Do it. Today I was in the studio for half an hour, and prior to now I was on the computer for about another half an hour, and yet I worked. Though it will make my husband cringe to hear it, I spent the rest of the day today on the Waldorf Holiday Fair and Viking Tales. And it gave me GREAT joy. The morning began with some lively discourse over coffee in front of the grades building at school after I dropped Jessie off (they put out coffee and home-baked bread on Wednesday mornings for any parents who wish to drop by and mingle). She has to be there at 8:00 and I had a meeting there at 8:30 (for said Holiday Fair) so it was serendipitous to have them provide me with coffee (though I talked too much to get to the bread--surprise, surprise).

Then there was a meeting--meetings in my life now that I own my own business are very rare. I meet with the studio staff maybe once every two months so in a way it's kind of a nice socializing opportunity to have the Holiday Fair meetings (and there are only two more this year). When the meeting was over, one of the other parents--in charge of the candle-dipping activity--followed me back to the studio to collect some deadfall from the pecan tree from which to make the candle bases.

Then it was off to the dollar store for bowls and the Home Depot for chicken wire to prepare for my afternoon's activity--making paper mache stalactites and stalagmites with Jessie's class for Nifflheim in Viking Tales. Emded with a quick stop at the recycling center drop-off to scavenge (despite the prominent "No Scavenging" signs) a bunch of newspaper to use in the paper mache. At home I quick whipped up nine chicken wire armatures of the stalcs and stalgs while Mom whipped up five batches of paper mache paste and filled a gallon milk jug with them. That entire paragraph took an hour fifteen to complete (do, not write)--we were like marines on a beach, Mom and I.

By 1:30 I was back at the Waldorf School and sitting down with 26 fourth graders and their teachers to do paper mache. It was a blast!! I think they all turned out really well, and we will paint them at the Holiday Fair parent workday at our house this Sunday. Now it is time to  confess that I have only done paper mache once in my life before, and that was 20 years ago. I have never made armatures before. In fact the word "armature" just entered my vocabulary in conjunction with the Holiday Fair event. My take-away from the experience? Just decide you can do it, go balls to the wall, and it will work out. After the week I have had so far, today was an overwhelming win.

But how does this whole post (and day's activities) relate to Glass Incarnate? Today was also the first day I have ever worked with chicken wire, and now I feel MUCH more sanguine about creating mold armatures--further evidence that every experience, every moment is intertwined with every other building and layering into A Life.

Thus ends my hump day this week. (And have you noticed that I have managed to post every day this week? woot woot.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Work With a Vengeance

The day started with Dave heading off to Austin for his regular three-day stint and me wrangling the Sprout off to school. When I got home from dropping her off, I realized I had microwaved yesterday's coffee, put it in a go-mug, taken it all the way to school and back without a sip, and now needed to put it back in a regular mug. All for microwaved coffee. Which I microwaved because I am trying to save money. Which I need to save because the City of Atlanta's pound of flesh yesterday was almost more pounds than I can manage. I hope it's not a harbinger of the day. (And can I just say "ewww"? I'm making a new pot and to hell with frugality.)

Yesterday at City Hall getting a City of Atlanta business license took all day, but it's done. I had to go through the Dept of Revenue, the Zoning Dept, the Planning Dept, the Dept of Revenue again, then finally the cashier. After several hours I had a few slips of paper and a Big Bill. Everybody wants their piece of the corpse, er, pie. There are days when I think (no, I absolutely *know*) that it would cost me and my family less if I didn't work. Heck, I have enough of a yarn and fabric stash that I could weave, knit sew, scrapbook (I still haven't done my wedding scrapbook--much less one for Jessie) and garden to my heart's content--probably without ever having to buy another thing.

But that's not What I Do. I run a glass studio and make objects of beauty to enrich people's lives and homes. I make my neighborhood a better place by the existence of my studio and the experiences it offers. I employ five people, adding to their ability to make a living. I give my daughter an example of hard work and perseverance for hard work and perseverance's sake as opposed to financial gain.

Do I sound bitter this morning? I feel a bit bitter. I feel (more than) a bit ripped off by a City Government that needs money and is looking anywhere they can for it--with a poor, but honest, small businesses making a good target for them. Proof of that statement? I have made so little revenue in the past four business tax years that I have had the studio open that my back taxes--even including interest--are almost nothing. However my penalty for not filing a return is $500 *a year*. Had I known I had to register and file not only with the State of Georgia, Dekalb County, and the federal government, but also with the City, I would have done it. I did not know until they told me... four tax years after I opened the business. But ignorance of the law does not mean you don't have to follow the law so I now owe $2,000 in penalties for not filing.

It used to be that the penalty for not filing was 10% of the tax due plus interest on the tax. For a business that makes a lot of money and doesn't cut the government in, 10% is a tidy sum. For a small business that scrabbles along just trying to make it (and which probably doesn't have an accounting and compliance department to make sure all the proper forms and registrations and taxes and fees and, and, and are filed on time) the amount due would be trivial. So who is the government going after by making the fee $500 a year? The big businesses that are depriving the government of a lot of money, or the small businesses who probably owe--at most--$125 in taxes for a year? Bingo.

I got very close to the point yesterday where I said no, I'll just close my studio and lay off all my people. I have had enough being nickle-and-dimed and ripped off by a bloated, greedy, inefficient local government. I will not have a business here. But I didn't. And this morning I reviewed an old post to help bring me back into balance. Yes, I got screwed yesterday, but it's only money. Time to move on (and make another pot of coffee).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back to Work!

The coffeemaker has been cleaned and filled, the pond is being filled, the chickens and bunnies have been fed, watered and nurtured, and it's time to get to work! While I was in New Hampshire the City of Atlanta, in their Infinite Wisdom, decided to have one of their people drop by my studio and issue a citation *to Judy* for operating a business without some damn registration form or another. Apparently they can cite anyone (and require them to go to court) if that person happens to be the only one present (a Person of Authority) in a business without the right piece of paper. She showed him my prominently displayed state registration certificate, and she showed him my prominently displayed employer registration forms for workman's comp and unemployment, but he wanted more. What, I do not know, but I shall find out today when I trek down to their offices to get the citation transferred to me.

My driver's license is still missing, and I left my GPS in my rental car in New Hampshire. The week *will* get better.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Week At Warp Speed

Warp speed indeed. I sit, attempting calm, at the gate in the Manchester NH airport after having discovered (at the TSA check-in) that I LOST MY DRIVER'S LICENSE (!!!) sometime during the week. Either that or I packed it. I could easily have packed it (or left it in the rental car) as I am in an exhausted (but happy) fog after a week of advanced weaving with Tom Jipson at Harrisville Designs. Before I write anything else, I have to say that if there is ANY way I can do this again next year, I will (as will most of my classmates--some of whom were repeaters this time).

Some might think that a week spent in a weaving class would be relaxing, calming and balancing--and for some I'm sure it was. But in my usual fashion I threw myself headlong into the class determined to wring every drop of experience from it that I could, and to push my projects to the limits. For example, for the first project we were asked to weave a color blanket to demonstrate perception of color based on the colors' value and proximity to each other. Harrisville has 64 colors of Shetland wool in production from white to black. The looms we worked on were 22" wide so we could, at most, weave 22 1"-wide samples in the warp and then use all 64 colors for the weft.

We could extend the project by doing it on a 36" wide loom (36 colors max), or we could extend it by weaving a black thread in between all the colors in the warp and in the weft. Guess who was the only one (out of the four advanced students) in the class who did either the 36" or the black boundary. And in the interest of full disclosure, I did both. I finished my color blanket the same day as two of the others did (the fourth advanced student was *really* fast), but where they finished by 4:00 pm on day 2, and only worked until 8:00 at the latest on day 1, I finished at 10:00 pm on day 2 after also working till 10:00 pm on day 1.

I had a guilt-free (no fall-out on others if I failed) opportunity to push everything to the maximum--and, as is so rarely the case, I actually finished every task in the time I allotted myself. Which is not to say I did not occasionally have help. Somehow, no matter where I go, I manage to accrue a village. On Thursday night at 11:00, when it was time to wind a humongous warp onto the loom, four of my fellow students stepped up and helped me get it done. I could not have managed without them that night. Left to my own devices (and tears--there would have been tears) it would have taken the entire next day to get the warp on--leaving me no time at all for weaving it as the class ended (for most) Friday at 4:00.

But enough on pushing limits. This time was good for me on so many levels. I had planned to have a single room as historically I have not shared a room well with others (Todd and Dee at the BMAC and ACRE being the exceptions). However I was so happy with my roommate Charlotte that when the opportunity arose two days into the class to move into a single room, I chose not to.

More than half of the class stayed in the old mill boarding house, me included. The boarding house is a large brick building with the town's one daycare on the first floor, artist studios on the second floor, and several bedrooms, two tiny bathrooms, an eating area and a living room for the students in the attic/third floor. None of the rooms has locks on the door--not even the bathrooms. They, at least, have hooks on the inside, but the bedroom doors don't even have those, and the front doors are never locked. The town is not on the way to anywhere, and the inhabitants' philosophy seems to be, if you locked your doors, how would anyone leave anything for you?

Other peculiarities of the town which greatly add to it's charm are the lack of modern businesses: There are no gas stations, no supermarkets, no fast food restaurants--in fact I'm not sure there are any restaurants. I certainly didn't go to one. There is a General Store/ Cafe that has an eclectic selection of everything including daily specials to take home and reheat for dinner. One day I had a pound of stuffed grape leaves for lunch and dinner (with some soup, bread and wine) and they were delicious. The coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and breakfasts were also wonderful. Even the local post office with it's quirky postmaster (the only person working the window) was an exquisite slice of life from another, slower, more community-focused time.

I could go on and on waxing rhapsodic about Harrisville Designs, the class, the town, the people (new Englanders in general), my classmates, the wool--in short EVERYTHING about the last week, but I am home now, and my family awaits. Today we are all pitching in to clean up the basement. When that's done I will be able to get to my loom again, and maybe I will be able to carve out some time to re-create my experience of wonder here at home. You can read more about Historic Harrisville, a truly innovative model of historic conservation, on their website. And of you ever get the chance to visit, don't hesitate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Day Flies Already

In the spirit of Posting Every Day, I am dashing off a quick one before getting the kiln loads in. Yesterday really had its ups and downs. I am having great difficulty making any headway on the items on my To Do list. While this sounds like an inconsequential problem as problems go, it is causing me Great Anxiety. Enough anxiety that I was up and stressed at 5:30 am again this morning. Well, maybe "up" is a bit of a stretch. I did get up for a couple of minutes for nature, but I wasn't really "up". In fact I wasn't even totally awake; I was in more of a half state, plagued with horrible, anxious dreams and semi-lucid fears of deadlines looming. I am reminded of one of my favorite signature tags: "I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by." --  Douglas Adams. Only I am not so much loving them right now (where did I put the Tums?).

 Let's move on to yesterday's highlights. The phone rang right after we opened and it was an enameling artist wanting to know about using Bullseye powders for copper enameling. After a few minutes of talking, he announced that he was really more of a visual person and could he come over and see what I was talking about. I said sure, and thus began a very enjoyable couple of hours picking the brain of another wholesale production glass artist/small business owner (jack-of-all-business). Houston Llewllyn has not been making a living at enameling copper art pieces for long, but he sure has built an incredible business. He is so organized I feel like a total slacker--and the quality of both the art and the manufacturing are amazing. He casually left one of his pieces for us as thanks for the time we gave him, and it now has pride of place on our mantle. He left with several bottles of Bullseye powders, and though I fear they are not going to work for him as well as true enamels do (color saturation issues), I really hope they work out and we see more of him. (And I want to pick his brain for the enameling section of the new book.)

But after Houston left, everything went to hell in a handbasket (I can't resist: "Houston, we have a problem"). I didn't have time to get my kiln loads in for the day, and, Primus, the first glass furnace and the one I put back into service after bring both of them back from Olympic Kilns on Tuesday, started acting up again. He errored out on Tuesday night so I had to cancel yesterday's lesson and started his warm-up all over again. He reached temp (2100 degrees F) between 5:00 and 6:00, and the temperature suddenly and inexplicably started dropping. Tadashi and I both tried everything we could think of to figure out what was wrong, but we failed. 

Fortunately, Secondus, the second glass furnace (I just noticed that all the Olympic Kilns are male and the Denvers and the Skutt are female... wonder what that's all about) was ready to jump in and take over... but his cord wouldn't reach the outlet with Primus in the way. Sigh. After a run to Lowe's by Tadashi and some electrical-extension creation, we got Secondus loaded up and he seems to be chugging along fine this morning. Now I need to figure out when I can get Primus back to Olympic for some extended testing (I leave Sunday for a week-long weaving workshop at Harrisville Designs on Sunday).

But I must end on a happy note. Today is my 16th wedding anniversary and I couldn't be luckier or happier in my marriage. Thank you, Dave, for the best 16 years of my life. Now off to load those kilns!!!! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You Never Know Where You'll End Up On the Web...

We all know the perils of sitting down in front of an open browser window and letting the winds of the Internet blow you whither they will. I'm sure there are people who fell into the Net years ago and someday they will wake, like Rip Van Winkle, to peer blearily around and find decades have passed since they sat down. I try to carefully manage my loose browsing time, but occasionally I'll just surf to see what's out there--usually to see if someone has put up anything new about Siyeh Studio, or to see how we rank in Google for different search queries. Yesterday I found out I am being seriously dinged for using the term "kiln-forming" instead of fusing and slumping on my website. I say dinged because it's the newbies I want to find me, and they most likely think of the technique as glass fusing or glass fusion. (Maybe I need a terminology page on the website and I can say "fusing" there a lot to boost my rank...).

But enough asides. Part of my search motivation yesterday came from a call I got out of the blue from Carolyn Edlund at the Artsy Shark. She wanted to know if I'd be willing to have her feature our Date Night in the Glass Studio in an article on her site. She was also planning to include the video of me speaking on Outside-The-Box-Thinking: Secrets of Retail Success at last winter's Buyer's Market of American Craft in Philadelphia. Video? I didn't know there was a video. I have mixed reactions to the existence of a video without my knowledge, but at least I was apparently having a Good Hair Day and I don't think I sounded too stupid. However it would have been nice to be asked if I minded being slapped up on YouTube. (I got permission from all of our date night attendees before I plastered them all over the Net!)

Last note of the day: It's a good thing I didn't let hubris get the best of me yesterday as I didn't even get through the three things I had on the list--the newsletter lies fallow, the glass order is not yet unloaded, the glass furnace is acting up again (Error-1 last night some time--I think it's balking at heating a solid 80 lb block of glass in a 50 lb crucible), and I didn't get my kiln loads in. Add to that that I ended yesterday's post with the thought that there was something I wanted to start with this morning and I can't remember what it is now (senior moment), and, well, no room for hubris here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finding the Saddle

Vacation is wonderful. If it is good, it recharges your batteries, fills your brain with new ideas, and puts you back in balance. If you're lucky, you even get kissed by a sea lion. I just got back from a wonderful family vacation (and as shown by the photo, I even got a kiss from a sea lion--as did Jessie), and it's a good thing it was wonderful as I had to scramble right back into the saddle again. Of course I spent much of yesterday trying to find the saddle...

This morning I am working from Olympic Kilns while they service our two glass furnaces. I should have brought the back-up in for service a couple of months ago, but I was lazy and thus caught with my pants down when the main furnace went down right before I left for the aforementioned vacation. Now I pay the price as I had to schlep two heavy furnaces up here at the same time. When I get back to the studio this afternoon Dave will help me unload them, and then I'll have to charge and fire one up for the dates this weekend.

Also on tap for today is the unloading of the latest order from Bullseye--cullet, sheet, frit, stringer and rod--everything I need for a big fall sale. Dee is coming down to help me unload (hope it's stopped raining by the time we're ready to start). And speaking of sales; the infamous-not-yet-published fall newsletter will feature a great deal on a beginner's fusing and slumping kit which includes our favorite tools, kiln and a selection of glass. What could be better? (I know--actually getting the newsletter done!).

In the spirit of slowing down and being reasonable with the amount I plan for a day, I think I'll stop there. I was going to say I'll round the day off with updating the studio mailing list, redoing the front page on the website, and working on integrating my retail materials/tools/kiln inventory into my point of sale software--including incorporating the barcode system, but, come on, there are only so many hours left in the day!!